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I am amazed by the number of people who think that a perfectly acceptable response to an emergency is disruptive, individual flight. I can think of a number of positive responses to emergencies, but this is an entirely negative one. Roads jammed with uncoordinated traffic
and hotels overwhelmed in the absence of coordination; people
struggling alone to cope with traumatic decisions — what a gray joke.
A few positive alternatives:
And this business of stores and people ‘running out’ of key supplies in
the run-up to every disaster gets old fast. In the first place,
each neighborhood should maintain a decent supply of these
staples. In the second, if Wal*Mart can figure out how to alert
their suppliers to up production every time there’s a sale, surely
cities can find a way to alert the usual suspects every time there’s an
In 1870, Indianola, Texas
was growing rapidly; a coastal town with 5,000 inhabitants. Then
in 1975 it suffered the first of two massive storms, killing hundreds
and flattening the city. It was rebuilt; but a second storm in
1886 caused residents to give it up altogether. Today, thanks to
storm erosion, most of the original city is underwater.
In 1900, Galveston
had enjoyed even greater growth without disaster. It had a
population of 42,000. The city had worried about facing the same
fate as Indianola, but as decades passed without any serious storms at
all, some experts (including then-director of the Galveston Weather Bureau, Isaac Cline) suggested that hurricanes “could not” hit Galveston, for one reason or another.
That fall, an unnamed hurricane swept through town, killing around
8,000 people and flattening the city. There were communication
problems back then… bridges and telegraph lines were cut, making it
hard to send messages to the mainland. Once messengers did
arrive, they had a great deal of bureaucracy to negotiate, despite the
When rescuers arrived, they found thousands dead, instead.
Funeral pyres were set up all around the city, and burned for
Since then, over the following century, the city has built up a 17-foot
high seawall, and raised the city some 4-5 meters with dredged
sand. The seawall itself has become a tourist attraction, and
hotels and other tourist sites have been built along its length…
buildings along the main Galveston Strand are marked to indicate they
survived the hurricane. So far, this has sufficed…
The pending storm produced by Hurricane Rita
boasts sea surges of over 30 feet (some have suggested 50), making the
seawall seem rather slender protection. Galveston has built out
towards the water, not back away from it; and the whole city has fled
before the potential disaster.
If history is any indicator, it will take another storm of similar size to change anyone’s habitation habits. But perhaps architects and developers will learn to be more respectful to nature in laying out groundplans and designing seaside retreats.
Hurricane Rita is apporaching the Gulf Coast, and will hit land somewhere between Texas’s Corpus Christi and New Orleans.
Galveston, one of the country’s largest ports (New Orleans was the
largest), is the most vulnerable target, despite its protections
against normal storms. Parts of Houston are also at risk, and the
early evacuation of Houston has lead to much of the clogging of roads
in southeast Texas.
The GFDL (an acronym for “Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory“),
is one of the key modern hurricane path-predicting models. It is
a “limited-area baroclinic” model developed specifically for hurricane
prediction, including convective, radiative
and boundary layer parameterizations. It makes special allowance
initializing the storm circulation.
GFDL is a ‘late‘ model, meaning that it is run with hard data, and not
with interpolations from earlier data… as of 10pm last night, the GFDL had Rita passing through central Houston and veering west once it comes level with Fort Worth.
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