|[ Windows of the office building of Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy, a private school in Melbourne FL, are covered with plywood in preparation of Hurricane Irma. Photo by Myeongjun Choi ]|
The United States of America uses Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane's sustained wind speed, to determine the strength of the hurricane. According to this scale, category 1, with wind speed of 74-95 mph (119-153 km/h), can cause large branches of the trees to snap and shallow rooted trees to be uprooted. Category 2 has wind speed of 96~110mph (154~177km/h). Typhoon Talim in the East China Sea is currently at category 2 (as of 8 a.m. on September 14, Korean time). The National Hurricane Center (NHC) states that category 3 hurricanes or higher are “major hurricanes”. Category 3 has 111-129mph (178-208 km/h) wind speed that can cause many trees to snap or to be uprooted, and the roofs of well-built houses to be blown away. For category 4 and 5, NHC states, “Catastrophic damage will occur.” Category 4 has 130-156mph (209-251 km/h) wind speed. South Korea’s worst-ever Typhoon Maemi was category 4 when it made a landfall on September 12, 2003. Category 5 has wind speed of more than 157mph (over 252 km/h). NHC says, “Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months after a category 5 hurricane.”
Hurricane Harvey was a category 4 hurricane when it made a landfall in Texas in August. It was weakened significantly when it hit Texas; however, it hovered above the coast of Texas, resulting to heavy rain. Texas faced historic flood of 52 inches (132 cm) of rain, the highest ever recorded, in the cities of Houston and Beaumont. Hurricane Harvey resulted to 50 fatalities and damaged more than 200,000 houses. Texas Governor Greg Abbott estimated the damage from Hurricane Harvey at US$150 billion to US$180 billion (KRW169,950,000,000,000 to KRW203,940,000,000,000); the damage costs are determined to be more than the epic Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 or Hurricane Sandy in New York City in 2012.
Right after Hurricane Harvey, another major hurricane, Irma, hit the Caribbean and the state of Florida. It was a Category 5 hurricane with its highest wind speed at 185 mph (298 km/h) when it hit the Caribbean. It had the second highest wind speed among the Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded. Its strength fluctuated between category 5 and category 3 as it passed the Caribbean, Bahamas and Cuba. The storm regained Category 4 strength last Sunday as the storm’s eye made it to the lower Florida Keys, making the Keys uninhabitable. According to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 90 percent of homes in the Florida Keys suffered some damage. The storm lost its strength to category 3 as it made landfall in Marco Island on Florida's southwest coast. However, strong winds and heavy rains resulted to 24 fatalities, and more than half of the Florida residents did not have electricity and water supply right after the hurricane. According to AccuWeather, the cost of Irma will be roughly US$100 billion (KRW113,250,000,000,000).
A natural disaster is an inevitable phenomenon by Mother Nature. It always brings us damages. These damages are also inevitable; however, we can minimize the damage through advanced preparation.
Rick Scott, Florida State governor, declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties within the state of Florida on September 4. It was about three days before Hurricane Irma started to affect the state. “Hurricane Irma is a major and life-threatening storm and Florida must be prepared,” Scott said. “You've got to listen to your local officials -- this storm surge can kill you.” He warned people with strong words like “kill”. One-third of Florida residents - more than 6.5 million people – were told by the state government to evacuate before Hurricane Irma makes a landfall.
Not only the state-wide warning but also individual preparation decreased the damages by Hurricane Irma. Mr. Ishmael, volunteer for the hurricane preparation in Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy, a private school in Melbourne, FL, said, “Preparation is the only way to minimize the damage.” He was uncertain about how bad it’s going to be. “Overreacting is always better than less-prepared. I’m covering the windows with plywood just in case the wind breaks them.” Like him, many Florida residents cover the windows with plywood or hurricane shutters. Also covering any chinks in the doorway with sandbags is common preparation for the hurricane.
Hurricanes are common in Florida. Some meteorologists even say that more than half of the year is hurricane season. As mentioned earlier, a hurricane is a natural disaster which is inevitable. However, minimizing the damage is possible with early preparations. Though US$100 billion of damages and 24 fatalities are still great catastrophes, the early warnings by the state government and the individual preparations have minimized the damages and death toll.
Myeongjun Choi firstname.lastname@example.org
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