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Archive for May 29th, 2007

Hurricanes – we’re putting ourselves in harm’s way

Posted by metaphorical on 29 May 2007

Thursday marks the start of the hurricane season. Since 1950, the year the Weather Bureau started naming them, the population most threatened by them, coastal lands from North Carolina to Texas, has more than tripled, from 10.2 million to about 35 million.

This, despite storms such as Katrina, Hurricane Ivan, which in September 2004, “kicked up the tallest, most extreme waves ever measured… more than 90 feet (27 meters) tall from crest to trough and 600 feet (183 meters) long,” and 1989’s Hugo, one of the most severe storms ever to hit the U.S.

In the 20th century, along the United States east coast (north of Florida) – no tropical cyclone has ever recorded a lower pressure, stronger winds, or higher tidal surges at landfall.

In the middle of September 1989 – millions of people throughout the Caribbean and the eastern United States watched in profound amazement as Hurricane Hugo traveled thousands of miles with great intensity. On September 22 , five days after Hugo had left Guadeloupe and Montserrat in shambles, the tropical cyclone was 1,500 miles away in the United States – still ripping roofs off buildings in South Carolina. In terms of size, intensity, and destruction, Hugo was a record storm.

In Charleston Cty, S.C., 1500 miles and 5 days from its devastating Carribean landfall, Hugo’s death toll was 85; the property toll was $2.8 billion.

Despite the damage, people keep moving there. The population of the county has risen 12.5 percent since 1989, from 295,000 to 331,917.

Three of the top 20 U.S. metro areas in population are along the firing line, Houston (#6), Miami (#7), and Tampa-St Pete (#19).

The 35 million people living in the primary hurricane zone includes about 12 percent of the U.S population, up from 7 percent in 1950. Half of that 35 million lives along Florida’s two-sided coastline. In just the single year 2005 to 2006, roughly speaking the year after Katrina, Florida’s coastal population grew by 1.7 percent.

All the uncited stats here came from a very nice Census.gov page. A thank-you to Al Tompkins at the Poynter Institute for the link.

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