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Bracing for the Big One PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jim W. Harper -- BT Contributor   
June 2013

Is this the year Miami experiences a major hurricane?

APix_GoingGreen_6-13ndrea. Barry. Chantal. Dorian. Erin. Fernand. Gabrielle. Humberto. Ingrid.

Hurricane season 2013 has arrived.

Those names are the first nine selections for identifying Atlantic storms this year. If they all turn into hurricanes, the roll call would end there, according to two highly accurate predictors of tropical storms. Colorado State University climatologists Phil Klotzbach and William Gray have been close to predicting the total number of hurricanes during the past several years, and this year they have forecast nine.

Jerry. Karen. Lorenzo. Melissa. Nestor. Olga. Pablo. Rebekah. Sebastien.

The next nine bring the total to 18 named storms, including both hurricanes and those tropical storms that fall short of Category 1. Should we exceed that number, we’ve got Tanya, Van, and Wendy in reserve. Those extra names round out the list for 2013. We could need more or we could need fewer, depending on what happens in the atmosphere this year.

Make your bets now and keep count until the season ends in November.

Did your name make the cut? Probably only one name will count. The Big One. Klotzbach and Gray predict that four of the season’s hurricanes will be “major.” Is this the year South Florida receives another Andrew, Katrina, or Wilma? No matter what, be prepared.

This year’s prediction of 18 named storms and 9 hurricanes is higher than the average of 12 and 6 per year, respectively.

Dropping the Caribbean from the equation, the likelihood of a major storm hitting the U.S. East Coast is very high: 48 percent, according to Klotzbach and Gray. Flip a coin for yea or nay. If yea, now the question becomes, where exactly will this major East Coast storm hit? Northeast or Southeast? Will be it Sandy, the Sequel?

Why do we give human names to something so destructive? We don’t name our weapons of mass destruction “Ethel” and “Lucy,” do we?

Nobody knows the future until it arrives, but past predictions of major storms by Klotzbach and Gray have been eerily accurate. Last year they nailed the number, with two. The same number worked for 2009, and they were only off by one in 2008, 2010, and 2011.

This year, the Atlantic is ready to double its number of big blows from last year. Why? Two major reasons stand out: First, we are in the middle of a 30-year period of high hurricane activity and, second, oceanic conditions are set at “all systems go.” Hurricane-shredding El Niño conditions are not expected, and ocean temperatures are whipping up some hot tamales.

The worst statistic for our area, however, is that South Florida -- and Miami, in particular -- is long overdue for a major hurricane. That’s a simple matter of probability. We need to start expecting and preparing for the worst.

The familiar message for everyone is to get ready for hurricane season. The new part is that you should brace yourself a bit more than last year, because the ride could get very bumpy.

Last summer, Florida’s east coast was almost as quiet as Lake Wobegon, so we can also predict that many people have been lulled into a relaxed state of sunshine.

Your friends on the Jersey Shore, on the other hand, are not feeling the relaxation. Remember, Sandy was headed our way before turning north and busting all bets in Atlantic City. Who could have predicted a combination hurricane and blizzard? Surprise! Hello, climate change!

Even though Sandy’s wind and rain didn’t hit us, its storm surge did. I was shocked in December to see cliffs of sand on the beach in Bal Harbour -- taller than my 6-foot, 3 inches -- that exposed the roots of coconut palms at eye level.

In Fort Lauderdale, portions of the seawall along A1A are being reconstructed presently because they were washed away by the surge from Sandy.

And that was far from a direct hit. If a storm’s sideswipe can bring down walls, what could a direct hit do? I really hope I’m wrong, but I have to state it for the record: This year will be the year of the Big One.

Take a moment this month to prepare your home. For flood vulnerability, check out the online storm surge simulator from Florida International University (http://earl.cis.fiu.edu/gic). When you plug in any hurricane higher than a Category 2 on this map, the island of Miami Beach turns into a giant pond.

Text addicts can request emergency updates by registering first at Miami-Dade’s website and then texting “Join MDSMS” to 34292. The county’s online hurricane guide is extensive.

If the authorities urge you to evacuate before a storm, don’t ask questions. Do it.

The good news: Hurricanes provide plenty of warning. The bad news: We live in Hurricane Alley. The shady characters lurking in this danger zone every season have names we can’t forget.

 

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