When faced with hurricanes, many decisions must be made. Often they embrace hard to quantify choices, yet a choice is ALWAYS made, even if it is to do nothing (that is a choice). Some examples of choices are:
· Do we bother to put up storm shutters? Do we buy a generator?
· As a trucking company do we send a million bottles of water to Panama City as a storm approaches?
· How much plywood should be sent to a building supply company?
· Should Grandma come from Panama City to Tallahassee to ride out the storm?
· Should the nursing home evacuate residents? Three will die in evacuation, while if no evacuation and a surge of 7 feet comes, then 10 patients will die. On the other hand, if there is no more that 5 feet of surge, everyone will live.
· Should we take the boat out of the water? Inland?
· Should the Keys be evacuated?
Forecasters know that the public will more readily forgive an exaggeration of the threat than an underestimate of it -- just as long as your cry of “wolf” isn’t excessive. This is a “Risk Adverse” forecast. The public is just not forgiving of an unanticipated (not forecast) bad outcome, while they will more readily accept a forecast error if the outcome is more favorable.
Remember Hurricane Floyd when the Keys were evacuated to Miami, then Miami was evacuated to Orlando, then Orlando to Georgia, and Floyd never made landfall in Florida or Georgia. It was the largest peacetime evacuation ever in the U.S. with over 2.6 million people evacuated. The Hurricane Floyd forecasts represented a series of risk adverse forecasts.
In a similar vein, forecasts for rain, on the average, underestimate the probability of rain just as the forecasts for no rain overestimate the probability of rain. The average is biased toward 50%, or no clue. It is a fact that rain/ no rain is a binary event (one or the other), and probabilistic forecast is an expression of the uncertainty in the forecast.
My recommendation is that is if you live in Tallahassee you don’t necessarily need to evacuate, and you don’t need hurricane shutters, you might need a generator and a grill with a propane bottle. Of course, storm shutters do not hurt, and if you live in a mobile home anywhere in Florida, it must be tied down and all homes should have hurricane clips on the roof. Flashlights and enough of your favorite beverage are always good to have. If you are able to handle it, a chain saw could come in handy as well as an adventurous positive attitude. The danger that this immediate area would likely face is flooding and falling trees. The armpit of Florida should be prepared for another Dennis (2005), Fay (2008), or Kate (1985). These three are the types of storms that represent the most likely threats this immediate area should be prepared for.
If you live on the coast, then the risks are higher and more precautions are appropriate; including evacuation, hurricane shutters and, if you live in a mobile home, get out!
Next week, Risk and Hurricane Katrina – bottom line. Then, Global Warming – the Real Story (A lot of heat, and little light).