On Hurricanes

My most recent post documented how I was affected by Tropical Storm Irene. Given the severe flooding in Vermont and continued Foxboro area blackout (save Gillette Stadium, the controversy of which is further discussed here), I and those I care for escaped the storm largely unscathed.

Ever since I was nine or so I have been interested in hurricanes and general emergency preparation. I can vividly recall tracking hurricanes on data sheets available for free at the local drugstore.

 This chart used to come folded up as a pamphlet, which also featured some general tips and lists of items to have ready. This information is very similar to this resource.

Hurricanes I found fascinating and suspenseful. The Northeast is generally safe (not immune) from their destructive force. The fact that there are days of notice continues to make the forecast a compelling gamble. When I was young, the meteorologist’s main role was to deliver the exciting news that school had been closed for a snow day. Hurricanes gave them authority and my rapt attention as the summer drew to a close.

I recall riding out Hurricane Bob in Hyde Park, where it was just a lot of rain and some wind. The broad damage to the Cape Cod area was sad but largely irrelevant to me, as I nor anyone I knew lived there then.

My interest in hurricanes was a natural evolution from my interest in dinosaurs and whales. Dinosaurs hold a nearly universal appeal to small children due to their exotic appearance and hyperbolic power and proportions. My interest passed to whales for these reasons, with the exception being that they still roam the oceans. Severe weather also wields the immense power, but with it comes a tangible impact and game of chance. I don’t gamble, but living on or near the coast inherently involves risk.

I remember watching Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina with equal horror. When I made the decision to live in Florida for a time, the fact that the time did not fall within hurricane season was very important.

While I have long found hurricans interesting, I have always held a deep, primal fear of tornadoes. Hurricanes, at least in the modern day, afford several days preparation. Tornadoes can appear not within a week but minutes. Their destruction is seemingly random and wrought with quick, frantic strokes. Although the collatoral damage of a hurricane far exceeds that of any tornado, the hurricane’s winds are of a far longer duration, a generally lesser intensity, and thus strikes me as more plodding and deliberate- as irrantional it may be to ascribe such qualities to atmospheric disturbances.

Ultimately, hurricanes are empowering- there are things you can do to minimize property damage and loss of life. Tornadoes are much more chaotic, with stories of them destroying one home, skipping a block, and touching down again. Hurricanes are somewhat more systematic, more predicatable.

Notice I said somewhat. Hurricane forecasting is still dicey at best, as all the meteorologists will remind the viewers. Several models are used to get a rough idea of where a storm may impact. These models are more advanced than what early detection systems exist for tornadoes, but both are still imperfect.

I was greatly disturbed to learn that hurricanes can and do spawn tornadoes.

Lastly, while in Florida I did not get the chance to see homes such as these that were designed to tackle practically anything that nature could throw down.


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