#37 — Hurricane Man


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Today’s guests are…

… storm chaser Josh Morgerman and filmmaker Caroline Menzies of the new TV show Hurricane Man, currently airing in the UK and South Africa (random) and set to hit the US in the coming months. I loved this episode and Josh’s obsession with chasing storms was absolutely addictive and makes me (don’t worry I won’t) really want to tag along with him next time.

Does climate change make hurricanes worse?

Although it’s not central to the show, it’s impossible not to talk about hurricanes without talking about climate change. What you have to consider is the difference between meteorology and climatology — they’re different but closely related. Meteorology is the study of weather, most often on a day-to-day or event-by-event basis, so it’s hard to decipher if climate change is involved. Climatology is the study of weather trends over an extended period of time. In order to explore if climate change is making hurricanes worse, you have to look at long-term trends, which is (*shameful plug time*) what my colleague and I looked at for the Guardian last year.

Niko Kommenda and Moi, The Guardian

The Category is Just a Number

We most often hear about the ‘category’ of a hurricane, and the barometer of panic ascends or descends according to this number. But what causes significant damage is the rain these storms bring. Take Hurricane Harvey in 2017, which stalled and sat on top of Houston and its surrounding areas for multiple days. In total, Harvey dumped 33 trillion gallons of water, and the folks at the Washington Post visualized what that looked like at the link below.

Angela Fritz and Jason Samenow, Washington Post

Why Don’t People Evacuate?

Hurricanes bring out the best and worst of people. On one hand, so many incredible people offer to help those whose lives have been destroyed. Then there’s those who sit on the sidelines and lambast anyone who “chooses” not to evacuate. The fact is, not everyone can just get up and leave town for safety. Some are physically unable. Some are physically unable to move loved ones. And as you’ll see from the next blurb, some people just flat out cannot afford to leave their possessions that they rely on to make a living.

Nicole Stephens, for the New York Times

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This Is Why People Don’t Leave

A couple from Florida refuse to leave their fishing boat — worth $250,000 and uninsured against hurricanes — during Hurricane Michael. I watched the below clip with anguish and a clenched butt.

Long Road to Recovery

If you watch the series or have ever seen the destruction of a hurricane, you'll know town's and cities don't recover overnight. My former colleagues at FiveThirtyEight visualized how long it took the victims in New York and New Jersey to recover from Hurricane Sandy (which actually made landfall as a tropical cyclone) and there are still people calling the authorities about the damage. I imagine it will take at least the next decade for the Florida Panhandle to fully recover from the impact of Hurricane Michael, which made landfall as a top-end Category 4 hurricane.

Julia Wolfe and Oliver Order, FiveThirtyEight

Inside the Eye

Time for another video. If you’re reading this and you’ve ever survived the strongest part of a hurricane — the ferocious ‘eye wall’ — you’ll know that on the other side is a mystical land where the sun shines and the birds tweet. That majestic place is called the ‘eye’, and in the below clip, we get to see Josh experience something he described as indescribable. I likened it to being on drugs.

2019 Hurricane Season Forecast

The past two Atlantic hurricane seasons have been devastating with a total of 32 named storms, including eight major hurricanes (Category 3 or stronger). The good news is that the 2019 season is expected to be nearer the average of 12 named storms. The Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State releases its predictions each year and, while these are subject to change, the early signs are that 2019 will be calmer than the past couple of years.

Jonathan Erdman, The Weather Channel

Related Podcasts

#23 — Michael E. Mann (Penn State University)

#17 — James Spann (ABC 33/40)

#15 — Marshall Shepherd (The Weather Channel)

#14 — Rick Luettich (University of North Carolina)

#13 — Jonathan Petramala (Accuweather)

#2 — Damon Lane (KOCO)

Next up…

Next week we’ll have music label man Shane Morris to talk about the controversy of Lil Nas X and his ‘Old Town Road’ being removed from the Billboard Country chart. And also there’s a good chance I’ll release a pod with Jeff Zeleny of CNN.

Last time…

#36 — Sam Biddle, technology reporter at The Intercept

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