Thursday, September 5, 2019

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Hurricane Dorian Aftermath

It’s not over yet — there will be storm surges and evacuations along the Eastern Seaboard — but the danger to Florida has mostly passed.

Sad to say, but on top of the horrendous devastation that has hit the Bahamas, the scammers will be out in force with slick appeals to your heart strings, but aimed at your wallet.  If you want to lend a hand, go to Charity Navigator’s guide to Hurricane Dorian and find the organization that you feel can help.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Hurricane Dorian

Click here for the latest conditions.

2:40 PM EDT: Dorian is now moving northward, further out to sea, reducing the risk to the mainland by a little.  But watches and warnings are still posted, so stay tuned.

10:00 AM EDT: The storm seems to be weakening a bit.  The eye is diminishing and it is starting to move north.

6:24 AM: Dorian has been stationary for almost 24 hours over the northwest islands of the Bahamas.  It’s now a Category 3 and is expected to finally start moving north later today.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Hurricane Dorian

Click here for the latest conditions.

6:30 PM EDT: We’re getting the first real band of the wind and rain coming through south Miami-Dade County.  We’ve had a few weak ones before, but this is more like what we’ll be getting from now on.

4:00 AM EDT: The forecast track has the center of the storm off the coast of the mainland but sending wind and rain ashore.  Watches and warnings are going up from north of Fort Lauderdale to North Carolina.  It has already done massive destruction to some islands in the Bahamas.

Hurricane Spotting

Just so you know: look at the map below. If you drew a straight line from Miami to Homestead, my house is approximately halfway along that line. So we are in the clear as far as hurricane force winds are concerned and we’re not being told to evacuate. The tell is that the latitude of the eye is north of us.  You’re usually safe when that happens.

We’re still expecting wind and rain, but nothing like what they’re expecting 100 miles north of us.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Hurricane Dorian

Click here for the current conditions.

4:00 PM EDT: The storm has made landfall in the Bahamas with 185 mph winds.

11:00 AM EDT: The track remains off-shore, but the circles are what matter.  Anywhere within them could be hit.

8:00 AM EDT: It’s now a Category 5 and bearing down on the Bahamas with forecasts of 15-20 storm surges.  Tropical storm watches and warnings are going up along the Florida coast from northern Miami-Dade County all the way up to the Carolinas.

Sunday Reading

The Urgency of the 2020 Senate — Amy Davidson Sorkin in The New Yorker.

This summer, a Dallas Morning News poll asked Texas Democrats to pick their favorite from a list of declared candidates for the 2020 U.S. Senate race. The winner was: “Someone else.” This shadowy figure, who garnered nineteen per cent of the vote—almost twice that of the next nearest contender—was easily recognizable: he has the tall, lanky profile of former congressman Beto O’Rourke, of El Paso. About half of those polled said that O’Rourke should drop his Presidential bid and take on the Republican senator John Cornyn, whose approval rating is in the thirties. (Even Ted Cruz, whom O’Rourke almost defeated last year, does better than that.) “Beto, if you’re listening: Come home,” the Houston Chronicle said in an editorial after the poll was released. “Texas needs you.” He heard, but said that he would not run for the Senate “in any scenario.”

For many Democrats, that was a disappointing reply. Even if Donald Trump is defeated, the Democrats will need to pick up three Senate seats in order to gain control of the chamber and have a reasonable chance of turning their ambitious plans into legislative reality. If Trump wins, the crucial net gain will be four. (The Vice-President gets to break any tie; there would be an added complication should either Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders beat Trump—the Republican governor of the winner’s state would name an interim senator until a special election could be held.)

The urgency cannot be overstated. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer are both in their eighties; whether Trump has an unimpeded choice to replace one or both of them, potentially remaking the Court in his Constitution-defying image, could come down to a couple of seats. It’s not going to be so easy to get them. Republicans have to defend twenty-three of the thirty-five Senate seats on the ballot next year, but most of them are in deep-red states.

There are openings for the Democrats. One has already been taken: two weeks ago, in Colorado, the former governor John Hickenlooper abandoned his Presidential campaign, and he will now run against Senator Cory Gardner, instantly turning what had been a likely Republican win into a possible Democratic one. In Georgia, an increasingly purple state, there are now two Republican seats up for grabs. David Perdue, who is a cousin of Sonny Perdue, Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture, is running for reëlection, and Johnny Isakson announced last week that he would step down at the end of this year for health reasons. There is a Democrat who could be a formidable contender for either seat: Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, who narrowly lost a highly contested governor’s race last year. Abrams has said that she is not interested, even though, as in Texas, no other candidate commands the field. She intends to stay focussed on her voting-rights work, but she did say that she would “be honored” to be considered as the Democrats’ Vice-Presidential candidate.

In Arizona, Mark Kelly, a former Navy combat pilot and astronaut, is running against Senator Martha McSally, who lost last year to the Democrat Kyrsten Sinema but was appointed by the Republican governor to fill John McCain’s seat after his death. Kelly is the husband of the former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously wounded eight years ago in a mass shooting at an event with her constituents in Tucson, which left six people dead. Since then, Giffords and Kelly have become tireless advocates for gun control. He is a well-known figure with a strong message in a state that seems ready to hear it.

But the Democrats have their own vulnerabilities. Doug Jones won in a special election in Alabama last year against Judge Roy Moore, a far-right extremist who was accused of sexual misconduct with teen-age girls. (Moore has denied the allegations.) Jones must now defend that seat in a state where Trump’s approval rating is above sixty per cent. Unless Moore gets the Republican nomination again—and he’s trying—Jones may have a short Senate career. In Michigan, the junior Democratic senator, Gary Peters, is facing a strong challenger in John James, an Iraq War veteran and a businessman, who, if elected, would be one of only two African-American Republicans in the Senate. In these states—and in others that may be in play, such as Iowa, Maine, and North Carolina—the essential message is the same: the candidates matter.

There is no imperative, at this point, for every low-polling Presidential contender to drop out of the race. Andrew Yang, for example, is using his candidacy to spur a conversation about universal basic income. And he is from New York, which has no Senate race next year. But, if there’s a chance to take a seat, why not try? Governor Steve Bullock, of Montana, has been asked that question many times, because he could have a Hickenlooper-like effect on the Senate race in his home state. His answers boil down to this: the Senate is a miserable place, ill-suited for anyone who wants to “get things done.” The chamber has done much to earn that reputation, particularly under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Yet the present morass only underscores how important it is to elect better senators. (The Senate is also a place where Montana, with a population of one million, has the same representation as California, with forty million—something that might at least inspire Bullock.)

Even O’Rourke, for whom, just last year, being a senator was something of a dream job, said that running for the same office now “would not be good enough for El Paso and it would not be good enough for this country.” He made that comment soon after a mass shooting in El Paso, in which the gunman targeted what he called a “Hispanic invasion.” On a human level, it’s understandable that O’Rourke would want to directly take on Trump and his bigotry; on a political level, though, the logic is less clear. When Senator Kirsten Gillibrand left the Presidential race, last week, she said, “It’s important to know when it’s not your time, and to know how you can best serve your community and country.”

There are many fronts on which the battle against Trumpism can be fought. More broadly, too much is lost if legislative politics, as practiced in Washington, is simply scorned. The Senate can be a safety net for our democracy, and, at the moment, it needs saving. Someone has to do it.

Hurricanes Unite Us — Cynthia Barnett in The Atlantic.

The Louisiana writer Walker Percy got a lift from approaching hurricanes. The need to jump into action is so exhilarating that people forget their malaise and despair.

Will Barrett, the passive, autobiographical southerner in Percy’s 1966 novel, The Last Gentleman, had the impression that “not just he but other people felt better in hurricanes.” Even amid the eye, “everything was yellow and still and charged up with value.” A hurricane, Barrett thought, blew away life’s “sad, noxious particles.”

Percy captured a truth that is all but taboo in the fearsome path of a major storm like Hurricane Dorian. The days leading up to a hurricane bring a physical and emotional buzz. Sense of purpose rises as barometric pressure falls. Hurricane preparations fill some of the cracks in our fractured world, awakening a sense of belonging to a ragged and reluctant tribe that is nevertheless galvanized to deal with an emergency.

We talk with the neighbors we haven’t seen since Christmas. We share grim jokes with strangers in the gas line. Relatives we haven’t heard from in a while call, email, and text to check in, and we actually answer. Passive personalities like Barrett feel they have to become decisive

People also pay relentless attention to things they usually ignore—say, public-service announcements and the science of the atmosphere. The Dorian models now transfixing millions of Americans are generated by many of the same research organizations, such as the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that model climate change and the devastating track of warming.

Those climate models are in far closer agreement than the spaghetti strands that loop on weather maps a week out from a hurricane’s arrival. Here are just a few things they project in the latest worldwide analysis of hurricane and climate data published in the journal of the American Meteorological Society: Human-caused warming will likely worsen storm inundation because of sea-level rise. Human-caused warming will likely heighten the overall intensity of tropical storms around the world. Human-caused warming will likely increase the rainfall unleashed in such storms—on the order of 10 to 15 percent. Human-caused warming will likely increase the proportion of hurricanes that reach the most destructive levels, Category 4 and 5.

Public manipulation by the fossil-fuel industry has crippled action on those and other life-threatening projections. But we know we’d be fools to ignore the computer models urging us to prepare for the major hurricane on its way. I find hope in the extraordinary mobilization out front of Dorian, in the human charge that Percy felt from his home north of Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain. Our instinct to do what’s best for the human tribe, or at least for ourselves, will finally overcome the small cabal of special interests keeping us to the dangerous path of the status quo.

Desmond Meade, who spearheaded last year’s ballot initiative to restore voting rights to more than 1.4 million Floridians with past felony convictions, talked about hurricanes as he accepted the award for Florida Citizen of the Year from the University of Florida’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service in May. Amendment 4 was another extraordinary mobilization, crossing political and class boundaries. The effort reminded Meade of the communal energy sparked by storms. Counterintuitive though it may sound, he said that over a lifetime in Florida, some of the “brightest times” he remembered happened surrounding hurricanes.

“That’s when people just come together to engage with their neighbors,” Meade said.

Then he told the story of the heavyweight fighter Derrick Lewis of Houston, who drove around in his pickup truck following Hurricane Harvey, rescuing more than 100 stranded souls. One of them had nothing but the clothes on his back and a Confederate flag.

“That African American gentleman was able to look beyond that and just see another human being,” Meade said. “When you’re in an emergency situation, the first question is not going to be: ‘Did you vote for Donald Trump?’ It’s going to be: ‘Are you okay? How can I help?’”

Doonesbury — A detailed budget.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Hurricane Dorian

Here’s the latest update:

8:00 PM EDT: Pretty much the same as at 5:00 PM.  And I think we have dodged the bullet at least as far as a direct hit is concerned.  Good night and good luck.

5:00 PM EDT: Now it looks as if Dorian will not make landfall at all.  But that doesn’t mean there won’t be damaging winds and heavy rain.

2:00 PM EDT: Not much change since this morning.

11:00 AM EDT: With each update, the track looks more and more like Florida may be in the clear… or at least not as devastating as an actual landfall.

8:00 AM EDT: Not much change in the last three hours.

5:00 AM EDT: The forecast track has the storm making the turn north before striking land in Florida.  Palmetto Bay is now out of the cone, but we should still expect wind and rain as the storm passes.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Hurricane Dorian

Here’s the latest.

8:00 PM EDT: Tracking more north.

5:00 PM EDT:  The forecast track has Dorian moving a bit to the north towards Melbourne, making landfall on Tuesday as a Category 4.

2:00 PM EDT: It’s now a Category 3 thanks to the warm open waters east of the Bahamas.  Still no big change in the forecast track.

11:00 AM EDT: Palmetto Bay is 17 miles south of Miami.  It is on the south edge of the 8 AM Monday and 8 AM Wednesday circle, so Tuesday looks like the day we’ll get hit, assuming Dorian follows the track.  But that’s why it’s called the Cone of Uncertainty.

8:00 AM EDT: Not much different than earlier today, still tracking north of Miami-Dade County (and Palmetto Bay).  The left side — in this case the south side — is usually weaker than the right side.  But that’s not to say it will not contain damaging winds and torrential rain.

5:00 AM EDT: The models are showing a slight bend to the south, but still tracking north of Miami-Dade County.  It’s also slowing, which means that it could gain strength over the warm waters and hit the coast as a Category 4.  Word on social media is that stores from Homestead to Jacksonville have been busy and there are long lines for gas.  (The Pontiac has a full tank and the Mustang 3/4 of a tank.)

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Hurricane Dorian

5:15 AM EDT: The forecast track is basically the same as yesterday afternoon, but now it is predicted to become a hurricane and a Category 2 by the time it makes landfall along the central coast of Florida.  Residents in that part of the state should get ready.  Puerto Rico is already in the path and is bracing for it.


7:00 PM EDT: Forecast now shows Dorian making landfall on Monday as a Category 2 along the Space Coast of Florida (Cape Canaveral).

3:00 PM EDT: Now it’s a hurricane.  Miami-Dade County is on the edge of the cone and the weak side, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be significant wind and rain in the area.  Cape Canaveral is in the center of the cone, but it covers from the upper Keys to Hilton Head, South Carolina, and as we’ve learned with many storms in the past, they can go anywhere.

10:00 AM EDT: This map has Dorian becoming a Category 3 by Monday morning.

4:00 AM EDT

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Friday, September 14, 2018

Hurricane Florence Update

Here’s the latest (as of 3:00 AM EDT) from Weather Underground:

Hurricane Florence ground its way along the southern coast of North Carolina on Thursday night, delivering torrential rains, high winds, and an already-dangerous storm surge. As of 11 pm EDT, Florence was about 60 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, drifting northwest at 6 mph with top sustained winds of 90 mph. Although Florence had become a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale, it remained a Category 5 heavy rain and inland flooding threat, and a Category 3 storm surge threat.

Radar data from the Morehead City, NC radar showed Florence’s outer spiral bands twirling across much of southern and eastern North Carolina on Thursday night. Atlantic Beach, just south of Morehead City, recorded 12.73″ through mid-evening Thursday, noted weather.com, and the preliminary total was nearing 18″ by midnight. Several Personal Weather Stations on the coast near Morehead City reported 5 – 10 inches of rain by 6 pm EDT Thursday, but later went silent.

Some of the highest winds with Florence were produced by a secondary ring of thunderstorms encircling the storm’s main eye. That ring of intense convection lay parallel to the coast on Thursday afternoon, slowly translating inland and dumping huge amounts of rain. A flight-level wind of 117 mph was reported by hurricane hunters Thursday night in this outer band. Surface winds gusted to 106 mph at Cape Lookout and 105 mph at Fort Macon late Thursday.

It’s not the wind so much as it is the volume of rain that will be the biggest danger.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Hurricane Florence Update

Here’s the latest from Weather Underground.

Hurricane Florence’s peak winds have fallen to Category 3 strength, but the storm remains a catastrophic rainfall threat and significant storm surge and wind threat to the Southeast U.S. Florence is expected to stall on Friday and move slowly west-southwestward along or just inland of the coast for several days, bringing a catastrophic rainfall well inland, and a destructive storm surge and wind event along a considerable swath of the North and South Carolina coasts.

The Hurricane Hunters and microwave satellite imagery this afternoon found that Florence was not able to recover from this morning’s eyewall replacement cycle (ERC). During this phenomenon, common in intense hurricanes, the eye shrinks to such a small diameter that the eyewall becomes unstable and collapses. The hurricane then creates a new larger-diameter eyewall out of a spiral band. During this process, the peak winds typically fall by 10 – 15 mph, and the central pressure can rise 10 – 15 mb. Florence was never able to rebuild its inner core after this morning’s ERC, though, and data from the Hurricane Hunters and satellites have shown large gaps in the eyewall this afternoon.

As a result, Florence has not been able to concentrate a major portion of its wind energy into an intense eyewall, and the hurricane’s wind energy has spread out over a larger area. This will reduce the potential wind damage from the storm at landfall, but will allow a larger storm surge to build. At 5 pm EDT Wednesday, Florence’s tropical storm-force winds had expanded, and extended out up to 195 miles from the center; hurricane-force winds extended out up to 70 miles. For comparison, at landfall, Hurricane Katrina’s tropical storm-force and hurricane-force winds extended out up to 230 miles and 125 miles from the center, respectively.

It’s big and slow-moving.  Those are two qualities you do not want in a hurricane.  To put it in perspective, if the eye of the storm was over Miami, they’d be feeling hurricane-force winds as far away as Palm Beach to the north and Marathon in the Keys to the south, and the storm effects would be knocking over things in Orlando.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence is getting closer and is expected to hit land later today.  If you are in the path or even within the cone of possibility, get prepared or get out now.  And if they tell you to go, go.

Some words of advice from someone who went through Hurricane Irma a year ago: take pictures of every room in the house from as many angles as possible, including the kitchen cabinets, the dining room breakfront where your grandmother’s wedding china is stored, the closets, the bathrooms; everywhere.

If you evacuate, let your friends and family outside the area know where you are, and stay away until the authorities say it’s safe to return.  They can arrest you if you violate their orders, and they’ll be doing you a favor if they keep you away.

If you hunker down and stay, have enough supplies for at least a week of living without power or water.  Canned goods, bottled water, medicines, pet supplies, emergency goods such as first aid, and toilet paper are on the top of the list, but so are spare batteries and reading material.

If you have hurricane shutters, make sure they’re securely fastened; they can come loose and become dangerous missiles in the wind.  Don’t waste battery time on your radio or phone by keeping it on when the power goes out.  Turn them on to catch regular bulletins — most radio or TV stations will update on the hour or half-hour, but unless there’s a bulletin, they’ll be just nattering to fill the time.  As for your cell phone, if you still have service, turn it to low-power if you have the setting to save the battery.  If you have a generator, use it to power essentials such as a refrigerator, battery charger, or medical devices; you can live without A/C.

Once the storm passes, check your house and your area, but wear shoes and long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.  The debris can be very dangerous, and above all, stay the hell away from any power lines, even phone lines.  Take pictures of the damage; you’ll need them to file insurance claims if you have coverage.  And for dog’s sake, don’t go out and “explore” just to see what’s happened; keep off the road so emergency and recovery crews can get around.

Finally, and this is most important: you’ve been through a natural disaster and it will take a toll on you mentally as well as physically.  If there’s a lot of damage and loss to your property or personal effects, it will cause anguish.  Don’t be afraid or act too butch to reach out for help from friends and even professionals to cope with the loss.  And if you’re lucky enough to get by with minimal damage, as I was with Irma, remember that you’ll still need time to recover.

Stay safe.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Friday, December 1, 2017

Short Takes

Argentina ends search for missing submarine.

Outrage grows in Britain over Trump’s retweets.

GOP holdouts cave on tax bill.

Bette Midler vs. Geraldo Rivera over his defense of Matt Lauer.

R.I.P. Jim Nabors, 87, portrayed Gomer Pyle on TV.

Hurricane season is officially over, and not a minute too soon.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Monday, October 30, 2017