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Chances Are: Odds in favor of major hurricane missing your coastal golf home
Hurricane Watch: Forecasting The Deadliest Storms on Earth includes a list of cities from Maine to Texas (and a few Caribbean islands) with the probabilities of any hurricane (first column) and a major hurricane (second column) passing within 75 miles. The authors define “major hurricane” as one with winds exceeding 110 miles per hour. For those of you who expect to live another century, the percentages also predict the number of hurricanes to expect in each area over a 100-year period. In Panama City, for example, expect 14 hurricanes and about 4 major hurricanes over the next century. We’ve picked out a list of cities along the east and Gulf Coasts that are especially popular with our readers, but we have also included some mid-Atlantic and northeast coastal cities to show they are as likely, and in some cases more likely, to suffer the consequences of big storms. If you would like assistance in choosing the best spot for you, please contact me at email@example.com.
% chance of hurricane
Bar Harbor, ME
New York City
Atlantic City, NJ
Ocean City, MD
Virginia Beach, VA
Cape Hatteras, NC
Myrtle Beach, SC
West Palm Beach, FL
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Key West, FL
Ft. Myers, FL
Panama City, FL
Source: Hurricane Watch: Forecasting the Deadliest Storms on Earth. Originally published in 2001 by Dr. Bob Sheets and Jack Williams. Published by Vintage Books. Paperback updated in 2011. $15 in U.S., $23 in Canada. Available in book stores and online (we bought our copy through BarnesandNoble.com).
When it comes to big storms, Savannah is safer than Boston, Myrtle Beach is safer than Bar Harbor, Maine, and New Orleans is no riskier than Nantucket…
This is September, and as someone who owns property just one mile from the Atlantic Ocean in South Carolina and whose wife provides him with frequent updates from the Weather Channel this time of year, I have been thinking about hurricanes. Tis the season, after all.
More than any other type of weather on the eastern seaboard, hurricanes inspire awe and fear. Every 10 customers or so tell me they love the coast but are looking for a home on an inland lake or in the mountains because hurricanes scare them. There’s no telling how many others keep their phobia to themselves. When you strip away the perceived threats of hurricanes, oceans and beaches are a natural magnet for many people. There’s a reason why, for example, beachfront property can be 10 times more expensive than a similarly sized lot just a half-mile inland (even though much potential demand for ocean views is scared away by perceived storm threats). We associate beach with vacation and relaxation, and a patch of beach on a lake just won’t cut it for most of us.
Sandy's effect on our hurricane psyche Of course, with the relentless accounts late last year of Hurricane Sandy’s devastating effects on New York and New Jersey, it is understandable that people are scared. And yet, ironically, the effects of recent storms on such perceived safe spots as New York and Vermont demonstrate that natural phenomena can turn lives upside down virtually everywhere. Hurricane Irene didn’t slam into the state of Vermont two years ago, but its remnants dropped so much rain that some towns were totally cut off from the outside world for days. New York City, according to a book I have been reading called Hurricane Watch: Forecasting the Deadliest Storms on Earth, has an annual chance of just 1.6% of a major hurricane coming within 75 miles; that’s less than half the odds of such a storm coming within 75 miles of Nantucket Island off Massachusetts, and one-fourth the chances of the same event in Naples, FL. And yet the effects of Sandy, nearly one year after the disaster, are still visible on Long Island and along the Jersey coast as the cleanup goes on.
From sinkholes in Florida to rock slides in Tennessee and North Carolina to tornado activity in Georgia, there are few places in desirable climates that are not susceptible to Mother Nature’s whimsies. In short, the east and Gulf Coasts may not be that much riskier as places to live than most other areas. (For the odds of a hurricane striking specific towns and cities on the east and Gulf coasts, please see the accompanying sidebar.)
Southeast coastal communities plan for the big ones In assessing the risks of hurricanes to life and property, the chances that your life will be in danger if you live on the east or Gulf Coasts is minimal. Days before a hurricane is slated to hit, The Weather Channel publicizes computer models that provide a heads up to residents along the storm’s expected path. This gives a coastal resident plenty of time to board up and head for the hills if a direct hit seems imminent. Virtually every coastal town has a concise evacuation plan, and many highway ramps are equipped with gates that can be lowered during a major storm to ensure traffic flows in only one direction on both sides of the Interstate -– the outward bound direction. My own golf community, Pawleys Plantation, like so many other golf communities near the coast, publishes its own evacuation plan and distributes it through the property owners association. If you live in an area where late-season storms are possible, there are ways to prepare and to minimize the risks to your home and property. Hurricane Watch authors Dr. Bob Sheets, former director of the National Hurricane Center, and Jack Williams, founding editor of the USA Today weather page, provide the following advice in an appendix to their book. (I’ve paraphrased their suggestions and added my own embellishments.)
Visit local emergency management offices to view flood maps. This will guide you as to whether the home site you are considering runs a higher risk of flooding. Maps are also available online through FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Click here.
Build your home (or buy an existing one) to be hurricane-resistant. Some home styles are wind resistant and feature hipped-roof designs (roof edges come down to outside walls). Local architects in coastal cities are sensitive to hurricane-resistant design if you decide to build.
You will find information on hurricane-resistant construction through FEMA, State Farm Insurance and at www.flash.org.
Florida has instituted a new “coastal high wind standard” from which you can extract helpful hints on home construction. There are a number of web sites with helpful suggestions for those building their homes near the ocean that will apply equally to those considering purchase of an existing resale home. Search online with terms such as “Florida high-wind construction” to yield a variety of online resources.
Outfit or build-in a safe room in your home that will provide refuge in the event of a major storm from which you can’t (or choose not to) flee.
Check with your buyer’s real estate agent or insurance company to determine if the home you are considering is in a “wind pool” zone (that is, close to the shoreline and subject to high winds) or may be independently insured. Wind pool insurance, though, is relatively expensive. Flood insurance is generally less expensive; our Realtor at The Landings near Savannah, where some homes are in a flood plain and some are not, pays $518 annually for $250,000 of basic flood coverage on his home and $100,000 on his belongings.
Ask the homeowner’s association in the golf community you are considering if they have a hurricane preparedness program and an evacuation process. Obtain any relevant brochures from the local emergency preparedness office.
The chances that a hurricane will hit the coastal location you have chosen are remote, but if you want to minimize those chances before you conduct your home search, check out the Hurricane Watch authors’ assessment of which coastal towns and cities have the highest and lowest chances of a major storm. (We’ve included some in the sidebar at left.) Even the most likely targets, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, barely have a 10% chance of a major hurricane coming within 75 miles in any given year. Charleston, SC, which suffered through Hurricane Hugo in 1989, has just a 2.2% chance, Jacksonville, FL, a 1.9% chance, and the most hurricane resistant coastal city of them all, Savannah, a measly 1.3% chance. (Geography tells the story, as Savannah is more than 75 miles from the Gulfstream, which has a tendency to whisk Atlantic hurricanes up the coast, bypassing Savannah.) In short, the odds are long that you will suffer through a disastrous hurricane, no matter where you choose to live on the coast. But like a good scout, it is always best to be prepared.
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