Hurricane Bill – Use The Power Wisely

I walk a thin line. I don’t want to panic people. I don’t want to lull them into complacency either.

hurricane-bill-visible.jpgLet me put you in my chair for just a moment.

Hurricane Bill is headed directly toward the US mainland at the moment. That’s scary. Of course forecasting weather is not just extending the current path. There are all sorts of variables taken into account. Bill should begin a sweeping right hand turn paralleling the coast over the next few days.

There is uncertainty so I look at Bill with respect and some trepidation.

I walk a thin line. I don’t want to panic people. I don’t want to lull them into complacency either.

Not only do I have to sell the most likely scenario to the public, I have to sell it to my co-workers. They are constantly on the lookout for good stories. What would cause more interest than a storm heading our way? I can’t let them ‘wishcast’.

Mission accomplished today. We handled a hurricane preparedness story in Stonington with the gravity it deserved without sending people into shock.

I have to remain diligent. We have to use the power wisely.

Interesting Weather Story

Unfortunately this resulted in one of the worst naval disasters in navy history (3 ships sunk, 28 ships damaged, 146 aircraft destroyed, 756 men lost at sea

I hadn’t heard about Reid Bryson until I received an email this morning. My partner at work, Dr. Mel Goldstein, knew of his work. Bryson was a pioneer in meteorology.

So much of what academicians look at is theoretical – Ivory Tower stuff. This is a story about practical meteorology, practiced before computers and voluminous data made it easy… even for guys like me… to tackle.

This was forwarded to me by a friend who reads the highly regarded (and impossible to get on) Tropical-storms mailing list:

I have the sad news to report that Professor Emeritus Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin – Madison passed away in his sleep Wednesday morning. Reid founded the Department of Meteorology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1948 . Although Reid is most well known for his work in Climate,People and the Environment,it is less known that Reid was also a pioneer in tropical meteorology and hurricane forecasting. As U.S. Army Air Corps meteorologist out of Saipan, Marshall Islands during World War II (December, 1944),

Reid pieced together evidence that a typhoon was apparently developing in harms way and commissioned reconnaissance of the storm that he believed surrounding observations suggested must exist in one of the many data void regions. The reconnaissance that he ordered found the storm, encountered 140 kt winds and aborted an apparent eye wall penetration.

Reid then identified a trough of low pressure in the storms path and predicted to his superiors that the storm would recurve into the path of the US Third Fleet. Believing that typhoons never recurve so far to the east, Reid’s superior officers chose to not believe his forecast.

Reid pleaded that this was not a guess, they actually flew into the storm and measured the winds! His superior officers conceded to watch it closely but did not act to move the fleet. Reid tells me that he went so far as to place unofficial warnings (off the record) of his own which he is convinced did save lives.

Then 36 hours later the storm began the recurve, just as Reid predicted and they tried to move the Third Fleet out of the way, but it was now too late.

Unfortunately this resulted in one of the worst naval disasters in navy history (3 ships sunk, 28 ships damaged, 146 aircraft destroyed, 756 men lost at sea (see Henderson, 2007: Down to the Sea, ISBN978-0-06-117316-5 for a detailed account of this incident).

I suppose that this experience went a long way to shape Reid’s views on conventional thought and to compel him to dedicate the rest of his life to the science of weather and finding truth.

Greg Tripoli


Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

University of Wisconsin – Madison

What Hath AccuWeather Wrought

I was scrutinizing Drudge last night when I saw the headline.

I began to get upset. Then, I read AccuWeather’s release, which was headlined:

Threat of Major Hurricane Strike Grows for Northeast Warns That “Weather Disaster of Historic Proportions” Could Strike as Early as This Year

The release went on to quote Joe Bastardi, one of AccuWeather’s meteorologists as saying:

“The Northeast coast is long overdue for a powerful hurricane.

That’s like saying a slot machine is overdue because it hasn’t paid out in a while. In statistics, the likelihood of a 100 year event doesn’t increase just because you’ve gone 99 years without seeing one.

I went to the weather bulletin board where I sometimes post and left this:

I read the AccuWeather release and my blood boiled. As far as I know, there’s no such thing as “overdue” in statistics. I’m assuming all their meteorologists, including Joe Bastardi, took statistics courses.

When people come up to me in the supermarket and say we hype the weather – they’re talking about stuff like this.

What AccuWeather missed – the real story – is, a Hurricane of ’38 scenario would create a civil catastrophe before it struck! Though they mention Providence as the storm’s focal point, the center actually struck nearly 100 miles west, in Milford, Connecticut.

The biggest damage was that far east because it was no longer a classic tropical system. First, it was moving at better than 60 mph (I’m doing this off the top of my head – allow a little leeway). It had also been over colder water and was probably transitioning to extratropical.

How would we warn for a storm which went from the Bahamas to New England in about a day, and whose damage would be so far east of the center? Hurricane Warnings from Atlantic City, NJ to Portland, ME? It boggles the mind.

Would we evacuate all of New England? Could we? Where would they go?

As it is, on a Sunday evening the Mass Pike backs up for miles at the I-84 exit. I-95 through most of Eastern Connecticut is 2-lanes in each direction, and the area just east of New Haven will be under construction for much of the next decade. That’s without all of Boston and Providence heading west.

But, back to AccuWeather. Is this like yelling fire in a crowded theater? I don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t have put out the statement they put out, but that’s their choice to make.

I believe they’re honorable people. Joel Meyers certainly has a long and storied reputation and has been honored for his contributions to the public’s well being and safety.

I know folks at AccuWeather read this. I would like to see Joel personally revisit this particular statement. If this is how he really feels, fine.

My hope is, he’ll provide more specifics and less hyperbole.

So, there you have it. Yes – New England is vulnerable, but no more vulnerable today than it was last year at this time.

We need solid action to prepare, not hyperbole and scare tactics.

Fixing a Phone – Driving Us Crazy

The phone went out yesterday during very heavy rains. This is understandable. I’m not thrilled, but I understand.

Yesterday, SNET said we’d have service today (and we very well might). But when Helaine took Steffie to school and there was still no service, she was concerned, so when she went shopping, she called repair with the cell phone.

The automated service said: “Thursday.”

On to the live voice. “It’s a widespread outage”, the voice says. “They’re working on it now. It will probably be repaired today.”

I would have written about none of this, except about 15 minutes ago, the phone starting ringing every once in a while. Sometimes a short ring. Sometimes a long ring. Sometimes a few rings.

Picking up the phone left us with the hum and clicks we’ve had for the past day. Sometimes, buried deep in the static, I heard the reassuring warble of low frequency ring voltage.

They’re testing and fixing. Great.

But we have to go to the phone each and every time it rings and make sure they’re fixing and it’s not a real call.

During this time, anyone calling our home has received a busy signal. No “out of service” recording. Just busy. You’d think there’s something a little more descriptive they could use?