Cyclone or Hurricane? Brazil Cannot Decide What Hit Her

    Cyclone or Hurricane? Brazil 
Cannot Decide What Hit Her

    While American weather
    experts analyzing satellites pictures
    called a Brazilian storm a hurricane even before it hit shore, their
    Brazilian counterparts preferred to treat it as an cyclone. With this
    downplaying of the facts the population in the affected areas
    didn’t prepare for what really was in store for them.
    by: Francesco
    Neves

    Brazilian and American meteorologists still have to agree on what hit the
    southern coast of Brazil Saturday night killing at least two people, damaging
    as many as 40,000 homes, and leaving hundreds of families homeless. According
    to US officials, the storm named Catarina (its main target was the state of
    Santa Catarina) packed winds exceeding 75 miles an hour, which would characterize
    it as a category one hurricane, the first such storm on record to reach the
    south Atlantic region.

    Catarina, which
    hit the coasts of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina states, killed a man
    and a child. The child was killed when a beach house collapsed in Rio Grande
    do Sul. The man died when his car was struck by a tree. There was also news
    that a dozen fishermen were missing off the coast of Santa Catarina. On Monday,
    the lack of communication with many isolated areas of those two states didn’t
    allow for a full account of the situation.

    While American weather
    experts analyzing satellites pictures called the Brazilian phenomenon a hurricane
    even before it hit shore, their Brazilian counterparts preferred to treat
    it as an “extratropical cyclone.” Brazil’s Center for Weather Forecasting
    and Climatic Studies, a branch of the Inpe (National Institute of Space Research),
    on Saturday, was still classifying the storm as a cyclone, that would have
    winds with speeds between 37 and 44 miles an hour. They would be proved wrong
    since winds reached 75 miles an hour and up.

    Even after the US
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration divulged satellite photos
    late Saturday afternoon showing the real power of the storm, Maria Assunção
    Dias, Inpe’s meteorologist, went on Globo TV’s Jornal Nacional, the leading
    prime-time news show in Brazil to defend the Brazilian position:

    “The Americans,
    who are used to follow tropical hurricanes in the North Atlantic region, take
    a peek at the satellite image and think this is a hurricane. If they paid
    a little more attention to the details, they would see that we have a different
    structure here. In a hurricane, winds in the lower levels turn in one direction,
    but spin in the opposite direction in the upper levels. Here, they turn equally
    from the surface to the upper levels.”

    On Sunday, the official
    position had changed a little. Laura Rodrigues, from Santa Catarina’s Meteorology
    Center admitted that the weather phenomenon had shown “characteristics different
    from those we are used to” and announced that her and her colleagues were
    trying to decide if Brazil was hit by a cyclone or a hurricane. “The episode
    has characteristics of a hurricane,” she said, “but it is still too early
    to decide with certainty.”

    Finally on Monday
    afternoon, Brazilian weather experts admitted that the winds that hit the
    Brazilian coast were above hurricane strength. Winds were as high as 94 miles
    per hour.

    Echoing the observations
    of many other fellow Brazilian citizens at the Internet forum of Rio’s daily
    O Globo, Otávio da Silva wrote: “The authorities have to stop thinking that
    Brazil is free from natural catastrophes, that those only happen in the United
    States and other parts of the world and that we don’t need to be prepared
    for the consequences. What happened in the early hours of Sunday was a category
    one hurricane and the Americans were warning us about this, 24 hours ahead
    of time. The population could have been prepared through an alert given through
    radio and TV. Unfortunately we saw that the mind of many Brazilians cannot
    understand that much. That’s regrettable.”

    Rosana Torres da
    Silva was even more emphatic: “The population should have been given special
    protection by the authorities, who apparently underestimated the massive power
    of the cyclone. Who ended paying once again for the authorities’ irresponsibility
    were the common, poor, uninformed citizens. Many of them will have to restart
    their lives from zero. It seems that in Brazil we need to have a tragedy first
    so we can take the necessary steps, when the opposite should occur: to prevent
    so we don’t have to be fixing things after the fact. When are you going to
    learn that?”

    Residents of the
    areas battered by the hurricane were terrified. They had never seen a hurricane
    before. Brazilians authorities say hundreds of homes were destroyed. And 11
    fishermen are missing off the coast after two boats sank in the storm.

    According to the
    authorities from both states, 40 cities were hit by the storm. Monday, rescue
    teams continued to search for 12 fishermen who were caught in high seas by
    the strong winds. They were able to rescue Luciano da Silva on Sunday, but
    his five colleagues from the Vale 2 boat are still missing. The seven crew
    members from the Antônio Venâncio vessel also couldn’t be found.

    The tree that killed
    a man after reaching his car has also injured two other people who were inside
    the vehicle. There is news that at least other 30 people suffered injuries,
    one of which is in serious condition in a hospital in Criciúma, Santa Catarina.
    In Araranguá, also in Santa Catarina, some 200 houses were unroofed and at
    least 60 trees fell on the BR-101 roadway, a main artery connecting the Brazilian
    South to the Southeast.

    The mayor of São
    João do Sul, Antonio Oliveira Cardoso, declared state of public calamity in
    his city of 8000, one of the worst hit by the cyclone/hurricane. According
    to Cardoso, most of the residents lost their houses. The winds also destroyed
    schools and the town’s community center.

    In Rio Grande do Sul,
    300 families of Torres were homeless after the passage of the storm, which
    left the town without electric power or telephone service. Several municipalities
    in the area have no electricity and some of them have declared state of emergency
    in hopes of getting federal aid.

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