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The other IKE that deserves attention
September 12, 2008 6:55 AM   Subscribe

Those who judge hurricane risk merely by their Saffir-Simpson category number (1-5) are not getting the entire picture. Another (coincidentally-named) IKE (Intergrated Kinetic Energy) proposes an improved method of classifying hurricanes, one that takes into account their size and separates the danger components of sea surge (which kills 9 out of 10 hurricane victims) and wind. By that measure, Hurricane Ike is the most dangerous storm in 40 years. Ike's path reminds many of the greatest natural disaster in U.S. History, the Great Hurricane of 1900 (91 minute History Channel video on Google) which killed thousands due mainly to the great sea surge. After that the 17' Galveston sea wall was built and it has never been topped since by hurricane waves. Hurricane Ike may change that as current wave heights (WVHT) being reported by buoy data in the vicinity of Ike are well over 20 feet. A computer-simulated "Hurricane Carly" shows the results of various sea surges for the Galveston area (with graphic graphics): Play with real-time data and forecasts for the western gulf with the experimental nowCoast.
posted by spock (84 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I recommend reading Isaac's Storm if you're interested in the 1900 storm. Scary stuff.

I spent last night moving anything that can be picked up by wind into the garage and helping the neighbor clear low hanging branches. I'm on the northwest side of Houston so we don't have to worry about flood water, but it's still going to be an interesting twenty-four hours.
posted by beowulf573 at 7:01 AM on September 12, 2008


I was just looking at the data from Ike, and I'm not sanguine about this storm. Winds say Cat 1 -- maybe. Central SLP say Cat 4. Max winds are very far out from the center. Cloud presentation is very strange, but there is some incredible* convection in the eastern half of the storm.

Wind fields are huge. This storm makes no sense. Damage models and intensity models are grasping at straws on this one.

However, wave heights of 20' aren't unusual in open waters in a hurricane. That part isn't worrying me yet, though because of the very large wind field, I am very worried about the storm surge.


*incredible -- literally, "not believable", as in "I can't believe those storms are there."
posted by eriko at 7:05 AM on September 12, 2008


Heard on NPR that the local weather service was saying that people who remained on the coastal lowlands in single family homes were facing "certain death". C'mon, weather service, can't you sugarcoat it a little? Yikes. My thoughts are with folks in the area, and I hope beowulf573 and any other MeFites down that way stay safe and sound.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:05 AM on September 12, 2008


My wife and I lived right under the "U" in "UTMB" on the first graphics link. I'd never seen those images before--highly awesome. Thanks.
posted by resurrexit at 7:08 AM on September 12, 2008


Rock Steady

We were laughing about that report this morning, too. Seemed a little over the top.

Seriously, though, those low-lying areas around Galveston Island are essentially in their pre-Columbian sandbar state (as was the Island in 1900). No one's done anything by way of improvements or barriers or levees or whatnot. Other than many homes being on piers and a few scattered lighthouses, that's about it. And there aren't large, elevated causeways where people might be able to get the heck out if the water's too high. A very dangerous place to be in a bad surge. I'd get gone if I were those folks.
posted by resurrexit at 7:15 AM on September 12, 2008


My prayers are for those in Texas right now. Ike is going to do some damage. Hopefully it is the kind that can be easily replaced.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:20 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


"The latest experimental storm surge forecast From NOAA's SLOSH model shows a 10% chance that Ike's storm surge will exceed 18-21 feet at Galveston."
posted by stbalbach at 7:25 AM on September 12, 2008


Is there any scientist pointing to all the deadly hurricanes as evidence of global warming or did I somehow go 29 years on this planet and not notice that Katrina / Ike stuff happens all the time? Granted I do live in Kansas, but I don't think I was that unaware of what has happened on the coastal regions.
posted by jlowen at 7:29 AM on September 12, 2008


The harbors can "focus" the water, resulting in an even greater (effective) sea surge. Amazing how far inland might be affected. (Other great Ike related maps/graphics there, as well.)
posted by spock at 7:29 AM on September 12, 2008


My atmosphere professor put it this way (he had his own style): "Great White sharks exist for just two reasons: To eat and to make baby Great White Sharks. Hurricanes exist for just one purpose: To move heat from the equatorial regions and disperse it in the northern regions."

More heat in the equatorial regions provided the "fuel" for more hurricanes (but other conditions must exist for them to "take root", grow, and survive). Whether a hurricane is just an interesting phenomenon or "deadly" (in our view) depends upon whether there is human life and property in the path. That is a human development phenomenon and not one of nature.
posted by spock at 7:34 AM on September 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


Don't worry about Galveston -- the mandatory evacuation over went out yesterday, and it's pretty well cleared out.

Worry instead about the storm surge heading through Galveston Bay and up the San Jacinto River. Texas City is home to a huge BP refinery and terminal. Further up the San Jacinto are more refineries and oil terminals, areas which are forecast to receive a storm surge of over 20 feet. The eye will likely pass right over the Houston Ship Channel, which has still more refineries, tank farms, and terminals along both sides.

Ike is about to plow right into the heart of America's petroleum industry. If the damage necessitates long-term shutdowns of refineries and terminals, think Katrina level price rises.
posted by dw at 7:43 AM on September 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


"The latest experimental storm surge forecast From NOAA's SLOSH model shows a 10% chance that Ike's storm surge will exceed 18-21 feet at Galveston."

There hasn't even been a drop of rain so far on Galveston and much of the island is already underwater. We're inland (north of Houston, on I 45), but directly in Ike's path. Should be an interesting few days.
posted by jschu at 7:46 AM on September 12, 2008


Better Texas than Tina.
posted by gman at 7:57 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Ike is about to plow right into the heart of America's petroleum industry. If the damage necessitates long-term shutdowns of refineries and terminals, think Katrina level price rises."

I hope so. sucked in you gas guzzlers.
posted by mary8nne at 8:05 AM on September 12, 2008


PERSONS NOT HEEDING EVACUATION ORDERS IN SINGLE FAMILY ONE OR TWO STORY HOMES MAY FACE CERTAIN DEATH.
posted by LordSludge at 8:15 AM on September 12, 2008


I hope so. sucked in you gas guzzlers.

Okay.
posted by resurrexit at 8:20 AM on September 12, 2008


Ahem. No one could have predicted that the Galveston sea wall would be topped.

Hurricane Ike may change that as current wave heights (WVHT) being reported by buoy data -

NO ONE.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:21 AM on September 12, 2008


I hope so. sucked in you gas guzzlers.

Gasoline price shocks hurt low income families the most.
posted by The Straightener at 8:23 AM on September 12, 2008


VERY DANGEROUS WINDS WILL PRODUCE WIDESPREAD DAMAGE AND DESTRUCTION OF MOBILE HOMES IS LIKELY.
posted by three blind mice at 8:27 AM on September 12, 2008


I gotta say I'm impressed with the local government response this time around. The evacuation of the coastal areas have gone very smoothly with very few traffic issues. During Rita there wasn't a good plan in place, and that combined with people panicking right after Katrina and evacuating when they didn't need too and taking more than one car resulted in widespread gridlock.

However, I just tried to top off the gas tank in my wife's car and there's no gas to be found. I have a full tank so it's not important.
posted by beowulf573 at 8:42 AM on September 12, 2008


CBC reported that gas prices here jumped 13c/l (fifty cents a gallon) overnight based on Ike's path through the refinery fields.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:50 AM on September 12, 2008


IANAE but it seems to me that events occurring within 50 years are well within the range of 'normally occurring' and while I understand this may be interpreted as being sort of callous but shouldn't those building these types of man-made environments (cities, refineries, etc) be expecting this? Its also hard to blame global-warming if it happens reasonably often and recently. And what spock said.

Also best of luck to the locals...
posted by sfts2 at 8:52 AM on September 12, 2008


I wonder if the builders of the Galveston sea wall ever considered how it would trap any waters that got behind it — preventing them from returning out to sea in a timely manner.
posted by spock at 9:00 AM on September 12, 2008


We are focusing on Galveston, but the most impressive surge is going to affect areas all the way north to SW Louisiana.
posted by spock at 9:01 AM on September 12, 2008


West Houston here. Everybody cross your fingers.
posted by Avenger at 9:04 AM on September 12, 2008


*crosses fingers*
posted by DreamerFi at 9:07 AM on September 12, 2008


Anything not tied down becomes a surge-driven (or wind-driven) projectile. In the 1900 Galveston hurricane, the head meteorologist's house was demolished by a surge-driven street car.
posted by spock at 9:10 AM on September 12, 2008


Just got off a conference call with the Texas Emergency Operations Center. Here is the timeline that they are working off of. Expecting a high 2 or low 3 level hurricane.

7 PM--Hurricane force winds hit Houston. Port Arthur is hit by storm surge.
1 AM (Saturday)--Ike's Eye passes over Galveston. Galveston Bay and Sabine Bay hit by storm surge.
4 AM--Hurricane wind exits impact zone heading N NW

Rainfall expected to be 6-10 inches in Houston/Galveston with pockets of up to 15 inches.

The SAR are ready to be deployed but have to have low enough wind levels to fly. In excess of 40 helicopters are ready. Disaster 1 is pre-deployed into the impact zone currently. Fuel Ops are ceasing and much has been pre-positioned. Keeping roads open and traffic moving as people return is key. Most special-needs patients have been moved out of the impact zone--those that remain are in areas where there is supplemental assistance (people and generators). Petrolium industry has locked down operations.

I will be in the impacted area in the days to follow and will try post while there.
posted by zerobyproxy at 9:20 AM on September 12, 2008 [9 favorites]


zerobyproxy - Good luck dude
posted by sfts2 at 9:39 AM on September 12, 2008


To all SETEX mefites, try to stay dry and stay safe.

Zero... you're a braver man than I. Good luck.

Watching this unfold is like a slow motion nightmare.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 9:47 AM on September 12, 2008


FWIW, I live in eastern North Carolina, and everyone is flipping the fuck out about gasoline. All the gas stations here have huge lines of like, 30 cars or more, and everyone's saying "Gas is going up a dollar and they're not gonna get anymore till it comes down!" I guess it's a panic.

Me? I filled up just 2 days ago. My needle's not even come down from the F. But god damn, there's some panicky motherfuckers around here. :P

Good luck to all on the Gulf Coast.
posted by BeerFilter at 9:51 AM on September 12, 2008


it seems to me that events occurring within 50 years are well within the range of 'normally occurring'

Hurricanes naturally go through multi-decade long boom and bust cycles. It's believed we are now in a new boom cycle. The difference though, with this new boom cycle, are mostly man made:

1. Greater and more accurate reporting (satellites, internet)
2. Greater population and development along the coasts.
3. Increased storm strength caused by warmer oceans caused by global warming.

These make it seem (rightly) things are worse than historically. Since we can assume these 3 trends will continue (technology will improve, population and development will increase, global warming will get worse) we can assume in 10 years things will be even worse than today, on average - at least until the next bust cycle. Then there will be another boom cycle (say in the 2050's) and it will be even worse still.
posted by stbalbach at 10:03 AM on September 12, 2008


Intergrated?

Must have been named all special for Texans.

g/d/r, 80's style...
posted by rokusan at 10:16 AM on September 12, 2008


The gas station across the street from my neighborhood coffeeshop in Austin still has the same price it did a week ago, FWIW.

It's almost eerie how normal the weather looks today.

Apparently they're already seeing storm surge in Galveston and Ike isn't even close yet. I'm afraid it's going to be bad.
posted by spiderwire at 10:26 AM on September 12, 2008


Price-gouging laws are already in effect in North Carolina because of gas prices spiking. Link to WRAL

A co-worker of mine just came in and said that the gas station down the road is now up to 3.99. It was at 3.61 when I came in this morning.
posted by educatedslacker at 10:29 AM on September 12, 2008


stbalbach, Thanks and I do understand that, its just that it seems to me that its symptomatic of a larger problem when even given the quickening/lengthening of the cycle which can be attributed to climate change, that man designs infrastructure that cannot withstand something which is guaranteed to happen within its useful life, whether it happens yearly or every 50 years.

A bigger problem you say? Like what? Well, like the distribution of risk through insurance and government 'bailouts' of destroyed infrastructure. Is this just a rehash of the 'why rebuild NOLA discussion? Maybe. What to do about it? I dunno, ask Sarah Palin.

Now, I had my CT home rebuilt with FEMA loans after the Noreaster of 92, but that was a fairly unique occurrence here, but I'd argue that that didn't make sense either - I was 300 feet from the water.
posted by sfts2 at 10:42 AM on September 12, 2008


There appears to have been an increase in hurricane activity in the North Atlantic since 1970.

I was supposed to fly to Houston on Sunday and attend a meeting in Clear Lake. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for all of you.
posted by lukemeister at 10:47 AM on September 12, 2008


I just got back from buying a pack of smokes at my local HEB in Austin and the gas station was crawling with people. Cars lined-up 3 and 4 deep for the pumps. I haven't seen a run like that since I was in LA in the 70's when OPEC shut off the tap...
posted by jim in austin at 11:18 AM on September 12, 2008


I'm down in the Turks and Caicos, we've had a fairly rough time recently, hit twice by Hannah (it literally turned around and came over us again) and then Ike the week after. Grand Turk and South Caicos are going to be without power for 3-6 months from all accounts, and alledgely 80% of the homes have been damaged/destroyed in some form, no lives lost though, thankfully.

Providenciales got lucky, the eye turned to the south after it ploughed through Grand Turk and so we missed it by 50-60 miles. Provo was expecting at least a 16 foot storm surge from Ike, which thankfully didn't come as large portions of the homes here are under that.

We'd have been wiped out if we got the full eye-wall/cat4 sustained on Provo, only reason we did as well as we have done is that Hannah scared the bejesus out of everyone and make everyone take the preperations very seriously for Ike.
posted by Static Vagabond at 11:18 AM on September 12, 2008


that man designs infrastructure that cannot withstand something which is guaranteed to happen within its useful life

What do you mean, guaranteed?

Take Corpus Christi. If in 1961 you'd said that in the aftermath of Hurricane Carla, everyone in town would nod their heads and say, yeah, you're right. After all, Corpus Christi had been hit with at least three Cat 4-5 hurricanes in a 60 year period, causing immense damage and loss of life.

Since then, though, Corpus has been sideswiped by major hurricanes (most recently Bret in '99), but it hasn't taken a direct hit since '61.

So, what's normal for Corpus Christi? A major hurricane every 20 years, or just a bunch of glancing blows over a 50 year period?

If the useful lifespan of, say, a cracking tower is 50 years, do you build it with the idea that during that time it'll be hit once by a Cat 5, or do you build it with the idea it'll be hit a few times by Cat 1 winds?
posted by dw at 11:26 AM on September 12, 2008


If the useful lifespan of, say, a cracking tower is 50 years, do you build it with the idea that during that time it'll be hit once by a Cat 5, or do you build it with the idea it'll be hit a few times by Cat 1 winds?

If those are my choices, wouldn't the "build it with the idea that it would be hit once by a CAT 5" pretty much mean that it would also probably survive any number of CAT 1s? I think you've got a false dichotomy there.
posted by spock at 11:33 AM on September 12, 2008


I just got back from buying a pack of smokes at my local HEB in Austin and the gas station was crawling with people. Cars lined-up 3 and 4 deep for the pumps. I haven't seen a run like that since I was in LA in the 70's when OPEC shut off the tap...

There's one car at the station at Manor and Alamo and gas is... still 3.59/gal. Just... FYI :)
posted by spiderwire at 11:35 AM on September 12, 2008


I hope so. sucked in you gas guzzlers

As someone whose family and friends and self are about to take a beating from this storm, please allow me to respond in the only way a comment as juvenile and ignorant as yours deserves:

Fuck you.
posted by Cyrano at 11:43 AM on September 12, 2008 [6 favorites]


I'm getting so frustrated reading the coverage of the people who are weathering the storm in Galveston. One guy said that if it got bad he'd just walk or kayak out, because it's just water. Really? REALLY? So the 100+MPH winds (which are now forecasted to last eight or more hours) and 20 feet of water won't impact your ability to, you know, remain upright?

I'm not even going to talk about the guy in the bear suit dancing at the Galveston wall.
posted by elfgirl at 12:24 PM on September 12, 2008


It seems as though they are not taking people out of the Galveston county jail (on Galveston island). Depending on how that jail is built, that could be 1,000 people dead.
The storm wall in Galveston will block the assault of the forward storm surge / waves. That is a powerful destructive force. It does not prevent the inundation of the city. A 15 foot surge will still find its way around the back side of the city. Of course, the city is not at sea level so that doesn't quite equal having the town under 15 feet of water. A 20 foot storm surge (and Ike is set to hit at high tide) will subject the city to the direct force of a twenty foot high wind whipped wall of water. On Wunder blog (Weather Underground) there was a person who talked of planning to film the hurricane in Galveston from a third floor concrete garage in Galveston. That would be effectively underwater. (The fourth floor would probably be safe.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:54 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought you were joking about the guy in a bear suit.
posted by beowulf573 at 12:57 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


elfgirl writes "I'm not even going to talk about the guy in the bear suit dancing at the Galveston wall."

Wait, wait. In addition to all the destruction hurricanes cause, they also bring out furries?

Man, these hurricanes are terrible.
posted by orthogonality at 1:28 PM on September 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Re-reading my post, I believe I wasn't clear. The storm wall in Galveston is built for 17 feet of surge. With 15 feet of surge you will not get the tsunami effect of a wall of water running through town. You will get the flooding of the island from the backside where you don't have the wall. You will get lots of waves overtopping the wall. With 20 feet of surge, all bets are off. The top of the wall is underwater.
I am using my Miami Beach experience and extrapolating it to Galveston where I have not been. I'm guessing Miami Beach averages six feet in elevation. Twelve feet is a high point. The entire island would be under a lot of water with the expected surge. The battering of the water with the onslaught of that 20 foot surge would knock down a lot of houses.
You should assume the first floor of the jail will be underwater. Maybe the second floor.
I'm guessing at least 20 feet of surge plus two feet for high tide. A 25 foot (or greater) surge is not out of the question.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:30 PM on September 12, 2008


You should assume the first floor of the jail will be underwater. Maybe the second floor.

Actually, no. You're seeing the city as being like:

bay __________[\ gulf

It's not. It's

bay ___---ˉˉˉ\ gulf

Highest point in the city is the wall, but then the rest of the city slopes back from the wall down to the back bay. So, if it overtops at 20 feet, then you'd see 3-4 feet near the wall, not 20 feet. The amount of water would then go up the closer you get to the back bay (which is at sea level).

The jails are in the back of the city, so you can assume the first floor is probably underwater with a 20 foot surge, but not necessarily the second.
posted by dw at 1:48 PM on September 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


If those are my choices, wouldn't the "build it with the idea that it would be hit once by a CAT 5" pretty much mean that it would also probably survive any number of CAT 1s? I think you've got a false dichotomy there.

OK, let's frame it this way:

If the cost of the tower itself is x, would you rather reinforce against any number of Cat 1 storms for 1.1x total cost, or would you rather reinforce against that one Cat 5 storm for 1.6x total cost?
posted by dw at 1:52 PM on September 12, 2008


Video of the guy in a bear suit.
posted by beowulf573 at 1:53 PM on September 12, 2008


dw, is the jail three floors? I imagine it is concrete. I disagree with your analysis of the water flow. The bottom of the wall is sea level. The top of the wall, 17 feet. The bay is sea level. A seventeen foot surge would raise the bay level to 17 feet, in essence making an even water level from the top of the wall back to the bay. Of course on top of that you have wind-whipped waves - that's what the sea wall is protecting against - until it is underwater. I was reading the latest figures saying 14 to 17 feet of surge expected on Galveston Island and the shoreline of Galveston Bay is expected to be 15 to 22 feet. I'm guessing that's a slight underestimation, in part because the surge has so far been exceeding its predicted levels at previous time points.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:09 PM on September 12, 2008


The storm wall in Galveston is built for 17 feet of surge

This is incorrect. The Sea Wall is reputedly 17 feet high. Watching Houston televison this morning, I saw a local reporter say it was designed to be 17 feet high, but was actually only 15 feet high. In addition a 15 foot high wall will not handle a 15 foot surge because you are not accounting for the normal tide. (See my "sea surge" link above in the original post). So at high tide (approx. 2') a 13 foot storm surge would equal the sea wall and waves would add to the water going over. A 15 foot surge would be pouring 2' of water over the top of the sea wall, with waves on top of that. Buoys 20 miles out from Galveston were running at 19 feet this morning - I haven't checked lately.

Galveston Island is going to be completely underwater for days (and days).
posted by spock at 2:24 PM on September 12, 2008


A seventeen foot surge would raise the bay level to 17 feet, in essence making an even water level from the top of the wall back to the bay.

Yes, but the island itself ranges from 0-17 feet, and the elevation rises the closer you get to the wall.

Of course, there's already in the town itself from the surge, and the waves are already over the wall, so it's all a moot point now.
posted by dw at 2:30 PM on September 12, 2008


"But officials say that some 24,000 stayed behind - in spite of the mandatory evacuation and the National Weather Center's gloomy "certain death" warning, and in spite of the city buses lined up to take them off the island."

Ok, so this is quite possibly going to be the deadliest hurricane in history. It's something unsettling to know this many people are going to die in a matter of a few more hours and there's nothing I can do about it.
posted by dgaicun at 2:50 PM on September 12, 2008


Just off the TX state EOC afternoon call. Here is what they are planning for and have done.

The landfall area is Galveston (plus or minus 30 miles).

87 Shelters open with a total of 100 to be open by tomorrow morning.

Ike will make landfall with a 23 foot surge and may come down the shipping canal. This will take place at approximately 2 AM.

Jefferson/Orange counties will experience a 20 foot surge.

Search and Rescue Ops will begin at 7 AM via two Task Forces (Ford and Galveston).

15 Communications vehicles deployed across impact zone starting at 7 AM.

Aviation re-entry assessment to begin at 7 AM.

1000 Search and Rescue professionals ready to deploy at 7 AM (Priority areas Port Arthur, Galveston, Galveston Bay)

Top 3 priorities: Search and Rescue, Power re-setablishment, evacuee re-entry management.

13 Oil refineries have been shut down.

25% of service stations along evacuation routes have been fitted with back up generators.

Fuel trucks are filled and ready to deploy to the impact area to restore power.


Looks like I may be in Houston on Sunday evening. More intel to follow. I will send something after the 10:30 AM call. I hope all affected stay safe.
posted by zerobyproxy at 3:15 PM on September 12, 2008 [4 favorites]


It's something unsettling to know this many people are going to die in a matter of a few more hours and there's nothing I can do about it.

This. I've been perusing the iReport pages on CNN and it's guys like this that make me want to smack my head against my desk in frustration.
posted by elfgirl at 3:18 PM on September 12, 2008


Location of Galveston County Jail (via Google Maps).

Close-up of same area. (Note round storage tanks).

Same landmarks found on Computer Simulated "Hurricane Carly" PDFs found in my post -

Dry & Under a 19.5 foot surge
posted by spock at 3:20 PM on September 12, 2008


If the cost of the tower itself is x, would you rather reinforce against any number of Cat 1 storms for 1.1x total cost, or would you rather reinforce against that one Cat 5 storm for 1.6x total cost?

Um, depends on what you're protecting. If the amortized value of the assets (A) being protected over a period n in which you'd expect at least one Cat 5 storm is greater than .5x, then in theory you'd build the bigger wall. Or rather, if there's a Cat 5 storm every n years and A/n > .5x, you build the bigger wall.

In reality, we tend to plan the wall that costs 2x but -- since the decision only ever looks bad in retrospect -- the funding gets deferred so that it's never more than half complete when it ever matters and doesn't protect against a light breeze, let alone a major hurricane.

It's a brilliant plan, because once the stuff you were supposedly protecting gets wiped out, hey, why invest all that money in a new wall? There's nothing there to protect, so it's more efficient to just build some new houses on all that conveniently-cleared land.

Meh.
posted by spiderwire at 3:21 PM on September 12, 2008


It's something unsettling to know this many people are going to die in a matter of a few more hours and there's nothing I can do about it.

I felt the same way watching Katrina heading for New Orleans, but I was a few thousand miles away at the time. In fact, I was crying uncontrollably.

I don't know if it's that I went through that once or that I'm more or less in the path of the storm this time, but I feel much more sanguine about it this time.

We'll see how I feel in a few hours.
posted by spiderwire at 3:25 PM on September 12, 2008


I was working at Mount Sinai on Miami Beach, filling in as emergency staff as Hurricane Andrew approached. If Andrew made a direct hit on us, our hospital would have been devastated, twelve to twenty feet of water rushing around us. The emergency power was for some reason built below sea level.

Midnight, about six hours before landfall, I was there when the governor of Florida came on the phone ordering us to evacuate. The head of the hospital said we couldn't, we had patients who couldn't be moved, besides, the interior hospitals were at capacity from evacuation of non-critical patients.

It was a tense night of waiting.

Andrew was supposed to go a little to the north of Miami Beach, instead it went about 30 miles south. Where we were at sustained force one hurricane winds - far from a lethal blow and only enough to whip up waves across a thin section of the eastern end of the island.

I've wondered what it would have been like to receive a direct blow - and wonder how stupid I would have felt for being on the emergency volunteer staff.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:35 PM on September 12, 2008


Zerobyproxy -- best of luck to all of you. Thanks for the reports. Stay safe, remember the rule -- be the rescuer, not the rescued.

Last couple of recon flight summary (Vortex Messages, the URNT12 product) have show SLP 955mb, surfaces winds 89kts, a *very* large eye, 60nm in diameter, with a broken wall. This is a very atypical system, the pressure says Cat 4, but the eye says disappointing storm. Hurricane force wind field, in nm 105NE 90SE 50SW 60NW, tropical storm force 240NE 200SE 150SW 170NW. This is a very large wind field.

The eye is clearly visible on HGX radar (NWS Houston/Gavleston TX). The first major rain band is coming onshore now. The track, on radar, is bad news -- basically heading right for Galveston Bay, which is going to put the heart of the storm surge right on the city.

Louisiana is having troubles with storms in the outer rain bands, Lafayette, LA, is getting hammered, with at least four TVS signatures on radar, and on the Southern Mississippi Valley composite, you can see that the outermost outflow has induced storms as far away as Arkansas and Georgia.

6PM obs: Houston Intl: 85F, winds N25G36m, Houston Hobby, 85F N31G39. Sugar Land, 89F, N27G41, Galveston No Report.

I'm deeply afraid this is going to do a surprising amount of damage. It won't be the how hard problem, it'll be the how long problem -- as large as the system is, areas hit by core are going to experience storm force winds and higher for a very long time, and the storm surge will be unusually prolonged.
posted by eriko at 4:15 PM on September 12, 2008


Better Texas than Tina

LOL!

What does it say about this band of MeFites that
nobody's picked up on your joke.
posted by liza at 4:16 PM on September 12, 2008


We are in Humble, on the north side of Houston, weathering the storm. Right now the winds are starting to pick up, and I'd guess are in the 25 to 35 mph range. We don't have to worry about the storm surge here, but the winds may play havoc with the pine trees standing throughout our neighborhood.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 4:30 PM on September 12, 2008


dw,

To answer your question with a bit of snark, I'd do what has been done: Build the cheaper solution and get the government and insurance companies to rebuild it when it gets destroyed.

Since you are feeling pedantic, you can substitute the phrase 'almost certain' or 'with a probability extremely close to 1' for my imprecise term 'guaranteed.'
posted by sfts2 at 5:19 PM on September 12, 2008


I work in the same building as the Texas Emergency Operations Center (it has two levels of basement). There were several tv trucks and a FEMA truck outside. Looks like they are going to turn our cafeteria over to be used for (I'm guessing) media etc during the storm. That's where the little stage thing is where they give press conferences. During my afternoon break I saw there were two giant tv's tuned to the weather channel and various people with laptops, some tv camera tripods, and tons of dudes from building programs with spools and spools of wire, I imagine to give power and net access to tons of people who will be filling the cafeteria tonight.

Anyway with all the extra personnel around the past few days it's been a bitch to find parking in the morning. I had to park in Douchebag Parking (a no-parking zone), not quite as bad as Asshole Parking (impedes half of a path through the lot).

I hear they are also setting up emergency coordination in the vacant ex-JCPenney at the mall two blocks away.

I sure hope they do a good job of staying on top of things.
posted by marble at 5:27 PM on September 12, 2008


Hey Texas, hang on.

I spent some of the best years of my life playing in a band that worked extensively on the Texas coast in the early 90s, from Port Aransas at Spring Break to a regular monthly gig in Corpus and another in Victoria. Occasionally we worked Rockport and Beaumont, and of course lots of nights in Houston, and then an arc through College Station, Giddings, etc., all in the path tonight. It's a hard place, as well as a hard partying place (good for bands) but authentically so. While I worked out of Austin, I spent enough time on the coast to know a fair number of folks there.

So here's hoping y'all hang tough. I'm listening to Stevie Ray sing "Texas Flood"("It's raining down in Texas/all of the telephone lines are down") and Beaumont-born Mark Chesnutt sing "Let it rain" on replay tonight and hoping for the best.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:31 PM on September 12, 2008


I work in the same building as the Texas Emergency Operations Center (it has two levels of basement)

I'm hoping you're not in Houston, but it honestly wouldn't surprise me.
posted by spiderwire at 6:11 PM on September 12, 2008


OK, I'm heading home. The sky is getting a bit hazy here (it's almost dark) and there's a bit of wind, a few raindrops. Hopefully we won't see much of anything.

Hang in there, Gulf Coast folks. Stay safe.
posted by spiderwire at 6:17 PM on September 12, 2008


dances_with_sneetches writes "On Wunder blog (Weather Underground) there was a person who talked of planning to film the hurricane in Galveston from a third floor concrete garage in Galveston. That would be effectively underwater. (The fourth floor would probably be safe.)"

If the lower floors were designed to to handle the uplift of the water. I've seen many pictures of parking structures that weren't and collapse from lack of bracing when the lower level floors ride up on the surge. The whole structure ends up collapsing.
posted by Mitheral at 6:38 PM on September 12, 2008


I'm working in one of the hospitals in the medical center. My shift ended at 7:30PM. It starts again tomorrow at 6:30AM. I'll be sleeping in the endoscopy clinic with many other people on cots. There's lots of staff and not many places to sleep so we're all crammed where ever there's room. Doctors, pharmDs, housekeepers, cooks, nurses, everyone. I'd like to take a shower but there's a huge line at this point. TV's everywhere are on the constant news as everyone watches the storm come in. A coworker and I went up to the top floor to look out the windows to see if we could see anything coming - we couldn't - but the sound of the wind was pretty creepy.

No one can leave or come into the hospital because the flood gates block all the entrances now (except the ER). The generators are on the 6th floor (away from any flooding issues) just in case we loose power. If that happens the elevators and air conditioner stop working. The medication pumps will also stop working so we'll have to do drips like the old days. I'll have chemo and some antibiotics due to give tomorrow on a few patients. I'll need to get some rest so I'm in good mental form tomorrow for what may be a challenging day. And then again for Sunday (and maybe Monday). In a few hours many of the patients will be moved out of their rooms into hallways because of the windows. There's lots of construction in the med center and there is concern about projectiles hitting the windows.

My husband and dogs are at home. I wish I could be with them. There's comradary here at work and it's not bad by any means. But it's just nice to be with your loved ones during things like this. Earlier today the powers that be decided that family members had to leave. A few of them were heartbroken at the idea of that. Many on the nursing staffs insisted that spouses had to stay. It's infinately better for the patients to have them there.

Thanks well wishers. Your kind words are very welcome. sorry for the bad spelling and grammer I'm tired right now and there's no spell check on this 'puter. Now I'm going to go read a brainless magazine and try to fall asleep!
posted by dog food sugar at 7:23 PM on September 12, 2008


God what a disaster. I have a friend who just moved from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Galveston, Texas. She didn't get hit by the flooding in CR, but I mean the downtown was under water for days. She's evacuated, but now it seems like all the stuff that she hauled down there from Iowa is going to be destroyed by flooding. And she's only been there a month!

By the way, she said you can't buy flood insurance during hurricane season, and of course she moved there during that time. Obviously it's too late now, but is there anything she could have done?

I can't believe this girl's bad luck with weather this summer.
posted by delmoi at 8:44 PM on September 12, 2008


Channel 2 in Houston is streaming their coverage on the web.
posted by dw at 9:19 PM on September 12, 2008


Since you are feeling pedantic

Feeling? Languagehat himself recommended to the OED's American editors that they put my picture in the OAD next to "pedantic."

It's not a very good picture. Not enough white space around it.
posted by dw at 9:21 PM on September 12, 2008


Jumbo link of multiple feeds.
posted by zerobyproxy at 11:30 PM on September 12, 2008


MSNBC had some dude calling from his house in Galveston saying he had 5 feet of water in his house. MSNBC is saying that Galveston itself may have missed a lot of the storm surge, it's hitting much farther north, in Port Aurthur area.
posted by delmoi at 12:09 AM on September 13, 2008


Hurricane Ike live streams on one page: http://bleeble.org/
posted by calwatch at 12:27 AM on September 13, 2008


Uh, link
posted by calwatch at 12:28 AM on September 13, 2008


They're saying Galveston wall was hit by 12 to 14 feet - in that case, it would hold Galveston back from the worst. Still the mayor has come out saying five to ten feet of water in houses.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:18 AM on September 13, 2008


Off the TX emergency Operation Center call.

3 priority Search and Rescue areas: Galveston, Orange County, Seabrook-Troy-East Terrace area.

Air SAR will go into the sky asap. Looks like a noon liftoff because of high winds until then.

Galveston island has no power or essential services and is covered with 2-4 feet of water.

East of I45 has severe power outage, blowdown of trees, limited traffic access because of debris field.

Priority: Ensure medical services are operative and continuity of government via essential services.

100+ shelters open with 25,000+ special needs beds filled.

Houston ship canal and Galveston Bay escaped catastrophic storm surge.

No petro-chemical catastrophe.

Texas power companies all represented at command center in Austin. Will present power grid update at 4:30 call.

Ike exits Texas by midnight tonight. Heads for Great Lakes region within 48 hours.

Eastern TX to experience tropical winds 35-40 mph with up to 65 mph gusts through the late morning.

Rainfall 3-6 inches. Pockets of 10-12 inches possible.

Galveston island has large debris field with has been penetrated by first responders.

US military and Coast Guard are starting land SAR in Galveston.

Orange County has a 1000 bed/shelter request.

I10 is blocked by debris at mile marker 805 and is closed because of standing water in other areas. Local law enforcement will turn traffic back.

I wish the best for all of those who are feeling the impact of the storm. I will drop another note later, if possible.
posted by zerobyproxy at 9:15 AM on September 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Still haven't even had rain in Austin. Not ready to say we dodged a bullet, but it seems like it could have been much worse.

Thanks, zero!
posted by spiderwire at 9:38 AM on September 13, 2008


That was fun. Because I was afraid of falling trees we put an inflatable mattress into the closet and slept through the storm. We have no power but the house is intact. We lost one tree and the yard is full of limbs. And fences are down so I can see four or five houses down the road. I haven't yet gotten outside to check the roof.
posted by beowulf573 at 11:35 AM on September 13, 2008


off of the 4:30 call.

Priority counties: Orange, Galveston, East Terrace

Interstate was blocked between Orange and Beaumont. Just cleared out.

Air Search and Rescue for Orange has been limited because of high winds.

53 Search and Rescue Aircraft are deployed and 1500 Search and Rescue personnel.

Beaumont (Orange County) has rescued 300 and has buses coming to bring them to shelter in San Antonio. 170 more residents sought shelter in a shelter of last resort and will also be moved to San Antonio. 25 buses were headed to Beaumont.

Galveston Island was devastated by the event.

A large population remain who require food, water and ice.

Galveston Island has been secured. Entry to First Responders only. Any citizen who exits the island will not be allowed to return.

Communications support is not yet fully operation on Galveston Island.

The Task Force has set up Base Operations in Galveston.

Many evacuees are trying to return, prior to an all clear notice and are getting turned around (across the affected area) which causes challenges for other cities where the displaced stop (seeking food and shelter).

The city of Tyler faces that situation.

Lufkin has sheltered 4,000.

Houston will have water capacity shortly because power will be restored.

Power is out to approximately 2.75 million people across Texas. The Power Companies are still assessing damage and will have more information tomorrow on the 9:30 AM call.

Search and Rescue in Galveston is ongoing. Communication and weather are causing difficulties.

Tornados and rain continue to be a threat in the affected area.

Ike is moving NE at 18-25 mph (almost doubling in speed) heading toward the Great Lakes.

The Task Force has finally made entry to Orange.

Port Arthur has high winds that challenge SAR.

Harris County reports that FEMA may be issuing a "hotel voucher" similar to the one used during Katrina. This was unconfirmed.

Galveston County Jail has limited generator power but no water. 1100 inmates "who are not very happy". No where to re-locate this number of people to a high security area.

Every county will be issued a Point of Contact for restoration of services.

Re-entry to impact areas is started to be coordinated. State support to cities for road guidance to be provided.

City of Beaumont needs more support (water, ice, food).

Number of people to be pulled out to Mass Care facilities still unknown.

I will only be able to report on the morning call tomorrow because I will then be in transit to Houston.
posted by zerobyproxy at 3:50 PM on September 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow...thanks zerobyproxy.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:29 PM on September 14, 2008


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