We here in Tampa breathed a sigh of relief earlier in the week when it was reported that Tropical Storm Fay would wind up missing us by a country mile. In fact, we didn't even get any rain. It was breezy, but that was about it.
Originally predicted just days ago to strike Tampa as a Category One Hurricane, this is a relief indeed. And if this scenario sounds familiar....well, it should. There was another storm that followed nearly the same track as Fay three years ago. It was Tampa's would-be "Doomsday" hurricane.
Charley vs Fay Doomsday: 2004. In 2004, Hurricane Charley, already a Cat. 3 storm in the Caribbean, exited the mountains of western Cuba heading northward on a direct line to Tampa following the same trajectory as Fay would in 2008. Charley was a well-organized storm and had developed rapidly over the warm Gulf waters. All tracking predictions (aka, the notorious "spaghetti" models) had it on course for a direct strike on Tampa, August 13 (my birthday, natch) as a Cat. 4 monster. This doomsday scenario would've caused a 14-20 foot storm surge to say nothing of the catastrophic wind damage (somewhere around 150 mph). Mandatory evacuations were ordered. A little panicked and rather depressed at losing everything, I packed up a few things and left with some friends to a safe house well north of here. Life was about to change forever. Or so we thought...
At our shelter, and only three hours away from Tampa being wiped off the face of the earth, we monitored the TV news as the storm approached. I'll never forget for the rest of my life that one Doppler animation that showed at literally the last frame, the turn to the east around Punta Gorda, about 80 miles south of Tampa. Some of us saw it the first time, others couldn't quite make it out, but I know I saw it. Charley never reached Tampa, instead it turned to pummel Port Charlotte (the population was blindsided as this was not expected) and continued northeastward toward Orlando, ironically the city to which many Tampans had evacuated. Though downgraded by this point to a Cat. 3, Charley retained its structural integrity and resulted in one of the top five most expensive natural disasters in American history.
Following a path eerily close to Charley, Tropical Storm Fay exited the mountains of western Cuba on a northeastward track that was predicted to hit Tampa directly as a Category 1 Hurricane, August 19th, four years almost to the day as Charley. All "spaghetti" models took it on or near this course. But there were several distinct differences between the two storms.
Charley was already a hurricane when it entered Cuba. Fay was a sloppily organized, but very large storm, that nevertheless took a beating from the Cuban mountains. Re-organization was expected by the time it hit the Florida Keys, and some did, but not nearly as swiftly as Charley. Despite lingering over the warm Gulf waters before and after its trip over the Keys, Fay never did develop into a hurricane. Still, it was pointing to Tampa as its next stop and some emergency preparations were put into place. As we watched the radar on TV, history repeated itself yet again with a sudden and unexpected turn eastward well south of here, this time around the San Marco Island area (even further south than Port Charlotte). It continued east, dumping huge amounts of rain over South Central Florida, finally exiting somewhere around Vero Beach and out into the Atlantic. (Vero Beach is roughly the same latitude as Tampa.) Wind damage has been minimal compared to Charley, but flooding has been catastrophic. At this writing, Fay has turned to strike Florida yet again, this time in the Jacksonville region, and is predicted to travel west toward the panhandle before exiting Florida as a downgraded Tropical Depression.
Except for some brief intensification over the Everglades, Fay was mostly a rain event. So what happened? A few theories have been forwarded such as upper-level wind shear on Fay's trip across Cuba weakening the system, and competing pressure systems around Florida not being where they were expected to be steering the storm upredictably. (I also heard a rumor that a weather satellite went down around this time, somewhat crippling the data-gathering, but this is second-hand.)
In any event, we in West Central Florida dodged the bullet again, and for that we are grateful. But they are getting too close and, unfortunately, we are only about halfway through the hurricane season. I never take calm, sunny days for granted anymore.
The Kids Are Alright
I've received a few inquiries as to what happened to my talented young'ns Bobby & Jake, after their promising debut in Music Emporium two weeks ago. Not to worry, personal stress delayed last week's column (they've since mended), Bobby's family was in the process of moving (which I didn't know), school started this week (keep in mind they're only 17), and most interesting of all, they've apparently already decided on new directions they want to take their CrazedFan Involvement (we're talking two different columns now!). We're all meeting up this weekend to discuss some quite exciting possibilites.
Recent Bigfoot "Mystery" a Hoax...Surprised?
I'm going to make this short and sweet. About a week ago, these two dufuses, car salesman Rick Dyer and his cop buddy Matt Whitton, decide to announce to the world that they'd discovered a Bigfoot carcass on the side of the road. Took pictures, posted video. Even held a press conference and said that scientific validation was around the corner, via DNA testing.
It wasn't. After an "undisclosed amount of money" changed hands (major red flag there), photographers were allowed to take pictures of the creature in its frozen casket. DNA testing found traces of possum in the creatures entrails, along with various garbage from a slaughterhouse .
HAR HAR HAR, says the two frat-boys a week later, it was ALL A JOKE, "didn't y'all know there's no such thing as Bigfoot?" The cop has since been fired and he and his buddy are possibly facing legal charges and civil action. Read the story I saw on AOL.
Serves 'em right. This "practical joke that got out of hand" excuse is lame as hell and it makes me wonder why an ex-cop decided to sh*t on paranormal believers, the general public, and the press this way and still figure he'd retain any integrity. What an a**hole.
Feds Say One 9/11 Mystery Solved
Supposedly, all conspiracy theorists can now rest easy on the subject of "Building 7", that is, the building in the Twin Towers Plaza that suddenly imploded into rubble several hours after the Towers themselves were hit by airplanes. The favorite theory up to now was that it was intentionally demolished with pre-loaded explosives.
A Federal investigative team now says they've concluded after a long study that Building 7 was, in fact, destroyed by the heat of flaming debris the Towers threw off, in addition to the collapse of Floor 13 that contained a pivotal support column leading to complete structural failure. It was, they noted, the first time anything like this had been observed directly. Well, yeah. Plus, you know, Unlucky 13th Floor and all (great fodder for superstition, that).