By Teddy Allen
Two years ago, there was a now-forgotten late-season hurricane. It mustered up weak winds that couldn’t even knock a sick alley cat over and petered out before the eastern seaboard could offer much interest.
Its name was Teddy.
Soft. Mashed potatoes version of a “storm.”
But experience suggests that things ain’t always that away.
For everything—including hurricanes—there is a season.
But good news: the six-month 2023 hurricane season began June 1 and if the names are any indication, there won’t be much trouble. Lots of Teddy-like names in the crowd. Arlene, for instance, the first named storm of 2023, has come and gone with a whimper.
Then you have Bret and Cindy and Tammy and, well, you get the picture. No Brutus or Atilla. But let a professional explain, a man I would trust with anything, including my 7-iron or even my baseball glove …
He’s an old friend who’s found his way into the emergency business, including weather watching. Worked on The Tech Talk with him and then for almost 20 years at The Times in Shreveport. He’s a good golfer, a great dad, an intrepid reporter, and now works for some lucky people as their Director of Communications in a hurricane-endangered place. I can’t tell you where or his name because that would be indiscreet. (Don. Don Walker. In Brevard County, Florida, like Cocoa Beach and Port Canaveral and all that.)
So, this hurricane season, we have boots on the ground, and here is Don’s official early-season report:
“This year’s list of hurricane names includes ‘Don.’ Nice to get some name recognition, but I predict this will be a somewhat calm hurricane season due to the likes of others who made the list – like Hurricanes Gert, Nigel, and Vince. From an emergency communications standpoint, which is how I make a living, it’s going to be hard to convince people to evacuate when we show up in the ‘Cone of Uncertainty’ for a Hurricane Gert. No offense to any Gerts out there, but I see ‘Gert’ as something the doctor might say when what you’ve got is more of an upset stomach kind of thing, not so much a full-fledged stomach bug – but then I’m not a doctor, I’m just a man and a potential hurricane.
“Thank you for checking on us,” Don’s report concludes. “We’re already five days in and, so far, only one disturbance in the Gulf that didn’t faze us. We’re 1-0, but if and when the time comes, you can find me in the dugout – well, we call it a bunker – handling communications for Brevard County Emergency Management. It’s something I’m pretty good at. Well, that, and golf. But not during a hurricane.”
It’s around this hurricane-wary time of year that I thumb through Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson, a book I’ve read three times. It starts like this:
“Throughout the night of Friday, September 7, 1900, Isaac Monroe Cline found himself waking to a persistent sense of something gone wrong.”
Isaac didn’t know half of it.
In the late summer of 1900, Galveston was home to 38,000 and the third-richest city in America, a boom town. As Larson explains in his book that reads more like a suspense novel than non-fiction, Isaac Cline was its young resident U.S. Weather Bureau meteorologist who “failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that (Saturday, September 8) morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged by a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over 6,000 people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history …”
What Isaac and the gang wouldn’t have given for The Weather Channel. Or Larson’s book. While he didn’t get to read it, you might want to. Spoiler alert: as mentioned, I’ve read it three times; Storm is 3-0 so far.
A final note from Larson’s book:
“Galveston was too pretty, too progressive, too prosperous—entirely too hopeful—to be true. Travelers arriving by ship saw the city as a silver fairy kingdom that might just as suddenly disappear from sight, a very different portrait from that which would present itself in the last few weeks of September 1900, when inbound passengers smelled the pyres of burning corpses a hundred miles out to sea.”
It’s a story about “what can happen when human arrogance meets the uncontrollable force of nature.” It’s why I don’t gripe at rain and lightning delays anymore.
Have a great summer, but let’s be careful out there.
Contact Teddy at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @MamaLuvsManning