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After a Dozen Hurricanes and 40 Years, Familiar Dangers With Higher Stakes

Years ago, banks and other businesses gave customers paper hurricane maps so that they could plot the latitude and longitude of developing storms. Now nearly everyone is glued to their phones and computers, watching projected storm tracks play out in real time.Still, many things have remained the same: Hurricanes often confound the forecasters. They don’t totally surprise anymore, but they drift past expected targets and, worst of all, they sometimes quickly become much stronger than expected. […]

Amid Chaos of Storms, U.S. Shows It Has Improved Its Response

And the pain was felt far away as well: in Jacksonville, where there was still major flooding from epic storm surge, heavy rains and rising tides; in Georgia, where at least 1.2 million customers were without power Tuesday; and in Charleston, S.C., where Irma’s effects coincided with high tide, causing some of the worst flooding since Hurricane Hugo, which devastated the area in 1989.The political will Mr. Wolshon cited has arisen, in large part, from the two defining, and very different, disasters of the century: the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and, four years later, Hurricane Katrina, whose floodwaters put most of New Orleans underwater and left more than 1,800 people dead.The terrorist attacks in New York and Pennsylvania revolutionized the way American government coordinated disaster response. Katrina stimulated a new and robust conversation about the power of natural disasters, and, more specifically, forced Americans to rethink the growing threats from floodwater.These issues have become central themes for government in recent years, and Richard Serino, a former deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he was not surprised that the response to the storms thus far has gone relatively well.“It’s no accident,” he said. “We’ve been training people for this for the last 16 years.”These events, and other disasters before and after, have fed into the collective knowledge of how a modern nation should respond to hurricanes, serving as catalysts for improvements in weather forecasting, evacuation policies and hurricane-resistant building practices.Experts said all of them most likely played a role in keeping the death tolls lower than expected in the last few weeks. The planning and response also benefited from a few lucky turns in the weather, the growing sophistication of personal technology — the iPhone did not exist when Katrina struck — and a public dialed in to the internet and tuned into 24-hour television news.Continue reading the main storyThe deadly problems posed by hurricanes are at once ancient and rather new: Hal Needham, a coastal hazard scientist who runs a private consulting business in Galveston, Tex., notes that it was not until after World War II that populations began to soar in the hurricane-vulnerable states of Texas and Florida. […]

Irma Swiftly Lays Claim to Florida’s Sea of Trees

PhotoFallen trees after Hurricane Irma in Miami on Monday.Credit Scott McIntyre for The New York TimesMIAMI — After the wind and rain had passed, and the Florida sun had begun shining again, Bruce Mawry emerged from his Miami Beach home to find a grisly scene of fallen trunks, scattered fronds and rolling coconuts. It amounted to a palm tree massacre.“I was amazed at the number of trees that had damage,” said Mr. Mawry, the chief civil engineer for the city of Miami Beach, who immediately began dispatching teams to tag every tree that could be saved. […]

Irma Live Updates: ‘I Just Hope Everyone Survived’

“I just hope everyone survived,” Gov. Rick Scott of Florida said on Monday after completing a flyover of the islands.SEVERITY Category 5 4 3 2 1 Tropical stormMore detailed maps »Here’s the latest:• At least 45 people have died as a result of the storm, including at least 10 in the continental United States, according to The Associated Press.• The remnants of Irma, downgraded to a tropical depression on Monday night, were about 65 miles southeast of Atlanta and moving toward the Tennessee Valley .• The full extent of the damage is not yet known, and the authorities have hesitated to estimate the cost of a cleanup. Check out our most powerful photographs.• Sign up for the Morning Briefing for hurricane news and a daily look at what you need to know to begin your day.Irma pushes north, causing problems in CharlestonPhotoPeople waded through a flooded street in Charleston, S.C., on Monday.Credit Mic Smith, via Associated PressHigh winds felled trees and severed service lines in Georgia and South Carolina on Monday, knocking out power for more than 900,000 customers in the two states.A tropical storm warning was issued for all of Georgia’s coast and most of South Carolina’s. Some of the worst flooding occurred in Charleston, where knee-high floodwaters coursed through the streets — high enough for some residents to navigate by kayak.Continue reading the main storyThe National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency for Charleston County and said that parts of the Charleston peninsula, which contains the city’s historic core, were being closed.In an interview Monday afternoon, Mayor John Tecklenburg said that the city had been hit with a four-foot storm surge, leaving parts of the peninsula looking as if they had merged with the Ashley River.Newsletter Sign UpContinue reading the main storyThank you for subscribing.An error has occurred. Please try again later.You are already subscribed to this email.View all New York Times newsletters.“It sounds kind of counterintuitive that we’d have that, because the center of the storm is over 200 miles away in western Georgia, and here we are over on the coast of South Carolina,” he said. “But just if you looked at the bigger weather map and saw the counterclockwise rotation of Irma, juxtaposed with a clockwise high-pressure rotation over the Atlantic, Charleston was like in the pincer of those two motions that has driven wind and hurricane bands almost directly into our city.”Mr. Tecklenburg said that the flooding was even worse than last year’s Hurricane Matthew, which inundated the city in October, in great part because Matthew arrived at low tide, whereas Irma’s effect came at high tide.Farther inland, concerns about serious damage remained high, even as the storm’s power diminished somewhat.In Atlanta, the winds whipping through the leaves created a sound like an angry sea breaking on a shoreline, and trees crashed into residences and onto roadways. […]

Tracking Hurricane Irma’s Wrath in Southwest Florida

Recent Episodes in Hurricane Irma Hurricane Irma 2:23 Tracking Irma’s Toll on Florida Hurricane Irma 2:57 Hurricane Irma’s Eye Passes Over Florida Keys Hurricane Irma 2:18 Anguilla, Reeling From Irma While Readying for Jose Hurricane Irma 2:20 Tracking Hurricane Irma’s Wrath in Southwest Florida Hurricane Irma 2:00 Hurricane Irma Inspires Stay-at-Home Church Services Hurricane Irma 1:30 Drone Footage Shows Desolate Miami Beach as Hurricane Irma Nears Hurricane Irma 1:11 To Defend Against Irma, Locals Raid Miami Beach for Sand Hurricane Irma 1:13 ‘We Have Nothing Left’: Islanders Survey Irma’s Destruction […]

How to Help the Victims of Hurricane Irma

GlobalGiving’s Irma Relief Fund is accepting donations here. It vets the local organizations it helps fund and is well-regarded by charity watchdogs. (GlobalGiving prioritizes local organizations over the long term, but often steers money toward larger entities like Save the Children or the International Medical Corps during the early days of disaster response.)PhotoPeople in Guadeloupe donated food for the French Caribbean islands of St. Martin and St. Barthélemy.Credit Helene Valenzuela/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesDonors can also visit the crowdsourcing website GoFundMe to give money to the Direct Impact Fund, a nonprofit that distributes money to smaller campaigns within the United States and its territories.GoFundMe also hosts individual crowdfunding campaigns for people and organizations […]

Long a Refuge for the Elderly, Florida is Now a Place of Danger

PhotoA man looked out his window in Miami Beach, Fla. The large population of older residents presents a challenge for officials ahead of Hurricane Irma.Credit Scott McIntyre for The New York TimesWith all the challenges and complications as one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded bears down on South Florida, there is also this: One in five residents here is over the age of 65, a percentage greater than any other state.In the three counties that appear most likely to bear the brunt of Hurricane Irma — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — roughly a half-million residents are over the age of 75.They range from active residents living in lush retirement communities to physically and mentally impaired people living in assisted living units or nursing homes, but as previous storms like Katrina, Sandy and Harvey have demonstrated, they are among the most at risk. The sheer numbers and vexing variety of the elderly population poses enormous problems as officials must assess risk and allocate resources, both before and after the storm.Because so many older people move to Florida later in life, they often do not have the family and neighborhood connections that would provide support in an emergency.“We call this group elder orphans,” said Jeff Johnson, the state director for the AARP. “Many of them are probably in a condition that is normally manageable, but if left without power or stranded for days, away from support and care, when the state doesn’t know who they are or what they might need, that is the worry.”Mr. Johnson said that state and local officials had worked hard not to repeat the mistakes of storms past, and advocates for the elderly “have pretty high hopes that the state and local authorities are attentive to people in those sorts of institutional settings.”Since the end of the Second World War, retirees have been lured to Florida’s sunny shores by affordable housing, effective marketing and an idea of the good life. They first settled in and around Miami and St. Petersburg but the 1960s saw the rise of gated communities across the state.During normal times, many of them would be fine on their own, perhaps taking offense at any suggestion otherwise. After Irma makes landfall, times will likely be anything but normal.The concerns range from caring for the sick and infirm to persuading people reluctant to leave their homes that it is wise to do so.“You saw the picture of the lady knitting with the water up to her waist,’’ said Mike Graham, 71, referring to the now infamous photo taken at the La Vita Bella assisted-living center in Dickinson, Tex., in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.“It is sort of like: We have been through it and this is what it is,” Mr. Graham said.Mr […]