With two months remaining in the 2010 hurricane season and a tropical depression threatening Florida and the Carolinas, the American Red Cross today issued a reminder that some of the biggest hurricanes in years past have occurred in October, that people should remain alert and prepared.
A combination of two weather patterns, including a tropical depression, may bring heavy rain and flash floods today to southern and eastern Florida, coastal Georgia and the Carolinas. Parts of Florida could receive four to eight inches of rain and tropical storm force winds. More than six inches of rain today could cause problems in the Carolinas, with heavy rain in that area again tomorrow.
The Red Cross is on stand-by in the affected areas, making final preparations to help people if needed in Florida and the other East Coast states.
We are about two-thirds of the way through the 2010 storm season, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted would be an active one. Already, the United States has seen Hurricane Alex come ashore in June, the first time a storm has done so that early in the season since 1995. Hurricane Earl traveled up the East Coast, closely followed by Fiona, Gaston, Igor and Julia which kicked up dangerous rip currents for eastern beachgoers. Hurricane Hermine caused major flooding in southern Texas.
Some of the deadliest hurricanes in the United States have happened in October. In 1954, Hurricane Hazel made landfall on October 15 as a Category 4 storm near the North Carolina-South Carolina border. Prior to hitting the U.S. mainland, Hazel devastated Haiti. It was the deadliest and costliest storm of the 1954 hurricane season.
With winds up to 150 mph in the Carolinas, an 18-foot storm surge from Hazel inundated parts of the North Carolina coast. The hurricane continued up the east coast. Washington, D.C. reported 78 mph winds. Gusts up to 90 mph were reported inland in New York. Heavy rains caused severe flooding, dropping up to 11 inches of water.
Hurricane Hazel caused $281 million in damage in the United States before hitting Canada, where the late-season storm left behind $100 million in damages. Hazel was particularly destructive in Toronto. In Haiti, coffee trees and cacao crops were destroyed, affecting the Haitian economy for years. The name was retired and will never be used again for a hurricane in the North Atlantic basin.
In October of 2005, Hurricane Wilma formed in the Caribbean Sea with winds as high as 185 mph. Wilma would become the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin and one of the top five costliest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic.
Wilma weakened slightly before making its U.S. landfall on October 24 in Florida as a Category 3 storm. The eye of the storm crossed over Florida in just a few hours, bringing winds gusting up to 117 mph, multiple tornadoes, and flooding. When Wilma departed, the storm left behind widespread damage in Florida estimated at $16.8 billion.
More than 35 million Americans live in regions most threatened by Atlantic hurricanes. Instead of waiting for the first storm to make its appearance, the American Red Cross urges families to prepare now.
Before a hurricane:
- Check your emergency supplies and replace or restock as needed. Your disaster kit should contain items such as gallons of water, non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food and sanitation and personal hygiene items. More information about what you should include is available on the Red Cross web site.
- Create an evacuation plan with members of your household and practice it to cut down on any confusion.
- Plan routes to your community’s shelters, register family members with special needs as required.
- Make plans for your pets.
- Standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding. You may need floor insurance. For more information on flood insurance, please visit the National Flood Insurance Program Web site at www.FloodSmart.gov.
If a hurricane is predicted for your area:
- Bring items inside that can be picked up by the wind.
- Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings and keep them closed as much as possible so food will last longer if the power goes out.
- Turn off any propane tanks and unplug your small appliances.
- Fill your vehicle’s gas tank.
- Close windows, doors and hurricane shutters. If you don’t have hurricane shutters, close and board up your windows and doors with plywood.
- Listen to local authorities and evacuate if advised to do so. Be careful to avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges.
After a hurricane:
- Return home only when officials say it is safe.
- Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them to the power company.
- Stay out of any building that has water around it.
- Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you’re sure it’s not contaminated.
- Keep your animals under your direct control.
Hurricane season doesn’t end until the end of November. Full details about the steps you can take to stay safe when hurricanes are predicted are available on the Red Cross web site. Get prepared to keep you and your loved ones safe should one of these storms be predicted for your neighborhood.