Hurricanes can be both devastating and life-changing. While weather statistics show hurricanes from many years ago, even today we find that hurricanes continue to affect our lives. Significant hurricanes can change both the lives they directly affect and make resounding changes in the economy for many years after. Here are two examples of significant hurricanes and how they continue to affect our lives today.
This hurricane goes on record as the second most destructive hurricane in United States history. This hurricane was the last of three Category 5(this category is the largest and most destructive) hurricanes that made U.S. landfall during the 20th century. The first was Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and Hurricane Camille in 1969. The first major impact that was felt from Hurricane Andrew was that the storm caused sixty-five deaths.
Hurricane Andrew was the first named storm of the 1992 Atlantic hurricane season. When Andrew made landfall, it first touched down in northwestern Bahamas, southern Florida, (south of Miami) and southwest Louisiana. The final devastating total for Andrew was $26.5 billion (1992 dollars) in damage with the most extensive damage being in south Florida. Hurricane Andrew was the most devastating natural disaster in United States history until it was surpassed in the 2005 season by Hurricane Katrina.
The major significance of any hurricane is for the residents who are directly in its path. Before Hurricane Andrew touched down, residents in the Bahamas received predictions for an eighteen to thirty-foot storm surge with five to eight inches of rain. Widespread evacuations were ordered, and residents throughout the Bahamas and Florida were warned to take precautions to protect life and property. At this time, 1500 National Guard troops were deployed to Florida to help maintain law and order. Sandbag walls went up in all vulnerable areas. All air traffic to the region was either delayed or cancelled.
The aftereffects of Hurricane Andrew were both man-made and natural. The National Guard troops had to stop widespread looting. In addition, Hurricane Andrew produced a killer tornado in southeastern Louisiana. At least two deaths were attributed to this F3 tornado. In addition there was widespread agriculture damage resulting in dollar loss of over 1 billion dollars. Produce prices spiked across the country in response to the crop losses caused by Hurricane Andrew. Power lines bringing electric power to the Florida Keys were destroyed, leaving residents without power. However, water was maintained, although it had to be boiled.
Hurricane Katrina has become the costliest and one of the deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. It was the sixth-strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded and the third-strongest hurricane on record that made landfall in the United States. Hurricane Katrina formed on August 23, 2005 and caused devastation along much of the north-central Gulf Coast of the United States. The most severe loss of life and property damage occurred in New Orleans, where the city flooded as the levee system failed catastrophically. The hurricane caused severe destruction across the entire Mississippi coast and into Alabama. This was unusual as the damage occurred as far as 100 miles from the storm’s center.
The preparations were much the same for Hurricane Katrina as with any other hurricane, with widespread evacuation orders being issued. There is some debate as to whether these orders were extensive enough, but the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service were widely commended for accurate forecasts and abundant lead time.
It is on record that at least 1,836 people lost their lives in Hurricane Katrina and in the subsequent floods, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane. The storm is estimated to have been responsible for $81.2 billion in damage, making it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.
The total significance of major hurricanes is impossible to briefly describe. At the initial impact, residents in the storms paths have the fear and anxiety of protecting life and property. Many residents must become evacuees leaving virtually everything. As the storm hits, generally power is lost, water and sewer services are disrupted as is communication. Extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure is usually always a result of a big hurricane. And most importantly and sadly there is usually some loss of life. There is usually extensive damage to surrounding ecosystems that many times disrupt those who work out in nature. In the aftermath of significant hurricanes, residents find their lives in total disarray. More than a million residents after Hurricane Katrina found themselves uninsurable. And for all of us, the effect of widespread bankruptcy, soaring food and gas prices and an influx of evacuees from hurricane-ravaged states continue to be felt long after the hurricane season has passed.