Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Hurricane Season of 2009 Has Begun!

6-1-09 HurricaneBegin

MOST IMAGES ON THIS WEBLOG ENLARGE WITH LEFT CLICKS

This image shows no tropical activity 15 minutes into our 2009 season (not surprisingly) but you can clearly see the clouds development with a stationary front cutting diagonally across the image.

The Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean hurricane season “officially” begins on June 1.  The fact that Tropical Depression 1 formed about 4 days before the official season’s beginning is not an indication of an active hurricane season this year.  There seems to be no relationship between early activity and the “busyness” of that season.  In fact, there is a real possibility that an El Niño event will be strong during what we consider the peak activity period of our season (the approximate middle of the 6 month long period).  Eastern Pacific sea surface temperatures have been rising steadily for the last several months pointing to the El Niño possibility.  That means is that our 2009 season might be less active than usual if the ENSO comes to fruition.  ENSO = El Niño Southern Oscillation.  BUT, even if a strong El Niño develops it is no time to let down one’s guard if living in “hurricane country.”  1992 was an El Niño year and that was when Andrew occurred.  My house in Homestead was a total loss.

I was extremely well prepared back then (August 24, 1992) but hurricane Andrew slammed in as a category 5.  However, we did have a plan and it worked to the degree that no one in my family was physically hurt.  Only one window had a small crack but – the roof failed and the damage was almost beyond belief for us.  Since Andrew was a relatively dry storm our windows holding firm did make it so that we were able to salvage some valuable items afterwards because the wind did not gut the house.

We stayed in the community and helped rebuild.  We had great insurance and our house was reconstructed in one year to a higher standard.  During that time we four lived in a 25’ travel trailer that I purchased for that purpose but kept for several years afterwards to use for recreational and educational travel.

If you live in “hurricane country” then you have choices.  Some of us have more choices than others but you should at least have a plan that is clearly articulated to and understood by each member of your household.  Shall you be well prepared or do you choose to become a potential victim who is dependent upon others almost immediately after a storm?

I urge you to follow to the best of your ability those preparation suggestions made by your local and federal agencies.  Some of us are more fortunate than others in what we are able to do to protect our dwellings – that is, those of us who are lucky enough to have a place we call home.

In my new post-retirement community and in neighboring communities (Citrus and neighboring counties)  I see what I consider to be real paradoxes or, at the very least, some irony.  I’m reminded (but to a somewhat lesser degree) of one of my Homestead neighbors who drove a Mercedes while his wife drove a BMW; they owned a very large boat moored at a dock in nearby Biscayne Bay, an ultra-light aircraft and a twin Cessna – yet they had no window protection of any sort for their home.  I speculate that it was not a matter of the cost of such protection but more a matter of priorities and life style with perhaps a little measure of denial thrown in.

Some people in my part of Florida feel that by being inland they have some sort of immunity to the ravages of hurricanes.  Yes – it is an advantage being inland, especially if on high ground but it does not offer any guarantees.  Most deaths in hurricanes (on the average) are due to high water and being away from the storm surge zones and areas prone to flooding from the storm’s downpours makes for a safer situation – generally speaking.  But, high winds can play havoc particularly when items become projectiles in the wind.  It is a fact that if the wind velocity doubles, the force it exerts upon a surface it is striking at right angles quadruples!  People in my part of Florida experienced a lot of activity if they were here in 2004 but the wind velocities were luckily relatively low.  Only modestly higher wind velocities would have produced exponentially greater force and far greater damage.  Furthermore, tornadoes and microbursts occur within hurricane bands and neither have a preference for locations near the coast.

Come early August we will have been in our new home for four years.  Our first major purchase when moving in was window and door storm protection.  We had tended to that “need” before we were even set up with a cable connection for our televisions and computers.  For the first two years that we were here I participated in a number of hurricane expos as the “hurricane resource person” on site.  There were expo participants who were in the business of selling, fabricating, and installing storm protection to homes and businesses.  Most visitors were there to learn about hurricane safety and hurricane protection.  But one particular type of visitor seemed to come to these expos in order to exercise their debate skills on the pros and cons of storm protection for windows and doors.  I was amazed at times by the level of denial and warped rationalization that I witnessed.  Some argued that they refused to concern themselves with such matters and would just let their insurance take care of it for them.  There was little if any consideration for how they would deal with losses of personal items, safety issues if they were not to evacuate, safety issues if they were to evacuate, where they would go if they did evacuate in time, and how they would handle matters when they returned if things were torn all to hell!  I am convinced that some of the men I talked to felt that it was a manly thing to face a storm raw without preparation – even though in some case it meant leaving their house mates far more vulnerable than necessary.  To my mind, they had it backwards  – a real man takes care of his own and is available to help others as well.

I can testify, by experience, that the trauma of a storm itself often does not compare to the trauma of the immediate aftermath and rebuilding.  Looting, for example and other forms of predatory behavior can occur.  In heavily damaged areas the majority of those who come to help are good people with good intentions but there is one whole class of “helpers” who are there to take victims for a ride they will never forget.  In South Dade County, where Andrew first struck the U.S.A. the divorce rate just about doubled for the next few years.  Stress and anxiety were on a very high level.

So – please think in terms of the big picture when a hurricane visits – not simply the weather event itself.  Think in terms of what you’ll do if you lose electricity for several days and how you will fare food-wise if you need to go for a week or more without provisions and how you’ll communicate.  Cell phones go out of commission when the transmission and relay towers are damaged.  Then there are the special needs people who absolutely must make arrangements for care in the event of a serious storm.

Please be prepared to the best of your ability.  If you later consider all of that planning and work to be for naught because no hurricane occurs in your region – there will be more seasons to follow for which you will again be ready and if, near the end of the season, you have a box full of “emergency food” there are surely some places near where you live to donate it to the needy.  After all, the end of the official hurricane season (November 30) and Thanksgiving (November 26) are pretty darned close to each other.

Here is this season’s list of names; tropical cyclonic systems will receive names in order from this list once they reach tropical storm intensity; tropical storm sustained winds fall in the range of 39 mph to 73 mph; of course they retain their names if they become hurricanes (74 mph or more):

Ana
Bill
Claudette
Danny
Erika
Fred
Grace
Henri
Ida
Joaquin
Kate
Larry
Mindy
Nicholas
Odette
Peter
Rose
Sam
Teresa
Victor
Wanda

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