Late summer around here usually brings some changes in the weather. From the meteorological standpoint, the lessening of daylight, accumulation of heat and changes in the atmosphere bring a new pattern. If an upper level high pressure ridge is in place, it starts to move, or weakens. With lack of steering currents, this can be the right ingredients for a tropical system.
Today, we have a massive system of radars, sounding instruments, satellites and aircraft to constantly observe the weather. Supercomputers can analyze past data, compare it to present data, and forecast changes in the weather. The data can be used to prepare for weather changes, or warn of the possible track of a hurricane. The past was much different.
Judging from what I've experienced and recollections of old timers, it's possible many people in the past were never exposed to a major hurricane. Otherwise, there was no memory to use for guidance. The changes in the weather wouldn't be noticed, because they were inconsequential in the mind of the observer without experience. I'm sure many died because they didn't recognize the warning signs. They casually went about their lives until it was too late. What should have alerted and instigated preperation was missed due to ignorance.
So what are the warning signs? I can explain by describing the weather I experienced over the last week and today.
Earlier in the week, the atmosphere was clear. There was no haze, few clouds and it was blistering hot. Temperatures reached over 100 degrees in the shade. The morning breeze was comparatively cool and was the typical migration of colder air to the warmer air in the Gulf. With an upper level ridge in place, the usual nocturnal thunderstorms, or sea breeze front were absent.
Yesterday, and this morning, there was a ground fog and a light wind from the east. It was clear yesterday afternoon and there was a fairly strong breeze from the southeast. Today, it was just as windy, but there was a heavy haze. This is the point where I really start noticing what the weather is doing.
The next noticable change will be in the clarity of the atmosphere. The only way the haze will leave is if high pressure allows a wind to push it away, or if the atmosphere starts lifting. If it's high pressure, the winds will lighten and the return of a southerly afternoon breeze will occur. If it's the lifting of the atmosphere, that means low pressure is forming, or approaching. Low pressure means some kind of tropical critter, whether a low pressure wave or a major hurricane.
The haze is still here, but I'm expecting it to lift and something to come from the Gulf. If it's a low pressure wave, there will be towering cumulus clouds, with imbeded thunderstorms in the next few days. It will start raining and, depending on how fast it moves, it could rain for days.
If it's something more, there will be a strengthening of the wind from the east, low scud clouds will appear in the clearing atmosphere and, eventually, a storm will arrive. Whether it hits directly, or lands somewhere else will only be known when it happens. It can be roughly gauged by the direction of the wind. A shift to the north means it's to the east. If the shift is to the south, the storm is moving to the west. A continuing east wind, with an increase in velocity, signifies a direct hit.
Until then, I'm watching the Gulf. So far the wind is staying from the east and it's still hazy. The weather wizards are forecasting something forming in the Gulf. I hope we don't get a hurricane.
Update 3:58 pm - winds are shifting to the northeast. This would put the center of a circulation to the southeast.