Thursday, June 7, 2007
The first tropical storm of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, which began Friday, was named Barry.
I take no joy in the use of my name, whatsoever – particularly after the death and destruction caused almost two years ago by Hurricane Katrina.
Mississippians wish tropical storms and hurricanes would cease to exist. But they won’t.
Many so-called experts are predicting a busy hurricane season in 2007.
Saturday, Barry was centered in the Gulf of Mexico about 85 miles southwest of Tampa. It had sustained winds of about 50 miles per hour near the center with higher gusts. The storm was then expected to strengthen into a hurricane. Tornado watches were issued for 26 Florida counties.
But then Tropical Storm Barry weakened to a tropical depression as it moved through Tampa Bay. Forecasters discontinued the tropical storm warnings and watches issued for stretches of the Gulf Coast as Barry was about 100 miles-northwest of Fort Myers.
The depression’s sustained winds had slowed to near 35 miles per hour and it was moving northeast at about 23 miles per hour.
In other words, Tropical Storm Barry fizzled out instead of getting worse, and I’m very thankful for that.
But there was some good that came out of Barry, according to Associated Press reports, in the form of much-needed rainfall to a parched Florida and Georgia.
Its remnants gave a soaking to thousands of acres of burning swamp and timberland in northern Florida and southeastern Georgia.
Saturday’s rainfall - as much as six inches in some spots - was not enough to put out the blazes. But officials in Georgia said the moist conditions allowed firefighters to focus on hot spots missed by the rain and on areas that are already drying out and could potentially catch fire again.
More than 600,000 acres, or about 937 square miles, of swamp and timberland have been charred since a tree fell on a power line south of Waycross, Ga., on April 16 and a lightning strike inside the Okefenokee Swamp on May 5 ignited a second blaze.
We got a haze from Georgia fires right here in Marshall County.
Early last week, my wife Pam, daughter Emma and more in a group from Marshall Academy were en route to Atlanta to catch a train for New York when they were delayed on the interstate by smoke from forest fires.
It’s the second Tropical Storm Barry in recent years. The second storm of the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season carried the same name. It formed on August 2, 2001, just a month after I moved to Holly Springs.
That one reached a peak intensity of 70 miles per hour before making landfall along the Florida Panhandle on August 6, 2001. It crossed over Alabama as a tropical depression and dissipated on August 7, 2001, over the eastern Midwest. That Barry caused $30 million in damage along the U.S. Gulf Coast and nine deaths (two of them directly related to the storm).
That’s two Barrys in six years, and that’s two too many.
I made my first post-Katrina trip to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast a year ago. It was not the Biloxi/Gulfport I choose to remember.
I will be going back a couple of times in the next few weeks.
I hope to see progress.
No doubt Mississippi’s coastal area will bounce back. You can’t keep good folks down, and Mississippians are the best.
But as we move into another hurricane season, we should all think of our good friends and our neighbors on the coast. They continue to need our thoughts and our prayers.
Here’s hoping the rest of the tropical storms this year lose their punch like Barry this past weekend and just bring some much-needed rainfall.
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