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Wisdom and Weather

REMEMBER how shocked everyone was last August, when Hurricane Andrew wreaked havoc on mobile homes in the south Florida communities of Homestead and Florida City?

Never again, it was said, should so many people be exposed to such personal danger and financial loss. Well, a lot of those devastated dwellings have been replaced with - guess what - more mobile homes.

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But not in hard-hit Homestead, where the town government has imposed a six-month moratorium on installation of new mobile homes. It has agreed to allow trailers provided through federal disaster aid to be set up for people displaced by the hurricane, but for no more than 18 months.

The situation is different just outside nearby Florida City. There, the owners of a mobile home park that was destroyed have installed 200 new homes and are bringing in more.

The cost for these structures has gone up under standards recently established by federal authorities, but they still are much cheaper than regular homes - $16,000 compared with some $130,000. All dwellings, including mobile homes, will have to be able to withstand steady winds of 110 miles per hour.

Nationwide, failure to heed the warnings implicit in destructive natural occurrences is common as well as foolhardy.

So-called 100-year events do not occur on schedules. Owners of beach houses and hotels, farmers, and communities considered susceptible to such events cannot say, after such an experience: "Well, we've had our 100-year storm; now we can forget about it for a few generations."

Taking seasonal precautions is easy and wise. For homeowners, governments, farmers, and businesses such as resorts, it is simply common sense to learn what weather patterns might be encountered and to take reasonable precautions. Such planning may mean added expense for individuals, businesses, and governments, but it should be considered part of the normal and necessary investment.

The United States has a basically sound system for prediction of and response to damaging weather. Overall, it performed well in this summer's Missouri-Mississippi River watershed disaster, though that may be of little consolation at present for those directly affected.

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Better informing Americans on the causes - natural and human - of such occurrences could be a useful undertaking for schools and community organizations.

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