Explanation of Indicator
The historical variance of hurricane landfalls within the state has created two types of people: those with hurricane experience and those without hurricane experience. The rapid growth of the state’s population results in a significant proportion of the residents not having experience with a hurricane.
A study conducted by the National Hurricane Center indicated that in 1990 a range of 0% to 84% of residents in coastal counties had hurricane experience. Hurricane experience is defined as having lived in a county in which a major hurricane (category 3 to 5) made landfall. Some counties have not had a major hurricane make landfall since 1900.
Residents with hurricane experience are likely to be better prepared and more responsive to evacuation orders for the next hurricane than those without hurricane experience. Thus, this can be a predictor of the behavior of residents and the subsequent risks to health and property from hurricanes. In addition, residents without hurricane experience may perceive hurricanes as a lesser threat and not support public policy to mitigate the potential risk associated with hurricanes.
Contact Max Mayfield at the National Hurricane Center at (305) 666-4612 for data from the report.
The information is available in hard copy format at no cost.
These data are collected by county at varying frequency, depending upon the landfall of a hurricane in the state.
The data are severely limited by a number of factors. This information is based on a formula using historical population and last occurrence of a hurricane for each coastal county; it is therefore limited to the ten-year intervals of the census data. Essentially, using the population estimates at the time of last occurrence of a major hurricane, the portion of the population that was in that last hurricane is estimated; those individuals are considered to be experienced. Along with the small chance of error associated with population estimates, using the population of the county/counties where the hurricane made landfall does not actually reflect the number of residents with hurricane experience, since not all the residents of the county will have had to evacuate their homes or participate in some type of hurricane preparedness activity.
The second limitation to this data is that there will be changes in the population that are not accounted for by the decennial census counts. The number of residents with hurricane experience is constantly changing as people move in and out of the state and the numbers of births and deaths fluctuate. The data also fail to consider any immigrants who experienced a hurricane prior to their residence in Florida.
The Florida Coastal Management Program should apply the National Hurricane Center methodology to annually update the estimates of residents with hurricane experience. Annual population figures can be estimated by interpolation or extrapolation of decennial census figures.
An alternative would be to survey residents annually to ask them if they have hurricane experience. This would potentially be more accurate, accounting for migration patterns obscured in the census data. The questioning would determine if the respondent had ever been forced to significantly modify their behavior (e.g., leaving work early, hardening the living structure, evacuating) because of a landfalling major hurricane.