Interview with the NW Florida Daily News - Part 2

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:12 PM GMT on June 05, 2006

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This is part 2 of an interview I did with the Nothwest Florida Daily News of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, that was published on Sunday, May 28. The questions were posed to me by Del Stone Jr., Deputy Managing Editor and self-admitted weather nut. I'll be back to live blogging on June 14.

Q. Your bio indicates you faced a life-threatening situation while flying into Hurricane Hugo. Would you care to elaborate?

A. We were the first plane to intercept Hugo out near Barbados, and we elected to fly in at 1500 feet, expecting it to be a Category 3 storm (based on satellite estimates). Hugo turned out to be a Category 5, and nearly killed us. We hit 190 mph winds and 5.6 g's of acceleration in the eyewall (the wings are supposed to tear off at 6 g's), and had an engine catch on fire. The pilot lost control of the airplane, and we plummeted to 800 feet above the water before the pilot was able to regain control and extinguish the engine fire as we popped into the eye. Of course, our troubles weren't over then. We were in the eye of a Category 5 hurricane, had only three engines working, and needed to get through the eyewall again to escape. It's quite a story, and I have a long account posted on the tropical page of our web site, complete with photos I took in the eye.

Q. The evacuation for Hurricane Opal in 1995 was a debacle, with thousands of people stranded on highways as the hurricane struck. Afterwards, the National Hurricane Center seemed to revise its standards for evacuation, urging people to run from the water, hide from the wind. Assuming you agree with that assessment, how would you advise people in hurricane-prone areas to handle the question of evacuation?

A. If you have the flexibility, it is good to leave on your own a day before a likely evacuation order is issued. If I lived in the Keys, I would be out of there at the first hint of something serious that might move through. It takes a full 72 hours to evacuate Keys, I would be out of there at the first hint of something serious that might move through. It takes a full 72 hours to evacuate the Keys, and hurricanes like Rita and Wilma that intensify from tropical storm strength to Category 5 in about a day don't give us enough time to evacuate this highly vulnerable region.

In general, if you are still at home when the evacuation order is given, and live in a low-lying area at high risk of a storm surge, get out. Even if the highways are clogged, your chances of survival are still better than being on the coast. But as we saw during the evacuation of Houston during Hurricane Rita, and in Florida during Opal of 1995, evacuating from the wind doesn't always make sense. In fact, some estimates put the death toll from the evacuation due to Hurricane Rita at over 150 people, 23 of them when a bus carrying 45 nursing home evacuees erupted into flames and exploded on Interstate 45. Not counting Katrina, that's a higher death toll than any hurricane since Camille of 1969 (256 deaths). So, I think we need to think hard about evacuating the very sick and elderly from the wind. But, I've heard from a lot of people who've had bad experiences trying to ride out a hurricane in an evacuation zone. The mantra I've heard so many times, is, "I'll never ignore another evacuation order!" Your best bet is to always heed the evacuation order.

Q. Many people have become critical of media coverage of hurricanes. Television clips of correspondents standing in high winds as debris flies about have become commonplace. Do you feel this approach sensationalizes storm coverage? Do you believe it sets a bad example for viewers, encouraging them to do the same? What about be concentrated coverage from weather-exclusive entities like The Weather Channel? Does such coverage skew context, giving viewers an unrealistic picture of a storm's threat?

A. I don't believe a significant number of viewers will seek to go out in a hurricane in imitation of what they see TV reporters doing. However, hurricanes coverage is too sensationalized and over-hyped for my liking. Hurricane have become entertainment. One of these days, a reporter is going to get seriously injured by flying debris. I've championed on my blog the idea of having reporters doing their show from a safe place out of the wind, and sending wind-up toys out into wind to be blown away for dramatic effect. TV stations can make a creative and dramatic demonstration of the wind's power without endangering the lives of reporters.

Hurricanes are sensational enough in their own right, and do not need dramatization. My philosophy is to simply report from my own deep knowledge and understanding of these great storms, and not try to generate more hype in an effort to drive up ratings. In contrast, Accuweather's recent press release that the Northeast U.S. might be the target of a major hurricane this season was an excessively sensational."The Northeast is staring down the barrel of a gun," the article said. Language like this is effective in scaring people and driving up ratings, but is not an effective way of warning people in the Northeast of the true risks they face this year. Everyone living on the Atlantic Ocean is at risk, every year.

To be continued...

Jeff Masters

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492. KShurricane
4:50 PM GMT on June 07, 2006
I believe Camille has the record at 165 kts (190 mph). That is also the highest official windspeed recorded in any TC.
491. radikalweather
4:50 PM GMT on June 07, 2006
Yes i completely agree with you as a young future meteorologist i can learn lots of things on here but i am also learning intelligent insults basically this is as versatile as it is...
Member Since: October 7, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 6
489. Cregnebaa
4:33 PM GMT on June 07, 2006
Hey all, wondering if anyone can point me in the right direction, I'm looking for the highest NHC offical record wind speeds recorded at land.

The highest I've found so far is Ivan at 130kts (150mph) sustained and 149kt (171mph) gust on Grand Cayman in 2004
Link

Any ideas, checked Wilma, Katrina and Rita,

Did they have any offical record for Camille back then, must have been higher.
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 323
488. Alec
4:04 PM GMT on June 07, 2006
Making long range 1-3 month forecasts is more of random guessing. Climatology can lead you in a general direction but you know how they say you can't have any 2 snowflakes look alike? We're talking trillions of variables that are very different each year! Analog yrs are pretty much the BEST they can find that matches this yr but still fall short in many ways...We should all be prepared regardless of whether someone says your area is in a "low risk" region...
487. Shadyguy
3:55 PM GMT on June 07, 2006
Posted By: fredwx at 4:16 PM CDT on June 05, 2006.
RE NE Major Hurricane Strike

This years risk of an intense hurricane in the NE significanly higher than normal. This year the risk is estimated to be less than 2% (hardly under the gun!). The average annual risk is under 0.7%, however.


This is why we should not be dwelling on the "threat" to the Northeast.

Good post, FRED.
486. radikalweather
3:40 PM GMT on June 07, 2006
Well good morning everyone hope you all had a great night apart of all the ''weird'' arguing that we had yesterday here en the NE caribbean things are looking quiet at the moment we hope it stays the same way...
Member Since: October 7, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 6
485. HurricaneMyles
3:25 PM GMT on June 07, 2006
I still dont understand how the CMC is plowing the storm right through the jetstream and maintaining intensity up until landfall. That right there makes me petty skeptical of the whole thing, too.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
484. ProgressivePulse
3:16 PM GMT on June 07, 2006
Boy, that CMC is scary. Good ole New Orleans would be in the cone. Seems to be the only model that aggressive though, I woulden't put credience to it.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5174
483. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
2:45 PM GMT on June 07, 2006
invest 93E has appeared on nrl

20kts 1009 mb appears to be 13N 94W location.. can't really tell
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 50 Comments: 45206
482. Caymanite
2:35 PM GMT on June 07, 2006
Finally getting some beautiful rains here in Cayman--Golf course loving it.
Member Since: December 9, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 315
481. WSI
1:56 PM GMT on June 07, 2006
Not with only one model picking it up Jug. Not to mention the fact that the Gulf is still hostile (even though shear may slacken up a bit).
480. JugheadFL
1:50 PM GMT on June 07, 2006
anyone starting to believe yet? Link
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 23
479. swlaaggie
12:42 PM GMT on June 07, 2006
Good morning all,

We actually have rain in SW La this morning. Have you ever seen a bird do the moonwalk? Collective sigh of relief here. Boy do we need this.

CMC sure isn't afraid to go out on a limb. You've got to love its enthusiasm and persistence. Hope it's dead wrong!

Have a great, super, fantastic morning.
Member Since: April 26, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1032
478. WSI
12:37 PM GMT on June 07, 2006
"----SHAMELESS PLUG----"

Hey don't worry about it OD. A lot of us put in shameless plugs. Otherwise people might not see things in the other blogs, LOL!
477. oriondarkwood
12:35 PM GMT on June 07, 2006
----SHAMELESS PLUG----

I am trying to organize a friendly hurricane predicition contest on my blog come see the rules and offer suggestions.

OD's Blog

---END PLUG---
Member Since: July 5, 2004 Posts: 51 Comments: 42
475. WSI
12:07 PM GMT on June 07, 2006
Oh boy, I see we had fun in here last night.

The CMC is really locked on that storm. Doesn't want to let that idea go.

Anyway, for those still left in here, check out weathercore.com if you haven't dropped by yet. Suggestions and comments welcome.
474. IKE
11:54 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
At least STORMTOP will be happy. It's not heading toward the big easy anymore according to the CMC.

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
473. HurricaneKing
11:36 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
CMC hass it coming out of SC to affect me in NC.
Member Since: July 6, 2005 Posts: 71 Comments: 2478
472. IKE
10:54 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
Latest CMC has it coming toward ME in the Florida panhandle in 144 hours!!!!

Calm down...just one model.

NOGAPS has it heading toward Mexico.

NAM has it around the Yucatan in 84 hrs.

The blob in the Caribbean is worth watching.

BUT...according to the NHC...in their morning advisory..."TROPICAL STORM FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED THROUGH THURSDAY."

Apparently it isn't fixing to develop and may never.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
471. FloorManBroward
10:02 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
Link
Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 61
470. Avarhirion
7:46 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
Some amazing weather in Pheonix Arizona today. Took some photos and blogged about it:

http://jeremy.thescottspot.com/blog/?p=45#more-45
469. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
6:55 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
god it has the storm hitting Florida
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 50 Comments: 45206
467. Alec
6:39 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
snowboy, all I can hope is that the CMC will develop a snowstorm for FL!LOL Good morning!:)
464. snowboy
6:30 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
Alec, it should be obvious within a day or two at the outside if this is real.
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2547
463. Alec
6:28 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
I'm still not convinced though.....It's a wait and see situation now....
462. snowboy
6:27 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
hey Levi32, did you catch my 5:40 am GMT comment? LOL :-)
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2547
461. Alec
6:26 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
I think the CMC model has gone insane! But interesting to note, some of the other models are hinting of something in the Gulf as well in different locations(which has yet to happen, and we still wont know for sure for a few more days).....It will be interesting to see if they back out on their current forecasts or trend to more tropical development......
456. GetReal
6:13 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
NOGAPS latest run now developing TD off the NW Yucatan and moving systen NW towards northern Mexico...
Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8806
455. snowboy
6:10 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
thanks MichaelSTL - Chaser your opinion on the model indications of pending activity in the Gulf would be appreciated..
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2547
454. GetReal
6:09 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
The UKMET latest run is now trying to develop a TD in the Bay of Campeche... The GFS is also bringing the EPAC energy into the SW Gulf and hinting at development!!! Things starting to get interesting???
Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8806
453. code1
6:06 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
The panhandle? Ah jeez. I'm going to bed. Don't wanna hear that!! Nite all.
Member Since: September 18, 2005 Posts: 66 Comments: 13872
451. code1
5:58 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
Thanks snowboy, cheers to you as well. And living where I do, I always keep my eye on them! Good job Levi!
Member Since: September 18, 2005 Posts: 66 Comments: 13872
448. Alec
5:56 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
CMC model now thinks whatever this low will form will now hit the Panhandle..link
446. Alec
5:53 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
Yes Michael, but the models are forecasting some extreme temperatures with a huge dome of high pressure over the SE around that time(same time they will get hot)......
445. snowboy
5:53 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
cheers code1, have a good night, and keep your eye on the tropics..
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2547
444. snowboy
5:51 AM GMT on June 07, 2006
Thanks Alec - the days of peace and quiet are clearly numbered, as SSTs rise and shear drops.
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2547

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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