Elaine Meinel Supkis
Matthew 7:26: 'And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand.' Tonight, Hurricane Ike is repeating history nearly exactly 100 years later than the great Hurricane of 1900. Galveston, instead of being returned to nature, was nearly totally rebuilt behind hopelessly low seawalls. For the oceans are rising thanks to global warming. As per usual, not all people evacuated extremely dangerous sand spit island communities. They may die tonight. It is all so very sad, in the end.
Here is Ike in Cuba:
The size of the waves clearly shows us, this is one powerful storm. Now, it is heading into Texas.
Hurricanes come in all sizes, from speedy little cyclones with small sharp teeth to giants that maw and pummel away at large swaths of earth for days. Ike is one of the latter -- a super-sized storm with winds howling over vast fetches of water, piling up massive storm surges like those now being seen in Texas.
Considering the vastly different dangers posed by these storms, it's natural to wonder just why some storms get so big while others stay small, despite having the same hurricane-force winds. Why, in other words, is Ike such a titan?
"This is actually a very important and unresolved question in the science right now," said senior scientist Chris Davis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. There are a few theories out there, he said, some of which look to the number of cloud clusters around a storm in its early days.
The dynamics of the hurricanes this year are quite different from 2005. We had the hottest recorded summer that year. Each hurricane, and there were many, would suddenly jump from smaller category 1 hurricanes to massive category 5 monsters. In the case of Rita and Wilma, this transformation took less than three hours! A record in speed of growth.
Hurricane Ike is not so dynamic in wind speed but has far, far more WATER than the 2005 hurricanes. In the past, we have seen such monster hurricanes. Looking at this radar shot below, we can see the huge rain band which is many miles wide and far vaster than the 2005 hurricanes which were much tighter and faster.
The sheer size of the active parts of this storm nearly fills the entire Gulf. The last time I saw one that was this wet was in the mid-1990's.
Hurricane Mitch was one of the deadliest and most powerful hurricanes on record in the Atlantic basin, with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph (290 km/h). The storm was the thirteenth tropical storm, ninth hurricane, and third major hurricane of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season. At the time, Hurricane Mitch was the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever observed in the month of October, though it has since been surpassed by Hurricane Wilma of the 2005 season. The hurricane also tied for the fourth most intense Atlantic hurricane in recorded history, but it has since dropped to seventh.
Mitch formed in the western Caribbean Sea on October 22, and after drifting through extremely favorable conditions, it rapidly strengthened to peak at Category 5 status, the highest possible rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. After drifting southwestward and weakening, the hurricane hit Honduras as a minimal hurricane. It drifted through Central America, reformed in the Bay of Campeche, and ultimately struck Florida as a strong tropical storm.
Due to its slow motion from October 29 to November 3, Hurricane Mitch dropped historic amounts of rainfall in Honduras and Nicaragua, with unofficial reports of up to 75 inches (1900 mm). Deaths due to catastrophic flooding made it the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane in history; nearly 11,000 people were killed with over 8,000 left missing by the end of 1998. The flooding caused extreme damage, estimated at over $5 billion (1998 USD, $6.5 billion 2008 USD).
37,000 may need to be rescued after Hurricane Ike
Texas already has asked for help, and the active-duty military has 42 search-and-rescue helicopters on standby, the official said.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard and Air Force were unable to rescue 22 people aboard a freighter adrift in the Gulf of Mexico because of weather, the two military branches said Friday.
"Weather on scene deteriorated to a point that made the rescue impossible," the Coast Guard said in a statement issued Friday. First Lt. Lauren Johnson, an Air Force spokeswoman, confirmed the report. Aircraft were used in the effort, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Coast Guard said.
Hurricane Mitch simply rained and rained as it staggered about the Gulf of Mexico. Like Ike, it left a trail of death and destruction. Floods and mudslides can and are very deadly. One interesting feature of all the 2005 hurricanes was how they ran out of moisture very rapidly. The drought that had hammered the entire southern tier of the USA was like a very dry sponge. Nearly all the rain was sucked out of the storms even when the storms were category 5 ones like Rita.
The high stratosphere volcanic ash this year seems to have dampened the heat considerably. But it also creates big, heavy raindrops and torrential downpours. I have had many such storms this summer, for example. Several inches of rain in less than an hour is not normal for the temperate zone where I live. Europe has had some very severe floods this year, floods that killed people. So we are now seeing this playing itself out with this year's hurricanes: these are wet, wet, wet storms. And the possible storm surge of over 22' is just amazing.
On top of all this, we are also at a full moon tonight. This increases the fury of the tidal flows. The hurricane is blowing ashore right when the full moon is causing the ocean to bulge towards the moon. This is why this particular hurricane has greater potency.
Thousands fled the island earlier in the day in private cars or on government-chartered buses, but a few diehards insisted they would stay in their homes. One was Denise Scurry, a 46-year-old pool hall employee who was sitting on a milk crate Thursday afternoon in downtown Galveston near her two-story home, reading “Thugs and the Women Who Love Them” and sipping brandy.
“It ain’t going to be nothing but wind and rain,” she said. “Everybody’s all excited about nothing.”
Larry Drosnes, who lives a half-mile from the beach, drove his black Ford Ranger to an elevated parking garage for safekeeping, and then returned to his house.
“The people that left are prudent, and those that are staying are reckless,” said Mr. Drosnes, 61, who has ridden out nearly every storm that has hit the island since 1948. “It’s pretty obvious which category I am in.”
Already we can see from videos made this afternoon, the entire island of Galveston is underwater already. Now, night has fallen and it is one dark, dark night. Time to go back to the past:
At the time of the 1900 storm the highest point in the city of Galveston was only 8.7 ft (2.7 m) above sea level. The hurricane had brought with it a storm surge of over 15 ft (4.6 m), which washed over the entire island. The surge knocked buildings off their foundations and the surf pounded them to pieces. Over 3,600 homes were destroyed and a wall of debris faced the ocean. The few buildings which survived, mostly solidly-built mansions and houses along the Strand District, are today maintained as tourist attractions.
The highest measured wind speed was 100 mph (160 km/h) just after 6 p.m., but the Weather Bureau’s anemometer was blown off the building shortly after that measurement was recorded. The eye passed over the city around 8 p.m. Maximum winds were estimated at 120 mph (190 km/h) at the time, though later estimates placed the hurricane at the higher Category 4 classification on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. The lowest recorded barometric pressure was 28.48 inHg (964.4 mbar), considered at the time to be so low as to be obviously in error. Modern estimates later placed the storm’s central pressure at 27.49 inHg (930.9 mbar), but this was subsequently adjusted to the storm's official lowest measured central pressure of 27.63 inHg (936 mbar).
This storm has only 110 mph winds which is still very, very dangerous. I have experienced such winds and it screams as it tears at everything. Unlike Rita and Wilma which were stronger wind storms, Ike is taking its time as it moves about. 3 hours of 130 mph are not as destructive as 10 hours of 110 mph wind. And if this is accompanied by a massive storm surge, that is extremely destructive. It baffles me, why people are allowed to build in obviously stupid places. Like right on top of huge fault lines that inevitably will blow out, massively like the San Andreas and all those other fault lines in California.
Sand spits are terrible places to build housing. If people insist on it, they should sign a social contract that forces them to fend for themselves when the inevitable storm comes along and wipes them out. If we set up systems to protect people doing immensely stupid things, they will do these stupid things over and over again.
All the housing facing the Gulf of Mexico was totally and completely pulverized. Most everyone in these houses, died or were injured. So, is it forbidden to build houses right along the ocean front right where this destruction happened in 1900?
Note how the entire width of the sand spit is squared off and developed! An army of very foolish people parked their homes right smack dab where all those people were swept away! And look at how narrow this sand spit is! Long Island's shoreline is equally unstable and dangerous. I used to live in Coney Island and watched the Atlantic Ocean relentlessly eating away the beaches there. One girlfriend of mine was woken up in a winter storm, hearing beams smashing down her front door that faced the ocean! The fire department had to carry her out of the top story window and it was very dangerous. She lost everything except for the clothes on her back and her two dogs.
Her house was over 100 years old and was built on the sand when the ocean waves were crashing a good 500 yards away. Over the years, erosion and the rising oceans due to global warming, ate up the beach until it was only 10 yards away. Now, the second block in of Sea Gate is being menaced by ocean storms.
This satellite photo clearly shows how utterly stupid Galveston is! Look at the large bodies of water on the landward side of Galveston! This is no towering spit of land with beaches! This is not Long Island. This is a flat sand jetty that is incapable of coping with rising seas! Building sea walls is useless if the ocean simply goes AROUND them and submerges the island. Eventually, the raging seas will submerge this island totally just as the rising ocean is destroying all those small Pacific and Southeast Asian island communities.
Here is the list of the worst hurricanes of the last 100 years. Ike is already on this list. This, in a year which is cooler than the year that spawned three of the other giants on this list. Katrina, Rita and Wilma are still a dominating trio of old sea hags.
Our playgrounds and happy time places tend to be where disasters are most likely. Around volcanoes, on shores prone to tsunamis and hurricanes as well as the usual earthquakes. It is OK to play in such places. But to build permanent housing is a whole other matter.
I will note here that all the places swept by the Boxing Day Tsunami are back in business and filled with eager tourists! Go figure.