Despite the numbers of named storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes being forecasted to be lower this year, there has been an explosion in the number of named storms with still a good 50 percent of the hurricane season still to go.
Moreover, tropical activity has really picked up in September with seven named storms, and a number of more areas of disturbed weather in recent days. On top of that, there have been 18 named storms, 10 hurricanes, and 5 major hurricanes in the months of October and November over the past four seasons.
Meanwhile, the state of readiness along the coastal United States from Maine to Texas has not been as strong as it should be in light of the results from Hurricane Hugo, Andrew, Mitch, and more. Couple that with the only gradual increase in accurately forecasting hurricane direction and intensity, the folks at Hurricaneville feel that research should be done in the area of storm modification for hurricanes.
Despite the predictions for a below average season in terms of overall activity a few weeks ago by Dr. Gray and his team at Colorado State, activity has been high again this season although the number of hurricanes and major hurricanes this year have been down.
Nevertheless, over the past eight seasons, there have been a total of about 105 named storms, 60 hurricanes, and 25 major hurricanes. The coastal United States from Maine to Texas has been lucky in the sense that only four major hurricanes Opal (October, 1995), Fran (September, 1996), Georges (September, 1998), and Floyd (September, 1999), have made landfall.
However, the increased number of storms over the past eight seasons are an indication that the long range trend of more powerful hurricanes appears to be occurring, and people should take steps to get ready. The problem is that people aren't getting prepared, and storm readiness is not what it should be in spite of recent disasters.
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As briefly mentioned before, the current state of preparedness along the United States coastline from Maine to Texas is in serious need of improvement. According to John Zarella's report in June, 2002 called, "Hurricane: When The Big One Hits", only half of all coastal residents have an evacuation plan, or first aid kit.
In addition, many emergency shelters in places such as South Carolina and Florida aren't safe enough for Red Cross to open for people to stay in when hurricanes threaten their area. Couple that with the fact that coastal populations are exploding, building has increased, and the science of forecasting hurricane strength and intensity has only gradually improved, a recipe for disaster may be in the making.
Insurance researchers believe that the next major hurricane to make landfall in a major U.S. city will cost double to triple what Hurricane Andrew did in 1992. Alternative means need to be developed. We need to find out more about hurricanes and tropical storms by going right into the belly of the beast, and attacking it.
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In closing of our special series, the folks at Hurricaneville feel that the National Academy of Science is correct in making the recommendation to return to research on storm modification. Forecasting can only due so much, and with increased populations along our coasts along with people who aren't properly informed, or just are simply ignorant, a lot of lives could be lost along with heavy amounts of property damage.
Hurricane researchers and forecasters need to look into ways of preventing hurricanes from developing to the point, where they become like an Andrew, Hugo, Opal, Fran, Mitch, Floyd, or perhaps Isidore. Efforts made by the folks at Dyn-O-Mat in South Florida are a good first step along with the studies by NOAA on hurricane intensification.
There needs to be more work done in this area. Perhaps attacking hurricanes and tropical storms at the upper levels is a place to start. Even if this work isn't fruitful, there will still be a great deal more knowledge obtained about these systems, which will aid in forecasting and preparedness that will make us all safer.
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