Thank­fully, ex-storm Lorenzo ran out of steam

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - LIFESTYLE -

IT was a re­lief to ev­ery­one that hur­ri­cane Lorenzo fiz­zled out with­out caus­ing any sig­nif­i­cant dam­age al­beit some se­ri­ous flood­ing in south Done­gal, other lo­calised spot flood­ing around the coun­try, power ou­tages, trees down and as­so­ci­ated storm de­bris.

Navan-man Fran­cis Beau­fort was the first to try to bring some or­der to the record­ing of winds at sea. In his day, ships car­ried no in­stru­ments to mea­sure wind speed so in 1805 he de­vised the Beau­fort Wind Scale.

The scale de­vised by Rear Ad­mi­ral Sir Fran­cis Beau­fort was based on ob­ser­va­tion rather than on mea­sure­ment. Cap­tains as­sessed the state of the sea and de­cided on a num­ber be­tween 0 and 12 to de­scribe what they were look­ing at, 0 be­ing flat calm and 12 be­ing moun­tain­ous waves.

The first time the new scale was of­fi­cially used by the British ad­mi­ralty was on the voy­age of HMS Bea­gle, the ship that car­ried Charles Dar­win on his epic voy­age prior to the for­mu­la­tion of the the­ory of evo­lu­tion.

To­day, wind speed is mea­sured ac­cu­rately by in­stru­ments, but weather fore­casts still re­fer to events like ‘storm force 10’ link­ing us back to Beau­fort’s ground-break­ing work over 200 years ago.

While words to de­scribe wind speed are de­fined sci­en­tif­i­cally as tech­ni­cal terms, in pop­u­lar use the word ‘gale’ is an um­brella term for strong to very strong wind. ‘Storm’ is usu­ally used for a strong gale ac­com­pa­nied by heavy rain.

‘Hur­ri­cane’ is not a term that is of­ten used in Ire­land. The term is used to de­scribe the very strong­est wind speeds. These are sub­di­vided into five groups: Cat­e­gory 1 (the least dam­ag­ing) to Cat­e­gory 5 (the very worst). In other parts of the world the terms ‘cy­clone’ and ‘typhoon’ are used to de­scribe what we call hur­ri­cane-force winds.

Oíche na gaoithe móire, the night of the big wind, the night of Sun­day 6th and Mon­day 7th Jan­uary 1839, saw Ire­land bat­tered by what was ef­fec­tively a Cat­e­gory 3 hur­ri­cane. The ex­treme event killed some 300 peo­ple and wreaked de­struc­tion across the coun­try.

Lorenzo was a Cat­e­gory 5 hur­ri­cane and was the first of its kind ever recorded so far east in the North At­lantic Ocean. Do­rian that struck the Ba­hamas in Septem­ber was also a Cat­e­gory 5 hur­ri­cane. Lorenzo’s track di­rectly to­wards Ire­land ini­tially caused ex­treme con­cern but for­tu­nately for us it mor­phed into an ex-Lorenzo storm and gale, ran out of steam and fiz­zled out with­out caus­ing any sig­nif­i­cant dam­age.

Lorenzo was a Cat­e­gory 5 hur­ri­cane and was the first of its kind ever recorded so far east in the North At­lantic Ocean.

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