The Language of storms

4 ways to redefine the hurricane season


Shreveport has a burgeoning movie industry, partially at New Orleans’ expense. Because of the state tax incentive program, and the city’s natural charm, the movie business was humming in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina. After the storm, Shreveport, to which some of the films slated for production here relocated, took advantage of the situation and began building high-tech facilities. Movie making has returned to New Orleans but once the calendar turns to June the filming slows down for fear of hurricanes – even when there’s no hurricane around.

Hurricanes Gustav and Ike showed us that the rest of the state is vulnerable to the storms, which might even bypass New Orleans. What those two storms had in common with the big names from the past, including Katrina, is seasonality – they all tend to hit in late August or early September, doing their damage in a period of a few weeks rather than the half-year about which we’re warned.

What we collectively call the hurricane season treats all the weeks of the six-month period from June through November as equals, though they’re not. Our concern is that with all the renewed attention given to the season we’re scaring people from visiting, investing or living in our area for half of every year. If we send the message to the world that New Orleans is a dangerous place to be from June through November of every year, then we’ll never be able to grow.

We need to make people aware of potentially dangerous weather conditions but there must be a more precise picture. Why not divide the time frame into sub-seasons? For example:

  • June though July – “Shoulder Tropical Season.” Subject to tropical depressions, tropical storms and an occasional hurricane
  • August through September – “High Tropical Season.” Greatest likelihood of hurricane activity.
  • October – “Moderate Tropical Season.” Hurricanes possible, though less likely.
  • November – “Low Tropical Season.” Tropical activity possible, though land hurricanes not likely.

Distinctions could even vary geographically- going up or down in certain months in Florida or the Caribbean. Certainly, the storm likelihoods for Barbados aren’t the same as for New Orleans, yet both are lumped under the same seasonal calendar.

By redefining the season, people will know to be cautious but also to have a better sense of the potential. We need to do something: If we become so paralyzed as a community that we can barely function for half of every year, than Katrina will have done even more damage than we thought.

Fortunately, while the city’s founders knew about summer hurricanes there was no one scaring them away with talk about a prolonged hurricane season. They might have been discouraged from ever building a city.

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