Out of Harm's Way, for Now

Hurricanes Florence and Harvey suggest areas that are vulnerable to Atlantic hurricanes could be hit with much more costly and dangerous storms than in the past.

For most of this year, my wife, Linda, and I were expecting to be in Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., in mid-September 2018. A nephew's wedding was the chief reason to make this trip; as it turned out, the Sept. 15 wedding date in Raleigh coincided with Hurricane Florence's arrival in North Carolina. The engaged couple wisely decided to postpone their wedding. One leg of our trip had been cancelled by then, and we expected other reservations also would be.

In just a few days, Florence poured more than 30 inches of rain on some locations in eastern North Carolina, caused more than 1,000 swift-water rescues, and sent more than 15,000 people into emergency shelters in North Carolina alone. By Sept. 17, the storm was responsible for 24 deaths.

The day before, I noticed a study1 titled "The human influence on Hurricane Florence," by Kevin A. Reed and Alyssa M. Stansfield of Stony Brook University, Michael F. Wehner of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Colin M. Zarzycki of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. They predicted Florence's forecasted rainfall amounts in the Carolinas would be 50 percent higher because of climate change, and that climate change also increased the forecasted size of Florence by about 80 kilometers.

The idea that global warming is increasing hurricanes' intensity is not universally accepted, but it makes sense to me. Hurricane Harvey also produced eye-popping rainfall totals as it inflicted about $125 billion in damage and killed more than 100 people just a year before Florence, remember. These two hurricanes suggest areas that are vulnerable to Atlantic hurricanes could be hit with much more costly and dangerous storms than in the past.

I'm safe for now, living in north Texas some 300 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. These storms have made me think differently about the places where I may want to vacation or retire, however.

Reference
1. https://cpb-us-e1.wpmucdn.com/you.stonybrook.edu/dist/4/945/files/2018/09/climate_change_Florence_0911201800Z_final-262u19i.pdf

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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