It is hard to mention the word “hurricane” in Florida without a well-meaning “expert”, maybe even a colleague, friend, or family member recalling a personal experience and proceeding to let you know what you must do or need to know. That statement sounds a bit sarcastic, but actually, it is not a negative. Hurricanes and tropical storms are one topic that unites us as Floridians from Key West to Pensacola, Melbourne to Tampa, Naples to Jacksonville, and all communities in between.
At Brevard Shutters & Accessories in Melbourne, FL, the premier hurricane shutter company serving Brevard, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties, we looked at some of the common hurricane facts and myths from a variety of sources circulating the internet. We compiled some interesting information below which may remind you of your own storm experiences or conversations with those well-meaning experts.
Florida hurricanes over the past 20 years
- As of 2021, 79 tropical or subtropical cyclones have affected Florida
- Over $123 billion in damage and 339 deaths were recorded
- All 20 years saw at least one tropical cyclone, yet in 2019 alone 11 cyclones affected the state
- According to the National Climatic Data Center, during the 2004 season, more than one out of every five houses in the state received damage
- The strongest to hit the state since Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was Cat 5 Hurricane Michael in 2018, taking lives and destroying towns, homes, and businesses in the Florida panhandle
- Additionally, Hurricanes Charley, Jeanne, Dennis, Wilma, and Irma all made landfall as major hurricanes
Hurricane facts, myths, and realities
A University of Central Florida (UCF) professor, insurance industry experts, media outlets, the City of Naples, and NOAA meteorologists covered myths and facts. Check out some of the commonly asked questions and answers.
Myth: It’s just a tropical storm, what’s all the hype for?
Dr. Claire Connolly Knox, an associate professor in the School of Public Administration, serves as the emergency management and homeland security program director at UCF. Dr. Knox shared her personal experience and commentary at UCF Expert Debunks 4 Myths about Hurricanes and adds that a tropical storm needs to be taken as seriously as a hurricane.
“Tropical storms really can pack a huge punch. A lot of times they’ll bring in a lot of moisture and they’ll stall. In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison affected Texas and Louisiana’s coastline. At the time I was working for the federal government, and my boss told me to go to the Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans, which was about a 2-hour drive. I said, “There’s this tropical storm off the coast, I probably shouldn’t be getting on the road for two hours.” He said, “It’s just a tropical storm.” So, I drove for two hours and ended up about 10 minutes outside of New Orleans when my car started floating because the flood waters had risen so quickly. The Army Corps of Engineers sent out a boat to get me, and I got to hunker down at their property for a couple days until the waters receded.”
In August 2008, Tropical Storm Fay ultimately caused 36 deaths, $560 million in damage, and spawned 81 tornadoes throughout the state. Fay was the first storm to hit the same state four times, the first storm to prompt storm warnings across every coast in Florida including a landfall in Naples. TS Fay caused extreme flooding throughout the state, forcing native wildlife, including alligators to swim through many flooded neighborhoods. Rainfall for the Naples area ranged from 7-10″ and local severe beach erosion took place. –City of Naples Government
Myth: Why do I have to evacuate when I’ve hunkered down many times before, this storm is no different, and I need to guard my home and possessions?
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) recently wrote the following: “It’s very difficult to keep anything dry once floodwaters start rushing into your home. The only sure way to protect your possessions is to keep documentation of your valuables, buy a flood insurance policy, and evacuate to higher ground. Every storm and flood event is unique, and catastrophic weather events have grown more common in recent years. Sandbags can fail, and sometimes waters rise so high that they overtop DIY flood barriers. Also, you may be entirely cut off from emergency help even if your house stays dry.”
Myth: Hurricanes are more intense in the Gulf and Caribbean because of warm water
Ocean Explorer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) describes the correlation between intensity and water temperature this way. “Hurricanes start simply with the evaporation of warm seawater, which pumps water into the lower atmosphere. This humid air is then dragged aloft when converging winds collide and turn upwards. At higher altitudes, water vapor starts to condense into clouds and rain, releasing heat that warms the surrounding air, causing it to rise as well. As the air far above the sea rushes upward, even more warm moist air spirals in from along the surface to replace it. Once they move over cold water or over land and lose touch with the hot water that powers them, these storms weaken and break apart. Recent studies have shown a link between ocean surface temperatures and tropical storm intensity – warmer waters fuel more energetic storms.”
Dr. Knox describes a similar myth as “half right.” She says, “You need the warm waters, but you also need moist air, low air pressure, and a number of other components that go into having the perfect storm.”
Myth: Taping my windows will suffice, it worked last time
According to the Sun Sentinel article, “Hurricane Myths, What you should not believe”, this is a waste of time (and tape). “If the window breaks in the storm, the tape will help produce large, dangerous shards flying into your house, which is not desirable. Use plywood or hurricane shutters.”
“The first death recorded for Hurricane Charley in 2004 was actually a person standing behind their sliding glass door. They had put up a film as a tape protection and a projectile came and struck them dead. So do not tape your windows,” stated Dr. Knox.
The experts in hurricane protection at Brevard Shutters & Accessories completely agree. There are many DIY or professional hurricane shutter installation options available which prevent you from masking tape fails and the hassle of time and again, installing and removing, make-shift plywood shutters. Factor in Florida’s brutal heat, while a storm is bearing down on your county and plywood, becomes a real burden. The technology, design, and convenience of the latest hurricane shutters offer affordability and peace of mind that your home and loved ones will be safer in a weather catastrophe.
Myth: Once the storm has passed, danger averted, I’m in the clear
This may be one of the most dangerous misconceptions. For many, it is the storm’s aftermath where the most danger happens. We naturally want to get in our cars especially if we have loss of utilities, check on our loved ones, begin repairs, maybe catch some waves while winds are offshore, or any variety of activities. This is when downed powerlines and prolonged power outages in Florida’s highest temperature months, flooded roadways, and storm surge can become deadly. The Sun Sentinel article reminds us of the horrible post-storm human tragedy when 12 senior citizens lost their lives due to 99-degree heat inside a Hollywood, FL nursing home after Hurricane Irma had hit the area. Other injuries and fatalities occur when water levels are misjudged by drivers who attempt to pass through, electrocution from downed wires, and falls from undertaking repairs before conditions are safe.
Myth: Wind causes the most danger in a powerful storm
Wind is not responsible for most deaths and injuries in a hurricane or tropical storm. Water from flooding and storm surges has earned that unfavorable honor. Many experts agree that water is the cause of about 80% of hurricane-related loss of human life. Just an inch of water can cause costly damage to your property and a car can easily be carried away by just 2 feet of floodwater.
“Look at Hurricane Harvey in 2017, look at the 2016 Louisiana floods — it happened almost overnight that these areas that were not in a flood-prone area actually got flooded. We also know that floods are the most costly and deadliest disasters in the United States. So, taking hurricanes and tropical storms out of the equation, flooding is your most costly and deadliest disaster,” Dr. Knox concluded.
Wind does remain a significant concern in terms of property damage and toppled or uprooted trees. The Sun Sentinel debunks the myth that you should open a window on the downwind side of the storm. They write, “It’s a great idea if you want to get water and debris blown into your house. Otherwise, it doesn’t accomplish anything. Many people think they need to open a window to allow pressure to equalize. But that’s a solution in search of a problem. No house is airtight, no matter how hard we try to eliminate every air gap, so you don’t have to worry about equalizing pressure.”
This is precisely why Brevard Shutters & Accessories in Melbourne, FL highly recommends effective hurricane wind protection in the form of hurricane shutters. Whether Roll-Up, Accordion, Colonial, Clear Panel, or another protective window shutter, damage is undoubtedly mitigated, minimized, or eliminated with hurricane protection shutters. Also, myths that shutters are not affordable, unattractive, or an inconvenient hassle are all DEFINITELY FALSE!
We always say, “hurricane protection is just the beginning.” Home security, curb appeal, UV protection, lower utility bills, noise reduction, and peace of mind are other hurricane shutter advantages. This is expected to be an above average active hurricane season. For the most peace of mind, call Brevard Shutters & Accessories serving Brevard, Indian River, and St. Lucie Counties today for a free estimate. You can expect professional design and installation from our trained technicians and for the DIY’ers, you will get expert advice, quality parts and the materials needed to personally protect your home.