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Safe at Sea: NOAA on hazards

By PAT SCHMIDT - | Aug 3, 2021

Recently, I read an article about SeaKits (a “disaster” kit for your boat), which will be the topic of a future column. However, this led to an online search regarding at-sea disasters. My first and only stop (and final one leading to this column) was the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at www.noaa.gov/hazards. I got no further.

The banner on its website listed: “Home,” “Ocean Facts,” “Topics,” and at that point I started digging. In search of disasters (other than those resulting from human error), I clicked on “Hazards,” which opened up an array of categories, all of which are so pertinent to Southwest Florida: coastal hazards, hurricanes, beach dangers, harmful algal blooms, et cetera. Every single category proved so relevant to Sanibel-Captiva today.

For example, I had just watched Lee County Commission Chairman Kevin Ruane’s news interview about his work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the fateful water release plan to the Caloosahatchee River (algal blooms). Beach dangers brought to mind the horrific news of the couple who were struck by lightning on Nerita Beach recently. As I watch the fluctuation of water in our canal, I’m constantly reminded not only of coastal flooding, but also of rising sea levels.

All this aside, I delved into the hurricane category. The site began, “The National Ocean Service brings a wealth of coastal science, management and operational expertise to aid communities impacted by hurricanes … “ Quite simply, this site/service is that and so much more.

I clicked on “Historical hurricane tracks: online tool displays 150 years of hurricane paths.” In small print, I discovered “Historical Hurricane Tracks,” which I clicked. The next screen read, “Let’s find a hurricane you’re interested in,” where I could search by location, name, year, zip code, or basin. Enter: Sanibel.

Listed hurricanes:

– Most recent: Hurricane Sally, 2020 (Really, a non-event for the island.)

– First recorded: Not Named, 1852

Interesting facts:

The oldest “named” hurricane was Hurricane Hazel in 1953.

In the 169 years of recorded hurricanes, 98 have been officially designated as passing within Sanibel’s hurricane radius, as defined by the NOAA. That’s a fairly high frequency.

Obviously, the NOAA’s website is a vast source of science, data, history, et cetera, all of which is well-worth an hour’s time.

Speaking of hurricanes and their timing, remember:

June, too soon;

July, stand by;

August, look out!

September you will remember.

October, all over.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed, right?

Pat Schmidt is a member of America’s Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva. For more about the chapter and its courses, visit www.sancapboating.club or contact education@sanibelcaptivasps.org or 612-987-2125.