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Joe Bastardi / Jul. 26, 2016

Food for Thought on the Eve of the Real Hurricane Season

Here is a forecast: If the kind of worry I have about this season — which I have been very public about since spring — occurs because of a plainly natural cause, we will hear the very thing that was laughable in a day and age when JFK was running for president.

We are in the Phony War part of the hurricane season. The WWII buffs out there know what that term means, but for those who don’t, here’s an explanation.

There are many examples of hurricane seasons that start quickly then fall apart completely before they come roaring back.

We believe this is a big impact season on the U.S. coast. Our pre-season forecast was initially released in April — with the biggest concern in the Gulf of Mexico — which we then finalized in May, lighting up the western Atlantic and Gulf. The closer to the U.S., the bigger the worry about the intensity of storms this year given the very warm sea surface temperatures near the shore.

That warm water is eerily similar to the hurricane seasons of 1954 to 1960, when eight major hurricanes impacted the U.S. East Coast in seven years, including five in the back-to-back years of 1954 and 1955. This means that storms may not be much way out in the Atlantic, but as they get closer to the U.S. we have the threat of them increasing in intensity rather than backing off a peak reached out at sea.

Now imagine it’s 1960. Kennedy vs. Nixon is looming and up comes the ultimate East Coast storm, Hurricane Donna. It hits Florida as a Category 4, North Carolina as a Category 3, New England as a Category 2. The monster brings hurricane winds to every state on the East Coast, never before recorded in the nation’s history (and never since!). And as the storm is marching across the Atlantic a set of people decide to use it as a wedge issue in the election.

Think about it — the admonitions that this is the “worst ever” from a set of politicians using hysteria about something that nature is in control of, who then blame it on policies that their ideological opponents are advocating. And a willful press, which simply follow along with anything they are told, without examining facts, parrots it. Some of the politicians even suggest people who don’t side with what they believe should be prosecuted. Given that the nation had just spent time, treasure and blood on defeating that ideology and was still battling it in the form of the Cold War, can you imagine the response of the nation to something like that? Add to this the heat and hurricanes of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, and no person in their right mind in 1960 would even think to push such an idea.

But it’s not 1960 anymore. And we have people who willingly do these things. So here is a forecast: If the kind of worry I have about this season — which I have been very public about since spring — occurs because of a plainly natural cause, we will hear the very thing that was laughable in a day and age when JFK was running for president.

The people who become targets had better have their facts lined up, because I still believe in 2016 you can counter fantasy with fact. And so part of this is to get our forecast idea out there, for one, but also to lay the ground work before it happens. What would not even be an issue in 1960 after 30 years of record heat and hurricane hits (and there has been nothing close since) would be today in spite of the relative calm we have had been blessed with as far as hurricanes go.

Sandy may have changed the course of history given the actions and reactions of the people involved as a nation. It’s one of those events in history that, years from now, people may look at like the sinking of the Spanish Armada in a storm off England. Or the weather for D-Day. History favors the bold, and I would suggest a bold response be at the ready for whatever comes out of this hurricane season. The why before the what is not in the hands of any party, but nature. Those who know how to use it to educate the public as to the reasons are the ones that could win the hearts and minds of people in this pivotal time in our nation’s history.

And the weather could certainly be a player!


Joe Bastardi is chief forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics, a meteorological consulting firm.

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