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Calm hurricane season bums out Weather Channel

August 17, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

Commentary

So where are all the hurricanes at?

I thought this was supposed to be the hurricane season that ended all hurricane seasons, with gargantuan, roiling storms that would make Katrina and Rita look like Lucy and Ethel.

Things could pick up this fall, I suppose, but as of now, we're sitting on a big squadoosh.

It's killing the guys and gals down at The Weather Channel. You can see them growing more and more antsy as their blue rain slickers gather more and more dust.

They have been reduced to covering, and I swear I saw this firsthand, a "tropical wave." Not a hurricane. Not a tropical storm. Not a tropical depression. A tropical wave.

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I never got the sense of what a tropical wave actually is, but you could see agony and indignity in the forecaster's eyes. Like Warren Buffett having to beg for loose change.

With the lack of any local meteorological grist, they went on to cover a typhoon bearing down on the coast of China. It was a storm of epic proportions, promising mass destruction and all that stuff. The guy brightened a little bit when he was describing it, but you could tell it really wasn't the same.

Tropical Storm Sonamu? Wukong? I thought those came with a side of soup. They just don't have the same resonance as "Hurricane Camille."

The best he could do was finish lamely with a happy little, "So let's hope those people can all move to higher ground before it hits."

Right. Let's load 2 billion Chinese into 1972-vintage Toyotas and get them to their summer villas in Chongqing.

Then, it was on to covering thunderstorms in Africa, with the rather wistful hope that one of them might conceive a spite against the Caribbean and move on to bigger and better things.

Finally, they were reduced to something like "Hurricane Classic," reliving the glory of past storms.

Last year, they went through the whole alphabet naming hurricanes, and toward the end of the season, in exhaustion, had to resort to hurricanes Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon. Close to 30 in all.

This year, to date, there only have been three storms worthy of names, I doubt any will inspire geezers 20 years hence to tell their grandkids, "Well, this was a bad one all right, but you should have been around in ought six when we got slammed by Tropical Depression Chris."

If anything, this year was supposed to be even worse than last because of climate change and all that. In a somewhat defensive posture, a science columnist for The Houston Chronicle wrote, "Sure, it's fun to poke a stick in the eye of climate scientists who are warning of the danger humans face because the Earth is warming."

Yes. Yes, it is.

It might not be, except they all take themselves very seriously, not to Al Gore mention any names.

Look, global warming is like heaven. You couldn't prove in a court of law that it exists. But you live a good life and treat people right, and if there is a heaven, you hit the eternal lottery. But if there isn't, what have you lost? Some booze and strippers, tops.

Same deal with the climate. If you clean up the planet and 50 years down the road it turns out there was never any such thing as global warming, what have you harmed? Oil-company profits? Poor babies.

Conversely, if you place your bet on no heaven and no global warming and you turn out to be wrong - well, as Keith Jackson would say, "Whoa, Nellie!"

And it might be too soon to give up on this year's hurricane season. The Houston science writer points out that a normal hurricane season has 10 named storms, and so far this year we have three - which actually is ahead of schedule. And, he notes, "don't look now, but the tropics are heating up."

Hot dog. Since it's my policy to root for disaster, I'm hoping there is a global warming monster under the bed and that we ignore it until it's too late. I want to see tidal waves the height of Mt. Washington. I want to see a foot of rain an hour for about a year. I want to push the button on an elevator and have a tornado step off.

So me and Weather Channel guy do have that in common.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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