More and more New Jerseyans are following the nationwide trend when it comes to living along our coastlines. Since 1980, the number of summer homes along the New Jersey shore have quadrupled, which matches the pace of growth throughout the United States coastline from Maine to Texas, where coastal property value has increased 600% since 1980.
However, unlike the Southeast and Gulf Coast states, where residents know hurricanes are somewhat prevalent, many in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic such as New York and New Jersey don't believe a major hurricane of either a Category Two, Three or Four intensity can occur. Residents of the Northeast must realize that major hurricanes can happen in this area as well, and perhaps can even be more destructive and deadly.
Recently, an article appeared in the Newark Star-Ledger that discussed the building boom along the Jersey Shore, and the trend of younger New Jersey families living along the Jersey shore. The article stated that "as families seek retreat, vacation homes in the state quadruple since 1980."
This growth parallels the nationwide trend of growth in coastal populations as many seek to get away from the daily grind of work and raising families. According to a recent CNN Presents Special, "Hurricane: When the Big One Hits!", coastal property values have increased six-fold since 1980. In addition, the New York Metropolitan area, which includes New Jersey, has the most densely populated area in the United States today.
The value of insured property in the coastal New Jersey counties of Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic, and Cape May have increased dramatically since 1980. For instance, according to the Insurance Research Council, Monmouth County alone has experienced an increased in insured property value exposures of $62 billion dollars from 1988 to 1995.
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People are lured to the coast by the beauty that life near the ocean has to offer. Tranquility, light cool breezes off the ocean, beautiful beaches, sailboats a few miles offshore and other things all provide coastal residents with the finer things in life during the summer months.
However, there are those that will tell you that during the winter months, those images are the farthest things from many people's minds. That is because towns such as Sea Bright, Belmar, Wildwood, Cape May, and Atlantic City all get hit quite hard by nor'easters and winter storms. Many people, who come down for the summer don't realize that.
The people, who live in these coastal communities throughout the year, deal with it all the time. They know. Furthermore, many people who live along the coast from Maine to Texas, not just New Jersey, have not experienced a hurricane. In the CNN report, 85% of all coastal residents have never experienced a hurricane.
That percentage also includes about 78% of all New York coastal residents. People just don't think a major hurricane can come this far north. Well, similarly, people in the Southeast didn't think they could get more than a few inches of snow. That was before Superstorm 1993 came along and dumped several feet of snow in the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Georgia.
Despite close calls from Hurricane Gloria in 1985, Bob in 1991, and the deluge of heavy rains from Tropical Storm Floyd in 1999, many are apathetic about major hurricanes hitting the Garden State and the rest of the New York Metropolitan area. People must change their way of thinking because a time will come where our area will not be as lucky.
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Despite the recent floods by Hurricane Floyd, and memories of the Hurricanes of 1938 and 1944, many residents along the Jersey shore have not learned the lessons from the past, and continue to build. Back in September, 1985, when Hurricane Gloria threatened the Northeast and eventually crossed Long Island, rising tides from that storm split Long Beach Island in half.
The barrier islands are the most vulnerable to hurricanes. Yet, million dollar homes are being put up in places such as Spring Lake, Belmar, Egg Harbor, Long Beach Island, and others. If another storm were to come along, a much greater catastrophic disaster than what Andrew did in South Florida in 1992 would certainly occur.
Back in 1992, Hurricane Andrew, which is still the costliest natural disaster ever in the United States, caused about $27 billion dollars in damage in South Florida and Louisiana. Today, a storm hitting the Monmouth County town of Asbury Park would cause double that at $52 billion dollars according tot he Insurance Research Council.
Back in 1985, we dodged a bullet with Hurricane Gloria. If Gloria had hit a bit more to the west, New York City, and the Garden State may have been hit hard. Major hurricanes can occur in the Northeast, and people must take note of it. Unfortunately, people aren't.
CNN conducted a survey in their special report that found that about half of all coastal residents in the United States are not prepared for a hurricane. They do not have either a safety kit, or an evacuation plan. As hurricane activity continues to increase over the next several decades like forecasters say it will, coastal communities are simply not ready for them.
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