Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Episode 438 (9-17-18): Following Florence with a Sampler of Hurricane Facts and History

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (5:03)

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

Except as otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 9-14-18.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of September 17, 2018.

MUSIC – ~ 6 sec

This week, that excerpt of “Storm,” by Torrin Hallett, introduces an episode marking the Atlantic Coastline arrival of Hurricane Florence on September 14.  At about 7 a.m. Eastern Time that morning, the center of that large tropical cyclone made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, bringing with it high winds, storm surge inundations, and heavy, flood-causing rainfall that would affect areas far beyond coastal Carolina.

The unwelcome arrival and impacts of Hurricane Florence made this week an appropriate time for reviewing some basics about hurricanes.  Following are six brief fact sets, based on a Frequently Asked Questions Web page from the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

1. A hurricane is the strongest type of tropical cyclone, a rotating area of low pressure not associated with a weather front.  Hurricanes are called typhoons in certain regions of the world.

2. Hurricanes are ranked by sustained wind speed on the Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, as follows: Category 1, 74 to 95 miles per hour; Category 2, 96 to 110; Category 3, 111 to 129; Category 4, 130 to 156; and Category 5, over 157 miles per hour.  Each category has associated estimates of expected damages.  The highest hurricane wind speed recorded was 253 miles per hour from Tropical Cyclone Olivia in Australia in 1996.

3. Hurricane intensity is also measured by how low the sea-level air pressure goes.  The lowest pressure measured for an Atlantic basin hurricane was 882 millibars during Hurricane Wilma in 2005, compared to standard sea-level pressure of about 1013 millibars.

4. Hurricane intensity is essentially independent of hurricane size, so an intense hurricane is not necessarily a big one, as was the case with intense but relatively small Hurricane Andrew in Florida in 1992.

5. Storm surge is storm-generated, abnormal rise of water generated by a storm above the expected astronomical tide.  Storm surge flooding is one of the major threats from hurricanes, including Florence.

6. In United States history, the largest non-inflation-adjusted monetary damage caused by hurricanes was the estimated $125 billion dollars by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.  Adjusted for inflation, though, the most costly U.S. hurricanes were the 1926 Great Miami Hurricane and the 1900 Galveston, Texas, Hurricane.

There’s lots more to know about hurricanes, not least of which is how to prepare for them.  You can get preparedness information from many sources, including the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, online at vaemergency.gov/hurricanes (http://www.vaemergency.gov/hurricanes/).

Thanks to Torrin Hallett for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with another hurricane-appropriate piece by Torrin. Have a listen for about 30 seconds to “Tropical Tantrum.”

MUSIC – ~ 26 sec


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at virginiawaterradio.org, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  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.


“Storm,” a movement within “Au Naturale,” is copyright 2017 by Torrin Hallett, used with permission. “Tropical Tantrum” was composed for Virginia Water Radio by Mr. Hallett in May 2017. Mr. Hallett is a 2018 graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio. More information about him is available online at http://www.torrinjhallett.com/.

Previous episodes featuring music composed by Torrin Hallett include the following:
Episode 335, 9-26-16 on the Canada Goose – “Geese Piece”;
Episode 338, 10-17-16, on rainfall measurements – “Rain Refrain”;
Episode 343, 11-21-16, on the Wild Turkey – “Turkey Tune”;
Episode 349, 1-2-17, on the New Year – “New Year’s Water”;
Episode 362, 4-3-17, on hail, and Episode 377, 7-17-17, on clouds – “Storm,” from “Au Naturale.”
Episode 369, 5/22/17, and Episode 423, 6/2/18, on the upcoming Atlantic tropical storm seasons in 2017 and 2018, respectively – “Tropical Tantrum.”

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 http://www.bencosgrove.com.


Hurricane Florence centered over southeastern North Carolina, in a satellite photo as of 9/14/18, 4:37 p.m. EDT. (NOTE: UTC, or Coordinated Universal Time, shown on the photo is 4 hours ahead of EDT and 5 hours ahead of EST.) Image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), online at https://cdn.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/GOES16/ABI/SECTOR/eus/02/1000x1000.jpg, as of 9/14/18 at 4:45 p.m.

Storm surge prediction for Hurricane Florence as of the morning of 9/14/18, taken from the National Hurricane Center, online at https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/graphics_at1.shtml?cone#contents, on 9/14/18 at 9 a.m. EDT.  Following is information on the image at that site: “This graphic displays areas that are under a storm surge watch/warning.  A storm surge warning indicates there is a danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline somewhere within the specified area, generally within 36 hours.  A storm surge watch indicates that life-threatening inundation is possible somewhere within the specified area, generally within 48 hours.”

Average number of Atlantic tropical storms for 1996-2009. Graphic from the National Hurricane Center, “Tropical Cyclone Climatology,” online at https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/climo/, 9/17/18.

National Weather Service image on how air pressure changes with height above sea level. Accessed at https://www.weather.gov/jetstream/pressure, 9/17/18.


Used for Audio

CNN, Hurricane Florence coverage, online at https://www.cnn.com/us/live-news/hurricane-florence-dle/index.html, as of 9/18/18.

Encyclopedia Britannica, “Atmospheric Pressure,” online at https://www.britannica.com/science/atmospheric-pressure.

Max Mayfield, et al., “Atlantic hurricane season of 1992,” Monthly Weather Review, Vol. 122, pages 517-538, excerpted online at http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Storm_pages/andrew1992/andrew_article.html.

National Hurricane Center, “Costliest U.S. Tropical Cyclones Tables Updated,” Jan. 26, 2018, online (as PDF) at https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/news/UpdatedCostliest.pdf.

National Hurricane Center, “Hurricane Florence Public Advisory Archive, online at https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2018/FLORENCE.shtml?.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/Hurricane Research Division, “Frequently Asked Questions,” online at http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/tcfaqHED.html.

National Public Radio, “Hurricane Florence, ‘An Uninvited Brute,’ Brings Floods To N.C. As Wind Speeds Drop,” 9/14/18, 7:06 a.m. EDT.

National Weather Service, “Jet Stream/Air Pressure,” online at https://www.weather.gov/jetstream/pressure.

National Weather Service/Wilmington, N.C., Forecast Office, “Hurricane Florence Decision Support Briefing #15, September 14, 2018, 9 a.m., online (as PDF) at https://www.weather.gov/media/ilm/LatestBriefing.pdf (as of 9/14/18, 12 p.m.).

For More Information about Tropical Storms and Severe Weather Preparedness

American Red Cross, “Hurricane Safety,” online at http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/hurricane.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), “Hurricanes,” online at http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA)/Climate Prediction Center, “Atlantic Hurricane Outlook and Summary Archive,” http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/outlooks/hurricane-archive.shtml.

National Hurricane Center, “Storm Surge Overview,” online at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/surge/.

Virginia Department of Emergency Management, “Hurricanes,” online at http://www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia/stayinformed/hurricanes.

Virginia Department of Emergency Management, “Know Your Zone,” online at http://www.vaemergency.gov/hurricane-evacuation-zone-lookup/. This site allows citizens to know whether or not they are in a zone most at risk from an approaching tropical storm, when emergency managers may be calling for evacuations or other actions.

Virginia Department of Emergency Management storm surge items, online at http://www.vaemergency.gov/?s=storm+surge.

Virginia Department of Transportation, “VDOT and Emergency Response” (including hurricane evacuation information), online at http://www.virginiadot.org/about/emer_response.asp.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html).  See particularly the “Weather” subject category.

Following are links to other episodes on tropical storms.
Episode 134, 10/29/12 – on Hurricane Sandy and storm surge.
Episode 163, 5/27/13 – annual season-preview episode.
Episode 215, 5/26/14 – annual season-preview episode.
Episode 266, 5/18/15 – annual season-preview episode.
Episode 317, 5/23/16 – annual season-preview episode.
Episode 330, 8/22/16 – mid-season outlook.
Episode 337, 10/10/16 – on Hurricane Matthew and storm surge.
Episode 345, 12/5/16 – season-review episode.
Episode 369, 5/22/17 – annual season-preview episode.
Episode 385, 9/11/17 – on Hurricane Irma and storm surge.
Episode 423, 6/2/18 – annual season-preview episode.


The episode—the audio, additional information, or information sources—may help with Virginia 2013 Music SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

This episode may also help with the following Virginia 2010 Science SOLs.

Grades K-6 Scientific Investigation, Reasoning, and Logic Theme
2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1, and 6.1 all include: Current applications to reinforce science concepts.

Grades K-6 Earth Patterns, Cycles, and Change Theme
1.7 – changes in temperature, light, and precipitation affect plants and animals, including humans.
2.7 – Weather and seasonal changes affecting plants and animals.

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 – Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decision, hazard mitigation, cost/benefit assessments).

Grades K-6 Interrelationships in Earth/Space Systems Theme
2.6 – identification of common storms and other weather phenomena.
4.6 – weather conditions, phenomena, and measurements.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

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

Life Science Course
LS.1 – understanding of scientific reasoning, logic, and the nature of science, including current applications to reinforce science concepts.
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.1 – current applications to reinforce science concepts.
ES.8 – influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including identification of groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia.
ES.10 – ocean processes, interactions, and policies affecting coastal zones, including Chesapeake Bay.
ES.11 – origin, evolution, and dynamics of the atmosphere, including human influences on climate.
ES.12 – weather and climate.

Biology Course
BIO.8 – dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2015 Social Studies SOLs.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.6 – government at the national level.
CE.7 – government at the state level.
CE.8 – government at the local 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.7 – national government organization and powers.
GOVT.8 – state and local government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – public policy process at local, state, and national levels.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.
Episode 250 (1-26-15) – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255 (3-2-15) – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282 (9-21-15) – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309 (3-28-16) – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 332 (9-12-16) – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403 (1-15-18) – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404 (1-22-18) – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade. Episode 406 (2-5-18) – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407 (2-12-19) – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.