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The Good News: Peak of the Hurricane Season Is Over, Or Is It?

hurricane marilyn

Hurricane Marilyn struck Sept. 15, 1995

MIAMI —For some, hurricane season is viewed as a mountain with an elevator awaiting on the other side. You climb to the top and it’s easy going on the way down.

But, that’s really not how it works.

“It’s a bell curve. It’s a well-rounded mountain. That’s a better way to look at this,” said Ed Rappaport, the deputy director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Sept. 10 is only a threshold for the season. The threat yesterday, and the threat tomorrow, is the same as today.

As a matter of fact, statistically, the threat for tropical systems to impact the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico goes well beyond this peak day.

“And it really is. You look at early August through the middle of October — that’s when we have the best chance for some of the strongest storms in the Virgin Islands,” Rappaport said.

Tropical development in October seem rather late, but it’s nothing new.

“You go back in history — even one documented from the 1500s which occurred in late October in the Virgin Islands. So we’ve had about 20 systems in October for the entire territory. So, we gotta be prepared for the whole season. We’ve got a little ways to go,” Rappaport said.

Systems like Danny and Erika had a ways to go when they first developed off of Cape Verde in Africa, giving us plenty of time to watch for changes and refine forecasts accordingly. But even with the impacts of El Nino this year, we’re not always granted the gift of extra time.

“History shows us that the best place to look at, really, lessons learned from hurricanes is to go back in time. We look at Marilyn (September 15-16, 1995), we look at Omar (October 16, 2008), we look at Lenny (November 17, 1999), there’s all sorts of examples of storms impacting the Virgin Islands late in the calendar year,” Rapapport said. “So, there’s really no such thing to me as a busy season or not a busy season. You have to prepare the same as if we were going to be threatened by a hurricane.”

The Atlantic basin hurricane season ends Nov. 30 but requires preparation year-round.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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