After services today, while I was working on getting music to the people who volunteered for the festival chorale here at the feast, I managed to find myself chatting with the gentleman who gave the closing prayer, who happens to be from the island of Dominica. I have never been to this small island nation, but earlier this year the island was blasted by Hurricane Maria, and some of the brethren from the Caribbean who knew him had called for him to be rescued, but fortunately he ended up alive and well, which is a relief for all of us. I thought it might be impolite to query too much about his hurricane stories, as that is something that would likely be very traumatic, and the brethren here tend to be pretty restrained, for the most part. Even so, I didn’t realize that this chance discussion with a survivor of a horrific hurricane  would lead to a trend where hurricanes were on the mind and in the air, as it were.
After I returned to my room from services, I found on the news that Tropical Storm Nate was menacing the littoral of Nicaragua. As it happens, there are two different possible tracks for this storm at the present. Tropical Storm Nate is currently not too threatening at 40 miles per hour and just about to reach the water again after a brief trip inland, yet with shear that is expected to decline from 20 knots and trip over the warm waters of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico as it makes its way mostly north, intensification to hurricane status seems pretty likely. The two possible tracks make a big difference not necessarily to me personally at this point, but they do for many people I know. The National Hurricane Center appears to be following the North American models and keeping the storm towards the west, near New Orleans. On the other hand, the European models have the storm moving further east, over or near the panhandle of Florida, where I happen to know many people celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Since the storm is expected to make landfall by the end of the weekend, that does not leave a lot of time for people to figure out what to do given that the roads of the redneck riviera are not conducive to massive evacuations of clueless people who probably do not even realize the dangers they are facing. I hope that some people are praying about that sort of safety, that the storm will not get very strong or come ashore in a bad location.
Of course, hearing about Tropical Storm Nate seemed to influence my stepfather to want to talk a lot about hurricanes as we walked to and from dinner. He talked about shopping for roofing nails for the loose aluminum siding that happened after Hurricane Irma hit Florida a few weeks ago. Before we left for dinner, my mother piped in about the length of time that members of our family had been without power in the aftermath of that storm. There were conversations about the reasons why hurricanes develop in the way that they do and why some hurricane seasons are so horrific, as this one has been for so many people. As the weather happens to be a major interest of my stepfather, it was interesting that even though we are enjoying ourselves in a pleasant if somewhat humid land, our thoughts and concerns are quick to go to our friends and brethren and family members who appear to possibly be in harm’s way. Perhaps life would be better if we had no ability to have focused concern, but the price of increased information is increased concern, a price some of us appear to be relentlessly intent to pay.
Such events leave me with a lot of questions. Do the people of the Gulf Coasts of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana know that they are in danger? Is there a solid quantitative reason why the European models of hurricane prediction have done a much better job than the American ones over the past couple of years, especially in times where it has been of massive importance for the United States to get such matters right and comparatively less direct interest for Europe? Why are intensification models so off so often? It is easy to ask questions, and hard to have them answered. While I enjoy the warmth and sun of a genuinely quirky island, my thoughts and concerns are directed to those who are in areas familiar to me who may or may not know that some danger threatens them within the course of only a few short days. And so we point our weather balloons towards the heavens and let them go, safe to wander where they will like the storms in the seas.
 See, for example: