Opinion

A mild hurricane season

The good news? This year's hurricane season was a mild one.

The bad news? Some emergency planners fear that, because no major hurricanes hit the United States this year, the public will be complacent next year when asked to brace for another hurricane season.

The good news ranks as very good news for residents of coastal states. As for the bad news, we think planners may be unnecessarily concerned about public apathy.

While Hurricane Katrina hit two years ago, memories of the devastation of much of the Gulf Coast still are vivid for most Americans. Three more major hurricanes that hit after Katrina -- Rita, Wilma and Zeta -- made the 2005 season the most active in 154 years.

And 2004 featured a hard-to-forget hurricane season as well, especially for residents of Florida. Four major hurricanes -- Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne -- hit Florida in six weeks, causing an estimated $35 billion in damages.

And even the passage of time does not dull the memories of many who have been in a hurricane. Even though Hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina nearly two decades ago, few who were there have forgotten what it was like or the sight of the devastation when dawn broke the next day.

There will always be those who test fate by failing to prepare for a potential hurricane or refusing to evacuate when authorities give the order. But, thanks largely to the technology that makes it possible to track hurricanes and show the damage they cause when they make landfall, the public is far more sophisticated about what can happen than it used to be.

We also should know by now that predictions regarding the severity of hurricane seasons always are something of a shot in the dark -- equal parts science and guesswork. This year, scientists predicted 13 to 17 named storms, and there were 14.

They predicted seven to 10 hurricanes, three to five of them high-category hurricanes. When the season officially ended Nov. 30, there had been five hurricanes, two of them major storms.

This was a bad hurricane season for Mexico and Central America, which were struck by two category 5 storms in August, Hurricane Dean, the first of the season, and Hurricane Felix. Nearly 200 people were killed and thousands were left homeless by the two storms.

But for the United States, it was a relatively calm season. And for that, we are thankful.

But we haven't forgotten how terrible a major hurricane can be, and we will gird ourselves for the possibility of a bad season in 2008. We hope everyone else who lives along the U.S. coast will do the same.

ews? This year's hurricane season was a mild one.

The bad news? Some emergency planners fear that, because no major hurricanes hit the United States this year, the public will be complacent next year when asked to brace for another hurricane season.

The good news ranks as very good news for residents of coastal states. As for the bad news, we think planners may be unnecessarily concerned about public apathy.

While Hurricane Katrina hit two years ago, memories of the devastation of much of the Gulf Coast still are vivid for most Americans. Three more major hurricanes that hit after Katrina -- Rita, Wilma and Zeta -- made the 2005 season the most active in 154 years.

And 2004 featured a hard-to-forget hurricane season as well, especially for residents of Florida. Four major hurricanes -- Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne -- hit Florida in six weeks, causing an estimated $35 billion in damages.

And even the passage of time does not dull the memories of many who have been in a hurricane. Even though Hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina nearly two decades ago, few who were there have forgotten what it was like or the sight of the devastation when dawn broke the next day.

There will always be those who test fate by failing to prepare for a potential hurricane or refusing to evacuate when authorities give the order. But, thanks largely to the technology that makes it possible to track hurricanes and show the damage they cause when they make landfall, the public is far more sophisticated about what can happen than it used to be.

We also should know by now that predictions regarding the severity of hurricane seasons always are something of a shot in the dark -- equal parts science and guesswork. This year, scientists predicted 13 to 17 named storms, and there were 14.

They predicted seven to 10 hurricanes, three to five of them high-category hurricanes. When the season officially ended Nov. 30, there had been five hurricanes, two of them major storms.

This was a bad hurricane season for Mexico and Central America, which were struck by two category 5 storms in August, Hurricane Dean, the first of the season, and Hurricane Felix. Nearly 200 people were killed and thousands were left homeless by the two storms.

But for the United States, it was a relatively calm season. And for that, we are thankful.

But we haven't forgotten how terrible a major hurricane can be, and we will gird ourselves for the possibility of a bad season in 2008. We hope everyone else who lives along the U.S. coast will do the same.

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