Dan and I talk about the difference between weather and climate, Florida and hurricanes, the difference between El Niño and La Niña, hurricane formation and safety and preparedness. This is the podcast to watch before hurricane season gets more active.
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I'm Larry Barsh And you are listening to specifically for seniors, the podcast, for those of us in the remember when generation
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Our guest on specifically for seniors today is Daniel Brown. Dan is a senior hurricane specialist and the warning coordination meteorologist at Noah's national hurricane center in Miami. His role as the warning coordination meteorologist includes working with international meteorological services across the Caribbean and central America and the world meteorological organization to ensure effective coordination of forecasts and warnings and watches that occur during tropical cyclone events brown also coordinates NHCs outreach and training activities and works with FEMA's emergency management Institute to develop hurricane preparedness training courses for emergency managers. Welcome to specifically for seniors, Dan,
Dan Brown (01:47):
Hey, thanks for having me today.
In a recent issue of the Palm beach post, there was a letter to the editor and I'm sure you run into these all the time, but let me read it to you. And then I'm gonna ask for your comments on it. The letter read quote, as predictable as the hurricane season is the media's hype that follows it season Floridians learned long ago to ignore most of the broadcast and printed materials regarding the much too often inaccurate predictions of these purported stones. We have become complacent and mistrusting by the continuous supply of misinformation. New residents to the state will yield to the hype until they also become aware of the hysteria created by this false narrative doom and gloom. How do you respond to this negativity and this apathy?
Dan Brown (02:51):
Yeah, we, you know, we, we've gotta get folks thinking about their personal preparedness. We want people to be ready for that hurricane, but we also want people to get the information when a storm is threatening from a trusted source, you know come, come to the, the national hurricane center. We have a website hurricane stock gov to get it right from, from us. We're trying to work with the local media on making sure they very closely we're in the same agency with all the local national weather service offices around the country to again, make sure we're all appropriately conveying the threats without the height and just providing the most accurate and timely forecast that we can.
Yeah. I, I, I don't know how you put up with, with statements like this.
Dan Brown (03:39):
I'll just add that, you know, there there's a lot of misinformation that can be spread on social media. You know, a, a lot of the, the, the forecast models that we use to make our predictions are available on the internet that they're out there. You, if folks see those spaghetti plots of all those tracks you know, where the storm may be heading but again, leave the work up to us as the experts. On average, we, we beat those models. We're more consistent in those models in our forecast. And so Le leave that up to the experts and, and follow those trusted sources, follow your national weather service office, follow your trusted local media person, follow the national hurricane center and, and, you know, listen to your local media to get that information. When there's a hurricane threat,
Speaking of misleading information O on the internet, what's the difference between weather and climate?
Dan Brown (04:38):
Yeah. So weather is really more the day, day to day. You know, how, how should I address today? Do I need to take an umbrella with me today? That's the weather climate's looking more out into the future, you know, how will things might change you know will it, will it be cooler or warmer 20 or 30, 40 years from now? You know, how might hurricane activity change between now and, and the next generation? But weather is really more the day to day, you know, what's the here and now, how is it gonna affect me today?
How does climate change affect the weather?
Dan Brown (05:16):
Well, it can, and, you know, with, with hurricanes, there's still a lot of debate on you know what could happen in a warmer climate. There's a couple things that we are concerned about. One is that as we've seen sea level rise and, and, and sea level has risen over the past you know, several decades that that's just a higher baseline for storm surge. So when the winds of the storm push that ocean water on shore, if it's starting from a higher point, it's just gonna mean that that storm surge could be higher and also penetrate further inland. So we all should be concerned about that. And the second thing is that the, the atmosphere is able to hold more moisture in, in a warmer climate. And so you know, hurricanes could just have more, more rainfall and there's also some studies that have shown that hurricanes might move slower in a warmer environment. So if we see storms that can hold more water moving more slowly, that's kind of a recipe for you know, more flooding rainfall and, and just more impacts from the storm itself. So those that's really where the science is taking us right now, worried really more about those water impact storm surge and heavy rainfall,
Worried more about that than the wind.
Dan Brown (06:26):
Yeah, I mean, you know, studies show that the wind might increase by a small fraction, but not by a lot in a warmer climate. So it, it really is rainfall. In fact, rainfall itself, rainfall and, and the storm surge account for about nine outta 10 deaths in hurricanes, we do need to be concerned about the wind, but it really is the water that we need to make sure we're staying safe from. And that's both storm surge where we're asking residents to evacuate from the shoreline, if they live in that area, that's at risk for storm surge. And then also in the days following when there's that flooding rainfall to make sure you're not driving your vehicles into flooded roadway aways, and just, just staying safe,
Especially in a state like Florida, which is a, what a 400 mile long peninsula. And the highest point is 350 odd feet above sea level.
Dan Brown (07:18):
Yeah. You know, in Florida, we're, we're very concerned, especially on the Gulf coast side for storm surge. It's, it's an extremely vulnerable area for storm surge. The east coast is a little bit slightly more protected. I wouldn't, you know, not much more, but, but because there's deeper water just offshore the east coast that the storm surge doesn't tend to penetrate as far inland, along our Atlantic coast of Florida. But the Gulf coast the continental shelf is such a, such a more gradual slope out into the Gulf of Mexico that allows that water to pile up. And then we can see that storm surge penetrate many miles inland and portions of Southwest Florida around the Tampa bay area. And then also along the Florida, big bend and panhandle. And it's something we haven't seen. Very recently we saw it with hurricane Michael that struck in the panhandle as a category five storm, Mexico beach was essentially devastated by the storm surge, but along the west coast of Florida, we haven't had a big, a large strong land hurricane in a number of years, that's impacted metropolitan area. So a lot of folks don't realize that, that the vulnerability from storm surge
Being at the start of the hurricane season, we hear a lot about El Nino and Laina. What, what's the difference in, how does it affect the hurricane formation?
Dan Brown (08:41):
Yeah, so El Nino conditions, or when there's warmer waters out in the Eastern Pacific ocean, which tends to cause more wind shear across the Atlantic basin and, and wind shear for those of us that live in Florida is something we would like to see cuz it kind of tears those storms apart. So as storms start to form, you get strong winds in the higher levels of the atmosphere to really kind of rip those thunderstorms away from where that center is trying to form during lightning conditions, which is cooler waters out in the Pacific, the wind shear tends to be lighter across the Atlantic basin. You combine that with the warm waters and it allows these systems to grow stronger as they move westward across the Atlantic. And unfortunately the last several hurricane seasons, we've seen these law and Indian conditions, which has meant above average Atlantic hurricane seasons. Now really since about 2016, we've had these above normal seasons and just a lot of impacts in the United States.
And what's the outlook for this season.
Dan Brown (09:42):
So unfortunately it looks like we're gonna stay in these Lania conditions, which is generally more favorable conditions in the Atlantic for tropical storms and hurricanes to form. You know, so, so it is, it is forecast to be another act of hurricane season by, by Noah in the climate prediction center. One thing is we don't know where those storms are gonna form. We don't know where they're gonna go. We could hope for it to be a less impactful season, but you know, folks have to remember, it only takes one storm to hit your, to be a really bad year. So, so the board is prepared, always make sure you repair as we head into hurricane season and especially the peak of the hurricane season, which is August, September and October time period.
How does warm water precipitate formation of hurricanes?
Dan Brown (10:34):
Yeah, so the hurricanes that they, they get your energy source from that warm ocean water. When you look at more like winter time type lows that move across the United States, or, you know, if you lived up in the Northeast and you're familiar with the, the, the you know, Noster, they get, those are actually formed and get their energy from the contrast between the warm and cold air masses. So that, that difference in the atmosphere itself, whereas hurricanes drive their energy from that warm ocean water there's evaporation that goes on that causes those thunderstorms to form. And then as you know, as they begin to rotate it allows the winds to increase. And again, if the conditions are F right, both the ocean being warm and the wind shear being low, it can allow those storms to form and, and can get quite strong. I mean, we we get up into the major hurricane strength and we get the category three, four, and five storms. And it's those storms that do the, the bulk of the damage, not all, but the bulk of the damage of when they make landfall,
What are the, the stages of development, the early development of a hurricane?
Dan Brown (11:44):
Yeah, so, you know, initially these we have to have some kind of preexisting disturbance early in the year, that might be a, a cold front that's moved off of the Southeast us coast, maybe in the Gulf of Mexico or in the Western Atlantic. But as we get more toward the, the peak months of the hurricane season, we start looking for these, what we call tropical waves or disturbances that move off the coast to Africa every three or four days. And they just generate a cluster of thunderstorms. And as those thunderstorms move westward across the Atlantic, again, if the conditions are right, if you get the, you know, plenty of moisture in the atmosphere, if you get the warm waters and low shear the storms will, the, the thunderstorms will begin to organize and circulate as they move westward. And that's when they can grow stronger into a tropical depression, then a tropical storm. And again, if conditions are favorable, they'll make it to hurricane strength.
And the forecasts always mention Sharron dust. What is, what is that? And how does it affect a hurricane?
Dan Brown (12:51):
Yeah, so the hair, so the hair and dust it really shows that there's dry air in the atmosphere when we see the dust, it's typically because the atmosphere is very dry, especially in the mid levels of the atmosphere and, you know, hurricanes don't like dry air. They, they want a very warm moist environment and atmosphere. And so when we see that Sah and dust, it typically suppresses helps suppress or shows that there's dry air that will suppress the formation of hurricanes. And so, you know, we, we do see the SHA and dust move across Atlantic at times. And usually again, when that occurs, it's during a time in which we don't necessarily expect much development across the, the Atlantic basin.
You mentioned categories of a hurricane 3, 4, 5, what's the difference in wind speed?
Dan Brown (13:43):
Yeah. So as we get up in the categories, of course the wind speed gets stronger. We get to the category three status when winds get to be 115 miles per hour and then category four and category five starts at when the winds are above 155 miles per hour. And I, I will say that we can't focus too much on the storm category because even the category ones and twos can do a lot of devastation in fact, over the last you know, decade or so those category one storms have caused you know, 185 fatalities in the us several actually 110 billion worth of damage. So again you know, gotta be prepared really for any hurricane, but it is those three fours and fives that typically do the vast majority of the damage. It it's the category of four and fives where you have to really worry about the significant wind damage. And then also you can get storm surge extremely high. In fact, you know, during a Lars landfall, which was over in Louisiana, we actually used the term UN survivable storm surge, cuz we are expecting surge on the order of 15 to 20 feet where if you're living on that coastline you know, that's way over my head for water and, and really was just something that we wanted to make sure everyone was able to get out safely.
In addition to that, we're always told about the formation of tornadoes in conjunction with hurricanes. We're warn to go into a safe room somewhere in the house. Yeah. How does that happen?
Dan Brown (15:20):
Yeah. You know whenever a tropical storm or hurricane makes landfall, we do typically see tornadoes to form. They usually form in the outer rain bands of the storm, not necessarily right near the, the center or the eye of the hurricane, but out in those outer rain bands. And they're typically on the right side of the storm. And so, you know, a storm that's moving over the Eastern Gulf of Mexico coming up toward Florida. We can get a lot of tornadoes in those outer rain bands as they begin to sweep across the state. And you know, the, the local national weather service offices will issue warnings for those tornadoes. Usually the tornadoes and, and tropical storms and hurricanes are more short lived, but they can still be quite damaging. You know, it's, it's more localized, but it'll, it is something that you have to pay attention to. And when that tornado warning is issued, it's when you want to get in your safe room interior room of the house without windows and, and, and, and wait out until the all clear is given after the, the, the warning is canceled.
You mentioned the dangerous part of hurricanes before, during or after which so I'm sorry.
Dan Brown (16:32):
No, it's, it's really, it's really all you know, the stress level tends to rise as we're getting close to a hurricane threat. And you know, we're seeing w with, with advancements in, in our, in our watches and warnings and forecast the, the number of lives lost in a hurricane has come down quite a bit over the last several decades. You know, you go back to 1900 and there were nearly 6,000 people that were killed in the Galveston hurricane that year. And so we don't see typically those really large numbers of fatalities, which is a good thing. You know, we reduce the number of storm surge fatalities. We're now issuing storm surge watches and warnings, but what we're seeing is more people that, that, that get injured or die in sort of the, the preparation and recovery phases of hurricanes.
Dan Brown (17:20):
You know, so when people are putting up hurricane shutters or getting ready, you gotta make sure you're staying safe. And then after the storm, unfortunately, we're getting a lot of folks that die from, from either heart attacks because increased stress reasons, you know because a loss of electricity, either from, from heat or from improper use of generators with carbon monoxide poisoning or just accidents that occur, you know people are trying to clean up and using a, you know, power tool. They haven't used a chainsaw and getting injured. So the key message here, especially for our seniors, is to make sure that you're getting help F seek help, talk to your friends, relatives, neighbors, and, and just make sure you're staying safe after storm. Help's not gonna be as readily available after hurricane. So, you know, you just gotta make sure you're staying safe and make sure you have that, that supply kit ready. So you can you can be prepared.
What about walking out into standing water?
Dan Brown (18:18):
That's that is a contributor as well to injuries and fatalities, because you never know what's in that water. There can be, there can be wildlife, there can be snakes, but there can also be down power lines in that water. So you know, I know we've had back in 1999, hurricane Irene struck south Florida, and we had several folks that were electrocuted, unfortunately, because they walked through some flooded areas. And didn't realize that there was a down power line in that puddle and they were electrocuted. So again, gotta stay real safe after the storm again just taking care of yourself.
And do you wanna mention about driving in water?
Dan Brown (18:59):
Yeah, absolutely. You know, we wanna make sure folks aren't driving into flooded roadways in the last few years. We've lost a lot of people because they've, they've driven around barricades and into a flood. You, you never know, you can't see if the bridge still exists, you know, you might be going over a bridge and the water has risen up and don't know that the bridge has been washed out. And so we've had people drive into flooded areas. Also been swept away here in south Florida. We don't have as much of the movement of the water, just kind of more ponds, but many parts of the country after storm. The water is, is moving very quickly through, through rivers and streams. And it doesn't take much water, just a few inches of water can start to float your car and, and, and move it. So so, you know, if you ever see if you ever come upon a road where there's a barricade, you know, stop, turn around the saying is turn around, don't drown. And we do wanna make sure folks are listening to that.
Okay. Let's I know this is gonna be on every news show from now until the end of November, but let's go over some of the basics of safety and preparedness, especially for seniors who may not be able to get around as well.
Dan Brown (20:14):
What do we need on hand?
Dan Brown (20:19):
Sure. So, you know, one thing I would say too about the, the, the indirect fatalities that are happening after the storm is that, you know, a as seniors, you're, you're eight times as likely. That's what the statistics show that you're eight times as likely to, to die than someone under the age of 21. So it is our seniors that we're very concerned about after the storm. And we really gotta make sure that, that we have all your, your, you know, non-perishable food and water available. You really wanna have about a week's worth of supply at least three days, at least 72 hours, but it's really good to try to have a week's worth of supply that non-perishable food and water. You wanna make sure that you, that you also, you know, know where you're gonna ride out the storm, find out if you live in an evacuation zone.
Dan Brown (21:08):
And if you do find a friend or relative that lives just outside that zone, you don't have to go far. If you live in south Florida, we don't have to drive all the way to Orlando to escape that storm surge threat area. We just need to move away from the coastline to get into a, a, a home that's further inland, well built home, further inland, where you can ride out that storm and, and also, you know, think about the aftermath, make sure you have the medicine that's gonna be able to last you, if you have medicine, you have to, you know, it's critically needed to make sure you have a good supply of that before the storm, but also with extended power outages you know, make sure that you have battery operated fans you know, have a battery operated radio. Now you can actually get solar charging you know, panels for your, for your cell phone, electronic devices. So thinking about purchasing some of that stuff to, to you know, for you to be better after the storm, but I guess, you know, for seniors do make sure you have a battery powered fan in your kit, because again, you want somebody to help cool off your home. It's gonna be hot after hurricane, if you have power for several days. And, and we gotta just make sure folks are, you know, staying safe.
Let's talk for a second about generator safety and storage of gasoline in the garage, as well as the carbon monoxide.
Dan Brown (22:30):
Yeah. So, you know before hurricane, at least from, from my experience here in south Florida, having been through a few hurricanes is you, you probably do wanna have a supply of gasoline you know, a few extra gallons for, for generator, perhaps even for your car, if you begin to have to, you know venture out, if you, cause it may take, it may take several days to a week to really get you know, electricity up and running to, to allow the pumps to work at gas stations. But if you're gonna use a generator is make sure it is properly ventilated, actually buy a, buy a carbon monoxide, a battery powered carbon monoxide detector as part of your kit and have that in your home. So that if you do get carbon monoxide in your home, it will alert you in the last few years, we've lost more folks to carbon monoxide poisoning after hurricanes, as we've had from storm surge during the storm. So again, we've gotta get people thinking about this, this generator safety because you know, really after any weather event that, that causes large power outages, the the freezes in Texas a few years ago, we also saw several carbon monoxide poisoning deaths from generators. So we just gotta make sure people hear that message and are heating, heating our advice.
What about safe storage of gasoline and propane?
Dan Brown (23:52):
Yeah. Just make sure it's make sure it's stored in, you know, inappropriate containers make sure those, you know, containers are you know, are sealed. You certainly don't want an open gas can somewhere in your home during a hurricane. You know, it wouldn't take much of a spark to, to ignite that. So again, make sure any gas is stored in, you know, in proper containers, same with propane as well. And then again, if you're gonna use that generator, use it, use it safely.
Is it safe to leave those gas cans and propane tanks in the garage?
Dan Brown (24:29):
Yes, I would say it's, it's safe to leave those in the garage. You know, your, your garage door is, can be a weak point in a home, but, but I, I, I think it's, as long as they're in those seal containers, it should be safe in your garage.
What did we miss?
Dan Brown (24:46):
You know, just, just to tell folks that, you know, unfortunately, you know, we can't change the calendar that we're, we're coming up on. You know, June 1st here start of the hurricane season now is the time to be thinking about preparedness, you know, make, make sure you have your, a list written with you know, all the, all the numbers of your family members that you may need to contact before, during and after storm. Make sure you tell folks where you're gonna go to ride out the storm so that a family member knows where you're gonna be, can help find you after a storm, and then just make sure you get those supplies. You know, you don't have to buy it all at once and it's a lot easier to buy. Now, so each time you go to the grocery store in the next few weeks to, to couple months buy a couple extra cans of nonperishable food, buy, maybe an extra few water bottles and just slowly stock up on, on those supplies. And then by the time we get into to August, which is really the peak of the hurricane season, you should have all those supplies and be ready in case we need 'em hopefully we won't need 'em this year, but be ready just in case
One last question. What keeps you up at night during hurricane season?
Dan Brown (25:55):
Oh, that that's a great question. I think for, for us, we we've had a challenge of, of forecasting rapidly strengthening storms. We saw that with Michael in 2018 at the hit up in the Florida panhandle. We saw that last year with hurricane Ida. The good news is we're making some progress on forecasting, rapid strengthening, and we saw that with with Ida last year. But I think the fear is, is to have a storm rapidly strengthening in the last day or two before landfall that then either hits, say Tampa bay the Miami Fort Lauderdale area, you know, Jacksonville, a large metropolitan area where folks didn't have a lot of time. That's why it's so important to have your supplies to have your plan be ready. The stat I like to say is, you know, the, the nine most powerful hurricanes to hit the United States, all the ones that were 150 miles per hour are greater. All of those rapidly strengthened and none of them except one was a, was you know, a tropical was a hurricane three days before they were all tropical storms or less three days before landfall. And the average of that time of those storms becoming a hurricane before they reached the coast was only 50 hours. So just about two days before they reached the coast, they become hurricanes. So you're not always gonna have a lot of notice on these storms, but that's why we always have to be ready and just be prepared.
Dan, thanks for coming on specifically for seniors, great information necessary review of facts. It was a pleasure having you on. Thanks so much.
Dan Brown (27:31):
Thank you so much for having me and everyone be saved this hurricane season.
Take care. Thank you.
Bye-Bye bye. Bye. If you found this podcast interesting, fun or helpful, we'd appreciate it. If you tell your friends and family and click on the follow or subscribe button, wherever you listen to podcasts until next time, I'm Larry Barch and you've been listening to specifically for seniors.
Senior Hurricane Specialist; Warning Coordination Meteorologist National Hurricane Center
Daniel Brown is a senior hurricane specialist and the warning coordination meteorologist at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Brown received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Meteorology from the University of North Carolina-Asheville in 1993.
Brown began his career with NOAA in 1993 as a meteorologist intern with the Tropical Analysis Forecast Branch of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. In 1995, he joined the National Weather Service forecast office in Miami as a journey forecaster. Brown rejoined the Tropical Analysis Forecast Branch as a journey forecaster in 1998. He became a hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center in 2006 and was promoted to senior hurricane specialist in 2009. The position involves the issuance of track, intensity, and wind radii forecasts as well as associated watches and warnings for tropical cyclones in the Atlantic and eastern North Pacific Oceans. His role as the warning coordination meteorologist (WCM) includes working with international meteorological services across the Caribbean and Central America and the World Meteorological Organization to ensure effective coordination of forecasts and watches/warnings occur during tropical cyclone events. Brown also coordinates NHC’s outreach and training activities, and works with FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) to develop hurricane preparedness training courses for emergency managers. Brown has served on the AMS Committee on Tropical Meteorology and Tropical Cyclones. He also serves on the Meteorology Topic Committee for the National Hurricane Conference and the Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference.
Brown was part of an NHC team that received a National Hurricane Conference Outstanding Achievement Award in 2009 for the development of the NHC Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook. Brown was also part of an NHC team that received the regional NWS Isaac Cline Award in 2013 for enhancing public awareness of hurricane threats through innovative and effective use of social media. In 2016, Brown won a National Hurricane Conference Outstanding Achievement Award and a Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference Public Education Award for work related to the FEMA Hurricane Preparedness course and the NWS Effective Messaging Course.
Brown received a regional and national NWS Isaac Cline Award in 2017 for his work in bringing hurricane science and preparedness webinars to elementary schools across hurricane vulnerable areas of the United States.