Hurricane Earl is whirling furiously in the mid-Atlantic - and everyone wonders if the east coast is vulnerable.
Forecasters say it could graze the coastline anywhere from Florida to New England, with North Carolina being the most likely place for a landfall. But if history is any guide, Georgia is safe from potential harm.
Why? Georgia's curved coastline makes it harder to attract a direct hit, and our state has fewer miles of coast than neighboring Florida or South Carolina, both of which have endured their share of Atlantic hurricanes.
In fact, Georgia hasn't taken a direct hit from a major hurricane in more than a century, and only four minor storms made landfall here during the 1900s.
Georgia's three worst hurricanes all occurred during the month of August and all made came ashore in the Savannah vicinity in 1881, 1893 and 1898, with the Augusta area's most catastrophic impacts occurring in the 1881 storm in which 700 people died, including some deaths in our town.
Hurricane Earl appears headed well to the north of our region, and most Atlantic storms make that northward turn well before reaching the U.S. coastline. That turn is so unpredictable that landfalls frequently occur farther north than forecasters initially anticipate.
Hurricane Hugo, for example, came ashore in 1989 and was first projected to clobber Jacksonville, then Savannah and later Hilton Head. Instead it traveled farther up the coast and pummeled Charleston.
Georgia's resilience from hurricane strikes, though, can also be viewed a different way. If our vulnerability were rated by the Las Vegas oddsmakers, they might say we are long overdue. For everyone's sake, I hope they would be wrong.
Here is some background on Georgia's Hurricane History:
- Aug. 27, 1881: A major hurricane hits the coast, killing 700 people.- Aug. 27-28, 1893: A major hurricane hits the Georgia and South Carolina coasts, killing 1,000 to 2,500 people and leaving 30,000 homeless.- Aug. 31, 1898: The last Category 3 hurricane to date to make landfall in Georgia strikes Savannah, with 179 deaths.- 1911: A Category 2 hurricane hits Savannah, killing 17 people.- 1940: A Category 2 hurricane hits Savannah, killing 50 people. - 1947: A Category 2 hurricane hits Savannah, killing one person.- 1979: Category 2 Hurricane David hits Savannah, causing minor damage.
Source: Georgia Emergency Management Agency