We are, by most experts’ accounts, somewhere between a week to ten days away from another outbreak of tropical weather. Right around the first of October we should be seeing at least three tropical storms or hurricanes in various stages of development in various places in the Atlantic, Caribbean and, unfortunately, the Gulf of Mexico. This season is far from over, and as bad as the Fay, Gustov, Hanna and Ike storm train was; the round might be even worse.
We saw three years ago what happens when the country is struck by a major hurricane soon after another one. The second storm does not receive the attention, supplies or other resources the first storm does. No one could possibly argue that Hurricane Rita victims received anywhere near the attention that Katrina victims did. Certainly this is in part to due to location, but it is also due to how near the two hurricanes were to each other time wise.
Lost in the Katrina disaster is the fact that a hundred fifty miles east of where Katrina made landfall (near Pensacola, Florida), two major hurricanes made landfall within a year of each other. In August 2004, Hurricane Ivan slammed ashore near Gulf Shores, Alabama just to the west of Pensacola. Ivan, lest we forget, was the third most expensive hurricane to hit the United States before Ike. In July of 2005, Hurricane Dennis came ashore near Navarre Beach, Florida just to the east of Pensacola.
Very few people in the United States have any recollection of Dennis and most have forgotten about Ivan. Although the people who lived in Ivan’s path will never forget the fear of a category 5 monster bearing down upon them, people outside of the immediate area long ago forgot about how fortunate we were that Ivan weakened and did not go fifty miles west right into Mobile, Alabama.
I vividly recall driving down Interstate 10 in July of 2006, two years after Ivan and one year after Dennis and being amazed at the number of blue tarps covering roofs. At the time, I could not understand how there could still be so many homes whose roofs had not been repaired in the space of two years. Part of the reason for this was certainly the double whammy of two hurricanes within a year of each other.
In September of 2004, Stuart, Florida had the distinction of being hit by two major hurricanes within three weeks of each other. First Hurricane Francis came ashore as a strong category 2 storm, and then amazingly, three weeks later, Hurricane Jeanne followed the exact same path as a category 3 storm. Together, the two storms caused almost 16 billion dollars in damage. As bad as this was for the immediate area, the scary part is to think what would have happened if both of these storms would have hit fifty miles further south in the densely populated West Palm Beach area.
The current situation in central and southwestern Louisiana is unprecedented in many respects. There are areas which have been impacted by first Katrina and then Rita in 2005 and now Gustov and Ike in 2008. Some would say that three years makes this a non-issue, but one must remember there was no rebuilding or recovery in most of this region from the 2005 storms until late 2006 and into 2007.
No one can say with any degree of confidence where any of the upcoming storms will be headed. But, there is ample evidence to suggest that one or more of the various tropical storms and hurricanes to form in the next few weeks will emerge in the Gulf of Mexico somewhere. Obviously, if any storm starts heading toward the Galveston/Houston area we will have MAJOR problems. There is no assurance that many thousand people currently in shelters won’t still be there.
One of the worst case scenarios would be another major hurricane do as Jeanne did in Florida four years ago and follow the exact same path as Ike. It is beyond the ability to comprehend how disastrous this would be. Of course this same exact fear was prevalent in 2005 when for a season it looked like Rita would hit New Orleans.
As horrible as this scenario would be, there are two that could be worse. The first would be for one of the upcoming hurricanes to follow Gustov’s path into central Louisiana. This area could not handle a third major hurricane in the same season without massive loss of property and life. Since this area is very difficult to reach due to the terrain and lack of roads, a third hurricane would be a calamity.
The worst case scenario would be a major hurricane hit New Orleans, the Mississippi Coast or Mobile/Pensacola. We are not equipped in this country to handle multiple major hurricanes at the same time; not with the economy as it is. Resources are already stretched thin, especially among major charities, due to all the tornadoes and flooding earlier this year.
Here is THE worst case scenario that could play out over the next month. A major hurricane strikes the central Gulf Coast (New Orleans, Mobile) before Galveston/Houston are on their feet. Then, a major hurricane strikes the East Coast either in North Carolina, Miami or New York. If, and this has never happened in our country’s history, we had 3 major hurricanes strike densely populated areas within a month of each other, it could and would cripple the country.
In 2005, there were 3 major hurricanes to strike (Katrina, Rita and Wilma), but Rita did not strike a densely populated area and Wilma’s damage was concentrated in an area well equipped to handle it. The fear of many who study, forecast and track hurricanes is that one of these years a major hurricane would ride the East Coast and hit either Philadelphia or New York. Unlike the Gulf Coast or Florida, or even the Carolinas, the big cities in the Northeast are not used to hurricanes and the potential for chaos and damage is very high.
God forbid any of these scenarios end up happening, but only a fool would sit back and assume none or only one could take place. Preparation is the key to survival. It would do all parties from Galveston to Boston well to start making preparations NOW for the possible hurricane threats coming up in October. With all that is going on economically, it behooves the American public to NOT sit back on their laurels and assume they are safe and secure. Only a true FOOL would be so naïve this year.