Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hurricane Bill

Hurricane Bill is approaching the Leeward Islands today.

I am a weather enthusiast, and hurricanes are the Super Bowls of weather watching—up to two weeks of build up for the diehards before several hours of sustained violence watched by the masses, a few actual spectators but most from the safety of their living rooms. Sometimes the hurricane never shows, kind of like the Buffalo Bills in the early 1990's.

There is no other weather event that approximates the excitement surrounding a hurricane. Tornados can wreak similar havoc at a local level, but never threaten entire cities, and they strike with little forewarning. Tornados lack the build up of a powerful hurricane.

As a child I spent hours glued to the Weather Channel, back in the day when they still had isobars on their weather maps. My father was convinced I’d become a meteorologist, and he set up this weather station on our roof where I could monitor wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure.

During childhood there was a weather event that eclipsed the hurricane, the snow day. The afternoons when the temperature started dropping and a bulge of isobars backed a front on the horizon, I start working on my own forecast for the neighborhood. The nights when the weathermen concurred with my predictions for snow, I'd sneak out of bed and tiptoe downstairs to my weather station. Was the air temperature right for freezing rain (surefire school closure), would the ground be cold enough for the snow to stick, would the pressure fall enough for likely precipitation? With so many variables at play a boy could not sleep.

I have only experienced one hurricane in person. I was nine years old on summer vacation in Naples Florida when Hurricane Bob took a turn in the Gulf of Mexico that put Naples directly in its path.

These were the days before overzealous parenting, the kind that robbed the generation below us of fun times like pressing your nose to the plate glass of the beach house to watch hurricane force winds howl through the palm trees and lob bits of branches and debris into the windows. The adults even let us in on the betting pool, how high would the tide come in, to the yard, the porch, over the foundation of the house? A grade school friend had been through a major hurricane in Jupiter, Florida and told the class at show and tell how everything suddenly got calm and the sun came out for a moment when the eye of the storm passed over town. I was hoping we’d get to see the eye. I imagined swimming in the back yard after the storm.

In my parents’ defense, Bob turned out to be less than hurricane force over Naples. The yard didn’t fill up with the sea, though when we went for dinner some of the parking lots along the inland waterways were under water.

I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited for a hurricane in my name. A college friend informed my that in July 1997 there was another hurricane Bill, but it was a fleeting storm that did not reach land, and that was before the days of ubiquitous internet. I didn’t even have a television that summer of night shifts at the Aloha club, day games at Candlestick Park, and lunches of booze and Ben and Jerry’s. 97 was the summer of my Junior 30.

Bill isn’t forecast to make landfall, and will likely be soon forgotten. Tomorrow back to Baskerville and the story of Ricky Thibodeaux and Hurricane Gilbert.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too agree that hurricanes are the Super Bowl for weather forecast. I like the special editons they have when a hurricane is nearby, it's easy to notice how they really want that specific hurricane to stay strong and reach land.

I think we all like to expect powerful events, even if that means chaos and destruction sometimes.