Hurricane Ida Warns Florida’s Beachside Communities
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- On Aug. 30, Hurricane Ida swept through Louisiana on a destructive path, leaving many surrounding east coast communities wondering if the same situation could happen to them.
Residents of beachside communities are targets during hurricane season. Strong rip currents, high winds, tropical storms, flooding, loss of power, and storm surges can cause damage to life and property. As hurricane season persists, meteorologists advise beachside communities, like where Palm Beach Atlantic University resides, on how to protect themselves.
Robert Frye, senior meteorologist from The National Weather Service, states that hurricanes and their impacts cannot be compared to one another, especially between Louisiana and Florida.
“The geology is slightly different in terms. Our swamps are across the interior of the peninsula while theirs is right on the coast. Because of that, their storm surge is able to climb much higher there,” Frye says.
Frye explains that the Barrier islands act as a natural mitigation tool in Florida. Its convex coastline helps decrease the intensity of a storm surge, which is the primary cause of hurricane-related fatalities, while Louisiana's concave coastline has the adverse effect.
But Florida is not exempt from experiencing storm surges. In 2018, Hurricane Michael leveled Mexico Beach. The Category 5 hurricane traveled across the Florida Panhandle, causing death and damage throughout the East Coast.
“On the dot June 1, we start talking preparedness and getting folks ready because we don’t know if this will be the year that we get another Michael,” Frye cautions.
Frye urges beachside communities to understand what safety precautions they can take. In case of the loss of power, Frye advises locals to store cash. He explains that during power outages, ATMs will not be functional.
Emergency preparedness campaigns suggest locals should create an emergency plan that includes collecting food, storing water, securing important documents, caring for your home or business, and accommodating any special needs.
Frye stresses that we need to get a headstart. “In terms of getting a major hurricane, it’s not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’.”
Reese Davis, a West Palm Beach resident for 18 years, says that he was never worried about hurricanes. “Most Florida residents know a bit about hurricane safety but not everyone knows where their nearest shelter is. Back home my high school counted as a hurricane shelter but I don’t know where the nearest one is now.”
“Know where you are on a map,” Frye advises. “Equate that to hurricane evacuation zones.”
West Palm Beach is in Zone C, which evacuates when an official order is announced by public officials. The nearest hurricane shelters can be found on the Public Safety Emergency Management page for Palm Beach County.
Jasmine Lien and Alijah Simmons