Tropical systems are dangerous and a way of life
Growing up along the Alabama Gulf Coast, getting ready for and surviving hurricane season was a way of life for me.
Each year, my parents would put together a storm kit that included flash lights, batteries, candles, other stuff, more stuff, and cans of deviled ham and chicken spread. Yes, those last two items were a must and were hands-off unless in case of an emergency.
To this day, my mouth waters at the thought of a deviled ham sandwich with mustard, something I am sure would not conform with any healthy diet today.
Each night during the local evening news, the meteorologists would give updates on any developments in the tropics or “waves” coming off the coast of Africa. I was familiar with the normal tracts of storms as they made their way across the Atlantic into the Caribbean and could gage whether or not a storm was worth worrying about depending on whether it traveled south of Cuba or raced across the Straits of Florida.
At the start of hurricane season in early June, The Mobile Press-Register would publish a large, tracking chart that showed the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, all the way down to the Yucatan Peninsula. The chart was broken down into grids segmented by longitude and latitude.
My paternal grandfather, Daddy Bob, would cut that grid out, paste it to a piece of cardboard and set it down next to a small box of push pins to the side of his chair.
As storms would start to develop and make their way closer to the Gulf of Mexico, our local meteorologists would give regular updates, complete with coordinates. As storms grew closer and approached areas displayed on the chart, my grandfather would pick up his cardboard tracking chart, pull out a push pin and mark the location. Then he would comment on how fast the storm was moving, which direction it had shifted, etc. in a way that only a man of his experience — with no training in meteorology — would feel comfortable doing.
He would continue this routine each evening until the tropical storm or hurricane dissipated.
Long before the days of the internet or 24-hour news channels, the updates from local television stations were must-see news. I can remember my parents telling me to be quiet as the next update was announced.
For those of us who have lived along the gulf coast and continue to call the South home, hurricane season is a way of life; it affects everything we do, from how we prepare our storm kits to how we glue ourselves to updates from the National Weather Service and Jim Cantore’s travel agent.
As far as tropical storms go, Barry is par for the course. But let’s guard ourselves from allowing our familiarity with such weather to incline us to take it lightly. Storms like Barry can be serious and dangerous and it is important to monitor them until the coast is clear.
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