ATHENS, Ga. -- With Georgia in a record-setting drought, it's ironic that we need to be preparing for floods.
It's hurricane season, and the entire state is vulnerable to flooding from tropical weather systems. From the mountains to the coast, all Georgians need to prepare for hurricane season.
This tropical storm season, which began June 1, is expected to be an active one. Noted hurricane forecaster William Gray is predicting 12 named tropical systems.
Gray is a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University. He forecasts that eight storms will become hurricanes and that four will be major, with wind speeds above 111 miles per hour.
Tropical weather is no stranger to Georgia. Since 1990, Georgia has had three Presidential disaster declarations as the result of tropical weather.
- In 1994, Tropical Storm Alberto brought torrential rain, high winds, tornadoes and major flooding to 55 counties, from southwest Georgia to the southern counties of metro Atlanta.
- In 1998, Tropical Depression No. 10 brought high winds, heavy rain, tornadoes and flooding to 13 coastal and southeast Georgia counties.
- Hurricane Opal brought high winds, heavy rain and tornadoes to 50 counties, from the west central area to the north Georgia mountains, in 1995.
All of Georgia Vulnerable
While the destruction from tropical storms along the coast is well-known, all of Georgia is vulnerable to the power of these storms. This includes metro Atlanta and the mountain counties.
Along the coast, the storm surge is the major concern. The shape of the Georgia coast makes it vulnerable to very high storm surges -- much greater than North Carolina would have for the same strength storm.
High winds, tornadoes and flooding due to heavy rainfall are other threats to the coastal region.
All Georgians living along the coast should know their county's emergency plan, including evacuation routes and the locations of approved shelters. Contact your county emergency management agency now. Don't wait until a tropical storm threatens.
Inland Flooding Big Concern
Away from the coast into the piedmont and mountains, flooding is the major concern. Interior flooding can cause more damage statewide than the damage on the coast. Inland flooding is the major cause of tropical-weather deaths.
Hurricane Camille, in 1969, hit the Mississippi Gulf coast but caused massive property damage and many deaths in the mountains of Virginia.
Tropical-storm-strength winds can reach hundreds of miles from where the storm makes landfall. Hurricane Hugo caused extensive wind damage in Charlotte, N.C., and beyond.
Since most homeowners insurance doesn't cover flood damage, it's important to get supplemental coverage. You can get flood insurance from the federal government.
Get Flood Insurance Now
But don't wait. It normally takes 30 days for a flood policy to become active. Contact your insurance agent or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (www.floodalert.fema.gov ) site for details.
As a tropical storm moves inland, tornadoes are common. They can and do strike before a storm makes landfall. As the storm moves inland, tornadoes can hit anywhere in the state. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio is a good addition to a weather-preparedness kit.
The Georgia Emergency Management Agency has information on preparing for tropical storm season on the Web (/www2.state.ga.us / GEMA/broadcast). You can get information through your county EMA, too. It's listed in the phone book.
FEMA has many Web pages on weather disaster mitigation and preparedness. You can find valuable information at the FEMA hurricane Web site (www.fema.gov/mit/hurr m it.htm). Other pages (www.fema.gov) tell how to prepare and mitigate the impacts of other natural disasters.
FEMA has a free publication, "Repairing Your Flooded Home" (FEMA-234), on flood mitigation and repair. Another, "Taking Shelter From the Storm" (FEMA-320) suggests how to reinforce your home for high winds.
Get these and other publications at 1-800-480-2520.
(David Emory Stooksbury is associate professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)