By Forest Riggs

Get ready for Hurricane Season 2017

For folks lucky enough to live on Galveston Island or along the Gulf Coast, the end of May brings with it two things: fabulous Memorial Day parties and the start of hurricane season. Memorial Day has more or less become the official entry into the summer season with its fun parties, beach gatherings, vacations and even an “ OK” to wear straw western hats and white clothes again.hurricane_andrew

Galveston and its sandy beaches really come alive as summer approaches. The City and Park Board have worked hard piping in sand to replace the shoreline along the Seawall. This year, visitors will find ample, sandy beaches on which to pitch an umbrella, lay a blanket or just build castles in the sun. Some areas along the Seawall that have had very little beach have now been the recipient of tons of new sand, offering beachgoers more areas on which to play and work on tans. The beach across from Rumors Beach Bar is now sandy, expansive and ready for throngs of LGBTQ revelers to show-up and have a party!

With the frivolity associated summer’s onset comes the anxiety over yet another hurricane season. Most agencies that watch such weather spectacles predict a fairly calm season for 2017. Most are in agreement there will be fewer storms and less intensit y than normal for the Atlantic season.

“ It’s still quite uncertain,” says Michael Bell of Colorado State University’s atmospheric science department. Bell, a professor and co-author of the university’s annual storm forecast reports: “ The ocean temperatures off the coast of South America are already warm, but we have a lot of difficulty predicting whether or not an El Nino will form when we are looking at it in the spring. If an El Nino performs as expected in the Pacific, it should tamp down on storm formations in the Atlantic.”

weathervaneLet us hope! The Colorado State forecast for 2017 predicts 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major storms of Category 3 or higher. Other forecasts are very similar in numbers and predictions. In truth, we just never know; it’s a coin toss, with some forecast models that look like someone on LSD got carried away with multiple cans of Silly String.

The list of 2017 storm names is interesting and varied (gotta be politically correct, even with storm names). Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia, Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince and Whitney. These are the names that will either fade into nothing or become words that strike fear and bad memories, like Carla, Andrew, Katrina and Ike.

I still get a kick out of perusing the list of names and making my own predictions: Arlene came early, in April, off the east coast of Bermuda so we are essentially starting with Bret. Cindy could be a mess. I have a sister Cindy, and upon the death of my mother in 2002, she pretty much screwed the sons out of any inheritance—be warned! Emily is a good one to watch; it sounds good and reminds me of a beautiful niece, who after several years of marriage, came out and now lives with her partner, so this storm could be totally unpredictable. Franklin will fizzle and though he/she may blow a lot hot air and threats, like Franklin Graham, no one will take it seriously. For some reason, odds setters and betters are looking at Katia as a possible sneaky storm; given the past election, it is probably a Russian thing. Lee could be strong, but not a winner and Maria is another name that just sounds good: “ Hurricane Maria.” Ophelia has that old-fashioned ring to it, but will probably be nothing—without Desdemona, Hamlet and Othello. If we get to the P’s, Philippe might be the one to watch. Love the name; it sounds regal, powerful and strong. I could write volumes about a hurricane named Tammy and maybe even pen a new song “ Stand By Your Sand.” Lastly and if we get that far, Hurricane Whitney would be the queen of all storms; powerful, multi-faceted and beautiful, in a stormy kind of way.

Let us hope we don’t have to use any of these names. If we do, may they just be gentle reminders of the power of the universe and not monikers that will remain as reminders of loss and destruction.

Lastly, as always, remember to stock up on supplies, make a plan and be ready for any storm that might waltz into the Gulf of Mexico and find its way to our shores. We no longer have Lyda Ann to guide us through another storm, but rest assured, we are in good hands.

Happy Memorial Day! Wishing you a blessed and peaceful summer.

Forest Riggs, a resident of Galveston is no stranger to the adventures of life. A former educator and business owner, he enjoys Island life and all that comes with it. He says he is a “raconteur with a quixotic, gypsy spirit.” Forest has written for several newspapers and magazines as well as other writing pursuits, including a novel and collection of short stories.