Georgia Coast ‘Overdue’ for a Hurricane

Brunswick, 1893.

Brunswick, 1898.

In 2011, The Weather Channel’s hurricane expert, Rick Knabb, named Savannah number four on his list of most overdue cities for a hurricane. Number three on that list? New York City, which went on to suffer through the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy last year.

Hopefully Mother Nature doesn’t have something similar in store for Georgia this year, but in case she does, we are encouraging all residents to take some important steps to be prepared during Hurricane Preparedness Week, May 26 – June 1. After all, it only takes one storm to devastate a community. And with the National Weather Service calling the threat of Georgia hurricanes a “sleeping giant,” it’s crucial to be prepared for the unexpected.

Why the concern? Let’s look at a little history.

In the 19th century, 14 hurricanes hit our state’s coastline, and six of them were major storms of a Category 3 or higher. These hurricanes caused widespread damage and thousands of fatalities. During one storm in 1893, Brunswick recorded a storm surge of 16 feet! In the 20th century, however, only four hurricanes made landfall on Georgia’s coast, and none of them were major.

However, nearly every area of the state has been affected by tropical storms, even if they didn’t directly hit the coast. In 1994, for example, Tropical Storm Alberto stalled over western Georgia in 1994, producing catastrophic flooding, damages exceeding $750 million and more than 30 deaths. Hurricane Katrina brought 18 tornadoes and nearly 100,000 evacuees to Georgia in 2005. That’s why it’s important not to be complacent.

That’s why it’s important not to be complacent. During Hurricane Preparedness Week, each day will focus on different threats posed by hurricanes and how to prepare:

  • Monday, May 27: Storm Surge— Storm surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm’s winds. Storm surge can reach heights well over 20 feet and can span hundreds of miles of coastline.
  • Tuesday, May 28: High Winds—Hurricanes can produce high winds that add to a storm’s destructive power. Hurricane-force winds can easily destroy poorly constructed buildings and mobile homes. Winds can stay above hurricane strength well inland.
  • Wednesday, May 29: Inland Flooding—Inland flooding can be a major threat to communities hundreds of miles from Georgia’s coast. More people have died from inland flooding than storm surge, as some of the greatest rainfall amounts occur from weaker storms that drift slowly or stall over an area.
  • Thursday, May 30: Hurricane Forecasting—Staying informed about hurricane forecasts is critical to being prepared for these threats. In forecasting, a hurricane watch means a hurricane is possible in an area, and a hurricane warning means a hurricane is expected to hit.
  • Friday, May 31: Be Prepared—To be fully prepared for hurricane season, you should have a Ready kit of emergency supplies for both the home and the car in case of evacuation. A customized Ready kit checklist can be created at www.ready.ga.gov, where a list of basic supplies is also available.
  • Saturday, June 1: Take Action—Take action to prepare for hurricanes and their hazards by developing a family disaster plan and evacuation route. Practice your evacuation plans to make sure you are ready to leave if instructed by authorities.

For more information about preparing for hurricanes, visit www.ready.ga.gov or www.gema.ga.gov, or download the Ready Georgia app for your mobile device.