Hurricane director: Prepare as though one will hit

Sun Sentinel

Will Florida escape a hurricane hit yet again?

That’s possible. But considering Florida is the most storm-clobbered state in the nation, it would be wise to prepare as though one will strike, National Hurricane Center director Rick Knabb said Tuesday. “It’s a matter of when, not if,” he said. “Take steps now while the weather is good.”

Knabb gave this thoughts during the Governor’s Hurricane Conference in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday:

Florida hasn’t been hit for a record seven seasons. Does that increase the odds of being hit this year?

Just because we haven’t been hit doesn’t mean the odds will increase. But we’ve been very fortunate in Florida for many years in a row without a direct hurricane impact. You have to be prepared as if it will occur.

What was the main lesson learned in last year’s hurricane season?

It was all about water, water, water. Debby, Isaac, Sandy. The main impacts from all of those systems had to do with water - whether it was storm surge from the ocean and/or heavy rain in inland areas. We often think of tropical storms and hurricanes as big wind machines. But we have respect the water-related hazards.

Will the federal sequester hurt the hurricane center?

The center is going to deliver on its mission during this hurricane season, no matter what. We are going to provide the forecasts and warnings that people need. Even if, for example, furloughs were actually to take place, if there’s a big hurricane on our doorstep, those can be canceled.  

You’ve been hurricane center director for a year now. What’s been your biggest challenge?

It’s just what I expected it to be, and that is juggling so many different parts of the job. Being involved in  preparedness, pushing forward technologically, advancing our communications abilities, making the forecasts better and just running the center. It’s a big, big undertaking.

What’s your main goal from here?

To make sure people understand their own vulnerability to various hazards that a hurricane poses. People aren’t going to prepare for and react to an approaching hurricane properly if they don’t know the hazards. So many people don’t even know what storm surge is or specifically know if they live in one of the evacuation zones.

The forecast calls for a busy season. What advice would you give residents?

You need to prepare the same way every year, no matter what the seasonal forecasts are saying. What we care about is that one system that could come our way, that one hurricane that could create tremendous impact where we live. We don’t know if that’s going to occur here or not this year, but you have to prepare as if it will.




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