With so many other topics consuming the 24-hour news cycle lately, and so much time since a hurricane hit their usual targets, a pair of storms whipping up winds today are an important reminder we are in the midst of the height of hurricane season, and we must not be lulled into a false sense of security.
Danny became the first named storm of the Atlantic Ocean Hurricane Season on Tuesday, and quickly became the first hurricane of the Atlantic season on Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center. By Friday, just 1 day later, it strengthened from a Category 1 hurricane to a Category 3 hurricane, with winds reaching 115 MPH. And as I write this on Saturday morning, Danny has already begun to weaken. It is still a Category 2 hurricane, but is expected to be further downgraded to a tropical storm by tomorrow, and is not expected to have any impact on the United States.
This is not only a good reminder of the need to be prepared for such events, especially for those of us living in hurricane-prone regions, but of how quickly things can change. When Danny was first mentioned earlier in the week, it was simply a tropical storm to be watched, and weeks away from any possibility of affecting the U.S. Even when it reached Category 2 strength, some said it was expected to weaken, and not reach the Category 3 level. And keep in mind, a Category 3 hurricane is considered a “major” hurricane, and capable of catastrophic damage.
And while Danny has already begun to weaken, and meteorologists can opine about high pressure fronts and wind shear and all sorts of other reasons storms act the way they do, in the end the storm is a living, breathing, and relatively unpredictable phenomenon. As a result, even professionals never know for sure what the storm will do.
|Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org|
Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist writing for Slate.com on Thursday wrote, “Danny is currently struggling to strengthen and has a tough road ahead of it: Dry air blown in from the Sahara and a pocket of cyclone-killing wind shear over the Caribbean will probably offset the potential boost from increasingly warm water. It’s not possible to confidently predict Danny will even be a storm at all beyond five days from now. On the other hand, it’s perhaps equally as likely that Danny will be a formidable hurricane in 10 days. There are model runs to support both possibilities.”
Holthaus went on to say, “Though it’s borderline meteorological sacrilege to even discuss the possibility of a tropical cyclone landfall so far in advance, a Danny landfall in the mainland United States has the tenuous support of two of the leading weather forecast models, the Euro and the Global Forecast System, the flagship model of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Euro, widely regarded as the world’s most accurate weather model, has been relatively consistent over the last several model runs that a weak version of Danny could approach Florida in about 10 days. The GFS has been much more variable, showing a potentially stronger landfall anywhere on the East Coast—as well as the possibility of a much safer curve out to sea. But you should take this information with an Everest-sized grain of salt.”
Predictions are made, analyzed, evaluated, revised, and then reanalyzed in hindsight after events actually occurred. If the person making the prediction turns out to be correct, they are congratulated for “knowing” what would happen. If they are wrong, they simply explain what happened to cause the prediction (not “them”) to miss the mark.
Meanwhile, a depression in the Pacific Ocean strengthened into what is now called Tropical Storm Kilo on Friday, churning about 500 miles southeast of Hilo, Hawaii. Forecasters believe Kilo could grow in strength into a hurricane by Monday, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said. One forecast track indicates it could move under Hawaii before changing course back toward Hawaii, and may threaten the state as a hurricane by Wednesday.
|Image courtesy flickr.com|
In the end, all we can do each time a depression, or storm, or hurricane is taking shape, is to pay attention and prepare for the worst based on information gathered from multiple sources. Of course, it is always better to be prepared (even if nothing happens) than to be unprepared, because when the rare instance of a major storm does happen, being unprepared can lead to disastrous consequences.
There are so many resources to take advantage of today, and I do not want to bore anyone with disaster plans and safety kits (I’ve probably done this enough already), but I do want to remind you to take some time to at least contemplate what you would do if you had 24 hours to prepare for a large-scale natural disaster. Get on the computer, and find a disaster plan you like, complete with emergency supply kit, and at least print it out and review it with your family. This 30-60 minute exercise would not only create some “family time”, but would hopefully become a habit, and over time increase in everyone the confidence that comes from such repeated planning. The last thing you want to wind up doing is standing in a big box store as a hurricane bears down trying to grab the last couple of pieces of plywood, or the last few cans of food on the supermarket shelves.
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This type of exercise is good for much more than hurricane planning, I believe it helps shape the way people react and act in all kinds of stressful situations, allowing them to remain calm, prioritize needs, and take measured actions in coordination with others (or alone).
So thank Danny and Kilo, for the wake-up call to remind us that Hillary’s email scandal and pre-season football is not the most important news of the day. Remember that while the hurricane season has been quiet so far, it's far from over. Stay vigilant, my friends.
Mark Goldwich is president of Gold Star Adjusters, a group of public insurance adjusters dedicated to helping citizens get the maximum settlement for any insurance claim.