One thing is certain, Jose's effects are uncertain


The Cranston Herald ·

Here’s hoping you battened down the hatches when you had the chance. Hurricane Jose may not be bringing destructive force to Rhode Island as was seen in Texas with Harvey or in Florida with Irma, but the great outdoors will certainly be no place to be in Southern Rhode Island today or tomorrow as Jose makes a last gasp up the Atlantic Coast.

However, exactly how badly Jose will hit Rhode Island – even at this point – is not entirely certain.

As is often the case with regular and severe weather, all anybody can truly do at the end of the day is give their best analytical guess at what the data on the radar maps is telling them. Even with all of our modern equipment and knowledge, meteorology is still not an exact science.

Irma, for instance, was supposed to most severely impact the Eastern coasts and population centers of Florida. Instead, the storm changed gears after making landfall in Cuba and headed northwest, setting its sights on the Keys and the Tampa Bay metropolitan area.

Current projections for Jose say that the most danger it will cause Rhode Islanders is some moderate (at worst) coastal flooding in its southern communities, dangerous riptides and some potentially significant soil erosion along its coastlines. All coastal areas from Watch Hill to Hull, Mass. are currently under a Tropical Storm Watch via the National Weather Service’s Hurricane Center.

Estimates of wind speeds vary greatly. Some sources, such as the Weather Channel, say Rhode Island will get, at worst, 30 mph winds between today and tomorrow. Accuweather meteorologists concur with certainty that Jose won’t make landfall at all. Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration reported that their data is showing the storm will go directly over T.F. Green Airport, bringing 60 mph winds directly to Warwick.

With such predictions more closely resembling a throwing dart labeled “Jose” being flung at a map of Rhode Island than a reliable scientific assessment, it’s no wonder people run out and stock up on milk, Wonder Bread, gas for their generators and batteries for their flashlights. At the end of the day we really don’t know exactly what will happen.

Don’t go too far with that attitude, though. Meteorologists know it’s going to rain, they know that it would be foolish and dangerous to go surfing in the middle of dangerous riptides that are more than probable in such weather, they know there is a possibility for flooding and beach erosion and they know the power could go out because a gust of wind hits exactly the wrong tree at the wrong point in its lifespan.

It’s simply that trying to predict the exact path and exact severity of an amorphous pressure system isn’t really as easy as people may think. When it came to Irma and Harvey, there was no doubt that the storms were of the “scary” level of severity. While their predictions aren’t perfect for Jose, we can at least thank meteorologists for giving us the peace of mind that Jose is not even close to that category.

You probably don’t need to flock to Stop & Shop and stock up like the end is near, but you should be ready for some nasty weather ahead. Being prepared and vigilant is always a good thing, panicking and causing gas crises and mob scenes at local supermarkets is never a good thing.