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Tony's Blog: Tony the Mountain Climber!

Where to Live Fifty Years from Now

In a continuing discussion of climate change, tonight I want to tell you why when I hang up my isobars some day, I will be retiring to the beautiful mountains.

It’s a quiet night in the weather center as Mother Nature catches her breathe before the next round of thunderstorms threatens by late week or the weekend. FestivALL goers, don’t panic, just stay tuned. I will be in Charleston for the Blues and Brews fest and the Light Opera performance. If you get rained on, chances are so will I!

Tonight, turns out I am working on a hurricane piece for my normal Friday First at Five slot. The experts are predicting an active storm season which has a 50-50 chance of verifying if you use their track record the past 10 years.

As I wrote my script for the piece (I will refine the words and pick the pictures out on Wednesday, then edit the piece on Thursday), I paged thru video from Katrina and other tempests. The notion of another spike in gasoline prices if a storm wanders into the Gulf this summer/fall crossed my mind again. Can you say five dollars a gallon?

You know my stance on Global Warming is that no storm like Katrina (or her equally powerful 2005 sisters Rita and Wilma and her mighty brothers Dean and Felix of 2007) can be blamed on greenhouse gas build-up. Conversely, I feel strongly on a globally warmed Earth, bad seasons like 2005 will be more common.

In the sphere of reliable climate prediction, it is a well hypothesized notion, and one that I subscribe to comprehensively, that these big hurricanes will be more prevalent. That is a no-brainer if you believe the planet is warming, since hurricanes derive their energy from warm ocean waters. The warmer the water, the more energetic the hurricane or so goes the theory.

So tonight, I want to tell why buying property within a few miles of the Gulf or Middle-South Atlantic coasts is a chancier proposition on globally warmed planet. Insurance companies know this and will bump your premiums up progressively this century. If you think smart insurers will give you a break if we get into a hurricane lull, I have some cheap swampland to sell you. Forget it! They are using global warming stats to derive their premiums.

OK, let us talk specifics. If your dream retirement home is on the East Coast or along the Gulf, read this carefully!

The risk of any one storm flattening your home from West Palm to Hilton Head to Virginia Beach or from Fort Myers to Pensacola to Padre Island is miniscule. But add all the storms up that will occur the next 20 years and you have the law of averages suddenly working against you.

Hugo hit in 1989, Andrew in 1992, Fran and Bertha in 1996. The list goes on and gets really dicey when 2004 and 2005 hurricanes are added to the list. That’s a lot of real estate that has been hit in the last 20 years. And what is likely, even more land will be hit in the next 20-50 years.

One might say, well buy property farther north toward Delmarva or New Jersey or even Southern New England where hurricane strikes are rare. Good idea but if global warming is indeed for real, one would expect ocean temperatures to warm farther up the coast.

So rather than a typical summer day at Atlantic City and Wildwood NJ (where I vacationed with my parents when I was a kid) seeing water temperatures near 70, a more realistic surf temperature might be 75 or even 80 in mid-late summer. Remember, the warmer the ocean, the more energy for a hurricane to feed on. That suggests heading north young man or woman may not be the ticket to “Freedom from Hurricane Nirvana”.

OK we just made the case for not buying a coastal community piece of property based solely on global warming. Naturally, much more goes into the decision process. So where else to buy if not on the beach?

If the drought of last summer and the floods of this summer in the Corn and Wheat Belt become more common as one would expect with temperature rises, where is one to look safely to get away from climate extreme?

I contend that living in the mountains, like at Canaan Valley or Beckley or Asheville NC or in the Great Smokies of Tennessee may be the better option. At these higher altitudes, the air will be less hot for sure, and perhaps in Snowshoe and Canaan Valley’s case, less harsh in winter.

When the gang at WSAZ heads to Snowshoe to play golf in July, we normally find the days in the low 80s at the Raven and the air chilled into the 50s at the “Top of the World” (Snowshoe’s summit) at night. Well, perhaps in 20 years, those temperatures will be 5 degrees higher.

Likewise, the deep arctic chill of the long winters may well be tempered in the next 50 years. In a typical winter, the air at Snowshoe is probably considered unbearable one or two weekends a season. Maybe in 50 years, those barbaric winter weekends occur every third year.

Of course, regardless of how warm the planet does or does not become, more rain and snow falls/will fall in the mountains. That’s to be expected. But floods and blizzards are not the norm in the high country. What is normal, is a climate that is 5-10 degrees cooler than here in the Ohio, Kanawha and Big Sandy Valleys.

Of course I love the outdoors and prefer small gatherings over large crowds. I enjoy clean air and pretty scenery. These are other reasons why I am heading up high when I say bye-bye to my career.

By the way, I like quiet neighbors who enjoy good food and love sports. Any takers?


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