Hopkinsville Native Helping Track Hurricane Irma
By West Kentucky Star Staff
COLLEGE PARK, MD - A western Kentucky man is putting his training to work as Hurricane Irma approaches Florida this weekend.

Bob Ballard graduated from Hopkinsville High School in 1989, and works as a Science and Operations Officer for the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Hawaii, tracking tropical storms in that area. 

Since Irma is expected to affect the Miami area, where the National Hurricane Center is located, officials have brought Ballard and some others to College Park, Maryland, to the National Centers for Weather and Climate Prediction. 

Ballard said he is part of a team ready to take over at this back-up site if the storm knocks out communication from Miami.

Ballard said, "They sent some of us to help out in case NHC goes down, we can help them out and do hurricane forecasting along with some other forecasters there. Even during a disaster we have to keep the show running and we have to keep information flowing."

He said people want to know exactly where the storm is going, but by the time his team can precisely predict it, there may not be enough time to evacuate or prepare. That's why warnings and watches are issued for areas across the predictive cone. As for Hurricane Irma, its path could be the worst-case scenario.

"The concern here is that it takes a track  right over or just to the west of Miami, and puts Miami in the zone of maximum devastation. Now, we're talking about a category 4 hurricane like Harvey, when Harvey hit Texas, but this is taking it potentially right over a very large metro area," Ballard said.

Ballard also said those who are on the left side of Irma's eye should typically experience slightly weaker winds than those on the right, since those winds are blowing against the motion of the system. This would be the case for any storm moving from south-to-north. For storms moving east-to-west, the south quadrant is typically the "weaker" side. 

Published 01:54 PM, Friday Sep. 08, 2017
Updated 01:58 PM, Friday Sep. 08, 2017