Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Lessons Learned From Irma & Maria...

If you are not heartbroken watching the videos coming in from the Virgin Islands & Puerto Rico, then this blog is not for you.   We are in the worst hurricane season since the back to back active seasons of 2004-05.  The destruction has been phenomenal.   Call it fate, but today I received an invitation to the National Disaster Resilience Conference in Atlanta Oct. 25-27.  The purpose of the conference is to…” spotlight topics that will focus on the latest in science, policy & practice to create more resilient buildings & disaster-resilient communities…”   If we don’t learn anything from disasters, then we are doomed to repeat them.   Several blogs back, I took some heat for suggesting local government (thru their building codes)ban mobile homes/trailers in hurricane prone locations.   I suggested local governments, with some help from the Feds.,  create(build) hurricane resistant apartments for lower income folks/workers who want to live in areas where hurricanes are part of life.  The lesson from Irma in the Keys & Maria  is simple…we MUST rebuild stronger.   We just can’t allow trailers back on the Keys or contractors to rebuild homes that don’t meet strict construction standards.  Is it more expensive?  Absolutely.  But do we keep reimbursing  residents over & over again at the expense of all taxpayers?   I often wondered why don’t insurance companies offer incentives (much lower premiums) to those who build stronger?  I spent thousands for stronger windows & functional shutters on my home to keep the wind out.   Did my insurance company lower my rates?  Nope.  Seems we have the situation backwards.  We have the technical knowledge & building materials that will allow homes to withstand the wind forces of a major hurricane.  What we lack is the will to change.


Maria is quickly regaining her previous structure lost in the journey over Puerto Rico.   She is likely to be back at Cat. 3 before daybreak.  The real question is,  will she impact the U.S. East Coast?  Maybe, but remember, as she moves farther to the north she’ll encounter cooler water temps plus increasing upper wind shear.    Both guarantee Maria will not be a major storm IF her path veers back westward closer to the Carolinas.  Most models turn her out to sea to keep any major impacts offshore.   So we look ahead and find that no model develops a storm in the Gulf in the 7-10 time frame.   That’ll take us into October and you know what that means.  With cold fronts coming, our chances for a big storm diminish to near zero.   But this is a strange season and I suggest we keep alert until those fronts start arriving.  The “Fat Lady” still has not left her house.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Which Disaster is Worse?

As Cat. 5 Hurricane Maria sets her sights on St. Croix & Puerto Rico, I’m  watching the network coverage of today’s earthquake in Mexico City.   Maria’s winds are now up to 175 mph and she will without a doubt crush many structures in her path.  However, with modern technology, everyone knows she is coming.  Hopefully because of that, loss of life will be minimal.  On the other hand, the Mexican earthquake struck without warning.  Folks had zero time to prepare.  It hit, buildings collapsed & people died.  It may not be fair to compare what is worse…Tornado, hurricane, earthquake, volcanic eruption, but I can tell you I’d rather know which threat is coming since more lead time to prepare usually means the less loss of life.  Maria now is approaching the intensity of Irma meaning even the strongest of buildings will suffer damage.  TWC (The Weather Channel) had an excellent graphic that pointed out a Cat. 2 hurricane has 10 times the wind force of a Cat. 1… A Cat. 3 has 50 times the wind force than a Cat. 1… A Cat. 4 has 250 times the force than a Cat. 1,,,and finally a Cat. 5 has  500 times the wind force than a Cat. 1.  The increase in wind force is an exponential function of wind speed.     St. Croix (1,100’+) & Puerto Rico (4,300’+) both have some elevation that will allow folks to escape the 6-10 feet of storm surge.  However, there will be no escape from the wind.   We will know the full impact in the morning as video will likely show the same kind of destruction we saw in Barbuda, St. Thomas & St. Johns etc.  with Irma.   This will be a scary night for the 50K+ on St. Croix & the 3.4 million on Puerto Rico. 


So where does Maria go down the road?  ALL computer models turn the storm AWAY from Florida (hear that Carol?), however, there are several that turn her back towards the Outer Banks & NYC, Boston next week.   Jose has slowed down/stalled and could interact with Maria convoluting the forecast for next week.   No model brings any storm into the Gulf for the next 7-10 days.  Yesterday’s models indicated several cold fronts might be coming for NEXT weekend, but today’s runs have backed off and it might be the 1st or 2nd week in October before our next real front arrives.   I am not comfortable saying our hurricane season is over until those fronts start coming and we cool down the water temps in the Gulf.  David pointed out today’s 91 make it 4 straight days 90+, hardly a way to cool down the Gulf.  Stay tuned.

Monday, September 18, 2017

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

Last night’s blog mentioned Maria was likely to become a major hurricane.  She has, and oh so much more.  Her eye is moving right over Dominica with peak winds now at 160 (Cat. 5) mph.  Her projected path will take her right over St. Croix, the American Virgin Islands & then Puerto Rico.  Maria is a much smaller hurricane compared to Irma, but she is almost as intense and will likely make many areas uninhabitable for weeks & months.  This is a grim situation for Puerto Rico as it appears the island will bear the full impact of Maria.   Future tracks from all computer models keep Maria well east of Florida, but she might threaten the Carolinas next week.   As if forecasters don’t have enough on their plates, Hurricane Jose has stalled about 150 miles east of the Carolina Outer Banks.   That is complicating the future path of Maria as the 2 systems get closer and closer late this week .   Will they do the “Fijiwara effect” and rotate around one another?   Will the much stronger Maria absorb the weaker Jose?   Lots of uncertainty in the long term while the short term is pretty much locked in place.  Fortunately for us, these systems will stay out of the Gulf.


I’m encouraged by the longer range models that are indicating our next real cold front will arrive BEFORE the end of the month.  In fact, it appears a deep east coast trough will bring down 2 fronts to us that should almost end our threat for any MAJOR hurricanes for this year.   After Jose & Maria, models are hinting that a tropical system could develop over the western Caribbean in the 7-10 day time frame.  Fortunately for us, the upper trough will be approaching and that should steer any system well to our east.   The “Fat Lady” is still at her house and probably won’t leave for the theater until we’re sure those fronts are coming.   For now, the Gulf is quiet and we should direct our thoughts & prayers to those in Maria’s path.   I fear this will be another destructive & deadly storm.  

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Maria heading towards Major Status...

While Hurricane Jose is still off the east coast. He will not be a threat for the Gulf coast states.  He still will impact many coastal locations from the outer Banks up through Cape Cod.  However it appears  the brunt of the storm will stay well offshore.   Maria on the other hand is getting better organized and is already a hurricane.  She will likely explode to a Cat. 3 before rumbling across Puerto Rico on Tuesday.  RIGHT NOW, it appears Maria will make the recurve east of Florida and not threaten the Gulf Coast.  However, it is way too soon to make that call.  My sister, who has a daughter at Disney World,  believes every hurricane is heading towards Florida.  Unless something happens that the computer models are not seeing, this storm should stay well east of Florida.    Lee is floundering way out in the Atlantic and is another storm that probably shouldn’t have been named.   The focus this week is on Jose & Maria. 


Locally, we are back in summer time.  Highs can still top 90+ with a few spotty showers.  I don’t see our next real front until sometime next month.  That is probably why I haven’t mentioned that the “Fat lady” hasn’t left her house.  Until we get those cold fronts coming and the tropics stay active, we remain at risk.   No computer model indicates any storm in the Gulf during the next 10-14 days.  Comforting?  Yes,  Totally relaxed?  Not yet.  Stay tuned!