It's been over a week now that every eyeball on the East Coast has been on the tropics. The Hurricane Danielle swell peaked on Sunday and continued to pump in through the first part of the week. Since then, it's been all about Major Hurricane Earl.
Fiona also became a tropical storm a few days ago, but the wind sheer coming off Earl basically killed her. As if all that weren't enough, the next system became Tropical Storm Gaston. Gaston lost a lot of steam, but now is showing signs of regenerating. There's also a massive tropical wave that just came off Africa that has plenty of potential to become a haymaker.
Earl is down to a Category 1 storm, not nearly as impressive as it was yesterday. It seems that surfers have actually eased up on the hype this year, after being burned prior years. And that has resulted in some pleasant surprises. Unfortunately, the mainstream media continues to fuel the hype. This happens every year, but if you've ever noticed, there's much more interest in these storms before Labor Day, when the beaches are covered with tourists. Two weeks from now, we could get the same conditions, but summer vacations will be over and folks will be completely preoccupied with NFL football.
Some communities are tiring of the hype, particularly the hurricane-hardened folks on the Outer Banks, They had some solid surf this week, while waiting for the lashing, and then weathered the storm this morning as if it were a passing shower. Meanwhile, the Weather Channel's Jim Cantore, once known as the Grim Reaper of tropical season, has been doing live coverage on the scene.
Whalebone Surf Shop has had enough of the hype machine however. Yesterday, the marquis read "Emmy Awards, Best in Drama: Jim Cantore." They took the letters down last night (so they didn't blow away) and replaced them today with "The Winner Is: Jim Cantore, Drama Queen."
Shop owner, Jim Vaughn, explained why.
"He doesn't realize the people whose income he's hurting. In the 80s, before the Weather Channel, August was our big money month. Now, every hurricane season, the Weather Channel shows this graph of hurricane frequency for August. Each week, the chances of a hurricane increase. What they don't show is the big spike, later in September to put it in perspective," Vaugh said today, "They've dramatized it to a point where people stop sending deposits on vacation rentals in August. That has forced the rental agents to cut the rents in half."
People are simply not renting in August like they used to. In the last 20 years since the Weather Channel started seeing such high ratings for hurricane coverage, Vaugh has explained that Whalebone's August income has dropped. He now grosses about the same as June, which he doesn't consider a banner month.
"The Weather Channel meteorologists are being drama queens to sell ads," continues Vaughn, "They're chasing people off the beach and Cantore is the worst."
This afternoon a drizzle continues in Nags Head. Surfers are waiting for the wind to go offshore and maybe catch the peak of the swell before dark. Meanwhile, the mid-Atlantic awaits Earl's wrath (or at least his little tantrum.) As he deteriorates, he will pass near Nantucket and probably make landfall in the Canadian Maritimes.
The swell is forecasted to die very quickly tomorrow and surfers are already scouting the horizon for the next storm. Next week, it's a totally different landscape.