JULY 11, 1996
Elizabeth Farnsworth is joined by the deputy director of the Hurricane Center in Miami to discuss the first Hurricane of the 1996 storm season, Bertha.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Hurricane Bertha weakened but still dangerous is churning its way towards the Carolinas. To give us the latest on the storm, we turn now to Jerry Jarrell, the deputy director of the Hurricane Center in Miami. Thanks for being with us, Mr. Jarrell. What's the latest on Hurricane Bertha?
JERRY JARRELL, Deputy Director, Hurricane Center: (Miami) Well, it's about 250 miles south of Wilmington, North Carolina, and it's moving toward the North-Northwest at about 10 miles per hour.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Still at about--it's still--the winds are about 90 miles per hour?
MR. JARRELL: Yeah. They're about 80 miles per hour, and it's actually entering the Gulf Stream now, the warmer waters, so that gives it a little bit of a chance to make a comeback. I don't think anything dramatic is going to happen, but I suspect it'll still go on land with about 80 or so miles per hour winds.
MS. FARNSWORTH: So give us a comparison. How does that compare to say the big 1989 Hurricane Hugo?
MR. JARRELL: Not very much. Hugo had about 135 mile per hour winds when it went ashore, so definitely a different beast that's category four on the five point Samper Simpson Scale, and this is a category one, but this is a huge storm, as was Hugo, so it does have a potential to give some very large ocean waves and a large storm surge--that's the level of the ocean rising.
MS. FARNSWORTH: What has caused it to slow down over the past 24 hours?
MR. JARRELL: Well, typically, as storms change from a track toward the West to one toward the East, they--they become very slow-moving, and when you have all Northward motion, and then they speed up as they turn back toward the East. It has not made that turn to the East yet. It's still on a North-Northwest track. Once it goes either North or a little bit of East of North, then we'll probably begin to see it speed up.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Are you fairly certain at this point that it will, it will hit land?
MR. JARRELL: Well, I think we're probably as certain as we ever are about these things. Precisely where is a little bit of a problem we think on either the South Carolina or the North Carolina Coast and most likely between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington, but the--because it's so large the actual point where it makes land fall is not terribly important because all the damages from it are going to be on the right side of it, or the East side of it.
MS. FARNSWORTH: And even if it doesn't make land fall it could still cause a great deal of damage, couldn't it?
MR. JARRELL: It, it could, but because the strong winds are on the East side, if it doesn't make land fall, that would likely mean it's, it's gone East of Cape Hatteras, and then I would doubt that we'd have much in the way of damage, probably just some rain.
MS. FARNSWORTH: I've read that hurricanes can change course just about any time. Is that still true with this when it could just veer off?
MR. JARRELL: It could, but it's not as likely, I think, with a huge storm like this one is. This has really been a fairly well behaved hurricane as hurricanes go.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Well behaved hurricane. It seems like a contradiction in terms.
MR. JARRELL: I guess so.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Where did this hurricane begin?
MR. JARRELL: Well, it started as a disturbance that came off of Africa about ten or twelve days ago, and actually began then out East of the Caribbean in the Atlantic, in the tropical Atlantic, the point where we've never had one develop this early in the year.
MS. FARNSWORTH: When you say disturbance and develop, what do you mean, what kind of a disturbance, and what makes it develop?
MR. JARRELL: I mean a very weak storm, and these are storms that, that need warm ocean water to develop and they need a lot of other things but one of those being that the winds throughout the atmosphere are blowing in about the same direction, and that's, that's kind of a rare condition, so we really don't have a lot of hurricanes.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Right now, though, I've read that there are some more of those developments, some more of those tropical waves, I guess they're called, that are developing off of the Coast of Africa, is that true?
MR. JARRELL: Well, there are about a hundred of those that come off a year, and only about ten of them become a tropical storm, that's storms that we give names to, and about six or seven of those become hurricanes, so they're coming off all the time. They've looked fairly vigorous this year, the ones that are coming off, and this of course is about the earliest we ever get something formed from one of those.
MS. FARNSWORTH: You've referred several times to Bertha's very large size. What's made it so big? Why is it larger than other ones?
MR. JARRELL: We have no idea.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Just the characteristic of the storm?
MR. JARRELL: Yes. And that's one of--one of those mysteries that I don't think as far as I know, no one has a real satisfactory answer for it. It's--to give you a comparison, it's about the size of the state of Georgia, which happens to be the largest state East of the Mississippi, I think.
MS. FARNSWORTH: It's huge.
MR. JARRELL: Uh-huh.
MS. FARNSWORTH: What's your best guess right now about Bertha's future? What will happen in the next day or two?
MR. JARRELL: Well, because it's going over the Gulf Stream, there is a possibility for it to intensify a little bit, but I wouldn't think a lot. I think within the next 18 hours, i.e., tomorrow morning sometime, that it's going to go over land and somewhere probably between Myrtle Beach and--Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina. It could be outside of that, but within that neighborhood.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Well, thanks, Mr. Jarrell, for being with us.
MR. JARRELL: All right. Good night, Elizabeth.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Good night.