AMS Forum: Environmental Risk and Impacts on Society: Successes and Challenges


Superstorms in the 1990's: Can seasons of superstorms be far behind?

Liam M. Cavanaugh, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO; and M. H. Glantz, R. E. Morss, E. Gruntfest, and J. Tribbia

On March 12-14, 1993 Superstorm ‘93, also known as the “Storm of the Century” and the “No Name Storm,” hit the East Coast of the United States from the Deep South to New England, causing tornadoes, coastal flooding, crippling snows, and tropical storm force winds. From the Gulf Coast to Maine, schools were closed, transportation by land and air was crippled for days, 2 billion dollars in damage was caused, and 285 deaths were directly related to the storm. Every major airport on the East Coast was closed at least once, and 25% of flights nationwide were canceled. Forecasts of the storm's progression and impact along the Eastern Seaboard were considered by many to be excellent. People foretold Superstorm ‘93 with language such as “unusually severe” and “perhaps record breaking” several days before the storm began. Several areas in Florida and Cuba, however, were hit exceptionally hard by an unpredicted squall line and its associated tornadoes, as well as poorly forecast coastal flooding, causing extensive damage and to property and human life.

Although Superstorm '93 was the first time a U.S. storm had been dubbed a “superstorm,” other extraordinary events around the world have used such language. An intense storm over the United Kingdom and France in October 1987 was labeled the “exceptional storm” and “Supercyclone Orissa” hit Orissa, India in October 1999. Tropical systems across Florida and the Gulf Coast during last year's hurricane season (2004) have now raised the notion of “seasons of superstorms.” Using the case study of Superstorm '93 as a launching pad, this presentation offers insight into what makes a storm merit the label of “super” and what makes a season of storms, such as the 2004 hurricane season, “super.” Several possible factors involved in this distinction will be discussed, including, but not limited to: direct impacts from a single storm or a series of blockbuster storms, repeated storms of various magnitudes in the same location without time for recovery between them, and public/media perception of the impacts of the storm, including recent hype that has been created about severe storms.


Session 1, Hazards and disasters: Socioeconomic Impacts & the Decision making process: Part 1
Monday, 30 January 2006, 4:00 PM-5:15 PM, A311

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