Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hurricane teams say all it takes is one

ORLANDO — Forecasts for the 2008 hurricane season will come out within days, and the nation's top emergency planners can already tell you what these predictions mean to you.

"Nothing," said Craig Fugate, director of Florida's Division of Emergency Management.

"No, I don't," said National Hurricane Center director Bill Read, when asked if he believed the annual predictions offer any real use to the general public.

R. David Paulison said he's always interested in the number of hurricanes and tropical storms that experts predict, but he added that the numbers don't change what he does, either as a Miami native or as the administrator of FEMA.

"As far as we're concerned, we have to be ready if it's one or if it's 10," Paulison said.

At the National Hurricane Conference this week, emergency planners from across the nation are preparing for the next storm season, which begins June 1. They are grappling with details such as whether to provide ice to hurricane victims and broader issues such as how to reduce the massive number of people who would need to evacuate an urban coast like Pinellas County's.

For example Paulison, a former Miami-Dade fire chief, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has decided delivering ice to people after hurricanes doesn't make much sense. He said it's more important to get them food and water. This policy was in place last year but didn't get much notice because of the low number of storms making landfall.

Fugate, trying to think of long-term solutions, discussed the possibility of creating incentives to encourage developers to build hurricane-resistant shelters in high-rise buildings such as condominium towers. That way, people could safely ride out a storm in their condos, instead of evacuating with thousands of other Tampa Bay area residents in what could become a traffic nightmare. "We're not going to be able to evacuate everybody out of St. Pete," he said.

But for many at the conference, and for most people in the Tampa Bay area, it all more or less boils down to two questions: Will we get hit by a hurricane this year, and are we ready?

That may explain the popularity of the forecasts. Read said in an interview he would love to "pull back the almost circus-like hype" on the storm forecasts, and focus instead on underlying factors, such as the weather patterns known as El Nino and La Nina.

Fugate said the forecasts are worthwhile scientific endeavors in themselves. Even though "the annual rite of the spring forecast means nothing to the individual," he readily confessed to using them himself as a way of motivating the public to get ready for the next storm.

The bottom line this year, he said, is the same as every year: "Let's get ready."

Philip J. Klotzbach of Colorado State University and his close colleague, famed hurricane researcher William Gray, strongly encourage everyone to prepare for hurricanes regardless of the predictions. When a bay area homeowner is deciding what to pack in her hurricane box, the seasonal forecasts "shouldn't have any bearing," Klotzbach said. "We've said that forever."

As he and others pointed out this week, 1992 was a light season for hurricanes generally speaking — which didn't make you feel any better if your house got smashed by Hurricane Andrew that year.

For the record, Klotzbach and Gray's spring forecast is due out next week, and it will follow one that already was released in December calling for a busier-than-normal year.

The team's forecasts over-estimated storm activity for the past two years, and Klotzbach said he had redesigned a complex statistical model in an effort to do better this time.

"When we bust, I get mad," he said. "It's not fun."

Hurricane teams say all it takes is one 04/02/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 2, 2008 11:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Update: Scientology cancels planned mock FBI raid on downtown building

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology planned to film a mock FBI raid on a downtown building Monday afternoon, but the actors and cameras never showed up.

    According to Clearwater Police, the Church of Scientology plans to hold a mock FBI raid at 3 p.m. Monday at this vacant building at 305 N Fort Harrison Ave. Police announced the raid in advance to alert the public. They said they did not know the reason for the event. [Google Earch image]
  2. Support for gay marriage surges, even among groups once wary

    Human Interest

    NEW YORK — In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey.

    People gather in Washington's Lafayette Park to see the White House lit up in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage legal. In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey released on Monday, June 26, 2017. [Associated Press]
  3. Florida inspired new group focused on improving how elections are run


    A new group run by two lawyers and veteran Democratic operatives specializing in voter protection efforts is launching a pilot program in Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to work with local elections officials to improve the voting process. Access Democracy, run by …

    Access Democracy wants to improve voter participation and how elections are run
  4. Super Nintendo is coming back to stores, and there's even a new (old) game


    If the overwhelming success of last year's NES Classic is any indication, you may want to get your hands on Nintendo's newly-announced Super NES Classic as soon as it becomes available this fall.

    Super Nintendo plans to release the Super NES Classic Edition.
  5. Dave Andreychuk going into Hall of Fame (w/photo gallery)


    Dave Andreychuk said Monday began "business as usual."

    Dave Andreychuk battles Calgary's Andrew Ference during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.