Florida Hurricanes

Anyone who enjoys the Florida outdoors should be aware of Florida hurricanes. The specter of a powerful Florida-bound cyclone spawned in far-off Atlantic waters haunts us during the warmer half of our year--June to November. During this time, nature's fury can strike us fast and hard, with only a few days' advanced warning, sometimes less.

Hurricane Andrew approaches Florida

Photo credit goes to NOAA/US Dept of Commerce

Like an aging boxer living with the memories of powerful punches absorbed, Florida lives with the memories of devastating Florida hurricanes come her way. Going back a while among notorious Florida hurricanes, there was the '28 hurricane that struck near Palm Beach and killed almost 2,000 people by Lake Okeechobee. Then, the '35 hurricane slammed into the Keys with winds up to 200 miles per hour, devastating the place. Somewhere along the way, we started naming hurricanes. For those of us on the peninsula a few decades, names like Donna and Andrew are embedded in our collective psyche.

After hurricane Andrew

Photo credit goes to NOAA/US Dept of Commerce

People who've dealt with these powerful storms first hand know they're no joke. A high school friend of mine who lived in Homestead in 1992 decided to ride out Hurricane Andrew. He and his family ended up in the car in the garage with a mattress on top of them for protection. I don't remember his exact words, but he said something to the effect of "Never again. If I hear so much as a heavy breeze is comin' to town, I'm gettin' the flock outta Dodge." I've never met a person who lived through a really bad hurricane who was eager to do it again.

Yet, newcomers arrive in Florida every year with little idea of what a hurricane can be. Let a few years go by without a hurricane, or worse yet, let a few mild hurricanes hit, and some people get the idea that a hurricane is no big deal. Such complacency, if widespread, is cause for concern.

The best news about hurricanes is, we do have at least some warning, usually several days. Maybe not always as much as we'd like, but the warning is there, nonetheless.

If you're planning a back-country trip through Florida, especially during hurricane season, make it a point to listen to the weather report every day. I carry a small radio that picks up the NOAA Weather Radio channels so I can be in touch with what's going on weatherwise.

Don't get caught canoeing on a multi-day trip down some river somewhere or backpacking a lonely trail while a major hurricane is gearing up to hit the area. The path of hurricanes is hard to guess. A storm predicted to pass away from the area you're in may suddenly and rather unexpectedly change directions and be headed straight over you, reducing warning time. A radio lets you know from day to day, even from hour to hour, what kind of weather--hurricane, thunderstorm, cold front, whatever--is or is not headed your way.

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