Friday, May 20, 2016

Episode 317 (5-23-16): After Hurricane Alex’s Unusual January Appearance, Atlantic Tropical Storm Season 2016 Officially Begins June 1

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (3:44)

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, photos, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 5-20-16.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of May 23, 2016.

SOUND - ~ 3 sec

This week, we drop in on a crowd gathered for a yearly call-out of mysterious names—names that, we all hope, will NOT become infamously well-known during the summer and fall of 2016.  Have a listen for about 25 seconds, and see if you can guess who—or rather, what—is being named.

VOICES - ~25 seconds

If you guessed tropical storms or hurricanes, you’re right!  Those are the names planned for the 2016 Atlantic tropical storm season, covering the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea.  The season runs officially from June 1 through November 30, and National Hurricane Preparedness week ran from May 15-21, 2016.  But tropical storms don’t always follow the official calendar; this year, for example, the Atlantic’s first named storm—Hurricane Alex—formed in mid-January, the earliest for an Atlantic hurricane to form since 1938.

Tropical storms and hurricanes are two categories of tropical cyclones—counter-clockwise-rotating storm systems that start in tropical or sub-tropical latitudes.  A tropical cyclone is called a tropical storm—and gets a name—when sustained wind speeds reach 39 miles per hour [SOUND – 2 sec - wind]; at 74 miles per hour, a tropical cyclone is considered a hurricane [SOUND – 3 sec- louder wind].  Tropical depressions—with wind speeds below 39 miles per hour—don’t get names, but they can still bring heavy rainfall and flooding.

Before a tropical system of any speed or name barges into the Old Dominion [SOUND – 3 sec – wind, rain, thunder], you can get ready by making an evacuation plan; assembling an emergency kit of food, water, and supplies; and establishing ways to stay informed, especially if the power goes out. Detailed instructions are available from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, online at

Thanks to 20 Virginia Tech faculty, staff, and students for lending their voices to this episode.


For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463. Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment. Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close the show. In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


Thanks to several faculty, staff, and students in the Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment who recorded tropical storm names for this episode on May 17, 2016.

Following are the planned names for storms in the 2016 Atlantic tropical storm season, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) “Tropical Cyclone Names” Web page, Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Ian, Julia, Karl, Lisa, Matthew, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tobias, Virginie, and Walter.

Names and tracks of Atlantic tropical storms in 2015, according to the National Hurricane Center, online at
Hurricane Alex over the Azore Islands (in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Portugal) at 9:20 a.m. EST on January 15, 2016. Photo taken from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Web site,, 5/20/16. Photo credits: Jeff Schmaltz, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


Used in Audio

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “NASA Provides in-Depth Analysis of Unusual Tropical Storm Alex,” 1/15/16, online at

National Hurricane Center, online at; this site provides bulletins, maps, and other information on tropical storms as they are occurring. Data archives for past seasons are available at Information on Hurricane Alex in January 2016 is available online at Information provided for National Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 15-21 in 2016) is online at

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Tropical Cyclone Names,” online at

National Weather Service, “What is a Tropical Cyclone?” online at

Virginia Department of Emergency Management, “Hurricanes,” online at Details regarding Virginia’s Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday can be found at

For More Information on Tropical Storms and Emergency Preparedness

American Red Cross, “Hurricane Preparedness,” online at

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), “Hurricanes,” online at

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA)/Climate Prediction Center, “Atlantic Hurricane Outlook and Summary Archive,”

Virginia Department of Transportation, “VDOT and Emergency Response” (including hurricane evacuation information), online at

Virginia Water Central News Grouper posts on news, events, and information resources about hurricanes and other tropical storms, available online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  For previous episodes on weather and storm preparedness, please see the “Weather” category.

Tropical-storm preparedness, specifically, was featured previously in the following episodes:
Episode 163 – 5/27/13 (annual season preview episode);
Episode 215 – 5/26/14 (annual season preview episode, with storm names for 2014);
Episode 226 - 8/11/14 (a mid-season update, featuring “Natural Disaster” by John McCutcheon);
Episode 266 - 5/18/15 (annual season preview episode, with storm names for 2015).


This episode may help with the following Virginia’s 2010 Science Standards of Learning (SOLs):

Grades K-6 Earth/Space Interrelationships Theme
4.6 – weather conditions, phenomena, and measurements.
5.6 – characteristics of the ocean environment.

Grades K-6 Matter Theme
6.6 – Properties of air (including pressure, temperature, and humidity) and structure/dynamics of earth’s atmosphere.

Earth Science Course
ES.12 – energy, atmosphere, weather, and climate.

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2008 Social Studies SOLs:

World Geography Course
WG.2 - how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.9 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

Government Course
GOVT.9 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at