The developing situation along the Gulf coast bears witness to the fact that anyone living near the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico must stay ever vigilant. Only last year we had the situation with Hurricane Humberto developing quickly into a small but potent storm and now we have Edouard seemingly coming out of nowhere to pose problems for not only the coastal areas but offshore oil drilling platforms.
No one expects Edouard to become much more than a strong tropical storm, but some computer models are expecting it to strengthen to a hurricane before coming ashore near Houston. The problem with this whole scenario is that only three days ago, no one expected there to even be a tropical depression, let alone a storm.
The question that begs to be answered is how with all the computers and all the forecasting tools available to meteorologists does a storm form so close to the shore of the United States without warning? The answer is that there are private companies which were speaking of the possibility of a storm days ago. It was only the official government agency which did not.
The formation of these storms so close to land and their rapid intensification is new phenomena. For too long, the standard forecasting tools did not take into account the ability of storms to form and ramp up as quickly as they are now doing. Until the “official” tools catch up with the reality of what is happening, these “surprise” storms will keep popping up.
What if sometime down the road one of these storms springs to life within 24 hours and stalls. While hovering offshore it strengthens and keeps growing. What if one of these little storms suddenly turns into a storm like Wilma in 2005 or Charley in 2004 and explodes as it reaches shore. What if one of these storms does this right over Houston or New Orleans?
If the people have ho advance warning than there is no safe way to evacuate them from harm’s way. If there is not at least 36 hours or more to prepare for a hurricane, the result will be confusion, pandemonium and a disaster almost as bad as the actual storm. Hurricane Dolly last month proved that a little storm can cause much damage if aimed at the right spot.
Even if Edouard only ends up bringing much needed rain to Texas and little else; it needs to be viewed as a wakeup call to those who live and have business interests along the Gulf Coast as well as the Atlantic coast. Preparation is the key to survival as well as minimizing the impact of such storms. Since the forecasting agencies are somewhat playing “catch up” with these kinds of storms, it places an even greater degree of urgency that preparations for storms are in place even when no storm is there.
Anyone living within 100 miles of the Gulf Coast or Atlantic Ocean should have a plan in place for what to do if a storm pays a surprise visit. If planning to stay put, then provisions MUST be in place well in advance of a storm, for once it is upon you, there is no way to find food, fuel, wood, etc. It is one thing to have days of advance warning of an impending storm; it is quite another to have 24 hours or less.
In our “get it done at the last minute” society, it is very hard to slow down long enough to think through what is needed and what to do if one of these surprise storms forms near you. But, it is no longer something that is optional, the time needs to be made to make plans and get provisions in place NOW. Even if not needed this year, then at least the worry is gone for next year’s hurricane season.
Think about the worst case scenario even with Edouard; it suddenly strengthens today off the coast of Louisiana and stalls long enough to become a strong category 3 hurricane and then takes aim on Houston. It was absolute mayhem three years ago when Houston had days of advance warning for Rita. What if there were only hours of advance warning instead of days? That is why plans and provisions must be made in advance. I strongly urge anyone reading this to “prepare for the worst and keep praying for the best”, not only with the current storm, but in all matters of natural disasters.