" The hurricane forecast for 2006: An active season with 17 named storms, nine of which will reach hurricane strength. Of those, five hurricanes will be between Category 3 and Category 5 storms, with winds from 111 mph to greater than 155 mph, according to William Gray, head of the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University.
"The 2006 hurricane names: Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, Tony, Valerie and William. -- G.M.
Weather, especially bad weather, is what
these guys live for.
So last year,
when a fast-running, quick-to-develop squall line dropped
temperatures and dumped sheets of rain in normally sunny Nassau,
the meteorologists attending the annual Bahamas Weather Conference
deserted the conference rooms to go outside and play.
conference, which marked its 10th anniversary, had none of that
freak weather, but much of the discussion among the 150 television
meteorologists and weather experts in attendance centered on the
violent nature of the 2005 hurricane season.
Taking a look
back at the lessons learned from Katrina, Rita, Wilma and the 24
other named storms of 2005 -- and a look ahead to the 2006
hurricane season, which begins June 1 -- was the objective of the
conference, hosted by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism at Our Lucaya
on Grand Bahama Island.
former director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami,
assembled the panel of experts, which included Max Mayfield,
current NHC director; William Gray of the Department of Atmospheric
Science at Colorado State University; Will Shaffer of the National
Weather Service; and Nicholas Coch, a professor at Queens College
in New York.
For those of us
forecasting in hurricane-prone cities, this conference is an event
we cant miss, said John Morales, chief meteorologist at WSCV in
It began in 1997
as a gathering of 22 people, with a mission to marry weather with
lessons in Bahamian geography.
conference has grown in size and stature since then, the approach
has remained the same, with Sheets at the helm of the presentations
agenda and the Bahamas as host.
And have the
geography lessons succeeded? Are the Bahamas still confused with
We are pleased
that meteorologists have taken to heart our message of the Bahamas
being an expansive destination that requires accurate reporting
with great attention to geography, said Vernice Walkine, director
general of the Ministry of Tourism.
While the Bahamas
are sometimes threatened, hurricanes rarely affect the entire
country, Walkine said.
increased familiarity with the 700-island archipelago that makes up
the Bahamas as well as greater knowledge of the Caribbean region as
a whole has benefited Bahamian tourism and Bahamian residents, who
often get their news and weather reports from U.S. television
stations, according to Walkine.
minister of tourism, said that the Bahamas was the first Caribbean
nation to address hurricanes directly. There has been a substantial
increase in accurate reporting of the names and geography of the
Bahamas by conference alumni, which has allowed prospective
visitors to make sensible decisions about traveling here during
It appears to be
a win-win situation all around. For a tourism-dependent region, the
message of where a storm is headed and when, what is being done to
safeguard lives and the level of preparation can spell the
difference between complacency and confidence among residents and
conference feature is the on-site satellite TV facility, which
enables many of the meteorologists attending the event to share
information and insight with their viewers at home.
We use the
interviews with the weather experts for later stories, which we can
call up during the hurricane season, said Denis Phillips, chief
meteorologist at WFTS-TV in Tampa.
Launched at this
years conference was the iPod podcast center, which carried links
to meteorologists interviews and on-site reporting. These podcasts,
which featured national coverage and reports by meteorologists from
MSNBC, NBCs Today Weekend Edition, CNN and the Weather Channel,
Phillips said the
podcasts, which could be downloaded for future use, garnered more
than 100,000 hits, and lots of podcast visitors crossed over to the
Bahamas Web site.
The podcast site,
created to distribute weather conference footage, also will serve
as an outlet for the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism to distribute
visual updates during the hurricane season.
this aspect as another proactive approach to handling
The many aspects
of hurricanes -- from origin and tracking to surges, water depths
and accurate forecasting -- are covered in discussions and seminars
with the experts.
participants over the years have told me that this conference
directly helps them in doing their job relative to the hurricane
problem, Sheets said.
weathermen are the gatekeepers and disseminators of information
critical to public safety, and they get to know how and why the
system is set up as it is and what impact their forecasting has on
communities threatened by hurricanes.
for a storm is critical, and we have always tried to get that point
across, Mayfield said. Prior to Hurricane Charley in 2004, people
had short-term memories as to how bad storms could be.
The storm seasons
of 2004 and 2005 changed all of that.
Now, theres a
genuine fear of and respect for hurricanes, and its easier to get
our preparation message across, he said, adding people are taking
storm warnings even more seriously after Katrina.
reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].