A post from just before hurricane season a few years back.
The time of the summer has come to drive boat owners crazy with monitoring tropical waves, tropical storms and hurricanes. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, now the weather service has added something called “invests” — the best I can figure an invest is somewhere above a tropical wave but below a tropical storm. Whatever it is, it’s caused a dramatic increase in storms to worry about! Our worst nightmare would be to turn to “The Tropical Update” at 50 past the hour on The Weather Channel and see Jim Cantore “on the scene” at Burnt Store Marina. Somehow it seems Jim Cantore is always in the thick of whatever havoc hurricanes are wrecking.
With Winterlude back in the hurricane zone, I’m reminded of how wonderful it was to have her out of the hurricane zone in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala or somewhere in Panama for six years! I cringe every time I get an e-mail from The National Weather Service (NWS) alerting me to yet another tropical depression or storm or worse yet, hurricane.
Last night when I went to bed, Irene was a “loosely organized tropical storm with no defined eye” destined to interact with the mountains of Puerto Rico causing it to weaken further. This morning I get up, and it’s not Tropical Storm Irene at all … now it’s Hurricane Irene and the forecast is looking worse! Blah, I do not enjoy monitoring all these storms, it may be time to get Winterlude somewhere out of hurricane zone again!
Along with every other Type A boat owner, dealing with suspense is not one of my strong suits! I like to plan, I like everything under control and I do not like uncertainty! Hurricane season certainly provides a dose of uncertainty! What was it Jimmy said? “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season?”
I clearly remember Hurricane Charley which hit Burnt Store Marina dead on as a Cat 4 hurricane, leaving destruction in his path. See my Hurricane Charley posts on my Sail Winterlude website here. Charley was never forecast to come ashore at Punta Gorda, FL … the track had it tracking just offshore up the west coast of Florida …. until the day before when it hung a sharp right to come ashore literally on top of the marina where Winterlude was eagerly awaiting our return so we could leave the US to go cruising in October 2004. Hmm… was it a sign? Maybe we weren’t supposed to go cruising? August 13, 2004 … a few days that live on in infamy in our household!
We were glued to The Weather Channel hoping NOT to see Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel at Burnt Store Marina with Winterlude in the pool behind him! Luckily Charley packed a big punch but was in a big hurry, not lingering over the marina which would have caused even worse destruction. Finally on Monday – 3 days later, our caretaker was able to call out and we received word that Winterlude had sustained only minor damage and was OK. Our cruising plans were intact …. whew!
But I’m off the subject of this post. Monitoring the dang tropical waves/invests/storms/hurricanes. While we’re still in the Midwest, our options for monitoring tropical weather increase substantially, we can literally monitor it every few hours (which may not be such a good thing for a worry-wart like me!).
Before the routine, I subscribe to NOAA’s National Weather Service tropical storms e-mail alerts. Click here for the subscribe page. I only get the Advisories while we’re land based because I can always check the details online. When we’re living on the boat, I’ll subscribe to more, including the “Discussion” e-mails. For easy hurricane tracking with available NOAA email subscriptions, check out Easy Hurricane Tracking at a Glance.
Back to morning routine … first stop is Weather Underground only because the tropical information is easy to find and consolidated with minimal clicks. Another easy consolidated site is NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, click here. This site is good because it has a link for e-mail subscriptions on the left as well as a myriad of other information.
Weather Underground provides easy access. Enter your zip code, and each time Weather Underground comes up above your location weather there will be a Tropical Weather orange shaded bar with a clickable summary of each active invest through hurricane. Click on the storm of interest and nineteen different charts and text advisories appear. First I click on the 5 Day Forecast because it includes the current tracking as well as the forecast track.
After reviewing the track, if it appears there’s any possibility the storm might come close to the west coast of Florida, I click the “Discussion” tab above the graphics. The discussion is where the nitty gritty information resides as well as the weather service’s reasoning on the predicted track. This lets me know the degree of certainty for the forecaster’s rationale.
If necessary, I then click on the “Computer Models” and “Ensemble Models” graphics to see what the different models are forecasting – often the official forecast doesn’t correspond with the models and it’s nice to have an up front warning about other track potential.
Depending on how far out the storm is, I may just check it once in the morning and wait until the next morning. Or I may check it every four hours as the information is updated.
There are other sources online for the same information, do a google search for hurricane tracking and pick your favorite!
In the meantime, hang on, here comes hurricane season!