Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Busy Hurricane Season Begins

The National Hurricane Center, Accuweather, and tropical weather expert Dr. Bill Gray are predicting a busy hurricane season. That means lots of named storms. The busiest year in recent history was in 2005, when we had 27 named storms, so many that the NHC ran out of names and started using Greek letters for the final few.

Adding to the concern this year is the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil is already affecting beaches in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. If the oil is not there yet, the beaches are still emptier than usual and beach businesses are suffering. Fishermen are stuck in port.

The NHC doesn't think that a hurricane will hurt anything and says it might even help the matter. A storm would theoretically break up and disperse the oil, and the slick over the water could keep the storm from sucking up Gulf water for strength. I am skeptical. I fear that a storm would damage the limited containment system now in place, that it will push the oil onto the beaches sooner, and that it will spread the toxic oil farther inland. If you have to wear a hazmat suit to clean it up, how are we going to get it out of our yards and off our houses?

Even if the NHC is right and a hurricane does help clean up the water and it doesn't cause an even bigger mess, a named storm is not going to help improve tourism or the economy of beach communities.

Outside the Gulf, the Pacific has already seen three named storms and Tropical Depression #5 is in the works. Guatemala is still recovering from Tropical Storm Agatha, which killed over 150 people, buried hundreds of homes under mud, and opened a massive sinkhole that swallowed a three-story building.

If you are not prepared for a hurricane, now is the time to start making a checklist for evacuation and stocking up on non-perishable supplies. Trim trees. Look for loose shingles. Repair what you can now, before it gets ripped off in hurricane-force winds and causes more damage. Don't wait until the storm is three days away and try to do it all.