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September 8, 2006

Planning my honeymoon with Ask.com

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Ask.com has developed a “ready reference” (the librarian’s equivalent of a Smart Answer) for the hurricane season that typically hits the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico from June 1 to November 20. If you go to Ask and query the term hurricane or tropical storm, a Smart Answer (something my mother used to yell at me for) will show up on the SERP giving you instant information.

This got me very excited and here’s why.

I’m getting married next June and the Bahamas has been dubbed my honeymoon spot of choice. One problem, I too was aware of the June hurricane season and the idea of being inundated with rain and winds for an entire week wasn’t particularly appealing to me or my fiancĂ©.

So this is my question for Ask: What are my chances of being hit by a storm if we were to vacation in the Bahamas June 10th to June 17th? Let’s see if their new Smart Answer can help me find out.

What I really need is some sort of history of hurricane occurrences. I’ll start by querying “hurricane“. Aha. Right there in the resources is my hurricane archive. Excellent! I’ll dig into the archive starting with 2006 and work my way back.

Well, that’s not good. I see had I taken my honeymoon in 2006, Tropical Storm Alberto would have hit just as we were landing. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Let’s try 2005.

Yowsa, that’s a lot of storming, but only one out of the almost-thirty reported would have hit while I was there. I keep going:

  • 2001: Tropical Storm Allison would have ruined my entire vacation.
  • 2000: Safe!
  • 1999: Tropical Storm Arlene spanned the entire week of my honeymoon.
  • 1998: Safe!
  • 1997: Safe!
  • 1996: Tropical Storm Arthur hit on the 17th. That’s only one day of rain, I could have potentially lived with that.
  • 1995 – 1990: Safe!

So, in the past sixteen years, three tropical storms have hit during my honeymoon dates, but no hurricanes. But what’s the difference? I know what a hurricane is (I lived through Hurricane Gloria in the ’80s. Fine, I was three, but I remember it vividly!), but how severe is a tropical storm? I’m not sure but luckily Ask lets me narrow my search to “Definition from Tropical Storm” (though I could have checked their Glossary resource too).

Ask gives me a Web Answer from Wikipedia straight on its SERP:

“A tropical storm is an organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds between 17 and 33 meters per second (3463 knots, 3973 mph, or 62117 km/h).”

Well that doesn’t sound fun, but Wikipedia tells me the peak for tropical storms in the Bahamas is Sept. 10. That’s a whole three months later than my honeymoon. And again, the dates I’m looking at have only seen three tropical storms in the past 16 years. That’s gotta count for something, right? At this point, Ask is helping me feel pretty confident about booking my trip.

One of the coolest resources Ask lists for hurricanes is a storm tracker that lets users pick a hurricane (from 2006, 2005, or well-known historical hurricanes) and track its movement. I looked up Tropical Strom Alberto, the one that hit during my dates in 2005, and saw we probably wouldn’t have been hit at all. The storm seems to be more Cuba-centered than Bahamas-centered. (I also took a look at Hurricane Gloria’s path just because I’m feeling a bit nostalgic.)

Ask’s hurricane Smart Answer also gives users immediate access to experts such as the National Hurricane Center, the National Weather Service, Red Cross, Fema and other places, all of which will be very useful should I arrive in the Bahamas to black clouds and thunderbolts. However, I’m hoping Ask’s wide-range of resources, preventive information and disaster kit won’t come in handy while I’m there.

Ask seems to be running a pretty complete “ready reference” for its hurricane searches. I rate Ask’s hurricane “ready reference” a major hit, and I’m almost ready to make my honeymoon destination decision! If you have any other suggestions, I’m all ears.

[And thanks to Ask.com for bringing this Smart Answer to life. I know you did it just for me!]

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