Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Well-Warned Public Followed Emily's Stormy Approach and Retreat NETWORK WORKS

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Well-Warned Public Followed Emily's Stormy Approach and Retreat NETWORK WORKS

Article excerpt

HURRICANE Emily came to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and left just as quickly, leaving behind minor damage, eroded shoreline - and an exhausted but successful public-private warning system.

By the time the storm hit the North Carolina shore, the network of emergency personnel and broadcasters had already worked round the clock to evacuate the 110-mile-long stretch of barrier islands that lay directly in the storm's path. That network is considered to be a major reason recent storms have caused so few casualties in the United States.

As it turned out, the hurricane's eye stayed out at sea, approaching no closer than 20 miles from Cape Hatteras, N.C. That spared the islands from the most destructive of the storm's 115 mile-per-hour winds. Emily eventually veered northeast, posing little threat to land.

"Twenty miles makes a lot of difference," says Clyde Cash, a North Carolina Power employee, working on a power line the morning after the storm.

The most extensive damage appeared to be around Ocracoke and Hatteras Islands, with flooding and minor damage in the communities of Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras itself.

In Kitty Hawk, police blocked off a section of highway where at least three beach cottages were destroyed by the storm's 15-foot waves. "We have had nor'easters worse than this," says Bob Morris, Kitty Hawk police chief.

At press time, the only reported casualty was a surfer in Virginia Beach, Va.

Even when recent storms have caused extensive property damage, their toll on lives has been relatively light.

Hurricane Hugo in 1989 was responsible for 29 deaths, despite property damage of nearly $6 billion. Last year's hurricane Andrew, which caused $30 billion in damages, took 55 lives. Those totals are light compared with hurricanes Hazel and Connie, which in the mid-1950s were responsible for a combined 280 casualties.

A major difference: Today's flow of information is faster and more reliable.

One of the key links in the storm-warning effort is broadcasters.

Television and radio personalities who managed to stay on the air during hurricane Andrew last year proved to be an important link to listeners trapped in their homes during that storm. …

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