March made the decision to cut the cruise short, sail to Belize City and put the passengers off the boat so they could return to Miami. After sailing all day, the beautiful sailing ship reached port and the sad passengers headed ashore. Captain March was plotting his next move as he said goodbye.
The official National Hurricane Center forecast projected the storm to continue moving west northwest and eventually make a turn to the north. The central pressure in the powerful storm fell to a dizzingly low 924 millibars. Armed with this information, March headed the four-masted sailboat out to sea to escape the westward moving storm. He sailed southeast toward the protection of the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras.
But Mitch seemed to stalk the doomed ship. The steering currents unexpectedly collapsed, turning the storm unexpectedly southward, directly toward the Fantome. By the afternoon of October 27th, March and his crew of thirty-one men were battling fifty-foot waves and 115 mph winds as the hurricane edged closer and closer to them. That afternoon, the satellite phone went dead.
There would be no further contact with the Fantome. Experts theorize that the yacht and its crew of 31 foundered on a huge wave and sunk like a rock late on the 27th or on the 28th of October. All that was ever found of the ship was two life rafts and 8 life vests off Honduras, stenciled “Fantome.”
The GOES satellites are designed to remain geosynchronous orbit (they remain over the same point on the Earth) 22,240 miles above the equator. The series are stabilized so that their cameras are always pointed at the Earth, so they are able to transmit frequent pictures back to forecasters.
The satellites can produce both visible and infrared photographs of cloud structure, calculate surface temperatures, display amounts of atmospheric water vapor present and make soundings of the vertical thermal profiles of the atmosphere.
There are five GOES satellites currently in operation (GOES 9-13). GOES-13 was launched on May 20th of this and transmitted its first picture on June 23, 2006. The satellite is still going through its six month check out period.
Currently, GOES-9 is a backup currently on loan to Japan. GOES-10 is being repositioned over South America to provide full time coverage for the countries of that continent. GOES-11 (also known as GOES-WEST) is positioned above 1355W longitude, providing coverage for the Pacific and western U.S. GOES-12 (or GOES-EAST) is positioned above 75W, providing coverage for the Atlantic and eastern U.S.
The GOES-R series of satellites will first be launched in 2012. Those satellites will be able to scan five times faster than the current satellites, providing even more data for forecasters and research.
Later that night, the couple awakened at dawn to the sound of the storm surge crashing over the dunes. They tried a desperate escape in their car, to no avail, as the rising waters cut off their escape route. They broke into a two story house to flee the rapidly rising waters, but the pounding waves began to tear the house apart.
The couple escaped the shattered house on a mattress, carried out to sea on the storm-tossed waves. . Fortunately, the mattress became wedged in some tree tops, and the shivering couple rode out the rest of the storm there with the calm of the eye passing directly over them.
After the storm, the Helms found their cars buried in the sand and their beach house destroyed, but they did find the refrigerator, about one mile away, sealed tight and still cold. After their harrowing experience, they had a beachfront picnic from its contents!
On October 9, 1954, famed Weather Bureau Hurricane Forecaster Grady Norton died of a stroke while at home in Miami while just after working a 12 hour day plotting the course of Hurricane Hazel. The Alabama native was 60 years old.
Norton ignored warnings of his medical condition in order to provide warnings about the Hurricane, which would go onto blast the North Carolina coast on October 15.
Norton is widely recognized as the original director of the National Hurricane Center even though that position would not be created during his lifetime. Norton established an extraordinary reputation as an expert forecaster who had a tremendous ability to communicate with coastal residents.
In January 1955, Norton was featured on an episode on the television show Man Behind the Badge. Actor Milborne Stone played the great forecaster.
Here is the transcript of the introduction to that show:
Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. Hello. I am Charles Victor. That quotation about the weather might have been true once, but it no longer holds, because one man did do something about it. One man spent his life fighting the fury of the wildest of winds – the hurricane.
And he was the first to learn how to track it from its birth to its death. What does that mean? Well, a hurricane leaping in from nowhere used to mean one day of unbridled power. The next was a day of mourning for five hundred dead. Yes, that was the death rate not so long ago.
But the hurricane with its next move forecast cut that rate to five. This then was the life work of one man. And this is his story. A story? No, it’s a tribute. Because the man we are speaking of tonight died a short time ago. He will never be forgotten by those who live in or travel through a hurricane area. But can he ever be thanked enough by future generations? And so, our tribute. Our salute to Grady Norton. Tonight’s Man Behind the Badge.
See it yourself at: http://www.liketelevision.com/blog/archives/000351.html
…in 1825… The worst fire in Canadian history raged through part of New Brunswick’s Miramichi Valley. The towns of Newscastle and Douglastown were destroyed by the fire. Two hundred people were killed. Nearly one fifth of the province of New Brunswick was burned. The Great Miramichi Fire ranks as the largest in recorded history, burning over three million acres in Main and New Brunswick.
…in 1970… 38.42 inches of rain fell during a six day period at Jayua, Puerto Rico as a slow moving tropical depression plagued the area. Seventeen inches fell on this date at Aibonito PR. Massive flooding and mudslides over the island resulted in 18 fatalities.
…in 1987… Tucson recorded its 71st 100 plus degree day for the year, which set a new record. Sizzling heat continued across the Southwest with the 101 at Tucson tying their record for the month of October and the 103 at Phoenix establishing a record for the date.
…in 2003… The first seven days of October was the warmest October week ever in Fairbanks, Alaska. The temperature during the period averaged 51.1 degrees, surpassing the old mark of 28.4 degrees set in 1938. Many record highs were set in the forty ninth state during the unusual warm spell.
During this period of rapid strengthening, a small eye formed with a diameter of only about 6 miles. The hurricane then underwent an eyewall replacement cycle, causing the pressure to rise steadily over the next few hours to 940 mb as the maximum sustained winds diminished to 125 mph. Opal weakened still to 115 mph before it's final landfall in Santa Rosa Island, Florida on October 4. Opal brought heavy surge to the area, 8-15 feet in some areas, comparing itself to Hurricane Eloise, which struck the same area at near equal strength in 1975 (I was at Fort Walton Beach for the arrival of that one. Opal remained a hurricane for nearly 12 hours after landfall, its rapid forward speed propelling it the entire length of Alabama (the center moved from near Opp to Montgomery to Talladega to Fort Payne) before being downgraded to a tropical storm as it crossed into Tennessee near Chatanooga. Over the following 12 hours, it was not downgraded to a tropical depression until it reached Ohio, and not declared extratropical until reaching Canada, where it still managed to bring squally conditions.
Here in Alabama, thousands of trees were blown down, with the most serious damage on the eastern side of the state. At one point 2.6 million people in the state were without electricity, and an Auburn football game scheduled for Thursday night of that week has to be postponed due to the lack of water on the Auburn campus. Two people were killed near Gadsden when a large oak tree fell on their trailer. That is one big reason we always encourage people to leave mobile homes before a hurricane sweeps through our state.
…back in 1997… Hurricane Nora made landfall in Baja California, Mexico and churned into the southwestern United States. Yuma AZ picked up 3.83 inches of rain from the storm, more than they receive in a normal year. Winds of up to 70 mph accompanied the storm all the way into Utah. Death Valley CA picked up an inch of rain and the .27 of an inch that fell at Los Angeles put an end to the record 219 day dry spell that had been going since February 18th. Nora was only the fourth tropical storm on record to strike the southwestern United States.
…back in 1998… Four hurricanes were going on simultaneously in the Atlantic Hurricane basin (Georges, Ivan, Jeanne, and Karl) when Karl was upgraded to hurricane on the 5PM advisory. That was the first time that had happened since 1893. After moving along the north coast of Cuba on the 24th, Georges was crossing the Florida Keys on this date, heading into the Gulf of Mexico. The storm had re-intensifed and had winds of 105 mph when it made landfall near Key West about midday on the 25th.
…back in 2004… After Hurricane Jeanne killed 1,500 people in Haiti with mudslides and flooding, hunger and disease took center stage. U.N. troops tried to maintain order in the storm torn nation, desperately trying to protect stores of food and supplies from armed gunmen.
WRC-TV Meteorologist Bob Ryan was on the air showing dramatic radar images of the tornadic supercell crossing the District of Columbia. It was the first tornado in the District since the 1920s.
Fortunately, the Pentagon tornado was only an F1, but it took a very visble 15 mile long path, passing near the Pentagon, the Monuments, the Smithsonian the Capitol, and crossing the 14th street bridge. Cars had their windows blown out on I-395.
Shortly after the Pentagon tornado lifted, a stronger F3 tornado touched down and carved a 18 mile path into Maryland, cutting directly across the University of Maryland campus in College Park. 2 students were killed in their car after having been warned to leave before the storm hit. The warning process worked well, with early forecasts, statement, watches and warnings all issued well in advance of the storm.
Gray received the warning by teletype and immediately hoisted the familiar hurricane warning flags, made difficult by the winds that were already blowing strongly. The warning had come too late. The hurricane had strengthened rapidly during the evening hours and had winds of over 130 mph. Most residents had already gone to bed. Winds reached hurricane force by 1 a.m. Wind gusts to 132 mph were recorded at Miami Beach. The eye reached Miami Beach around 6:10 in the morning. Miami was in the eye for about 45 minutes and the barometer bottomed out at 27.61 inches, which was a new U.S. record at the time. During the calm, residents poured into the streams and a stream of cars started across the causeway from Miami Beach to the mainland, much to the dismay of Gray. He yelled to people on the streets that the other side of the hurricane was yet to come.
Sustained winds were measured at 123 mph for 5 minutes and 138 mph for 2 minutes and may have been higher, since the anemometer was destroyed at 8:12 a.m. A storm surge of 11.7 feet above normal devastated much of the beach and city. 243 people died. Damage totaled $12 million. Researchers have studied past hurricanes and have calculated what their damage would be in modern dollars. According to researcher Chris Landsea, the Great Miami Hurricane would have been the most destructive. The 1926 storm was weaker that Hurricane Andrew of 1992, but was much larger. Calculations are that damage today from a storm like the 1926 hurricane would have been a staggering $80 billion. There was a tremendous outcry in Florida about the poor warnings from Washington.
I happened across your blog this morning because I was doing some "Googling" on Hurricane Frederick. I have a particular interest in that hurricane. I grew up in South Carolina and lived there for 36 years. I know hurricanes fairly well having lived through an exciting night with Hugo and the many hurricanes we've experienced since moving here to Forida a few years ago. But no hurricane has yet replaced Frederick in significance to me.
In 1979, I had just turned 19. I had recently been laid off from a construction job and was looking forward to starting at the University of South Carolina as a freshman the next January. My father, Isaac (Ike) Lee, had, only a couple of months before, started a new job with a trucking company hauling concrete pipe. (The recession of the 1970s had left him mostly unemployed for about two years.) The pipe plant was in Columbia and the construction site to which he delivered on a daily basis was in Atlanta. He would leave every morning around 4:00 to be at the site in time to meet the construction crew, unload, and be back home around 2:00 p.m. September 13, though, was to be different.
Twelve days after his 45th birthday, my Dad was leaving the job site around 10:00 a.m. and the remnants of Frederick were blowing through. By time it reached Atlanta, Frederick was a tropical storm, but the worst damage done there was by the tornadoes spawned by it. That was what caught him.
According to another driver following behind him, as he crossed an overpass on I-285 near the Atlanta airport, his truck was blown off the bridge and onto highway surface below, killing my Dad instantly. Weather reports had shown signs of a tornado in the area at about that time. Because there was no sign sign of collision with the bridge, other than a tire scuff on the curb, accident investigators believed that a tornado had lifted the truck and empty trailer over the guard rail and dropped it, nose first, onto the road below.
My family has ever since had a great respect for the power of nature and the value of each individual life taken in such events. Too often natural disasters are only interesting if the damage in dollars and lives reach record numbers. But we must always remember that even when there is "minor" damage and few lost lives, those results are life shattering to the families involved.
I don't live in your city, so I'm not familiar with your television work, but thanks for the story on your blog, and for the professional coverage of the real stories, not just the pretty reporters in the wind.
James A. Lee
Bartram Trail High School
Social Studies Department Chair