JUNE means the beginning of summer, the end of the school...

Salmagundi

June 03, 1993

JUNE means the beginning of summer, the end of the school year -- and the official onset of another hurricane season. After last year's whopper, Hurricane Andrew, the new season is getting more attention than usual.

Robert C. Sheets, director of the National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables, Fla., noted in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times that Andrew doesn't diminish the chances of a big storm this year. In fact, he said, the statistical probability of a big storm this year is the same as last year.

It's true, however, that hurricanes come in cycles. In the 1940s there were major storms over South Florida in '44, '45, '47, '48, '49 and two in 1950. That's six storms in six years.

Even so, some vulnerable areas of the country remain woefully unprepared. Mr. Sheets cites Port Aransas, Texas, where 10,000 people live. The only way off the island is by a ferry system into Corpus Christi. But the ferry stops running whenever winds get to 35 miles an hour -- far short of gale force.

"So what is the plan?" Mr. Sheets asks rhetorically. "There is no plan. I don't think that's a responsible way to deal with the problem."

People in Dade County, Fla., won't make that mistake any time soon. All these months later, only about 15 percent of people in South Dade are totally back in place, and 100,000 or so have not yet returned to their homes. Mr. Sheets says his own house , which suffered about $40,000 worth of damage, still needs tile on the roof.

With so much work incomplete, even a tropical storm, far short of hurricane force, will mean big headaches for South Dade County.

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