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Wednesday, Oct, 22, 2014
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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Sandscript

Line may blur on hurricane forecasts; more big boat stories

"The line" may be erased next hurricane season.

Some officials at the National Hurricane Center want to eliminate the line that is embedded in the middle of a storm forecast map since it often confuses people as to the exact path of a storm.

Folks should instead pay attention to the cone of probable strike locations, according to NHC Director Max Mayfield, and act accordingly.

Although hurricane modeling and predictions have improved greatly during the decades, the five-day forecast still has a 300-mile margin of error in projected-versus-real landfall of a storm. The 24-hour forecast has up to 90 miles of differential.

As we learned with Hurricane Charley Aug. 13, that 90 miles spelled the difference between the projected landfall "line" at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and the actual landfall - and devastation - at Punta Gorda.

Or take Hurricane Frances on Labor Day weekend. Although the actual storm track was very, very close to the forecast track, the storm was so huge that almost all of Florida was engulfed in winds, waves and rainfall as the storm lumbered across the state.

The response to removing the track line is mixed. Federal Emergency Management Agency officials like the line; some emergency management officials want it gone.

And there is still the concern that even without the line, people will just figure the middle of the cone will be the only problem area and internally draw their own line in the path cone.

One thing that may help with the problem is a better forecasting model - due out soon.

Mayfield has said that the NHC should be able to provide forecasts that indicate where tropical force and hurricane force winds will be within the track in the next few years. The extra features will enable folks to better judge when to leave or when to hunker down.

I say, rub out the line. Despite the fact that we all should know that the entire cone is the thing to watch, I can't help but pay attention to that red line drawn on the screens. It's wrong to do it, but I can't help myself. Maybe without that line I'll be better able to focus on the big picture.

More storms coming?
Dr. Bill Gray (hurricane weather expert) at Colorado State University has been preaching for several years now that the United States is entering into a more active hurricane cycle, with more storms and more big storms developing due to global climate changes. He has pooh-poohed the concept of global warming playing a role in the blossoming Atlantic Ocean hurricane rise, though.

Now, officials with the National Center for Atmospheric Research are saying "the North Atlantic hurricane season of 2004 may well be a harbinger of the future."

That group points to the four hurricanes that hit Florida in a five-week period, the most to strike a state since 1886, as a sign of the times and they believe that global warming will result in warmer water temperatures and more tropical storm development.

A good indicator, they said, was the development of the first-ever recorded hurricane south of the equator in the Atlantic, a storm that struck the coast of Brazil last March. Remember, March is summertime in the southern hemisphere.

Of course, there are others who disagree. Vigorously.

There have been lots of disputes in the science journals about that South American storm, with lots of folks disputing it as a true hurricane.

And other scientists join Dr. Gray in disputing global warming as an element that is kick-starting hurricanes.

I hope the latter is right, but fear the former is correct, but agree that we all may disagree on what's right or wrong.

Storm folklore
Here's a little story my weekly news colleague Phil Colpas included in his "Island Beat" column in the Pelican Press newspaper. True or not, it's a cute tale.

"When Hernando deSoto was encamped in this area, one of his officers fell in love with an Indian woman and they set up house together. There was apparently some kind of flu epidemic and she died. The Indians came to DeSoto and asked for her body for burial. DeSoto and the young man didn't want to allow some kind of 'heathen' ritual, as she was well known and liked by all in the company. The Indian chief declared that if they allowed him to bury the woman, he would ask the spirits to protect the area so no storm would ever land there.

"After a beautiful ceremony, the woman was cremated on a funeral pyre and, once consumed, the remains were placed on a raft, overflowing with flowers, and set afloat into Sarasota Bay.

"Since that time, no hurricane in recorded history has ever made landfall in Sarasota Bay."

'Aussie Rules' bows to Floridian
Looks like an update is needed to a recent mention made in Sandscript regarding a really, really big boat currently berthed in Fort Lauderdale. "Aussie Rules," I said, was custom-built for golf legend Greg Norman and serves as his "home port" whenever he's in a tournament near water. At 228 feet, it's quite a way-station.

However, it's no longer Norman's boat.

According to my buddy Ed, an avid golfer, The Shark sold the boat to Wayne Huizenga a few months ago. He plans to extensively remodel the megayacht and rename it "Floridian," according to Golf Digest.

OK, I have to admit I didn't know of Huizenga until I checked on the Internet.

In 2001, he had a net worth of $1.8 billion, making him the 150th wealthiest person in the world, according to Forbes magazine. He owns, among other things, Blockbuster Video, Waste Management Inc. - the same trash hauler that takes care of Anna Maria and Holmes Beach - plus AutoNation.

For sports fans, he is the owner of the NFL Miami Dolphins, the NHL Florida Panthers and Pro Player Stadium in Miami. Formerly, he was also a majority owner of Major League Baseball's Florida Marlins.

He also recently sold a huge tract of land near Boca Raton for a reputed $1.25 billion, so I guess his net worth has gone up a bit since 2001.

Ah, how the other half lives!

Sandscript factoid
Don't forget that Tuesday is Election Day and be sure to vote.

In fact, why wait until Tuesday? You can vote early and avoid the expected lines at the polls. If for no other reason, use the St. Petersburg Times' Lucy Morgan's advice: Vote early so you can shut up the barrage of last-minute get-out-the-vote telephone solicitors with the simple statement: "I've already voted!"

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