Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Look at the Weather Channel’s list of the 10 U.S. cities most vulnerable and overdue for a direct hit from a major hurricane and is it any surprise that almost all of them are in the southeast?
The list is pretty evenly split between how vulnerable and overdue certain cities on the east coast are versus cities on the Gulf of Mexico. The gulf cities get a slight edge with five of them on the list.
Then there’s Honolulu which is a bit of an odd choice because there are no records of a hurricane ever hitting Honolulu, but other parts of the Hawaii Island chain have been hit by hurricanes so it was ranked No. 4 on the list.
But what should be of particular concern to travelers in the southeast is the list’s number of cities that they can travel to easily for nearby vacations. The rankings include a lot of factors including how long it’s been since the last direct hit from a major hurricane, how much the population has grown since then and how long it would take to evacuate the area.
Eight of the 10 cities on the list are in the southeast.
Let’s start closest to home with Savannah ranked No. 6, followed by Charleston at No. 8. Jacksonville, which is so close to our state that its newspaper’s coverage area includes southeast Georgia, is ranked No. 3. Three other Florida cities are on the list.
Nearby Mobile was ranked No. 7 and Houston was ranked No. 5.
All of these cities are popular destinations with southerners, but these are probably not rankings that any of the listed cities will be eager to promote in their tourism literature.
Who wants to open the travel brochure and read, “You might be struck down by an act of God if you visit our fair city”?
If I saw that, my response would be, “Screw that, I’m going to Chattanooga instead.”
Reminders that an area is susceptible to dangerous weather can kinda be a tourism killer and that’s the problem because the weather is so unpredictable. You can plan your dream vacation to Savannah now with your trip scheduled for August. However, you won’t know if a hurricane is going to hit until you’re either packing your things or are already down there.
You just can’t plan for weather.
I will note that New Orleans, Gulfport and Biloxi did not make the list. That doesn’t mean those cities are less vulnerable though because they get hit with hurricanes of varying strengths on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s once a year. Sometimes its once every few years. Sometimes it’s twice in a week or so.
Trust me, I lived through my fair share of hurricanes and tropical storms when I attended the University of Southern Mississippi. I can count Georges, Isidore, Lillie and Ivan among the storms I lived through in college.
OK, Ivan technically did little damage in Hattiesburg because it hit east of us, but the threat was enough for Southern Miss to cancel classes for a day in case the storm changed direction and hit closer to Mississippi. But keep in mind that while Ivan barely scratched Mississippi in 2004, Katrina hit the area less than a year later.
Georges shut classes down for nearly a week because of all of the trees it toppled on campus in 1998. Katrina not only shut it down, but effectively forced its evacuation seven years later. I count myself lucky because I’d graduated from Southern Miss only three months before Katrina hit, and I moved from Hattiesburg a month after graduation.
But even the less severe hurricanes are no picnic. A tropical storm or a hurricane can be a stressful experience everyone.
You have to go through the whole process of watching the storm through weather reports. You go through the deliberations where you’re saying to yourself, “Should I stay or should I go?” People go into a panic all over town and start stocking up on supplies just in case.
And that’s what it’s like if you’re at a place that’s an hour inland. Imagine what it’s like to be at the projected ground zero.
Everything is heightened and you have the added panic that ensues as everyone tries to flee.
Try enjoying a vacation in a seeming apocalypse.
Curt Yeomans is a senior reporter for the Clayton News Daily and an avid traveler. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, via Email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @CYeomansCND.