We’re entering the last couple months of the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Florida has fared relatively well so far. As of September 22, the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season has generated:
Only two tropical storms have made landfall in Florida in 2021.
Tropical Storm Fred made landfall in the Florida Panhandle near Mexico Beach on August 16. The storm was near its peak strength of 65 mph sustained windspeeds just before making landfall.
The second tropical storm, Mindy, made landfall near St. Vincent Island on September 9 with sustained windspeeds of about 45 mph.
Other states haven’t been so lucky. Hurricane Ida had sustained peak windspeeds of 150 mph when it made landfall in Port Fourchon, Louisiana on August 29. It moved north through New Orleans before passing into Mississippi.
New Orleans’ levies held, sparing the city from severe flooding. However, the wind from the storm severely damaged the city’s power grid and left many area residents without power for weeks.
Hurricane Ida should serve as an important reminder of many hurricane facts people too frequently forget. Maybe most importantly it’s a reminder of how important it is to evacuate. The death toll in Louisiana – 30 people – could have been much worse had residents failed to take the Category 4 storm seriously.
The storm was also a reminder of how wind and storm surge are far from the only dangers posed by a hurricane.
We’ve written content in the past about the dangers of walking through flood waters. One of the deaths indirectly attributed to Hurricane Ida was a man who was attacked and killed by an alligator while walking through a flooded area.
We’ve also written about the dangers of relying on generators when you’re sheltering in place. Far too many people suffer carbon monoxide poisoning while using gas-powered generators without adequate ventilation while sheltering in place. Four New Orleans deaths were attributed to that type of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Hurricane Ida was also a compelling reminder of how dangerous tropical storms can be. Just because you’re inland and you don’t suffer the brunt of the hurricane’s winds doesn’t mean you have nothing to worry about.
Hurricane Ida was downgraded to Tropical Storm Ida by the time it entered Mississippi. It went on to travel literally hundreds of miles through Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York.
Ida demonstrated how, in rare instances, storms can restrengthen over land. Hurricane Ida was downgraded to Tropical Depression Ida by August 30, but it managed to regain Tropical Storm-strength winds by the time it entered the Northeastern states.
Hurricane Ida may go on to be best remembered by the many videos and images of the havoc it caused in New York’s transportation infrastructure.
Being hundreds of miles away from where a storm makes landfall is no guarantee that you’re in the clear. All told there have been 116 deaths attributed to Hurricane Ida. In addition to the 30 in Louisiana, there were another 30 deaths in New Jersey and 18 in New York, even though those were some of the last states to be hit with the heavy rains and winds of Ida.
Whether it was Hurricane Ida, Tropical Depression Ida, or Tropical Storm Ida – Ida was never a storm to be trifled with. Hurricane Ida was not unique in that respect. One of the drawbacks of relying on the Saffir–Simpson scale is the implied danger – or lack thereof – of storms that don’t qualify as “major hurricanes.” Even tropical storms and tropical depressions can lead to fatalities and billions of dollars in property damage.
Heed hurricane warnings. Make sure you’re taking extra precautions when you shelter in place. Don’t use generators inside. Avoid walking through flood areas. If you have no choice, make sure to wear waders and pants to protect yourself from sharp metal, broken glass and animals.
The 2021 hurricane season isn’t over yet. Stay vigilant and stay safe.