Harm's way: Prepping for coastal disasters

    As a teenager in the early 1960s, I read Nevil Shute's chilling apocalyptic novel "On the Beach."  I've never forgotten the climactic scene of the condemned people of coastal Australia standing at the shoreline, waiting for the inevitable radiation cloud to take them to their final reward.
    I thought of "On the Beach" as I read an opinion piece on global warming and hurricanes in last Friday's Wall Street Journal.  The writer of the article reconciled that ever-increasing numbers of people are moving to coastal areas, willing to face the catastrophic inevitability of hurricanes.  Today, he wrote, "more people live in Dade and Broward Counties [Florida] than lived in all 109 coastal counties from Texas through Virginia in 1930."  The author, a Danish professor, thinks that if people insist on putting themselves in harm's way, the government should put much more emphasis on hurricane preparedness and pro-active measures, like better construction in low lying areas, even if that means less government spending to reduce carbon emissions.
    "Simple, preventive measures," he wrote, "would cost a small fraction of [the cost of adhering to Kyoto Protocol restrictions] but do a hundred times better" at saving lives and property on the coast.
    The best way to avoid ever having to deal with the anxiety and eventual consequences of a hurricane is, of course, to live somewhere safely distant from the coast.  A second alternative, if you have low country wanderlust and must live near or on the beach, is to narrow your odds by researching which coastal areas have the best hurricane records.  Savannah, for example, has suffered just one storm of consequence in 100 years.  Jacksonville, FL also has a fairly good record on major hurricane avoidance.  The Charleston, SC, and Nags Head, NC areas, on the other hand, are especially vulnerable.  You can find a comprehensive list of U.S. hurricanes at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration site.  It is interesting reading for those fascinated by one of Mother Nature's most devastating messages. 
    If you cannot escape the lure of coastal living, then at least learn how easy or difficult it will be to escape to safety in the event of a major storm.  Hurricane evacuation maps and information are available from most state transportation department web sites.  (For a sample from South Carolina, click here).   It is a good idea to scan these maps before you start looking for property in a populated coastal area that may, for example, have only one potentially congested lane out of harms way.
    Your investigation prior to buying into a golf course community should also include the community's own evacuation plans.  I know Pawleys Plantation in South Carolina publishes information on its members' web site about what happens in the community before, during and after a hurricane, right down to when and how to retrieve your golf clubs from storage before a storm. To some of us, those clubs are more prized than a place on the beach.  

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