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Smiling Faces - The Undisputed Truth

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricanes and Mandatory Evacuations: The Hype

Someone needs to say it, so I will. I am reading about mandatory evacuations in wait of Hurricane Irene that cover much of the East coast from Virginia to New England, including parts of Manhattan. The subway system in NYC is being shut down for the first time ever!

Here in Cape Canaveral, I barely felt a breeze when I was out earlier. Anyway, I have experienced the heavy hype in past – it was particularly heavy in 2004 and 2005 when a few major hurricanes actually did hit the Cocoa Beach area. I went to my mom's, on a barrier island, in each situation as she wouldn't leave, but I did send my son to Orlando, 45 miles inland.

This area had mandatory evacuations for at least 3 out of 5 hurricanes. In one situation, a friend in Orlando called me concerned for my safety – he said that in Orlando they were showing the particular area of the island as being underwater and he feared I was dead. Hmmm – I was unable to find coffee anywhere and the electricity had gone out in the middle of the hurricane, but that was the worst of it. I believe that power was out for five days during that one and there were large puddles and downed power lines, but mandatory evacuations and 20-30 foot water surges? Nope – it was a trick of the cameras.

The winds were really high in each case and lots of trees blown all over the place, but a state of emergency? This is usually something that is declared for the state to get federal funds. Of course there are exceptions, like Andrew in August of 1992. Andrew was predicted to hit Broward County and North Dade County and the beach areas of both, but instead it really hit south Dade County, from S.W. 160th street all the way to south Homestead. Andrew was the disaster they buried and the areas hit – 25 miles of solid devastation – were not even warned.

I have close friends in Miami, actually in Cutler Ridge where Andrew really hit. I was on my way south to help them by 8am. Andrew hit around 5am. I still have plenty of photos from the many trips down there – if I had a scanner I would add a few here. They declared martial law down there and the National Guard was in control for several months. My son's father went down to work with our friends in Cutler Ridge and they had no electricity for months – I believe it was 4 months to be as precise as possible. It was a true disaster like Katrina was, but both for different reasons and issues.

The problems with Katrina were actually after Katrina when the levees failed. Hurricane Andrew problems were really all about multiple tornadoes. I was told that it wasn't so much the hurricane, but it was the 50+ embedded tornadoes at the center. I know this for fact, no matter how many want to dispute it. My friend's house was a perfect example: The couch in the living room was pulled through the window. An Easter decoration that his daughter made, a wooden circle with embroidered cloth clamped with a painted eggshell hanging from it, revealed the eggshell to be perfectly intact, yet the cloth had a huge hole ripped through the center. Do you know how hard, if not impossible, it is to rip cloth? This is tornado damage. The mud all over the living room walls and floors is hurricane related.

So what happens with mandatory evacuations?

Well, really it is just the emergency services people saying that if there is a problem, there will not be any assistance available. Don't bother to dial 911 if the forecasters are correct and there really are 20 to 30 foot water surges. Thank goodness they are usually incorrect, which could be the main reason they claim a target area that spans 700+ miles, right?

I have plenty of hurricane stories to tell. One that I won't forget from 2004 and 2005 is that they blocked any roads and stopped drivers from entering the barrier islands and Cape Canaveral / Cocoa Beach. My son was unable to drive over here and was told the area was a disaster by cops at roadblocks while I was on the phone with him stating the truth, and he did have an island address on his driver's license. When you leave during a mandatory evacuation they do not let you return until they feel like it, days later in this situation. I had dropped my vehicle off at a safe parking garage so I had no transportation.

Evacuating all of coastal New Jersey and New York is different. In my opinion, you may want to analyze the situation for yourself. Really the major issue with hurricanes are the power outages and trust me, it gets hot. Just make sure that you do not evacuate directly into its path as so many did during Hurricane Charley in August of 2004.

Edit August 27, 2011 @ 830pm to add link to my latest post that is related: Reflections on the Aftermath of Hurricane Andrew

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good article..When I was in the Army in 92, I was given "emergency leave" to visit my family in Miami. I grew up in Pinecrest..Old Cutler Rd.

South Dade looked like a war zone, like those old pictures from Heroshima and Nagasaki. The house I grew up in survived but everything else on the property was decimated. The large trees, fence, landscape..There was a long metal pole impaled in the side walk / concrete..

It was twilight-zone weird.

Vicky Gallas said...

Is your family still in that area? I have been to Miami many times since then and was in a grad program at FIU, but never drove south to Cutler Ridge and stayed north of Kendall Drive (no particular reason). I'm curious if the greenery has grown back - it has been close to 20 years.

Reflecting on the aftermath of Andrew I usually laugh when I see the hype on tv these days when a storm comes through, especially the minor ones here in 2004-2005. They make a big puddle into a lake, but if you were in Miami after Andrew - you know devastation.

Yep - I recall Pinecrest. It all really was like the twilight zone!

Anonymous said...

I love (and carefully adhere) to one Floridian's comment that "You can hide from the wind, but you have to run from the water."