NOTE: THIS POST WILL BE UPDATED REGULARLY UNTIL OR IF DORIAN HITS FLORIDA. After that, the power may be out...
I had no idea that when the forecast for this hurricane was first announced, the sequence and time of events would be prolonged to such a degree. I decided to follow this one closer than others that have approached Florida as I swore that if it went over Orlando again I would definitely move and not go through another ordeal like the last three or four (which we endured during the last 5 years) since moving here in 1987. I have taken snapshots of the charts displayed day by day, to see how close would the predictions come to pass. If you read to the end and look at the first chart, you will notice that over 1,800 miles out Dorian was predicted to hit Florida as a CAT 3. Within three or four days of forming the predictions were that it would run in and out, up and down the peninsula. This, of course, alerted us all to a potentially catastrophic event. What has transpired instead has been a frustrating, exhausting, and mind-bending ordeal.
As I sit here Thursday morning at 10:08 AM, Aug. 29 I ponder the cataclysmic event that may come to pass. Should I work on business matters?
But will I have a life this coming Monday or Tuesday?
We are about four days out from a predicted CAT 3 hit somewhere on the eastern Florida coastline.
Fortunately, we are inland in Orlando, where it would downgrade to a CAT 2 if it hits. CAT 2 is 96 to 110 mph winds. Not bad actually. We have weathered several years of CAT 2 hurricanes. Unnerving. A few shingles get blown off, some roof leaks, trees felled over power lines, the typical lines for gas and food off the shelves, and 9 days of no power (read: no air conditioning) in the muggiest, nastiest part of the year.
Not something to look forward to. (Bad to end on a preposition, I know. Marte will dock points)
NEWS FLASH, 20 minutes ago:
Hurricane Dorian could be worst storm to hit Central Florida in three decades if current track holds, meteorologist says
OH BOY, OH BOY!!
For about 10 months of the year, we ignore weather forecasting around here in Florida. Only one thing matters: approaching severe weather systems. This is the thinking that goes on during the 6 -7 days out before the hit...
- Day 6: The weather news networks have had lackluster advertising billings and now is the time to ramp up fear. A few clouds have gathered into a tropical storm and the beginnings of prophetic doom begins. We scoff and shrug off the early reporting. Our friends and relatives are expressing their condolences and offering help, a place to stay, and advice.
- Day 5: The low-level storm approaches the first Caribbean islands and things look bad. A few possible routes for the storm emerge IF it will get to hurricane-force winds. The weather people run out to these places in full storm gear and you can hear crickets in the background. In this case, tree frogs in Puerto Rico where the storm changed course and there was, unfortunately, one fatality.
- Day 4: The expert prognosticators have already begun drawing up computer models of a hurricane that has barely reached CAT 1 and show a wide sweep of 600 miles as a zone for possible landing. We watch with a bit of skepticism because when it is even raining in front of us, our phone apps indicate none and vice versa. So these spaghetti tracks are treated with heavy measures of doubt. It is too early to really worry.
- Day 3: The still CAT 1 is predicted to turn into a CAT 3 and the warnings are everywhere to prepare for a sure hit - somewhere on a thousand-mile coastline. Those who are on the Atlantic coast begin hoarding gas, food, water, batteries. The stores get picked clean within two days if the direction does not change. The extra cautious are loading their 4x4s and getting out of Dodge early, driving up to their snowbird nests somewhere in North Carolina. The rest of us begin to watch the TV every 20 minutes to see what the heck is going to happen. The pros are hanging in there no matter what.
- Day 2: If an impending hit is on its way, the escape is on and the interstates begin to swell with traffic. Those who still do not know exactly where the now CAT 2 is going to hit, don't want to wait and have begun the trek out of Florida northward. Many stalwarts who want to take a turn of the dice are looking closely at the predicted route and figure their chances are very good that nothing will affect them badly enough to leave. These folks are living inland typically or on the Gulf side of Florida. The people along the eastern front are battening down the hatches and at least 2/3s will weather the storm. They know that nothing can help them for at least a week after the hit. A CAT 3 is eminently survivable. High winds will rip off a few roofs and debris will break through some windows. Electricity will be out for a week or more. Not a pretty picture and a real headache to live through.
- Day 1: The CAT 3 (as currently predicted) has a much narrower cone and the hit zone is now about 500 miles. The monster can head directly west as predicted by several computer models or may have moved direction. Most in the middle of the state will hunker down and deal with the situation. It is too late to evacuate as the highways are clogged. We are ready for electricity and internet to go down. Tarps and plastic buckets have sold out at Home Depot. Some have made reservations for hotel stay but usually, the coastal folks have already put theirs in so we sit in darkness often as we watch the last hour or two of coverage on TV, then things go black, the winds start howling, and you wish you were in Colorado. This is the moment when the inevitable becomes an unbearable fear.
- DAY 0: This is Groundhog Day for anyone who has survived a hurricane. Fortunately, if it remains a 3 and gets here as a 2, you wake up alive in the morning. You have heard high winds battering your house, the windows shaking, the sound of trees breaking up. You emerge from your dwelling and observe the devastation... How did your property fare? How are your neighbors? Everyone walks around in a slight state of shock, happy they are alive, wondering when the power will get back, realizing that there is no communication with the outside world and that you are hungry, starting to melt, and want to move to Alaska now. There will be weeks of cleanup and misery. Roads are blocked with debris. Where are the utility trucks to fix the lines? Which restaurants are open? (Waffle House stays open during these events!) The hospitals are on their power generators and electricity comes to them first, then fire and police stations, etc. You damn the system, you endure, again... you are fortunate that you were not swallowed up by a force of nature with an odd name.
(above, neighbor's house after a visit by Irma in 2018)
If you follow the Weather Channel, you might see a demonstration of how roofs are connected to the walls here in Florida. It used to be that rafters and trusses were toe-nailed into the top plate of the perimeter wood wall. This, of course, does not bode well when negative pressure tears off your roof. The newer codes require metal plate tie-downs that connect the roof to the walls, down to the slab.
To keep the water damage minimalized, assuming that the shingles hold to some degree, there are plastic sheathing systems that cover all the gaps between the plywood decking. Alternatively, you can blow closed-cell foam from under the deck and rafters or trusses to seal the joints between framing and the roof. If you combine with open-cell foam, like that offered by Icynene, you will have the best-insulated roof possible. Some of this can be done retroactively by professionals. (Did you know that in southern Florida you can glue the ceramic or concrete tile to your decking?)
I had thought about ways to keep the negative and positive pressures of high winds from destroying a dwelling and realized the following:
- In traditional house design, with roofs overhanging the outer wall, a horizontal wind will climb up the wall from grade and want to tear off the roof. Ergo: zero overhangs are better. Porches are not good.
- Roofs with gables are more susceptible to damage, more than all hip roofs. One story design is better than two stories, as less surface area to push wind against.
- In fact, a rounded surfaced structure is the ideal geometry to withstand direct forces, even negative pressures.
- The bottom line in CAT 4 and 5 hurricanes: it doesn't matter how the house is designed, it will most likely get badly damaged or flattened. So, you should get out of the way. Even if you build underground, debris may block you from emerging.
Looking back last year in July, I posted these thoughts on AR:
Here is a subsequent video covering the same points:
NEWS ALERT! As of 11:16, 8/29/2019 Hurricane Dorian is predicted as a Category 4 at landfall. Which completely changes the timelines and predictions above!! The cone of uncertainty now is between Miami and Wilmington. Really. Stay tuned, as I will update this blog day by day...
[Just in: an ingenious design for a house to withstand hurricane-force winds by Rod Dent. Let us know what you think! See end of article below]
UPDATE: 8:12 PM 8/29/2019 Thursday. I still haven't memorized the name of this storm. It is still a CAT 1 hurricane. It has moved north of Puerto Rico and is expected to veer northwest and then head directly west towards Florida. That is what the model in general predicts. I will be posting the spaghetti models from now on to compare day by day to show how the predictions change over time. Reports are that Central Florida grocery stores are out of bottled water and gas lines have formed. This is three days before the outer bands of the storm winds should affect this area. The 'cone of certainty' is a sloppy 650 mile cover of Florida and parts of the states north of us. There is no way to accurately predict at this point the impact zone. Here is the 6 o'clock map. We are doomed:
UPDATE 5:00 AM 8/30/2019 Friday The spaghetti models have started to alter but the consensus is that the storm will land north of Miami and either move northwest, further west and into the Gulf of Mexico, OR skirt the coast and move northeast. The Euro models indicate the latter. Due to its slowing speed, heavy rain is predicted and protracted power outages. Depending on what the upper weather systems are doing, Florida may be spared if the storm proceeds NE but will whip against the coasts of Georgia, South and North Carolina. We are staying put at this point and will shop for some basic items today.
UPDATE: 7:45 AM 8/31/2019 Saturday morning, DODGING THE BULLET
It has been a harrowing three days for Floridians. Yesterday the CAT 2 went to CAT 4 in 24 hours. If you look above at just yesterday's spaghetti models, we were going to expect a CAT 4 to 5 storm that was pretty much going to devastate most of Florida, starting at the coasts and then going inland.
We are relieved this morning that the models are taking the storm's path east of the Atlantic coast and now, unfortunately for Georgia and the Carolina's, heading towards... who knows where? We don't know, because upper weather systems have rerouted the anticipated track. If you look at my opening words at the beginning of this blog, the message from Weather Central was that Florida was going to get the biggest storm to hit in 35 years. Everyone was completely scared out of their minds.
This was the early warning shot, about 1800 miles away, as a tropical storm which had just gotten to CAT 1. The prognostication looked grim and the delivery of the news was so convincing that at this time that people have been boarding up their homes, gassed their vehicles, packed earnestly, bought 7 days worth of food, batteries, supplies, generators, etc. and have even either booked hotels or motels miles north, canceled all events, banks have been sending messages about closures, the governor has issued warnings, and finally evacuation orders were given to the Cape Canaveral area.
So... as we watched the debacle unfold, we wondered why an order for the rest of Florida wasn't issued to evacuate at more southern zones such as Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, etc. and why the toll roads weren't opened for a northern evac??
Obviously the state and local authorities were ahead of the game and have issued the typical warnings to 'prepare' for the worst. After all, this was looking like a CAT 5 hit as well.
Interestingly, early this morning, the Weather Channel was not showing the spaghetti models, only the cone of uncertainty. This is because the local channels were showing the tracking almost completely off coast and heading north to northeast. Did the WC decide to hold back to keep their ad revenue coming? In fact, how long ago did the WC really know that this hurricane was never going to make a direct hit on the Florida mainland??
I had to watch a lot of commercials that I normally tape and fast-forward in order not to miss a second of the breathless reporting by the important doctors of doom. When feminine hygiene products led the main segment I was a bit miffed. And if I see the emu again I am going to do something dangerous...
In the interest of being 'safe than sorry,' I can see how this entire edutainment industry operates now. I used to be on and off about listening to the updates but having gone through this thing from the beginning, I am starting to feel a bit more skeptical and cheated even.
I don't think that the rhetoric 1800 miles away should be such a fear-mongering ordeal and the WC should be ashamed of themselves. This was pure advertising greed.
I could be eating my words though and get actually clobbered if the single spaghetti track over Central Florida becomes a reality...
I am not sure I will update this post except to either come back with an 'I told you so' in a day or two, or to ask for donations of T squares and triangles...
If you have a moment though, compare the chart below to the ones preceding to see why we have been so totally nerve-wracked here in Florida.
UPDATE: 12:01 PM 9/1/2019 Sunday afternoon, THE YOYO EFFECT
While we were seemingly in the clear (Florida) the CAT 5 storm at this moment is starting to hammer the northern Bahamas. And we pray for their safety.
The authorities have not issued an evac order for the area closest to a devastating storm that continues to move west, although stalling for a day and a half now.
Do they know something we do not? I believe that is the case.
The forecast is to see Dorian move north along the coast and possibly further east now and will expect a landfall north into Georgia and the Carolina's.
It is obvious that no one really can predict something this big to move in any direction with conviction. So, we are ALL left to wonder what will happen...
This is certainly causing extreme anxiety for those closest to the storm and if I was in southeast Florida I would lock the door and head northwest to the panhandle.
If you haven't been through one of these, it is a terrifying ordeal. Irma hit as a CAT 4 and ran over Orlando as a CAT 2. The house shook, windows rattled and the wind howled all night. We didn't know what happened until the next morning. We had water seeping in from areas of the roof and no electricity for 9 days. We couldn't mitigate the roof damage as there was no power. Mold was setting in.
The neighborhood was full of debris, primarily from the heavy old oaks here. The ordeal left us dazed. This was a CAT 2. Those having to deal with a 3 or higher will be terrified. I have talked to friends who have gone through a 2 shuttered in their home in Ft. Lauderdale. It was very scary and a total mess, although the direct fatalities were only 10, there were 50 or more related.
In the last two days, we have been emotionally yanked back and forth with the breathless reports and forecasting. The prayers are to see this storm track as far away from the coast into the Atlantic and hopefully miss landfall completely.
This morning winds were reported at 180 mph which makes this the most powerful hurricane to get close to Florida for over 20 years. We researched the Euro models vs. the U.S. and it seems the former make 70% accurate predictions vs. 30%. Why this is the case, I can only guess, is because the U.S. models err on the side of maximum safety. Of course, we are rooting for the Euro tracking to take the hurricane out of the way.
There are now reports of hurricane fatigue and PTSD in fact. The pressure to prepare and consider traveling out of state started 4-5 days ago and the updates by the weather news stations every two hours is not to be missed. In the meanwhile, wide-eyed reporters churn the same information over and over again.
Here in Orlando, we were told yesterday that there was no need to board the houses. The Cape Canaveral/Melbourne area is on hold for mandatory evacuation due to the potential for bridges to fail, leaving residents helpless to flee on the Intracoastal islands there.
We are not looking forward to another hit -- days in a hotel, no electricity, etc. AGAIN for the third or fourth time in five years. It seems that these things have turned into a rerun every two or three years here.
I moved to Central Florida in 1987 only after researching the hurricane maps. I think I recall that a catastrophic storm had hit about on a 100-year cycle. These lower-level 'intermediate' storms are just not worth the pleasure of any sun and fun in the long run and I am pondering a definite move out of here if Dorian knocks on our door...
UPDATE: 7:59 AM 9/2/2019 Monday morning, THE STAREDOWN
As I watched the news this morning, I imagined the scene in Aliens where the heroine is staring down the monster. Innocence vs. evil. An epic battle in the movie took place in order to escape the unrelenting horror of an alien creature.
This movie scene exemplifies the nature of humanity facing a force of epic proportion.
As of this moment, the hurricane has stumbled, it has blinked! The winds are approaching CAT 4 now. They had peaked at over 185 mph; now they are at 165 mph.
The speed heading west is just 1 mph. The juggernaut has stopped.
Winds from the SW are moving East, NE to stop the behemoth and start pushing it away from Florida.
The spaghetti models are now showing Dorian track more and more away from the coast where millions are in peril.
This last-minute reprieve is the denouement of a 6-day harrowing showdown between humankind and nature.
UPDATE: 7:40 AM 9/3/2019 Tuesday morning, THE MONSTER WEAKENS
We have had two days of drum beating about the terrific potential damaging effects of Dorian. The Bahamas have gotten the brunt of this storm, unfortunately so lethal as it has sat stationary for two or three days.
The cone of uncertainty has shifted farther and farther away from the eastern side of Florida. As of this time the hurricane has degraded to a CAT 3, about 130 MPH winds and is slowly breaking apart. It is being affected by two high-pressure zones that are squeezing it from both sides and finally some kind of jet stream from the north is expected to whisk the remains north and northeast from us. We are getting stray bands of the outer winds now.
It is amazing to me at least, that the prognosticators knew at least 5 days ago that this storm would hover over the Bahamas and stay put until exactly late night Tuesday the storm would start moving northward.
How on earth could they be so accurate about this prediction and yet continue to scare us with the possibility of a further westward move and the ensuing devastation?
Yesterday at about noon the weather planes reported wind speeds barely hitting 100 MPH yet they kept the classification as a CAT 4. Why?
And more importantly, why was some kind of rescue fleet not sent to the Bahamas to take care of so many who were in the line of destruction? Canceled cruise ships sat idly by on the Florida coast.
We have to assume that in the interest of safety to all on the east coast, the worst possible outcome had to be hammered day by day for over a week now. I am not sure that this is the best strategy. A CAT 3 is definitely a dangerous storm, especially if it makes a direct hit.
There is a lot of worry that has gotten inhabitants in Florida and now for Georgia and the Carolina's in a depressed and exhausted mental state. We are all thankful that the worst is not going to pass. The anticipation though has nearly killed our spirits. We are all numb. Wondering... if your house will be damaged, whether to stay or take flight, if you leave how can you keep your home secure, if damaged if you stay you could mitigate it, do we have enough cash and will our cars make it out should we decide to leave, will the exit roads be clogged and will we be stranded, will there be sufficient gas and are the motels or hotels going to be full, how are our relatives doing even closer to the hurricane, how many days will be sidelined either away from home or sitting in possibly damaged houses without electricity and communications, how can we keep up with medical care away from hospitals -- will our insurance cover us out of the area, what will be the cost of repairing damage to our property, how long will we have to wait for repairs, how much cash will be needed to make up the deductible, can we afford to leave our paying jobs for a week or more, can our pets or relatives make a harrowing escape at the last minute, who will be left behind, who needs help the most?
When Irma came through Orlando in 2017 we watched the TV in the late evening as the eye of the CAT 2 (dissipated when it hit land earlier as a CAT 5) came within ten miles of our house. The single-pane windows (a late 60s build one-story ranch style house) and front door rattled over and over again as finally the electricity and cable went out. The winds were howling, the trees groaning, the rain incessant. We started lighting a few candles and had flashlights but we had to sleep in the living room, where we were staying with our little dog, and finally went dark for seemingly forever while the unknown battered our house. We got up to peep out the windows with flashlights to see how the trees were holding up when loud crashing was heard. I took a look out the back door to see what was left standing.
Was it going to get worse? Were we going to survive? What kind of damage was in store at the light of day if we were going to make it?
The fear of the unknown is terrifying. Unlike the quick and devastating tornados of Kansas and Oklahoma, the hurricane is spotted two weeks away and estimates that it will head toward you are played up and tracked on television without hesitation. The calls to be prepared go out and people scramble ensues to stock food, water, gas, clothing, medicine, etc. No one knows how, if, or when they will be affected. It becomes an inevitability at about three-quarters of the way and the last few days and hours are mind-numbing, nerve-wracking, and full of doubt, suspicion, with bouts of irrationality, and finally acceptance of possible injury or death, damage to precious household, and days of misery to follow.
At this time, at 8:23 AM on Tuesday the third of September, the hurricane's eye is degrading, it is hardly moving but predicted to start its northward trek, it is still at 120 MPH, it has barely moved away from the Bahamas, rain is falling here and coastal communities on barrier islands from Florida to North Carolina have been ordered to evacuate.
The spaghetti models show the track of the storm unlikely to make a direct hit on the eastern coast of Florida, but the drums have not stopped beating as far as being vigilant and prepared for worst-case conditions. This will continue for at least another 4-6 days.
Compare the state of the storm above with earlier charts and see below the National Hurricane Center's prediction of its projected track.
UPDATE: 8:15 AM 9/4/2019 Wednesday morning, POP POP FIZZ FIZZ
I am not going to post another chart today. The weakened storm is directly east of us close to Cape Canaveral. We went to sleep last night with a bit of anxiety but I slept through most of the night. My wife watched the updates. This morning it is overcast but brightening and we have a breeze to 20 mph gusts. This is over for us here in Central Florida. There has been some beach erosion but not anything devastating reported to date. Jacksonville may get a surge on top of their high tide. Georgia and the Carolinas will be spared any hurricane-force winds.
It is over. We are relieved. Many have mixed emotions about the ordeal. Despite the Monday morning quarterbacking, millions have been spared and billions in damage averted.
We are fortunate and I guess I will hang around Central Florida a few more years, although the heat and humidity continue to drive me crazy!
Yesterday morning, this beautiful native plant (maybe someone could identify it?) had bloomed in the early rays of morning light. It was an omen.
There were probably more fatalities in this event (in Florida at least) preparing and worrying about the storm than for any who incurred actual physical harm from the storm itself. We pray for these souls and their relatives, and also for the many who are suffering in the Bahamas.
It is probably a little early writing these last few paragraphs and I may continue to edit them. I will not follow the route of sputtering Dorian up the eastern seaboard, leaving that for someone else on 24 hr. caffeine to track. This Cecil B. Demille event brought on extreme cases of H.D.S. -- Hurricane Derangement Syndrome -- for many in the wake of a storm that was estimated to hit Florida in a cataclysmic force. This was foretold just as the storm reached CAT 1. All government and private disaster relief agencies exerted a perfect response with timely resources staged in case the worst occurred.
In pondering about all this I think about the story of Peter and the Wolf. If we really weren't that careful, watchful, and prepared, who would have known the disaster that would ensue if the storm had taken a direct hit and meandered up the middle of the state? Sure, there was a bit of bloviating by the weather media and many advertising dollars were gained. The cameo performances of the cast from Weather, Inc. were at times obviously staged. The unrelenting repetition of wind speed, water temperature, movement, the changing spaghetti charts, and on-site reporting and finally showing almost normal conditions at the end was... instructive, amusing, and had a tinge of snake oil to it.
In the end, we "dodged the bullet all the while hunkered down"
I also recall the story of Dorian Gray, a socialite who had a painting of himself as a dandy and subsequently led a life of debauchery, while the painting reflected the debasement of his soul. Someone will surely find a connection here...
In the meantime, we are all breathlessly waiting and on the lookout for the Son of Dorian...
see below an ingenious solution for houses built in hurricane zones, by Rod Dent