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Date of Issue: June 16, 2005

Sandscript

Keys stories to share, both good and bad

A trip to Key West last week for an annual press association conference has prompted a brief "Sandscript" this week.

But there were a few highlights from the Florida Press Association event that may be of interest.

First, Max Mayfield is a pretty funny guy.

The director of the National Hurricane Center went into some discussion on the "cone of confusion," referring to the wide "possible path" that the center issues for any tropical storm or hurricane and justified his continued use of the "skinny black line" in the middle of the forecast path.

Mayfield also had a few grim statistics to offer.

Last year’s four hurricanes that struck Florida spawned 321 tornadoes. Granted, they weren’t the massive twisters that plague the Midwestern states, but they were still pretty nasty, he said.

He also noted that there were 91 "indirect" deaths caused by the hurricanes - not people who were killed by storm surge or having their roof collapse on them, but accidental deaths of people who, for instance, fell off a ladder after the storm when they tried to fix a roof, or died in a car crash attributed to storm debris on the highway.

In Florida, 117 people were "directly" killed by hurricanes in 2004.

Ouch

A Cudjoe Key man had a painful run-in with a Goliath grouper - formerly known as a jewfish - in the Florida Keys last week.

Seems the guy was spearfishing in Florida Bay and had a 100-pound Goliath grouper pretty much hanging on his every move. Suddenly, the 4-foot-long fish lunged at him and pretty much bit his head, lacerating his lip, ripping off his mask and regulator, and generally making a mess of his face.

He made it to the surface and the boat and, eventually, to the hospital where he got four stitches in his lip.

Goliath grouper are not generally thought to be aggressive. They also can get to 400 pounds or so, making the 100-pounder pretty moderately sized - a good thing for the injured diver.

The fish formerly known as jewfish were placed on a protected status list in 1990 due to overfishing and have made a pretty significant comeback since, by the way.

Sandscript factoid

The National Hurricane Center issues "discussions" on hurricanes periodically. Basically, the discussions are the forecasters deliberations on the various computer model projections that offer clues as to hurricane strength and track. They’re available online.

Several of us commended Mayfield on providing the model discussions and mentioned that we found them pretty fascinating. He smiled and said that he asked one of the computer programming nerds at the hurricane center how many "hits" the discussions were getting.

About 7,000, he was told.

That’s all? He asked.

Yeah, "only" 7,000 - a minute, he was told.

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