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Earth Sense: Hurricane season underway
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Summer begins today, and hurricane season is already in progress. Georgia is affected by hurricanes, but they play out differently in our northern part of the state than they do in the coastal plain.

Hurricanes develop over ocean water, and for the most part they prefer to stay there. After a hurricane reaches land, it begins to lose power.

However, it can continue far inland if it has enough momentum to start with. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo tore large gaps way up in the woods of North Carolina’s Shining Rock Wilderness near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Flood insurance is a good idea to have if you live near the coast. The terrain is flat, and floodwaters can spread far. Without flood insurance, homeowner policies commonly pay for damage caused by water coming from above.

For example, if the roof breaks and rain intrudes, this usually counts as storm damage, not flood damage. Federal flood policies are designed to cover losses from “rising natural waters.”

A home located near a creek in a steep valley may well need such an additional flood insurance policy. Local insurance agents can supply definitive individual advice on this topic. A good starting point, though, is to stand on the property and visualize a heavy, long-lasting downpour.

Then ask yourself: “Where will this water go?” As all water runs downhill, it should be apparent what the drainage avenues are. If they run through the house, a visit to the insurance office is in order.

Obviously, we don’t have to worry about ocean waves crashing ashore and floating homes away, like they do at the Georgia coast. But in August of 2005, remnants of hurricane Katrina produced a tornado in Helen that tore a path down the mountain near Oberlindau Strasse and damaged buildings on the other side of South Main Street.

Many downtown structures in Helen are in the floodplain of the Chattahoochee and therefore at risk of flooding. In a violent storm, buildings farther up the hillsides are more likely to get damaged by wind and flying debris than by water from below.

A hurricane at the beach is wildly exotic with its tree-bending wind, relentless salty rain, and ocean waters advancing onto the land. To the North Georgia hills, though, it will bring mostly wind and heavy rain, and feel much like the strong continental storms that we’re more familiar with.


Regional events