Gulf Watch: Southern communities face high hurricane disaster risk

The Associated Press has identified five coastal areas of the United States that are particularly vulnerable to hurricane disasters -- and four of them are in the South.

The at-risk spots named by the AP are Florida's Lake Okeechobee, imperiled by the breach-prone Herbert Hoover Dike; Galveston, Texas, "sitting uneasily by the Gulf of Mexico, its residents limited to a single evacuation route"; New York City, "long spared a major storm but susceptible to a calamity of submerged subways and refugees caught in horrendous traffic jams"; North Carolina's Outer Banks, where experts warn that a Katrina-sized storm could wipe out 75 percent of the existing barrier islands; and Miami, "full of elderly people and others who might be trapped."

In an updated seasonal storm forecast released today, Colorado State University researcher William Gray predicted a 74 percent chance of a major hurricane hitting the U.S. coast in the season that begins tomorrow. He foresees 17 named storms and nine hurricanes -- five of them intense.

Meanwhile, a new Mason-Dixon poll released today finds that residents of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are unprepared for a serious storm, with 61 percent of those surveyed saying they have no hurricane survival kit and 16 percent saying they might not evacuate even if ordered to do so.

Apparently, not all of us have learned Katrina's hard lessons.