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September 1, 2008

Gustav Landfall
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:56 AM * 33 comments

Right about now, Hurricane Gustav is crossing the coast of Louisiana.

Exchange news and views here.

Comments on Gustav Landfall:
#2 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 09:55 AM:

Poppy Z. Brite has promised voice posts over at docbrite.livejournal.com as long as the landline and two charged cell phones hold out. In the last typed dispatch, they were hoping to finish making crawfish stew before the power went out.

#3 ::: Lindra ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 10:00 AM:

D'oh, my last post was link-trapped. Anyway, just as I sent that through, the camera in Luling (south-west Orleans, I think?) went down. So we can assume that they've lost power there, too, and both the others are stalling badly.

NOLA.com is also running excellent reporting and announcing that it's definitely downgraded to a CAT2.

Twitter slowed in the last few hours and is now giving over-capacity messages.

#4 ::: Folk on LJ ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 10:06 AM:

I'm watching the WDSU live feed -- Silverlight, but it's keeping up. I watched them through Katrina as well, and I find them pretty good.

#6 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 11:45 AM:

Daily Kos has a Liveblog Mothership Gustav going with sources for info as well as links for those who need help/those who want to help.

#7 ::: Dragoness Eclectic ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 11:47 AM:

I'm riding out the storm in Jefferson Parish, East Bank. Still have power & DSL, though cable is out. Surprising little rain for a hurricane. Tropical storm force winds in general--mid-sized green branches down, but no big tree limbs or trees that I can see.

NHC's doppler radar reveals that the band of dry air that's been feeding into Gustav (and slowly killing it) for the last few days is sparing New Orleans/Metairie from the heavy rains. Northshore is getting the rain bands instead.

The Industrial Canal thing could be bad, ACOE thinks it will hold. Coast Guard apparently had to chase down some loose barges as well. Checkout http://www.nola.com/ and http://www.wwltv.com/ for our local news coverage.

#8 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 12:35 PM:

Weather Nerd via SciGuy

My relatives all decided to stay put. I'm relieved that they're OK, but I still kinda wish Houston had gotten it this time.

My local fishwrap's headline today was about McCain changing his mind about the convention. The word "flip-flopper" was unfortunately not used.

#9 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 01:53 PM:

Email from my daughter-in-law in Baton Rouge a couple of hours ago said they were getting some wind and rain, but nothing serious, and no outages of any sort. Even better, they have some first responders staying with them, staging there to go into NO when they get the go, so if anything does go wrong, they've got the best possible people there to help out.

They've promised to keep us updated as things happen, but so far it sounds rather better than we feared.

#10 ::: Wakboth ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 01:58 PM:

Lindra at #3: "NOLA.com is also running excellent reporting and announcing that it's definitely downgraded to a CAT2."

That's good, isn't it? IIRC the levee system was intended to hold up to category 3, so even if it's not at full strength, it should hold pretty well, right?

#11 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 03:24 PM:

NPR reports that it is down to Category 1.

#12 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 03:59 PM:

TexAnne, #8: Gee, thanks. ;-p

Some more-or-less good fannish news, via Russ at Dragon*Con: Brian of SighCo packed up and left for home last night. They've heard from him; he arrived safely, and so far his area seems to be in decent shape.

In the meantime, Hurricane Hanna appears to be headed for Savannah, GA with an ETA sometime on Friday.

#13 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 04:10 PM:

I'm hearing from a couple of friends who stayed and more who left.

The usual suspect, the Industrial Canal, that flooded the upper 9th way prior to the breaeching in other parts of the system after Katrina, its walls are feeling stress and are overtopping from the waves of surges. So far though the walls are holding, and no breaching visible. Not as much work has been done on these walls, it seems.

I am being hopeful.

Which is swell. It beats how it all felt yesterday.

Loe, C.

#14 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 05:15 PM:

Just got a phone call from my son in Baton Rouge. The eye of the storm went right over them, and they're now in the trailing winds, which aren't too bad now Gustav has slowed down. The leading winds pulled over a lot of trees; he says all the roads around his house are blocked by large live oaks, but the only damage to the house was a few shingles that flew off. Power is out, and probably will be for a day or so because of all the trees. If there's no more serious damage in the area, they're going to clean out the backyard and throw a hurricane party.

The first responders, who turn out to be animal search and rescue workers, are expecting to be called into the NOLA area tonight or early tomorrow morning, though there's no official word yet. Their first priority will be to secure the pounds and shelters and make sure the animals there are all right; they've also got lists of large animals like horses and such that couldn't be evacuated. Sounds to me like somebody learned a few lessons from Katrina, even if the Feds didn't.

#15 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 06:12 PM:

The same blogger in a data center from last time are there again:
http://gustavbloggers.com/

(Actually, it's all different people working for the same company, except the CEO who came to NO in order to be with the volunteers. He was there the first time.)

#16 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 07:17 PM:

Sorry, Lee. It's just because Houston is an inch or two above sea level.

#17 ::: jim ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 08:30 PM:

And Hanna is heading for Savannah. There's a song about that, I think.

#18 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 08:59 PM:

"..Oh, Susannah, don't you cry for me
For Hurricane Hanna is barreling down
On Savannah, don't you see?"

Or something to that effect?

#19 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 09:06 PM:

Hard Hearted Hannah the vamp of Savannah G-A... reality once again echoes art.

#20 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2008, 09:52 PM:

Poppi Bright's blogged on LJ, via voice message.

They're just fine. The rain is winding down.

No power though.

But people in southwestern Louisiana are not doing as well, not at all.

There are some who have sneered about 'raising money for Gustav victims but there aren't any f*ckin' Gustav victims." To say that is very, very, very myopic.

Love, C.

#21 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2008, 01:34 AM:

I mentioned in my comment to the previous post that I work in telecom. Specifically, I work for a cellular carrier, in their NOCC (Network Operations Control Center), and the task I was given this evening was to work the Texas market, which includes all of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, parts of Florida, and, yes, all of Louisiana. I just got home from work about an hour and forty-five minutes ago.

It pretty much doesn't matter what sort of storm it is, rain and lightning wreaks havoc on RF systems. In this case, however, probably 90-95% of our cell sites were down due to a loss of power. The rest were down due to problems with the local telephone company T1s.

Everytime something like this happens, my mind wanders back to Biloxi, when Camille hit. I was 9 years old and my father was on a remote tour to Korat, Thailand. Me, my mum, and my brother rode out the storm in our house, along with a friend of my mum's (a fellow Brit) and her two daughters. We lived about a mile from the Back Bay. Our next door neighbour work for Ma Bell, and he took his family to the Central Office where he worked. They locked their house up tight, and the roof over their master bedroom blew off the house. On our house, the windows were left slightly cracked, and all that happened to our place was a metal shutter (that was screwed into the brick; ours was a ranch house) on the front side of the house was blown off, and was found in the woods behind the house a month later, when my father came home for emergency leave. I also remember that we had water lapping at our front door, and we ignorantly kept putting towels at the door's base, to try to keep it from coming in. Fortunately, very little water got into the house. I also recall looking out the back windows of the house, and watching the tall, tall pine trees in the backyard just swaying in the wind, and hoping that they wouldn't fall on our house. They did not. Thankfully, nothing else happened to our place. By contrast, some good friends, who had just bought a brand new 2-storey brick house on the shore of the Back Bay, went back to their house to find that all that was left of it was the foundation and a single toilet.

Another interesting contrast is that the house we lived in cost my parents all of $17,000, back in 1966.

#22 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2008, 03:19 AM:

Hannah just knocked out my Internet. (A surprise outer rain band -- freaky -- you don't expect hurricanes to hit you from the north.) (Thank goodness for public WiFi in the town square.)

#23 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2008, 03:29 AM:

I do find myself wondering how much architects and builders design for severe weather.

Yes, there are earthquake codes, which they have to follow by law.

And, up north, if the roof can't take the weight of the snow...

But what small, inexpensive, features could make the difference for houses on the hurricane coasts? And do they take the trouble to do it?

#24 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2008, 06:11 AM:

@Dave Bell: In northern Australia, once you get past the latitude considered to be the cyclone risk area, the building code changes to require various things to be either stronger, or else designed to blow off easily. You can tell a "tropical" prefab building because the roof is secured to the floor beams by steel chains.

@Townshende: I recall the vice president of radio products at Ericsson saying that one of the reasons why they were getting interested in solar and wind power for cell-sites was, quite apart from environmental issues and energy costs, a question of security. The traditional solution, as you know Bob, is a whacking big diesel genny with a few days' fuel, but when you're deploying a network in Angola, or when West Africa sends a hurricane to you, people tend to break into the generator shed and steal the fuel, before wondering why the cell phones don't work:-)

Similarly, if you just go for a really huge battery bank, there's a lot of valuable scrap there, and some nets mount them halfway up the towers to make them harder to steal. Which of course makes the tower topheavier...

#25 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2008, 08:39 AM:

Alex@24 ... I've always been amused at the story of a guy who stole a genny that was being used to power a telco repeater during the Montreal ice storm ... to power his (ahem) greenhouse operation.

Unfortunately for him, there was a tracker embedded in the genny...

#26 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2008, 03:33 PM:

Noticed the cell phones were out in 504. Texted Dad (I now have a phone that can text! OMG!) yesterday afternoon, got a call from Mom that evening that he's back home in Metairie (spent the night of landfall with colleagues at Touro Hospital just like he did for Katrina; he says it worked out well and allowed him to get home sooner), and that the house lost a couple shingles off the roof and had no power but was otherwise OK. Mom is meanwhile in Atlanta, drove up last week with Grandmama and some of my aunts'n'uncles. They're fine too.

I've been mainly checking in with NOLA.com's front page news and feeling relieved that things so far seem fairly OK. It was fascinating reading about how the new cement splash guards on the Industrial Canal levees should help prevent erosion damage as water laps over the top. The photo coverage at Nola.com is phenomenal, too.

Watching Gustav from afar was a lot easier than watching Katrina, even before landfall. I don't know whether that's because it didn't look quite as bad (not as big a storm), or for less rational reasons. Definitely, that I knew about it sooner than the day before landfall, and that I'd spoken with both parents (and got text msgs from my brother) before the 504 area code went incommunicado, and that none of them sounded worried, went a long way towards *not* spending the night of August 31st 2008 crying my eyes out.

Sorry to ramble. I very much appreciate all this blog did in Katrina coverage and comfort, and if I came in late for Gustav, it's because I was much less of a wreck this time around.

Those living in Savannah are in my thoughts.

#27 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2008, 06:56 PM:

I'm not at all sure Hanna is going to be a problem. She's been struggling with upper-level wind shear her whole life, and is back down to tropical storm strength as we speak.

No help for the folks getting flooded in Haiti, but at least the wind isn't too bad.

Hanna will probably stay tropical-storm strength on the way to Savannah, if we're lucky. The models seem to be calling it that way, anyway.

Ike and Josephine are already at TS strength, and the models are blowing them up to Category 2 over the next couple of days. Josephine will probably cycle harmlessly at sea, but Ike may yet be a problem.

And there's another storm over the Sahara that will hit the Atlantic next week that bears looking at.

#28 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2008, 03:14 AM:

Alex @24: Yeah, some of our markets put rectifiers (not batteries) atop their towers. I recently talked to one of our field techs who revealed that to me (unless he failed to mention that the batteries were up there, too).

However, while solar and wind power can circumvent reliance upon a traditional power grid and might even offer a greater level of security, they can't prevent the affects of storms upon a microwave radio signal. As you probably know, electrical storms will screw up any radio transmission, and rain renders transmissions useless because the RF gets scattered all over the place. Here in the Baltimore/Washington corridor, whenever there is a rain storm, we can be sure that it'll cause a lot of our sites to bounce, no doubt frustrating a lot of customers.

#29 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2008, 03:16 AM:

Oh, I failed to mention that I had the "luck" of watching the NOLA market again this evening. When I left work, we still had 500+ cell sites down. What a nightmare!

#30 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2008, 04:53 AM:

As John Causebrook said, an art is a science with more than seven variables, and radio planning's got a lot more than that...

#31 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2008, 09:45 AM:

I've been thinking about the implications of putting batteries and/or rectifiers on a cell tower. I suppose the added security is worth the added risk that such a mounting would pose during an electrical storm. It certainly has to increase the chances of the tower being struck by lightning, just as transformers on power poles tend to turn them into lightning rods, yes? Or am I mistaken?

#32 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2008, 10:00 AM:

Alex @24: (...) if you just go for a really huge battery bank (...)

I've been in telecom for 20+ years, and the battery banks I've seen at switch locations and at cell sites have always humoured me. Supposedly, these things are always engineered to keep a switch or cell site powered for eight hours past the loss of commercial power, but never once have I seen that happen.

In Santa Clara, California, I worked for GTE Mobilnet. When an 800 amp breaker blew this one day (where commercial power came into the building), the switch immediately lost power. There was no battery backup whatsoever. That, though, was a rather freaky circumstance. Switch locations are fortunate that, in addition to battery backup, they almost always have one, if not two, generators that will start up when power is lost, so that the batteries remain fully charged. (Everywhere I've worked that's been the configuration.) Cell sites, however, are a different matter. I've never seen a cell site remain on the air (without a generator) for much longer than 4 hours on battery power alone.

#33 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2008, 11:52 AM:

JESR (19): One of my reference questions yesterday was someone wanting the words to Hard-Hearted Hannah.

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