Friday, August 15, 2008

Watchin' the Tropics

**EDIT: I'm noticing a number of Florida neighbors in my blogstats who are looking for things like "fay spaghetti plot" on Google and end up here--as you can see, not a weather blog. Go to Weather Underground or the website for the National Hurricane Center and you'll find all the latest information. Stay Safe!**

Most readers of this blog won't need this useful link, but any US readers who live on a coast vulnerable to tropical disturbances will want to know about Weather Underground (see under Favorite Links at left). My sister Chantel -- an extreme-weather watcher since we were kids -- told me about this site after I moved here, and since the crazy hurricane season of 2004, I use it whenever there's something Chantel tells me we need to keep an eye on. It was four years ago today (well, in terms of it being a Friday--the date was 8/13/04 I think) that Hurricane Charley exploded in intensity on its way to Florida and while en route to Tampa Bay, decided to make a last minute right turn into Port Charlotte and environs, where it caused immense destruction. Stupidly I had not evacuated St Pete, although I had evacuated my apartment, which is in a flood zone, under official orders. I was staying with a friend who was not in the flood zone, but if a Category 3 or 4 storm had indeed come calling, flooding would be the least of the problems. (The media loves telling us that if a major hurricane did hit Tampa Bay, St Petersburg would turn from a peninsula into an island with most of its coastline underwater--including my apartment and my campus.) I don't think I've been as scared in my life as I was on 5 am that day looking at how the storm had grown overnight and was heading right for us. Now I'm a Nervous Nellie about the tropics, and news today of a tropical somethin' that could well intensify to a gal named Faye and possibly annoy Florida in the next week has me jumpy.

It does not help that Florida is most vulnerable during Aug, Sept, and Oct. During school. When I have responsibilities to my students and can't just cancel class and flee town when the spaghetti models* start to look dicey. When any cancelled class, whether I do it or the weather does it, screws up my syllabus!

*Spaghetti models: When the National Weather Service runs computer models on the storm's potential path, each model produces a line. All the lines are juxtaposed on a map to show the range of possibilities--the totality is known as the "spaghetti plot" or the "spaghetti models" because of how it looks. The NWS uses the spaghetti models to graph what's called a "Cone of Uncertainty" (I love that term, I have to say). If Tampa Bay falls at any point into the Cone of Uncertainty, Dr. Bundrick starts squawking and flapping her arms like a chicken.


marathon_chantel said...

Spaghetti Plots are dangerous to the casual viewer... they create unncessary panic! The worst thing that ever happened to tropical forecasting was allowing the spaghetti plots to be viewed as it they were a local forecast. They are highly uncertain and change often, as do the storms they represent. Don't worry about Ms. Faye yet-- don't even know if it'll even develop into Faye!

Sheramy said...

I agree, I wish they wouldn't show them on tv at least. Media does not help anyone with their "something's brewing in the tropics! Tune in at 11 to see the latest spaghetti plots!" mentality.

When Publix puts out the Storm Ready tags and moves the bottled water to the front of the store, then I *really* start worrying. ;-)

Bought my yearly hunkerdown peanut butter BOGO the other day!

Sheramy said...

Gah!! Darn that Faye!

Welcome to the Cone of Uncertainty. *squawk squawk*

Margaret said...

I hope everything is okay! I'm such a chicken--I've never been in a tropical storm because I always avoid traveling during those months. But now that I think about it, storm season IS school season! Eek!

Oh well. The weather channel is always trying to freak us out anyway, and it rarely amounts to much (where I live we're inundated with warnings about how many minutes it takes exposed flesh to freeze--if I listened to them I'd never leave the house!).

Sheramy said...

Hi Margaret--
I hope everything will be ok too. :-) As of now (Saturday afternoon) Fay is looking very much to be a Florida storm. Where in Florida is anyone's guess at the moment. My sister and I are on the alert, and my personal preparing-to-evacuate plan will begin Sunday depending on what everyone is saying tomorrow. I can be in the loaded car and on the road by Monday lunchtime if we are still in the hot seat. Sister and her family would leave Monday too. Right now Tampa Bay is very much in the hot seat. Classes start the 25th so that does ease things for me in terms of being able to leave easily.

There is much I like about Florida. But two things I hate: the lizards and the tropical mindfreak!