Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Terrible Tropical Storm

By terrible storm, I mean if this was supposed to be a storm, it did a terrible job of it. We woke up this morning and the sky was blue, the sun streaming down, light breeze and birds chirping. If this is a storm, I'll take more please.

We've been watching the approach of Tropical Storm Karen for several days, with warnings and alerts and predictions of where it would make landfall. It's late in the season, and Louisiana has not been hit by a hurricane after Oct. 1 since 1898, and as the last days of September flicked by, I was feeling better and better. But you have to keep alert. And you can certainly understand why people here would be nervous about a storm starting with the letter K. So when Tropical Storm Karen formed up in the southern Gulf of Mexico, we went on heightened alert.

We checked our supplies, cleaned up a few things in the yard, and waited. At first the predictions were that it would veer east and make landfall somewhere along the Florida panhandle, but as the weekend approached it seemed to be holding steady for the mouth of the Mississippi.

But it was doing some odd things. All the activity seemed to be to the east of the "center" of the storm. A cold front moving across Texas seemed to be pushing dry wind in from the west. All day Saturday Karen seemed to be stalled just south of Grand Isle on the Mississippi delta.

And then about 10 last night, it just disappeared. I've been watching hurricanes with a personal interest since 2008 and I've never seen anything like this. On the TV weather report, the radar showed a big blob, big blob, big blob, and then practically nothing. It just sort of disappeared.

This morning the weather map showed a clear gulf, with just the letter L indicating some lingering low pressure.

All spring we'd been reading predictions about what a difficult hurricane season this was likely to be. All the signs were there for one cataclysm after another. The reality has been very different. Here in Louisiana we've had a couple of systems start to spin up in the gulf, then sort of peter out and turn inland over Mexico or Texas, drop some rain and die. In the Caribbean, there have been a few near misses to the V.I. as storms steamed across the Atlantic, then veered sharply north and died out at sea. I could be mistaken – I know, it's shocking, but I could – but I don't think a single storm has caused any trouble for the U.S. Atlantic coast.

And it's crazy, because ocean surface temperatures are still high, there's plenty of energy out there. I was talking to one weather watcher on St Croix last week who said September was actually warmer than August, and there's still concern that with the high temps the season could linger on into December.

But from where I'm sitting, it seems like an unusually quiet hurricane season is all but in the books. Still, we won't break into our supplies until Dec. 1. Because you never know, except sometimes you do.

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