After three years of no major storms, Florida may be suffering from “hurricane amnesia.”
The shaky economy and years of no hurricanes have led to what emergency management officials now describe as a dangerous level of complacency. More than two months into hurricane season, and even as Tropical Storm Fay formed in the Carribean this past weekend, officials say Floridians are less prepared to withstand a major storm than at any other times in years.
A recent Harvard University study adds to the concern. The Harvard survey published found that roughly a quarter of those polled did not plan to leave at the approach of a major storm, fearing theft at their homes if they did, as well as violence on the roads or in shelters, similar to what happened in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.
Miami-Dade County has spent $250 million in local, state and federal money cleaning up from the hurricanes of 2005, Katrina and Wilma, and officials say that when people are unprepared, the expense rises substantially, as does the death and injury toll.
On Aug. 7, scientists with the National Hurricane Center predicted that there would be 14 to 18 named storms this season, including 7 to 10 hurricanes, as many as six of which could be at least Category 3, meaning sustained winds above 110 miles per hour.
In May, meteorologists predicted 12 to 16 storms for the season — June 1 through Nov. 30 — including six to nine hurricanes, with five possibly reaching Category 3 status.