"The Good and Very Bad of Weather"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Saturday, October 15, 2016

The beauty of Mother Nature surrounds us. Last week, I made a trip to Caro and farther south to Lake Orion. The colors seemed to be brighter and more plentiful the farther south we traveled. The trees are displaying color I don’t recall seeing before. They are sprinkled with a brilliant blast of color throughout, all with deep green backgrounds.

This week, I am traveling north on my annual fall color tour, looking forward to a great display as we encounter the Tunnel of Trees on M-119 north of Harbor Springs. We sure were grateful Mother Nature directed Matthew back offshore. I recall when Hurricane Hugo struck in 1989; it traveled up through the Great Lakes region and stripped all the leaves off the trees before we could enjoy our fall color.

Like most of my readers, I was glued to the weather channel during the coverage of Matthew. I was also close to the phone, just as many of you must have been, because our property, family and friends were in the path of that monster storm. Fortunately, my loved ones were spared. But how sad that the final blow made by Matthew is causing such devastation and loss of life.

As I see it, when major storms strike, concerns mount as warnings are repeated. Because such a great job was done by the weather analysts early, many listeners heeded the urging to seek shelter and evacuate. It must be very hard to leave all your belongings behind, not knowing if they will be there when you return. Those people along Florida’s coastline who moved inland were able to quickly return. Due to the extensive flooding, many of Carolina’s residents who left can only helplessly wait to learn the fate of their properties and others never had a chance to leave.

Times of emergencies bring out the best in people and the level of preparedness was remarkable. Utility crews and other rescue resources from all over the country responded to the area. County, state and local EMS crews were dispatched, at the ready to assist any way possible. National Guard troops were available to stand by and protect property and enforce curfews required to be put in place. As people were asked to leave threatened areas, government leaders warned first responders were being drawn back out of harm’s way and would not be dispatched. These announcements were designed to add encouragement to the directives to evacuate.

One of the greatest assets I saw in the way of assistance during the emergency was the arrival of the giant PowerForward coppertop trucks. They followed the storm’s path, posting their whereabouts and where they could next be expected. The trucks were equipped to provide free batteries and according to reports they carried a ton of various types. They also had a charging system to re-charge all types of mobile devices. People could, via their onboard Internet service, contact family members to let them know how they were doing. I think I know what kind of batteries I will purchase from now on.

The behavior of Matthew, although constantly tracked and observed, proved difficult to anticipate its eventual actions. It was expected to come ashore between the Florida Keys and Miami but it moved on and storm trackers predicted it would make landfall at Fort Lauderdale. Over a period of days, the storm kept hovering just offshore until it moved up the entire coastline of Florida, striking briefly in St. Augustine. It finally delivered its deadliest blows to the Carolinas. The force of wind and ocean waves, combined with record amounts of rainfall, drove tributaries to crest and overflow, resulting in devastating flooding. Although Matthew is back out to sea and dissipated, thousands had to be rescued and tragically the death toll mounted.

The storm which lasted a week from first forecast to final departure presented an often overlooked fact: weather can change in a flash, without warning. When seasons change in our area this is especially true. A short time ago, temperatures reached the 80s then plunged into an overnight in the 30s. Keep this in mind as you finish outdoor chores.

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