Tag Archives: hurricane

The Storm Before the Calm

Hurricane Florence is going west–no, south–no, east-notheast, no—hell, nobody knows.

So, as things develop, all of the usual suspects (cue Casablanca–roll film) are behaving in the the way that all the usual suspects do:

  • Some television meteorologists are standing in knee deep water or out in the wind.
  • Other television meteorologists are predicting where the storm will go based on satellite fed, computer generated wild–ass guesses.
  • Elected officials are assuring people that: a) everything will be fine, or b) mandatory evacuation is necessary (“Abandon your posts! Run for your lives!” Denethor, Return of the King). [Flip coin here]

I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

Pick at the Peak of Ripeness!

florence_tmo_2006257_lrg

September is when the hurricanes off the east coast of North America become ripe enough to be harvested and truly enjoyed. Like grapes or tomatoes, there are a few outliers that ripen earlier, but also like tomatoes and grapes, early hurricanes lack that full-bodied flavor that literally knocks you off your feet–sometimes permanently. Like tomatoes, hurricanes are best when picked fresh off the vine and tasted immediately.

If you don’t live in an area that experiences hurricanes, it is difficult to truly share the experience, but, I shall try. First, although the wind looks impressive on television, it is the storm surge of water that kills the most people. In Virginia, where we have been assured that there is no climate change, the sea levels have inexplicably risen and the land has subsided–a fancy word for “sunk.” The land sinks because industries such as paper mills pump so much water out of wells that the land actually sinks.

Evacuation is an option, but if you are not on the road at least three days before a hurricane makes landfall–with a confirmed reservation at a hotel well inland–you are going to bounce around in your car stuck in a 200 mile traffic jam in high winds heavy rains, and other cars tunning out of gas.

As the storm approaches, the water comes into the rivers and tributaries at high tide, the wind tends keep the water trapped inland, so the next few high tides keep adding. Then, there’s the rainfall. Yesterday–long before the hurricane is due, we got between 3 – 5 inches of rain. Since the most important thing around here is real estate development, all the low-lying wooded areas have been elevated so that instead of the water flowing into those areas, it flows the other way, into mature neighborhoods. Since electricity is also lost early in the game, the sewage treatment pumping stations fail; the water flowing through the streets tends to exhibit wads of toilet paper and worse.

The loss of electricity also means, given that there was never any global warning, everybody gets to enjoy the 90+ degree temperatures and 80+ percent humidity sans air-conditioning. Plus, ATMs, gas pumps, cash registers, etc. don’t work without electricity, so forget your debit or credit card. It’s exact change, cash only.

Afterward, the streets are lined with soggy wallboard and furniture from houses that were flooded. These sit, bake in the sun, grow mould, get rained on, wash the mould into the watershed, repeat. But, hey, Katrina barely bothered Louisiana and Maria was no problem for Puerto Rico, so what, me worry

It’s not a complete picture of what you may be missing, but hopefully it will help you share in our experience.

 

Peak Season

HURRICANE-IRENE-PATH-2011-NOAA-2

For those of us who live on the East or Gulf Coasts, we’re now headed into peak hurricane season. Although hurricane season begins in June, we frequently see the worst storms–and the ones that make landfall–between now and the end of November.

It’s kind of like Christmas shopping–the stores have the Christmas products on the shelf in October, but it’s the last few weeks when the shoppers go into a frenzy.

So, I’ve checked the generator, put the six-month old gas from the storage cans into the car and replaced it with fresh (and added the fuel stabilizer). I’ve checked the backup chargers for the cell phones, and of course the ham radio gear.

Now all I have to do is wait.

The last big storm we had was Hurricane Irene in 2011. We’ve had some damaging, but not disastrous weather since, so I’ve been waiting since 2011.

If you’re wondering, I much prefer waiting to dealing with a storm. Wish me a happy and successful 2018 wait, with no serious storms.

 

Mother Nature and the Odds

I live in an area that has experienced hurricanes, but not since 2011. Some around here now feel that we’re free of that threat. There might be some truth, at least for a while, given that current weather trends tend to have wind shear that trim the tops of hurricanes, weakening them, and there is a natural pattern that tends to push the storms back out into the Atlantic.

We’re good, right? After all, once a weather pattern occurs, it doesn’t change—does it?

Long ago, in statistics class I was taught an interesting fact. You flip an honest coin 100 times, and it comes up heads each time. What are the odds it will come up heads on the next flip?

Fifty-fifty.

We’ve blamed el Nino, la Nina, butterflies in Africa, etc. I don’t think we’ve quite figured anything out.

It Will Never Happen to Me!

For some reason, there seems to be a human proclivity for believing this.

I smoke, but I will never suffer from lung cancer.

My spouse will never know.

Global climate change is a myth.

My cellphone will always work.

Now that I’ve made it, I’m going to move into a beautiful home on the beach.

So, why, today, are people stuck in a giant traffic jam, headed north on Interstate 95, incommunicado, and out of gas?

It doesn’t matter, it will never happen to me.

P.S. I prepare for things that just might happen. I also try to help my community prepare, although much falls on deaf ears. Too bad—most people are capable of grasping the concept—they have smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and fire insurance even though most of us know few (or none) who have lost a home in a fire. Hurricanes, floods, tornadoes—it will never happen to me.

Only a Loan

Mother Nature loans us many things, but we need to remember that they’re only a loan.

Hurricane-Katrina-FloodingNorfolk, Virginia has much of its downtown built on filled in waterways and swamps. The area already tends to flood with nor’easters, and tropical storms, but with rising sea levels, flooding is expected to happen more often. Since there are people and businesses already established in the area, government officials are exploring possibilities such as levees, flood walls, and whatever the latest technology offers to prevent loss of life and property.

I understand. Where I live used to have a moderate risk of flooding, but as more of the area was developed the waterflow reversed. Low-lying wooded areas were clear-cut, raised five feet, and houses built so that instead of absorbing the rainwater, it now flows into my neighborhood. Bummer. Maybe if I replace my lawn with rice it will work better.

Mother Nature only loans us geography. I used to live in Louisiana. Mother Nature wants to move the Mississippi River west into the Atchafalaya basin. The United States Army, Corps of Engineers have been tasked with keeping the Mississippi River where it is. They’ve been mostly successful, except for the occasional world-class disaster like Katrina. History has shown that if weather doesn’t satisfy Mother Nature’s requirements, the occasional earthquake will. The New Madrid Fault in the early 19th century caused the Mississippi to flow backward for several days and reroute itself.

These issues are not unique to Norfolk and Louisiana. I grew up in Toledo, Ohio, which is built on what was the Black Swamp. Part of Downtown Chicago is built on the rubble from the great Chicago Fire, which was tossed onto the shore of Lake Michigan. Enough of Florida is built on drained swamps, or the equivalent, and so much groundwater is extracted that sinkholes routinely swallow cars or even houses.

Mother Nature loaned us these areas. I hope she doesn’t want them all back too soon.

The (Hurricane Sandy) Saga Continues

So far, Hurricane Sandy appears to be headed north of us. Of course, that’s the actual center of the storm – the southern part of the storm that we may experience is still within the system and will manifest itself primarily as wind and rain.

The biggest problem may be at high tide tomorrow. The tide goes in. The tide goes out. Except when it doesn’t.

WTKR Weather Coverage

At times like this, the tide comes in and the wind keeps it in. Then the next high tide comes along and pushes more water in. That’s when the street looks like a small river – which will probably happen tomorrow morning around 9:42 or so, when high tide occurs.

The other big issue is that as the wind hits, trees with leaves are more affected by the wind than trees without leaves. The trees still have lots of leaves. Trees falling over in and of themselves are not a big deal, but they do have a nasty habit of toppling power lines and blocking roads.

So the bottom line is that of the many things that may happen…

…at any minute…

…because this is a tense situation…

…so take cover…

Very little has happened so far.

But you never know.

Preparing for Frankenstorm

All eyes around here are on Hurricane Sandy – the weatherguessers are calling this the “Possible Perfect Storm!” But to quote a meteorologist I know, “In what other job can you be wrong 70% of the time and be seen as fantastic?”

A storm or two ago one of the reporters for a national weather channel was out at Virginia Beach acting like he was heroically braving the elements. It was windy, but nothing deadly, so some of the local teenagers got behind him and waved. It ruined the illusion, so his response was something like “Don’t these people realize the danger they’re in?”

Weather people are adrenaline junkies. Remember the movie “Twister”? (One of my favorites, by the way.) The real weather chasers are pretty much like that.

If you live up north and haven’t experienced a hurricane, think blizzard – lots of moisture and lots of wind. You get enough warning to stock up on the essentials and then sit inside and watch it happen.

We did get up early this morning and clean up all the miscellaneous in the yard so that nothing will become airborne and break a window. With wind and rain that can be messy.

So now we wait.

Oh, and I can cross “Clean up the yard” off my general purpose list of things to do.