U.S. Federal Meteorologists urged the media during an April presentation at the 2008 National Hurricane Conference in Orlando Florida not to pay too much attention to the long-term hurricane season forecasts after two consecutive years that failed to live up to their predictions.
National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read urged those in attendance, which included disaster managers, reporters and meteorologists, that the media should “hype” the need to prepare for the devastation that even one hurricane could wreak, even in a quiet season.
Preparation is the key. It’s an investment that must be made at the beginning of every hurricane season in order to protect life and property.
During the past 2007 hurricane season, 14 named storms formed, of which five became hurricanes and, of those, two became major hurricanes. It was the first time since 1851 that two category 5 hurricanes –Dean and Felix- reached land in one season.
Hurricane Dean was the first after the disastrous 1992 storm Andrew hit Florida to make landfall as a category 5 hurricane. Dean mainly hit Mexico where he caused 40 deaths. Felix narrowly missed the island of Curaçao and developed to a 5 quick as lightning on a southern course. Nicaragua and Honduras were in particular hit by Felix. In these countries the number of deaths exceeded 130.
Category 5 hurricanes can reach winds of 156 mph or more. Overall, more than 250 persons perished throughout the Caribbean and Central America while there was over US $600 million in damages. Noel was just a category 1 hurricane but also caused a considerable damage in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and the Bahamas. Casualties were about 80 due to heavy rainfall, mud slides and flooding. Noel shows that even a hurricane that stays at the bottom of the Saffir – Simpson scale can spread death and destruction.
Despite all misery, 2007 hurricane season will go down in history as a less active season. The amount of 14 named storms is slightly more than the long term average of 11, but just half the total number of the record year 2005!
Hurricane season 2008 just started. It’s too soon to find many clues about what this season might be like and, again, predictions might fail. We just should be prepared.
A storm must start as a Tropical Depression and move on to become a Tropical Storm before it is given a name. Once a storm is named, preparations for the possible hurricane should be well under way.
Those that would like additional, detailed information can turn to the website: www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/tcfaqHED.html. This FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) web site attempts to address various questions regarding hurricanes, typhoons and tropical cyclones that have been posed to hurricane researchers over the years.
Useful hints for preparations can be found at goflorida.about.com/od/floridaweathe1/a/hurricane_prep.htm
Els Kroon is a Dutch former teacher who now lives and works as an award-winning free-lance photojournalist on Curaçao.
Here is the list of hurricane names for 2008– and in case we run out, the National Hurricane Center will turn to the Greek alphabet again and we’ll have Hurricanes Alpha, Beta, and so on.