Seventh Annual AMS Student Conference


Hurricane & Tropical Storm Impacts over the South Florida Metropolitan Area: Mortality & Government

Ian C. Colon Pagan Sr., UPR Rio Piedras - SOARS, Patillas, PR

Since 1985, the South Florida Metropolitan area (SFMA), which covers the counties of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, has been directly affected by 9 tropical cyclones: four tropical storms and 5 hurricanes. This continuous hurricane and tropical storm activity has awakened the conscience of the communities, government, and private sector, about the social vulnerability, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, and others. Several factors have also been significant enough to affect the vulnerability of the South Florida Metropolitan area, like its geographic location which is at the western part of the Atlantic hurricane track, with a surface area of 6,137 square miles, and elevation of 15 feet. And second its population growth, which is ranked as the 7th among the most populous area in the United States from the 2006 Census estimate, supporting almost 1,571 individuals per square mile.

Mortality levels due to hurricanes and tropical storms have fluctuated over the last 21 years without any signal of a complete reduction, a phenomenon that can be related to both physical characteristics of the storms and government actions. The average annual death count remains almost the same from 4.10 between 1985 and 1995 to 4 from 1996 to 2006. However, the probability of occurrence of a direct impact of an atmospheric disturbance has increase from 0.3 to 0.6, with an average of three hurricane or tropical storm direct impacts for every five. This analysis suggests an increasing problem with regard to atmospheric disturbances-related deaths in the South Florida Metropolitan area. In other words, despite substantial increases in population during the last 21 years, the number of tropical cyclone-related deaths is not declining; it's just being segregated among more storms.

Results reflect a lack of focus on hurricane and tropical storm related themes, while a decrease in funding can be the consequence of less interest and much more attention on less probable hazards with a long term recovery period. Even though the government has an important role in hurricanes and tropical storms mitigation, some of the main ideas to decrease mortality are focused in networking between private and public sector and the understanding of self-vulnerability of individuals.

Poster Session 1, Student Conference General Poster Session
Sunday, 20 January 2008, 5:30 PM-7:00 PM, Exhibit Hall B

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