Saturday, May 19, 2012
As a man who loves the heat and sweat of a subtropical summer, there is something very comforting about the formation of the season's first tropical storm, especially so close to the Georgia Bight. There is no wish for destruction that comes with the winds, torrential rains, or high flood tides. Rather, it is the realization that the climate cycles have reconfirmed what we can expect from the trade winds that brought our ancestors to the New World. In fact, the first such storm in 1495 left Christopher Columbus and his crew begging for salvation and motivating their captain to venture in such storms only "in the very service of God."
In coastal Georgia, the trades usually creep in softly around the middle of May. They bring in the high cirrus and horsetails as well as the puffy fair-weather cumulus that race over the beach. The clouds sweep inland twenty miles or so where they meet the uplifts of diurnal heating enhanced by the incentives of an onshore flow. Often, the result is a brisk and exciting line of thunderstorms sometimes extending from the city-state of Charleston to the Players Club fairways at Ponte Vedra Beach.
For years, OTR watched the light show over Savannah arcing north and east toward Hilton Head and sometimes moving to his coast when the land breezes swept in early. Such a magnificent show. By the early morning hours, a quiet southeasterly breeze resumed, embracing the island in salt-saturated humidity and a haze that turned golden with the sunrise. The Boat-tailed Grackles skirmishing in the oleanders nearby served as a natural alarm clock.
The trade wind days last into September to be replaced by weeks of spectacular warm, dry, cloudless days, cool nights and warm water lasting into November. Of course, the occasional tropical storm can interrupt the coastal idyll that is the norm on the sea islands. It is to be expected and respected by those who share the fragile boundary of life at the ocean's edge.
N.B. Tropical Storm Alberto is off Charleston and drifting southwest toward the Sea Islands of Georgia, but should move out to sea in a day or two.