Florida hurricane season 2023: know your risks

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As Hurricane Ian tragically reminded us, hurricanes can be highly destructive and potentially deadly. That’s why, regardless of its rating, you should treat every hurricane—and the dangers associated with it—very seriously.

In short, you need to know your risks.

Taking the risks of any hurricane lightly is a big mistake. Those who do should consider themselves lucky to make it through the storm unscathed. Even if they do avoid the worst consequences of a strong hurricane, they could still find themselves waiting in long lines for essentials such as ice, water and food after the storm. Their luck may also include having friends and family who did prepare ahead of time and are willing to help them out with shelter and supplies once a hurricane has passed. Most people, however, don’t want to test their luck and risk find themselves in either position.

There’s nothing fun about a hurricane. It shouldn’t be considered a test of bravado or a spectator sport. You should always understand what you’re really facing.

Just how bad could a landfalling hurricane be?

A Category 3 storm can send trees and tree limbs through windows and roofs while taking down power lines and destroying smaller homes. As Hurricane Ian demonstrated, a powerful Category 4 hurricane carries the strength to cause complete building failure and overwhelming storm surge, while a Category 5 can cause even greater and more widespread destruction. Any hurricane, regardless of size or strength, has the potential to cause catastrophic flooding almost anywhere.

In 2017, Hurricane Irma made landfall on Marco Island as a Category 3 storm. The storm led to the deaths of 129 people, and the National Hurricane Center estimated the storm caused about $50 billion in overall damage. Approximately 6.5 million Floridians were ordered to evacuate, with 77,000 of them finding refuge in 450 shelters, according to The Wall Street Journal.

On Sept. 28, 2022, Hurricane Ian made landfall on Cayo Costa Island as a Category 4 hurricane. It carried 150 mph winds and the 14-foot storm surge it produced along Fort Myers Beach was the highest ever recorded in Southwest Florida. When it was over, 149 people had died, which made it the deadliest hurricane to strike Florida since 1935. In addition, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Hurricane Ian’s $112 billion in damage made it the costliest hurricane in state history and the third-costliest in U.S. history.

Be prepared. Stay informed. Above all, keep safe. Don’t try to ride out a hurricane if you don’t have to. If evacuations are called for, then do what’s necessary to get yourself and your loved ones out of harm’s way as soon as possible. The dangers presented by a hurricane cannot be stressed enough. Understanding the risks created by any hurricane is an important first step toward safely surviving the season.

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