Sunday, August 24, 2008
Deploy the Live Eye Storm Watch Mega Doppler Fear Center teams!
In the past several days, Tropical Event Fay has caused at least 11 deaths and untold zillions of dollars in damages. Tonight I saw a group of about 25 bucket trucks from Pike Electric in Mt. Airy, NC headed south to help with the cleanup efforts. Hats off to you guys for lending a hand.
My Gawd, enough with the 24-hour non-stop, raindrop-by-raindrop coverage of Tropical Event Fay. It keeps shifting from Tropical Storm to Hurricane and back again, and has made landfall at least four times as of this evening, so we’ll just refer to it as “Tropical Event”… how’s that?
In my 39+ years of converting oxygen into carbon dioxide, I’ve been through no fewer than 23 named storms; I know I’m forgetting a few. David, Gloria, Bob, Erin, Opal, Bertha, Floyd, Gordon, Helene, Allison, Kyle, Isabel, Alex, Bonnie, Charley, Gaston, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, Cindy, Ophelia, Alberto, Ernesto… I’m no novice to foul weather. And now there’s Fay.
Every year it seems to get progressively worse. It starts about a month before the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, with an almost daily countdown to the start day (June 1st), the unveiling of that season’s storm names, and the reminder to swing by the Piggly Wiggly grocery store to pick up your free Hurricane Tracking Chart. They may as well just get Ryan Seacrest to reveal the names in that smarmy, annoying after-the-break style he uses to unveil shit on American Idol to add mock dramatic gravity to it. And those charts? The same chart gets reprinted every year with the same graph, the same “survival tips”, and the obligatory satellite photo of either Katrina, Andrew, or Hugo, because without a picture, we’d all be too stupid to understand. The only thing that changes year to year are the advertisers. Face it; the charts are just an ad revenue source and public relations gimmick. No one I know over the age or 12 actually uses one to track a storm by latitude and longitude, plotting each new storm in a different colored crayon. No way, man. If I wanna know where it is I turn on the TV and either catch the news or CNN, or hit Weather Channel if I need excruciating graphic minutia.
At the Weather Channel, they live for this shit. As soon as a cloud forms over the equatorial Atlantic, they’re out there on the air with maps, charts, a cool font and graphic created just for this potential storm, projected paths of mayhem & destruction that are 800 miles to cover any & all variations of that path, and the mobile broadcast teams start fanning out like hungry picnic ants carrying reporters in their ubiquitous blue and black windbreakers.
Once they establish where the storm will hit, then they break out the nostalgia footage and invoke the names of the Unholy Trinity of Katrina, Andrew, and Hugo, and remind us all yet again that we can all be destroyed at a moment’s notice. Locally, once they catch a whiff that even a slight drizzle connected to a named storm will come within 100 miles of Charleston, the Live Eye Storm Watch Mega Doppler Fear Center logo comes out and then they begin non-stop coverage as well. And of course, then they gotta break out the interviews with Hugo survivors and start sending their own local scaremongers to prowl the Lowe’s and Home Depot parking lots for people buying plywood and begin reporting “on the eights” from Folly Beach. They even went so far as to find a way to find a tenuous connection to the Lowcountry by finding out that a dumbass who went kite-boarding in the storm surge and ended up plastered against a wall with several broken bones was originally from Charleston. Why would you want to claim that? You go surfing or kite-boarding or skydiving or anything in a frikkin’ hurricane, you deserve whatever happens.
In closing, as a public service to our friends in the meteorological industry, I am revising the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale to quantify every aspect of a storm, from the first butterfly effect to the end of the world as we know it. Hereafter, storms will be categorized as follows:
Tropical Flap: no sustained winds, but the butterfly did flap its wings…we think.
Tropical Rustle: occasionally, a slight puff of air will reach almost half a mile an hour.
Tropical Ripple: max sustained winds at ½ -1 mph
Tropical Breeze: max sustained winds at 2-4 mph
Tropical Sprinkle: rain forms, max winds at 5-7 mph
Tropical Drizzle: more rain, max winds at 8-12 mph
Tropical Disturbance: even more rain, max winds at 13-17 mph
Tropical Unpleasantness: pretty miserable, max winds at 18-24 mph
Tropical Wave: The trough is well-defined and beginning to spin. Winds at 25-30 mph
Tropical Depression: Oh no! Start buying supplies! Winds at 31-38 mph
Tropical Storm: winds are 39-73 mph
Category 1 Hurricane: winds are 74-95 mph
Category 2 Hurricane: winds are 96-110 mph
Category 3 Hurricane: winds are 111-130 mph
Category 4 Hurricane: winds are 131-155 mph
Category 5 Hurricane: winds are 156-175 mph
Anything over 175 mph will be thereafter referred to as “Tropical Apocalypse”