COMMENTARY | A few weeks after Hurricane Matthew — the first of the terrifying trio of storms that would haunt Jacksonville over the next few years — I wanted to track down the sharp National Weather Service meteorologist who had been stationed in the city's emergency operations center during the storm. This proved to be more complicated than I had thought.
It turns out, that meteorologist, Angie Enyedi, had moved back to working the midnight shift not long after pulling all-night Matthew duty, and I got re-directed to someone else who could answer my follow-up questions.
Here's my point: Those people work incredibly hard, and they often do this work with little notice or applause — in the dead of night. The information that comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — which houses the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center — is so essential we simply assume it will always be there. It's only there because people like Angie Enyedi work in the National Weather Service's 150-plus offices on nights, weekends and holidays.
It's likely you've seen Eneydi on television. She was stationed at the city's emergency operations center during Irma — staying overnight when it was necessary — and is doing so again for Dorian.
Go ahead, complain about the spaghetti models, about how frustrating it is to watch the shifting forecast. The reality is these forecasts have become incredibly precise.
Meteorologist Ryan Maue put it well: "The weather models have improved so much in the last 20 years. Like Floyd back in 1999, if we had the same weather models today for Dorian, then there's no way we'd have any confidence in the eventual northward turn," he tweeted.
"Instead, 5 million may be evacuating."
Floyd is one Jacksonville ought to remember well. The mass evacuation equated to about 1.3 million people along the entire East Coast hitting the roads, which quickly gridlocked. People slept in their cars.
For Dorian, however, the remarkably strong forecasting models gave meteorologists, government officials and residents so much confidence South Florida communities were able to rest with the knowledge the mammoth storm was gong to take a turn north. And it did.
This information is free and easily accessible thanks to NOAA, and everyone from meteorological experts to armchair forecasters rely on it.
Does the water look high? It's possible to look at real-time tide gauge data in several locations on the St. Johns River. Offshore buoys record wind speeds, directions and wave heights. Need to know about past hurricanes? You can find detailed information dating back to the 1950s.
NOAA scientists also research the major issue of our lifetime: climate change. The same people who can predict storms with such precision are also concerned about the warming planet. For anyone who has relied on their hurricane forecasts, this ought to put any debate over climate change to bed.
Jacksonville will get a tongue lashing from Dorian. Thankfully, it looks once again like the city will avoid the worst-case scenario — something the National Hurricane Center predicted several days ago.
For that, we can all rest easier. When the sun goes down and the world sleeps, there is always someone keeping an eye out.
Nate Monroe’s City column appears every Thursday and Sunday.
firstname.lastname@example.org, (904) 359-4289