THE TV WEATHER REPORT — “There is a small, low-pressure area just west of Ghana — you can see it here on our FloSloMo Radar — which means it could become a major hurricane and wipe us out, every one of us. But it’s still too early to tell. That’s it from your Panic Weather Center. Back to you, Chip.” Thus begins every TV weather report from now until the end of hurricane season on Nov. 30.
Officially, hurricane season beings on June 1 when FEMA tosses out the first doughnut, but our local TV weather wizards have been working on their frenzied attack for months. This is the one time of the year when they get top billing on the local TV news programs. The more fear and panic they can induce in us, the more their own ratings go up. And this year, they tell us, is going to be a particularly bad time for hurricanes — just like every other year.
The weathermen and women get their frantic forecasts from that tropical beach outpost: Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, Colo., which, to the best I can determine, has never experienced a hurricane or even a warm breeze across the ski slopes. Last year the Rams (that’s their mascot) predicted 10 named storms would hit the Atlantic and Gulf coast. There were 19, which is close enough for government work. The CSU experts said the difference of almost 100 percent (or almost 50 percent) was because of El Nino. Certainly comprehensive immigration reform should shoulder some responsibility, but not all.
Now the CSU crack weather team is predicting 2013 “could be a very active season with an above average chance for a major hurricane to hit the United States coast or the Caribbean.” AccuWeather says this year will be another active season “for a total of 16 storms. Out of those 16, eight will be hurricanes. Four of those hurricanes will be major hurricanes.” (An interesting point: In recent years, European weather forecasters have been more accurate about storms hitting the U.S. than our own forecasters. I blame the Gulf Stream media.)
We must take these warnings with a grain of salt water, remembering that Sandy caught NOAA off guard, as the prognosticators predicted the storm would go up the east coast but stay out at sea. The big blow arrived on the Jersey and New York shores catching the locals in hell and high water. See: “government work” above. But Sandy did rack up record media coverage. Why? Because that storm almost hit NEW YORK CITY! That is home base for the national media, so any hurricane danger, real or imagined, requires 24-hour coverage with radar, maps and always the reporter standing in the wind and rain with water up to his waist while shouting, “Brian, I’m standing in the wind and rain with water up to my waist.” I heard some New Jersey TV reporter calling Sandy “the worst national disaster in our nation’s history.” News of the Galveston Storm and Katrina never made it up to the Jersey shore. For that matter, compare the coverage of the Boston Marathon crime spree which killed four people with the West, Texas, explosion that killed 15.
In any event, we are now bracing for Andrea, Barry, Chantal and Dorian. Those are the names given this season to our first tropical storms that may or may not become full-fledged hurricanes. The list goes on down to Wendy, and if we need more names the National Hurricane Center will turn to the Greek alphabet, and we’ll have Hurricanes Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, etc.
We’ve got to be ready in case a hurricane hits the Texas coast, so move to Midland. Even if you live there or any other place beyond the ravages of the Gulf, you’ve got a seagull in this deluge because storms cost Texas taxpayers money — lots of money. There are the National Guardsmen, DPS troopers, TxDOT workers, all getting time and a half, and don’t forget the governor’s hair stylist. If you have friends or relatives along the coast, be prepared to open your home to soggy guests in bad need of a drink and a hot bath. Can your backyard keep a cougar? One solution is to fix your phone recorder to play: “I’m sorry we can’t take your call. The health department made us move out after discovering a rampant SARS virus in the den, probably carried by rabid rats.”
Forget plans to visit Corpus Christi or South Padre during hurricane season, just in case 2.5 million Texans flee inland, as they did before Ike. If a storm is coming, you can’t get a hotel room in San Antonio or Dallas, they’ll be filled with evacuees. Speaking of Dallas, when the State of Texas asked Dallas to house 40,000 disabled evacuees from the Houston area in case of another hurricane – these would be the blind, babies on life-support, lame octogenarians — Dallas said no. Thanks, Little D.
If you are among the millions of Texans whose houses are financially under water and soon may be literally that way, here are a few suggestions: Buy lots of plywood to nail over your windows, which brings up a question: every year we see TV shots of frantic homeowners and store landlords lined up at a Home Depot to buy sheets of plywood. What happened to last year’s plywood? I mean, that plywood is still good, doesn’t turn sour or get that refrigerator taste. Also, stock up on ice. I suggest you pack bags of it in the garage beforehand. Got batteries for you dialysis machine? You may want to purchase a new vehicle to tour your property after the flood, like a glass-bottom boat. Make evacuation plans so you can flee to a safe place. Maybe New Orleans. Most importantly, leave early — like when there is a small, low-pressure area just west of Ghana.
Ashby is adrift at firstname.lastname@example.org