This is National Hurricane Preparedness Week. With a record 30 named storms last year and two making landfall before the typical start of the season on June 1, a lot of attention is being paid to the tropics. Experts predict above-normal activity for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season.
If history proves anything, it is that South Carolina faces a significant threat from now until mid-October.
Look at recent years.
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Tropical-related flooding in 2015. Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Hurricane Irma’s coastal surge and flooding in 2017. Hurricanes Florence and Michael in 2018. Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
And not to be forgotten is that September is the 32nd anniversary month for Hurricane Hugo, the 1989 “Storm of the century,” a huge system that scored a direct hit on Charleston. The result was more than $7 billion in total damages and 26,000 homes destroyed in the Lowcountry.
Despite improvements in infrastructure, technology and preparedness, Charleston is still at significant risk from hurricanes.
A 2019 report by 247wallst.com, a Delaware corporation that runs a financial news and opinion company, ranked Charleston as the 12th most vulnerable U.S. city to hurricanes.
Charleston-North Charleston is home to more than 787,000 people, one of the state’s largest urban areas. 24/7 estimates that 155,740 homes in the metro area would be at risk of destruction from flooding due to storm damage resulting from a hurricane with an estimated reconstruction cost of $40.9 billion.
Myrtle Beach was ranked 13th, just after Charleston.
Miami was ranked as the most vulnerable city, followed by New York; Tampa, Fla.; New Orleans; Virginia Beach, Va.; Fort Myers, Fla.; Houston; Bradenton, Fla.; Naples, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Philadelphia.
One has only to look at Hugo and the devastation it caused in Orangeburg County, Sumter and all the way to Charlotte, N.C., to know that hurricanes severely impacting Charleston and other coastal areas are major threats inland as well.
So it pays to be individually prepared.
• Build an emergency kit with a gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for an infant if applicable, a multipurpose tool, personal hygiene items, copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information.
• Talk with household members and create an evacuation plan. Practicing the plan minimizes confusion and fear during the event.
• Be informed. Learn about your community’s hurricane response plan and use the South Carolina Hurricane Guide at https://scemd.org/stay-informed/publications/hurricane-guide/ to “Know Your Zone” for evacuations. Plan routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs as required and make plans for pets.
• Download the free American Red Cross Emergency App to select up to 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts on their mobile device. The content includes expert guidance on what to do before, during and after different emergencies or disasters from home fires to hurricanes. All Red Cross apps can be found in smartphone app stores by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/apps.
Amid the rash of tropical storms in 2020, the impact on South Carolina was minimal. We were lucky. Don't count on things staying that way. Be as prepared as you can be.