Monday, May 22, 2017

Episode 369 (5-22-17): After Arlene's April Opener, Here Comes Atlantic Tropical Storm Season 2017

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:38)

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

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 5-19-17.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of May 22, 2017.

This week, we re-visit a mysterious, annual calling of the names—names that, if we’re lucky, will not become infamous this summer or fall.   Have a listen for about 25 seconds, and see if you can guess who—or rather, what—is being named.

GUEST VOICES - ~25 seconds
- Arlene! Bret! Cindy! Don! Emily! Franklin! Gert! Harvey! Irma! Jose! Katia! Lee! Maria! Nate! Ophelia! Philippe! Rina! Sean! Tammy! Vince! Whitney!

If you guessed tropical storms or hurricanes, you’re right!  Those are the names planned for the 2017 tropical storm season in the Atlantic basin, covering the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.  The season runs officially from June 1 through November 30.  But tropical storms don’t always follow the official calendar.   For example, this year, the Atlantic’s first named storm—Tropical Storm Arlene—formed in April; and in 2016, 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] can get ready by making a written emergency plan, including an evacuation plan; assembling an emergency kit of food, water, and supplies; preparing your home for high winds; and establishing ways to stay informed, especially if the power goes out.  Detailed safety tips for tropical storms and other severe weather are available from the “Safety” link at the National Weather Service Web site,   Hurricane Preparedness Week for 2017 was May 7-13, so now’s the time!

Thanks to 21 Virginia Tech faculty and staff for lending their voices to this episode.

We close with about 25 seconds of original music for tropical storms, composed and performed by Torrin Hallett, a student at Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio.  Here’s “Tropical Tantrum.”

MUSIC - ~26 sec


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 Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


“Tropical Tantrum” is copyright 2017 by Torrin Hallett, used with permission.  As of May 2017, Torrin is a fourth-year student at Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio, majoring in horn performance, music composition, and math major.  More information about Torrin is available at his Web site,  Thanks very much to Torrin for composing the piece especially for Virginia Water Radio.

Click here
if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode. More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at

 Names and tracks of Atlantic tropical storms in 2016, according to the National Hurricane Center, online at
Tropical Storm Arlene in the mid-Atlantic on April 21, 2017, 7:45 a.m. EDT. Puerto Rico is visible in the lower left corner of the photo. Photo from the GOES-East satellite, NASA/NOAA GOES Project, in “NASA Satellite Animation Shows Tropical Storm Arlene "Eaten" By Weather System,” 4/22/17, online at

The following information is quoted from the National Weather Service’s “Hurricane Preparedness Week 2017” list of tips for each day of a week, online at

Day 1 - Determine your risk.
Find out today what types of wind and water hazards could happen where you live, and then start preparing now for how to handle them.  Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem.  Their impacts can be felt hundreds of miles inland.  It’s easy to forget what a hurricane is capable of doing.  The U.S. has not been directly impacted by a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) in more than a decade.  However, hurricanes such as Ike, Sandy and Isaac reminded us that significant impacts can occur without it being a major hurricane.  Many people are suffering from hurricane amnesia in the forms of complacency, denial and inexperience.  This remarkable hurricane streak is going to end, and we have to be ready for it to happen this season.

Day 2 - Develop an evacuation plan.
The first thing you need to do is find out if you live in a storm surge hurricane evacuation zone or if you’re in a home that would be unsafe during a hurricane.   If you are, figure out where you’d go and how you’d get there if told to evacuate.  You do not need to travel hundreds of miles. Identify someone, perhaps a friend or relative who doesn’t live in a zone or unsafe home, and work it out with them to use their home as your evacuation destination.  Be sure to account for your pets, as most local shelters do not permit them. Put the plan in writing for you and those you care about.

Day 3 - Assemble disaster supplies.
You’re going to need supplies not just to get through the storm but for the potentially lengthy and unpleasant aftermath.  Have enough non-perishable food, water and medicine to last each person in your family a minimum of one week.  Electricity and water could be out for at least that long. You’ll need extra cash, a battery-powered radio and flashlights.  Many of us have cell phones, and they all run on batteries.  You’re going to need a portable, crank or solar powered USB charger.

Day 4 - Secure an insurance check-up.
Call your insurance company or agent and ask for an insurance check-up to make sure you have enough homeowners insurance to repair or even replace your home.  Don’t forget coverage for your car or boat. Remember, standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding.  Whether you’re a homeowner or renter, you’ll need a separate policy for it, and it’s available through your company, agent or the National Flood Insurance Program at  Act now as flood insurance requires a 30-day waiting period.

Day 5 - Strengthen your home.
If you plan to ride out the storm in your home, make sure it is in good repair and up to local hurricane building code specifications.  Many of these retrofits do not cost much or take as long to do as you may think.  Have the proper plywood, steel or aluminum panels to board up the windows and doors.  Remember, the garage door is the most vulnerable part of the home, so it must be able to withstand the winds.

Day 6 - Check on your neighbor.

Many Americans rely on their neighbors after a disaster, but there are also many ways you can help your neighbors before a hurricane approaches. Learn about all the different actions you and your neighbors can take to prepare and recover from the hazards associated with hurricanes.

Day 7 - Complete your written hurricane plan.
The time to prepare for a hurricane is before the season begins, when you have the time and are not under pressure.  If you wait until a hurricane is on your doorstep, the odds are that you will be under duress and will make the wrong decisions.   Take the time now to write down your hurricane plan. Know where you will ride out the storm and get your supplies now.  You don’t want to be standing in long lines when a hurricane warning is issued.  Those supplies that you need will probably be sold out by the time you reach the front of the line.  Being prepared, before a hurricane threatens, makes you resilient to the hurricane impacts of wind and water.   It will mean the difference between your being a hurricane victim and a hurricane survivor.


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's main Web page, online at  This site provides bulletins, maps, and other information on tropical storms as they are occurring.

National Hurricane Center, “Hurricane Preparedness Week 2017,” online at

National Hurricane Center, “NHC Data Archive,” online at

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

National Weather Service, “Hurricane Safety Tips and Resources,” online at; and “What is a Tropical Cyclone?” online at

Doyle Rice, “Arlene forms as only the second tropical storm on record in April,” USA Today, 4/20/17.

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 Emergency Management, “Hurricanes,” online at department's “Know Your Zone” Web site for evacuation planning is at

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, online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Weather/Natural Disasters” subject category.

The topic of tropical storms was featured previously in the following episodes:
Episode 134, 10/29/12 - Hurricane Sandy and storm surge;
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 - mid-season update;
Episode 266, 5/18/15 - annual season preview episode, with storm names for 2015;
Episode 317, 5/27/16 - annual season preview episode, with storm names for 2016;
Episode 330, 8/22/16 - mid-season update;
Episode 337, 10/10/16 - Hurricane Matthew and revisiting storm surge;
Episode 345, 12/5/16 - season review episode.


This episode may ahelp with the following Virginia 2010 Science SOLs:

Grades K-6 Earth/Space Interrelationships Theme
2.7 – Weather and seasonal changes affecting plants and animals.
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.

Life Science Course
LS.10 - changes over time in ecosystems, communities, and populations, and factors affecting those changes, including climate changes and catastrophic disturbances.

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

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2015 Social Studies SOLs, which become effective in the 2017-18 school year:

Civics and Economics Course
CE.6 – government at the national level.
CE.10 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.2 - how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.

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

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