Weather or Not,
Live Where You Want to Live<
By Larry Gavrich, Founder & Editor,
Home On The Course, LLC
Editor’s note: In recent weeks, The Weather Channel has covered all manner of storms in the Midwest and nor’easters blanketing our northern Atlantic states. The wildfires in California, fueled by the Santa Ana winds, have broken records in terms of damage and human misery, and winter storm warnings have made “Sno-vember” one for the books. There’s weather everywhere, so take our golf expert’s title to heart. “Live where you want to live."
Those of us of a certain age may recall a TV ad of the 1970s in which Mother Nature is handed a tub of Chiffon margarine, tastes it and thinks it is butter. When she is told otherwise, she utters the words, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” Thunder, lightning and rain immediately ensue.
Mere mortals like us will never fool Mother Nature, no matter where we choose to live. Consider that a recommendation not to obsess over the threat of catastrophic weather as a major factor when making the decision about where to relocate. Choosing a place to live is difficult enough without factoring the odds in the coming decades of hurricane level winds, storm surges, multiple inches of rain and the consequent flooding affecting your home.
The facts are that, despite the one-two punch of historic back-to-back storms like Florence and Michael, the odds are long of a major storm with 100 mph winds hitting any one place on the east or Gulf Coasts. The appendix to the book Hurricane Watch, by meteorologist Dr. Bob Sheets and former USA Today reporter Jack Williams, includes the probabilities of hurricanes landing in specific coastal locations in any one year.
In the Carolinas, the highest probability of any hurricane landfall is at Cape Hatteras, NC, at 21.3%. The next most likely landfall location is Morehead City at 12.5%. The likelihood of a major hurricane (100 mph winds and higher) hitting Hatteras and Morehead City in any one year is 5.3% and 2.7%, respectively.
Charleston and Myrtle Beach, SC,
and Wilmington, NC, show hurricane probabilities in any single year at
10% each, with major storm probabilities of 2.2%, 2.6% and 2.1%,
respectively. Stated another way, the likelihood of a major hurricane
landing in Wilmington is once every 45 years or so. That is cold
comfort to those whose homes were damaged or lost from Florence. (For
those wondering about the devastation from Michael in Panama City and
Appalachicola, FL, Hurricane Watch lists their probabilities of major
storm strikes at 3.7% and 3.3%, respectively, more than 50% greater than
on the Carolina coasts.)
Of course, the coasts are not the only areas vulnerable to the effects of a hurricane. Storm surge, for example, can affect communities and their residents many miles inland. River Landing in Wallace, NC, is a good 45-minute drive from Wilmington yet one of its strongest attributes, the beautiful and typically lazy Northeast Cape Fear River, turned nasty in the wake of Florence, flooding streets, the golf course and some homes in River Landing.
New Bern, NC, where the Trent and Neuse Rivers merge and home to the Carolina Colours golf community, was affected both by storm surge and high winds. New Bern is a 52-minute drive to the nearest Atlantic beach.
According to Carolina Colours’ developer Ken Kirkman, the community’s storm preparations helped it recover quickly.
“We had prearranged for help to come in right after the storm,” he told me on October 8, “so as of today, you can hardly tell there has been a storm.” (The storm made landfall on September 14.)
Nevertheless, 500 trees were downed in the residential areas of the community, and 15 of those fell on homes. Homes whose roofs were punctured suffered some water damage. Things were significantly worse in the historic city of New Bern, just six miles up the Neuse River.
“Downtown historical homes that had been there 100+ years took on water for the first time ever,” Ken said.
Living hours from the ocean does not immunize residents from the after affects of a coastal hurricane. Consider that Asheville, NC, in the mountains of western North Carolina and a six-hour drive from the coast, was under a flash flood watch for a few days after the hurricane and that, in the past, some communities in the area have suffered damaging mudslides in the wake of heavy mountain rains.
For a while in mid-September, it looked as if my own vacation home in Pawleys Island would be severely affected by Florence. Pawleys was in the zone for landfall until the day before the storm headed for Wilmington, 90 miles north of us. We were at our Connecticut home during the storm, but our neighbors in Pawleys Island were under a mandatory evacuation order and did not return until a few days after the storm passed.
We have FEMA flood insurance for our condominium and typical homeowner’s insurance for our personal effects, which gives us peace of mind. Nevertheless, we are well aware of the risks of owning a home ¾ of a mile from the ocean.
On the Carolinas coast, you need to be a bit fatalistic to keep from driving yourself crazy, or selling your vacation home. Recalling the Doris Day hit of the 1950s, I call our attitude toward hurricane possibilities, “Que sera sera, what will be will be…” This was manifested by my wife Connie’s comment as it seemed likely the storm would affect our condo: “Well, we have talked about redecorating at some point.”
The odds are in our favor against a major storm damaging our condo, but more importantly, we understand that some aspects of the future’s not ours to see. With insurance and the understanding that Mother Nature always has the upper hand, you can live happily ever after, wherever you choose. Que sera, sera.