Stormy Weather

August 29, 2011

It’s been a pretty eventful week. Last Tuesday, we experienced a rare and slightly unnerving earthquake, immediately followed by the biggest hurricane to hit this region since Isabel in 2003. I’m glad it’s too early for a blizzard, but the way things have been going, I may be over-optimistic.

I used multiple media sources to keep an eye on Irene. One of the best is the National Hurricane Center (NHC), which provided (and as of 5 a.m. this morning still was providing) the latest on the storm’s present and future movements. NHC is the source for much of the data re-disseminated by national, regional, and local weather outlets, so using its Web site really gets you right to the heart of forecasting when you really want the latest and most authoritative information on hurricanes, tropical storms (TS), and tropical depressions (TD). At first glance, I did feel a certain depression myself when I checked in with the NHC this morning – the first thing I saw was a map showing TS Jose and TD Twelve. Fortunately, Jose seems destined to zip off into the further reaches of the North Atlantic and dissolve, while poor TD Twelve, lacking even a cool name beginning with K, hasn’t shaped up into anything much – yet. Things could change, though, so I think I’ll keep on checking…

Although most of us around the DC area escaped any major damage, the reports of heavy going along the coast and flooding in Vermont should remind us to take hurricane warnings seriously. I read a news story quoting a former NHC head, who said his worst case scenario is a hurricane that does much less damage than advertised, followed by a really deadly one – because the public will refuse to take the warning seriously the second time around. We tend to forget quickly in these multimedia news-saturated days, but we should remember the colossal disaster that was Katrina. If you need a reminder, reports from the White House and Congress are still available online – and in print, here and here.

I, for one, plan to keep a wary eye on both the NHC and Earthquake Hazard Program Web sites.  That way, I’ve got earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, blizzards, ice storms, and heat waves covered. After the events of the past week, I’m convinced that anythingcan happen!



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