Brewton can consider itself lucky

Published 12:34 am Wednesday, October 2, 2002

By By BILL CRIST - Publisher
Did you know that hurricanes never run into each other? I didn't, and probably never would have if it wasn't for the torrential rains we faced in the middle of the week as Hurricane Isidore made its way through the Gulf of Mexico, finally making landfall in Louisiana Wednesday night.
Brewton is no stranger to hurricanes, or the damage they can do as they come ashore. While the current situation did little more than dump large amounts of rain on our area, the most damage occurs when the high winds associated with the storms hit an area. Unfortunately, our town gets hit doubly hard, not only facing downed trees and power lines caused by wind and rain, but the flooding that can occur in the downtown area. And while we dodged a bullet this time, we're not entirely out of the woods this year.
There was no flooding during the worst of the rains, but none the less, the rainfall should provide some valuable information to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has just begun a flood mitigation study in Brewton. The Corps' study, which will take some time to complete, will help determine the best way to keep rising water out of downtown, particularly the businesses and industries, which can be devastated by flooding.
Names were first used to identify hurricanes in 1950. Forecasters used the International Phonetic Alphabet (Able, Baker, Charlie…) until 1953, when female, English-language names began to be used. In 1979, alternating male and female names was introduced, as were Spanish and French names. Right now forecasters have their eyes on a couple more storms brewing in the Atlantic, in particular Kyle.
Despite bringing the threat of flooding to our area, Isidore has done some good. The steady rain has helped bring the water table and lakes back up to the levels they need to be. There's no doubt our area needed the rain, and the mostly light winds kept things from getting too exciting. Until the last day or two, you may have even noticed that it's cooled down several degrees each afternoon.
On a larger scale, hurricanes help maintain the Earth's heat balance by carrying heat away from the tropics. This serves the purpose of helping to cool the tropics while bringing warmth to the polar regions. There are also several examples of when they have helped end droughts, for example in August 1996, when Hurricane Dolly brought badly needed rain to Texas.
At the same time, hurricanes do cause a great deal of damage, directly and indirectly, and we are facing some of that here in Brewton and Escambia County. If you drove through the county a week ago, you noticed fields of white cotton plants that were in full bloom, not far from being ready to be harvested. Peanut crops were in much the same condition, with some fields already in the process of being turned. While neither crop will likely face total losses, the rain's timing was not what the local farmers would have asked for.
Less severe, but frustrating none the less, are the delays the weather conditions and high water are going to cause to many of the construction projects underway in Brewton and across the county. By their nature, many of them need to be completed within a certain time window so that the materials used will work as they are designed to. For example, paving a road when it's too hot or cold, will lead to problems in the very near future because the asphalt will not set properly.
By and large, though, we have to consider ourselves lucky. Hurricanes are unpredictable and until Isidore made landfall, we couldn't be sure that our area would not take the brunt of the storm. As for that nugget about hurricanes never hitting each other, it seems that the winds begin interfering with one another, weakening one or both storms. Wouldn't it be great if that happened with those two storms brewing out there now?