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Sun Times Feature Story


Peak of the storm season still ahead


By Larry Blustein
sfsuntimes@aol.com
As Sandy McDonald spent Sunday morning clearing some of her higher trees and bushes on her Hollywood property, she spoke about the current hurricane season.

On a day where there was one named storm and two others that could potentially reach this region over the next week or so, the reality that we haven’t even reached the halfway point of the 2016 storm season, is starting to sink in for some property owners.

“You know, living here for 22 years and coming to south Florida right after Hurricane Andrew hit, I only have the storms of the early 2000s as a reminder,” McDonald said, wiping away the heavy stream of sweat on this humid day. “Since we became homeowners, the playing field has changed. In an apartment, you can walk away and find another place. You own and you are here no matter what.”

Being prepared is always a mantra that is used by every local, state and national agency trying to prepare all of us. McDonald and others who listen to weather reports daily to always know what’s going on in the oceans, are certainly in the minority.

As we have certainly dodged many bullets when it comes to hurricane season for the past decade - there is never a given when and where these storms will hit. So, while using the thinking that we are due, it really never works out that way. It all depends on the atmosphere and if winds change or continue to steer these storms in a certain direction.

This season began nearly five months before the official start, with Hurricane Alex forming in the Northeastern Atlantic in mid-January. Tropical Storm Bonnie followed in late May, which was the first occurrence of two pre-season Atlantic storms since 2012. In June, tropical storms Colin and Danielle formed and became the earliest third and fourth named storms in the Atlantic in recorded history. Earlier this month, Hurricane Earl killed 67 people after striking Belize and Mexico.

As of this week, most forecasting groups have expected this season to be an above average season, due to a combination of factors including an expected transition to La Niña and warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Western Atlantic, despite near-average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Main Development Region near Cape Verde. So far, all but one of the season's 6 storms have impacted land and caused loss of life, directly or indirectly.

Business owners such as Mario Garcia fully understands how tough the summers are for him and his employees. They know that if a hurricane or severe storm should impact this area, it just compounds the problem.

While the summers are nowhere like the winter season for tourist dollars, there are many who come from all over to vacation year round - and the merchants depend on that, in a major way.

“Everyone knows that when it comes to the summer down here, you are thankful for any business that you may get,” Garcia explained. “But when the weather stands in the way, it could end up costing all of us in a major way. Damage, power outages and a mess for a while.”

While the storm season is never good news, the experts who predicted 14 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes at the start of the season on June 1, updated as we entered July to include 15 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes. On July 5, they lowered the predicted numbers to 16 tropical storms, 8 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

When August began, the numbers were lowered to 15 named storms and 7 hurricanes due to the influence that La Niña being less than anticipated previously.