By that, I mean Tropical Storm Emily.  As of today (Thursday, 4 August 2011) she’s about to hit Haiti.  From there, the National Weather Service is anticipating that the storm will clip the Southeastern coast of Florida, including the areas of Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.

Tropical storm Emily is not currently a hurricane, and my reading of the National Hurricane Center website suggests that she’s not going to get that strong.  However, even a tropical storm can have sustained wind speeds of up to 73 miles per hour.  This is as strong as an EF0 tornado, and can cause damage to trees and rip shingles off of houses.  This is actually good news for the residents of Miami and surrounding areas, because there is a low likelihood of severe storm damage.  Of course, they want to make sure that lawn furniture and the like is brought in to prevent it from blowing away and causing additional damage.

Tropical cyclones (which is a general term that describes both hurricanes and tropical storms) impact wide areas, and can cause significant dangers along the coastline for many hours before they hit.  The two big dangers along the coastline are storm surge and rip currents.  Storm surge is what happens when the storm winds push a wall of water inland.  Storm surge is typically on the NE corner of the storm area, so Florida will likely not get hit with that this time. Additionally, storm surge is higher when the winds are faster.  In this case, the wind is relatively low-speed. Rip currents are strong currents of water that flows out from the shore, and are caused when large and strong waves break against the shore.  Rip currents are amazingly strong, and can pull even the strongest of swimmers away from the shore.

Another danger to be aware of, especially around the shore, is storm tide.  This is an abnormally high tide, which is a combination of the regular tide and the storm tide.  With the storm tide and the strong waves that the winds kick up, there can be a lot of damage and injury.  Again, because of the relatively low wind speeds, the risk of this for the SE coast of Florida is minimal with Tropical Storm Emily.

So, what would I do if I lived in Miami during TS Emily?  This is where a little planning could make a huge difference.  I would make sure that I have some spare potable water for everybody in case of water service interruption. I would also stock up on a couple of days worth of non-perishable food as well.  If I was visiting Miami, I would make sure that I have some sort of light (flashlights or glow sticks) and some non-electrical entertainment just in case the power goes out, and I would want to have some sort of rain gear in case I needed to go out into the weather for anything.

The good things about tropical storms and the like is that they don’t sneak up on you.  There is plenty of warning, and there is no decent excuse for not being ready for it.

Stay safe, everybody!