Hurricanes bring winds of change

Traffic was backed up for hours in 1999 when Lowcountry residents tried to evacuate. (WCIV)

By Dave

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Hurricanes can change the landscape of the coast on which they make landfall with the storm surge, wind and waves, but they can also change policy and procedure.

Take for instance Hurricane Floyd in 1999. It was a very large, powerful storm bearing down on the east coast of the United States. Hurricane Floyd did not make landfall in South Carolina, it came onshore near Cape Fear, NC, but many Charlestonians did evacuate.

Floyd had the second largest evacuation ever, and Lowcountry residents sat on evacuation routes for an average of six to nine hours trying to flee the storm. Two things that have changed since then, mandatory evacuations are more specific, and the plan for moving people away from the coast has been streamlined.

Evacuations are costly, so now less taxpayer money is spent on moving people who do not necessarily have to leave. Plus now the evacuation process is much smoother to keep people from sitting in their cars needlessly for many hours, when they may have been safer in their own homes.

The last category five storm to make landfall in the United States certainly changed things in south Florida, but that can also happen just about anywhere a hurricane comes onshore. Hurricane Andrew came out of the relatively quiet season of 1992, but it only takes one storm to make it a very bad season.

"What Andrew made tragically clear was that South Florida's relatively strong building codes simply were not being enforced," said Julie Rochman, Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) president and CEO. "After the storm, we saw extensive evidence of both large and small breakdowns in the code enforcement process. Sadly, that poor enforcement needlessly cost families and communities dearly."

Now, homes are built better to withstand higher thresholds, especially of hurricane force winds. Things like hurricane clips have been added to new construction of homes. This basically adds strength to the bond between the frame of the house and the trusses, hopefully keeping the roof from flying away.

Hurricanes cannot be stopped, but with the lessons learned from past storms, coastal residents are certainly safer and better informed now more than ever.