Florida hurricane season 2024: know your risks

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Though it’s been almost two years since Hurricane Ian, the scars it left across Southwest Florida serve as lasting reminders of a hurricane’s destructive and deadly potential. Given that, regardless of its strength or projected track, it’s important that you treat every hurricane—and the dangers associated with it—very seriously.

Simply put, you should know your risks.

Underestimating the risks of any hurricane can be a potentially life-threatening mistake. Those who might take a storm lightly and are fortunate enough to emerge unscathed should be considered extremely lucky. However, if they do manage to avoid the wrath of a strong hurricane, afterward they’ll still likely encounter long lines for essentials such as ice, water, and food. They may have friends and family who did have the foresight to prepare in advance and are able to help provide shelter and supplies after the storm, but that would represent another stroke of luck. Fortunately, most people don’t want to take that kind of risk and potentially put themselves in either position.

A hurricane isn’t a fun experience. Going into a hurricane unprepared shouldn’t be considered an act of bravery or an opportunity to go viral. Always make sure you understand what you’re facing.

How bad could a hurricane’s landfall be?

Consider that a Category 3 hurricane can destroy smaller homes, take down power lines, topple large trees, and send tree limbs through windows and roofs. In 2022, Hurricane Ian showed that a Category 4 hurricane is strong enough to generate a devastating storm surge and complete structural failure. A Category 5 storm can cause even greater destruction across a wider area. And, regardless of the size or strength of the storm, any hurricane can cause catastrophic flooding almost anywhere.

To put the destructive potential of a hurricane in Southwest Florida into numbers, consider these examples. Hurricane Irma, which made landfall on Marco Island as a Category 3 storm in 2017, led to the deaths of 129 people. In addition, according to the National Hurricane Center, the cost of the overall damage was estimated at $50 billion. Of the approximately 6.5 million Floridians who were ordered to evacuate, 77,000 had to find refuge in 450 shelters.

Five years later, in 2022, Hurricane Ian made landfall on Cayo Costa Island as a Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds. The 14-foot storm surge generated by Ian along Fort Myers Beach was the highest ever recorded in Southwest Florida. The 149 deaths attributed to Hurricane Ian made it the deadliest hurricane to strike Florida since 1935. Plus, Ian’s $112 billion damage toll made it the costliest hurricane in Florida’s history and the third-costliest in U.S. history.

Be prepared. Stay informed. Above all, keep safe. If you don’t absolutely have to, don’t try to ride out a hurricane. If evacuations are ordered, do what’s necessary to ensure you and your loved ones are out of harm’s way as soon as possible. Remember that any and every hurricane carries the potential for a variety of real dangers. Understanding those dangers, and the risks they pose to people and property, is a vital first step to surviving hurricane season safely.

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