Hurricane Harbor

A writer and a tropical muse. A funky Lubavitcher who enjoys watching the weather, hurricanes, listening to music while enjoying life with a sense of humor and trying to make sense of it all!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Hurricane History. Long Read. Watch the Videos.. Listen to the WIND... Hurricanes & The Florida Keys. Often What Happens in Florida Doesn't Stay in Florida ... It Ends up In NC NJ NY NE...

Can you name that Hurricane?

There really is nothing new under the sun and that is especially true when we are discussing weather in the tropics. In truth tropical storms as well as the Big Daddy of tropical systems the Hurricane do visit far away beaches in New England and on Long Island but what starts in the tropics doesn't always stay in the tropics. And whatever has happened in the past will repeat itself in the future with some minor variation so if you don't learn from history you really are doomed to have your little island paradise blown away by the next Major Hurricane. 

Now days we track online and follow the hurricanes on our Smart Phones yet as much as we have changed the way we follow hurricanes with incredible satellite imagery and models that get better at nailing down the track the hurricane remains the same. Rain, wind, squalls moving in tandem in a storm that is spinning like a top traveling across an ocean looking for a place to make landfall. Sometimes a weak tropical wave battling wind shear and dry SAL manages to pull itself together just enough to attain named status while the NHC debates downgrading it to depression status. A few days later it pulls together once past the SAL and the wind shear and develops rapidly changing direction suddenly and taking aim at South Florida and the Miami area from the East. The picture above is from a book that talked on the Great Labor Day Hurricane yet it could just as easily have been talking about Hurricane Andrew. 

Above was 1935
Below was 1960

Hurricane Donna made landfall in Marathon in the Florida Keys before going on to hit multiple cities in her long race to victory that ended up with people in New York getting hit by the same hurricane that made landfall in the Florida Keys. Before the Florida Keys it threatened the islands and flirted with Cuba, but for this blog's purpose we are focusing on the Florida Keys. In 1935 the Labor Day Hurricane made landfall close to Donna's landfall point but a bit further to the North around Long Key. Hurricane Betsy in 1965 made landfall in the Upper Keys though if you check it out online you may read it hit Louisiana. The point here is that history is often local from the perspective of the person viewing the history. I typed "Hurricane Donna Florida Keys" into the browser and hit images and multiple images appeared including one of a lady standing in what looks like her winter coat on the high steps of her front porch and I thought "no that's wrong" as Google found "Hurricane Donna" but Hurricane Donna was also New York's hurricane to remember. 

In Miami people worried on Hurricane Betsy and they prepared the same way we do now days even though that was a half a century ago. Yes, our satellite imagery is better and we have models that though they argue often give us a better handle on changing steering currents. We sample the air around the storm and well I'd like to think if we had the tools in 1965 that we have now we would have been able to forecast Betsy's loops. Then again maybe not as hurricanes by their very nature are erratic and difficult to pin down. That is why people spend lifetimes studying Atlantic Hurricanes as if they are looking for lost treasure or the Holy Grail. The real Holy Grail is Intensity Forecasting, the kind that would predict Hurricane Aletta's sudden intensification to Category 4 from seemingly out of nowhere. 

Before Hurricane Irma ever took aim on the Florida Keys after flirting with the Cuban coast history books are filled with the same scenario with regard to multiple hurricanes that did the same thing. Yes, each is different in some way but the track of a hurricane moving slowly blocked to it's North by a strong Bermuda High slowing down as it approaches and waiting patiently for the Bermuda High to give it's a pass and move a bit to the East so that like the old "Open Sesame" story the Hurricane suddenly lifts NW or WNW towards the Florida Keys.  Back then we didn't have the models we have now and yet even today the same drama holds tight as we hear the models show Hurricane Irma will make landfall near Miami and then Homestead and then the Florida Keys and only in the rear view mirror to we learn there is a place named Cudjoe Key. But to people on Big Pine Key it hit their key and others will look back and say it hit the "Lower Keys" and someone in Key West who lost their roof when part of an old banyan tree fell onto it will tell their grandchildren about the time Hurricane Irma hit Key West. In the part of the Florida Keys where people are trying to put their lives back together while filling out miles of forms they would probably ask Hurricane who when hearing someone ask on Hurricane Georges. Irma is still the Hurricane of the Hour in the Florida Keys.

Cyclone Jim above in Georges.

Hurricane Irma below.

We have changed the way we track and the way we forecast even at times forecasting development before the first bands of a storm begin to come together. Our models hit the mark sometimes and other times an old time forecaster who knows climo and hurricane history does a better job than the models. Sometimes the models are wonderful, sometimes they are crappy but the one commonality is the Hurricane brings the possibility of death and destruction with it as it moves towards landfall. And, a long tracking Hurricane such as Donna makes landfall many times and takes the trouble from the tropics all the way up the Mid Atlantic into NY and beyond. Let's hope this year is not a Sandy sort of year as there are already many parallels to 2012 weather wise. Again it's hard to remember that far back but Hurricane Sandy slammed into Cuba and from their perspective it was their storm not New York and New Jersey's storm.  You don't need to speak Spanish to understand the story shown below in the video after Hurricane Sandy hit Cuba showing people up in NY a preview of what they were to expect. 

Back to the Florida Keys..

In my mind Hurricane Donna and Hurricane Betsy were Miami hurricanes yet they just grazed by Miami toppling tall pines trees and depositing sand all over Collins Avenue or smashing out plate glass windows in resorts that once had beautiful ocean views. But what I do remember most is that Hurricane Donna was a slow mover that rattled Miami's nerves as the end game seemed as uncertain as did Hurricane Irma's end game. It's nice to say that the NHC nailed the forecast with Hurricane Irma but did they really? Yes and no is the answer as they nailed it would impact South Florida but the "Cone" got pulled back and forth by several hundred miles before we knew 100% who was getting the eye of Irma. And, trust me the EYE is the part that makes the difference as most of South Florida, West Florida and North Florida had impacts from Irma but no where was it as deadly and destructive as Cudjoe Key and Big Pine. And, by the way Big Pine Key is way bigger and more densely populated than Long Key where the 1935 Hurricane made landfall on what was basically a tent city where temporary workers were given jobs by FDR after camping out in DC begging for jobs. So, yeah score one for FDR he gave them jobs in Paradise but Paradise can turn really ugly when a hurricane or a volcano blows it's top. I'd still rather deal directly with a Major Hurricane than a Volcano and a lava flow crunching down and obliterating my house and red, shiny mustang convertible.

The book I read yesterday that I picked up in one of the Florida Key's best book stores was riveting in it's old school description of the approach of a hurricane as it was jam packed with great detail on Florida Keys history. Jam packed as in old history as in does anyone in Florida even remember buying Sea Grape Jam? Does anyone remember what Bud and Mary's looked like back when? Does anyone remember when the Keys were quiet and traffic on the Overseas Highway wasn't the way it is now? Sea Grape Jam or Jelly is what Scuppernong Jam is to people in North Carolina. It's a local delicacy you take back to the relatives who live Up North. May I suggest next time you decide to go to the Islamorada Fish House or any Fish Restaurant down in the Keys you stop at Hooked on Books Mile Marker 81.9 and browse the racks and sit a spell and look through the books and decide which one you want to buy. Spoiler Alert you will want to buy MANY of them but many are on the Used racks for half price or even a dollar. I picked up a signed autograph book by James W. Hall who was my Literature Professor at FIU teaching classes on a Graduate Level on American Literature. Once upon the time before AOL and the Internet my grammar was way better ;)

There are some interesting stories in the book.
Take Craig Key for instance.
Craig Key was a town on a highway.
The Overseas Highway

It's a small spot on the map.
It's shown below by the red dot.

Up close it's shown below.

No matter how good our models are and how great our forecast is the one thing you can count on is that a hurricane, especially a Major Hurricane, slams into a small island with the fury of Atomic Bombs, and the slamming into it goes on for however long it takes for the hurricane to move on. Sometimes a hurricane slows down and crawls and other times it moves fast like Hurricane Andrew. Either way it leaves behind a trail of broken dreams, destroyed homes, destroyed lives and sometimes a high death toll. Whether the hurricane causes flooding as we saw in Houston or it sand blasts an island the way Maria did, it's a natural disaster that we try to forecast and explain to the public beseeching people to follow evacuation orders and we hope for the best, pray like we never prayed and try somehow to make it through the night while listening to the howling of the wind. We hunker down and in that dark, scary, vitally alive night no one really cares whether the EURO was right or the GFS scored a quirky win. Maybe far away in some academic environment students are debating the models still from the safety of their dorm room in another part of the country and on message boards somewhere someone will try and defend the GFS or tout how good the EURO was with this hurricane vs the last one. But trust me in the dark of the night listening to the wind you pray to survive and pray you have a business to go to work to in the morning; no one gives a rat's ass about which model was right or wrong in the middle of a Major Hurricane.

Turn your speaker up all the way.

Imagine that sound for 2 or 3 hours.
Imagine that sound while the house is shaking.
Imagine that house while worrying there is flooding.
Just imagine.

Our models are better.
Our satellites are clearer.
Radar is better.

A hurricane is still a hurricane in the end.

We slice and dice them.
We study them.
It's academic to some of us... 
..a passion for chasers.
We take the data.
We study the data.
But the Hurricanes still howl in the night.

From far away they are beautiful.
Our new tools are awesome.

Whether the Euro was right.
Whether the EURO was wrong.
The end result is the same.
Destruction and death.

So during these quiet days of June when the EPAC is busy and the Atlantic is not it's a good time to think on what you will need to get through the 2018 Hurricane Season. Yes, there is talk of El Nino and there is talk of cool water near Africa. We have to worry on those storms that weakly make their way across the Atlantic battling shear and dry air who sometimes find a spot close in to become a Category 4 or Category 5 Hurricane. And, in a year like this it's important to remember over and over what starts in the tropics doesn't always stay in the tropics and the Mid Atlantic and the East Coast could be in trouble come September or October. We have come a long way from old black and white news reels with eerie science fiction sound effects but whether we watch old black and white news reels or color video the wind howls, the rain falls down endlessly as sheets of wind carry your neighbors roof one tile at a time down the street. 

There are some great books out there on hurricanes, some wild websites and some awesome old news papers online. Read through them, look at the pictures and remember in the end it's not about the models but about the hurricane. If the NHC puts up watches and warnings for your area do what they tell you to do like your life depends on it. Trust me ...your life does depend on it.

Good sites to follow are:
That's a lot of landfalling hurricanes along the East Coast.

Besos BobbiStorm
@bobbistorm on Twitter

Ps... Some incredible books at that bookstore. Call them, order a few .... look online. Learn from the past because the past always repeats in some ways every day, every year ... every Hurricane Season. a good shorter read that may make you think on your priorities.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home