As Hurricane Dorian continues its slow trek up the eastern coastline of the U.S. (the bastard just won’t die!), I think of the storm-related terminology people keep using to describe these systems. Most every description includes the word “very”. It’s the same verbiage recycled again and again – the way companies recycle workers during economic downturns and politicians recycle promises with each campaign. But it’s also somewhat laughable in that, each time, meteorologists, law enforcement officials and reporters (you know, the dumbasses who stand in the middle of a rain-torn street or an inundated beach, as if we’re too stupid to understand how bad it is out that way) utter these same words with just about every hurricane. More specifically, though, the tones of their voices and the inflections they apply to these characterizations insinuate that said terminology has never been used before.
The word “very” is an adverb meaning, ‘In a high degree, extremely, or exceedingly.’
I had a high school English teacher who grew weary of students constantly using the word “very” to emphasize certain conditions. “They’re not very poor,” she groused, highlighting one example. “They’re just poor!”
Okay, boss-lady, got it! Sending “very” into a dark place from where it will not emerge until after I graduate.
With all of that rigmarole behind us now, I have compiled a short list of frequently used – and overused – terms that meteorologists, law enforcement and those dumbass reporters utilize to describe tropical storm systems. Keep in mind the adverb “very” is almost always the precursor.
This storm is very…
Dangerous – this is the 2nd most used term to describe tropical storms; apparently, there are such things as safe hurricanes, but I don’t believe one has developed in a while.
Fluid – this generally refers to the actual travel speed of the storm and not the water, which in case you failed Science 101, is one of the most common fluids available.
Intense – this most often indicates the severity of the sustained winds (those closest to the eye) and wind gusts (those furthest from the eye that fluctuate wildly as their speed increases). This can also describe the persona of those reporters trying to make a name for themselves on the beach, as well as residents and visitors who decide they’re going to tough it out because, after all, what could possibly go wrong amidst 150 mph (241 kph) winds and rain falling sideways?
Powerful – this one competes with “dangerous” as a common description for hurricanes and simply refers to the overall magnitude of the storm. Considering that an average hurricane can generate 6.0 x 10^14 Watts or 5.2 x 10^19 Joules/day (equivalent to about 200 times Earth’s total electrical generating capacity), it’s tough to imagine a tropical storm system as being weak. In fact, though, the word “weak” has been used to describe some hurricanes, which means – from a meteorological perspective – it’s all relative. Think of it as comparing Donald Trump’s intellectual capacity to that of Barack Obama. Obama would a Category 5 hurricane, while Trump would barely make it out of tropical disturbance status.
Unpredictable – this is undoubtedly the most commonly used term to describe hurricanes. Understand that these tempests have been bombarding the coastlines of the world since the beginning of time; yet, we modern humans keep trying to predict exactly where one such storm will go. However, contemporary meteorology has advanced to the point where such estimations are accurate. But coastal residents and visitors still want weather prognosticators to determine precisely where a storm will make landfall, so they won’t have to ruin their vacations or run to Home Depot at the last minutes to buy generators, batteries, plywood and wine. Stupid humans!
Wet – this word isn’t utilized too often amidst hurricane descriptions, but every once in a while, it gets tossed into the mix. Because tropical storm systems develop over large bodies of warm water, I don’t believe “dry” would be an appropriate term. But that’s just my opinion! What do you folks think?
Windy – this is actually the most curious description for a hurricane. Realizing that tropical storm systems are gauged and ranked according to their wind speed, it’s difficult to imagine that even a Category 1 hurricane could pass by without knocking a few trash cans over. Again, I’m just speculating.