Today’s Factismal: Tropical Storm Allison did $5,500,000,000 in damage, making it the costliest tropical storm in US history.
It is hurricane season again, and that means that a small disturbance over the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean might grow into larger one. And, if that disturbance is very, very lucky, then it can gain enough energy from the water evaporated by the ocean to grow into a tropical storm. And if it is luckier still, then it will turn into a hurricane. This year, experts believe that we’ll get a typical hurricane season. They expect between 11 and 16 named storms, fewer than eight of which will turn into hurricanes, and fewer than four major hurricanes (think Katrina).
But the storms don’t have to become hurricanes to do a lot of damage, as the people who are living in Texas right now can attest. Wet as it is right now, the current mess pales before Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. Though Allison never grew large enough or strong enough to form an “eye”, it was nevertheless the worst tropical storm ever to hit the continental United States. In some parts of Texas, Allison dropped 40 inches of rain in just two days. The storm caused widespread flooding, displacing some 30,000 people and doing more than $5.5 billion in damage (that’s $7.4 billion in current money). Unfortunately, Allison also killed some 41 people (23 in Texas alone); the total would have been much higher but for the warnings and other information put out by the National Weather Service.
However, the National Weather Service is only as good as their data. And they need more data and better data. And they’d like you to provide it. They have partnered with the Citizen Weather Observer Program, which is a group of citizen scientists like you who take regular readings of temperature, humidity, rainfall, and other weather-related measurements and then pass them onto the National Weather Service using free software (available on the website). If this sounds like something you’d like to do, then head on over to