Most of the loss of life and damage from hurricanes comes from the Major Hurricanes – Category 3, 4 and 5 on the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Scale. The National Hurricane Center has updated the Mean Return Periods for United States coastal communities to include recent hurricane activity.
The mean return period for a Major Hurricane in Miami (based on the historical data from 1871 through 2006) is now listed as nine years. That means that, on average, Miami can expect a Major Hurricane once every nine years. For Fort Lauderdale, it is 10 years and for Key West, 12 years. However, in reality Miami has only been struck once by a Major Hurricane since 1950 (Andrew in 1992).
One can do only so much with statistics. While I was working at the National Hurricane Center in the spring of 1989, I remember being asked to calculate the Mean Return Period for Charleston, South Carolina. At that time, the Mean Return Period for a Category 4 hurricane in Charleston was 120 years. But that informaiton didn’t help the good folks of Charleston one bit when Hurricane Hugo made landfall near there as a Category 4 hurricane in September of 1989. Again, one can do only so much with the statistics.
If you are lucky enough to live in South Florida, you need to be prepared.