Thursday, July 1, 2021

Tropical Storm Elsa

There is a tendency especially in a  community occupied by many people unused to summer in the Keys to view hurricanes rather as though they are alligators. Some are slightly over confident around alligators and others are excessively spooked. Hurricanes, the other Florida stereotype, have a similar effect. Tropical Storm Elsa may be a lioness or a pussy cat but at this stage no one knows. 
July the Fifth, the projected day of landfall will mark my 18th (and final) year in dispatch, for I was entered into the Police Department books on July 5th 2004. I have sat through every single hurricane since then and I am sick of them. Next year if I am sitting in a  cold windy downpour on a muddy Alaska Highway and I get word of a storm in the Caribbean I shall rejoice at my good fortune, and cold rainy Alaskan summers days are something I rather dread at this stage of planning.
The prediction at this point ion the storm's progress is for a mild mannered windy tropical downpour to invest the Keys possibly avoiding the national holiday by a few short hours.  I suppose the idea at the moment is to celebrate, spend money and then scatter before the projected 65 mph winds and horizontal slashing rains sweep the islands. The much desired hope is for an arrival Monday night or Tuesday morning so celebrants will be evacuated or buttoned up well before the winds get noisy.
I am sure there will be all manner of predictions and projections as the storm gets closer. In the ordinary course of things a storm rated at Category One  or less  wouldn't pose much of a threat, especially after crossing the tall mountain range  in Cuba that sits astride it's course. Hurricanes (which do not actually have genders or personalities despite all evidence to the contrary) gain strength by traveling forwards slowly and so far Elsa has a forward speed of 25 miles per hour which is good for everyone concerned. The other thing is that the more they travel over land the more they lose strength. That's because the winds gain power from passing over warm waters.
For those reasons one has a right to hope that Tropical Storm Elsa might be little more than a spot of wind and rain on Tuesday, but there is the possible wrinkle of sudden intensification. My friend Webb who sails and monitors the weather has observed the phenomenon of sudden and severe intensification of  relatively mild storms.
I don't recall in the past a storm that came off Cuba as a Category One  a ("Cat" One in the hyper stressed jargon of modern hurricane aficionados) which multiplied into a Category Four in all those many years of sitting here and waiting to be smacked by a hurricane. Webb pointed out the phenomenon in the past couple of years of severe storms growing out of nowhere so I have decided to keep a close eye on these things.
It becomes a Pooh Bear routine all summer long if this is the track most summer hurricanes will follow the rest of the season, and the first storm tends to predict the popular path. Pooh and the Huny Pot come to mind in which he ate the honey from the pot and used the pot to store the broken balloon So just as he he put things in and then took them out, we do the same all hurricane season, putting things like garden furniture and plants inside out of harm's way, and then after the storm passes we take them out again.  Over and over again and keep hoping each time it's not Armageddon. I'd much rather face off against an alligator.

The Saffir-Simpson Scale for reference, call them cats if you want to sound hip: