By the time you read this, we will all know exactly where Barry made landfall and how much rain and flooding it produced. The prediction as I am writing this is for Barry to hit near New Orleans. Some areas could get up to 20 inches of rain, and New Orleans is already having trouble with the rain that has fallen long before Barry made landfall. This has been a rainy few months for parts of the country that drain into the Mississippi, so the rain from Barry really has no place to go.
Barry is the first hurricane of this year’s season, but not the first named storm. If you have already forgotten the first named storm of the season that is understandable. Andrea was a short-lived subtropical storm that formed south of Bermuda in late May. The notable thing about Andrea was that this was the fifth year in a row that there was a named storm before the official start of hurricane season. I wonder how many years it will take before the start of the hurricane season is moved into May.
I recently took one of my daughters to Florida State for her college orientation. One of the main things that surprised me was the amount of time spent talking about hurricanes. When I went to school in Tallahassee in the early nineties, we never even thought about hurricanes affecting Florida State. Those days are over. In 2016, Hurricane Hermine caused parts of Tallahassee to lose power in September. In 2017, Hurricane Irma caused nearly the entire southern half of the state to evacuate into North Florida. There were long lines for gas in Tallahassee and Live Oak and some gas stations ran out of gas. In 2018, Hurricane Michael again caused Tallahassee to lose power for days. Tallahassee was actually lucky to have missed a direct hit from Michael. Had the storm track been just slightly more to the east, the category-five-storm would have caused widespread damage to structures in Tallahassee.
What will the rest of the 2019 hurricane season have in store for North Florida and Tallahassee is anyone’s guess, but one thing is certain. This part of the state is seeing much more frequent storm activity than it has in the past. The cold fronts that used to swing into the state in September and October are not as strong or frequent as they used to be. Those cold fronts used to provide our part of the state with some level of protection from storms that were heading north. I would not count on a cold front to save us from a storm that was heading to North Florida in September or early October anymore.
I am not sure how much the warming of the northern Gulf of Mexico by a degree or two will affect the formation and intensity of storms, but I have a feeling we will all be finding out together.
Eric lives in Suwannee County and is a public school educator. He is an independent contractor. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.