Hurricane unprepared: we don’t prepare for what we don’t understand

Hurricane Hugo in 1989

Hurricane Hugo in 1989

It is that time of year again. We start hearing more and more about the upcoming hurricane season. News articles are released highlighting the potential for the season: will it be quiet or busy? What does that even mean? Most people have no idea.

Soon, the TV hurricane specials will air, printed hurricane guides will grace the check-out lanes at your local grocery store or big box retailer. All of this material is intended to help get you prepared for the season ahead. Unfortunately, none of the material can give you what you really need and that is experience and thus understanding. This is why, in my opinion, most people do not prepare adequately – they simply have no hurricane motivation; they have not been in one previously to fully understand the ramifications of not preparing for the next one.

Experience is our best teacher. This is proven time and again in just about anything we deal with in life. The more we experience something, the better we are at dealing with it in most cases.

Think about Florida for a moment. It has been over eight years since any hurricane what so ever has directly impacted the state. The last one was Wilma in late October of 2005. Anyone born in the state since then has zero hurricane experience. Anyone who moved to Florida since 2005 likely has zero hurricane experience. So why would we expect these people to prepare in such a way as to deem them “hurricane prepared”? They have little to no idea what it’s like and thus no measuring stick to gauge their own risk. Television meteorologists and printed hurricane guides can show mountains of video, computer graphics and more to drive the point home but I believe the lack of preparedness is directly related to the lack of true understanding of what hurricanes are all about.

While education is very helpful, I think that the vast majority of coastal dwellers will not fully grasp the risks they face when dealing with hurricanes unless they have been in one, especially a high-impact event like Katrina or Andrew. This makes perfect sense. People in coastal Mississippi who have lived there for a while know hurricanes and they prepare for them. On the other hand, how many people in New Jersey or New York really understood what was about to happen when Sandy was approaching? Time and time again we heard the reports of how surprised people were in the wake of Sandy. It’s all based on experience. This is not difficult to figure out. And so I cannot really find fault with people who do not prepare to the extent that we hope they would. What motivation do they have to prepare for something that they don’t truly understand? Very little….until it happens to them.

As we inch ever closer to June 1 and the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, I offer this advice for people who live in harm’s way. Talk to those who have been through a hurricane – especially a significant hurricane. Ask them what it was like, not just the effects but the stress of dealing with everything before, during and after. Perhaps some of their experience can translate to you and give you just enough motivation to do something, anything, to lessen the effects of the next hurricane on you and your family. History is a great learning tool and America’s hurricane history is profoundly rich with stories from legendary hurricanes of the past. Read about them and then try to project those scenarios on your life. Can you handle a modern day Galveston 1900 storm? What about a Camille? Andrew? Hugo? Those events really happened and although they are in the past, they all have the ability to transcend time to teach us something.

I worry about how long we have gone without a true intense hurricane impacting the United States. Are we ready to deal with plucking people from rooftops? Do we have enough supplies to feed and shelter potentially tens of thousands of people left homeless by the next Andrew or Katrina? Are local, state and federal officials prepared? How much hurricane experience do they have? It’s been a while folks and even though we would rather go forever without there being another hurricane landfall, we know that won’t happen. The hurricane clock is ticking, even if it does so in silence. None of us knows when the alarm will sound and I assure you, there is no snooze button. Take it from me, you had best do what you can to try and understand hurricanes and their hazards now, before one comes knocking on your door.

Hurricane season begins June 1. National Hurricane Preparedness Week kicks off May 25. Use that time to learn about hurricanes, know their history, know their impacts. As the classic G.I. Joe saying goes, “Knowing is half the battle”.

M. Sudduth 8:15 AM May 1

One month to go until hurricane season and we are getting ready

Welcome to May! Hard to believe we are just a month away from the start of the Atlantic hurricane season. Before then, the east Pacific season begins on May 15, so we will be ramping up our blog posts, etc in the coming weeks.

So what’s new for us in 2013? A lot. Too much to cover in one blog post, so I’ll spread it out over the next couple of weeks.

First, you’ll be hearing a lot more from and about colleague Mike Watkins. He has been working with us since late 2004 and has been with me personally on some of the biggest field missions of my career.

Mike started a new company last year called Hurricane Analytics. It is more than just about hurricanes as Mike is very good at deciphering data, all kinds of data, and making sense of it. However, his tropical weather expertise will allow him to utilize his site for some excellent analysis projects. You may follow Mike and his site on Twitter: @hurricaneanalytics or @watkinstrack

Mike has a new Podcast series called The HurriCast which will provide listeners with a different perspective on tropical weather news and data info. You may find his Podcast linked from the HurricaneAnalytics homepage.

Look for blog posts here from time to time from Mike as well and I too will be guest-blogging for his site. This cross-collaboration will be a nice new touch for our partnership as we go forward in to our ninth year working together.

Today begins our season pass sales for our subscription service

We have had a private subscription service since 2005 and it has grown to include nearly 500 members from around the world. Our annual plan is the most popular, and costs $99.95 per year for unlimited access to all we offer on our Client Services site. However, some folks find that the use the subscription site only during hurricane season. So, since 2011, we have offered a “season pass” for $59.95 and that too has become a successful part of our funding projects each season.

Well, today marks the first day that the pass for 2013 is available for purchase.

This year we are bringing a whole new experience to our members with a brand new live streaming camera system for our field missions. We call it the “everywhere cam” and it will be just that. Using new technology, we will be able to take our members anywhere we go during our field missions. No longer will you have to “wait” in the Tahoe, watching the Tahoe dash cam while we go do something outside of the Tahoe. Whether it be that we are scoping out a place to deploy one of our remote cams or actually setting up a weather station or remote cam, you will be there with us, complete with audio! In the past, we’ve only had our dash-mounted video camera for streaming from the Tahoe. This year, we’ll utilize cutting edge technology to give you a completely immersive experience in to our field work. When we go eat and discuss what’s going on with the hurricane that we are intercepting, you’ll come with us. When we head in to a police department or emergency management office to work with the local officials, you’ll go with us. It will be as if you are truly a part of what we are doing – no longer wondering what we’re up to as you sit and watch the dash cam. This is exclusive to our members and is 100% ad free. The general public will have access to our dash cam that will have commercials playing via Ustream every 12 minutes or so. This is an exciting new feature and we are looking forward to giving you a brand new look at how we do our field missions.
For a sample of how well this cam works, check out this actual recorded stream event from Louisiana back in March just after the National Hurricane Conference which was held in New Orleans: (note this has commercials since it was recorded using our public Ustream channel)
In addition to our successful live video streaming capabilities, Client Services members will also enjoy:
  • Stormpulse maps
  • Live chat with other members and us
  • Daily LIVE hurricane outlook videos during the hurricane season (ad free)
  • 30 frame satellite and radar animations
  • Access to mobile device formatted pages, including pages that contain some of our live streaming feeds
  • Access to our three mobile weather stations that we deploy to capture live wind and pressure data
  • Access to our three private Surge Cams – 100% ad free
  • Expert analysis from Mark Sudduth and Mike Watkins throughout the season
  • Complete mission coverage from start to finish of each tropical storm and hurricane we intercept this season
All of this for just $59.95 for the season. To sign up today, use this link: Client Services Season Pass for 2013 Season
On Monday I will talk about our app. I have some much-anticipated news to share and look forward to that post. I think a lot of people will be VERY excited to hear what’s coming….
M. Sudduth

Ernesto gaining organization as we usher in new tropical depression

TS Ernesto with Increasing Convection

TS Ernesto with Increasing Convection

TS Ernesto has developed rather deep convection tonight right over the center of circulation. You can plainly see this improvement in structure on various satellite imagery. The question is, will this be a temporary stay of execution before the inevitable happens and it’s ripped up or are we seeing the start of a significant intensification process? Wish I knew. This part (intensity forecasting) is the toughest aspect of tracking tropical cyclones. So many factors are at play and it is impossible for today’s computer models to grasp the totality of the complex nature of the inner core. So, we can only sit back and watch sat pics as they refresh, giving us another frame to the movie, quite literally. Of course, it helps to have recon out there as well but when none are flying, the eye in the sky, some 22,500 miles above the Earth, is how we watch these systems wax and wane. And tonight, it appears that Ernesto is on the up-tick, how long it lasts remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, out in the far eastern Atlantic, we now have tropical depression six. The NHC began advisories a little while ago and this too will have to be watched as it begins the long trek across the tropical Atlantic. There are some hurdles along its route but conditions seem to be a little more favorable than perhaps was earlier thought this year across the deep tropics and we may see quite a pattern coming up of several developments over the coming weeks.

As for 91L, the disturbance off the Florida coast, while it looks rather impressive on satellite imagery. it still lacks a well defined surface low and without that, it won’t develop much. However, these tropical disturbances can dump a lot of rain and bring gusty winds with any rain squalls that move over your area. Be aware of that this weekend across SE Florida. While there is a chance of further development, I do not see this system becoming a big problem for anyone outside of the heavy precip that is possible.

I’ll have regular updates throughout the weekend with frequent posts on Twitter and Facebook. I’ll also keep adding video blogs to the newly released HurricaneTrack iPhone app. Check it out in the App Store via the banner ad up on the top right column.

August starting out on the busy side with Ernesto and now 90L

Busy Atlantic

Busy Atlantic

Things sure are busy for the first few days of August. We are tracking Ernesto and now have a new area to monitor out near the coast of Africa.

First, let’s take a look at Ernesto. As I mentioned yesterday, the fact that the storm was not exhibiting much deep convection should limit its ability to bring strong winds down to the surface. None the less, a gust to 63 mph was reported on the island of St. Lucia not too long ago as Ernesto passed by.

The fast motion is not allowing the storm to develop and sustain deep thunderstorm activity. Instead, we see bursts of convection that try to wrap around the center but fail to do so on a consistent basis. I think this is part of the reason why the GFS and ECMWF weaken Ernesto in to a tropical wave over the next few days. It will be interesting to see if the current NHC forecast holds as right now, it looks as though Ernesto is going to have a tough time surviving its trek across the eastern Caribbean. Thus, a weaker system will move considerably farther south of the forecast track. Interesting days ahead for sure.

Next we have newly designated 90L out in the east Atlantic. The NHC mentions this strong, well developed tropical wave on their latest outlook and indicate that it has potential for additional strengthening as it moves westward. Here too, the global models are not seeing much so once again, it will be interesting to see if human perspective will win out over what the sophisticated computer guidance suggests as a whole lot of nothing out there. There have been instances when the models did not pick up on development in spite of the fact that we could plainly see it taking shape. A recent example is Felix in 2007 which the GFS model did very poorly with even though it went on to become a category five impacting Central America. Sometimes you go with what you see and not with computer model predictions. In this case, it looks as though 90L has potential for additional development so we’ll watch it closely throughout the upcoming weekend.

Closer to the U.S. there is a surface trough or weak boundary that acts as a focusing mechanism for showers and thunderstorms situated in the region of the Bahamas. At the risk of reading between the lines, the NHC notes that conditions are not favorable for the next couple of days. Perhaps after that time frame they will be and so folks in FL and GA need to monitor the situation closely. Even without tropical storm formation, the surface trough will bring squally weather to the offshore waters and this needs to be considered by anyone with boating interests in the region. Water temps are plenty warm in the area so any decrease in the shearing winds could allow for a quick ramp up of any low pressure center that tries to develop along the trough.

I will cover all of these items in the daily Hurricane Outlook and Discussion video to be posted in our new HurricaneTrack app later this morning. I’ll also post another blog entry early this evening with an update on all the happenings in the tropics. It looks to be a busy weekend ahead with a lot to keep up with!


Hurricane season kicks in to busy mode with TD #5

August is considered the start to the main part of the hurricane season- and for good reason. This time of year the oceans are just about at their warmest and the atmosphere is calming down enough to allow for tropical cyclone formation. Actually, it is August 15 that many regard as the traditional start to the peak season period.

Today things are quite busy with the NHC beginning advisories on TD #5 – situated well east of the Windward Islands. It is forecast to become a hurricane once it reaches the central Caribbean Sea in about five days.

It is interesting to see this development take place because the region that TD5 is coming from was supposed to be fairly inhospitable this season with cooler than normal sea surface temps, etc. Instead, we see the opposite. Water temps across a good deal of the tropical Atlantic are running anywhere from .25C to 1.0C above normal. The below normal prediction definitely did not come to pass. So now we have an active tropical Atlantic and a depression to track.

First up for impact will be the Lesser Antilles as the depression slowly strengthens and moves on a WNW track. Luckily, it appears that conditions do not favor it becoming a hurricane before reaching the islands but this cannot be ruled out. A strengthening tropical storm can bring bursts of gusty winds to the surface, especially if it becomes convectively active. This can be monitored via satellite imagery. Watch to see how this plays out. If TD5 shows signs of developing deep thunderstorms, it is likely that it will cause some wind damage across the islands as it passes. I’ll examine this in the Hurricane Outlook Video that will be posted in our newly released HurricaneTrack App for iOS devices.

Water temps along the forecast track only get warmer and warmer. As long as upper level winds do not impede development, and the system does not track too close to South America, there is plenty of room for development. The official forecast shows it reaching hurricane strength near Jamaica in about five days. Obviously people in that region and beyond need to monitor the situation very closely.

As is usual with any tropical system, people want to know where it will ultimately end up. I wish I knew but I don’t. The steering pattern could lead it anywhere from Central America to some place along the U.S. Gulf Coast or across the Yucatan and in to Mexico. We’re simply going to have to wait for the guidance to help point the way as the days unfold. It certainly is a good time to be thinking about preparing for a hurricane no matter where you live. August is here and things will only get busier.

As I mentioned, the long awaited release of our mobile app took place today. It is available in the App Store as HurricaneTrack. That’s all one word, nothing else. Look for our logo with the in it, you’ll know it when you see it. The app will be a great way to keep up with news and info. It does not have maps or satellite pics, not yet. What it does have is information. In fact, when the time comes for us to head out in to the field for a hurricane mission, users of the app will have an incredible tool to keep up to date. Click on the “iPhone/Android App” link at the top banner for more info and to purchase today. The Android version is in the works and will be released just as soon as possible.