Every Once In Awhile
Something Just Reaches Out and Hits Your Hot Button
You might ask why an ole guy sitting on a sunny beach in SoCal on this beautiful Labor Day would be so intensely interested in this particular post? Well, here's a couple of really good reasons.
First and most important reason: My oldest daughter, her husband and 3 of their 4 kiddies (one is away at college in Northern Arizona far out of harms way) just moved from Austin to Surfside Beach just a few miles South of Myrtle Beach. Her husband was recently transferred there for his job. Their kids had just enrolled in school last week and my Granddaughter played in her very first soccer game on her brand new team.
My daughter received all her furniture and 45 big boxes of belongings. She made a mad dash to empty all her boxes and position her furnishings only to be told that they may have to prepare for evacuation. Fortunately she had not thrown her boxes away. So when I called to check in on her and asked her if she was "packin or unpackin" she failed to see any humor in that comment.
The kids hardly had a chance to make friends when the school district informed them that schools would be closed until they are sure their community is out of harms way which may not be until later in the week or possibly even next week depending on where Dorian decides to go.
And now to add literally even more insult to INJURY my son-in-law had a fall out of the shower and onto the commode cracking and breaking 3 of his ribs. So his ability to contribute much in the evacuation process if it comes to that has been drastically reduced if at all. Boy when it rains it can pour.
Second reason: In 2004 when hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne ravaged Florida my company, ON THE LEVEL General Contractors Inc, was recruited by FEMA to gear up and hit the road to help out just after Hurricane Charley reared his ugly head and wiped out much of Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte clear across the State through part of Orlando and out to the Atlantic.
My crews and I had to drive trucks and equipment from Cali to Florida and when traveling down I-75 from the panhandle all the way to Punta Gorda all I saw was devastation. From the thousands of snapped pines and telephone poles to parts of manufactured and mobilhome roofs and siding sat parked in tree tops 70+ feet in the sky to the back half of a fishing boat with the outboard motor still hanging on the back that was wedged between to large branches. As we drove by we observed that the entire front end of the boad was missing. Truly a creepy experience.
But before I geared up and made the trek I had to fly back to take a one day crash course and then pass a test for my contractors license. Thank goodness I had been through that process many times for many licenses over the years and was issued my contractors license and was able to move forward.
Immediately after passing my test I hit the road up I-95 to Tennessee to line up my material and equipment supplies from one of my purveyors. It was at the exact time that Frances was rearing her ugly head and working her way upstate. I was literally just miles ahead and could see nothing but black skies in my rear view mirror. That went on for hours of straight and flat driving up that long freeway until I hit Georgia.
While I was heading North there was as much traffic heading South. However, they were not passenger cars or motor homes pulling fishing boats. They were all heading the same way I was. There were literally hundreds of first responders i.e. tree and debris removal services, utility company transportation equipment, emergency vehicles from States as far away as Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, etc. It was truly a very unsettling and riveting experience to say the least.
The point of all of this is that having been a disaster response contractor for the past 30 years and having been involved in cleaning and repairing in the aftermath of just about every type of disaster there is from hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, flood and earthquakes I can truly say that nothing I've ever seen has been as devastating as the aftermath of a Cat 3+ hurricane.
The moral of this story? This is nothing to mess around with. For all you partiers who love adrenalin rushes and putting you lives at risk just know that when the rubber meets the road there are those who are dedicated to the obligation and responsibility of coming to your rescue. And many of you will be the first to complain and even file lawsuits against those who may save your lives. So please take heed and do the right thing. Get the HELL out of DODGE!!
NOTE: THIS POST WILL BE UPDATED REGULARLY UNTIL OR IF DORIAN HITS FLORIDA. After that, the power will be out...
As I sit here Thursday morning at 10:08 AM, 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 banks of the storm winds should affect this area. The 'cone of certainty' is a sloppy 650 mile cover of Florida and parts of the state north of us. There is no way to accurately predict at this point the impact zone. Here is the 6 o'clock map:
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 1. 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. The neighborhood was full of debris, primarily from the heavy old oaks here. The ordeal left us dazed. And it was only a CAT 1. Those having to deal with a 2 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.
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 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... and changed the top graphic!
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.
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