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Blowing In The Wind

On November 30, 2005, the worst hurricane season in US history finally came to an end. When the storms had finally gone, those of us who were affected knew one thing: What we thought we had in terms of disaster recovery plans and practices were no more useful to us than a Bob Dylan song would be at an aboriginal rain dance. The weather literally left every IT shop in its path "blowing in the wind."

So, with the horrible weather finally gone, you think you now have until mid-2006 to revamp your disaster recovery plans to be ready for the next hurricane season. Well, think faster. Waiting even a month is too late. Get these plans up on the drawing board as soon as the holidays are over. Start working on those plans now while the bitterness is still fresh in your mind.

Before we look at our options, what can we learn from the trials of 2005? First, a hurricane need not directly strike your business to shut it down. In south Florida Hurricane Wilma blew apart networks without any direct damage to the buildings and infrastructure housing them. The entire south of the state, from the greater Miami area in the south to Jupiter (north of West Palm Beach), was without power for a week to ten days. In some cases, like Boca Raton or Lake Worth, businesses were without data access facilities for nearly three weeks.

Wilma came ashore here after her macarena in Mexico as a category 3 storm, although officially she will probably be recorded as a strong category 2. The predictions were that she would strike Naples on the west coast and then scale back to a category 1 storm. Many believed she would weaken considerably as she crossed the state. The opposite happened. Wilma actually strengthened, especially over the Everglades, the warm and swampy marsh between the two coast lines, and slapped south Florida with a one-two back hand that sent the whole region into the dark ages, alligators and all.

The hurricane was huge. Her destructive eye bore down on the entire sunshine state. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 came ashore as a category 5 storm; however, it was a much smaller hurricane and only affected a small area in the south Miami area. With Wilma, if you were not affected by her face, you got nailed by her huge back-side. It was like two hurricanes in one. First the front of the storm resembled an Atlantic hurricane coming in from the Bahamas with winds raging east to west; then about 30 minutes later the reared roared in with the winds raging west to east, gusting at times to well over 120 MPH.

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