Predictions for each new hurricane season brings with it memories of past events for survivors, but also the assurance that hard learned lessons will serve as a buffer for future disasters.
June 4th marked the beginning of the Atlantic Hurricane season; a time of year that holds a unique interest for those who have survived one of these destructive storms. Survivors listen with heightened attention to the year’s predictions as they hope for a mild season despite what are often foreboding forecasts.
For the 2009 hurricane season, The National Hurricane Center provides the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) prediction:
In its initial outlook for the 2009 hurricane season, NOAA’s National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center calls for a 50 percent probability of a near-normal season. Global weather patterns are imposing a greater uncertainty in the 2009 hurricane season outlook than in recent years. This year, The National Hurricane Service predicts an Atlantic hurricane season with between 9-14 named storms. Of that number 4-7 may be hurricanes, including one major storm of category 3 (111 m.p.h.), or larger. There is a 50% probability of a near normal season with an average of 11 named storms, with six hurricanes of which two are major.
On September 14-15, 1995 Hurricane Marilyn hit the U.S. Virgin Islands like a speeding locomotive that once over the islands slowed down, stopped and stayed. It stayed and stayed … pummeling the islands for about 15 hours.
While St. Croix and St. John, two of the major islands in the Virgin Islands chain, escaped the brunt of the storm, St. Thomas took a direct and sustained hit. What had been predicted as a Category 1 storm escalated into a Category 3-4 as it crossed the 45 miles of ocean between St. Croix and St. Thomas.
Because of the predictions of a mild storm many people didn’t make the proper preparations; many who should have been in shelters decided to stay home; many boat owners decided to stay on board their crafts; and many tourists decided to stay on the island rather than take the last flights leaving before the hurricane. For some of these people, those proved to be bad decisions. When you live in a hurricane region, the first thing you learn is that they are incredibly unpredictable.