Hurricanes are a fact of life for folks who enjoy living on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. But Mother Nature's version of the spin cycle on your washing machine is just like paying taxes — you don't look forward to it but you know it's going to happen.
This week, we find ourselves with the potential of making meteorological history by having two storms — potentially hurricanes — coming ashore in the northern gulf within a very short period of time. Laura and Marco are their names.
Since this week's conversation is written and submitted before any fireworks in the Gulf of Mexico, we won't have specifics on when and where the storms are likely to make landfall. The best news available is that it appears we will experience little impact from Marco in our neck of the woods. I'm saying that with fingers crossed. Things change quickly.
After Marco loses its punch, Laura will be next to spin her way out of the gulf. This would be unprecedented — having two storms so close together. And forecasters say Laura should be much stronger than her partner. By the time you read this, you'll know more about her track and if Alabama will be impacted by it.
At breakfast this morning, my wife asked me who names storms. "Good question," I replied. My immediate response would have been The National Hurricane Center. That seemed the obvious choice. But had I gone with that response, I would have been wrong.
Today, the storms are named according to standards developed by the World Meteorological Organization. The WMO gives out names from a list of 21 male and female names which are used on a six-year rotation.
So what happens if we run of names — with storms still on the horizon? The WMO would use names from the Greek alphabet. The only time a name is retired if it had been given to a particularly deadly or costly storm.
Before storms were named, they were often referred to by the city or area where the greatest damage was inflicted.
Take for instance the Great Galveston Storm of 1900, the deadliest storm in U.S. history. It's estimated that somewhere been 8,000 and 12,000 people died and the thriving Texas city was all but destroyed when a hurricane came ashore with little notice on the night of September 8, 1900.
The deadliest storm in modern times was Hurricane Maria in 2017 — 4,600 people died when the Category 5 hurricane struck the island nation of Puerto Rico.
We often hear the power of a hurricane measured on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. The least powerful storm — winds of 74-94 mph — is called a Category 1. Cat 2 storms have winds from 96-110 mph. Winds clocked between 111 and 129 mph are Cat 3. Moving up the scale to Cat 4, winds are measured between 130-156 mph.
And the top of the Saffir-Simpson, a Cat 5, registers top wind speeds from 157 mph and above. The Cat. 5 hurricanes will inflict "catastrophic damage" leaving areas in ruins — often without power for weeks or even months. The massive Hurricane Andrew which devastated South Florida in 1992 was a Cat 5.
We'll have to thank the good Lord that we're not dealing with that kind of powerful storm.
Although you can take this as good opportunity to stock up on supplies for lesser emergencies. My thinking is that you can never have too many batteries of all sizes for that occasional power outage. How about you?
Also, stay healthy and we'll beat this Covid-19 thing, too.