The first named storm of the 2013 Hurricane Season has formed in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico.
Tropical Storm Andrea is already causing problems for the coastal areas of Florida and Alabama, with 2-5 foot storm surges anticipated and tornado watches in effect. The tropical storm appears to be headed north through the Florida Panhandle and is likely to continue up the East Coast through Georgia and South Carolina.
While Andrea is only a tropical storm at this time, we on the Gulf Coast recall the devastating effects of Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 which flooded Houston freeways, leaving 18-wheelers floating above sunken automobiles; Tropical Storm Frances in 1998, which stranded residents of West Galveston Island due to an unanticipated storm surge; and Tropical Storm Claudette in 1979, which flooded huge areas of Southeast Texas, including the city of Alvin, which recorded 42 inches of rain.
Lynda and I recently took a road trip along the northern Gulf Coast to Jacksonville, Florida and then up the East Coast with stops in Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina. We visited the Savannah waterfront development and the historic Charleston Battery, which is in need of structural improvements.
For two days we were houseguests of friends in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, across the river from Charleston; and six miles “as the crow flies” from the Atlantic Ocean. Our gracious hosts had recently moved from Pittsburgh and appeared blissfully unaware of the threat from a major hurricane, despite the recent experience of Hurricane Sandy which moved ashore just a little to the north of them and devastated the East Coast.
Bill Read, the former director of the National Hurricane Center who previously was the meteorologist in charge of the Houston-Galveston National Weather Service office and now is a weather expert for KPRC TV in Houston, just last week discussed the threat to the areas we had just visited in a speech to a local chapter of the American Meteorology Society.
Power Point Presentation
Read cited the West Coast of Florida; the Jacksonville, Florida area; the Virginia Tidewater region and the area between Savannah and Charleston as especially vulnerable with limited escape routes, some of which flood quickly, and he noted that they all have coastal populations that have grown exponentially since they last experienced a major storm.
He noted that many of those areas are also filled with retirees.
“Studies show that retirees are the most resistant when it comes to evacuation,” he said.
Again, Andrea is only a tropical storm at this point, and will not have much time to strengthen before moving ashore and up the East Coast, but we will be watching this first storm of the 2013 season with interest. We won’t be getting direct reports from our friends in South Carolina however, because they are off on a previously planned vacation to Italy.
For the latest updates on Tropical Storm Andrea visit the GuidryNews.com Weather page.