Boomster Blog: Traveler’s Guide to Hurricanes
My brother’s wife’s third cousin twice-removed called us after Hurricane Dorian had barreled through the Bahamas. The storm was moving at a leisure pace off the coast of Florida, and my cousin had just watched a vivid Weather Channel animation – complete with people and cars covered in water – demonstrating what a tidal surge would look like. Nearly hysterical, she was insisting we abandon where we were staying and head in-land.
Competing with other television channels during a hurricane is big news business. Most local stations have a battalion of nicely coiffed and attired weather people in the studio, and on windy locations they wear attractive, branded outerwear. It’s not unusual to see a weather reporter with a microphone standing in six inches of ocean water on a beautiful pre-storm day warning us that the water is higher at this point than the day before and that tragic beach erosion is imminent, completely ignoring that the high and low tide times change every day. There’s a drinking game in there, somewhere.
My wife and I lived in southern Miami during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Andrew’s path didn't veer much at all, and much to everyone’s surprise, it plowed directly into the southern end of South Florida. You can’t rely on storms veering away and know precisely where they’re going and how much damage they’ll do. Some storms are catastrophic. Some aren’t.
Storm preparation and cleanup
My stomach churns and my heart sinks when I hear a hurricane may be making an appearance on the Space Coast. Most people prepare for a full storm with shutters, food, generators, and securing outdoor items. This can often take a few days to complete, and after the storm, all the preparation is unraveled, requiring more days. People just start planning for the worst and hope for the best.
Thankfully, Dorian spared Florida’s Space Coast. However, when a storm is classified as a Category 4 with 130-156 mph winds at the center, this does not mean that the winds will be that high 70 miles away. As you’re watching the storm advance up the coast, you’ll need to discount wind speed, depending on how far the center of the storm is from where you are standing. Dorian brought winds around 55 mph in Merritt Island, while at Playalinda Beach in Titusville it was around 81 mph. Does that mean it was like that the whole time? No. We experienced stead winds of 25 mph. Not insignificant. Not terrible. All my friends and relatives up north heard 156 mph winds and asked, “Have you left yet?”
Why this matters?
- If you’re planning a trip to Florida’s Space Coast and there’s a hurricane headed this way, it’s best to check with the Space Coast Office of Tourism or Brevard County Emergency Management for the latest information.
- Hotels, cruise lines and airlines serving Florida’s Space Coast have no interest in placing you in jeopardy. Call directly and get the most immediate information they have at the front desk. Keep in mind that airlines are in the weather business. If they aren’t flying, neither are you.
- Hotels directly on the coast are a different level of risk than accommodations a few miles in-land.
- Camping and travel in big Class A vehicles and compact towable are a problem in high winds. Think about alternative plans.
- Storm recovery is more sophisticated than just a few short years ago. Utilities pre-position their trucks in advance and will begin work almost immediately.
- Restaurants on the Space Coast are owned and staffed by people that also need time to prepare before the storm and cleanup afterwards. They’ll close early and stay closed for a day or two after the storm. Don’t count on eating out just before or immediately following a storm.
Follow Florida’s Space Coast for the latest updates post-storm and don’t believe everything you hear on the news. The Coast is Clear after Dorian, and the Space Coast is open for business and for fun!