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Date of Issue: August 16, 2007

Sandscript

Wild weather throughout the country, but hurricanes?

To say that the weather of late is wacky is an understatement.

Whenever the temperature is 84 degrees before 7 a.m., with highs in the mid-90s later in the day, you know that the dog days of summer are definitely here.

A huge heat wave has blanketed much of the country for the past few weeks. Plus, 100-degree readings in Montana? Hello?

Then there was that massive storm in New York that spawned a tornado in Brooklyn last week, the first such occurrence in more than 100 years.

Tornados in Kansas or Polk County, sure, but in Brooklyn? Jeez.

 

Flooding woes

The center of the United States has seen an extraordinary amount of rain, too. Some poor Texans have been inundated with something like twice the normal rainfall per year already. Ditto with Oklahoma folks and others in the Midwest.

The storms and resulting floodwaters have spurred some scientists to note that there is an unprecedented new “dead zone” off the Texas coast.

Dead zones are areas of the Gulf of Mexico, or other water bodies, where oxygen is lacking. Biologists call the condition hypoxic, and the condition obviously is not a good thing for critters that need to breathe underwater, like fish or bottom-dwelling organisms.

The Texas dead zone is estimated to be at 1,750 square miles. Another, larger dead zone usually forms just south of Louisiana during this time of year, complements of the Mississippi River runoff, and generally is something like the size of the state of New Jersey. This year, expect that dead zone to be even bigger.

We had our own problem with a dead zone off Southwest Florida a few years back, spurred by red tide.

Apparently some sort of weird underwater inversion took place during a red tide outbreak.

Temperature differences in the different layers of water between the surface and the bottom got reversed for some reason that scientists are still puzzling over. The red tide organisms got packed to the bottom of the Gulf in an area from Pinellas to Lee County, killing off most of the marine life in the area.

Offshore fishers were smacked with the die-off of grouper and snapper.

The good news was that the event, although unusual and devastating the marine life, was relatively short lived. Coral and soft-coral are coming back - although slowly.

And there is no sign of red tide out on the Gulffront horizon so far this year.

 

Hurricanes?

And then the wacky weather issue turns to tropical storms.

Hurricane forecasters are coming out with their August reports, and are backpedaling on early season predictions, although keeping with the “above-normal” trend we’ve seen in the past few years.

The latest report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last week said there was a “very high likelihood (85 percent chance) of an above-normal 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, a 10 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 5 percent chance of a below-normal season,” according to a report issued by a consensus of scientists at the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Research Division and Hydrometeorological Prediction Center.

According to the various agencies, “The 2007 outlook calls for a likely range of 13-16 named storms, 7-9 hurricanes, and 3-5 major hurricanes. These ranges are slightly tighter than those predicted in May (13-17 named storms, 7-10 hurricanes, 3-5 major hurricanes). The tighter ranges reflect not only an increased confidence for an above-normal season, but also a reduced likelihood of seeing as many as 10 hurricanes and 17 named storms.”

Hey, it’s mid-August, getting into the peak of the height of hurricane season. What’s going on?

“The prediction for an above-normal 2007 hurricane season reflects the combination of two main climate factors: the continuation of conditions that have been conducive to above-normal Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995, and the continued La Niña-like pattern of tropical convection. In addition, temperatures in the western tropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea remain well above average. This combination of conditions is known to produce high levels of Atlantic hurricane activity.”

Scientists note that there have been three named Atlantic Ocean storms to date for 2007 - Andrea, Barry and Chantal -  which they state “is slightly above average for June and July. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. However, the vast majority of the activity in 2007 is expected during the peak months of the season - August through October.

Keep that Spam handy, folks.

 

More shocking news

Moving away from the weather is whether or not, or how to, go after a bad guy.

Law enforcement has been using a variety of alternative means to subdue “problems” in their world of serving and protecting the public.

Nightsticks were the rage for years. Then came pepper spray. Today, Tasers are the hot item, although not widely used on Anna Maria Island, to quiet suspects when they become unruly.

And now those shocking devices are coming in designer colors.

Tasers shoot out something like a 50,000-volt charge, which should pretty much immobilize anybody coming at you, leaving him or her writhing on the ground and allowing you to run away.

The joy of a Taser is that it doesn’t cause the impact of, say, a gunshot wound, and also doesn’t cause all those nasty questions afterwards from law enforcement, not to mention the legal ramifications about why you shot someone and how you came by the gun in the first place.

But rather than having color-coded guns, nightsticks or Mace, Taser manufacturers are going after the female market. They’re in pink. Blue. Silver. Grey. All supposedly designed, according an article in the New York Times, to “persuade women to add the weapon to their checklist for the evening: lipstick, wallet, keys, Taser.”

At a cost of $350, a pocket Taser may be a bit more pricey than what some folks can afford for “personal protection.”

Local law enforcement is a bit skeptical on the matter of civilians having and holding such devices.

Sure, a Taser is better than a gun if a bad guy comes after you. But in a panic situation, according to one police officer, pepper spray is more likely to hit the target.

And it was noted that law enforcement officers have to undergo a rigorous training program to be certified in Taser use. Heck, they’ve got to go to school to learn how to use a stick and pepper spray.

It was also noted that, like firearms, Taser usage also runs the risk of having a bad guy take it from you and turn it onto your own self. Ouch.

But the silver one does look pretty cool ….

 

Sandscript factoid

And now, onto a totally different subject.

Back 20-plus years ago a younger Roat was sent on assignment to Naples, Miami and Fort Lauderdale to do a series of articles on parks.

I noted a lot of funny little syringe-like things in cocoanut palm trees in Miami. The parks and recreation guy who gave me the tour said that it was an attempt to battle something that had been plaguing the palms there, a disease he called “lethal yellow.”

Well, lethal yellow has apparently moved to our part of the world.

According to an article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the disease was first noted at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. It’s migrated to areas east and south of the airport, plus in southern Manatee County.

Look for yellowing palm fronds, loss of fruit, or youngest fronds on the tree starting to die. If you see any of the above, call an arborist ASAP.

South Florida lost almost all of its palm trees due to lethal yellow back in the day, causing a massive re-planting effort to keep the South Florida look alive and growing.

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