Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sorry, Royal Caribbean, Storm That Trashed Cruise Ship WAS Expected

Satellite view of the enormous nor'easter
Sunday and the path of the cruise
ship into the teeth of the storm.
Image from USA Today. 
Blame the meteorologists, again.

That's essentially what Royal Caribbean cruise lines did when it said it's giant 168,666-ton Anthem Of the Seas cruise ship got trashed during that intense nor'easter off the Mid-Atlantic coast over the past couple of days.

Sure, let's sail into 30-foot seas and hurricane force winds! What could go wrong?

The enormous ship was never in any danger of sinking in the storm, but the 30-foot waves and hurricane force winds on Sunday tossed the vessel terribly, overturned furniture,  smashed windows, collapsed at least one ceiling, sent dishes and glasses flying and knocking passengers over.

Luckily, only four of the 4,529 passenges and 1,616 crew members aboard were hurt in the storm, says USA Today. But the storm confined passengers to their rooms, and what was to have been a seven-day cruise into Florida and The Bahamas was canceled.

It's another case of people blaming meteorologists for not warning them of dangerous weather, when in fact these forecasters were practically screaming about an impending storm.

Royal Caribbean, in a statement to USA Today and other media outlets, said that "extreme wind and sea conditions" were "unexpected" as the ship tried to sail from Bayonne, New Jersey toward Florida, and that the winds were stronger than forecast.

Hogwash. As Al Roker pointed out on NBC's Today show this morning, forecaster were warning of seas of up to 31 feet and hurricane force winds last Thursday, three days before the Anthem of the Seas sailed into the powerful nor'easter.

I'm glad NBC made a point of noting this, as I and many other meteorologists and weather journalists took NBC News to task earlier this month when they reported tornadoes struck earlier this month in the southeastern United States "without warning."
A collapsed ceiling aftter the cruise ship
Anthem of the Seas sailed into a dangerosu storm for
apparently no reason. 

In fact, meteorologists gave at least 20 minutes warning before each tornado struck, which is about a big a warning as humanly possible with most tornadoes.

Like Roker, USA Today, in its article, noted that forecasts by NOAA's Ocean Prediction Center issued at 1 p.m. Friday warned of "developing hurricane-fore winds" sunday in the Atlantic.

The headline in the Washington Post's Capitol Weather Gang blog said it best: "4,000-Passenger Cruise Ship Inexplicably Sails Into Atlantic Mega-Storm."

Sounds like a headline from The Onion, doesn't it?

But this could have been deadly. The captain, or somebody at Royal Caribbean messed up big time. As cruise passenger Pete Aloupis told ABC News via Skype from the ship, "I really resent the fact that he put 6,000 lives at risk taking us into a storm that had been predicted."  

Royal Caribbean then put out a second statement saying the decision to return to New York was due to forecasts of poor weather over the next few days that would affect the rest of the ship's itinerary, and that passengers had been through enough already.

Actually conditions and forecasts off the Florida coast today and the rest of the week aren't great, but not extreme like they were Sunday

Today, there is a gale warning for the waters off the southeastern United States coast with winds gusting to 40 mph with seas of 13 to 18 feet. It's also going to be rather chilly in Florida and the Bahamas for the next few days, but nothing unheard of for February.

Again, kinda lousy weather for a cruise, but such weather in that area of the ocean is not particularly unusual for mid-February. Kind of like when summer vacationers come up here to where I live in Vermont to enjoy sunshine and 80 degree weather and get rain with temperatures in the upper 60s.

A bummer, definitely, but not the end of the world.

Royal Caribbean is going to refund passengers their money and give them 50 percent off the cost of a future cruise.

Frankly, I wouldn't go on a Royal Caribbean cruise until they can demonstrate that they know how to obtain and understand weather forecasts, and know how to heed them.

Because obviously, at the moment, they can't.

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