FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Frank Lepore
The nation's East Coast, which has experienced its share of deadly and costly storms, will be the focus of a hurricane public awareness tour May 7-11.A team of hurricane forecasters from the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will visit emergency managers, media and students in five East Coast cities to increase awareness and preparation for the coming hurricane season that starts June 1.
The team, dispatched by NOAA's National Weather Service National Hurricane Center, will use NOAA's WP-3 "Orion" aircraft as a tool to brief state emergency managers and the media on hurricane preparedness and reach out to local students and the public in storm-vulnerable Portsmouth, N.H., Dover (Del.) Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., Florence, S.C., and Opalocka, Fla.
Within 50 miles of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, "There are an estimated 48 million people now living in harm's way," said Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center."About 85 percent of this population has never felt the direct effect of a major hurricane," he added. Mayfield said the below-normal hurricane activity of the 1970s and 80s encouraged an explosive building boom along both coasts."The lack of significant storm activity led residents to assume their locations were safe or if their community was near a land-falling storm, the encounter was indicative of a direct hit."
But Mayfield cautioned an upturn in hurricane activity since 1995 puts coastal populations at an increasing risk for a storm strike. "Regardless of size, any tropical storm or hurricane can inflict damage and loss of life," Mayfield said.He added while the United States did not experience a land-falling hurricane in 2000, "the averages are bound to catch up with us."
NOAA's hurricane awareness team reflects the agency's involvement in the science behind the storms from research to forecasting and warning."Joining NOAA personnel and aircraft are men and women from the U.S. Air Force Reserve who also fly into the storms to measure a hurricane's vital signs. Add an informed public to this partnership and we've got an outstanding combination," said Mayfield."We want to share what we know so people can do their part to plan, prepare and take appropriate action when the time comes."
The tour alternates visits to the East Coast and Gulf Coasts annually to bring the hurricane awareness message to at-risk communities."We can help reduce losses caused by these powerful storms through public education and information," said Mayfield.
NWS recently asked its state partners to participate in "Hurricane Awareness Week," May 21-25, 2001.
NWS has also initiated a program to provide life-saving information at the National Hurricane Center homepage: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov. The public is invited to visit the site to learn more about the threats of hurricanes and safety measures to protect lives and property.
The following is the itinerary for the 2001 East Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour: