As a native Floridian who grew up on the coast, lived aboard boats for 15 years, and who had a hurricane tracking map tacked to his bedroom wall at an early age, I’ve a hefty respect for these tropical cyclones. Below you’ll find a map of the hurricanes that crossed Florida during my youth, in the years between 1954-1972.
As you can imagine, these made quite an impression on me growing up. Donna, in 1960, was particularly memorable as I was six years old, and it put a pretty good-sized oak tree limb across our roof.
While we haven’t seen a major (Cat 3+) hurricane strike the continental United States in nearly 9 years (Wilma, 2005) - and this year’s forecast is calling or a below average season – it only takes one strong hurricane hitting a populated area to make it a very bad year.
So I will do what I’ve done every year since I was old enough to comprehend the wisdom of such things. I will prepare as if this is the year I get hit (again), and urge that others do the same.
All this week, as part of National Hurricane Preparedness Week, we’ll be looking at these dangerous storms and how you should prepare for them. NOAA has a short (1-2 minute) video for each day of this week.
Hurricane season generally builds slowly, with just a few – usually weaker – storms in June and early July. But as the Atlantic waters warm, the frequency and strength of these tropical systems grows – reaching their peak in mid-September – and then slowly waning through November.
Storms that form in June and early July generally form in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, or just off the coast of the United States – as did Ana earlier this month.
June Tropical Climatology
While generally weaker, these early season storms can still be quite deadly.
In 1972 a weak Hurricane Agnes made landfall in Florida on June 19th, trekked north, and dumped more than a foot of rain across the mid-Atlantic states. Of the 122 deaths associated with this storm, only 9 occurred in Florida where Agnes made landfall.
The rest - 113 fatalities - were caused by inland fresh water flooding a thousand miles north several days later.
The moral? : You don’t have to live near the coast to be hard hit by a hurricane.
When it comes to getting the latest information on hurricanes, your first stop should always be the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. These are the real experts, and the only ones you should rely on to track and forecast the storm.
If you haven’t already downloaded the updated Tropical Cyclone Preparedness Guide, now would be an excellent time to do so.