Hurricanes - It’s all in the math!

April 12, 2006 at 11:10 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

For years we knew that our luck was running out. Hurricanes make their way to the New Orleans area with a frequency that can be tracked by reviewing the historical data of all recorded storms. As such, we have been quite lucky, actually beating the odds of a major strike in New Orleans by nine years. That is, until Hurricane Katrina reared her ugly head.

Renown Colorado State University hurricane researcher, Dr. William Gray has made predictions for over the 50-year with impressive accuracy. Unfortunately, he was close to his record-breaking predictions of the 2005 Hurricane Season. For the 2006 season he predicts there will be 17 storms, nine hurricanes, five of them major. The numbers are lower than last season, but five major storms would be the most we have ever had in one season.

Gray and other forecasters all say the culprit is a warming ocean, since 1975 there has been a one-degree increase. But forecasters are divided on what is causing this rise. Some attribute global warming from man-made causes. Folks like Dr. Gray say the warming is part of a natural cycle that has occurred several times in the past.

With everyone in the Gulf South still rattled as we struggle to rebound from the worst natural disaster in American History, one have to wonder what all this could mean for Southeast Louisiana? That is where math plays a factor. It is all a matter of possibilities verses probabilities.

It is possible we could get one of the five major storms expected this season, but it just isn’t probable, at least not if past history has anything to say about this. Two things work in our favor.

First, major storms seldom make landfall in the United States. Historically, most stay out to sea or impact other countries. And of those who do impact the U.S., history tells us that it is Florida who is the most vulnerable as they have the higher number of major strikes than any other state.

Second, it’s the 30-year rule that suggests we have an advantage. On average, New Orleans receives a Hurricane every thirty years or so. Sure, we have our close calls almost every year, but where a storm makes landfall makes all the difference in the world. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, 30 miles meant the difference of total destruction or moderate to minor impact. The time between Hurricanes Betsy and Katrina was 39 years.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen, it just means that if history tells us anything, another major strike in New Orleans, although possible, it just isn’t probable.

There is something that we are prone to however. As we well know, a storm doesn’t have to be a direct strike to cause us problems and our probability of that happening is on average, every other year. Factor in the margin of error that could expose us on any given year.

There is one major thing to keep in mind while trying to find something positive from all of this. You have to know that in college, I barely passed math and did not take a single meteorologist courses. So, my guess is as good as the next guys.

View other articles written Patrick Yoes

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