Oil forecast brings back Messina’s track record

Published 7:50 am Monday, June 7, 2010

Whenever an eye-opening weather forecast comes across the wires, it is difficult not to think of my friend Fred Messina.

Fred had the unenviable job of being the unofficial weather reporter here at the Post. Readers could make their plans by Fred’s forecast. Simple, do the opposite of what he wrote.

It became a bit comedic around the office as Fred would predict snow only to have people getting the suntan oil out. After his death three years ago, memories of Fred are still as thick as cream soup.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

So when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its predictions, it became a time for hope — and a Messina-esque forecast.

The federal agency predicted 14 to 23 named storms with up to 14 becoming hurricanes, and as many as seven of those being major hurricanes. Hurricane season stretches from June 1 to Nov. 30.

Compounding the impending hurricane fears is the constant gush of oil 50 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico. On Wednesday, a stream of oil reached the Mississippi Coast. Every method BP has tried to quell the flow of oil has failed. The next best hope is a relief well that may not be completed until August — the heart of hurricane season.

Anyone who has lived in this state for longer than five years knows quite well the destructive power of hurricanes. What effect that spill will have, if combined with the wrath of a hurricane, is unknown.

It’s a helpless feeling that everyone associated with the Gulf should have right now. As helpless as we are to stop that oil, we are even more helpless to stop a hurricane.

Soon, a storm will form off the coast of Africa. Television stations will begin the watch, implement models and feature the cone of uncertainty — the area the storm might hit. Reporters will be dispatched to the Coast and stories of oil woes will become storm stories. We will be reminded of Katrina ad nauseum.

The people of this state will prepare and hope, because that is all anyone can do. We have to hope we get spared what is being predicted. We’ll hope the next five months and three weeks will be as quiet as the first six days of the 2010 hurricane season. We’ll hope every storm takes a sweeping right turn into the North Atlantic and dies there.

And if Fred were here, I’d ask, “Freddy, how bad do you think hurricane season will be this year?”

He’d lean back in his office chair, prop his hand on top of his walking stick and say, “Smurph, it’s gonna be terrible.”

Sean P. Murphy is web editor. He can be reached at smurphy@vicksburgpost.com