The Old Days, Seminoles & hurricanes (not football related)

With Hurricane Frances headed toward Florida, I was reminded of a question that has bugged me for a while.

In books like Their eye’s were watching god and movies like Key Largo, whenever there is a hurricane coming the Seminoles are seen leaving for higher ground, usually a day in advance. How would they know that a hurricane is on the way? Or is this a myth?

I’d say it’s at least theoretically possible for some hurricanes if the higher ground isn’t very far away.

First, I am not a meteorologist or a Seminole (though I am 1/32 Cherokee- does that count for something?). These are just my observations of pre-hurricane and hurricane or hurricane-remnant weather conditions from when I lived on the East Coast.

There’s a high pressure area directly outside a hurricane, which produces hot, sunny, and humid weather. You might also see high cirrus clouds that seem to radiate from a single point on the horizon, usually the eastern horizon. This might last for a few days, depending on the track and speed of the storm. Clouds approaching from the east might be a hint, too, since most non-tropical storms in Florida, AFAIK, come from the west.

Hurricanes often (but not always) are big storms, with the worst weather conditions near the center. And the rain from a hurricane tends to be warmer than rain from an ordinary storm. So, even if you didn’t catch the signs before the hurricane hit, you might be able to leave before things got too bad.

Trial and error.

WAG - Over time the native peoples read the seasons and signs for changing weather patterns. When the weather pattern was observed that a hurricane might be approaching, they moved. On a smaller scale, it is the same approach one takes by looking out the window and observing the daily local weather. A combination of daily observations and experience would build up the knowledge to practice a limited form of forecasting.

This story seems to back that up …


Depending on what you mean by ‘the old days’, there was no such tribe as the Seminole around to leave for higher ground:

History of the Seminoles
The Seminoles formed in Florida in the 1700’s as an agglomeration of displaced northern tribes.


Actually, the weather before a hurricane strikes is quite fair. Before the days of computers, weather satellites, more technology, people were taken by surprise, having no idea that a hurricane was coming. Witness the hurricane that hit the NY area in 1938 (I believe that was the year), but there were numerous incidents. Living on the East coast, you well know that the weather can be sunny just hours before the hurricane hits. In addition, altho you may get some showers, in-between the showers the weather is sunny.

Altho Frances is large, most hurricanes are small in area in terms of hurricane force winds and tropical storm force winds. Charley, as destructive as it was, was small, and Tampa just a few miles North of its landfall was hardly affected.

Of course, at the center the weather is fair and calm, the strongest winds being in the eyewall.

There’s a high pressure area directly outside a hurricane? Even if true, I don’t know how this would be a clue. Actually, there is a weak high pressure area directly above a hurricane. There happens to be a sub-tropical high blocking Frances from any northward journey (which high is weakening; however, a new high is building in, from reports I’ve read). But there could be a low-pressure area outside a hurricane, which would cause shear and weaken it.

The only way, IMHO, that any tribe would know that a hurricane was coming would be to note the rotation of the clouds. The clouds that herald the coming of a tropical storm mover over the sky in a counter-clockwise direction. Clouds normally move from west to east here in the Prevailing Westerlies.

I don’t know how they fared in the old days, but in more recent years, when the Seminoles encountered the Hurricanes, they usually hung right in there until the very end, when the 'Noles would veer wide-right or wide-left… :smiley:

Sorry! Seriously, though, unusual cloud patterns in advance can be somewhat of a tipoff, even though it’s true that in the past, people were often taken largely by surprise. I think it partly comes down to exactly what time period people consider “early”. Before Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida, you could tell that a big storm was approaching some 12-18 hours or so before it made its landfall: we were beginning to get some sustained winds from the east, the sky was darkening, and, perhaps most tellingly, the birds were all heading west as of that time. If that’s all the warning time you have, then any metropolitan area (such as Miami in 1926 during Camille) would be caught mostly off-guard, but perhaps that was enough time for, say, the Miccosukee to strike camp and canoe to a marginally safer area.

In retrospect, I wish I’d paid a bit more attention to the environmental aspects of the storm’s advance (just out of scientific interest) and had made it a point to look for certain early indicators, but I was just too busy helping my parents secure the house and office. But I do have a distinct memory of noticing the birds’ migration that afternoon, as they were crying (calling? you know what I mean) to each other and flying very fast, very purposefully. They’d probably been flying west all day (and possibly the previous day), but I only noticed it then. Ditto for the cloud patterns; there might’ve been good indicators even earlier, but I wasn’t paying enough attention or taking notes.

One more thing about the birds evacuating in advance of a hurricane – the last bird in the Everglades to bug out is the ibis, which is why that’s the mascot of the U. of Miami. (Whether that’s indicative of bravery or stupidity, though, is a matter of debate. :wally )