If you've never been in hurricane country during a big storm, it mostly amounts to a lot of rain and very high winds. While watching news reports of the approach of Hurricane Florence, I recall the intensity of the one hurricane I experienced in Alabama in 1979.
Most North Atlantic Hurricanes occur from August to October, with a few outliers, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Like many hurricanes, Hurricane Frederick started out in the eastern Atlantic in August. It weakened to tropical storm status while passing over the Caribbean. Then around Sept. 9, it entered the Gulf of Mexico off the west end of Cuba and 86-degree water there fueled its rebirth. Three days later, the center of the Category 4 storm had moved some 500 miles northwest to strike Mobile, Ala., with winds of 135 miles per hour. It caused more than $2 billion in damage.
It came just a week after Hurricane David killed around 2,000 people in the Dominican Republic as a Category 5 storm, with winds of 175 miles per hour. David and Frederick were the first hurricanes with male names.
I remember a night with the highest winds I had ever experienced and a lot of rain — and I was 200 miles away from where Frederick came ashore.
We're fortunate in Northeast Ohio in that we don't get hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, massive forest fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, and mudslides — the sort of natural disasters a lot of other parts of the world experience.
We're susceptible to blizzards, such as the ones that struck Buffalo, N.Y. in 2014. Fortunately, the bulk of those storms missed us.
The last really destructive tornado to touch down nearby hit Macedonia, Twinsburg and Solon in 2002. Since then, there have been other small twisters here and there, but none large enough to destroy houses.
According to the National Weather Service, the "Veterans Day" tornado touched down in Macedonia around 7 p.m. on Nov. 10 near the intersection of Valley View Road and Route 82. It moved northeast, gradually reaching F2 intensity (113 to 157 mph) as it crossed Interstate 480 into Twinsburg. In Macedonia, 60 homes were damaged, including two that were destroyed and 15 others declared uninhabitable.
In the Glenwood Preserve neighborhood on the north side of Twinsburg several homes were leveled and a total of 45 homes damaged on on Andover Drive and Deeplake Circle. Around 100 more homes in Solon were damaged. The path of destruction was continuous over 7 miles and was about 50 to 100 yards in width, according to the weather service. I don’t recall any injuries, but it’s still amazing to think so many homes were destroyed and damaged.
Prior to that, the worst tornado to hit the area was one of dozens that struck the Midwest and Canada on May 31, 1985. Around 6 p.m. that evening, an F-5 twister touched down at the Ravenna Arsenal and traveled 43 miles through Newton Falls and into Pennsylvania, killing 16 people and injuring hundreds. Seventy-six people in Ohio and Pennsylvania died that day.
If one discounts the occasional tornado and hazardous conditions brought about by winter weather, Ohio residents are left with high winds and flooding as the two most common natural dangers.
Just this year, a motorist was killed by a tree knocked over by wind on Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls. Also this year in Streetsboro on Route 303 a motorist was pulled from her car after attempting to get through the flooded road. Another managed to escape on his own. An official said the two were lucky they were not swept into Tinkers Creek and drowned.
Two Hudson residents died in a basement garage after becoming trapped by floodwater in 2003. The rain was so heavy it was the first time I can recall people were unable to drive home from work due to widespread flooding.
People do what they can to mitigate danger. About 30 trees were recently removed from the stretch of road where the motorist was killed in Cuyahoga Falls. In Streetsboro, the city is moving to eliminate the Route 303 flooding problem — after decades of discussing the issue.
Down South, you’ll find roadside signs on designated evacuation routes — sometimes many miles from the coast.There isn’t much you can do but flee when such huge storms come to ground.
Frederick’s name has been retired from the hurricane list of names, a tradition reserved for the most damaging storms. Seven names were retired during the 1980s, including Hugo, which in 1989 came ashore in South Carolina just a bit south of Florence’s predicted landfall. It caused nearly $10 billion in damage.
The most famous hurricane is probably Katrina, which destroyed New Orleans in 2005 causing an estimated $125 billion in damage. Katrina was one of 24 names retired in the 2000s. In 2012 Sandy struck New York/New Jersey and caused nearly $70 billion in damage.
Last year, four names were retired, including Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico and is said to have killed more than 3,000.
I’ve seen some of those million-dollar homes in Florence’s path on the Carolina coast. Now I don’t envy their owners.
After our recent late-summer heat wave, I’m looking forward to some cooler weather up here in Ohio, as long as the winds are calm and the days are relatively dry.
Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433, or email@example.com.