That one characterization pretty much sums up Hurricane Rita’s arrival on the Gulf Coast. In reality, everyone lucked out.
There is a very fine line in being a weatherman (I can actually refer to myself as meteorologist, but I’m worried it sounds pretentious when it comes from me and not someone else). With big storms, you want to be accurate and convey the gravity of the situation without going overboard.
I spent a good part of the last few days hoping my worst fears would be wrong – and hoping if they were, people would not punish me for a forecast that was too pessimistic. In essence, I wanted to be right and wrong at the very same time.
When Hurricane Rite first clocked in at 175 mph, I swallowed hard. That’s quite a spectacular example of physics at work. There’s not much that can take 175 mph sustained winds – or the 200+ mph gusts that accompany them.
I knew the storm would diminish, you don’t need to be a meteorological genius to know that, but I didn’t know how much.
And, of course, I worried about the imponderables in Houston and even Dallas. Maybe I’ve read too many scientific papers where theory rules and the real world is just an imaginary setting. We really haven’t seen a significant hurricane blow through a city of tall buildings, like Houston.
Rita came on shore overnight. She’s a tropical storm now and will probably become a regular old low pressure system soon. The damage is significant. If we hadn’t had Hurricane Katrina, it would seem a lot worse. The damage will be calculated with 10 digit numbers as opposed to 11 or 12.
Amazing. We look at damage in the billions of dollars and marvel how we got off easy.
There is a rising tide of popular opinion that wants to tie this year’s hurricane season into Global Warming. And, of course, Global Warming proponents (they are for the theory, not for the outcome) are quick to fan these flames.
You can’t base scientific theory on popular opinion – and certainly not on one or two years of storms in only one of the world’s hurricane basins. This is much too complex to draw a conclusion from that small amount of data.
When I was a kid, I never could understand how the United States had any people before 1900, because everyone I knew was an immigrant, child of immigrants or grandchild of immigrants. I only knew what I personally saw. I didn’t have a broad enough set of facts and circumstances to make an educated stab at a theory.
I was a kid. Lack of scientific basis or proper research techniques didn’t stop me. I am scared that same kind of logic is in play today.
Meanwhile, out in the Atlantic, auditions for “Stan” have just begun: