Archive for the Storms Category

Even though the shameless national media and the garish exaggerations of Weather Channel reporters had many folks’ friends and families across the nation terrified and convinced Hurricane Isaac was indeed a “Katrina Redux,” for a great many of us, it wasn’t.

Though for some, it was, but across the region, not so much. Lives were lost. Homes flooded. Sorrow. Despair. But not with the vastness of Katrina. It was its own solitary tragedy.

There were though some comparissions to be be made. Not the comparisons a statistician, engineer or meterologist might make but, ones those people may make independent of their positions, ones just an average person may make. Comparisons made in the senses and psyches of those of us who have been victims before. Ethereal ghosts.

Like the smells.

The most pungent aroma is the rotting refrigerator. A few short days after power goes out, the quickly decaying proteins and carbs sealed tight in the festering, humid and dank environments inside the darkened Frigidaires and Whirlpools begin to putrefy. Sometimes still in their plastic wrappers but other times in loose cellophaned styrofoam. What was to be a comforting Sunday dinner took a turn in the multiverse and become a corroded chunk of cow corpse, the juices leaking out onto the linoleum.

No matter what the neighbors say, the smell will never leave the fridge. Some days you won’t smell it at all, and others there will be that slight scent of spoilage. But the apparition will remain. You’ll remember this storm and with it your decision not to replace this refrigerator. You will have yourself and Mother Nature to blame.

I haven’t noticed the tombstones of refrigerators outside of houses this year as much as after Katrina but I have tried to stay hunkered down. I actually prefer hunkering down. I support hunkering down even if a storm isn’t passing overhead. Hunker down as much as possible. Never get out of the boat.

There is also, outside, a more generalized smell of dank, dead leaves and foliage. A billion leaves must have perished in Isaac. It’s an Earthy smell, something a worm would love. They are always down there you know. Waiting for us all. Waiting for our return. Ashes to ashes and dirt to dirt.

And of course there is the auditory sense. The generators are brave R2 units in the battle against power outages. With them comes the cacophony of models and wattages producing different sounds but all of them together sounding like we came from another past where the combustion gas engine became the preferred power source.

This hum was around after Katrina too. More sparse as not so many people were back. But some people were in such a hurry to get back and start their lives after being marooned in real America for weeks or months with no direction, they rushed home with or without power. Jack O’ Lanterned houses would buzz with generators.

The light is similar to Post-Katrina. The sun is in the same spot in the sky as it was back then with its late Summer slanting. The trees have lost a lot of foliage and certain degrees of sunlight slip through the weather beaten plumage just like in 2005 and 2008 after Gustav. Painters who work with color will say the light is everything. It changes how things essentially appear. Less shadow now. More light and more heat.

The computer models we constantly check and the National Weather Service’s 5-day forecast maps are pretty standard and haven’t changed much since Katrina. They are visual ghosts. My wife gets anxious when she sees the ugly green and blue forecast graphic on my computer screen. The “spaghetti” models with their slight disagreements appear sometimes abstract. An optimist and a pessimist can read the same models in different ways. One sees the storm trending away, another coming right for us.

And then finally there is the anxiety, that fear in people’s psyches as the same words and phrases are said: “Cat 3,” “storm surge,” “11 p.m. update,” “northeast quadrant” and more. These are the technical phrases those haunted by the ghosts of hurricanes understand.

So for most, but not all, Isaac wasn’t a Katrina redux. For the rest of the country, there was nothing to see here. But to us here on the Gulf Coast, living victims haunted in our heads by hurricanes like Betsy, Camille, Ivan, Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. Their ghosts linger within us on our skin and in our souls just the same.

Stormpulse.com is a very fun tool for geeking out on Hurricanes, just wanted to share some great finds…

1994 Hurricane John
He lasted 31-days, strengthened into a CAT 5, had a 7,165 mile path from Mexico to Alaska around Hawaii and is one of the only storms to ever qualify as a hurricane and a typhoon.

1967 Hurricane Doria
I would have hated to be a resident of Virginia Beach as this crazy-ass storm made up her mind. I’m not an expert but there can’t be that many storms to make landfall from the northeast. When I first looked at her path I thought she formed in the mid Atlantic and dissipated off the East Coast of Florida but it was actually the other way around.

2005 Hurricane Vince
I guess everybody around here was too busy recovering from Katrina but Vince was weird in that he formed further east than any known hurricane and in water that was 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It is thought to be the only hurricane to ever hit the Iberian Peninsula of Portugal and Spain.

1955 Hurricane Connie, 1955 Hurricane Diane, 1955 Hurricane Ione
Basically, it sucked to be a resident of the Greater Wilmington area of North Carolina that summer. They were hit with Hurricanes Connie on August 11, five days later by Diane on the 17th and then Hurricane Ione a month later. Two Cat 2s and a Cat 1 which makes a Cat 5 if it only worked like that.

1960 Hurricane Donna
Holy Crap. Look at this path of destruction. Donna made three landfalls and remained a very strong storm never reaching below Cat 2 from the time it hit the Keys and then worked her way through Florida, up the east coast through Virginia and into New York and Connecticut.

It seemed like Hurricane Igor has been in the news forever. What a bizarre storm. I just looked at his track and he is forecasted to move west over Newfoundland? Crazy. “Hurricane lashes East Canada” is not a headline you often hear.

He is also predicted to finally sputter out on Sept. 25. He formed on Sept. 8. 18 days. Not a record but still very long. Julia and Karl came and went in that time.

Look at his historical track. A huge S-curve through the Atlantic.

He got me to thinking about some of the more bizarre Hurricane tracks from recent years.

Elena- 1985
My favorite of all time is Elena. Click the link and you will see her scaring the bejeesus out of the entire Gulf Coast and then abruptly turning toward the east coast of Florida. Then, an astonishing 180 degree turn back toward the Fla – AL – MS coast. Think of all the fleeing! A triple evacuation.

Wilma – 2005
Wilma’s notoriety has not been given the credit she deserves because of Katrina and Rita that same year but Wilma has the distinction of having the lowest pressure of any recorded storm (882 millibars) and it intensified from a tropical storm to a Cat-5 in one day. I always thought the turn at the bottom of the Gulf was strange as I never saw a storm move east across the whole Gulf like that. Also, she ate another storm. By that I mean she absorbed another system named Tropical Storm Alpha.

Charley – 2004
Charley’s a good example of why depending too much on forecasters might not always be such a good idea. This path shows that he jogged to the northeast in a few hours then intensified. Residents of Punta Gorda, Fl thought they were going to get brushed by a Cat 2 ended up being hit directly by a Cat-4 with no time for evacuations. What a nightmare.

Katrina – 2005
I only include her in the context of this early forecast. If she would have only been over the Gulf for the short amount of time predicted in that forecast, she would have been a much weaker storm with much less damage. Unfortunately, as you can see in this track, she has what amounts to be a “running start” over the warm Gulf waters, spending time getting big and strong after emerging from South Florida to really gear up for the destruction she would later wreak. I remember thinking if she just kept going a little more west before the jog to the north we would be better off.

Zombie Ivan – 2004
We all know Ivan as the one that head-faked New Orleans and hit the FL – AL border. I know it as the one that destroyed the house I grew up in and sort of primed me for the destruction I’d see a year later in my friends’ homes. But he is on this list because he is one of the only ones who came back from the dead. I’ll let the experts explain it, “Ivan’s remnants turned to the southeast then southwest, and gradually re-organized over the warm Gulf Stream waters. After crossing southern Florida on September 21 the system regained tropical characteristics over the Gulf of Mexico, and became a tropical storm on September 23 while 140 miles (220 km) south of Louisiana.” Anyways, he came back. Didn’t do much after that.

Even though he never threatened us, I have entered full-on storm-geek status this season and have been checking on brother Bill daily. It might be some sort of weird adrenalin jockey affiliation I have developed in association with storm chasing, but I go back to him several times a day.

Bill is a truly amazing storm. In a purely anecdotal sense, he threatened Bermuda and spoiled the other brother Bill’s vacation. But that’s not really amazing, just a cute thing to write on a blog. What is odd about him is he has already hit Canada as a Category 1 hurricane (killing people in the process) and if the spaghetti paths are to be believed, could make exotic landfalls in spots like the United Kingdom, France, Germany Sweden and even Algiers, no, not my Algiers but ALGIERS.

I hear hurricanes ablowing.
I know the end is coming soon.
I fear rivers over flowing.
I hear the voice of rage and ruin….

That’s right, it’s hurricane season. Here are my Big 3 tracking sites…


Stormpulse

Great interface. Real purty. It’s got spaghetti model overlays. A sliding path that can be used to monitor location and strength. Great for discussing historical storms for those “Remember Cindy before the big one?” “or, “When Frederick was coming we…” Just to add to those stories, let me tell you, Elena in 85 was a hell of a storm to be in the path of. Just look at how many people she freaked out.

Wunderground
A vast site for essentially checking any weather. When hurricanes are impending they provide all the basics including Spaghetti forecasts. This doesn’t have to do with storms ut their Wundermap is pretty damn awesome for navigating clouds that are over your damn house at that moment.

National Weather Service – National Hurricane Center
The granddaddy (and supplier of info) of the all. This is where to go at 11 a.m., 2 p.m, 5 p.m., 8 p.m., and 11 p.m. when you are checking to see if that potential Ivan / Katrina / Rita / Gustav / Ike is showing signs of swerving and basically you seeing it’s destruction on the news or experiencing it first hand. Also, their national, enhanced, full-resolution, looped, mosaic radar. It’s pretty damn cool.

In the latest report, the NHC finally backed off Ike’s predicted strengthening before landfall. It had been anticipated Ike would (strangely) strengthen a few miles off the coast. The mea culpa is in this latest forecast discussion.

Three factors seem to converge here. 1.) Though NHC did an excellent job predicting the path of Gustav, they had a more difficult time with the unpredictable Ike. Watch the top of the 5-day forecast as it zooms all around the Antilles, the East Coast and the entire Gulf Coast from Key West to Corpus Christi. 2.) As the 5-day forecast began to come together there was a large northern turn made by the storm between Wednesday at 7 p.m. and Wednesday at 10 p.m. Which left Galveston and Houston residents two days to plan an evacuation. 3.) Turns out Ike’s a turner so, the National Weather Service, sees a potential disaster and pulls out the “”forecast of least regret” and predicts “certain death.”

Not saying anyone is at fault but the victims if the shit ends up hitting the fan but, and this sentiment seems to be growing stronger, it is going to be regarded with skepticism the next time one of these “the end is nigh” forecasts sees the light of day. And though they are trying to save lives in the immediate by-and-by, they are perhaps contributing to some further down the road when citizens grow distrustful of officials trying to scare them into fleeing rather than just telling the truth.

I understand the need to convince people to leave in the face of a storm. But really, certain death? Certain? Death?

Weather service warns of ‘certain death’ in face of Ike

Perhaps the National Weather Service doesn’t understand the word “certain.” To me, it means, there will be no escape. People will all die. There will be no hiding in attics, clinging to limbs or waiting on roofs to be rescued. It means no circumstance will prevent these people’s demise.

I just don’t see the need for the blatant bullshit. Yes, people’s lives will be threatened. But “certain death” sounds like something more equivalent to the 10 mile radius of a nuclear explosion than a Cat 2 Hurricane.

I don’t see how this insane, over the top fear-mongering is going to help anyone. Like John Barry said, “just tell the truth.” Who wants to be lied to? People don’t need to be spooked like this. They need to be concerned. They need to evacuate. They don’t need to be terrified.

Do I think Ike has the potential to devastate many parts of Greater Houston and Galveston? Sure. Do I think the people living there will face “certain death” if they stay? No.

I recall while I was safely evacuated from Katrina reading the following weather report from the National Weather Service, parts of which were true but most of which was bullshit…

URGENT – WEATHER MESSAGE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA

The following statements regarding Katrina’s impact proved to be bullshit…

ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL

ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED.

HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY…A FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE.

AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD…AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH
AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES.

THE VAST MAJORITY OF NATIVE TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED.

Understand that this forecast was made entirely in relation to wind damage and utterly avoided any mention of broken levees or storm surge.

Update: Last time ‘certain death’ was warned: Katrina

CNN comments on the previous NWS statement calling it “largely correct” even though it barely mentions the flood or storm surge that inundated New Orleans and Mississippi. The story also states “Parts of New Orleans and the Gulf coast still bear the scars of Katrina and remain uninhabitable.” They are correct about the scars but which parts can’t people live in exactly?

Understand that I do think folks in low lying areas should get out of Ike’s way. But I don’t think NWS and CNN should be using false language to do so.

See also: Celcus

Update: In regards to Southern Scrap below, please read this, it is apparently, quite ugly indeed.

The Good

PBJ - Though despised by much of the blogoshere, Jindel’s robot routine actually provided a soothing, systematic voice throughout.

Forecasters – They were pretty much on the money with much of the predictions, as evidenced by this amazingly accurate 6-day forecast after Ze German left Haiti.

Local News – No, not Nola.com, the radio and TV stations: WWL, WDSU, WGNO, WVUE and all the radio stations that stayed on the air, particularly Garland Robinette and Eric Asher. Also, whoever Matt Witherspoon is, you rule for putting together the local news aggregation.

The Bad

Straight to Angola’ order – Not because it was ever uttered in the first place but because it was just another example of flaccid city government. Though many attempts at looting were reported, there haven’t been any articles about the ‘straight to Angola’ order actually being enforced.

CNN - Though they can generally be relied on to provide decent footage, (This is) CNN was outpaced by the locals at that as well. Reports from Canal st, vague descriptions of where other reports were from, very little coverage of where the shit was actually hitting the fan – That was what one got from them. There was a ton of footage of the water lapping against the Industrial Canal, as if they were just waiting for it to burst so they could be there to catch it. Of course, they couldn’t wait after a while so they just reported it had breached after a spurt equivalent to a water hose began squirting through. I guess it is technically a breach but one normally thinks of this when they hear the word, rather than something the reporter himself could have fixed by simply putting his finger in the dike (sound).

Evacuation and Reentry – Though it is getting better, evacuation don’t seem quite there yet. The closing of I-10 in Mississippi was a disaster fro anyone moving east away from the storm and merged them in denser traffic in a direction they weren’t going. Also, there is the simple fact that Baton Rouge was thought of by many as a closer, safer haven even though it was 25 miles closer to the path of storm than New Orleans. As for reentry, it’s mostly spoke of in detail here.

The Ugly

Ray Nagin – A text book example of how not to handle a disaster. His hysterics during Katrina were appreciated because, at the time, hysterics were called for. Hysterics based on speculation of a storm’s possibly strength and landfall only made him look impotent after the storm simply knocked out power in his city. Then there was the botched reentry and his unwillingness to simply change the plan after other local governments didn’t back him up and the citizens voiced their outrage. Instead, he kept with the plan and chose not to enforce it so he could save face. It would have taken integrity to simply take action and alter the plan rather than being passive aggressive and not enforcing it. This makes him look like he has no power whatsoever. The refusal to enforce his own rules hurts him, kind of like that “Angola” thing above.

Southern Scrap – Few had ever heard of them before Gustav and now they are reviled by all. Really? 70 ships?

Democrats – As the two-party system becomes more and more asinine, it is shit like this and other bullshit that accentuates the notion that there really is no one on South Louisiana’s side in this whole debacle of shrinking coast and looming peril. Who cares about Houma right? Just so long as it plays well politically? During Katrina, Bush wasn’t doing shit but, where were the rest of you?

Wed

- Left Wednesday with the sole purpose of denying Nagin’s tiered return policy.
- Got back Wednesday afternoon to no power.
- Cleaned up the yard and took boards off windows.
- Drug out generator not used in Katrina and fired it up after reading instructions.
- Barbecued with neighbors.
- Wondered when the power would come back on.
- Tried to sleep with beads of sweat all over face.
- Got up, took cold shower, pounded an icy Abita then laid very still until asleep.

Thurs

- Spent the morning trying to repair the generator after it quit because I locked it in the shed with only a window to ventilate and the spark plug became covered in engine soot.
- Welcomed home some more neighbors.
- Drug a wall unit from a neighbor’s shed to hook up to the bedroom window.
- Speculated when the power would come back on.
- Barbecued with the other neighbors.
- Turned the wall unit on and discovered it didn’t blow cold.
- Tried to sleep with beads of sweat all over face.
- Got up, took cold shower, pounded an icy Abita then laid very still until asleep.

Fri

- Grew weary of the lack of power and climate control, revacuated to Florida

Fri – Sat – Sun

Swam and drank domestic beer in the sun. Watched Ike.

Mon

- Returned.

This week

- Try to make some sense of my shattered finances.

Leavin’ today by freeway, highway or byway. See y’all on our side.

Still don’t have power on my block so updates will return when it does.