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John Wheeler: Do not be too quick to criticize hurricane evacuations

Florida is a difficult place to evacuate from.

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FARGO — Much is being made of the timing of the evacuation orders for the Fort Myers area in particular ahead of Hurricane Ian last week. For us landlubbers over a thousand miles from the coast, there are two things to consider here. On one hand, hurricane forecasts are offered four times a day as a widening cone shape along a center line. Most of the severe danger in a hurricane is in and around the eyewall, which is usually around 20-40 miles in diameter. The forecast cone is wider than this because of forecast uncertainty. If people focus mostly on the the center line of the forecast, it can lead to bad decisions regarding evacuations.

On the other hand, Florida is a difficult place to evacuate from. If a hurricane shifts 40 to 80 miles from the previous day's forecast, evacuees may end up in even worse danger than if they'd stayed at home, especially considering that the Florida peninsula is about as wide as a hurricane forecast cone.

Related Topics: WEATHER
John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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