What if Dorian happened 20 years ago?


(WMBB) — Almost 20 years ago, another major hurricane was set to hit the East Coast.

Hurricane Floyd made landfall on September 16, 1999 in North Carolina. FEMA says Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina experienced the largest evacuation effort in American history.

Initial fears were of a direct hit as a large Category 4 hurricane in Florida, potentially costlier and deadlier than Hurricane Andrew had been in 1992. In preparation for a potentially catastrophic landfall, more than one million Florida residents were told to evacuate, of which 272,000 were in Miami-Dade County.

U.S. President Bill Clinton declared a federal state of emergency in both Florida and Georgia in anticipation of the storm’s approach. As the storm turned to the north, more people were evacuated as a progressively larger area was threatened.

With the storm predicted to hit near Cape Canaveral with winds of over 140 mph (230 km/h), all but 80 of Kennedy Space Center’s 12,500-person workforce were evacuated. The hangars that house three space shuttles can withstand winds of only 105 mph (169 km/h), and a direct hit could have resulted in potentially billions of dollars in damage of space equipment.

Hurricane Floyd’s track

In the theoretical scenario, the damage would be caused by water, always a potential problem in an area only nine feet above sea level. If water entered the facility, it would damage the electronics as well as requiring a complete inspection of all hardware. When Floyd actually passed by the area, Kennedy Space Center only reported light winds with minor water intrusion. Damage was minor overall, and was repaired easily.

An estimated three million people evacuated for that storm across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. 56 people died, but no deaths were recorded in Florida, Georgia or South Carolina.

Today, evacuations for coastal areas are less broad as meteorologists have a better understanding of Dorian’s path. With Floyd, there was more uncertainty, so evacuation orders were issued for larger areas in multiple states.

For Dorian, mandatory evacuation orders are still being issued only in coastal areas that may be affected by storm surge. It is not expected to make landfall in the United States.

For Hurricane Dorian, nine Florida counties have issued mandatory evacuations.

In South Carolina, all coastal counties are under mandatory evacuation. In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp declared six counties under states of emergency.

While forecasting has come a long way since Floyd, there is still a degree of unpredictability with forecasts. The vigilance and preparation of the individual, keeping up with the latest forecasts and preparing yourself, your family and your home is still the most important.

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