Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tired of Hugo stories?

I discovered last year, on the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Hugo's pounding of the Carolinas, that some people don't want to hear from those of us who lived through it. "We're tired of hearing about Hugo," I was told several times.

OK. I get it.

But on the 21st anniversary of the day when Hugo came through Charlotte as a Category 1 hurricane -- nearly 200 miles inland -- here's something that should be of interest to both Hugo veterans and those who were born or moved here after Sept. 22, 1989.

I'm betting Hugo was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

What happened was a complex series of events that isn't likely to happen again for a long, long time.

And what's happened this year in the Atlantic Ocean is an example.

In review ... Hugo was a Cape Verde storm. It developed off the coast of Africa, south of the Cape Verde islands. It retained its strength across the Atlantic and slammed into South Carolina without recurving (curving to the northwest and north). A low pressure system over the Gulf of Mexico and high pressure over New England created a sort of alleyway for Hugo to move -- at a high rate of speed -- inland across South Carolina and Charlotte.

This year has seen a series of powerful hurricanes form in the Cape Verde region. Meteorologists say it's been a busy season. Most people in the United States probably would scoff at that, since the hurricanes didn't hit the mainland.

That's because the storms curved northward. For most of the last two months, there have been two high pressure systems -- one over the central Atlantic, the other over the U.S. Southeast. Between them was a "weakness" area of low pressure.

Each of those Cape Verde hurricanes moved westward across the Atlantic but curved north when they reached that "weakness" area.

"What you're seeing this year is typical for Cape Verde storms," said Scott Krentz, a National Weather Service meteorologist in the Greer, S.C., office. He and other meteorologists say most of those hurricanes curve before hitting the U.S. They become what those of us who follow weather call "fish storms."

Occasionally, the Cape Verde hurricanes get close to the U.S. coast before curving -- a la Hurricane Earl. But having one of those powerful storms slam directly into the Carolinas coast at a 90-degree angle (or close to it) and retain its strength inland is a real rarity.

And my brother Michael, a Texas-based weather weenie who will be mentioned frequently by me, points out that a condition called a negative North Atlantic Oscillation has created a deep dip in the atmosphere over the Atlantic. That also curves storms northward.

Something to watch: Keep an eye on a system that the National Hurricane Center is watching over the southern Caribbean. On Wednesday morning, its center was a bit north of Aruba. Some computer models predict that system could become a strong hurricane next week in the Gulf of Mexico. Other models show the storm hitting Mexico or Central America.

As we learned from Hurricane Ike two years ago, Gulf hurricanes can mean big trouble here in the Carolinas, even if the wind and rain never get within 600 miles of us. A disruption in petroleum operations in the Gulf can translate into $5-a-gallon gas for us. We don't like Gulf hurricanes.


Jonathan said...

I was 9 when Hugo hit,and today... getting married and seeing the birth of my daughter, it remains one of the greatest days of my life.

Bring on the stories...I never get tired of them...

Larry said...

When I was younger, I always thought I wanted to go and see a hurricane at the beach.

Hugo came to see us hundreds of miles inland.

No way would I ever go near one again.

Something like that has to be experienced to understand the sheer madness of it.

Anonymous said...

Nah, the Hugo storm stories aren't that bad. At least it's not like that fool on the Weather Channel who feels he has to stand on the beach when the storm arives.

Anonymous said...

I'm tired of hearing about Katrina stories all the time.

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard any Hugo stories this year. Can't say as I've seen mention of it in the Observer this year, except for this.

I was here during Hugo. Did the whole post-Hugo scenario. Downed trees, no electricity for two weeks, yada yada yada.

Best thing to remember about Hugo? Neighbors chipping in and helping each other clear away debris and sharing stuff like bagged ice and other things.

But it's been a long time ago now. Not much point in going over it all again.

wiley said...

Hugo, as well as other hurricanes and storms, affect people differently.

I was living in Columbia at the time but we still got a lot of wind, downed trees, but not as bad as Charlotte inland.

Our family's beach house, which is on the first row in Garden City, is 1/2 mile from the Kingfisher Pier. After one week, they allowed us to go check and see what, if anything was left.

Our house was the first house standing on the beach within that 1/2 mile from the pier. Thw downstairs had washed away, which it was designed to do. Devestation everywhere.

I also volunteered to help HArris Teeter get their Bay Street store open to serve the downtown area and also to deliver batteries and other supplies between stores.

For several weeks, I drove back and forth to Charleston, dodging trees and boats sitting in places where they shouldn't have been. No power, no street lights.

In my case, Hugo nor the stories will ever go away.

Chris Tarkemeyer said...

I'm definitely sick of hearing Carolinians tell a me (Floridian) about how awful hurricanes are in the Carolinas--namely in Charlotte. Give me a break. Yes, they happen, but Hugo never had the impact as it did along the coast.

The most annoying is having idiots from Ohio (recent transplants) as well as old farts from Gastonia tell me "hurricanes happen here." Yeah, always a possibility, but they pale to those that happen yearly in southern Florida--where we all live within 15 miles of the beach.