Preparing for the Worst: Is the Big Bend Ready for the Big One?

What would happen if this area took a direct hit? Surely a direct hit from a major hurricane in this area would be ugly, and the area is only as ready as its residents are to take action.

Rita's forecast track keeps her away from our area. Another stroke of luck? Perhaps, but as we all know, luck does run out.

Irv Watson, a NWS science operation officer, says, "The longer it goes every year, the better the chances are that we're going to take a significant hurricane hit."

New computer simulations of a storm roughly the size and strength of Katrina would result in a devastating 25-foot storm surge.

Irv says, "Sopchoppy, Medart, Crawfordville, Newport, all of those areas could be significantly impacted by storm surge."

Leon County is farther inland, but don't be fooled. Leon County's director of emergency management says evacuations would be necessary for some.

Richard Smith, Leon County Emergency Management Director, says, "If we're forecast to get sustained hurricane force winds, we would recommend the board of county commissioners order the evacuation of all mobile homes in Leon County."

Smith says evacuation orders may be needed 36 to 48 hours in advance of a major hurricane, but that is actually better than other major cities. Those who choose not to evacuate could find themselves in dire circumstances.

Richard Smith says, "You've seen some of situations in major storms where people are calling 9-1-1 and the water is coming up and the winds are blowing and roofs are coming off and we're not going to be able to get to those people, and they need to understand that."

Smith says people in substantially built homes still may want to evacuate, especially if a hurricane is a category three, four or five.