With June 1 being the start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season it is a good time to note some resources that boaters can use to stay abreast of what is happening in the tropics.
The premier Internet resource, in this writer’s opinion, is NOAA’s National Hurricane Center Web site (NHC). One way or another, almost every other Internet and weather reporting resource bases their product on the information generated by the NHC. The home page gives at a glance the weather maps for the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America, including the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Links take you to as much information as you want on the various situations shown on the map, and include a longer-range and more general Tropical Weather Discussion, which is a great way to become familiar with how storms are identified and how they develop.
And, of course, if you’re on the boat you’ll want to be closely monitoring NOAA Weather Radio, which can be your only continuous and reliable source of information under certain conditions. When storms are far away from your area you’ll find that tropical updates are generally only broadcast once per hour (check with your local station for the time), but as storms get closer updates will become more frequent, and will eventually include likely wind and sea conditions for your area, even if you are not in the direct path of the storm. One great thing about the weather radio is that you can also follow developments using your handheld VHF radio when or if you have to leave the boat.
A fascinating link found on the NHC home page can take you to NOAA’s section on historical hurricane information. An interactive map allows you to put in your state, or an even more precise location, and see hurricane tracks for your area dating back to the nineteenth century.
Another great resource is the BoatUS Hurricane Resource Center. In addition to links to prediction resources, the page has links to information on how to prepare your boat for storms, including what to do with regard to insurance claims. I am particularly interested in their analysis of rope chafe under extreme conditions and what can be done about it.
A fascinating site is the blog of Dr. Jeff Masters on Weather Underground. Masters provides a daily update during the tropical season, and his predictions are often more detailed and written in layman’s terms for the most part. I particularly like his long-range analysis, which can give you a heads up long before NOAA is saying much about a particular system. He also provides information on many tropical topics not directly related to an immediate forecast, like the current article discussing how accurate June forecasts are. Again, reading this blog regularly will provide a great education in hurricane prediction.
By the way, just to keep us on our toes, Florida has already seen a small tropical disturbance cross the peninsula and there is another disturbance south in the Caribbean off the coast of Nicaragua and Honduras. Stay tuned in this season and stay out of trouble.