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October 05, 1995 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-10-05

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, October 5, 1995

Continued from Page1A
cal climate of the western Sahel, and
therefore the hurricane activity in North
America, Masters said. Overgrazing and
overpopulation in the Sahel could result
in more frequent andprolonged droughts,
supressinghurricaneformation. "Africa's
loss is our gain," Masters said.
Scientists do not know exactly how
hurricanes form, but they're likely to
occur "when a low-pressure system
develops over waters with temperatures
greater than or equal to 80 degrees
Earenheit," said Joe MacDonald, a se-
iior Engineering student who studies
hurricanes as a hobby.
Another factor that facilitated hurri-
cane development this year was warmer
water temperatures in the North Atlantic.

But these high temperatures were the
result of normal yearly variation, not a
permanent climate change, said Dennis
Baker, associate professor ofatmospheric,
oceanic and space sciences.
Many scientists hypothesize global
warming could raise ocean temperatures
and increase both the frequency and in-
tensity of hurricanes, he said. But that
change would take decades to occur, so
possible global warming was not a factor
in this year's hurricane season.
El Nino, a pool of warm water that
naturally forms in the equatorial Pa-
cific about every seven years, has ex-
actly this effect. For the last four years,
El Nino has been present, creating winds
in the upper atmosphere which have
dissipated many forming hurricanes.
The disappearance of El Nino this year
contributed to the rise in hurricane ac-
tivity, Masters said.

Masters said that the current predic-
tion model, used to track hurricanes in
the last two years, is twice as accurate
as the previous one. This has enabled
the National Hurricane Center to make
more accurate forecasts about hum-
cane strength and movements, reduc-
ing the number of lives lost.
While this year's busy hurricane sea-
son has done billions of dollars in prop-
erty damage because of high coastal
property values, in recent years "deaths
have gone down because of early warn-
ing systems," MacDonald said.
Sometimes these early-warning sys-
tems still fail, as they did with Hurri-
cane Felix this summer, Masters said.
Felix was expected to hit the Carolina
coast and residents were warned to
evacuate, but the hurricane never hit.
"Sometimes," Masters said, "hum-
canes just go and do what they want."

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Residents of a trailer park in Jonesboro, Ga., flee floodwaters brought by Hurricane Opal as they carry off belongings.

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Continued from Page 1A
roads were too crowded to leave.
"There's extensive damage on the
beach," Stroud said. "We're still get-
ting a lot of wind, the electricity is out
and we're losing some of the shingles
off the house. We can see a structure
burning down on the beach."
In Mexico Beach, a small town 25
miles east of Panama City, there were
reports that 12 houses washed into the
Gulf, said city council member Eadie
Stewart. "They don't really expect
there to be much left," Stewart said,
fighting back tears.
In Panama City Beach, the end of the
city's new 1,500-foot concrete pier
crumbled into the Gulf of Mexico.
Waves crashed over the bathhouses on
top of the pier, which is normally 15 to
20 feet above water.
Several homes on stilts along Panama
City Beach also were damaged, said
David Miller, directorofthe Bay County
Emergency Management Agency.
"I've been through a couple of hurri-
canes, but this one is really bad," said
Horace Crowson of Panama City Beach.
"The shingles are coming off my house
now and I can see that the trees are bent
over and are nearly touching the ground.
It's pretty rough."
In Destin, west of Panama City, there
were reports of cars floating down the

this one is going
to make the other
one look likea
- Don Wheeler
Hattiesburg, Miss., resident
streets, boats piled atop each other and
damaged buildings. The storm ripped
the roof off a high school gymnasium.
Opal knocked out electricity to about
357,000 people, or half ofGulf Power's
customers, said company spokesman
Steve Higginbottom. He said it might
take up to a month to restore electricity
to remote areas.
Many residents in Pensacola still
hadn't finished repairing homes and
businesses battered in early August by
Hurricane Erin's 94 mph winds.
In Pensacola Beach, Don Wheeler
took one last look at his home, which
sustained $30,000in damage from Erin,
before fleeing for Hattiesburg, Miss.
"Supposedly this one is going to make
the other one look like a sissy," he said.
"I'm afraid ... we're going to have an
awful lot of damage. We'll just come
back and rebuild."
State emergency officials mobilized

700 police officers and 3,500 National
Guardsmen to prevent looting and help
with the cleanup. The Federal Emer-
gency Management Agency sent in re-
lief teams and was planning to fly in
water and other supplies.
Gov. Lawton Chiles asked President
Clinton to declare a major disaster for
Florida, clearing the way for federal
help with cleanup and rebuilding.
Many state officials and Panhandle
residents compared Opal's power to
Hurricane Camille, which hit the Gulf
Coast in 1969 with sustained winds of
200 mph, killing 256 people in Missis-
sippi, Alabama and Louisiana.
Opal fluctuated throughout the day
between a Category 3, a storm with
sustained winds up to 130 mph, and a
Category 4, with winds up to 155.
The last Category 4 hurricane to hit
Florida was Andrew, which laid waste to
a swath of South Florida in 1992, killing
55 people in Florida and elsewhere.
In Metairie, La., a hurricane gust
whipped a sheriff's deputy into the air
and slammed him to the ground as he
and other deputies tried to take down a
50-by-20 foot American flag in fr6nt of
a shopping center. The deputy was hos-
pitalized with internal injuries and sev-
eral broken bones.
At Cape Canaveral on Florida's East
Coast, NASA postponedtoday's launch
of the space shuttle Columbia for a day
because of Opal.


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(313) 761-7615

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