Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Gender Equality Comes To Tropical Cyclones
Well.........I do live on the east coast of the US, with a major hurricane approaching, so what else did you expect me to talk about?
Tropical cyclones used to all be given female names, but now in the spirit of gender equality, they are now named after boys as well. Oh.......what a long way we've come! Witness Earl: a category 3 storm, now down graded from a category 4, yet still threatening the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The Outer Banks are mere spits of sand, jutting out into the Atlantic. In my younger days, back in the late 70's and early 80's, they used to be one of my favorite summer haunts. I used to camp for a week every spring or summer on Ocracoke Island, just south of Cape Hatteras. They are very fragile bits of turf, extending out into what can often become a raging sea, and in the past they have paid the consequences. Oregon Inlet, that divides Nags Head from Hatteras Island, and Ocracoke Inlet, which divides Cape Hatteras from Ocracoke Island, were both created by major east coast hurricanes many years ago.
Indeed Hurricane Isabel in 2003, actually cut another inlet through Hatteras Island, that had to be filled back in, so that Hatteras residents could get off their island. That storm decided to make a bee line from the coast, right up through my back yard! Literally scaring the wits out of me, as I hunkered down for the night in pitch black darkness, listening to the wind howl through the trees, while limbs cracked, and whole trees fell with a resounding thud! I was sure the next thud would split my house in two, but thankfully I was spared. I did have five trees come down, including one rather large one that missed my house by not much more than ten feet, but the rest were either small, or fell away from the house.
Like tornadoes, hurricanes are a truly beautiful phenomena, as long as you can view them from afar. In the picture at the top of this post, Earl looks almost innocuous in scale. To get a true feel of the tremendous size and power of a hurricane, look at this photo of Earl, taken from the Interntional Space Station (click, then enlarge). Imagine 125-135 MPH winds beneath the clouds of that monster!If all predictions are true, Earl will stay about 150 miles off shore, but will still assault the beaches of the Outer Banks with hurricane force winds, destructive waves and dangerous rip tides.
I have some experience with rip tides, having once been caught in one off the beach at Ocracoke. It was like swimming against a river, trying to get back to the beach. I had actually resigned myself to drowning, then just as I was about to give up the ghost, my toes touched sand! Best luck of my life!