Hurricane Floyd - Preparations

Preparations

Although Floyd's track prediction was above average while out at sea, the forecasts as it approached the coastline were merely average compared to forecasts from the previous ten years. The official forecasts did not predict Floyd's northward track nor its significant weakening before landfall. Nearly all of the East Coast, from Florida City, Florida, to Plymouth, Massachusetts, was under a Hurricane Warning at some point; however, only a fraction of this area actually received hurricane-force winds. The last time such widespread hurricane warnings occurred was during Hurricane Donna in 1960, although the warnings for that storm were accurate.

Initial fears were of a direct hit as a large Category 4 hurricane in Florida, potentially costlier and deadlier than Hurricane Andrew had been in 1992. In preparation for a potentially catastrophic landfall, more than one million Florida residents were told to evacuate, of which 272,000 were in Miami-Dade County. U.S. President Bill Clinton declared a federal state of emergency in both Florida and Georgia in anticipation of the storm's approach. As the storm turned to the north, more people were evacuated as a progressively larger area was threatened. The massive storm caused what was at the time the largest peacetime evacuation ever in the U.S., with around 2.6 million evacuating coastal areas in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

With the storm predicted to hit near Cape Canaveral with winds of over 140 mph (230 km/h), all but 80 of Kennedy Space Center's 12,500-person workforce were evacuated. The hangars that house three space shuttles can withstand winds of only 105 mph (169 km/h), and a direct hit could have resulted in potentially billions of dollars in damage of space equipment, draining funds of an already money-strained government organization. In the theoretical scenario, the damage would be caused by water, always a potential problem in an area only nine feet above sea level. If water entered the facility, it would damage the electronics as well as requiring a complete inspection of all hardware. When Floyd actually passed by the area, Kennedy Space Center only reported light winds with minor water intrusion. Damage was minor overall, and was repaired easily.

A hurricane warning was issued for the North Carolina coastline 27 hours prior to landfall. However, due to the size of the storm, initial forecasts predicted nearly all of the state would be affected in one form or another. School systems and businesses as far west as Asheville shut down for the day landfall was predicted, but, as it turned out, only the Coastal Plain sustained significant damage; much of the state west of Raleigh escaped unscathed. In New York City, public schools were closed on September 16, 1999, the day Floyd hit the area. This was a rare decision by the city, as New York City public schools close on average once every few years. Before Floyd, the last time New York City closed its schools was for the Blizzard of 1996. After Floyd, the next time its public schools would close was due to a blizzard on March 5, 2001.

Read more about this topic:  Hurricane Floyd

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