The heart of the storm season arrives with one going north

Published 4:24 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Today is the first of August and the month when we really begin watching for the tropics to be come more active, and, of course, yesterday we had a reminder though it was no where near us.

Tropical Storm Chantal formed up off the East Coast Tuesday morning, an area that seldom gets hurricanes and other tropical weather, but which forecasters say is long overdue. Folks up there didn’t have anything to worry about with Chantal, though. Forecasters said she was going to go closer to New Foundland and Ireland than she was to the United States.

I don’t know if the folks Up East had the good sense to breath a sigh of relief, since it has been about 50 or more years since they really weathered a storm, but they should have been relieved.

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The doom-and-gloom talking heads on television at the beginning of the season were full of dire projections on how much damage even a small hurricane could do to New York if one strikes there. The damage potentially could be more costly than what Hurricane Katrina did to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and even New Orleans.

I wonder if New York has any canals like the 17th Street Canal being protected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If they do, then they really better watch out.

There is one thing of which you may be certain, though. If a storm does strike up there, no matter how much damage it does you won’t hear calls for abandoning that Toddling Town like you heard for abandoning New Orleans and the Mississippi Coast, but especially New Orleans, in the days after Hurricane Katrina left us so bruised and battered as we searched out and buried our dead.

No, New York is where such opinions are formed and you may be certain that town and its residents consider themselves exceptions to the rule they would like to see in place for everyone else about living close to the sea.

A few good things might come of such a storm strike, though, the major one being that the insurance industry may suddenly find itself undergoing the reform for which it is long overdue.

You also might see more money going into the National Weather Service for storm forecasting rather than the agency having to take financial cuts so the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration can loudly and publicly pat itself on the back essentially for nothing.

New York is big enough and brash enough that not even the current president can ignore it the way he did Mississippi and Louisiana in the days following Hurricane Katrina.

I don’t want a hurricane to strike anywhere in the United States, though I know one will, but I can’t help but think of the likely benefits of a landfall in New York City to all of us who have to worry about such storms year after year.

In the meantime, I will worry about Ireland, though I have been there when some sort of storm struck the Cliffs of Moher, where it seemed to faze only the tourists.

We had stopped there on the way from Kerry to Galway, even though it was threatening more of the rain we had been going through as we drove along those narrow, winding, Irish roads. When we stopped at the reception center and attempted to approach the cliffs, the wind literally drove us back, it was so strong.

I remember wondering at the time if they get hurricanes in Ireland. I also remember thinking that it was awfully late for a hurricane, since it was in the latter part of November that we were there that year.

I should have asked someone what type of storm was blowing outside when we went back into the reception center, but the place was crowded with other tourists like us and the folks working there were awfully busy.

The storm predictions for us this year have ranged all over the map, with the Weather Service sticking by its guns of 17 storms. Professor Gray has reduced his prediction slightly and the English, who only recently have gotten into the business of forecasting a storm season, put the number of storms they expect this year down around 10.

I hope the English are right and I hope the storms all go somewhere other than here. A repeat of last year when so little happened and still less struck a coastline would be nice, but I suppose that’s too much to wish for.

In the meantime, I’ll keep my eye on the tropics and start sweating a little extra anytime one gets into the Gulf of Mexico.