Not out of the woods

Published 6:28 pm Monday, August 13, 2007

By Staff
From The Daily News of Jacksonville, Aug. 6
Passing almost unnoticed amid the cacophony and rush to complete legislation at the end of the state legislative session and the rush to get out of Washington, D.C., for Congress was the pronouncement by a national hurricane researcher that lowered his estimate of anticipated hurricane activity for 2007. Not a single word of joy sounded from the lips of those traditionally in the paths of hurricanes and tropical storms — including the much beleaguered targets in this neck of the woods.
Folks in this area could be forgiven if they greeted such news with a shrug and look toward the eastern horizon.
They have learned through painful experience that hurricanes will come … or not; they will wreak havoc … or not.
It doesn’t much matter what the predictions are if one decides to come your way. Despite the revision in predicted numbers and intensity, most area residents know that the odds of unwanted hurricane activity remain strong enough to keep their generators in working order.
William Gray, who has been making hurricane forecasting his business for more than two decades, originally predicted 17 named storms and nine hurricanes. Gray anticipated five of the hurricanes would be ‘‘intense.’’
But Gray apparently noticed some changes that affect hurricane development: cooler Pacific waters, more atmospheric dust, and tweaked his original prediction, bumping down the numbers from 17 named storms to 15 with eight hurricanes, a drop of one.
While it would have been nice ifa Gray had said hurricanes wouldn’t be an issue of concern in 2007, he didn’t; but if populations most likely to be affected by a hurricane making landfall continue to pay close attention, the amount of damage done by a storm coming ashore can be affected by taking early, hurricane-specific action.
For those who have been through the hurricanes and storms that have directly hit or simply brushed up against the area’s coast, the message is a vital one: Be prepared. Simply because June and July have been mild and August has not yet spawned hurricane-force winds is not grounds for confidence that North Carolina will not show up in the bull’s eye during the 2007 season. In fact, Gray still predicts a whirlwind of hurricane activity.
Gray says that August will produce three named storms and two hurricanes, one of which will be intense. September, traditionally the time of the greatest hurricane activity, according to Gray will keep its title with five named storms, and four hurricanes, two of which Gray predicts will be intense. October and November, the last two months of the Atlantic hurricane season, will offer one intense hurricane from the forecast five named storms and two hurricanes.
The good news: Two of the 15 named storms Gray counted in his tally have already occurred, so that leaves 13 more with which to contend. The bad news: A lot can happen in four months, and, if Gray is correct, it will.
The lesson for coastal residents is obvious: there’s no relaxing until the season is over. Be prepared: to protect homes and property; to safely evacuate with any pets from dangerous situations; and to ride out any storm with enough food, potable water and other supplies to last a while.
The threat may not be quite as ominous as it once was, but the North Carolina coastline is not yet home free. Judging by what Gray said, it will be another four months before coastal residents can exhale.