"The hurricane will never hit my house."
"The meteorologists have no idea where the storm is going."
"What's the worst that can happen?"
I was born and raised in Florida. I lived through the infamous wrath of Andrew (1992), Katrina (2005), and Wilma (2005). I moved to NYC in 2010 and Irene (2011) and Sandy (2012) followed me up the East Coast. I have a story about each of these storms that shaped my interest in hurricane forecasting and helped strengthen my desire to make the world more resilient at Swiss Re.
At four years old, I got my first taste of hurricanes in Florida, its name was Andrew. I had no idea a hurricane was coming until my mom woke me up in the middle of the night to move my sister and I into a room without windows. All I remember is the howling wind and my parents shrieking, telling us how trees were parading down the streets like they were twigs. Although we lost a few trees, the damage was fairly minimal around Palm Beach County.
I do remember, however, the next month in my kindergarten class, I met a girl named Sarah who had just moved from Miami. She shared why she had to move at "show and tell" – her old house was completely destroyed! Her family lost everything. I remember her sharing that animals from the zoo somehow ended up in her backyard.
Every year in grade school, we learned how to prepare for a hurricane. We missed a few days of school every year due to hurricane threats (similar to snow days up north).
At age seven, my family moved to Parkland, Fla., in Broward County. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma ripped through my town, bringing everything to a halt for at least a month. My family had to collect water and supplies at a FEMA station weekly due to contaminated water and lack of power.
While pursuing my meteorology degree at Penn State, I interned at the Hurricane Research Division and spent several days at the National Hurricane Center during the summer of 2008. There I learned we have government organizations that try to save lives and make sure communities are prepared. See NHC's mission and vision and Learn about HRD.
When I saw the initial forecast tracks for Sandy in 2012, I started to prepare based off of my experience. My friends and family thought I was crazy. After Sandy passed through the New York area, I fortunately had power and my apartment became a hotel. No one made fun of me at that stage when they ate my food and used my flashlights to navigate the dark city. My roommate and I hosted more than a dozen friends and family.
The moral of my story is: Once you hear a meteorologist say there is even a small chance a storm will hit your town, prepare! Hurricane forecasting is hard; all it takes is one little shift in the jet stream and the storm could be headed your way.
Educate yourself. Prepare. And be safe this hurricane season!
Category: Climate/natural disasters
Location: NYC, NY, United States