J4.2 Hurricane wind, storm surge, flooding rains—why don't some people get it?

Monday, 24 January 2011: 11:30 AM
604 (Washington State Convention Center)
William L. Read, NOAA/NHC, Miami, FL

Coastal development throughout the history of the United States has put citizens at risk of the impacts of a land falling hurricane. As coastal cities grew in population during the 1800s and early 1900s, the impacts from storm surge led to losses of over 1000 lives (Cheniere Caminada, LA 1893, Sea Islands, GA,SC 1893, Galveston, 1900, SE Florida, Lake Okeechobee, 1928). The lack of an adequate warning system in those events combined with the vulnerability of the communities created the conditions leading to the large loss of life. Although the science of forecasting and ability to communicate improved over the 1900s, loss of life due to storm surge continued with numerous events having death totals in the hundreds. With the advent of satellite and radar coverage during the 1960s, community evacuation planning, and almost universal television coverage, the trend in fatalities from storm surge greatly decreased. The largest number of fatalities since 1970 has been attributed to flooding rains. Prosperity over the last half century has led to exponential growth on and near the coast. Over the past two decades accelerated advances in the science of hurricane forecasting, coupled with advances in news media and the internet have greatly improved our ability to accurately warn the public well in advance. Evacuation planning and public education has provided a means to at least theoretically prevent the loss of life from a land falling storm. Hurricane Katrina showed that the risk of large loss of life due to the impact of storm surge is still present. Post storm studies have revealed considerable differences in response to hurricane warnings from different regions of the U.S. coast. The presentation will cover the author's observations and opinions on the challenges in increasing public awareness of the risk from tropical cyclones and how we convey those risks in forecasts.
- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner