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October 19, 2005

Here We Go Again
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:58 PM *

June, too soon
July, stand by
August, the worst
September, remember
October, all over.

That’s a little sailor’s mnemonic to help you recall the hurricane season. Here it is October, and it’s not quite all over.

This just in: We have …

Hurricane Wilma, now a Category 5 storm in the western Caribbean, will have “a big impact on Florida,” the director of the National Hurricane Center said today. Already, officials in Monroe County have ordered the evacuation of non-residents from the Florida Keys. The slow-moving storm, with winds topping 175 mph, is the most intense storm ever recorded in the Atlantic basin. Wilma could make landfall along southwestern Florida as soon as the weekend.

Most intense storm ever recorded in the Atlantic basin. Oh, lovely.

Now I’m going to tout a piece of Windows software. It’s freeware, it’s spyware free (unlike Weather Bug, which is a bug in lots of ways), and I have it on my desktop. It’s called Weather Watcher, and you can get copy from Singer’s Creations (no, not that Singer).

Weather Watcher sits down in the system tray, displaying whatever you want it to display (I have mine set to current temperature). It downloads forecasts, and displays ‘em in various formats (hourly, daily, weekly), and — neat thing and the reason I bring it up — it alerts on severe weather advisories. I have mine set to play a sound, so even if I’m playing a full-screen game I’ll still be informed. The sound I use is rex tremendae from Mozart’s Requiem (K. 626). Weather Watcher requires .wav files for its sound alerts, and I had that one lying around from TalonSoft’s Battleground Shiloh game. (A full screen game that I enjoy perhaps too much.) Some of the graphics sorta-don’t work in WindowsXP (sob!) but you can get around that by setting it to the mode that makes the game look like an old-fashioned die-cut counters on a hex-grid war game. And the soundtrack is gorgeous — Civil War songs. Heck, I’d delay making moves just to let Shiloh’s Hill finish. (The line “Unmindful of the wounded and unuseful to the slain” is such perfect 19th century diction.)

So, enough rambling. Folks in Florida, stand the heck by. And hurricane season still runs two more weeks.

Comments on Here We Go Again:
#1 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2005, 02:40 PM:

If I lived in the Gulf coast area, or the southern Atlantic coast, I think I'd be looking to move someplace safer, like Tornado Alley.

(My mother has Weather Bug, but she has it watching several locations.)

#2 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2005, 03:35 PM:

I interpreted "October, all over" to mean that in October hurricanes are all over the place...

#3 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2005, 04:03 PM:

"It's the end of the worrrrld..."

The town drunk in Hitchcock's The Birds

#4 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2005, 04:31 PM:

To be pedantic, the hurricane season now officially runs until Nov. 30: SIX more weeks of this.

http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/G1.html

And given that tropical cyclones are now popping up in all sorts of unprecedented places (Iberia, Brazil...), I would not want to bet that they won't start popping up out-of-season, either.

But, yeah.

#5 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2005, 04:35 PM:

Bruce Sterling points us toward a neat Java applet showing the beast getting up to speed:

http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/tropic/real-time/atlantic/movies/g8irnhc/g8irnhcjava.html

#6 ::: Meredith ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2005, 04:40 PM:

And given that tropical cyclones are now popping up in all sorts of unprecedented places (Iberia, Brazil...), I would not want to bet that they won't start popping up out-of-season, either.

Well, certain types of wintertime nor'easter would be called cyclones if they occurred during the summertime. The Blizzard of '78 comes to mind. IIRC, that thing had an eye and everything.

#7 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2005, 04:41 PM:

If you don't have Windows, but do use Firefox, ForecastFox is a nice extension along similar lines.

#8 ::: Meredith ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2005, 04:42 PM:

Oh, and thanks Jim for the Weather Watcher tip. I had been looking for something adequate to replace WeatherBug, which is indeed an evil spyware-riddled thing. I do wish it had insta-radar and daily and monthly rainfall totals like WeatherBug, but maybe in the forthcoming new release?

#9 ::: Jude ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2005, 05:27 PM:

I would not want to bet that they won't start popping up out-of-season, either.

I think it was last year that a tropical storm formed before the season started, and it may've been a year or two before that when we had a tropical storm in December.

We've broken our planet!

#10 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2005, 05:43 PM:

That explains it: the planet is trying to fix itself! (Of course, it's going to fix itself by getting rid of us, but what else can you expect?)

#11 ::: Zed ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2005, 05:53 PM:

Wilma is the last prepared name for a 2005 Atlantic tropical cyclone. 21 names are prepared in advance, beginning with the letters A-W, omitting Q and U.

If those names are exhausted, the nomenclature calls for continuing with the names of the letters of the Greek alphabet.

For the past 10 years, we've only gotten to the LMNOP range, except for 1995, when we went all the way to Tanya.

#12 ::: Tom Scudder ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2005, 07:16 PM:

Xavier? Yolanda? Zoroaster?

#13 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2005, 08:03 PM:

Jim, another "thanks" for the link to Weather Watcher. I had Weather Bug years ago, before it was quite so spyware-ridden, but got rid of it when they started with the spyware. Lately I've been missing having that kind of weather application. So thanks!

#14 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2005, 08:51 PM:

June, too soon
July, stand by
August, the worst
September, remember
October, all over.

Except, of course, for the Witch of November.

And it's not over in October. Historically, the heart of the season is July-September. October sees, on average, 1.6 named storms a year. November sees one typically once every two years.

Given the incredible warmth of the tropical oceans this year, and the fact than just about anything that forms near Cuba this year has quickly ramped up to a Category 5 storm, this isn't over by a long shot. I wouldn't call the 2005 Hurricane Season over until 1-Jan-2006.

I don't know what's more atypical. Three of the Five lowest hurricane pressures ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin were this year, or Vince making a run at Portugal.

The one salient feature of this seasons has been storms forming and intensifying in completely ahistorical ways. TD 24 was expected to spin up for three days before she became Wilma, when she did, they were looking at maybe a Category 2, before hitting severe shear in the Gulf.

12 hours and 72 lost millibars later, and the forecasters are just staring at the data going "What the fuck? How the fuck? Where the fuck did that come from?"

This storm spun up so hard and fast we almost lost a hurricane hunter plane, as they made a typical Category 2 pass along the 850mb pressure contour -- then hit the incredibly tight eye, and found themselves looking at sub 900 mb of pressure -- and only 1500' of altitude left before they hit the water. The rest of the passes were made at 700mb -- normally, this level is about 10000 feet. In Wilma, at ~895mb, the 700mb level is around 6500 feet, but that's a mile more air between the plane and the waves.

It's late October. We shouldn't even be thinking of such, but I give it better than 50% we see Tropical Storm Alpha.

#15 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2005, 12:58 AM:

Somehow I don't thing the windspeed is up to e.g. spindizzy speed to remove the Executive Branch of the US Government to off the planet (especially minus oxygen, not that their brains -think- sane with O2 to start with...)

#16 ::: Nick Fagerlund ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2005, 02:18 AM:

Me, I favor ForecastFox, since I have Firefox open 70% of the time anyways. It's also pretty configurable, and cross-platform to boot.

#17 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2005, 11:17 AM:

What? No! 'Toccata and Fugue in D' is the only hurricane-warning music worth using! Has the Hammer House of Horror taught you nothing?

Or - possibly - the 'Dies Irae' from the Verdi Requiem. Something that makes it clear that God is about to let His Hammer fall.

#18 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2005, 11:23 AM:

ajay, I think you mean the Toccata and Fugue in d, not D. Moll, not Dur.

#19 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2005, 11:29 AM:

To be pedantic, the hurricane season now officially runs until Nov. 30: SIX more weeks of this.
So the giant squid saw its shadow or whatever?

That explains it: the planet is trying to fix itself! (Of course, it's going to fix itself by getting rid of us, but what else can you expect?)

This is literally true. Hurricanes, by expending vast quantities of energy, cool the ocean. They cool the SURFACE much more, because they churn up water from the depths. But all that bond-breaking energy comes from somewhere; it's easier to rip something to shreds than to put it together, but it still takes a lot of energy.

#20 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2005, 11:41 AM:

I was at a friend's last night, watching Wilma coverage. The two-mile eye was very ... impressive. You could see the clouds spiraling into it really well.

I'm glad it's down to Cat-4 this morning. Hope it keeps weakening.

#21 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2005, 11:53 AM:

OMG! Pwned by Xopher's 1337 B4CH SKILLZ!!!

Out of idle curiosity I looked up the piece in question and found that a) there is some controversy about whether it is really by JSB b) it might originally have been written for solo violin and c) there is a theory that it was deliberately written to use the full range and power of the instrument, so that an organist could use it to test that his organ was in perfect working order.

Ahem. Er. Sorry for lowering the tone.

#22 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2005, 11:56 AM:

It was down to Cat 2 briefly today, and was back up to Cat 3 last I heard.

Am I the only one who's noticed that the meteorologists seem to like to call female-named hurricanes "she," but never seem to call male-named ones "he"?

Well, not never. I've heard it a time or two. But male-named ones are usually "it."

#23 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2005, 12:02 PM:

ajay, larf riot.

That's a cool (kewl?) page though. It strikes me that if it is among JSB's earliest works, it's entirely plausible that he would write such a piece to test the organ. In fact, if he had an organ that he really liked, he might have written it just to SHOW OFF its capabilities!

#24 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2005, 12:33 PM:

Nice thought, Xopher. I now have an image of a young, stroppy JSB listening condescendingly to a visitor's description of the fine organ in his home kirk, before remarking "Ja? But can it do ZIS?" and kicking off the Toccata & Fugue.
I think I have a film concept in mind. "The Forte And The Fortissimo."

On the bright side, none of the Americans I work with have complained about British summer weather for, ooh, months and months now. Florida seems about to get it in the neck again: time for Giblets.

STAND TALL, FLORIDA!

...Yes Californians get an earthquake now and then, yes it snows up north. But only you have decided to shuffle off to an enormous foul poisonous bog afflicted with giant man-eating lizards which is routinely punched from the sky by storm titans who seek to blot it from the very sight of God!

#25 ::: Jude ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2005, 05:31 PM:

The Blizzard of '78 comes to mind. IIRC, that thing had an eye and everything.

This page has a satellite photo of the Blizzard of '78. Huuuuuuuuuuuuge. Scary! And that looks like an eye to me.

#26 ::: Wim ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2005, 11:25 PM:

Thank you, ajay, I am now imagining Bach as a Girl Genius character.

#27 ::: Zack ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2005, 12:27 AM:

Wim: why not? Rembrandt's shown up in backstory...

#29 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2005, 12:02 PM:

FEMA continues its sterling record:

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Two days after Hurricane Wilma, Floridians faced the unpleasant prospect Wednesday of waiting in lines for hours to get basic necessities such as water and ice.

Amid widespread power outages, thousands of frustrated North Miami residents stood in line for nearly 12 hours Tuesday for a bag of ice and three bottles of water.

"All that time. This is all we get?" asked 23-year-old Fanie Aristil, speaking to The Associated Press after waiting nine hours for the supplies.

Frances Marine, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, urged Floridians to be patient, AP reported.

"People will have their needs met," Marine said. "The bottom line is that there's a plan in place."

Michael Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security -- which is in charge of FEMA -- is scheduled to tour Florida's hurricane damage on Wednesday.

Long lines also formed for supplies in Hollywood, Florida, where a noon distribution time was announced in error. A three-hour wait turned into a seven-hour ordeal.

"Do things decent and in order," complained one person who endured the wait. "Give people directions and it can be followed properly. Otherwise, shut up."

Just north of Hollywood, in Dania Beach, men were seen unloading crates of bottled water -- but no one was there to receive it.

...

On Florida's southwest coast, in Naples, residents were angry when FEMA staff didn't show up to distribute water when they said they would.

"What are we supposed to do? We're supposed to count on FEMA. It's disgusting," resident Nilsa Colon said.

Naples Mayor Bill Barnett added, "Don't commit if you can't deliver."

Good thing we didn't have a major terrorist attack, isn't it?

#30 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2005, 01:19 PM:

They're heeeeerrre...

Tropical Storm Beta has made its appearance.

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