Hurricane season sweeps across U.S.

Imagine going to the grocery store to get a few essentials. The line seems miles long and leads outside the building, like the line to get a new iPhone. Imagine getting into the store and seeing empty shelves, no bread, no milk, and only a few people let into the store at a time. This is what University of Indianapolis alum Kris McNeary said he saw when he went to Kroger a couple days after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas, on Aug. 25.

McNeary moved to Houston three months ago, where he works as an athletic director at a public charter school. Although the apartment where he lives did not flood, the surrounding neighbors that were not on a hill did, and the school where he works closed for two weeks. McNeary said that he knew friends, colleagues and students who were affected by the flood.

“I have a student that just kind of gravitated toward me when I was working here. And every day, he would tell me [hi] … [and he would]crack a couple jokes with me” McNeary said. “His house actually was flooded, and they lost everything. The school district is helping him now, but you could just tell when he came in that first day to check in, you could just see it in his face, but he is getting better.”

In addition to Hurricane Harvey, the southern United States. has been hit by Hurricane Irma and Tropical Storm Jose. As of Reflector press time, Hurricane Maria and Tropical Storm Lee also were expected to hit soon.

According to Assistant Professor of Physics and Earth Space Science Leah Courtland, the development of hurricanes depends on four instrumental circumstances.

Graphic by Alexis Stella
Graphic by Alexis Stella

“The recipe for a hurricane involves four things: You need a source of energy to generate the storm, and that source of energy comes from warm tropical water, fairly near the equator, about five degrees off of it [the equator]. A hurricane can’t actually form on the equator because the Coriolis effect won’t have enough momentum to create the spin the hurricane needs,” Courtland said. “Once that spin starts, the wind will be able to form the hurricane, and pick up speed. To form a hurricane you can’t have any, or very little, vertical wind shear. Basically, a hurricane is a low pressure system where energy that was stored in the warm ocean makes its way into the atmosphere. And as long as energy can rise without being redirected, these major storms can be developed.”

Courtland said the progress and development of hurricanes depend heavily on the Coriolis Effect, which deflects the circulating air from the Earth’s rotation to the right of the Northern Hemisphere and to the left of the Southern Hemisphere.

According to Courtland, there have been technological advances that can help limit the flooding damage that accompanies a hurricane.The reason cities experience such extreme flood damage is because the flood water has no place to go after it fills storm drains and overflows. Courtland said the more populated and crowded an area is, the fewer places the water has to go. Although doing so will not prevent property damages, oftentimes people will evacuate, although Courtland said evacuations can be costly and even dangerous.

“Calling for an evac can be challenging, and often they don’t want to call for one because then people will get stuck on the road. And when the water starts to rise, it can become very dangerous,” she said. “[Sometimes] leaving is just as dangerous as staying in the hurricane’s path.”

McNeary said he chose to stay when Harvey hit, because of this situation, and ended up getting stuck in his apartment for nine days. After the rain began, many of the roads filled with water which made getting around the city nearly impossible. McNeary bought bread, water and nonperishable foods to prepare. He said he also had to buy candles and a flashlight and kept his bathtub filled with water in case of a power outage. He said friends who had been in situations like this before recommended keeping pots and pans full of water in the freezer to keep the food cold.

According to nationalgeographic.com, it is important during a hurricane to listen to local authorities on the television or radio, to know the best evacuation routes. The website also notes that when there is a lull in the storm, it is often the eye of the hurricane and the storm will pick up again. To know when the danger has completely passed, it is important to wait for authorities to make an announcement.

After a hurricane passes, there can be extensive damage to the surrounding areas. Vice President for Student and Campus Affairs and Dean of Students Kory Vitangeli sent out an email to UIndy students about how they can support Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma relief efforts.

In her email, she said students could donate blood, purchase supplies for United Methodist Committee on Relief hygiene kits and donate money that the university would give to food banks in Florida and Texas. In a tweet on Sept. 21, Vitangeli said UIndy was able to assemble more than 500 releif kits for those affected by the hurricanes.