2016 hurricane season
I take note of my former NHC Director Michael Lowry’s message to the Florida National Guard: “Returning from a war, you should be prepared for a decade—not a few months.” I remember an array of local, state, and federal officials making repeated visits, telling some 2,500 stranded residents that the need to flee by air only had an 18- to 24-hour window and it was best for them to leave the house by helicopter, instead of evacuate the city by road. Despite all their efforts, which included shuttling school kids to bus stops and bringing in units from other states to make up for all the Florida National Guard absence, the storm intensified and stayed for a full three days, registering six hurricanes and other tropical cyclones as major or “major” in name only. Our entire state was swamped, and almost all economic activity ground to a halt with evacuations and massive attempts to get people into shelters. Almost a decade after the storm, not enough residents had been warned, and many learned about the storm on television. We made millions of dollars in damaged housing stock, while many lived in places of last resort, such as mobile homes. Now the metro area approaches the limit of its state-of-the-art airports. When Hurricane Irma was on its way here, we aborted the evacuation and imposed mandatory evacuations by air throughout the entire state. This helped us avoid the danger of any evacuation, and caused very little disruption. While clearly a better approach to an emergency, it was not the same as evacuating by land for the comfort of others.