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.



Thoughts on Winter Storm Caesar

I felt bad about the way I’d left things with Rita. The last time we talked, I found out that she’d taken a job at the Thief River Falls  ____ Mart, a place she’d vowed to never enter, let alone work — under any condition.

Anyway, I was a little abrupt with her the last time we spoke, because she had in fact, taken a job at the aforementioned super-store, at least until after the holidays, and later on, I felt bad about being so judgmental, so I wanted to apologize. Besides, earlier in the day, I’d gotten a tweet from The Weather Channel telling me that Winter Storm Caesar was bearing down on the Northern Plains, and I was worried about her and J.L.

When I called her cell, J.L. answered. “Rita leaves her phone at home now when she goes to work,” he told me. “She was getting into too much trouble for making calls on the job.”

“That’s a shame,” I said, “especially with Caesar heading your way?”


“Caesar…you know about Caesar don’t you.”

“Sure,” he said, “the pizza guy.”

“No, not Little Caesar – Winter Storm Caesar.”

I then had to explain to J.L that The Weather Channel is now naming winter storms in much the same way North American hurricanes are named. No wimpy names for these storms either – if you haven’t been paying attention, prior to Caesar we’ve had Winter Storm Athena and Winter Storm Brutus. And Winter Storm Draco is next (I think that’s the Latin word for ‘dragon’)…yikes…these winter storm names are intended to scare the bejeezus out of you.

So the first time I heard of winter storm naming, I thought it was just exactly that – scare tactics designed to alarm the public. Damn that National Weather Service I said to myself. Then I found out that the NWS wasn’t behind this at all. In fact, it was The Weather Channel (TWC) – that stalwart bastion of cable distributed meteorological information. It seems that in order to make things easier for us online geeks, TWC came up with the idea of naming winter storms to help make them easier for us to track. They know  that most of us are too consumed by our Twitter feed and our Facebook pages on our iPad or smart-phone to actually tune into a local weather broadcast to get the skinny on any upcoming disasters. Apparently notifying the general public that a blizzard is descending upon them from the northern reaches of Canada, and within 24 hours they may well be buried under 47 inches of snow, driven by blinding hurricane force winds is not dramatic enough content for the TWC.

From TWC website:

“The fact is, a storm with a name is easier to follow, which will mean fewer surprises and more preparation.”

To this I can only add an emphatic: Huh?

Let us begin our search for the Truth, by taking a quick look at the assigned names for the remaining winter storms this season:













Q (yes, just plain Q)









Zeus (My personal favorite – this one is destined to bury half of North American under a glacier)

Think about these names and what they imply when you hear them over the course of the next few weeks and months. Couple these threatening names with the fact that TWC embarked upon this winter storm naming program without consulting any other private or public weather forecasting organization and things begin to sound mighty fishy. This was evidenced by the fact that as the massive nor’easter, dubbed “Winter Storm Athena” threatened New England the National Weather Service issued a directive to all of its personnel to NOT use this name in any of its bulletins and broadcasts.

Now I know some of my more weather savvy readers will say, “ha, ha  Trop, don’t you know they’ve been naming winter storms in Europe for the past fifty years?”

And I’ll say right back, “Yes, I know that o’ Weather Savvy Reader. But this isn’t Europe. We do things kinda different over here in the U. S. of A.”

Normally, I am not one to jump on every conspiracy theory bandwagon,  but I think something is going on here with this storm naming business, and I don’t like it. Insurance companies are increasingly using the “named storm” clause in insurance policies for all kinds of things, including when new policies can be written and what damages are covered.

So a few years hence, when you’re speaking to your insurance agent regarding a claim you’d like to file, as on Friday of last, while on your way home from work in a blinding snowstorm, your classic 1953 Austin Healy roadster skidded off the roadway, cleanly shearing down to stumps, six poplar saplings and removing fifty yards of rail fencing, before both you and a piping hot cup of Starbucks cappuccino were propelled into the windscreen, doing calamitous damage to both classic vehicle, your dental work, and your finest Holland Cooper tweed jacket, don’t be surprised when your agent tells you:

“Tisk tisk. Sorry Dr. Gravestares, but I’m afraid you’re not covered.”

“Not covered,” you’ll retort, sitting bolt upright in your hospital bed.

“I’m afraid claims filed for accidents that occurred during Winter Storm Dracula are not covered under your policy. Good heavens man, didn’t you get the Tweet?”

Just sayin…