Shannon Panelli Hazard Assessment for Miami

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Shannon Panelli

Hazard Assessment for Miami

25 April 2012

It is hard to find a city in the United States, or anywhere in the world for that matter, that does not face some type of threat. Threats include hazards such as natural disasters, which are for the most part, uncontrollable dramatic acts of nature. Natural disasters are broken down into seven main events, these include: earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, floods, and wildfires. Miami, Florida is a city in particular that is affected by occasions such as these. As of the 2010 Census, approximately 399,457 people inhabit the tropical southern Florida city. Skyscrapers are built high into the sky, meaning any sort of natural disaster could cause great devastation to this mildly dense metropolitan. To make matters worse, an additional 2,096,978 people live in the surrounding area of Miami-Dade County. Numbers of this gratitude is a recipe for disaster.

Some disasters are more probable than others in Miami, and some are nearly impossible. For example, volcanoes are at the bottom of the risk toll. The reason for this conclusion is simply because there are no volcanoes anywhere near the city. According to the USGS, or U.S. Geological Survey, the closest volcano to Miami is south of Puerto Rico, which is around 1,000 miles away. Even if Montserrat were to have a massive eruption, it wouldn’t cause damage to Miami. It is quite observable that locals shouldn’t be concerned about their property being ruined due to any volcano.

Next in line are earthquakes. Although these natural disasters are slightly more hazardous to Miami than volcanoes, they’re not by much. An article released by the Huffington Post entitled, “U.S. Fault Lines GRAPHIC: Earthquake Hazard MAP,” reveals evidence to support this information. Only 39 of the 50 states are at risk for earthquakes, Florida not being one of them. North Florida is slightly in the danger zone, but only at the 4-8% range for level of probability. The USGS also released a statement that there is only a 0.279% chance of an earthquake occurring within 50 miles of the Miami area within the next 50 years. These statistics make this natural disaster to seem very unlikely. Also, the last earthquake that did occur within 100 miles of the city was that of a 3.2 magnitude, and was years ago, in 1992. Needless to say, Miami residents aren’t in trouble anytime soon, unless a new fault line suddenly breaks through.

An event slightly more at risk of occurring than earthquakes, but again not by much, is a tsunami. Since Miami is at the most southern tip of Florida, near the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, it seems that a tsunami would be inevitable. However, since earthquakes are given less than a 1% chance, a tsunamis chance would be around the same percentile. There are no fault lines close enough to Miami, and the closest ones are predominantly ancient. Another factor is that the Atlantic’s fault lines are simply not as strong as the Pacific’s, making it even less probable that any would cause significant damage. CBS Miami conducted a report entitled, “Could A Tsunami Hit South Florida?” in March of 2011. This addressed the Miami residents’ fears of a tsunami hitting their coast due to the massive one that recently reached the coast Japan. Luckily for the worried residents, tsunamis are disasters that can only happen due to an aftermath of a first event, such as an earthquake. The massive tidal wave will not form out of nowhere.

To give even further reassurance, the Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have set a tsunami warning system in place. Although any town is encouraged to join, only two are currently enrolled in the entire state of Florida, Miami not being one of the two. Despite all of the positive promise, there is a very slight chance of the tragedy. However, is it laying thousands of miles away. According to the National Weather Service, the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa are home to a gigantic volcano that has been in question of erupting for years. If it were to erupt, it would cause a massive tsunami that could possibly reach the United States east coast. Yet, even this tsunami could perhaps not even reach Miami, but rather hit more along the east coast of Florida.

Another natural disaster at an even greater risk is wildfires; however these truly cause a visible threat to Miami. Granting many may think of Florida as relatively wet due to the Everglades, this is only half true. Florida receives a significant amount of rainfall each year, yet when it is not raining it is severely dry. Droughts are prevalent and south Florida frequently experiences high winds. WPTV news of Miami reported on March 4, 2011 of a wildfire that burned nearly 100 acres in Miami-Dade County. Even worse, Firehouse reported of a wildfire destroying 36,000 acres on May 12, 2011, only two months later. The Firehouse also released some information of how wildfires can start, and they’re not always simply by nature. The dry heat can produce extreme thunderstorms, which then leads to lightning. The lightning will strike the dry vegetation and cause a fire to spark. Unfortunately, something as small as a person throwing a cigarette can trigger the fire. If the fire is not noticed soon after it begins, it can spread for miles. Then again, something as simple as water will put it out.

Although the city of Miami is not in any direct danger, the outskirts most certainly are. Therefore, protection warnings have been put in place. In a fire danger zone, a level of warning to the residents is displayed and changed daily on the roadways. This chart starts at low-risk and goes all the way up too very high risk. Firefighters and Park Rangers establish the risk level by analyzing how dry the brush is, the temperature, and the level of humidity on that day. The chart allows residents to know the probability of a wildfire occurring on any given day, which in turn allows them time to prepare if the risk seems to be apparent.

Another natural disaster that is surprisingly quite realistic in a city like Miami is a tornado. These wicked twisters have been known to touchdown in the Miami area, even in downtown. USA Today reported an article entitled, “Tornado skips across Miami.” This was of a small tornado that grazed skyscrapers on May 12, 1997. Witnesses spoke about the tornado and said it felt like a movie; they were amazed. Also, released statistics about tornado occurrences in the Miami area. The largest one most recent to date was of an F3, in 1959. Although this tornado caused 77 injuries, there were no deaths involved. The Weather Channel similarly releases charts displaying the tornado frequency in the last 50 years. There have been a total of 132 tornadoes from 1950-2011; though they were all under an F3.

While tornadoes seem to be a reoccurring trend in the Miami area, there has yet to be one labeled as life threatening. Although the residents should not be excessively alarmed, there are still some precautions they must be informed of. In today’s current technology, scientists are only able to give warning to tornadoes an average of 12 minutes before. Twelve minutes is not a long time to flee, and tornadoes often display erratic behavior, making it impossible for any scientist to confidently predict its path. The NOAA National Weather Service releases live reports of weather patterns, and are a good source for residents to watch if a tornado may come to their area. Overall, Miami residents do not need to be worried, but rather on alert that tornadoes are a possibility.

The next natural disaster that can be seen as quite dangerous in Miami is flooding. In a given year, Florida is seen to be one of the United States “wettest” states, especially from July to December, or their wet season. August and October are the worst of these six months. Miami endures the rain just as much as the rest of the state, especially since it is so close to the Everglades. The combination of above average rainfall (about 60 in. a year) and high humidity is a combination for disaster.

On Halloween this past year, NBC Miami reported of a flood in Miami-Dade County. The water reached depths of an astonishing 12 inches. However, it was no surprise to the residents who claimed this wasn’t the first time they witnessed cars floating in the streets. Floods can not only come from severe rainfall, but also hurricanes. Any time there is a severe coastal storm; Miami is bound to get hit with a tremendous amount of rain. Luckily, Florida has set up precautions for people to deal with the flooding.

An organization called the City of Miami Gardens issued a website in 2003 with information regarding how to assess the situation, education for residents, how to protect your property, plans residents should make, etc. Also, of Miami released information about Florida’s flood zone markings. As of September 2009, the Federal Emergency Management Agency released flood zone maps for Miami and South Florida. This map consists of six zones. Each zone is specified based on your area, and how high the water is expected to rise in that area. The zones give information on how much insurance the homeowner will receive given on which zone they are labeled to be under. Overall, although flooding can be dangerous, Miami has done a good job on preparing for it.

The last, most important natural disaster to Miami is the hurricane. Miami is located on the southernmost tip of Florida, making it vulnerable to the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Florida Straits. Florida is prone for getting hurricanes during the Atlantic Hurricane season, which begins June 1st and ends November 30th each year.

graph image showing major hurricanes from 1941 to 1950

According to experts in Volusia County of Florida, the 2011 season was expected to receive nine hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. Within those nine, five were expected to turn above-average. Luckily for Miami residents, the National Hurricane Center releases annual information about hurricanes and has revealed that from 1966 to 2009 there has only been a handful of hurricanes greater than a Category 3. Therefore, although hurricanes are prevalent, they usually don’t have a large death toll. The National Hurricane Center also reveals that it is quite easy to locate a hurricane unlike many other natural disasters. From a satellite image, a scientist can view a hurricane from its birth to its deterioration. They usually can locate the super cell up to 6 to 14 days ahead of time. Since a satellite image gives such good detail and awareness, the National Hurricane Center is confident in saying their predictions are very accurate.

Florida has issued several organizations to better help residents prepare for a hurricane, one being the Accurate Group of Florida. On their website, residents can view safety precautions, as well as tips for riding out the storm and what to do to ensure your home survives. The service also offers information on special home owners insurance for hurricane damage. Not only are there special organizations, but Florida also enforces certain building codes for hurricane susceptible areas to help eliminate some of the damage. released an article entitled,” “Hurricane Precautions: Is Florida Prepared?” The article talks about how Floridians should always be prepared. It suggests constantly having three days’ worth of water in a resident’s home at any given time, as well as canned food, radios, etc. The article similarly gives tips on evacuations and family planning. It is advised that your family writes up a plan of what to do in case of the natural disaster occurring. This plan should include an out-of-town contact the family is able to stay with. Overall the state is very up to date on their safety procedures.

Although hurricanes may be the most problematic disaster and should cause worry on Miami’s residents, it is not as horrific as it may seem. The National Weather Service released statistics on hurricanes in the Miami area. Over the past 200 years, only two hurricanes have been recorded as severe; one on August 16, 1888 and one on October 18, 1950. Also, from 1900-2010, major hurricanes reaching Miami only had a 13-15% chance. Hurricanes primarily reach the east and west coast of Florida, not directly hitting Miami. However, since the tip of Florida is only 160 miles wide (at its widest point) and Miami is closer to the Atlantic, the city is very vulnerable to flooding, rain, wind, and everything else that comes in a hurricanes path.

Although all seven natural disasters have been dissected, Miami’s unlucky streak isn’t over. An even more severe destruction of nature isn’t one of a natural disaster, but it is something that lies in Miami’s beaches. It is a rip current. Although they are not considered at the top of the list to most residents, they are surprisingly possibly the most dangerous of all. released an article by Tom Harris entitled, “How Rip Currents Work.” The article gave facts regarding how rip currents work and revealed some eye opening statistics. According to Harris, rip currents occur when a strong channel of water flows near the shore (perpendicular to the beach); through the surf line. A rip current can move approximately eight feet per second and when caught in one it is very easy to drown.

The Weather Channel issues warnings for Miami Beach rip currents that have been cited or may possibly occur on any given day. These extreme acts of nature are responsible for 80% of beach rescues in Florida, as well as 150 deaths per year. In Miami in particular, rip currents are the source of more deaths than those from thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes combined each year.

After reviewing all of the possible natural disasters Miami has to offer, it gives perspective on if it is a safe place to live overall. In my opinion, Miami is still worthwhile to live in. Although there are many reasons the city of Miami may be seen has more of a hassle than a luxury, it’s the same scenario for nearly every state in the United States and Miami is not at the top of the list for severe disasters.

Works Cited

Bagg, Julia, Nathalie Pozo, and Brian Hamacher. "Flooding Reported Throughout South Florida." NBC 6 Miami. 31 Oct. 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

Chapple, Renee. "Miami Flood Zone Maps." Miami. 06 Aug. 2009. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

"Could A Tsunami Hit South Florida?" CBS Miami. 11 Mar. 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

"Flood Awareness." Welcome to the City of Miami Gardens. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

"Florida Wildland Fire Grows to 36,000 Acres." Firehouse. 12 May 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2012.

"Florida's Hurricane Vulnerability." Volusia County Homepage. Volusia County Florida. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

Harris, Tom. "How Rip Currents Work." HowStuffWorks. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

"Hurricane Precautions and Preparation." Hurricane Shutters and Garage Doors Brevard County. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

"Hurricane Precautions: Is Florida Prepared?" 18 May 2009. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

Kanalley, Craig. "U.S. Fault Lines GRAPHIC: Earthquake Hazard MAP." The Huffington Post., 23 Aug. 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

LaPonzina, Lauren. "New Wildfires Started in Miami-Dade." WPTV. 04 Mar. 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

"Miami (city), Florida QuickFacts." US Census Bureau. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

"Miami Earthquake Information." Earthquake History and Probability Risk Grade for Miami Miami Dade County FL. Homefacts. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

"Miami Tornado Information." Tornado History and Damage Risk for Miami Miami Dade County FL. Homefacts. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

"New York (city), New York QuickFacts." US Census Bureau. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

"Storm Prediction Center." NOAA NWS. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

"Tornado Leaves Mile-long Trail in South Florida." USA Today. Gannett, 19 Oct. 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

"Tornado Skips across Miami." Weather. USA Today, 01 Oct. 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

"Tornadoes in Miami, Fla. (1950-2011)." The Weather Channel. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

"Tropical Cyclone Climatology." National Hurricane Center. National Weather Center, 11 Apr. 2012. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. .

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