2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 2:00 PM


BUSH, David M., Department of Geosciences, University of West Georgia, Carrollton, GA 30118 and YOUNG, Robert S., Dept. of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 28723, dbush@westga.edu

The general public is constantly reminded that “most hurricane deaths are from drowning.” However, because of modern flood zone mapping and management strategies, including sheltering and evacuation, countless lives are now saved during each storm. Storm surge flooding still poses a threat to property, but the risk to human lives have been greatly reduced. Wind deaths currently account for a significant percentage of fatalities because of hurricane-associated tornadoes, microbursts, and extremely strong sustained winds. Many coastal communities have begun to evaluate building codes in light of this wind threat, and models are being developed to predict how far inland strong winds will penetrate during hurricane impact. Yet, these efforts have not filtered into our media-supported public evacuation and preparation efforts. It is time that we begin to emphasize that anyone in a poorly constructed building or mobile home near a hurricane impact zone may die. Even well constructed homes may be destroyed by tornadoes or microbursts. Simply getting oneself above the projected flood zone does not imply safety. The media should place a new emphasis on making the public aware of this very real threat.

Sadly, the media does more harm than good. By placing reporters in harms way and having them stand outside in the raging wind to report from the field, they give the misimpression that the threat isn't real. They make a mockery of the threat for the sake of a good visual. If the Weather Channel, CNN, and other reporting media are sincerely concerned for public safety, their correspondents should set a good example. They should report from safe places. If you are anywhere near the impact zone of a major hurricane and its projected inland path, you are in danger. Treat the possible wind threat as you would a tornado. Leave if at all possible or seek shelter immediately! Communities should: 1) Consider issuing mandatory evacuation orders for mobile home parks. 2) Produce building type/quality maps, similar to existing flood maps. 3) Work with the media to encourage public education about the very real threat to life from hurricane winds. 4) Discourage reporters trying to attract attention by not allowing live media coverage from hazardous areas after evacuation orders have been given.