HURRICANE resized 600Most of us who live in South Florida love it here, but there are those who say they miss “the seasons.” Hey, we have seasons – we just got through tourist season and then spring break season, and now we are coming up on one of the most interesting, yet potentially deadly seasons of all – hurricane season. Okay, so maybe those are not the types of seasons that they are referring to.

One source defines a hurricane as follows:

1. a violent, tropical, cyclonic storm of the western North Atlantic, having wind speeds of or in excess of 72 miles per hour (32 m/sec). (Other sources state that these storms are not classified as hurricanes until the sustained wind speed reaches 74 mph.)

Although these types storms are referred to by different names depending upon the region in which they occur, due to the rotation of the winds that create them, they are all classified as cyclones. For the state of Florida, a lot of these cyclones develop as a result of air disturbances created off the coast of Africa where water is often warm (80F or more) and as the air above it warms, it rises. When this happens, a cooler, low pressure system develops and warm air tries to fill the low pressure area, causing the air to spin faster and faster in a counter-clockwise fashion. All of the energy created by this action propels the storms across the Atlantic, often making landfall in the Caribbean, Florida, Mexico, or any number of the Atlantic Coast states.

Hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 30th every year. Fortunately, it usually amounts to a lot of rain and wind, but seldom ends in catastrophic property damage or death. Although this is generally the case, it is not always so, as evidenced by a quick look at statistical data of hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions just in the 21st Century alone with the 2004 and 2005 seasons being particularly heinous.

Florida has seen billions of dollars in damage and multiple deaths from storms such as Charley, Jeanne, Ivan, and Frances and even these were not on the same magnitude of destruction that other storms wrought to different parts of the East Coast such as Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. Most of these storms, especially Katrina and Sandy, were being watched for quite some time, but sadly, both authorities and civilians greatly underestimated the level of threat that they posed until it was far too late. More than $176 billion in damage is attributed to these two storms alone, and tragically, almost 2,100 people lost their lives. (Many of these deaths were considered indirect such as from rip tides, heart attacks, car accidents, or cars being washed away while trying to traverse flooded roadways.)

These kinds of storms tend to frequently affect the State of Florida; therefore, the state’s infrastructure includes emergency evacuation routes throughout the state; however, even the best attempts at planning can frequently end up going awry. First, you should consider that you are not the only person or family trying to avoid what seems to be imminent disaster, consequently, all roads, especially those that are major arteries to evacuation routes, are going to be clogged. You will get out, but it will be a long, arduous process. You should, therefore, plan well in advance and make the decision to evacuate long before the general population begins to panic.

The biggest issue that you will have to contend with if you do decide to evacuate the region is probably going to be the traffic on the roads. Even though evacuation routes are well thought-out by emergency management groups, there is virtually nothing that can be done about thousands of drivers clogging the roadways in a desperate attempt to avoid disaster. At a time such as this, the saying of “there is no good way to get there from here” probably applies to everyone.

Because you don’t know how long you will be out of the area, how long you may be stuck in evacuation traffic, or what you may expect when you return home, make sure to bring plenty of supplies. Since you will probably be limited on what you can take with you, you may want to consider water, snacks (non-salted), non-perishable food, a manual can opener, checkbooks, important documents (especially auto, home owners’, and other property insurance policies), and small valuables such as jewelry. It is a sad but true fact that in times of crisis, looting skyrockets. You stand to lose a lot if you are in the path of a hurricane, so you should try to keep possession of your heirlooms, if possible.

The Federal Emergency Management Ageny (FEMA) recommends that you prepare a family emergency plan. Try to minimize panic for yourself and your family by having a destination or destinations in mind prior to the emergency occurring. It is also important to make arrangements for your pets if you are not able to take them with you. You can find more explicit information on the disaster prepardedness website or on the National Hurricane Center’s website. I am including a list from their website as a basic guideline of the things you may want to consider having packed up into a plastic tote should you face an impending natural disaster.

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

With the nerves of every driver and every passenger on edge, and rightly so, it is very easy to lose patience. Trying to take shortcuts and attempting to circumnavigate bumper-to-bumper traffic by speeding, tailgating, passing on the shoulder, and so forth will only make matters worse. The last thing that is needed in this kind of traffic chaos is a motor vehicle accident because someone is trying to bully their way forward. Realistically, you are not going to get anywhere any faster than anyone else unless you leave well in advance of the thousands of others who are trying to reach safety. Causing an accident in traffic that is already bound to be snarled is only going to impede your progress and that of others, as will a traffic ticket for speeding, reckless driving, or other poor driving choices. The best course of action is to accept that you can’t beat ‘em so you might as well join ‘em and evacuate as quickly as safety will allow.

Keep in mind that even when the obvious threat seems to have passed, there are aftereffects that may continue to complicate your life for an indeterminable amount of time such as power outages, flooding, home damage, and so forth. Don’t allow the anxiety that these types of issues create push you into making poor driving decisions. Taking your frustrations out while driving seems to be easy to do, but getting a traffic ticket will only add more complications to an already complicated situation. If you do happen to get a traffic ticket of any type, give us a call at 967-954-9888 for a free consultation. Remember, hurricane season is just a part of life for those of us who enjoy the benefits of living in the Sunshine State.


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