In the end, hurricane Floyd didn't do as much damage along the East Coast as it might have. That's little solace to those still bailing out from the severe flooding it brought. But one reason casualties were not higher was that people heeded early warnings to flee inland.
It was the largest peacetime evacuation in United States history.
The evacuation led to frustrating traffic snarls, a sign of how much development has built up along the coast. Authorities now recognize they'll need to improve the transport system for future mandatory evacuations.
Many of those who fled grumble that officials overreacted. That Monday-morning quarterbacking, however, should be tempered by understanding how far we have come in predicting and preparing for hurricanes.
Each storm brings its own lessons. Hurricane Andrew, for instance, taught the need for stricter building codes in Florida. The consistent lesson, however, is the need for constant vigilance. And for that the public owes thanks to the National Hurricane Center, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, state governors, local officials, the American Red Cross, and everyone else involved in hurricane preparation and relief.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society