This article provides details about hurricanes and the damage they cause.
"Meteorologists depend on data from previous hurricanes to make damage projections for approaching storms. But predicting how much harm a storm will cause is complicated, economists and meteorologists say, because hurricane strikes to the U.S. are rare enough that there are few apt historical comparisons."
Thanks, Arkwright. Our predictions are getting a little worse for Maine, even though Irene will almost certainly be a tropical storm by then because it'll have been over land. It's mostly for wind and flooding damage late tomorrow. Having seen the destructive power of hurricanes several times, Atlantic City and Long Island are the places I would most not want to be.
I am out of the Irene zone now and back in the land of trembling earth and raging wildfires (A.K.A. California). We've not had a hurricane in our recorded history (fingers crossed here), but an occasional water spout makes life interesting. Since Monterey was first seen in 1540 by the Spanish I'd assume we're safe for a little while longer, based on the past.
A side note: summertime here is a micro climate personified: Left foggy Monterey at 11 am and drove just 40 miles NE to Gilroy (the Garlic Capital of the world, self-proclaimed) and the temps went from 59 to 94 degrees F in just under an hour! Of course the return saw a reverse of that temperature change.
In conversations with Chatham friends (on the elbow of Cape Cod) the anticipation is building and the bars are full!
My guess would be from reading this article that most of the predictors of damage have most likely not experienced, in person, a 'real' hurricane. if they had they would know that damage done by a hurricane has many, many, many more factors that come into consideration. The excercise of prediction is impossible.
I say this from experience. Having lived as a youngster thru New England hurricanes of the 60's (a couple of them, one blew down the drive-in theater screen...bummer), I thought they were unbelievable storms with those 75 to 80 mph winds. Took down a lot of trees, but that was the biggest issue. Then, we bought our home on the lovely Caribbean island of St. Maarten. Then came September, 1995 and Hurricane Luis.
First, it's an island. There is no such thing as 'evacuate'. You hunker down as best one can and hope for the best. Then it comes....165 (yes, 165) mph winds for 18 (yes, 18) hours...unchecked by any land mass that would slow down this 'machine'. After we emerged from the 'underground bunker' beneath our home, we found no home left that was habitable. Just 4 walls left. We had more than others. The road below us (about 40 feet above sea level) was covered with seaweed and ocean gunk. There were no structures left. So, we rebuilt. I was determined that I would never have to go through that experience (rebuilding) again. I knew more storms would come, but I was going to be 'better' than them. I built 'Fort Knox' and did everything I could to make that home withstand the next one.
Seven more came.....over the next 4 years. All told, I had about $30 worth of damage for all of them, combined. My point? If you live on the east coast, or a barrier island, or in Florida or the Gulf Coast, there are steps that can be taken to protect your property from these monsters.....unless the property can be directly impacted by a storm surge.
Truth be told, the water (storm surge) is worse than the wind. Did anyone see the pictures of the incredible pile of wood and structural components that were piled up in Mississippi about 2 miles inland after Katrina? If your memory is really good, do you remember the destruction that Hurricane Camille unleashed in 1969? A tanker ship was on the ground about 2 miles inland in Mississippi. They had to cut it apart to get it out. That's power! Nothing beats back the power of a storm surge. A category 5 brings a 24 foot storm surge...and the waves are on top of that!! Then, there are the mini-tornadoes that hurricanes spawn. They do quick and destructive damage that creates the opening for the hurricane winds to finish the destruction.
So, to predict damages? Where is it hitting....a hilly (mountainous) area like the east coast; a flat stretch of land (like Mississippi or Alabama or Louisiana); or an area that is not prepared (built) to withstand a surge? If all components are put together, then you can begin to say what might happen. But, nobody can predict where a tornado will be spawned.....or the path that a hurricane follows. No upper level steering currents affect these things after they become a strong Cat 2 or Cat 3. The only force that knocks them down is 1) a wind sheer that is going the opposite direction of the storm path and inhibits the circular air flow; 2) a land mass (hilly, mountainous terrain) that kills the air flow (circulation effort); or 3) a 'stall' in movement over the water that churns up the cold water from beneath the ocean surface that kills them.
If you live through one of these 'big ones' (and I've been through a few), there is a tremendous respect that you gain for the power these things can unleash. When we sold St. Maarten and bought Florida (with a waterview), the first thing we did was renovate to make it another Fort Knox. I just hope I don't get to see another. If you're in the path, heed the warning.
I couldn't agree more even though I've never experienced those conditions. Bob was my most recent and while we had relatively little damage in my part of the Cape, ten miles down the road in Woods Hole was almost total destruction. We didn't evacuate, partially because of what SS said -- getting across the two bridges would have been next to impossible -- and also because my boyfriend's elderly parents lived on another part of the Cape.
I also grew up with some of the South Jersey hurricanes, especially Donna, which wreaked havoc on Ocean City, NJ. I'll never forget that one.
Better safe than sorry. I have no tolerance for people who put others' lives at risk (rescue personnel) because they want to surf or stand on a rock looking out at the surf.
Even though TS Irene is not supposed to get to Maine till 2am, Waterville is currently getting torrential rain, heavy winds, and cloud to ground thunder and lightning. I feel for the people in the North Carolina -- the explanations I've heard for the lessening intensity was that it lingered over NC for so long.
Tef, spot on! Having lived through Hurricanes in FLA and MASS I can attest to the unpredictability and variation in damages that happen when these strike. I recall one in St Pete as a teenager during the early 60s when we had water to the top level of the stairs leading to the Lanai, but then the water receded, thankfully. Neighbors were not as lucky.
To all those feeling the effects of Irene, I send my good thoughts and prayers that it will be over soon.
We could use your prayers in northern NE. It's getting bad while seeming to have just zipped by Boston. I still have power but don't know how long, but radar went from us having less than a 7% chance of getting a hurricane and 77% chance of TS yesterday to above 9% hurricane and 98% TS today. It's not the coast getting it, it's inland Maine, Vermont and NH, and besides the torrential rain, the trees are all starting to sway violently. As as my mother, who only visited Maine once, said, 'you have more trees than people up here.' Absolutely true. Anyway, if need be I can go to the college like everyone did after the Great Ice Storm.
I'll agree with my grandmother (but stay inside) and say it is a beautiful thing to watch.
Prof C, SS and TE
Reading the various observations reminded me of a quoation and triggered a thought.
"For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing often times,
The still, sad music of humanity,
Not harsh, nor grating,
Though of ample power to chasten and subdue."
And the thought. Last year I was playing golf with a member of the Life Sciences Faculty at Berkeley, California. We were chatting about this, that and the other, as you do, and then I asked him how he would describe himself in professional terms. His answer ... a "neo-catastrophist". As I was born and bred a disciple of evolutionary thinking, this seemed a little odd, and so I asked him to unbundle the idea of neo-catastrophism. His answer - which is why I mention it in the context of this post - is that, without disregarding Darwinian thought, it is neverthless impossible to ignore the fact that aspects of the development of our planet and species can be attributed to entirely unique, unplanned events, such as earthquakes, volcanoes and perhaps most graphic of all, the meteor that landed on the Lower California isthmus, releasing megatons of dust which clouded out the sun for centuries and thereby brought about the extinction of the dinosaur species.
I remain persuaded by the universality and empirical strength of "evolution", but nevertheless when events like "Irene" come along, I now find myself thinking twice about trivialisng the power of nature.
All best wishes
An eloquent observation Arkwright. I can see that we're passengers on Spaceship Earth and have little if any control over events that Nature has planned for us. We can see the devastation that forces of Nature cause but have only limited ability to prevent their occurrence.
I recall that day in mid-October 1989 when I was seated in my oceanfront office here in Monterey, contemplating some incredibly insightful thing (getting home to watch the SF Giants and Oakland A's play in the world series might have been at the top of that list), when I heard what appeared to be three hundred multi-car freight trains rumbling down the no longer used track bed of the adjacent Del Monte railroad.
As the sounds grew louder, the entire wooden two-story building began to shake and my nicely arranged shelving containing my collection of books, articles and technical reports began to sway in sympathetic rhythm. Fearing I'd be a victim of crashing bookcases (and not found for days--Headline: man dies from book overload!)I headed for the nearest doorway and held on for what seemed to be an eternity.
Power ceased immediately, the PG&E power plant in Moss Landing shut down when the smokestacks shifted on their base. A man passed away on a nearby beach, sucked into the sand as the Earth moved. One of my employees, another in a series of Psychologists I'd hired, went missing as he drove from Monterey to Santa Cruz, normally a 45 minute drive. We had no Internet, no smart phones, just battery radios, so we were literally and figuratively in the dark. My employee was found thankfully.
Later we heard that the Loma Prieta earthquake has had a devastating effect. Pundits spoke of "earthquake weather"as the cause but no one had any evidence to disprove that this was merely an adjustment of the San Andreas fault that runs along California's spine.
We came together as a community, sharing homes, meals and being good citizens. We never forgot the power of Nature.
Hi Arkwright and SteppingStones,
Great comments. The power just came on again and it's still dark, so I can't see the damage yet. It was very strange, because Portland, Bangor and the coast were barely touched but central and Western Maine got hit badly by rain and wind. Vermont, according to the news, seems to have gotten the worst of it, especially downtown Brattleboro, which was underwater in the scenes I've seen on TV this morning.
The power of nature is truly awesome. Even though we had no mandatory evacuations (because no one thought till yesterday afternoon that it would be really bad in Maine, and then they thought coast), I got everything put together in the dark, most importantly my cat carrier.
What was truly eerie was the sound of nothing but wind, rain and occasional thunder after the power went off. Then of course it woke me up like a fire alarm a couple of hours ago when things came on again.
We were in Virginia last week walking down the path from Jefferson's home (Monticello) when my wife asked what the sudden noise was. I actually said there must be a freight train rumbling by and the tracks must be pretty close. We later found out over lunch that it was the east coast earthquake. Nothing like those big ones out your way, but I was surprised that the sound actually did appear to be akin to a train rumbling by.
I'm glad to read your comments that validate the rumbling train because those I have told about what the sound is like look at me and say 'really??' and then say 'can't be'....
Another thought about hurricanes: It does appear that the biggest damage factor with Irene has been the water....and although it's no consolation to those who had damage, we can all be thankful that the storm was only a category 1.....and....
I'll never understand why folks continue to build those megahomes on a barrier island that's no wider than a four lane road. If my home in St. Maarten had been less than the 50 ft above sea level (on a hillside) as it was, the storm surge would have destroyed it...and my family....entirely. How those on Kitty Hawk or Kill Devil Hills in NC at 2 ft above sea level think they can survive a storm surge is beyond me. But, I guess as long as the federal government continues to write the insurance policies that cover those losses (regular insurance companies won't insure there), they'll continue to rebuild....with our tax dollars covering the cost. Just my thought....but why do they continue to subsidize that craziness?
Dear Arkwright, I was fortunate to spend ten years toiling there, making up for the previous 20 in which I was confined to a windowless room at various locations (for security not comfort I might add!)
My only complaint was that the California Sea Lions kept barking most of the day, requiring me to shut my large windows for "important" phone conversations with my Washington DC betters. We did have a slew of visitors (official they said) as we toiled along the water's edge.
Tef, yes my USGS friends tell me that certain fault lines produce this freight train noise. I hope to not hear it again. My other EQ experiences (and we have plenty here in California) have been in Palm Desert CA where the San Andreas tends to adjust with a "thump" or a loud bang when it happens. Disconcerting to be sure.
Speaking of those other disasters, the hurricanes, I spoke with a friend in Newport RI early this morning and she reports that the entire Aquidneck island, which comprises Newport and two other smaller towns, is going to be without power for at least a week. In addition the wind removed the connector for the power line from her house.
Sic Transit Gloria Irene, as it were!