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Our thoughts and prayers are with the folks in the Northeast who are bracing today for Hurricane Sandy’s landfall.  Due to it’s breadth and timing (full moon / high tide) the potential for damage appears to be significant.

The scope of Sandy is already significant both in size and influence.  In conjunction with Bloomberg’s evacuation of lower Manhattan, the NYSE is closed today (for the first time since 9/11) and if it’s closed again tomorrow it will be the first time since 1988 that the market has been closed for 2 days in a row due to weather.

The topic of hurricanes is a familiar one for us in Lowcountry real estate.  For one reason or another, we’re frequently asked about risk associated with hurricanes in the area.  Most prospective home owners are surprised to learn that we haven’t had a close scuffle with  a hurricane in well over 30 years.

The map below is from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adiministration) and depicts all hurricane traffic over the last 20 years that tracked within 200 nautical miles of the Lowcountry.  While the North Carolina coast took the vast majority of the hits, the South Carolina Lowcountry faired very very well…

 

There are a litany of theories relative to storm patterns, but most are tied to the gulf stream and it’s proximity to land.  The Gulf Stream is a powerful, warm, and swift Atlantic Ocean current that originates at the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the US and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  The warm waters of the gulf stream provide fuel for hurricanes prior to making landfall.  To that end, your proximity to such an energy source seems to play a significant role in the likelihood that you’ll encounter a hurricane.

The image below depicts the Gulf Stream’s flow.  South Florida and Eastern North Carolina represent the closest proximity, while the Lowcountry (due south of Pittsburgh) is roughly 75 miles away from the gulf stream.  It’s difficult to ignore the relationship between the gulf stream and the historical pattern of east coast hurricanes…

Clearly (per our somewhat Bush league explanation of storm patterns), we’re not meteorologists… nor do we have a crystal ball.  But history does tend to be a good predictor of the future when it comes to weather, and to date we’ve been very fortunate to live in the Lowcountry; rather than some other hurricane prone regions of the coast.

All things being equal, however, we’ll take hurricanes all day long over other natural disasters that frequent other regions of the country (landslides, earthquakes, tornadoes… etc) for one elemental reason… advanced notice.  With a hurricane, residents on the east coast enjoy DAYS of notice to prepare and/or avoid the storm.