Posts Tagged ‘Miami’

 

My Beef With The Hurricane Center

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

Since Friday, I have traded emails with Ed Rappaport, director of the National Hurricane Center down in South Florida. He responded after I sent an email to two of his forecasters.

I was upset… No, I was livid the National Hurricane Center had decided to stop tracking and issuing bulletins and forecasts on Hurricane Noel Friday at 5:00 PM.

I’ve attached their final forecast discussion below. Two things to note. First, when they stopped their forecasting, Noel had already begun to take on non-tropical characteristics.

THE AIRCRAFT DATA ALSO INDICATED THAT NOEL STILL DISPLAYED A WARM CORE AND A FAIRLY TIGHT RADIUS OF MAXIMUM WINDS. SINCE THEN…THE INNER CORE CONVECTION HAS SUBSTANTIALLY DIMINISHED AND IS NOW INSUFFICIENT TO QUALIFY NOEL AS A TROPICAL CYCLONE. IN ADDITION…THE FSU CYCLONE PHASE SPACE DIAGRAM SUGGESTS THAT NOEL’S THERMODYNAMIC STRUCTURE IS BEGINNING TO BECOME ASYMMETRIC AND FRONTAL. THUS THIS WILL BE THE LAST NOEL ADVISORY.

Second, and much more importantly. Noel was going to get stronger!

BAROCLINIC FORCING SHOULD FURTHER INTENSIFY NOEL AS AN EXTRATROPICAL CYCLONE AS IT ACCELERATES TOWARD THE NORTH-NORTHEAST. ALL OF THE GLOBAL MODELS BOTH DEEPEN THE CYCLONE AND EXPAND THE HIGH WIND AREAS.

From a purely meteorological standpoint, NHC was correct. Noel was no longer a tropical system. They cover tropical systems – period.

That misses the point. The Hurricane Center’s job is to protect lives, not be meteorological purists.

When they stopped issuing forecasts, advisories, bulletins and maps, the job moved to the local forecast offices, like Taunton, MA and Upton, NY. Those offices have very capable forecasters (some of whom I’ve known for two decades).

Again, that’s missing the point.

By changing Hurricane Noel to an unnamed extratropical low, NHC signaled a diminished threat to the untrained public. That just wasn’t so.

There is already enough concern for public perception that the term “minimal hurricane” is no longer used in public bulletins.

Public safety officers, emergency managers and even broadcast meteorologists know exactly when and where to get data on tropical systems. It is specific and very different data than any other forecast product we get. The data from the local offices is totally different.

In the case of broadcasters, we all have equipment which automatically produces maps as the Hurricane Center’s data comes in! When that stopped, the ability to produce the most compelling and illuminating maps stopped. These maps made the case Noel meant business.

Based on the response I received from the director, I wonder if a “Hurricane of ’38″ scenario would also see the Hurricane Center back off!

Something’s got to be done. That’s the bad news. The good news is, these are very bright people. I hope they find a way to change their policies before someone gets hurt.

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Yikes – Dean Gets Stronger

Monday, August 20th, 2007

Earlier this evening, around 8:00 PM, The National Hurricane Center issued a statement saying Hurricane Dean had top winds of 155 mph.

DEAN IS AN EXTREMELY

DANGEROUS CATEGORY FOUR HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON SCALE.

SOME STRENGTHENING IS EXPECTED LATER TONIGHT…AND DEAN IS LIKELY

TO BECOME A CATEGORY FIVE HURRICANE PRIOR TO MAKING LANDFALL.

About a half hour later, based on recon data, Dean was upgraded to 160 mph.

000

WTNT64 KNHC 210034

TCUAT4

HURRICANE DEAN TROPICAL CYCLONE UPDATE

NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL042007

835 PM AST MON AUG 20 2007

DATA FROM THE AIR FORCE RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT CURRENTLY

INVESTIGATING HURRICANE DEAN INDICATE THAT MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS

HAVE INCREASED TO 160 MPH…MAKING DEAN A POTENTIALLY CATASTROPHIC

CATEGORY FIVE HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON HURRICANE SCALE.

$$

FORECASTER KNABB

There’s really no practical difference between 155 mph and 160 mph. Wind force increases logarithmically with the wind speed. But there’s a great perception difference, because at 160 mph, Hurricane Dean becomes a Category 5 storm.

Should Dean strike the Yucatan Peninsula as a Cat 5, it will be the first Atlantic Basin Category 5 landfall since Andrew, 15 years ago!

The only good news is, Dean will be sufficiently south of Cancun to produce less damage than a direct hit. It’s still going to crush the region mercilessly.

My Friend Kevin

Friday, June 1st, 2007

I got a call Thursday afternoon from Melanee Webster, my friend Kevin‘s wife. They were at Yale/New Haven Hospital getting ready to come home. It was Kevin’s wish.

I’m not sure what her exact words were, but I knew what she meant. If I was going to see Kevin again, the time was now.

This evening, after our early news, I made the drive to Cheshire.

I remember the first time Kevin and I met. We’re both ham radio operators. A mutual friend, Harold Kramer, had seen my antenna setup in the attic. He thought I’d do better if my wires were flying in the trees, so he called Kevin and another friend, John Fowler.

Kevin came to my house to do me a favor. He didn’t know me. He didn’t have to. He did favors for friends and strangers alike as a matter of course.

I was amazed as he pulled out a slingshot… something I’d only seen in Dennis the Menace cartoons, and shot a lead line into a tall tree. Before the afternoon was over, I had a wire antenna strung between two trees at the 80 foot level!

Where did he find the time? Kevin had four daughters and was extremely active in his church. He was always busy… and yet he was always available. That ‘busy’ and ‘available’ weren’t mutually exclusive was just part of his magic.

Kevin and I quickly became friends. We built radios together, went to computer shows and ham radio events and talked on the phone.

He was the ultimate technogeek. As the allure of ham radio was replaced by computers, Kevin adapted, becoming everyone’s ‘go to’ guy for tech support and help. As with antennas, Kevin helped everyone.

Sometimes, when facing a particularly puzzling challenge, he’d call me for advice. I’d like to think he was more savvy, but he inherently knew two heads were better than one and he didn’t have a jealous or envious bone in his body.

A few years ago, Kevin got into kayaking. One Saturday, he found a kayak for me to use so I could join him for a float on a lazy river. This river was well beneath his expertise, but he gave up a little to afford me a good time.

I say without fear of contradiction, Kevin Webster is the nicest man I’ve ever known or will ever meet. He is the proverbial ‘shirt off your back’ guy.

He was always up, always smiling, always laughing, even when he found out he had incurable pancreatic cancer. That was nearly a year ago. Too damned short a time.

I spent a good part of July 4th weekend last year trying to make sure Kevin would get the best care possible. My weather partner, Dr. Mel Goldstein (a cancer survivor himself and incredibly well connected) made calls to the top specialists in the field.

It was a holiday weekend, but time was of the essence. Dr. Mel just called them at home. I will never properly be able to express my gratitude for what he did for Kevin.

When I first discovered Kevin’s fate, I thought to myself, God must have made a mistake. Kevin’s not the one to take. It just doesn’t make any sense.

I’ve thought a lot about Kevin’s mortality over the past year. Surely he and Melanee have considered it more, but it was on my mind too.

In March, at a poker table in Las Vegas, I sat next to a man who was a counselor at a hospice in Texas. We talked about Kevin and my fears for him.

“No one ever dies scared,” he said.

I was taken aback. I asked him to explain.

He told me he had been with 800 people as they approached death and none of them were fearful as they approached their end. It was among the most reassuring things I’d ever heard. I wanted to write about it then, but I thought it might be uncomfortable or disrespectful if Kevin read it.

My hope is Kevin is not scared about what lies ahead.

My friend Harold and I walked into Kevin’s house tonight and into a downstairs bedroom. There was some hospital equipment, a bed with rails and Kevin sitting in a big chair.

It was tough to look. My poor friend has been ravaged by his cancer. His skin was ashen, his eyes sunk deeply into his skull, his breathing was shallow. His feet were in socks, but so swollen it looked like they were in casts. Later, when I helped him move, I saw his bruises from dozens of injections and probes.

At times, Kevin would just stop all motion and blankly stare ahead as if he were in suspended animation. It was tough not to think the end was coming right there.

He said a few words and acknowledged our presence, but I’m not sure how much he really understands right now. He’s sedated with opiates to control his pain. It’s a guess he was drifting in and out of consciousness.

Melanee sat by his side and gently comforted him. She is his life’s partner… the girl he met while they were both students at BYU. They were each other’s only tue love.

Neither of them could have anticipated this outcome when they pledged their love and lives to each other.

Kevin will soon be gone. His body is shutting down piece-by-piece. It’s tough to imagine he’ll live more than a few days in his current state.

Kevin’s last year was spent in pain, while suffering the indignity invasive medical treatment brings. And yet, if given the opportunity to stop the pain… end his life early… he would have said no.

He got to spend time with his granddaughter and watch another grandchild swell his daughter’s belly. He got to see another daughter graduate college; the second to do so.

He was proud when Marlene, his youngest daughter, a high school senior, trained and ran a race for charity in Miami. She showed maturity as she tackled an adult sized challenge.

Kevin spent a lot of the last year being up and happy and smiling and… well, he was just being Kevin. Until the very end, cancer could not strip him of that.

The sadness we experience when someone dies is often so overwhelming, we forget what it really means. We mourn the most those we love the most. As horrific as that pain is, it is worthwhile because of what we got in return.

Kevin, I will miss you every day. Our friendship will live in my heart forever.

A Plug For Kevin

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

In the past I’ve written about my friend Kevin, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this summer. What can I say? It’s a pretty devastating thing.

Kevin is amazing strong, both physically and mentally. He continues to undergo treatment (another round of chemo is in progress) and we continue to have hope. But, really, there’s no way to sugarcoat what’s going on in Kevin’s body.

His 16 year old daughter Marlene and sister-in-law Rachel will be running in the ING Marathon in Miami (Kevin works for ING) in January. They’re raising money for Pancreatic Cancer Research and are looking for sponsors.

Is it wrong for me to say I’d like you to help? Please click this link.

I’ve Become The London Lee Repository

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

A while ago, I wrote about London Lee, the iconic young Jewish comic of the mid and late 60s. I’m afraid for those just a few years younger than me, his name means nothing.

London Lee was huge. He was on Sullivan. He was on the Tonight Show. He was a comic on a meteoric rise… and then… you know… stuff happens.

There must not be a lot written about London Lee, because when people search his name, they often end up here. Most notes begin by acknowledging he was drop dead funny. I’ve heard from his friends, relatives, a few folks who despise him (London, trust me, stay clear of your cousin in Boca) and a woman who claims to have known him in Europe.

It’s funny, but I was just thinking about “London Lee”. I did the search and found your site.

London Lee was really the son of a wealthy garment center guy. His real name was Alan Levine and he lived on Central Park South NYC. That was in 1960-1-2.

My boyfriend at the time, who was a hustler and pool sharp (later to be a heroin addict), was staying with London in his studio there and that was how I met Alan/London.

I was impressed when I first saw him on TV and surprised at how really funny he was. I guess it was because it was all true stories and insecurities.

Amazingly, he does seem to have fallen off the face of the earth. Would have been in his mid to late 70′s I wonder if he is still alive…….

Maybe Miami Beach?

Sondra

He’s alive. I believe it’s Broward County, just to the north of Miami Beach. By the way, isn’t it more than a little unnerving to read her boyfriend/heroin reference of 45 years ago!

Today I got this:

Just read about London Lee.

He is performing at the Hillcrest Golf and Country Club in Hollywood, FL on Sunday October 29, 2006.

Thought your friend who e-mailed you might be interested.

Barry

So, obviously he is alive an well. There is quite a “Borscht Belt II” circuit playing for retirees in South Florida. He is in good company.

The real reason I’m posting this is this remarkable photo I got from Harry Watts. How lucky am I that Harry took it in August 1968, kept it safe all these years, digitized it and then sent it to me via email nearly 40 years after the fact?

The scene is the Boardwalk in pre-casino Atlantic City. This photo is looking north and the ocean is off camera to the right. Back then A.C. was a hopping resort town.

Steel Pier was, and is again, located at Virginia and Boardwalk. It was known for it’s diving horse (whether it was actually a free will diving horse is another story) and it’s big name acts.

Appearing along with London Lee was John Fred and his Playboy Band. Their hit, “Judy in Disguise” went to number one in January 1968. Also on the bill, somewhat incongruously, was Don Glasser’s Orchestra, a “smooth as glass” dance band.¹

The photo is a one of a kind, and I’m deeply grateful to Harry for allowing me to post it.

Take a look at the people and what they’re wearing. Atlantic City was where you went, even on this gray summer day, to get away from the heat, forget about the rest of the world, and have a little fun.

¹ – Amazingly, Don’s band still performs, though without Don.

Because this page is so often searched and found, it has been reopened for comments.

Unintended Consequences Google Style

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

As long as I’m here, I thought it might be fun to be a guest lecturer for my folks condo’s computer club. A few years ago I spoke to the camera club.

This is an active community. There’s a club for nearly everything.

The meeting was set for 1:00 PM, but as is the Florida tradition, everyone came early.

The computer club meets in the clubhouse. It’s the air conditioned town square for this complex. The club has its own room with banks of computers and monitors. They are wired so each can be independent or they all can watch what’s going on at the head of the table. It’s pretty clever and put together on a shoestring budget.

My talk was about blogs. What the hell – I have some expertise. Many of the participants had heard the word, but had no idea what it was. These are computing neophytes.

I spoke and demonstrated and answered questions. It was pretty nice. They are really anxious to learn.

Someone asked about finding old friends. Actually, the question was asked a few times in different ways and I realized to the people in this room, this was a big deal

I used my folks as an example, entering my father’s name into Google. Then I entered my parent’s phone number and watched Google cough up the address.

I was a hit.

We talked about how couples will check each other out online before the first date. Google has spawned the act of googling.

Then a woman threw out her daughter’s name. It was a little unusual, so she spelled it and I entered it letter by letter. Within a few seconds Google displayed a page full of results.

The woman looked on her screen, recognized her daughter’s name and another, the daughter’s boyfriend. Meanwhile, I was reading ahead. Each of the six or seven entries on the page referred to the couple’s arrest in Miami on smuggling charges!

If this poor woman knew, she wasn’t letting on. I changed the page quickly, hoping the rest of the group wouldn’t catch on.

Good grief! That’s not what I want to get when I Google a name. I was turned tomato red.

I stayed a few minutes more then beat a hasty retreat. I’m not sure how long they’ll remember that nice young man, Harold’s son, who spoke to their group. I will never forget meeting the mother of a smuggler at the condo’s computer club.

Hurricane Wilma And South Florida

Monday, October 24th, 2005

Helaine and I were asleep when the phone rang at 6:30 AM PDT. It was my friend Wendie, who lives and works in the Miami area.

Wendie left her house early Sunday evening and headed to a hotel. She expected her family would join her, though they never did. Everyone has checked in and is OK.

As someone who’s been through her share of hurricanes, Wendie has the proper perspective to make a qualitative comparative judgment. Wilma was the worst.

Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. Certainly, after years of being battered, each succeeding storm leaves you somewhat worse for wear. There’s no doubt Wendie was terrorized by Hurricane Wilma.

Reports from her neighbors tell her she has lost her porch. There might be more structural damage, but there’s no way to know right now.

Ask me how glad I am we made sure my parents got out early? Ask me how happy my parents are?

They’ve already been on the phone with neighbors who tell them there’s no power (same with Wendie) and many trees are down. One neighbor had a tree hit her window.

Hurricane Center Disappointment

Monday, October 10th, 2005

The Miami Herald has undertaken a multipart study of the National Hurricane Center and related tropical prediction facilities run by NOAA. I have just read whatever is already on line and I am shocked… maybe sickened is a better word.

Many things I thought were well taken care of, are not.

Equipment doesn’t work or isn’t designed correctly. Budgets are (in my opinion) improperly allocated. What should be considered incredibly important is allowed to take a back seat.

I know some people at NHC. They are impressive. But, predicting tropical weather is complex. A full data set is incredibly important.

Katrina was a forecasting success, but there have been so many forecasting errors. Forecast errors are costly in dollars and lives.

Here’s a good starting off point, but this story is divided into a bunch of pages and will continue through this week.

What Katrina’s Forecasters Are Thinking

Sunday, August 28th, 2005

I’m writing this from the Mohegan Sun Hotel in Eastern Connecticut. Tomorrow I’ll be emceeing a program for Norwich Free Academy. It starts so early, the only way to make it work was to stay on site.

What a spectacular hotel. It is attached to a spectacular casino, which would be a great place for me to go… but they don’t have poker anymore.

More on all of this tomorrow. Tonight there are bigger fish to fry in the form of Hurricane Katrina.

I’ve got WWL-TV streaming here on the computer. This is much better than watching coverage on the cable networks.

The cable networks are more polished and hard hitting. This local New Orleans station is providing the kind of news people there need.

Carl Arredondo, who I remember from The Weather Channel, is their chief meteorologist. He’s pretty solid.

I just watched another met do a fascinating explanation of the radar display. There’s no time for this except on New Orleans TV where tonight, there’s nothing but time!

I know what the forecasters are thinking… the local guys and the PhD’s at the Hurricane Center. Am I right? Did I miss anything?

Forecasters have spent the last few days scaring the living… well, you know… scaring people. Now they have a moral dilemma.

If the forecast comes true, people get hurt (maybe die) and property loss is great. If they’re wrong, they become the goat. “Why did you make us leave? For this?”

Snow forecasts are similar, but the downside to this is so much greater. This really is a life and death forecast. And, accuracy of track to the degree people want and a good intensity forecast are beyond the current state of the art.

We can be close. We cannot get it exactly right – ever, except maybe by accident.

Tonight I spoke with a friend in the Miami area. She had been through Hurricane Katrina last week when Katrina was a ‘minimal hurricane’. She only got her power back today. She still has no phone service.

New Orleans will be hit so much harder.

She also said, fill up the car tonight. Gasoline prices will skyrocket tomorrow. I’m afraid she’s right on that forecast.

Katrina Shifts West Again

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

Earlier this afternoon, before the Hurricane Center issued its 5:00 PM update on Katrina, I sent an instant message to my friend Bob at FSU. I told him I was putting up a dollar that Katrina’s forecast would be shifted left.

It was.

I had the exact same feeling tonight… and NHC moved it again.

Maybe feeling is the wrong word, because this isn’t intuition or guesswork. I could see signs. The storm was refusing to make the predicted right turn. In fact, it was traveling south of west.

To the north there was some sort of convergence. Feeder bands from the hurricane were meeting something moving from the north. Clouds were showing up bright white – a sign they were developing vertically.

Whatever it was to the north, it would impede that right turn forecast at the Hurricane Center.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. The best hurricane information is often contained in the forecaster’s technical discussion. These really were meant to be ‘internal use only’ documents, but you can’t do that when you work for the government.

In these the lead forecaster discusses what has gone into the latest forecast package. I’m sure it’s very helpful at NHC after the hurricane season is over or whenever post mortems are done.

I’ll attach tonight’s at the end of this message so you can get a feel for yourself. This one was written by Dr. Lixion Avila, one of NHC’s hurricane specialists. Four of the six specialists are Ph D’s. This is specialized work.

Sometimes, I sense, things are thrown in with the understanding that it’s more than meteorologists reading.

KATRINA IS FORECAST TO MOVE DIRECTLY OVER THE WARM

LOOP CURRENT OF THE GULF OF MEXICO…WHICH IS LIKE ADDING HIGH

OCTANE FUEL TO THE FIRE

No one trained in weather needed that line. Some surface water in the Northern Gulf of Mexico is 90+. Without a doubt, this is a dangerous storm and getting more dangerous by the minute.

My biggest fear is Katrina will head west of New Orleans and strike the coast there. A Category 4 storm (which is the forecast) in that location would be devastating. For a variety of reasons, New Orleans is incredibly vulnerable and a strike like that would be the worst of all possible scenarios!

IT IS WORTH NOTING THAT THE GUIDANCE SPREAD HAS DECREASED AND MOST OF THE RELIABLE NUMERICAL MODEL TRACKS ARE NOW CLUSTERED BETWEEN THE EASTERN COAST OF LOUISIANA AND THE COAST OF MISSISSIPPI. THIS CLUSTERING INCREASES THE CONFIDENCE IN THE FORECAST.

Man, I hope he’s right. So far, this storm has been poorly forecast¹. And, recently, each succeeding forecast has moved the path farther left… farther to the west.

Today alone, the center of the forecast path for landfall has moved a few hundred miles.

More on Katrina later. We have a few days with this storm at sea before the real trouble begins.

¹ – By poorly forecast, I don’t mean NHC did a bad job. I mean the ability to forecast this particular storm was beyond the capabilities of science at the moment. Something’s there that no one can get a handle on. That we don’t know exactly why it went wrong is as troubling as it going wrong… maybe more.

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