Hurricane Ian’s (Sept 2022) recent devastation of Florida (and other states) got me working on updating my extreme weather map of Garrett County and the region. I had created a map in 2014 that showed the tracks of major storms and tornados in the eastern half of the US.
I was happy with how it came out – the main point I was trying to get across is that Garrett County is a good place to live since historically, hurricanes and tornados are unlikely to hit here. I also like the colors (someone commented they thought it looked like an Easter basket).
I’ve just updated the map and added wildfires (orange dots) and hailstorms (green tracks). Now, the hurricanes and storms are in blue (darker lines indicate more severe storms) and tornados in red (same theme as hurricanes)
A bit of a different projection (map orientation) and I changed the Easter basket colors, but this map is updated to 2021 data. Garrett County (and WV) are still great areas to avoid major storms, tornados, hail storms (I know, probably not life threatening, but good to avoid if you have a nice new car) and wildfires (which can be life threatening). Let’s zoom in a bit with Garrett County highlighted.
We’ve had a handful of tornados and just a couple of hurricanes pass through you can see at this scale. I’ve also included the terrain, in shaded gray, to highlight the Appalachians. They largely shield us from weather coming from both the East (hurricanes) and the West (tornados). You can start to see the wildfires and hailstorms in this scale of the map, too. Let’s get in nice and close for one more zoom in.
What’s evident here is the minimal number of wildfires in Garrett County while the surrounding area in the Alleghenies does have a fair amount. There are likely multiple reasons for this, ranging from weather, population density and forest management practices.
If you can chose where you live, there are lots of factors that go into that decision. Economics is probably top of the list – whether you can get a job or grow a business are big concerns. Weather is probably next – many people don’t like to ever see a single snowflake in the their lifetimes (I’m the opposite – I like to see many). And related to weather is climate and the prevalence and frequency of extreme weather events. Just to make a massive oversimplification, areas with “better” weather are more likely to experience extreme weather events like hurricanes, tornados (and forest fires which are kind of an inverse of extreme weather events). So let’s take Florida for example. It has pleasant winter weather and residents can expect to never deal with snow, but extreme weather like hurricanes area looming danger. In Garrett County, you may deal with more snow in the winter, but the statistical danger of a high kinetic energy storm is much lower.
If you made it this far, I’m sure you want to know why I headlined this post that GC has been “resistant to extreme weather since 300,000,000 BC”. I primarily credit our mountains for shielding us from weather, whether it’s coming from the east or west (is there a literary term for serial homonyms in a sentence? The first person to email me with this term at firstname.lastname@example.org with the answer gets a free map pack).
The Appalachian Mountains and our Alleghany Range are ancient – they are rounded and gentle now, but were sharp and “pointy” like the Rocky Mountains when they first formed, oh, about 300 million years ago.
The image above is from a super-cool visualizer or what the Earth could have looked like hundreds of millions of years ago. The mountains from the Carboniferous Era may have been rounded down a bit since then, but they still provide us with lots of protection from the weather (and dinosaurs!).