While tropical storm Erika lost its encounter with wind shear and the mountainous terrain of Hispaniola and Cuba ending up as a disorganized rain-maker, the ‘tropical wave assembly line’ in equatorial Africa continued producing tropical waves marching west toward the warn waters of the eastern Atlantic and ‘hurricane alley’.
One of those recently emerged tropical waves has morfed into Hurricane FRED, the sixth named tropical cyclone of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season. A Cape Verde hurricane none the less!
FRED will be one to monitors closely, no doubt, as it moves westward during the period that has historically marked the peak of the annual Atlantic season.
It’s been almost ten years since hurricane WILMA crossed over South Florida back of 24 October 2005 leaving a multi-billion dollar disaster in its path.
Relative to this long quiet period, in terms of tropical cyclone activity, it is important to ask: How much more vulnerable has our region grown over these ten years? Are we better prepared today than we were ten years ago? Will our investments in hurricane mitigation prove effective next time our region is impacted by a hurricane? What kind of an impact will the next storm surge bring after ten years of continuous exacerbation by sea level rise?
Since that fateful October day in 2005, except when storm surge generated by Hurricane SANDY caused million of dollars in damage along the coastal region in Broward County, Florida as it passed at a distance out to sea from South Florida in late October 2012, it has been a rather quiet decade in terms of hurricane activity in our neck-of-the-woods.
Quiet until now, that is! As of today Wednesday 26 October, there at a distance is Tropical Storm ERIKA, the fifth-named tropical cyclone of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season, moving along ‘hurricane alley’ in the wake of now disintegrated Hurricane DANNY toward the windward islands, and the Bahamas and possibly South Florida beyond that.
Based on information from the National Hurricane Center (NHC), it would appear the consensus of the hurricane forecasting models places a by-then category 1 Hurricane ERIKA in the Florida Straits off the coast of South Florida by this coming Sunday 30 August, for a possible landfall on 1 September.
While the so-called ‘cone of uncertainty’ remains quite wide four days out, it is not too early for residents of vulnerable coastal communities in South Florida (Miami-Dade, Monroe, Collier, Broward, Palm Beach counties etc.) to start preparing and to implement their emergency plans.
In this regard it is critically important to not dismiss ERIKA because someone may refer to it as “just a category 1 storm”, keeping in mind that the combination of strong winds, extreme rain, flooding, storm surge and waves, wind-borne and floating debris, has a tremendous capability for causing injury and extensive damage.
It is also critically important to monitor the progress of ERIKA closely over the next few days, to listen to the warnings and alerts issued by local emergency management authorities, and to pay attention to information provided by the NHC and the National Weather Service. Be prepared. Remain alert. MITIGATE!