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December 05, 2023

Hurricanes often intensify and sometimes it can happen quicker than anticipated. Midland's Meteorologist, Bruce Jones breaks down the rapid intensification of hurricanes and how you can prepare.

THE GREAT GALVESTON

Hurricanes can be extremely destructive, laying waste to property and taking lives. The deadliest hurricane in US history, the 1900 Great Galveston Hurricane, took at least 8,000 lives, maybe 12,000. Bodies were washed away or hastily disposed of, so we will never know. 

The storm hit Galveston with some warning, as told in Erik Larson’s book, “Isaac’s Storm”. Galveston weatherman Isaac Cline read the signs in the sky and on his weather instruments, warning people a big storm was coming, but it was too late to get everyone off the island.

Because hurricane storm surges and flooding kill more people than winds, it’s imperative to get everyone to higher ground before a hurricane hits. Unlike tornadoes, which generate themselves in only a matter of minutes, hurricanes take days, even weeks, to form and mature. Watches and warnings issued days in advance of landfall have allowed the National Weather Service to save countless lives, so deadly hurricanes like Galveston 1900 are a near impossibility in today’s world. Or so we thought.

HURRICANE OTIS

On October 25, 2023, Hurricane Otis, one of the most powerful Pacific Ocean hurricanes ever, made landfall in Acapulco, Mexico with sustained wind speeds of 165 mph and gusts over 200.

Mexican authorities believe as many as 300 people may have died and estimated damages could be ten billion dollars. Much of Acapulco, including tourist hotels, will be out of service during the region’s lengthy repairs, which will be the most expensive hurricane repairs in Mexican history.

HURRICANE OTIS CHANGES THE WORLD

Here's is how Otis “elevated” the hurricane risk for the entire planet: this bad boy went from a garden-variety tropical storm to a maximum strength category 5 hurricane in only 24 hours.

The last time something similar happened in the US was Hurricane Michael in 2018. When folks in the path of Michael went to bed, it was something that could be survived via, “shelter-in-place."  When they awoke the next morning, it was a monster and it was too late to evacuate. 74 people died. 

hurricane

Photo Courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RAPID INTENSIFICATION

Rapid intensification of hurricanes puts an extra level of danger into nightmare scenarios such as a direct hit on Tampa Bay, Florida.  It’s common knowledge that in the event of a massive hurricane bearing down directly on Tampa Bay from the southwest, an enormous wall of “storm surge” water would be pushed into the bay, inundating much of the metro area. 

Before such a storm hits, some three million people would need to evacuate. 

Pre-Otis, orders for evacuation would be made two, maybe three days ahead of time. If a storm like Otis can, in 24 hours, increase its sustained wind speeds by more than 110 mph, that creates a scenario where the three million people in the low-lying Tampa Bay area might not be told to evacuate until it was too late. We simply cannot move that many people out of harm’s way in just 24 hours.

PREPARING IS KEY 

The only thing we know with certainty- those who prepare have the best chance of surviving. On top of that, those who keep abreast of the latest conditions are best able to shelter or get out – whichever is recommended.

Have a plan and build an emergency kit that includes NOAA Weather Radio, the “Voice of the National Weather Service”.  These devices are designed to instantly warn you when alerts are issued, or updated.

Portable models can be taken with you in your car when you evacuate, and to your safe room when you shelter. Plan to be a survivor and keep your family safe.

Have multiple, redundant ways to get warnings, and when you get them, heed them. Early warning is your best protection.

Nothing, computer or human, can forecast the weather with 100% accuracy, and Hurricane Otis reminds us that Mother Nature has aces hidden up her sleeve. 

WR120 NOAA WEATHER ALERT RADIO

Midland's WR120 NOAA Weather Alert Radio is the gold star of weather radios.

It'll alert homeowners to over 60 kinds of weather hazards and emergencies, like hurricanes. With S.A.M.E. EZ localized programming, the National Weather Service will send alerts like watches and warnings when a storm is imminent. The WR120 instantly alerts its users bringing them the latest, most accurate information. 

Getting these alerts as soon as the National Weather Service issues them, the WR120 gives its users the time needed to put their plan into action by seeking shelter or evacuating.

  

MIDLAND ER40 EMERGENCY CRANK RADIO

Midland's ER40 Emergency Crank Radio is great for hurricane evacuations. It's mobility allows users to continue to receive the latest information directly from the National Weather Service. 

With multiple sources of power like a lithium rechargeable batter, solar panel, and hand crank, the ER40 will keep users alerted as they travel through an evacuation or bunker down at home to ride out the storm.

Also equipped with a flashlight with SOS Strobe, the ER40 also helps its users navigate power outages or dimly lit areas.

Other features include AM/FM Radio, backlit LCD display, micro USB charging cable, and wrist lanyard.

 


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