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TIME TO UNWIND...

What is your favorite movie? A simple question, but the answer can be hard to determine. I was resting on the couch a few weeks ago in the wake of our Hurricane Irene coverage marathon. I had only slept a few hours over the span of three days, but my mind was still wide awake. Our son had crawled into a cozy spot next to me, and he sat watching the TV. This was an extremely rare event unto itself, because our son is only 15 months old.

I was watching "Goldfinger" (the old Sean Connery James Bond classic), one of my childhood favorites. Our son started watching TV with me, his big eyes wide with the iconic images on the screen. We don't usually let him watch much TV, but it was such a peaceful moment I couldn't resist for a few minutes. I recalled my own wonder the first time I watched a movie with mom and dad. Of course, our son lost interest after 10 minutes or so, and resumed his usual habit of toddling around house, narrowly avoiding obstacles at every turn. His energy was boundless, and I was thoroughly outpaced on that particular day.

Hurricane season will do that to you. When I first became a meteorologist many moons ago, people asked me what hurricane coverage was like. Being young and foolish, I would reply "exciting". Now I know better. Hurricane coverage is exhausting, dangerous, and robs you of precious time with family. Hurricanes cause disruption to businesses, damage to property, and in some cases, loss of life. Speaking of hurricanes, there is a tendency for people to "drop their guard" when a system weakens to tropical storm/depression status. It's important to remember that a weak tropical storm can be just as dangerous as a strong hurricane.

Many people readily recall the deadly Rocky Point tornado of 2004. You may not remember that the tornado was spawned by the remnant low pressure system of a "weak" tropical storm named Bonnie that made landfall along the Gulf Coast. Indeed, weakening tropical systems can maintain their tornadic tendencies for hundreds of miles inland.

And its not just tornado potential. Consider the rainfall coverage of a weakening system. Strong hurricanes are usually tightly "wound". When the system weakens, those rain bands have a tendency to "unwind", greatly increasing the coverage area of heavy rainfall. 1972's Hurricane Agnes was barely a hurricane when it struck Florida, and weakened rapidly after landfall. However, the unfolding rain bands merged with surrounding weather systems and created devastating floods all the way to New England. Over 120 residents lost their lives.

Every tropical system is potentially lethal. The "big ones" get the most attention, but even the little ones can take you by surprise.

(Send comments or questions to Jerry at jjackson@wwaytv3.com)

By: Jerry Jackson