Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma, Epsilon: Greek storms

Downed power lines on Tenerife Island in the Canarys, caused by Tropical Storm Delta, which killed seven people there.

NOTE: An update to Epsilon, which reached hurricane status on December 2, is found here.

Today, November 30, is the official close of 2005's record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season. And it's ending with
a bang, as Tropical Storm Epsilon heads toward Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph). No Hurricane Katrina or Rita, mind you, but enough to do some damage.

Epsilon? We've not only gotten into the Greek alphabet with Tropical Storm Alpha, but we ventured into Greek letters many English speakers aren't even aware of (I'm guessing Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Omega, and possibly Sigma are most commonly known; people in fraternities might know others).

There have been twenty-six "named storms" (which includes not just hurricanes but serious tropical storms that can themselves become devastating cyclones), shattering the previous record of twenty-one.

Of the five "Greek storms," only one of them, Beta, reached the catastrophic level of hurricane. Nevertheless, the other four Greek storms killed over fifty people and caused a lot of damage.

Honduras in particular has been hard hit by Hurricanes Stan (which killed 2000 people in Central America), Katrina, Wilma and Beta, and now Tropical Storm Gamma, which has claimed thirty-two lives.

Residents in Honduras crosses a bridge that collapsed due to Tropical Storm Gamma.

Tropical storm Alpha, which broke the previous record of twenty-one "named storms," killed fifteen people in Haiti. Tropical Storm Delta, which recently headed toward the Canary Islands in the East Atlantic, killed seven people.

I recently talked with one defender of Bush trying to downplay this hurricane season's severity by suggesting that the National Hurricane Center was exaggerating the intensity of this storm season by giving names "even to tropical storms" as a way to attack Bush (why would people who love Bush need to impugn scientists just doing their job?) . In fact, this is normal practice even in "light" storm seasons: the twenty-six means twice as many storms as a season with only thirteen, because they're based on the same criteria.

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