Note to storms: Just try going way around us

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

This is about the time of the year when I start watching the tropics and follow those spaghetti models the computers generate, trying to predict where the storms may be heading.

Hurricane season starts much earlier, on June 1, but the tropics don’t really become active until about now. This is the peak season for hurricanes.

The Gulf of Mexico waters are warm, and the air temperature is hot and humid. This part of summer is perfect for tropical storm development like Harvey.

I grew up in an area where we didn’t have to worry about hurricanes. I didn’t pay much attention to them until one snuck up the Atlantic Coast, and we had to prepare the summer camp I was working at for the storm.

I think the camp owner just wanted to get a bunch of work done and used the approaching storm as an excuse. We didn’t have Accuweather or Mike’s Weather Page. We relied on the information the owner relayed to us, which was scary. After a staff meeting, I imagined the entire summer camp getting blown away.

We went into action. The camp had to be saved no matter what, because we wanted jobs there again the following year. By the time we got through, that place would have probably withstood a Category 3 storm.

And then, nothing. The storm curved into the Atlantic Ocean, never to be heard from again. But, the camp was probably worth a lot more than before the threat.

I became a Texan in the summer of 1979 when I started working as a reporter at the Bay City Daily Tribune. I got a big Texas welcome. First, a tropical storm flooded the city. Then a hurricane headed toward us.

I can’t remember which one, but it was supposed to wipe out the city, and we were advised to leave. But I had just arrived there. I had a nice efficiency apartment and a job. I didn’t want all of that blown away.

At work we were asked to write down on a list posted in the newsroom where we were going. Some of us who were staying wrote down Mustang Island. The publisher would have gotten a kick out of it, except he was already gone.

The storm was supposed to hit overnight, and we were going to be on the dirty side. I tried to stay up for it in my second-floor apartment, but eventually fell asleep.

The next morning I was half expecting to see doom and devastation, but it was a nice sunny day. I looked out the window. Everything was where it was supposed to be. What happened to the storm? It made landfall farther south and left us alone. That was the second time a hurricane had stood me up, but I didn’t mind.

Four years later I rode out Hurricane Alicia in the Brazoria County Courthouse and reported on it for the Houston Chronicle, where I had landed a writing job just a couple of months earlier. But I could have reported on it from my apartment in Clute, which never lost power. My phone was even working.

I ran from Hurricanes Rita and Ike, but it was time for a vacation in the Hill Country, anyway.

We’ve been lucky since Ike. All the storms have curved away from us. Let’s hope that trend continues. But you never know. It only takes one to mess everything up, like Harvey. Stay alert and prepared during these few weeks. Expect the worst and hope for the best.

After Harvey, if a hurricane does not head our way by the second week of September, chances are slim that we’ll get one later in the season.

Now, let me figure out where this tropical storm is headed. The colorful noodles are all over the place. It’s either Mexico or Florida. Only one yellow noodle appears threatening to us. We’re good – maybe. Harvey is heading where?