Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Hurricane Nooze

Turns out the best place to get "news" is from source data.

It is hurricane season again, and we are near Ketchum, Idaho.   It is an interesting place, sort of like Whistler, BC - a ski resort town with lots of boutiques and sports equipment shops, expensive restaurants, and boutique grocery stores.   Like Whistler, it is not a "real" town, but an artificial construct designed for the tourist business.   We didn't stay long.

Fortunately, since we are in Idaho, we don't have to evacuate from Jekyll Island.   A hurricane is once again threatening the island, but once again, the Gulf stream and the shape of Georgia (which bends inland) might protect us.  While parts of Florida and the entire South Carolina coast are under a Hurricane warning, the Georgia coast is left with only a tropical storm warning and hurricane watch.

All of this information is available from NOAA.gov, free of charge, updated several times a day.   But what about the news, you say?

Nothing could be more worthless.   We click on news stories about the hurricane, and they could have been written years ago.  Breathless talk about lines at Home Depot for plywood. Interviews with people filling sandbags at a free government sandbag dispensary.  In one story, they show two young women in a Toyota Corolla, filling sandbags.  Even assuming you could fill the trunk of that car with sandbags without breaking the springs, what on earth are you going to do with three or four sandbags, anyway?   What is this going to save?

And moreover, if you live in Florida, you should be prepared for hurricanes every year.  It is not a once-in-a-lifetime thing.   What do people do with all this plywood after the storm is over, throw it away?   If you live there, you should have these things ready at all times.  Mark's grandfather cut pieces of plywood to put over the windows of their bungalow on Ft. Meyers Beach.   Every year, he would put them up when he left, and take them down when he came back for the winter.   They stacked into a rack in the garage that he made for that purpose.  Every other year, he painted these with leftover house paint.

He set this up in the 1950's, and these pieces of plywood survived three generations of family. No running off to Home Depot every year to buy new pieces. They were still there when the house was bulldozed.

Of course, the other alternative is to buy roll-up storm shutters that attach permanently to your home, or shell out the money for hurricane-proof windows.   But no one seems to do this - at least not the people they interview on television.

Television and the media is all about telling you half what you want to know, so you come back to the well, again and again, hoping for more information, but never getting more than tidbits of real data, interspersed with "man on the street" interviews with people waiting in line for gas, plywood, sand bags, ice, or bread.   Cut away to the boarded-up 7-11 with "Hurricane [insert name here] go away!" spray-painted on the virgin plywood.  Much chuckles, much chuckles.   Back to you in the studio, Ted!

Of course, with the Internet, we can go to live webcams, and see what is actually going on, on the ground.  And often, what I see is less alarming than the news suggests.  Despite a "mandatory evacuation", there are cars and people milling about on nearby St. Simons island.   I'm not saying you shouldn't evacuate, of course.  It is just the storm has yet to hit.   When it does, we will check those cameras again.

There are other sources of data, including the local tide charts.   If the hurricane is scheduled to go through your area (or merely pass by) during high tide, you may be in for a world of woe.  At low tide, you may dodge a bullet.   It looks like, so far, that we may have low tide when the hurricane is scheduled to pass by.

But I guess that is the point - there really isn't any good information you can get, other than the computer models from NOAA, unless you have a direct line to God.  So the local "nooze" has nothing to report, other than a reporter "on the scene" in a slicker, acting as if he is going to be blow away any moment - or the "human interest" story of waiting in line for ice.  There is no point in being glued to the weather channel during a hurricane - you won't learn a damn thing!

This is not to say the news overblows things (no, never that!) only that it often presents data that is irrelevant or useless.  I recounted before how my neighbors, after a hurricane, got in line for ice in Miami, when the radio said ice was available for free.   Four hours later, they came back with a half-melted bag of ice they really didn't need.   But the radio said!   So they went.  People need normative cues, even in a hurricane, as to how to behave.

As I noted before, the worst part of a storm like this is going back.   Some jackass Sheriff on a power trip will not let anyone back on the island until electricity is restored.  "It's not safe to live there without power!"   Oh, how did our ancestors ever survive?   Fortunately, if you show up with a brand-new camper with filled water tanks, they might let you in, as they realize you are self-supporting.  They also claim they want to stop "looters" but I doubt many residents on Old People Island will engage in looting.

My only fear is that we will be forced to wait for days and days while mold and mildew set in, if there is indeed flooding.   And with flooding, an inch of water inside your house is almost as bad as three feet.  Either way, you've got to tear out a lot of sheetrock and start over, lest you end up with a mildew nightmare on your hands.

We keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.  A hurricane hasn't washed over the island in over 100 years.   Maybe it won't happen again - or we are overdue!

And if it does occur, we'll find out how good our insurance really is....