After Hurricane Ian, a low-lying Florida city starts to rebuild. Should it?
The storm that hit Florida on September 13, 2011, was not the kind that will break a building, but it would not be unwise to think of it as a building that was never built. The roof of the state of Florida is more than 200 feet above sea level, making it a state with a unique vulnerability. A Category 4, or “C4,” hurricane can strike the Florida coast with a 100 mile per hour (160 kph) wind speed, flattening streets and houses before dropping nearly two feet of rain down on the land, the same amount of rain that had fallen on the land when Hurricane Katrina passed through nine months earlier. It can also cause widespread flooding of low lying areas with the same force. Although Hurricane Wilma only went as far north as the Everglades and Gulf of Mexico, this damage, like that caused by Katrina, can be catastrophic. But unlike Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, this storm was not the most potent hurricane in Florida’s history.
The storm hit on a Friday, September 13. The hurricane was centered just 90 miles (145 km) south of St. Petersburg. Although its initial intensity was estimated to be a Category 3, at the time, it was downgraded to a Category 1 storm before making landfall. The storm was predicted to hit land as a Category 4 hurricane. It was later upgraded to Category 2. But it was still a Category 3 or 2. Even as it was downgraded to a Category 1, the storm’s winds were still strong enough to do incredible amounts of damage.
There are two reasons why this storm does not fall into the same category as Katrina or Wilma. The first reason is that Hurricane Andrew, which passed through eastern Texas on August 28, 1992, is usually considered the strongest to hit the Florida coast. Andrew’s winds were estimated to be as strong as Category 5 hurricane conditions. Although the damage was significant, Andrew’s winds were still not as strong as those that hit St. Petersburg in 2011. This is because the winds of Andrew were less intense when it passed through eastern Texas.
The second reason this storm is not as powerful as it could be is that the National Hurricane