The Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science and
The Greater Miami Chapter of the AMS present
"Hurricane Preparedness - State of the Union"
Bill Read
Director, National Hurricane Center

June 26, 2008 at 7 PM.
Refreshments 6:30 PM

RSMAS Auditorium
Virginia Key, FL

Bill Read, the newly appointed Director of the National Hurricane Center, will discuss his observations from traveling to many state and International meetings this Spring as Director and how the work of forecasters, researchers, and the media relate to his findings.

For those of you who have not had a chance to meet Mr. Read, this will provide an opportunity to do so in an informal setting.

Minutes of June 26, 2008 AMS Meeting

The 7 PM meeting took place at the auditorium of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science of the University of Miami on Virginia Key, FL. Mr. Bill Read, director of the National Hurricane Center addressed a crowd of 48 people on the subject of “Hurricane Preparedness - State of the Union.” Mr. Read’s talk touched on many topics, ranging from evacuation issues, to building codes. Some of the facts he relayed:

  • 45 percent of residents coastal counties do not have any type of plan regarding course of actions that need to be taken for an approaching hurricane.
  • 65 percent of coastal residents do not have any emergency kits in the event of a storm
  • Only 5 percent of residents would make structural improvements to increase the chances of their home surviving a hurricane.

The issue of flood insurance was also raised this evening. While most people have wind and fire insurance, the chances of losing a home due to those events is much lower when compared to that of flooding. Within a 30 year time period, if you are located within the 100 year flood plain, there is a 25-30 percent chance that you will lose your home due to flooding. The chances of losing the home due to wind or especially fire are considerably less.

Mr. Read also spoke about storm surge prediction uncertainties. Assuming a perfect forecast, there is a 20 percent margin of error for SLOSH model predictions. Including the track error increases the error to more than 200 percent. This was illustrated with an example from Hurricane Ivan. On the National Hurricane Center forecast from 12 hours before landfall, Pensacola was expected to experience 3-6 feet of surge. This was with the hurricane forecast to hit just west of Mobile Bay. However, as we experienced that terrible evening and morning, Ivan veered to the east and struck the eastern edge of Mobile Bay. The result was a tidal surge of 10-15 feet in the Pensacola area. Compounding forecast uncertainty, many reported home elevations are incorrect, some by as much as 5 feet in coastal areas.

Speaking from his experience as meteorologist-in-charge of the Houston office during Hurricane Rita in 2005, Mr. Read turned our attention to evacuation issues. The concept of special needs people was addressed. Also, the idea of phased evacuations came under fire. The reason why those are not successful is that many residents do not adhere to the evacuation phases. Instead evacuations are often driven by fear and panic. This leads to uncontrolled evacuation like experienced in Hurricane Rita. Also, excluding the Florida Keys, the primary reason for people not complying with a mandatory evacuation was age. The older generations tended to be less likely to comply with Mandatory evacuations than younger generations. Social and economic considerations played a significantly lower aspect. Nobody tends to leave in the Keys, regardless of the demographic.

Tropical cyclones are responsible for 50 percent of the nation’s total insured losses. This is far more than terrorism, which is responsible for 7 percent. He showed insurance underwriters losses between 1992 and 2006 far outweighed their marginal profits in those years when there were no hurricane strikes. Mr. Read then ended his talk with a discussion about return periods for storm surge values and how few areas in the Gulf Coast adopt building codes as strict as south Florida's.

There followed an extensive question and answer period and the meeting adjourned at 8:45 PM.

A summary of the meeting, which also appeared at the following website.

Directions to RSMAS

From the mainland take I-95 or US 1 to the Rickenbacker Causeway exit. Take the Causeway past the Miami Seaquarium and the gate to the Rosenstiel campus will be on your right. From Key Biscayne, take the Causeway toward the mainland. Make a left at the light just after Bear Cut.

Return to Seminar listings
Return to Miami AMS chapter home