Scientists at the National Hurricane Conference in Orlando this week know Hurricane Katrina was not unusual. To the contrary, they say, weather data suggest we'll see even more of these killer storms.
“We're in this active period for strong hurricanes in the Atlantic that may very well last another 10-20 years,” says National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield.
Last year's record 27 named storms exhausted the alphabetical list, forcing forecasters, for the first time, to use the Greek alphabet.
The unprecedented season left those like John Gill and his family — who lost everything in Bay St. Louis, Miss. — to believe it might happen again.
“I can pretty much say, we're all ready for it,” Gill says. “If you're not ready for a hurricane now, you never will be!”
Mike Mahayni weathered Hurricane Wilma in Florida last year. He’s getting ready for this year. The 88-mile-per-hour winds blew out windows across South Florida, including those at his house. So, as encouraged by experts this year, he spent $25,000 on new hurricane-resistant windows. Unlike regular windows that easily break when hit by a high-velocity object, these windows can withstand the flying debris of a hurricane traveling up to 150 mph.
“Since I have a family,” Mahayni says, “I'm definitely not taking any chances with my kids and family. I just can't.”
Window factories report they're working 24/7.
“We have 100 open jobs on any given day,” says Dave Olmstead of PGT Windows. “We have a facility in North Carolina, and we're now doubling the size of that facility.”
It's not just windows.
In Florida, more than 500,000 roofs are still covered in blue plastic. Many of those homes will not be repaired by the start of hurricane season in June. Why? Because of shortages of labor and materials.
It’s gotten so bad, in Miami, homeowners begin lining up as early as 3 a.m. just for the chance to buy roof tiles —what one customer describes as “basically, the most ridiculous thing I've seen in my life.”
The race is on to get ready before the hurricane season begins.