Hurricane Tracking

When I was a kid growing up in Florida, hurricanes were an odd beast. They were always a thing to fear though they didn’t really ever affect me much. As far as I can remember, we only ever got hit by one, a weak Category 1. It did hit on my birthday, so my party had to be canceled and I got to spend part of the day picking up the yard. But that was hardly any different than any old big Florida thunderstorm.

The only other storm I remember coming close was Andrew, which destroyed Homestead a few hundred miles to the south of us.  The first day of 5th grade was canceled because of that, as the school ended up being used as an evacuation point. While the storm didn’t affect me directly, it did impact how I view them.

Ironically, I’ve been directly affected by three storms in the eight years from when I started college to when Ike hit Houston in 2008. That’s compared to the one in the sixteen years I lived in Florida as a kid.  Because of this, I make it a habit to keep up to date on the tropical activity.

Kids in Florida are taught longitude and latitude using hurricane tracking. We’d get nice maps that the local news would put out and then we’d listen to coordinates on the radio or news report and mark them on the map. Good educational tool.

Now, despite this, I don’t really have any recollection as to the accuracy of the hurricane forecasts. I just have the general impression that they could do unexpected things and the memory that on my 13th birthday, I had some friends over but they had to go home because the hurricane was going to hit us. That left me with the impression it was unexpected.

But watching the forecasts now, for the week out, they seem to be quite accurate. I don’t recall any storm going totally off the rails. Granted, the 5 day forecast has a pretty wide range but even then, more times than not, they come right up the center of the prediction path. It kind of makes keeping tabs on them boring.

You see one form, you check the prediction maps, see where its going to go for the next week and then the only variable really is if it suddenly spikes in strength or dies. As an adult, I appreciate this. Almost a week advance warning is good to have. Even though the final landfall can be off by several hundred miles, by two to three days out, you have a pretty good idea if you’ll be affected.

But as a spectator who grew up with the mystery and fear of hurricanes,  its not very exciting. Makes you kind of long for a storm that does something really unexpected, like turn 90 degrees and then rocket toward somewhere else, right before doing some loops in the middle of the ocean.

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