The Times-Picayune has an article up on Nola.com right now about this year’s coming hurricane season and it does sound like deja vu from last year:
Active hurricane season forecast
Last year, while folks were filtering back into the city and levees and flood walls weren’t tip top, articles like this were circulating:
NOAA PREDICTS VERY ACTIVE 2006 NORTH ATLANTIC HURRICANE SEASON
Of course we all know what happened, no hurricanes made U.S. landfall and only nine instances of tropical activity were deemed worthy of names.
But lord, lord, look at what Colorado State University was saying about 2006.
EXTENDED RANGE FORECAST OF ATLANTIC SEASONAL HURRICANE ACTIVITY AND U.S. LANDFALL STRIKE PROBABILITY FOR 2006
That’s 17 named storms predicted for 2006. Their estimate was double the number of actual storms. I will give the University credit though. They at least put a clear-cut number on their prediction. That’s how it is so easy to point out their inaccuracy.
In true U.S. Government non-accountability fashion, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center hedges their bets. Instead of putting a number on the amount of storms, they choose to use ranges. Last year’s estimates for named storms was 13â€“16, they were still way off but, their range is broader so if there had been only a few more, say two more, then the total number would have been 12 and most people would look at the NOAA’s forecast as only being one off. Ditto for the upper end. Makes them look smarter.
The Times-Pic article makes other observations via the experts (though these are from an “experimental” study). One says that, on the Gulf Coast, Terrebone Parish is the most likely area to be hit this year. The other says the most likely time our region will be hit will be the end of July. Another says that governments need to be prepared for the possibility for earthquakes and hurricanes happening at the same time in different parts of the country.
Yes, I am all for government preparedness for multiple disasters. But let’s admit it. Does the chance of an earthquake and hurricane happening simultaneously belong in an article about predictions for the 2007 season? Yes, it could happen. Yes, governments need to be prepared for it. By all means, write another article about it. It sounds very interesting. But let’s stick to the facts at hand when we are talking about this year’s hurricane season.
I’m not trying to rebuke the experts on these points. I am positive that a ton of research was applied to the predictions. What I am saying is that, given all the odds, there is an 80 percent chance Terrebone Parish won’t be touched this year and that’s an entirely different way of looking at it.
People in Houma are probably scared shitless though. Yes, they need to be prepared. But I’m wondering how responsible it is to report predictions such as this one from “experimental” studies? Especially in a region with a history like ours?
The experts will most likely readily admit that these are educated guesses at this point and it is more likely that we don’t know what the hell is going to happen.
I’ve been running from hurricanes since I was a little kid. The one thing I’m sure of about their seasons, their paths and their wakes is nothing is for sure. They are huge, swirling masses of unpredictability. I saw Hurricane Elena on a collision course for my front yard, bank right, scare the bejeezus out of Tampa, do a loop-de-loop in the middle of the Gulf and head straight back to my front yard.
Want an idea for just how unpredictable hurricanes are? Check the path and date on this forecast for a certain 2005 storm.
I’m not saying blow off the experts. I’m not saying don’t get your shit together for hurricane season. Iron out the details by all means. There is a very real possibility we will be threatened. But don’t let the experts fry your nerves and drive fear into your hearts. If another storm is headed up our alley, it wouldn’t matter if the experts predicted it or not. Do your own research. Think critically. Read the weather reports, and I’m not talking about CNN either. The NOAA prints out detailed reports of each storm and its path is updated every few hours along with several different reports and likelihood of landfalls. Track the storms online. As an experienced hurricane victims, read smart into these things.
Listen to the experts and listen to yourselves as well. If a hurricane is in the Gulf, get your shit together. If it’s coming our way, get out. Oh, and take your pets.
I’m not trying to beat up on Mark Schleifstein, who certainly has chops and has done more research and work on reporting hurricanes than I have. I just grow tired of doomsday reporting and question its usefulness. I don’t think it’s lost on anyone in this city how very real the possibility is that we might get hit. I don’t think predictions for active storm seasons are worth as much ink. There are a million things that might happen this year.
Know what the most interesting part of that Nola.com story was though? This:
Chuck Watson, a private geophysical hazard researcher and co-author of the report, also said the risk of tropical weather in the Gulf of Mexico is so high this year that it’s almost a certainty that at least a week’s worth of oil and gas production will be lost.
Well, that’s interesting considering gas is more than $3 a gallon already.
Also, I think the Times-Pic article has a graph that contains an error. In their predictions for 2005, they say there will be 11-5 named storms? That doesn’t make sense. Looks like someone left out a “1.”