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One Hurricane Arrives Unheralded, Others Leave Quietly in 2007 Hurricane Season

Andrew Freedman @ 11:00 AM

Typically land-falling hurricanes are well advertised in this era of the 24-hour news cycle. Yet even with cable news channels and myriad Internet news providers, hurricane Humberto successfully messed with Texas last week practically without warning. The sneak attack stunned Texans and hurricane forecasters alike.

Residents of the Beaumont and Port Arthur area had gone to sleep thinking that a tropical storm would visit them overnight into the morning, bringing with it gusty winds and rain. Instead some people woke up to the jarring sounds of their roof being blown off by 85 mph sustained winds.

Jason Samenow's Forecast

Nice Day StampToday: Mostly sunny and gorgeous. Highs 69-73.
Tonight: Mostly clear and quite cool. Lows 40-45 (suburbs-city)
Monday: Mostly sunny and a little warmer. Highs 74-78.


That probably led to some interesting bedroom conversations.

"What's that noise Harold?"

"Nothing, just the TV. Go back to sleep."

"But Harold, it's raining in here."

"Shh. I'm sleeping."

Rather than supporting itself on the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico alone, Humberto downed Red Bull and Vodka into the wee hours of the morning.

Forecasters watched Humberto with disbelief as it blossomed from a tropical depression to a modest Category One hurricane in less than a day. That it did so from a position just offshore of the Texas coast made the feat more remarkable, since typically storms don't have a chance to organize much at all when they form right before making landfall.

Hurricane forecaster James Franklin poured his emotions into the 11:00 a.m. hurricane forecast discussion on Thursday, Sept. 13. "BASED ON OPERATIONAL ESTIMATES...HUMBERTO STRENGTHENED FROM A 30 KT DEPRESSION AT 15Z YESTERDAY TO A 75 KT HURRICANE AT 09Z THIS MORNING...AN INCREASE OF 45 KT IN 18 HOURS," Franklin wrote (the all caps style is NOAA's formatting and is not for additional emphasis).

"TO PUT THIS DEVELOPMENT IN PERSPECTIVE...NO TROPICAL CYCLONE IN THE HISTORICAL RECORD HAS EVER REACHED THIS INTENSITY AT A FASTER RATE NEAR LANDFALL. IT WOULD BE NICE TO KNOW...SOMEDAY...WHY THIS HAPPENED."

Humberto's determination to stick it to Texas left the media scrambling to cover what they had thought would be a meteorological non-event. There wasn't time for CNN to send Anderson Cooper into the middle of the storm. Instead, TV meteorologists on national networks gave a summary of the unusual storm and that was pretty much that.

It's understandable that the media was unable to provide saturation coverage of Humberto, but less clear is why the aftermath of two monstrous storms from several weeks ago have garnered a similar thud in newsrooms.

Tens of thousands of people in the developing countries of Belize, Mexico and Nicaragua were severely affected by hurricanes Dean and Felix, both Category Five storms. Dean made landfall in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula with sustained winds of 165 mph. Felix was no slouch either with winds of 160 mph when it paid Nicaragua a visit on Sept. 4.

Prior to these two storms the last Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in the Atlantic Basin was Andrew in 1992. The fact that these storms hit land at their fiercest did manage to seep into America's fickle consciousness, but there has been comparatively little follow up coverage to detail what actually happened on the ground in the affected countries.

Surely there must have been considerable damage based on the wind speeds involved in both storms. Is there a rule for American hurricane coverage of the developing world that if it doesn't hit a tourist destination, it doesn't warrant more than a wire story? I bet that if Dean had hit Cancun, for example, there would have been significantly more coverage. Thankfully for spring breakers, it missed.

Humberto will go down in modern history as the hurricane we didn't see coming. Dean and Felix will be known as the storms that we didn't see going.

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