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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hanna hysteria

Kudos to The Weather Channel for its top-notch forecasting involving Tropical Storm Hanna.

Several days ago, when Hurricane Gustav was making its move toward the Gulf Coast, The Weather Channel’s forecasters predicted Hanna, then in the central Atlantic Ocean, would move west, start to bend southward toward Cuba and then die out, probably staying below hurricane strength and posing no threat to the United States.

Then, perhaps looking to make the story more interesting, the forecasters suggested – without offering any scientific proof – that the storm, after reaching the east end of Cuba, might beat a westerly path along the southern shore of the island, then head northwest – between Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula – enter the Gulf of Mexico, strengthen and, you guessed it, take aim at the Louisiana coast. An interesting prognostication, to be sure, but that kind of movement would have been more impressive than that of the alleged “Magic Bullet” that struck both President John F. Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally in the back of a limousine in Dallas one sunny November day 45 years ago.

Then the forecasters said Hanna likely would stay on a westerly track and perhaps smack the east coast of Florida, but without reaching hurricane strength.

Then – OOPS! – Hanna strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane, and The Weather Channel changed its forecast again, this time suggesting the storm could strengthen to a more powerful Category 2 storm and curve up into the Georgia or South Carolina shore.

But then – OOPS! – Hanna weakened back into a tropical storm and changed course slightly, leaving The Weather Channel to change its forecast yet again and suggest landfall could occur anywhere from northern Florida to Virginia.

And finally, tonight, The Weather Channel has Hanna on a projected path that could – they swear – cause the storm to ride up along the East Coast and ultimately bring heavy rain and strong winds to us, in the Northeast, by this weekend.

OK, that last one must be right. Because these are, after all, the same forecasters who swore up and down that Hurricane Gustav had a good chance of hitting New Orleans directly, flooding the city as seriously as Katrina did in 2005 and wiping out numerous off-shore oil facilities on the way in. Wrong. Wrong. And wrong.



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