University helps community prepare for hurricane season

Source(s): Florida International University
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By Erik Salna

BANG! An air cannon fired a two-by-four piece of wood. The object struck a metal shutter protecting a window. It was a simple – but effective – procedure to show the importance of protecting a home’s windows from flying debris during a hurricane.

The demonstration occurred all day at the recent FIU-sponsored Eye of the Storm event at the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale. The free, public education event showcased special hands-on, interactive activities and demonstrations teaching hurricane science, mitigation and preparedness. The goal: to inform and motivate everyone to be ready for the new hurricane season.

“Our annual ‘Eye of the Storm’ event is crucially important in helping prepare our community for hurricanes, especially now with the above average number of projected storms [for this season],” says Rich Olson, director of the Extreme Events Institute at FIU.

The event brought together a number of organizations and weather experts to share critical information for the community. Attendance at this year's event soared. 

“The Eye of the Storm brought over 3,000 people to the Museum [of Discovery and Science], and thousands more online, to meet an array of exciting scientists, weather experts and emergency management personnel who have committed to preparing our community for the upcoming hurricane season,” said Joe Cox, president and CEO at the Museum of Discovery and Science. “At the Museum, our mission is ‘connecting people to inspiring science.’

That is exactly what the event is about. Each year, organizers take hurricane preparedness content and present it in a family-friendly way featuring activities for parents and kids.

This year's activities proved intriguing from the start. As soon as visitors entered the museum lobby, they experienced the FIU NSF-NHERI Wall of Wind (WOW) exhibit. It set the tone for the day, illustrating the effects of wind on different roof shapes, educating on the science of wind engineering and showing the importance of mitigating wind damage to homes. 

During the day, parents and kids also built their own model homes and put them to the test with portable fans. Kids were asked on a message board if they were inspired to study wind engineering – and many of them were.

The event featured a variety of other activities, including live weather education theater shows, Weather Jeopardy and "Be a TV Meteorologist" at the Hurricane Broadcast Studio. Organizers streamed virtual Zoom interviews, including a live Tropical Weather Outlook directly from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, located at FIU MMC.

“The 2021 Eye of the Storm event was once again a huge success that brought the community together to learn about hurricane season preparedness, emergency management and hurricane forecast science. We were delighted to participate again this year and look forward to next year as well.”

- Miguel Hidalgo, emergency management specialist, Broward County Emergency Management Division

“The Eye of the Storm provided children and families the opportunity to learn about the science behind hurricanes and hurricane forecasting, and more importantly how to plan and prepare for these dangerous storms,” said Daniel Brown, a senior hurricane specialist/warning coordination meteorologist at NOAA National Hurricane Center (NHC).

He added, “The partnership of FIU’s International Hurricane Research Center and the Extreme Events Institute has increased NHC's community engagement in South Florida through events like the Eye of the Storm. In addition, the support of FIU has helped amplify NOAA’s National Hurricane Center’s hurricane preparedness and safety messaging with the goal of building a Weather Ready Nation,”.

The event helped parents learn some important takeaways for the hurricane season:

  • know your risk
  • protect your home
  • know your evacuation zone
  • complete your hurricane plan
  • include loved ones with special needs
  • assemble your supply kit
  • assure generator safety
  • prepare your pets
  • get an insurance check-up
  • consider flood insurance
  • help your neighbor. 

Most of all, organizers said, for all of us in South Florida, preparedness has to be a way of life, something we naturally do. We all need to take personal responsibility and accountability to be prepared and have a plan.

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, has already seen its first named storm, Ana. It’s predicted to be an above-average season, with a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms, of which six to 10 could become hurricanes, including three to 5 major hurricanes (category 3, 4, or 5).

The Eye of the Storm is sponsored by FIU’s  Extreme Events Institute’s International Hurricane Research Center (IHRC) and the State of Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Check out the Eye of the Storm 12-part video series for comprehensive hurricane information. Other hurricane information resources include the FIU Emergency Management, Monroe County Emergency Management, Miami-Dade County Emergency Management, Broward County Emergency Management, Palm Beach County Emergency Management, and the FIU-NHC Spanish language website.

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