HURRICANES

A hurricane is a tropical cyclone, which in meteorological terms, is a storm system with a closed circulation around a center of low pressure that is fueled when moist air rises, condenses and releases heat. Producing very high winds and torrential rain, hurricanes can be catastrophic for living populations. However, hurricanes also play an important role in relieving sustained droughts and maintaining equilibrium in the environment.Hurricanes often begin as tropical  storms, strengthening according to water temperature. Strong wind damage and water damage from flooding and storm surge from hurricanes can wreak havoc on regions all over the world.

Hurricanes are feared very much at this time of year, as hurricane season begins on June 1 and lasts officially until November 30, which is the height of the hurricane season.

 The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a scale classifying most Western Hemisphere tropical cyclones that exceed the intensities of “tropical depressions” and “tropical storms”, and thereby become hurricanes. The categories into which the scale divides hurricanes are distinguished by the intensities of their respective sustained winds. The classifications are intended primarily for use in measuring the potential damage and flooding a hurricane will cause upon landfall. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is used only to describe hurricanes forming in the Atlantic Ocean and northern Pacific Ocean east of the International Date Line. Other areas label their tropical cyclones as “cyclones” and “typhoons”, and use their own classification scales.

The five categories are, in order of increasing intensity:

Category
1
Sustained winds 33–42 m/s 74–95 mph 64–82 kt 119–153 km/h
Storm surge 4–5 ft 1.2–1.5 m
Central pressure 28.94 inHg 980 mbar
Potential damage No real damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Also, some coastal flooding and minor pier damage
Example storms Bess (1974) – Jerry (1989) – Ismael (1995) – Danny (1997) – Gaston (2004)
Category
2
Sustained winds 43–49 m/s 96–110 mph 83–95 kt 154–177 km/h
Storm surge 6–8 ft 1.8–2.4 m
Central pressure 28.50–28.91 inHg 965–979 mbar
Potential damage Some roofing material, door, and window damage. Considerable damage to vegetation, mobile homes, etc. Flooding damages piers and small craft in unprotected anchorages may break their moorings.
Example storms Carol (1954) – Diana (1990) – Erin (1995) – Marty (2003) – Juan (2003)
Category
3
Sustained winds 50–58 m/s 111–130 mph 96–113 kt 178–209 km/h
Storm surge 9–12 ft 2.7–3.7 m
Central pressure 27.91–28.47 inHg 945–964 mbar
Potential damage Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings, with a minor amount of curtainwall failures. Mobile homes are destroyed. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain may be flooded well inland.
Example storms Alma (1966) – Alicia (1983) – Roxanne (1995) – Fran (1996) – Isidore (2002)
Category
4
Sustained winds 59–69 m/s 131–155 mph 114–135 kt 210–249 km/h
Storm surge 13–18 ft 4.0–5.5 m
Central pressure 27.17–27.88 inHg 920–944 mbar
Potential damage More extensive curtainwall failures with some complete roof structure failure on small residences. Major erosion of beach areas. Terrain may be flooded well inland.
Example storms “Galveston” (1900) – Hazel (1954) – Iniki (1992) – Iris (2001) – Charley (2004)
Category
5
Sustained winds ≥70 m/s ≥156 mph ≥136 kt ≥250 km/h
Storm surge ≥19 ft ≥5.5 m
Central pressure <27.17 inHg <920 mbar
Potential damage Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Flooding causes major damage to lower floors of all structures near the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas may be required.
Example storms “Labor Day” (1935) – “Mexico” (1959) – Camille (1969) – Gilbert (1988) – Andrew (1992)

The U.S. National Hurricane Center classifies hurricanes of Category 3 and above as major hurricanes. The definition of sustained winds recommended by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and used by most weather agencies is that of a 10-minute average at a height of 10 m (33 ft) . The U.S. weather service defines sustained winds based on 1-minute average speed, also measured 10 m (33 ft) above the surface. Central pressure values are approximate. Intensity of example hurricanes is from both the time of landfall and the maximum intensity.

As many people know, hurricanes begin their formation off the west coast of Africa.

Now, many scientists are studying why this meteorological phenomenon occurs:

US Scientists to Track Birth of Hurricanes Off West Africa

27 July 2006

It is hurricane season again in the tropical Atlantic Ocean, and residents of the Caribbean and the U.S. and Mexican coastal areas are on guard. Many of the tropical storms that batter these regions originate off West Africa’s coast. U.S. government and university scientists are starting a study of how they intensify so they can improve forecasts to avoid the death and devastation hurricanes cause.

15 UTC, Oct. 21, 2005 (NOAA photo)
Hurricane Wilma, Oct. 21, 2005 (NOAA photo)

The U.S. agency responsible for ocean and atmosphere matters, NOAA, says thunderstorms off West Africa account for 60 percent of all hurricanes in the tropical Atlantic and 85 percent of the biggest ones.

One such weather disturbance gave rise to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and a large swath of the U.S. Gulf Coast a year ago.

But that does not mean that most of these so-called African atmospheric waves intensify to hurricanes. There are 60 to 70 of these distrubances each year, but only about half a dozen begin spinning enough to grow into tropical cyclones.

Scientists like Jeffrey Halverson of the University of Maryland want to know why more do not.

“About 10 percent of these waves change their character from being long traveling lines of thunderstorms. They begin acquiring some rotation. That’s the big mystery, why so very few of those waves actually start picking up some spin. We don’t really know where that spin comes from. That’s part of the big question we’re out to answer as they come off Africa.”

The hurricane research director at NOAA, Jason Dunion, says two factors seem to suppress cyclone development, cold sea surface temperatures off West Africa and dry air and dust blowing from the Sahara Desert. But Dunion says if a storm survives to reach warmer waters and it begins spinning, it can merge with other such vortices into a larger one, a prerequisite for a twisting, churning hurricane.

“How do those come together? There certainly are some things we know, but there are a lot of mysteries out there. Some of it is because we just haven’t observed it all that much,” he said.

That will change with the research mission Dunion’s agency is jointly undertaking through August with the U.S. space agency NASA and academics like Halverson. From their base on the Cape Verde islands off West Africa, they will take moisture, temperature, wind speed and other readings about storms from several U.S. satellites, an aircraft that flies through storms, weather balloons, and ground stations.

Dunion says the ability to track the path of emerging hurricanes has improved greatly in recent years, but the science of monitoring their growth and intensity is lagging far behind.

Jeff Halverson says this is a vital need.

“Better understanding the physics that generate these storms will extend the time of skillful forecasts, and thus save lives and property,” he said.

The U.S. hurricane researchers will share data with European and African scientists who are working to understand the influence of the West African monsoon on regional and global weather.”

(From News/Voice of America)

This is fine that scientists are putting more serious study ito the understanding of hurricanes, because hurricanes are a serious part of life, especially for those of us who live in their pathway.

But, another thought should also be considered on the subject of hurricanes.

Has anyone ever asked themselves why do hurricanes originate off the coast of Africa?

I have my reasons as to why, and I consider it a form of retribution from the continent of Africa itself, and from the millions of lost black souls savagely torn away from their homelands, put on filthy slave ships, and carried across the Atlantic Ocean to live lives of a living nightmare as human chattel slavery.

When European slavers kidnapped black Africans and marched many of them from the interior down to the slave coasts to be packed onboard, black people went through what is called The Door of No Return in the House of Slaves, the final exit point of the enslaves from Africa. It is on Goree Island, off the coast of Senegal in West Africa, where, black women and men were herded like so many animals, crowded into filthy, unsanitary holding pens. Frightened beyond belief, with nowhere to use the bathroom, the floor on which they stood built up with up to two feet and more from human excrement due to the future slaves having nowhere to relive themselves. Vomit as well would have been prevalent because of stomach-turning nausea and terror. Tears that would have been shed from the certain knowledge that HERE for the last time they would stand on African soil, would have washed the walls and floors of this reminder of man’s inhumanity to woman, man and children. Human beings were chained and shackled. As many as 30 men would sit in an 8-square-foot cell with only a small slit of window facing outward. Once a day, they were fed and allowed to attend to their needs, but still the house was overrun with disease. They were naked, except for a piece of cloth around their waists. They were put in a long narrow cell used for them to lie on the floor, one against the other. The children were separated from their mothers. Their mothers were across the courtyard, likely unable to hear their children cry. The rebellious Africans were locked up in an oppressive, small cubicle under the stairs; while seawater was sipped through the holes to step up dehydration.

Goree1.jpg
GOREE ISLAND

Above their heads, in the dealer’s apartments, balls and festivities were going on. But even more poignant and heart wrenching than the cells and the chains was the small “door of no return” through which every man, woman and child walked to the slave boat, catching a last glimpse of their homeland.

Young Black Professional Guide to the Door of No Return
 

 Tour group walking back into Cape Coast Castle through the Door of No Return

Here, for the last time, they would go through this narrow, stooped door to leave behind the only world they had ever known, to be beaten, stripped of their native clothing, searched and fingered viciously like so many cattle, poked, pried, and degraded from the disease-ridden hands of Europeans opening up the African’s mouths to examine their teeth and the private areas  of both women and men, fondled and disrespected by slavers who had nothing but cruel regard for their human cargo.

 The red-washed walls of the House of Slaves, in which The Door of No Return is located, was one of many places on the island that kept slaves both for domestic use and to sell to visiting ships.

The female enslaved quarters was the most brutal area.  Along with the “Door of no return” there was a place where enslaved women were forced to stand if they refused to have sexual relations with the masters.  Those women who refused, had large, heavy cannon balls thrown at them for their refusal.

Above the Slave holding pens, an area of residence for slavers to attend church mass and worship  was maintained, while waiting below them in slave pens the enslaved black Africans suffered while waiting to be boarded onto slave ships waiting to cross the ocean. Slave owners praising, worshipping, clapping hands, singing hymns, while their fellow human beings below were being degraded, burned with branding irons, raped in front of each other while slave owner after owner took turns. Slave owners above who sang praises to “God’s goodness” for whites, all the while shackles and manacles were being  put on the enslaved before they were put on board the slave ships. Slave owners who left the church happy in anticipation of the money they would make from the human suffering of innocent, defenseless human beings.

Once on the slave ships, the horrors started. Every enslaved on board was branded with a hot iron, men on the right cheek, women on the left  buttock. Cat-o-nine-tails were used for punishment against enslaved who resisted torture or who were too independent. Male slaves were stowed below decks in spoon fashion, “‘tween decks”, shackeled together with only inches of space between them.  Chained for the entire 3 month voyage, sickened from vomit and shit, many died from flux and dysentery. The deck, that is, the floor of their rooms, was so covered with the blood and mucus which had proceeded from them in consequence of the flux, that it resembled a slaughter-house. There was also no adequate ventilation, not to mention little or no sanitation. Although some captains would have their crew periodically clean the “tween decks” with hot vinegar, most chose rather to leave them alone, resulting in their atrociously unclean condition. In addition to disease and suffocation below deck, it would not be uncommon to find the body of a slave completely covered by lice.

Slave ship diagram.png
Diagram of a slave ship from the Atlantic slave trade. From an Abstract of Evidence delivered before a select committtee of the House of Commons in 1790 and 1791

Slavetrade2.jpg
Cross section of decks, “tight packing” of slaves, storage areas. This ship sailed from La Rochelle in 1784, picked up about 500 Africans from north of the Congo River, and sold its slaves in Saint Domingue.

Slaveshipposter.jpg
Brookes slave ship plan/poster.

NavioNegreiro.gif
Fonte (source): Notices of Brazil, Walsh, 1831 from  http://serqueira.com.br/mapas/navnegro.htm

Many died along the voyage due to epidemics of disease, which spread like wildfire in the tightly packed ‘tween decks. On board the slavers there were numerous outbreaks of the dreaded smallpox, as well as ophthalmia, a highly contagious disease which quickly resulted in complete blindness. These terrible ailments could rapidly afflict an entire cargo of slaves, as well as the crew, and wipe out entire ships in a matter of days.Above decks, enslaved women who were pregnant when they were put on board, gave birth in the scorching hot sun. Enslaved women were raped continously. Enslaved black women moving freely about on slave ships were frequent targets for white male crew who physically abused and tormented them. Women were beaten severly for crying. Many enslaved women were pregnant prior to their capture and they were forced to endure pregnancy without any care given to them, care they would have received among their own people in Africa. The threat of rape was a constant daily reminder for the enslaved women. Another inhuman practice of the crews of the slave ships was that of “bedwarming”. In this custom a member of the crew, or sometimes even the captain, would take an enslave women out from the ‘tween decks during the night. The woman would be taken back to either the captain’s chamber or the crew’s living quarters and be beaten and physically forced to have sexual relations with the crew member. Many an enslaved black woman arrived on American soil already pregnant from the mass rapes done by the sadistic white rapist slavers on the ship.

Black people who were too sick to make the complete voyage to the New World, were thrown overboard, many while still alive. This act of barbarity on the part of the slavers gave true meaning to the phrase, “swimming with the sharks”. Sharks learned to follow the trail of death from the bodies of the enslaved thrown overboard. Millions of black lives were tossed into the sea, because the brutish slavers wanted to cut their losses from possible mass death from contagion on the ships, but, even in these acts of depravity, they still were able to recoup their losses from the banks and financial institutions of the time which insured any loss of “property” while the ship was still out to sea.

Many enslaves refused to eat, and many starved to death. To force the enslaves to eat, the captian had crew members put an object called speculum oris into the enslaves mouth. The speculum oris was a wooden instrument, which looked much like a pair of dividers, and was forced into the enslave’s mouth. Then a thumb screw would be turned, causing the legs of the speculum oris to open like a pair of pliers. Once the enslave’s jaws were forced open food would be crammed down the throat, often causing intense gagging and vomiting.

All the enslaves were forced to sleep without covering on bare wooden floors, which were often constructed of unplaned boards. In a stormy passage the skin over their elbows might be worn away to the bare bones.

Mnay enslaved fought back and rebelled agaisnt the slavers, but, many were killed.

Countless lives were destroyed during the Middle Passage. Countless lives were destroyed by white brutality and disease. Countless lives were devoured by the sharks that learned to follow these ships of living death.

Bones walking across the waters.

Souls of the bodies that were murdered at sea, called out for justice.

And the hurricanes still come forth, forming and beginning their birth from the areas where so many black Africans were forcibly torn away from their motherland.

The organization known as UNESCO has put Goree Island on its World Heritage List ever since 1978, and now observes, on every August 23RD, an “International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition”.

The hurricanes that occur off the west coast of Africa send forth their own form of retribution and justice against a part of the world which participated in the greatest form of mass inhumane brutality the world has ever seen, the African Diaspora. The creation and institution of human chattel slavery based on the race of the human beings who would be kept in bondage for more than 400 years.

Hurricanes.

Their power is immense, and a force to be reckoned with and respected.

But, the next time you hear of a hurricane forming off the west coast of Africa, ask yourself, is this Africa’s rage at the theft of so many millions of her children? Is this Africa’s anger at this part of the world where so many black Africans were sold and forced into a traumatic experience of the most utter degradation?

When you feel the full force of gale winds picking up, when you see the huge trees bending and swaying from the strong winds of the hurricane, when you see the destruction left behind by category 3, -4, -5 hurricanes that have passed over, keep in mind that Africa still mourns for her lost children. Africa still has her own way to wreak vengeance on a hemisphere that has taken countless lives via slavery, and is still taking countless black lives even today.

Africa has her way of letting this hemisphere know how she feels about the cruelty done to her children.

Hurricane season is starting to pick up.

Africa stills cries for all her lost children taken across the Atlantic ocean through the Middle Passage.

Hurricanes are Africa ‘s punishment for all the cruel and hateful wrongs done to her children, during slavery, Reconstruction, segregation, and on up into the present-day.

 Hurricane Katrina August 28 2005 NASA.jpg

LINKS:

http://www.livescience.com/environmental/hurricane_formation.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saffir-Simpson_Scale

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Katrina

http://webworld.unesco.org/goree/en/index.shtml

http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/cp/vol-01/no-04/finley/index.shtml

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “HURRICANES

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  4. DEE

    That was a beautiful piece. My parents are from the islands and have always said that Hurricanes are angry spirits not to be taken lightly. Recently Tropical Storm Fay passed by Florida two times and is forcasted to pass again from the east coast back to the west. According to my parents that is a very bad omen. They believe it is a warning that a horrific storm is coming and Fay was just a warning for everyone to move further north or leave Florida all together before the destruction comes. Most people may think it’s just a supperstition but my parents have always been able to read the spirits and nature, they have never been wrong so far. I wish more people would look to the signs and believe.
    Good luck in your future reseach and writtings.
    Dee

  5. Ann

    Dee.

    Thank you for your comments and thanks for stopping by.

  6. ViannakaW

    Outstanding writing.. Will visit again

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