State of the (Hurricane) Season

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Track Ernesto!

As we reflect on the upcoming anniversary of Hurricane Katrina (the costliest and one of the deadliest storms in U.S. history), I have to admit that I am thankful Mother Nature has been a little more gentle with her wrath in the Atlantic basin.

Having said that, I am currently monitoring the new tropical depression entering the Carribean that could potentially in time become tropical storm Ernesto. The current track, according to the National Hurricane Center, has the storm making its way very close to Jamaica, and then even maybe the Gulf of Mexico. This could change our “quiet season" dramatically, but I digress.

Don't Jinx the Calm!

Up until now, this hurricane season has been relatively calm. At this point in writing (August 25th at 8am), we’re a little below average in our usual tropical numbers, considering we’re now into a very busy cycle (tropical activity goes in cycles over periods of 20-30 years). One of the main reasons for the decreased number of storms is the amount of wind shear that’s been whipping around in the Atlantic. Wind shear is basically the change in wind speed or direction from the upper levels of the atmosphere that can tear up tropical storms as they are trying to get their “act together.”

Other reasons:

• The sea surface temps in the Atlantic are a degree or two cooler than last year (but still warmer than average). Warm water is what fuels these storms, and it has to be the right temperature for the tropics to fire up. Throw some cooler water in the path of these things, and that can seriously take the wind out of its sails!

• There has also been a lot of sand blowing off the African Sahara which, in turn, has also hindered our tropical head count.

As we head into September and October, we will be into the peak of hurricane season. It is not unheard of to have a very quiet June through August and all of a sudden see rapid storm development in September, so let’s be careful when we talk about 2006 being a “bust” for the tropics. We still have a rough four to eight weeks to go of peak season. (And remember the official season doesn’t end until the end of November!)

I hope this country never sees another hurricane like Katrina. Unfortunately, that’s probably not the case. We can, however, learn from events like Katrina. If you live anywhere in the path of a hurricane-prone region (anywhere along the east coast, or Gulf of Mexico), you need to have a plan in place before the hurricane season even starts. Preparation is the key to saving lives. Here is a link to NOAA’s excellent Hurricane Preparedness Package that everyone should have handy:

Let’s hope that this season continues to remain quiet, but also, as we remember Katrina, it’s important not to become complacent. As Dr. Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center, says:

"It takes just one hurricane over your house to make for a bad year."

My thoughts and prayers continue to be with those who have lost their homes and loved ones by these powerful forces of nature.

Janice Dean

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