Lounging in the pool at his bay-side apartment complex, 80-year-old Bob Frutkoff says he’s all set for hurricane season.
“I don’t even think about it,” he said. “I don’t pay attention to this hurricane business.
“Let the devil do his damnedest,” he added. “I’m no youngster. And you can’t live scared.”
Maybe not, but Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center would prefer that Frutkoff and other coastal residents feel at least a little wariness.
“People who have not experienced the core of a major hurricane have a hard time imagining it,” the veteran forecaster said.
The six-month Atlantic hurricane season begins Thursday, preceded by clouds of complacency and the warnings of officials worried about protecting people and property.
Thirty percent of Frutkoff’s neighbors on the barrier island of Miami Beach failed to evacuate as Hurricane Andrew menaced the area almost three years ago. The storm ultimately plowed across southern Dade County, killing 15 people and causing nearly $16 billion in damage to insured property.
“If it had been 20 miles north, the damage and loss of life would have been much greater,” Mayfield said.
He advises coastal residents to find out whether they live in an evacuation zone and what to do if ordered to leave. Frutkoff’s barrier island neighborhood is supposed to evacuate for any hurricane, even the weakest.
“There’s going to be traffic jams,” Mayfield said. “And that is where we’re afraid the next large loss of life is going to occur.”
Dr. Bob Sheets, the hurricane center’s former director, noted in a presentation at the National Hurricane Conference that a recent study estimated it would take more than 80 hours to evacuate southeastern Florida.
“It is becoming more difficult each year to evacuate people from barrier islands and other coastal areas because road systems have not kept pace with rapid population growth,” Sheets wrote. “Keep in mind that 80 hours before Andrew struck South Florida, it was barely a tropical storm and equally likely to strike anywhere on the eastern coast of Florida.”
xxxx NAME-DROPPING These names have been chosen for 1995 Atlantic hurricanes: Allison, Barry, Chantal, Dean, Erin, Felix, Gabrielle, Humberto, Iris, Jerry, Karen, Luis, Marilyn, Noel, Opal, Pablo, Roxanne, Sebastien, Tanya, Van, Wendy.