Weather reporting can get overly dramatic, especially as a hurricane is coming ashore.

Hurricane Marco came and went. Hurricane Laura will make landfall tonight. All I hear is doom and gloom when forced to watch a little of the television weather guessers talk about an unsurvivable storm surge.

Years ago, facts were mostly presented in the news. Today it appears agenda-driven. I stopped watched network news a few decades ago. I get stuck in an airport sometimes and subjected to the local news feed, but most of the time I refuse to watch news reporting.

Today, major news alerts are focusing on the latest hurricane. We are blessed with access to so many websites pouring out tons of information daily. I access whenever I want to look at the weather models predicting future events that I need to know about.

I use as another source. I love to hear Joe Bastardi talk about the Madden Julian Oscillation and how it affects our current and future weather. You do not have to be a meteorologist to understand or read a graph.

My entry-level job flying P3s in the Navy was as an en-route navigator. I graduated to being a tactical navigator, then tactical coordinator, and finally mission commander. We flew many types of flights – antisubmarine warfare primarily, but also logistics, training, surface surveillance, search and rescue, and more.

With 955 flights in P3s, I have had more than my share of flying into and out of severe weather. The P3 Orion is a rigid-wing aircraft. The wings do not flex much at all. All the upward and downward motion is transferred to the seat of your pants.

I got sick on literally every flight that was not straight and level for my first 500 hours. I can remember distinctly today the time I got over my airsickness. We were flying a mission working with a destroyer and a submarine.

Our mission was to mark on top of the destroyer and be guided by that vessel along a bearing line from the ship to a point ‘x’ number of yards and determine if a submarine was there.

We used a magnetic anomaly detector to determine if there was a large metal object below the ocean’s surface. The flights were rough with lots of turns. I was usually sick within the first 30 minutes and continued with dry heaves for many hours after that.

I was sick on Tuesday’s flight and discovered I was flying the exact same mission the next day. On Wednesday, I did not get sick once – queasy, a couple of times, but not sick to the extent of vomiting, as I had done on so many flights in the past.

Most P3 missions were around 12 hours with the active prosecution part could be eight hours depending on how far we had to fly to arrive onstation. We started with briefings three hours before takeoff and the debrief to at least two hours – fairly long days!

Our missions required weather briefings from our takeoff location, through our transit phase, onstation time, and return. Sometimes frontal activity and more severe weather like tropical storms and hurricanes were close enough to add an extra dimension to our missions.

I picked up an interest in hurricanes on my birthday a long time ago as Hurricane Carla came ashore near where I was living with my parents. I tracked the winds, the barometric pressures, and other factors on note cards. Weather can be deadly if you are not prepared for it.

I cleared everything around my backyard yesterday in preparation for Hurricane Laura. However, I have been following Laura when it was just a wave in the Atlantic well before it became a tropical depression. I track all the storms that leave the coast of Africa until I know they are of no danger to me.

The worst-case scenario happens when you are unprepared for events that happen. It is also a mental event. If you are prepared for the worst-case and it does not happen, then you are relatively happy, and it is not as bad as it could have been. The reverse is true too. If unprepared and water is creeping under the front door, panic develops quickly.

Three years ago, Hurricane Harvey left 36.5 inches of rain in my backyard in five days. We were concerned for a few hours as the rising water approached our front door. We were fortunate not to have water in our home. Many others not far from us were not so lucky. Even if they had left their homes, flooded homes would have greeted them upon their return.

Scenarios have many cases – the worst-case and the best-case limit all those in between those limits. It is like throwing dice – one limit could be double aces and the other double sixes. Every other combination is included between 2 and 12.

However, our lives are not the same as dice. It is harder to predict the future based on many factors. We can control the factors by knowing where to look for information and not rely on public consumption of information that is meant to scare, frighten, and increase ratings for various television shows.

Yes, their information is good and accurate the moment it is presented, but the ability to forecast even 24 hours in advance is not. I have my own best-case and worst-case scenarios that drive my decisions to clear the decks, so to speak, or to gas up and go far away, as I did in 2005 with Hurricane Rita, a category 5 storm with maximum winds of 180 mph which was sustained for one minute.

If you are not an expert in weather and become gravely concerned when it threatens you and your family, reach out to someone who has better knowledge and sources and ask for a little assistance in understanding the whys and wherefores of what could happen and what you should do with plenty of time to do it.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –


2 Responses

  1. Red, the “agenda” of local TV stations is to get through to a lot of thick skulls to warn them of the dangers. You’d be surprised how many totally clueless, disconnected people there are out there. A friend of mine today said to me: “What hurricane?”

    Also, please note that the service area of local tv station signals and distribution extends almost to Beaumont and Port Arthur on local cable. What may only “graze” Sugar Land may destroy areas east of here served by our tv stations. Yes, Beaumont does have a couple of tv stations but if they evacuate/shut down, Houston television is a critcal resource.The Houston Nielsen Designated Market Area is a 22 County area.That means the people in rhoe counties primarily rely on and tune to Houston television.

    Believe it or not, news directors and their program producers do not sit around plotting to rile viewers up. They attempt to meet their FCC license obligations and operate in the “public convenience, interest and necessity”. President Reagan loosened up those license requirements long ago, but broadcasters still go by them in most cases at local stations. It is quite expensive to cover storms and a lot of the commercial time is suspended. Stations lose money on it. It is mostly a public service.

    Disclosure: I worked in the commercial tv industry in Houston in sales amnd mgmt for 11 years snd still have connections in the industry.

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