Story 4 Phoon
As the years went by, Thermo began to venture out farther and farther, and often by himself. One August day in 1969, when he was seven years old and still a very young instrument, Thermo decided to buzz over the central coast of the Gulf of Mexico. He had been there before and admired the lovely weather he had always found, with mostly sunny skies and gentle waves rolling up against the shoreline.
What he saw this time was far from that.
As Thermo looked down, he asked himself, “What is going on?” Ominous waves were crashing below and a dark sky threatened above. Thermo turned up his jets and flew high into the atmosphere, way above the level where the Wispys live, and moved southward over the ocean. Looking down over the Gulf, he saw something he had never seen before. Below him was a huge, nearly circular cloud formation covering a good portion of the Gulf’s waters. Bands of thunderstorms spiraling out from its center reminded him of the tentacles of an octopus. Right in the center was a huge round hole through the clouds that looked like it could be the octopus’s eye.
All of a sudden a low, booming voice from the storm thundered, “What are you, little machine? I have never seen your kind in the sky before. What have those puny humans created to spy on me?”
Startled and instantly scared out of his wits, Thermo stammered, “M-m-my name is Thermo. Dr. Key in Hawaii created me to explore the world. Who are you?”
The huge spiraling storm roared back, “This time around humans have called me Camille. I call myself Phoon, both Lord and Lady of the Hurricanes. When I appear, death and destruction often follow. Now go away little machine! In a few hours, I will pound the mouth of the Mississippi River with a mighty blow.”
Thermo, still frightened but slowly gathering courage, remembered his experience with Puffy and Wispy. He thought to himself, Maybe I can use my engines to stir up the air over Phoon and turn this storm into nothing more than a fair weather cumulus cloud. He rose above Camille and began to blow warm air across her top.
Immediately, the storm struck Thermo with a powerful blast of lightning. Thermo was unhurt, but the lightning temporarily cooled his jets and he began to fall from the sky toward Phoon’s churning circulation. In an angry voice Phoon threatened, “That was just a taste of my power, little one! Don’t ever try that again, or I will turn you into a ball of melted metal!”
Seconds before plunging into the hurricane’s eye, Thermo collected his wits and managed to restart his jet engines. With sonic speed he dashed up and away from the angry storm. As he did, Phoon shouted, “Run little flying thing! I am too strong for you!” Then with a chuckle, Phoon scornfully added, “Little do the humans know, Carbo will make me even stronger in the future!”
As he rocketed away, Thermo wondered “Who, or what in the world is Carbo?”
In the real world, Camille was one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the United States, slamming into the Gulf coast on August 17, 1969 near Waveland, Mississippi with winds reaching 175 mph. Camille killed more than 250 people and caused over nine billion dollars in damage (adjusted for inflation). Camille was a category five hurricane, the top rank on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The science of understanding how tropical systems form and develop into hurricanes (or typhoons, as they are called in the western Pacific Ocean) is still ongoing. Wind shear, which Thermo tried to create over the fictional Phoon but occurs naturally, usually disrupts and weakens hurricanes.
Hurricane expert Dr. John Hope, whom this author considers to be The Weather Channel’s founding father of tropical meteorology, had a daughter named Camille and added her name to the list of names to be used for hurricanes that year. He had no idea that the storm named after his daughter would become one of the most powerful hurricanes in history. Shortly after I was hired at The Weather Channel, the first major tropical system we covered, Hurricane Alicia, slammed ashore directly into the Houston/Galveston, Texas area in August of 1983. It was a category three hurricane with winds of 115 mph. Television coverage of Alicia gave increased scientific credibility to The Weather Channel and caused its ratings to soar. In fact, before Alicia in the mid 1980s, the network was close to permanently going off the air. Dr. Hope worked countless sleepless hours giving the public the latest information on Alicia, and was truly a meteorological hero. I also worked with a little-known graphics technician named Andrew Colletti who endured double shifts to keep John Hope’s graphics fresh and updated. Andrew was himself a true behind-the-scenes hero during coverage of Alicia. To this day, because of the credibility garnered from the coverage of Alicia, The Weather Channel has high ratings when tropical systems threaten the U.S. Dr. John Hope was The Weather Channel’s chief tropical expert until his death in June of 2002.
The Climate Guy
The text and artwork are copyright by Guy Walton. I would like to get this book published. Please drop me a note if you are willing to help.
To see the rest of the World of Thermo stories click: http://www.guyonclimate.com/category/worldofthermo/