The Voice Of Hurricane Reason

Expect office productivity to plunge in Houston around 2 p.m. today, when the Houston Chronicle's Eric Berger holds another live chat.

Berger has emerged as the voice of reason in this hurricane-obsessed town, an anecdote to the frothing TV guys who blather on about how they're not hyping anything even as they hype away. (To be fair, even if the meteorologist tries not to hype, the surrounding coverage tends to do it for him/her. To be further fairer, there are plenty of local meteorologists who happily hype away on their own.)

Berger, the Chron's science reporter, has been quick in the past to say storms like Gustav or Edouard wouldn't be much of an event for Houston. With Ike, though, he's been more ominous, regularly mentioning the horrors of a Freeport landfall, invoking phrases like "nightmare scenario."

Why the doom-and-gloom, Berger? When we look at the computer models, we only see one that really takes Ike our way. All the other ones have him going further south.

In answer, Berger says we're a fucking amateur. He says it more politely, though.

The plots you're looking at don't include the European model -- ECMWF -- which along with the UKMET model have thus far done the best job of forecasting Ike's track. They were the first to bring the system into the Gulf, and the first ones to bring Ike toward Texas. They're both north of the official forecast, and only a modest adjustment northward in their tracks would bring Ike dangerously close to Houston.

Trust Eurotrash like the ECMWF and the UKMET? Why do you hate America?

Anyway, the chat is well worth checking out. Although there does tend to be a lot of this:

Hi, I live north of Conroe. Should I evacuate if it gets to Category 2?

Hi, I live in Pasadena. Should I evacuate?

Hi, I live three doors down from the previous questioner. Should I evacuate? (Note: It's three doors closer to the Gulf.)

Hi, I live in a mobile home twenty feet from the Gulf in Surfside. If a Category 5 makes a direct hit on me, should I evacuate? I have three dogs, so it can be a hassle.

And then, of course, there will be a dozen versions of this:

Exactly where is the storm going to hit and when? The computer models show different things and I need to plan my kid's birthday party. Is it going to hit Galveston? No waffling, please, it's an important birthday.

Still, as we say, it's worth checking out. Hopefully he'll have some optimistic news from the 1 p.m. computer runs.

-- Richard Connelly

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