PANEL DISCUSSION ON HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS-Andrew Stelzer

05/12/06

The University of South Florida’s college of marine science held a brown bag lunchtime discussion today about Hurricane Preparedness and Preparation. It brought together oceanographers and emergency responders to examine what they know about hurricanes, and how the Tampa bay region can prepare for a major storm as it’s only a matter of time until it hits. Charlie Paxton, who works with the national weather service, displayed data on larger hurricanes which hit the South Eastern US and Caribbean in the last 100 years. He said that busier hurricane periods appear to be grouped in 24-year cycles. He believes the latest cycle began in 1994, and noted that there have been 7 major storms since 2001. Pinellas county is due for the big one anytime.

ACT-Paxton “This is a cat 4 going across Pinellas, most of the county gets inundated, but we also have a gradient so storm will be moving across..it's a scary scenario for the Tampa bay area, and population has sky rocketed but peoples experience is low because we are in a lull, but people haven’t really experienced hurricanes..�

Paxton explained that the Atlantic multidecadal Oscillation, or AMO is how temperature change is measured over time, and this is what would indicate if warming oceans are related to more or stronger hurricanes. Jyotika Virmani, a USF college of Marine Science research Associate, just completed a study attempting to find out why there were so many storms early on in the 2005 hurricane season, and whether its part of a larger pattern.

ACT “Over the last 140 years it’s increased .4 or .5 c…if I detrend this..in positive phases there is more activity..superimpose, so there doesn’t appear to be any correlation with the long-term temperature trend, nor for individual seasons there is nocorrelations..I've also added the major years, 1900, 1928, these individual storms don’t appear to depend ion long-term temperature trend..So individual years occur and do not depend n long term warming trend�

Virmani concluded that the recent busy hurricane seasons are not unprecedented, and they will happen again in the future. She also said that increase in the oceans temperature is not the biggest hurricane related threat that humans face.

ACT “The largest impact is not climate changes but the increase of coastal populations and the wealth along the coast lines..�

Bob Ballou, with the St Pete Fire Departments search and rescue division, spoke about his role in preparing for a storm and the aftermath.

ACT-bob “One of the things we learned in storms are devastating, but people still don’t take em seriously, so people are gonna need our help..�

Ballou said the most basic thing people can do is decide if they are going to evacuate or stay, and to know the evacuation route they are planning to take. During the question and answer session, Ballou was asked if the people of Pinellas County could really evacuate if they needed to.

ACT “The Tampa bay regional planning council studied, it would take 57 hours to evacuate, which means we would have to start long in advance..2 days more than 48 hours .we thin people wont leave, so here we hide from the wind, we don’t believe its possible..�

One man commented that the State is being irresponsible not shaping policy based on what we know.

ACT-guy “Given the fact that the coast is dangerous, and the government is backing away from places that aren’t good, maybe Florida shouldn’t be an enabler and get people away from dangerous places..the state keeps providing insurance.�

Bob Weissburg, professor of physical oceanography at USF says he’s frustrated with the lack of good information that gets to the public.

ACT “I started doing hurricane storm surge modeling, I was aghast and mis-information and when they got it wrong there was no explanation of why, the little boy who cried wolf, people don’t take it seriously, and so I started doing this, I found it quite stunning how little interest there is in what academics do, and when Katrina happened my counterpart was on the media, no body seems to care..we have to get the public to see how important this is, but I don’t see the preparedness people in utilizing the resources..Its in insular mode of behavior so I don’t think it’s healthy�

To learn more about the USF monthly environmental brown bag lunch series log onto www.stpt.usf.edu/brownbag/

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