Hurricane Season Already?
by Donna Malloy
Make your list and check it twice; its hurricane season. Officially, hurricane season commenced on June 1st and runs thru November 30th. In the past, hurricanes were simply classified as either major or minor storms. Then, in 1969, the United Nations commissioned Dade County Coastal Engineer Herb Saffir to study the effects of windstorm damage on low-cost housing. Saffir’s research lead to the development of a scale to measure hurricanes. Together with then-director of the National Hurricane Center Robert Simpson, who added damage done by storm surge, they developed the Saffir-Simpson category scale. Today Saffir and Simpson’s creation of categories has become the definitive measure to describe the intensity of storms that form primarily in the Atlantic basin and parts of the Pacific Ocean east of the International Date Line. Other parts of the world use different names and classification scales to describe similar storms, such as typhoons or cyclones.
Ranking the hurricane’s destruction by type, from a Category 1 in which unanchored mobile homes and trees receive the primary damage to Category 5 which involves the complete failure of roofs, Saffir and Simpson then matched the five categories with sustained wind speeds to produce the entire picture of structural destruction.
In an interview with Ann Carter from the Sun-Sentinel in June of 2001, Saffir gave this account when asked why he decided to investigate windstorms as opposed to earthquakes or some other natural phenomenon:
“It started when I came down here (in 1947) as assistant county engineer for what was Dade County then. I had responsibility for doing some of the engineering for the building code at that time. The building code was really not up to the state of the art as it should be, and I worked on it. Of course, one of the facts of life down here is hurricanes.
The building code is the place where the planning for hurricanes really takes place. It doesn't come into the Red Cross publication about bringing your garbage cans in and that type of stuff, the lawn furniture. But the fundamental basis for starting to plan for hurricanes is in the building code. It sets forth the rules and standards and the types of methods of structures to use for resisting windstorm. So that was my first involvement in building codes and hurricane-resistant structures.” Over the years and post Hurricane Andrew, this knowledge has lead to the creation of Miami-Dade Building Code standards.
Should you stay or should you go? That is the question coastal residents continually ask themselves as a hurricane approaches landfall. When it comes to evacuation, according to Pinellas County’s Surviving the Storm publication:
“One of those choices is whether to stay in Pinellas County or drive hundreds of miles to an out-of-town location. Finding high ground in Pinellas County is possible. Evacuating tens of miles to shelter within the county has its advantages. You can avoid traffic jams and the uncertainty that comes with hitting the crowded highways as other counties evacuate along with Pinellas. You can avoid going elsewhere in the state only to find that the storm has shifted and now you are in harm’s way. And, you will avoid the crowds when it comes time to head home.”
For hurricane news, evacuation maps and shelter information, visit www.pinellascounty.org/emergency. For an electronic copy of Pinellas County Emergency and Safety News, sign up at: www.pinellascounty.org/emergency. For hurricane programming and emergency operations center updates, tune in to Bright House 622, Knology 18 or Verizon 44. Receive the community notification system’s emergency text messages by calling 888-689-8905 from your cell phone. For information before, during or after the storm, call the Citizen Information Center (CIC) during emergencies at 727-464-4333.
Should you stay or should you go? Call 727-453-3150 and enter your ten digit home telephone number for your evacuation zone if you decide to leave; remember mobile home residents must always evacuate. And make sure to obtain a “Return Tag” from your local police or fire station for a speedy return home.
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