More Floridians may flock to hurricane shelters this year, officials warn – Orlando Sentinel

TALLAHASSEE – Florida leaders are expecting an increased demand for shelter space if hurricanes threaten Florida’s coastline in the upcoming storm season that begins on June 1.

With COVID-19 protocols lifted, and people pinching pennies as inflation has hit a four-decade high, emergency-management officials anticipate people will opt for public shelters rather than drive to hotels hundreds of miles away when storms approach.

“I theorized that we’re probably going to have more people because of the financial situations going on in the state,” Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said.

“We’re prepared for that,” Guthrie continued. “The division has done some shelter-staff augmentation. So, if a county asks for assistance at their local shelter, we can get individuals to go there. But I do believe we’re going to have more people go to shelter this year. ”

To cut down on an over-reliance on shelters, Guthrie said people should make plans before storms about places they can go, such as staying at the homes of friends or relatives.

“Have in your plan, where am I going to go? Do I have friends and family that live within 10 to 20 miles of my evacuation zone, versus going hundreds of miles to a hotel or something along those lines, ”Guthrie said.

The state is putting more emphasis on allowing local emergency officials to drive storm responses — based upon coordinated information between the state and the National Hurricane Center.

Officials are also increasing their call for people to check property-insurance coverage as carriers drop policyholders and raise rates amid financial troubles in the industry. Lawmakers returned to Tallahassee on Monday for a special session to address the property-insurance troubles.

“We’re wanting everybody to go out and do what we call an insurance checkup and make sure you have enough insurance to cover the rebuilding of your home, not just a bare-bones minimum package, make sure you have enough money to or enough insurance coverage to replace the contents, ”Guthrie said. “Those are things that we have not necessarily said in the past. We’re wanting to make sure we’re amplifying that message now. ”

Meanwhile, researchers are projecting above-normal forecasts for the hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30.

Allison Wing, an assistant professor at Florida State University’s Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, said there might not be a direct link between the number of hurricanes and climate change. But she said the impacts of climate change are showing up with stronger storms that intensify rapidly to increase rainfall and decay more slowly after hitting shore.

“When you couple those changes, along with the increased buildup of coastal population and infrastructure… you have a picture in which even a garden-variety hurricane season would put us at more risk today than we were in the past,” Wing said.

While hurricane season formally begins June 1, a named system has developed before the start date in each of the past seven years. The National Hurricane Center has already started posting daily advisories on conditions across the Atlantic and throughout the Caribbean.

Colorado State University researchers have predicted 19 named storms, with nine growing into hurricanes. Four of the hurricanes could have winds topping 111 mph, according to experts.

AccuWeather has predicted 16 to 20 named storms, with six to eight becoming hurricanes. Four to six of the storms could directly impact the US, the prediction said. The forecast also gave a “high chance” of a system forming before June 1.

Between 1991 and 2020, the Atlantic averaged 14.4 storms a season, with an average of 7.2 reaching hurricane status and an average of 3.2 categorized as major storms.

The past two hurricane seasons have exhausted lists of storm names, with a record 30 named storms in 2020 and 21 named systems in 2021.

The predictions are based, in part, on a climatological phenomenon known as La Nina, which can limit vertical wind shear in the atmosphere. Researchers have also noted that while sea-surface temperatures across the eastern and central tropical Atlantic have been near average, Caribbean and subtropical Atlantic surface temperatures are warmer than normal.

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