Thoughts on Hurricane Season 2013

I have not blogged in a few days, having been tied up with paying pursuits. Before I went away though, I’d started a piece about the beginning of hurricane season 2013. It is quite an event for us in the tropics, so I guess I shall continue…

At that time, tropical storm Andrea was forming off of the West Coast of Florida, churning up deadly rip-currents, tornadoes and floods. Andrea has sinced passed across Florida and raced up the East Coast toward the recovering shores of New Jersey, after which, she went on up to New England before finally crossing into Canada, where she snuffed out power to about 4000 in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Here on Florida’s Gold Coast – a good distance from Andrea, there was considerable storm damage. Considerable if you were one of the unfortunate few whose homes were destroyed by the Andrea spawned tornadoes. From Loxahatchee up in Palm Beach County, to Marathon down in the Keys, people felt the effect of Andrea, and it has caused plenty of us in this part of FLA to think back to 2005. We think about Katrina, who passed us by with just a slap of her hand across our cheek, before turning hell-bent into the Gulf of Mexico, gathering strength in the warm Gulf waters in order to do her nightmarish dirty-work on the low lying Gulf Coast, before she destroyed New Orleans.

A few months later in that same year, we felt the brunt of Wilma, a particularly nasty storm that churned up out of Jamaican waters in October, becoming the fastest Atlantic storm in recorded history to reach Category 5 status, going on to leave 62 dead and 28.8 billion in damages in her wake, making Wilma was third worst hurricane to hit the U.S.

Of course there were others – like Ophelia, the little tease that sat offshore for days, leaving South Florida beaches in tatters before finally turning her fickle attention to the Carolinas where she, in her own good time, devastated the coast from Cape Fear to the Outer Banks, racking up 70 million in damages and leaving three dead.

There are so many hurricanes rattling around in my recent memory it’s hard to keep them straight. There was Rita and Charlie, and Dennis, and a score of others. And then there were those  who didn’t touch our U.S. shores, but went on to devastate our neighbors to the south, in the Caribbean, and along the coast of Mexico. And then of course, as some of the ‘old timers’ will tell you, often in hushed tones — there was Andrew — the first storm of the 1992 hurricane season — Andrew the stalker, who waited until August 24 of that year to unleash his deadly fury, coming ashore on Elliot Key, before taking deadly aim on the mainland Monroe County cities of Florida City and Homestead.

So I was thinking of all of this the other today, as I was tinkering with my generator, gapping the plug and checking the fuel filter, digging in the junk drawer for D batteries and wondering if I have enough drinking water stockpiled should one of the projected 13 to 20 named storms head this way. I was also thinking about climate change and why we still have people who deny that such man made change is occurring – in spite of the fact that NASA and NOAA and the vast majority of the scientists in the friggin’ world agree that man made climate change is real and ongoing.

Of course, I realize that terrible storms have lashed the earth for eons. The Caribbean is, in fact, awash with sunken 17th and 18th Century Spanish gold, the ships carrying such treasure having gone down in dreadful hurricanes then unnamed. So there have been powerful hurricanes forever, but could it be that things are becoming more extreme?

In my native Midwest, a 700 hundred mile long ‘derecho’ recently formed. A terrible windstorm that wreaked havoc from the Mississippi River all the way to the East Coast of the U.S. A derecho (derecho being Spanish for ‘straight’) is somewhat the opposite of a tornado, which is a twisting wind.  Derechos are, therefore, a big straight wind – sort of a land hurricane. Derechos are  nothing new either, the first recorded one occurring in Iowa in July of 1877. I am sure that there were countless ‘big-straight-winds’  in the countless centuries that followed the last ice age, some fierce and deadly. But I don’t recall 700 mile long derechos. Nor do I recall tornado shelters in Des Moines shopping malls like they have today (not that it’s such a bad idea).

So now, those of us in the tropics turn a wary eye to the Weather Channel’s Tropical Update. Later in the season we will watch the tropical waves tracking off of the coast of Africa, each wave micro-analyzed with the latest high tech equipment and satellite imagery, and we wonder how we ever survived without 24 hour cable, let alone television itself.

Meanwhile our friends in the Heartland remain vigilant for more deadly storms dipping down from the clouds, recent memory of the tragedy in Oklahoma fresh in the minds of all, while along the Jersey Shore our family and friends now draw an uneasy breath in Andrea’s wake, the painful memory of Sandy still fresh in their minds.

Keep an eye to the sky and stay safe.

Mahalo,

–Ed

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