Isaac brought home some reality

By Steve Estes

Tropical Storm Isaac turned out to be little more than a good reminder of what might happen at a later date and a good dress rehearsal for those who have never before been through the ramp-up for a storm.

We are all thankful for that.

There was little damage, no flooding to speak of, and even the county’s commerce was minimally interrupted.

We are all thankful for that.

But Tropical Storm Isaac was actually much more than what we all think of as a joke played on us by some overzealous television media.

What Isaac showed us is that the science of hurricane forecasting is still little more than good guesswork until the storm makes up its own mind and decides where it plans to go and how hard it plans to hit.

Early forecasts were for a tropical storm that brushed east. Then came the hurricane hysteria and a westward movement that put us maybe, maybe not, in the cone of uncertainty.

Then that was followed by a couple of days of tropical storm forecasts and put us dead center.

We were all almost unilaterally unconcerned.

Then came three days before the storm and still an uncertainty about the intensity of the storm, but mostly we heard that it would be a strong tropical storm.

We throw storm parties and stay up until the wee hours to laugh at Mother Nature in those cases.

Two days out, the warnings turned into hurricane warnings, still a low level storm, but bearing right down on the Keys.

And eventually we would up with a near miss to the west of Key West in a tropical storm.

And that says that storm forecasting still isn’t where it needs to be for us to be able to accurately predict where and how hard a storm will hit.

And that makes us wonder if those who believe development in the Keys will eventually be the harbinger of massive tragedy might not be on to something.

Had the storm moved on to Category 2 and slowed down, it could well have reached Category 3. Even a Cat 3 isn’t something most of the old timers worry about, but it is probably something our new folks and visitors worry a great deal about.

And a great deal of worry usually leads to a great deal of panic, and a great deal of panic leads to a fight-or-flight response.

You can’t fight a hurricane. You can, but it will win. We don’t have any ammunition to beat back a major Mother Nature temper tantrum.

And knowing they can’t fight the storm, some may have chosen to leave. And been trapped unable to get off the roads before a big wind started to blow.

That has been the concern of many folks recently wrangling over hurricane evacuation clearance times. We know we can’t get everyone out of here before a major storm blows through if we only have two days notice before landfall.

But we insist we can so that we can keep building. We have to keep building or saddle the taxpayer with land takings cases they can’t possible pay in our lifetimes.

Isaac, though nothing more than a barely remembered reminder that storms are out there and can target us, was a lesson for us to ponder.

The storm could have behaved badly.

We are thankful it didn’t

But when we find one that behaves badly and we have forecasts all over the proverbial map as we had with little Isaac, we will have people trapped here unable to get out of the way.

And tragedy will strike.

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