It’s time to change ratings for hurricanes

September 20, 2012

COLUMNS

Nancy Anderson, MBJ contributing columnist

I made my usual phone call.

“Mom, Dad, how about coming north and staying with us until the storm passes,” I said, knowing full-well what their answer would be.

My parents live in the same house in Gulfport where I grew up. Their street is about a mile off the beach but not in a low-lying area. I have vivid memories of the night Hurricane Camille blew through. The winds whistled through the rafters. Old oak trees toppled like matchsticks on either side of our yard. While the rains came and the winds blew, our house stood strong and dry.

When Hurricane Katrina took aim at Gulfport, I begged. I cajoled. “We made it fine through Camille, and that was a 5. We’ll be fine, now,” they said. That experience changed their attitude. After all, they are in their 80s and not as equipped to handle such a catastrophe, and they didn’t really understand the magnitude of the storm bearing down on them.

So I thought this time would be different, but Hurricane Isaac was only labeled a “1.” That number convinced my parents and many residents of the storm area that this was no big deal. A “1” is hardly worth going to the grocery for supplies.

A New York Times article suggested it is time for us to address our hurricane rating system. The current system ignores the size of the storm. Isaac wobbled onto shore, then hung out for hours. The rainfall amounts were tremendous. Winds from the storm occurred over a 400-mile area.

We should ask the Weather Service to come up with something better, something that accounts for how big the storm is and how quickly it is moving. When you are in the bullseye of a hurricane, lives and property depend on that rating.

>> Nancy Lottridge Anderson, Ph.D., CFA, is president of New Perspectives Inc. in Ridgeland — (601) 991-3158. She is also an assistant professor of finance at Mississippi College. Her e-mail address is nanderson@newper.com, and her website is www.newper.com.

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