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June 1, 2006

Hurricane Season
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:40 PM * 52 comments

For those who are playing along at home, today is the first day of the Atlantic Hurricane Season.

Last year’s season, with New Orleans under water, was pretty spectacular. It was, in fact, the worst hurricane season in 154 years. What happened 154 years ago? Folks started keeping records.

The National Weather Service (on 22 May 2006) announced that the 2006 season would be more active than usual. The forecast for 2006 is for 13-16 named storms, including 8-10 hurricanes, of which 4-6 may be major hurricanes.

So, how are we prepared?

Bush is still President.

Michael Chertoff is still Secretary of Homeland Security.

Heckofajob Brownie isn’t the head of FEMA any more — an actual person, R. David Paulison, has taken over. The lineup behind him isn’t very strong (unqualified through proven incompetent is how I’d describe them) though.

The mid-term elections come after the end of hurricane season. Let’s see how Team Bush follows up their astounding performance a year ago.

Comments on Hurricane Season:
#1 ::: Darice Moore ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:22 PM:

This year, the local newspaper marked the opening of hurricane season with an article sternly telling us that we aren't to expect a lot of help, and that we will have to be sure to be able to take care of ourselves for at least 72 hours. From the governor (Jeb) on down, we are being told we can't just depend on government assistance.

(Not that some of us ever did. However, that still doesn't address what you do when you have no cash, no way of buying up the recommended supplies, no way of getting out of town, and a living place that could be swamped with water from above or below.)

#2 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:28 PM:

I'm waiting for Bush to promise government funding for Faith Based Storm Abatement measures.

What does he have left to lose?

#3 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:33 PM:

In case of emergency, eat the politicians first.

#4 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:47 PM:

Maybe Bush can declare a War On Bad Weather, and invade Venezuela.

#5 ::: Tuwa ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:51 PM:

Josh, do we have to wait for an emergency?

#6 ::: Writerious ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:54 PM:

And the Army Corps of Engineers recently reported the results of a study suggesting that maybe the levees weren't properly reinforced for a hurricane of that size.

Gee... ya think?

#7 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:59 PM:

How about a War On Bad Coffee and invade Japan?

#8 ::: robert west ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:03 AM:

Josh -- or just a war on coffee, the modern analog of the war on drugs. We could get Brazil and Indonesia that way ...

#9 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:13 AM:

If coffee is outlawed, only outlaws will be awake enough to function early in the morning.

#10 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:40 AM:

War on coffee? Argh! Italians and French persons would briefly riot, and then settle down for a nap in the streets ... actually, that might not be so terrible.

You can't just declare war on the most essential food group in the pyramid, for heaven's sake. What next? The war on decent sparkling red wine? The war on Extremely Dark Chocolate?

Declare war on fish. Bleah. Keep the nasty scaly (occasionally salty furry) things in the deep.

#11 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:48 AM:

"This year, the local newspaper marked the opening of hurricane season with an article sternly telling us that we aren't to expect a lot of help, and that we will have to be sure to be able to take care of ourselves for at least 72 hours. From the governor (Jeb) on down, we are being told we can't just depend on government assistance."

Truth in advertising, GOP version.

The Right has achieved its satori: the citizenry pays taxes, is told to expect no vital govt services in return, and the citizenry sighs and goes out to buy more candles.

If this was France, Jeb's mansion would already be in flames, and maybe that place his brother lives in, too.

#12 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:32 AM:

The Corps has now admitted that several of the new flood control levees around New Orleans have settled alarmingly, several feet in places, since they were built in the last few months. They claim they can fix them, but it will take several more months (and more money) to get it done.

As a civil engineer, I can only wonder how in h*ll the Corps can not get the settlement figured out when building a levee requires piling lots of soil (i.e. weight) on top of wet, soft soil that isn't used to holding up lots of weight. It's called soil consolidation, people! Look it up!

#13 ::: Joe Crow ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:56 AM:

The Right has achieved its satori: the citizenry pays taxes, is told to expect no vital govt services in return, and the citizenry sighs and goes out to buy more candles.

Well, at a certain point it becomes too expensive for any bandit group to maintain the facade of "governance" and they revert to their natural state of banditry. Among the first things to go are all those shiny social benefits that they use to keep the peasants comfortable. The last thing to go is their exclusive reservation of the use of violence. Hitting peasants and taking their money is what they're really about, at the core.

Now some members of the bandit group may have forgotten what they were really there for, or may never have realized what they were actually doing, and they get wierded out by the transition, and make noises about "abandoning our responsibilities" and suchlike. This usually results in the more practically minded bandits arranging for them to get it in the neck at the earliest convenient moment.

Question is whether the folks getting raided by the bandits will realize what's going on, or just recruit a new set of bandits to protect them from the old bandits.

And yeah, I do tend to conflate the mafia, Golden Triangle warlords and the US government. They're just different stages of the same social phenomenon.

This anarchist screed was brought to you by the letter A and the number 23.

#14 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 06:08 AM:

War on Coffee? Well, the republic began with a War on Tea, after all...

Again, the John Wyndham line from "The Kraken Wakes" (global warming and rising sea levels in the 1950s...)

"The government, meanwhile, belied its name by being unwilling to take measures to conserve even the lives of its citizens".

#15 ::: Valerie Emanuel ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 07:13 AM:

I have the honor of living in central Florida, and at this time of year my thoughts turn to . . . backing up my writing. I do this the easy, cheap way. I copy and paste it into an email, then send it to myself.

Soooo much easier to redo the formatting than to retype everything from a hard copy, especially when you'd have to retype an entire novel. And it gives me peace of mind should we be forced to evacuate.

I also keep my jewelry in a ziplock, but that's of much less value to me. :-)

#16 ::: Tom S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 08:49 AM:

Valerie: Why not just send your writing files as attachments instead of cutting and pasting? That way you could preserve everything, including formatting.

#17 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:39 AM:

Writerious: The levees around N'awlins were constructed to handle an F3 hurricane. Katrina was an F5 at one point, and hit the Gulf Coast at F4...

John: You must have missed yesterday's report that the ground in some areas of New Orleans is subsiding AN INCH A YEAR. The current levees were built based on a subsidance rate of ONE FIFTH OF AN INCH A YEAR.

"How high's the water, Mama?"

#18 ::: mike ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:55 AM:

Isn't R. David Paulison the gentleman that recommended we use duct tape and plastic to seal doors and windows in the event of a terrorist attack?

#19 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 10:16 AM:

Lori,

No, I saw that NO was sinking faster than expected. That is a separate issue from what I was reporting about. The levees the Corps has constructed are sitting on unstable soil (which they were apparently unaware of), and the weight of the levee caused it to settle several feet over the last few months. In engineering terms, that is a lot different from a gradual subsistence of an inch/year. The sudden settlement of several feet on a project under construction tells me someone didn't do their subsurface investigations properly, or the design of the levees did not take it into account.

Either way, we've got an incompetent agency charged with flood control. Maybe now something will be done about it.

#20 ::: Diana Rowland ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 10:17 AM:

We started putting our hurricane kits together this week. We have several "stages" of kits this year, after our experience of last year. The first is, of course, the basic emergency kit: flashlights, water, batteries, duct tape, first aid kit, blah blah blah. The second is the car kit which includes Things To Keep Two Year Old Entertained during endless driving, as well as diapers, finger food, satellite radio, etc. Third is for the crappy weeks after the storm when there is no power and no food and no gas and no way to buy any of the above: non-perishable food that actually tastes good (please, god, not another MRE!), tons of baby wipes, air mattresses and battery-operated fans for sleeping on the ground floor when it is 99 degrees outside, a few cases of crystal-lite "on the go" water flavoring because last year I got so sick of plain warm water I never wanted to see another bottle, clothesline and clothespins for drying the clothes we will have to wash in the bathtub, bugspray, and sunscreen.

We're also getting the chain saw serviced and ready to go, and putting all of our precious pictures and disks in one box to take during evacuation. A friend of mine lost everything but the slab of her house in Katrina (she's now living in my rental house in Slidell), and she told me that before she'd evacuated she had very carefully put all of her pictures into ziploc bags. Right now, in the swamp, there are several ziploc bags floating around containing the (irreplaceable) pictures of her children.

#21 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 10:25 AM:

John, pardon my language, but *Oh shit!* Several feet???!!! I agree that someone really screwed up.

Diana -- if you haven't done so, you might want to add one of the powdered forms of PedialyteTM (or one of its competitors) to the emergency kit.

#22 ::: toni ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 10:50 AM:

Diana, I didn't realize you were in New Orleans. I'm in Baton Rouge. I'd have been happy to take you and your family in.

John, not only is it incredulous, but they should have easily known better. When the builders of "Jazz Land" wanted to build the theme park, they had to drive very deep piles before they hit solid surface, and then they used those as a foundation. This was done a few years ago and was constantly in the news about the state of the sub-surface / soil in and around New Orleans. We're contractors (we do civil construction), and without even doing a test, we knew they needed to not rely on the soil. This is way beyond someone not doing their homework. This is negligence and pure stupidity.

#23 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:38 AM:

Elsenet, an acquaintance disappeared at the end of March.

A month later, people were starting to worry.

He turned up a week or so back. Some big storm had brought down power and telephone lines, and it taken that long to repair.

He hadn't had to eat the minstrels, but there was still much rejoicing.

It doesn't need a hurricane...

#24 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:11 PM:

Pedialyte (tm) is OK, but Pocari Sweat powder is nifty, high tech, and above all, so strange and Japanese that no one will steal it.

#25 ::: Diana Rowland ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:34 PM:

Lori--that's a great idea. Thanks.

Toni--that's a very sweet offer. :) Actually, we live on the northshore and suffered only minimal damage to our house so it was still livable. However, I work in law enforcement so I pretty much had to stick around afterwards (slogging through muck and sewage in search and recovery...ugh.) It was hardest on my then-fifteen-month-old daughter because of the heat. Basically, each day while I was off doing the search and recovery, as soon as it started to get really hot (y'know, like 8am) my husband would pack the baby into the car (since it had AC) and just drive, often to the other side of Baton Rouge (where gas was available.)

This year, the majority of our preparations take into account how to keep a toddler comfortable and occupied when there's no power. We even bought a power inverter and several Wiggles DVDs so that she can sit in the car and be occupied.

#26 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:36 PM:

Josh Jasper said: If coffee is outlawed, only outlaws will be awake enough to function early in the morning.

This made me shriek with laughter. I am *so* stealing it, and I don't even drink coffee.

--Mary Aileen

#27 ::: Darice Moore ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 01:01 PM:

The Right has achieved its satori: the citizenry pays taxes, is told to expect no vital govt services in return, and the citizenry sighs and goes out to buy more candles.

It gets better. In Florida, because insurance companies are not only refusing to insure new clients, but yanking insurance away from existing ones (that would be our family this year), we are all having to purchase...

...wait for it...

government-provided insurance. Citizens Insurance is, by the way, about four times more expensive than any other insurance policy. People who live close to the financial bone are often choosing to forgo insurance (if they own their homes outright), because it's either insure or eat.

Conservative socialism. It's the worst of both worlds.

#28 ::: cheem ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:04 PM:

It gets better. In Florida, because insurance companies are not only refusing to insure new clients, but yanking insurance away from existing ones (that would be our family this year), we are all having to purchase...

...wait for it...

government-provided insurance. Citizens Insurance is, by the way, about four times more expensive than any other insurance policy. People who live close to the financial bone are often choosing to forgo insurance (if they own their homes outright), because it's either insure or eat.

Well, you have to understand that an Insurance Company is all about the Company first... the whole Insurance thing is incidental.

It simply doesn't make sense from a business point of view to provide hurricane insurance in an area where there's a significant chance of there being a hurricane. It's like selling flood insurance to people who live on ten-year floodplains. Now, sell flood insurance to people living on hundred-year floodplains and you're making money. Maybe you should move to Ohio. I hear the hurricane insurance rates there are very reasonable.

As for the expensive government insurance, you have to understand that the government has to somehow support itself. Since it's completely unreasonable to tax the well-off (because, you see, they count and you poor plebs don't), they must make their money by "taxing" the worse off in the manner you just described. It's a win-win situation... if the poor buy the expensive insurance, then the tax cuts are financed. If they don't, then they go away after the hurricane and mansions can be built. Everybody who counts is happy!

#29 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:05 PM:

Wow. If businesses are getitng the same treatment. There's going to be a mass exodus of corporations from FL.

#30 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 06:35 PM:

"Well, at a certain point it becomes too expensive for any bandit group to maintain the facade of "governance" and they revert to their natural state of banditry. Among the first things to go are all those shiny social benefits that they use to keep the peasants comfortable. The last thing to go is their exclusive reservation of the use of violence. Hitting peasants and taking their money is what they're really about, at the core."

Um, are you describing Hamas or the Bush Administration? There seem to be an awful lot of similarities between the two when you put it that way.

#31 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 07:01 PM:

The big corporations will decide to self-insure - I heard a report on NPR recently about Walmart doing just that. The little ones will do what the originary people do, either suck it up and pay or "self-insure" by going without. Walmart can survive losing one or two stores out of hundreds, but the single store of Bob's Crawdad Emporium will just fold.

#32 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 08:14 PM:

About nonperishable food that tastes better than MREs - the Indian meals from "Tasty Bite" are a big, big part of my household's planning. They're good enough to replace most order-in meals. Also, you can order caseloads of them online.

Hey! Maybe all us little folks should start a nonprofit insurance company to cover all of us! We could call it "Government (Not United-States".

#33 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 08:34 PM:

clew, I think that's how Lloyds of London works. Individual underwriters pool their cash.

#34 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:30 PM:

Linkmeister,
that is almost exactly how Lloyds works. It's a confedaration of individual underwriters. Except that individual underwriters who write the policies get groups of stooges, er, investors called the Names to place at risk their entire fortune as backing for the insurance. No limited liability there!

Needless to say, when policies don't have to be paid, everybody is happy and makes good money. When things get sticky, a great number of people can be ruined in precisely the Dickensian/Austenian sense. There was a combination of a bad run of luck, dishonesty, and people on fixed incomes (!) buying into being Names during the 80's and 90's. Makes for interesting reading.

Its worth noting that Lloyd's was one of the only insurers who paid all claims on the 1909 San Fransisco Quake and Fire. Cuthbert Heath, then manager of Lloyd's*, cabled back to the San Francisco branch: "Pay all our policyholders in full irrespective of the terms of their policies."

-r.
*or maybe he just was the particular underwriter who held fire claims in the region. Not quite sure on that detail.

#35 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:34 PM:

Oh, I can't resist adding, from one of Lloyd's own pages:

And while itís comforting to think that such a situation [another SF quake] would be better handled today, the aid and clean-up operation for hurricane Katrina last year suggests that such optimism may be misplaced.
British understatement being what it is and all, that gives me pause.

-r.

#36 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:36 PM:

rhandir, Dick Francis has used Lloyds' insurance "schemes" in a couple of his novels ("Rat Race" & "Break-In"), or I'd be less informed than I am. ;)

#37 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:36 PM:

I heard a bit about the insurance problems yesterday morning on NPR.

The inability to get insurance (not affordable insurance, but insurance at all) is one of the major factors holding up the rebuilding of New Orleans.

They mentioned Florida, including the fact that some people are taking out longterm loans in order to pay for their insurance.

And there were similar problems up and down the coast.

If people are unwilling to build without insurance, and insurance is unwilling to cover certain areas at all... what is that going to do to our economy?

#38 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:52 PM:

"what is that going to do to our economy?"

You can't get a mortgage without insurance, for one. That has an impact on lots of businesses, like lenders, homebuilders, construction companies, plumbers, electrical contractors, etc., etc.

So the whole Southeast may be in recession for quite a while if something isn't done about insurance and reinsurance regulation.

#39 ::: Climate Writer ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:20 PM:

For all things climate go to www.realclimate.org. While the hurricane connection to global warming is supported in the Atlantic, general denial by the administration is the order of the day.

#40 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:36 PM:

I suppose it's time for me to link to my Emergency Kit inventory lists again.

#41 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 12:56 AM:

If you're really nervous and well-off financially, I'll call your attention to the following house..

$.50 says the guy who built this place this was a Heinlein fan.

#42 ::: Joe Crow ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 01:00 AM:

Um, are you describing Hamas or the Bush Administration? There seem to be an awful lot of similarities between the two when you put it that way.

Well, yeah. Hamas wants to be the Bush Administration when it grows up, and under stress, the Bush Administration (or any other, for that matter) turns back into Hamas. Or the Medillin Cartel. Nature of the Beast.

#43 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 01:32 AM:
It simply doesn't make sense from a business point of view to provide hurricane insurance in an area where there's a significant chance of there being a hurricane. It's like selling flood insurance to people who live on ten-year floodplains. Now, sell flood insurance to people living on hundred-year floodplains and you're making money. Maybe you should move to Ohio. I hear the hurricane insurance rates there are very reasonable.

The insurance companies aren't going to be keen on hurricane prone regions now, especially as global warming pushes on. (One big reason I believe in global warming? The insurance companies do.)

#44 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 11:13 AM:

If hurricanes keep getting worse and Global Warming seems likely to raise sea levels enough for large areas of coastline to disappear, I guess the insurance companies have a point when they refuse to deal with coastal folks. Though I moved inland for other reasons, now it almost seems like the prudent thing to do. Still, any scenario of swamped port cities will presumably play out over decades, so New York and San Francisco aren't about to vanish like Atlantis (or many parishes in New Orleans) unless the Big One hits or the monster storms move way north.

#45 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 11:25 AM:

Re: the ultimate secure home: buried in the web text is the revealing sentence

"The house is currently being offered at only a fraction of the actual building costs ($875,400)"

And a true Heinlein fan would build a home in the shape of an unfolded tesseract, not one that looks like Bag End.

#46 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 12:18 PM:

The Right has achieved its satori: the citizenry pays taxes, is told to expect no vital govt services in return, and the citizenry sighs and goes out to buy more candles.

That's one step short; satori is achieved when the citizenry, left in the dark, treats the trivial tax cuts it's given as manna deserving reelection, and doesn't question the monster tax cuts given the Right's rich patrons.

BTW, I think several people have been unfair to Hamas; Bush has never had a general reputation for less corruption than his opponents and doesn't have to deal with either a "police force" controlled by his mortal enemies or a massively more powerful occupying force. Comparing him to Medellin cartels, who are just in it for the money -- now \that/ is fair.

#47 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 01:21 PM:

Scott, looking at that dome, and its supposed novel use of concrete, it reminds me very much of the nave of Durham cathedral.

Which is about 900 years old.

Of course, the architect probably had God on his side. But England is the place for big medieval buildings.

#48 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 06:16 PM:

Scott, thanks for the link. That is my dream house.

Jon, the text states over and over how much it was overbuilt, i.e. much more than standard specifications. I could probably build something like that in a rural area of Minnesota for a lot less if I wanted to, and had the money. It reminds me of the Canadian house in "Friday".

I like earth-sheltered houses.

#49 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 06:38 PM:

You know, that house? The concrete, domed one?

If I was really in the market, for a house like that, the inappropriate use of commas in the ad would, put, me, off.

No, shit,!

#50 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 08:34 PM:

Magenta, it has steps!

#51 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 05:32 PM:

As I write, Panorama on BBC1 is broadcasting an account of how the Republican Party in the USA has systematically lied about global warming.

The BBC may be restricting access to UK internet users--they sometimes do for copyright reasons--but try this link for streaming video.

#52 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 08:11 PM:

Al Gore's interview on ABC's Sunday morning news show:

http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=2037865

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