Friday, February 20, 2004

George Mindling Column 2-20-2004


Could This Be the Year of The Big Storm?


Planning on more visitors from out of town this year? I don't mean the college visitors coming to town who will get this town rocking for a month at the Charlotte Sports Park on State Road 776, starting Feb. 28. No, I'm talking about ones who may not come at all: Alex, Bonnie and the rest of the 2004 Atlantic hurricanes. Alex and his friends could start their visits in just a little over three months. The 2004 hurricane season gets under way officially June 1, and runs through Nov. 30.

According to Professor William Gray at Colorado State University, 2004 will be an active Atlantic hurricane season with more activity than usual. In his December 2003 extended forecast, Dr. Gray predicts seven Atlantic hurricanes and 13 named storms. He forecasts the Net Tropical Cyclone activity in 2004 to be about 125 percent of the long-term average. The next update from the CSU Department of Atmospheric Sciences will be in April. For information, check the web page at http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/forecasts/

If you are new to the area, you will hear a new term called the Saffir-Simpson scale. This is a rating system to indicate the severity of a hurricane, from category 1 being the first level of hurricane force winds of at least 74 mph, to category 5, the strongest storm, with winds over 156 mph. According to the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, a category 4 storm averages 250 times more devastating than a category 1 storm.

Newcomers need to understand the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning as well. A hurricane watch means to hours or less. Go about whatever preparation you need to insure your safety in case the watch gets upgraded to a warning. A hurricane warning is issued when the threat is 24 hours or less away. A warning means take urgent action to protect yourself and your family.

With area hotels reaping the benefits of the upcoming College Baseball Invitational series and guests are waiting an hour to get seated at restaurants, it is difficult to envision anything but beautiful weather and great baseball. Balmy skies now are a great time to order those storm shutters and update insurance policies. Generators and chain saws are plentiful now, but they won't be if we go under a hurricane watch. Now is the time to plan for what you need to do.

Alex and his friends will have to wait just a little while longer, though. I'll see you at the Sports Park for the Port Charlotte College Invitational Baseball series starting Feb. 28, when Urbana plays Grace at noon in the main stadium. Talk about visitors! The Sports Park will be rocking until March 27 with colleges from all over the country playing great baseball on all four fields plus the main stadium!

Tickets are adult daily at $3, $2 for a child's ticket. Weekly passes go for $10, and the whole month can be had for $25! Tickets went on sale Feb. 18 at Charlotte County Recreation Centers and Papa Johns pizza stores.

George Mindling © 2004

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