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September 12, 2008

Mighty Day
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:15 PM * 106 comments

Hurricane Ike looks like it’s going to be big. According to some sources it has the second-greatest kinetic energy behind it of any Atlantic storm in the past forty years.

Here’s a webcam on the Galveston Sea Wall.

Looks like it’ll come ashore around 0200 tomorrow morning.

Some situations are not survivable. Try to avoid those situations. If y’all aren’t already on the road or holed up somewhere safe ….


Mighty Day
Comments on Mighty Day:
#1 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 08:17 PM:

First!

(Nothing new to say that I didn't say on the other thread -- just couldn't resist.)

#3 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 08:41 PM:

Galveston will flood. The storm surge will probably be about 17 feet; the seawall is 20 feet.

The waves on top of the surge will be 20 feet.

Galveston will be flooding. The question is -- will the seawall hold? If not, Galveston will be gone.

So ... if a hurricane knocks out refineries, restricting the gasoline supply and thus raising the price again 53 days before the election ... that's good for McCain, right?

#4 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 08:42 PM:

I am completely boggled at people not evacuating in the face of this storm. I am horrified at the people who decided to keep their children with them.

#5 ::: Zeke ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 08:53 PM:

With the national weather service warning that people who stay behind could face "certain death", I hope that the evacuation is more complete than that. I'll keep fingers crossed for those in the city, for sure.

#6 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 08:58 PM:

As I understand it, they are telling folks close to the sea-wall to GTFO. They are telling folks inland to stay put, so as to keep the streets clear for the ones traveling inland.

That song -- thank you Tom Rush -- keeps going through my head.

It was the year of 1900, children, many years ago
Death come calling on the north wind, when Death calls you got to go.
Galveston had a sea-wall to keep the water down,
But the high tide from the ocean, sent the water all over town.
Wasn't that a mighty Stoooorm
Wasn't that a mighty storm in the morning Lord
Wasn't that a Mighty STOOOORM
It blew all the people away.

#7 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 09:05 PM:

Here's my mother's favorite hurricane guy.

My parents are staying put, not far from the Louisiana border. I wish they weren't, but I can't blame them for not wanting a rerun of the Rita evacuation clstrfck. (20 miles in something like 8 hrs. No a/c because you don't want to run out of gas.)

I'm glad I said goodbye to the Elissa after Rita. I don't expect her to be there when next I'm home.

#8 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 09:12 PM:

I think the folks who decided to stay in Galveston were thinking that Ike's only category 2 or 3 - they're not thinking about that surge.

I have family in Houston (including my most-senior aunt), but away from the bay.

(BTW, I have friends who are out doing CERT duty at the train wreck this evening. It was the train before mine; my reaction was 'WTF were they doing on the same track?' then 'how did the freight miss the signal?' - because it's single track for two or three miles through there, and Metrolink has priority over freights because it's their track.)

#9 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 09:14 PM:

TexAnne, the picture of Ike at that website... wow. Just... wow.

#10 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 09:20 PM:

This news item says "only" 11,000 stayed in Galveston Co..

An e-friend who grew up in Galveston but now lives in Houston says:

If I still lived there, I know I'd have stayed. It's not that we're stupid, but we've lived through enough evacuations and storms we feel we have a good idea what we can take.
Anyway, we've never heard of a storm surge like this associated with a Catagory 2. A 3 makes us nervous, and we run screaming from a 4 or 5, but a 2? Really?
I sure hope they're right ...

#11 ::: Stuart ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 09:20 PM:

We are sitting here near 290 east of Manor, about 10 miles east of Austin, watching the cars coming from the Houston area. For the past 36 hours they've kept coming. Sometimes the traffic is fairly light and sometimes bumper to bumper.

I hope the Bishop's Palace on Galveston survives. In 1900 it was the nearest building to the shoreline still standing. It is one of the most finely crafted houses I have ever seen.

#12 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 09:24 PM:

100 photographs from Galveston and the area this afternoon.

Stunning.

#13 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 09:32 PM:

Dr. Jeff Masters calls Ike a freak storm. Instead of taking the heat of the Gulf and raising its category like a normal hurricane, it stayed a cat 2 and grew. But the energy is there -- and the storm surge is where it's showing. They've got 9 feet of storm surge in New Orleans, 250 miles away.

#14 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 09:34 PM:

A friend of mine just posted about 2 friends of hers who are trapped on Galveston Island. They were trying to help other people get out. Please keep Alexa and David in your thoughts.

#15 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 09:37 PM:

That global warming flood map is also useful for predicting storm surges. Galveston is toast; I-10 is mostly OK unless the surge tops 8m. My parents should be OK unless there's Allison-style rainfall or a tornado.

Oh dear. I think I'll turn off my computer now.

#16 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 09:40 PM:

The Weather Channel meteorologists are all over the area and reporting flooding in Galveston and the barrier island already. The ship channel up to Houston is expected to have 20'+ storm surge, plus waves.

Reports are coming in of buildings collapsing and calls for help where no one can help due to the already high winds. Jim Cantore is reporting that there may be up to 25,000 people still on Galveston Island trying to ride out the storm.

#17 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 09:55 PM:

The trouble with the Internet is ... every time there's a disaster anywhere in the world, I'm no more than one or two degrees of separation away.

I just heard that an e-friend's father-in-law was medevac'ed (??) from the California train crash. He's not critical -- he was able to make a phone call -- but he's badly cut up.

The thought of all those people in Galveston is making me feel ill.

#18 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 09:59 PM:

Pictures of Ike from Space, via the Boston Globe.

#19 ::: ebear ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 10:06 PM:

Jeff Masters' blog has already been mentioned above; I offer the link here.

The worst news so far? That epic storm surge?

Ike's center makes landfall in ~5 hours, which is 2 am Central time, tomorrow morning.

Next high tide in Galveston Bay is 2 am central time. Tomorrow morning.

#20 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 10:12 PM:

Ike from ISS
Possibly the best place for viewing Ike: above it.

#21 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 10:21 PM:

I can't help noticing that Cuba has very, very few hurricane deaths. Here's a typical result: Ike crossed Cuba the long way, basically hitting everywhere on the island, and there were only 4 deaths. If Ike doesn't kill at least 300 people in the US, we'll be lucky.

So, those of you who know about emergency services, what does Cuba know that the US doesn't know?

#22 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 10:24 PM:

Doc @ #21, In part, they tell people to evacuate and people follow instructions. Americans are rugged individualists!

#23 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 10:33 PM:

The link to the Boston Globe isn't working, so I re-entered the url.

#24 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 10:33 PM:

Linkmeister @22:

I don't think it's that general a cultural thing. For instance, visitors from many countries are startled at how good USans are at obeying traffic signs and speed limits (no, really!), and I've heard even visitors from the Netherlands express astonishment that USans will actually leave the handicapped spaces for people with handicap plates. Like, ever.

IMHO it's not a generalized rugged individualism, it's about *property*. Compared to Cuba, of course, it's also about experience -- Cubans now have experienced many hurricane evacuations with very low loss of life, so they *know* that it works.

#25 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 10:40 PM:

Doctor Science: What train crash?

#26 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 10:42 PM:

Doc, that rugged individualist crack was mildly sarcastic. I agree with you that it's property. How many folks did we see demanding they be able to go back after tornadoes a while back because they wanted to see their homes (and probably protect them from real or imaginary looters)?

#28 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 10:45 PM:

I saw a quote from an idiot earlier, who was staying in Galveston because "If it ain't your time you ain't going anywhere." The article did not explicitly make the obvious point, which is "How do you know when it's your time?" Or, to put it another way, what makes him think that storm has "not you" written on it?

What gets to me is that Galveston has one place in the history books: the hurricane that killed 6000 people in 1900. And we routinely say that the difference between then and now is forecasting, including satellite imaging. But no forecast is any good if you ignore it.

#29 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 10:47 PM:

The whole area is going to be hit with water like a tidal wave as that storm hits. High tide, PLUS 20+ foot storm surge, PLUS 15 to 20 foot waves whipped up by the storm winds. You might be able to ride out 20 feet of flooding, but a 20 foot wave crashing at you on top of that is going to do damage to the structure you're sheltering in.

#30 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 10:55 PM:

Are there actually 22,000 people still in Galveston, as this article implies? Or did they get out after the article went to press?

If they're staying, I don't think we're coming to grips yet with how many people are going to die.

#31 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 10:58 PM:

Doctor Science #24:

I heard a piece on NPR about this awhile back. Apparently, Cuba has a really well-organized evacuation system in place, including dry runs done everywhere before hurricane season starts.

#32 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 10:59 PM:

Matt:

Yeah, it sure seems like storm warnings with words like "certain death" would kinda get your attention.

#33 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 10:59 PM:

What's the practical situation here? In New Orleans, there were many poor people who simply couldn't evacuate, because the system to get them out without cars was not in place.

Is that the case here? Most of the people being quoted just seem not to understand what they're in for, but is that representative?

#34 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 11:04 PM:

Matt @30:

Looking at different sources, it's very unclear to me how many people are left on Galveston *Island*, and how many are left in the whole county.

#35 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 11:10 PM:

I know that track. I don't know who has priority (it's a Union Pacific track), but someone should have been on a siding.

There was, however, a really funny typo (if I don't laugh I'll cry) in the article.

At the Metrolink station in Simi valley, the platform was empty except for a few people trying to get information about the trash, in contrast to the parking lot, which was still filled with commuter cars. A small shuttle bus was carrying away some of the stranded passengers.

#36 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 11:17 PM:

Terry, in LA county, it's Metrolink's track. Or so I've been told. UP owns the track in Ventura county.

#37 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 11:24 PM:

Matt #33:

I'm pretty sure there were also a fair number of people in New Orleans who had the means to leave, but chose to ride the storm out. That happens in pretty much every hurricane, I think.

#38 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 11:39 PM:

Galveston has plenty of poor people in it, and no public transportation to speak of. There are two ways out of town: ferries (two that I know of, possibly as many as 4, but I've only ever seen 2 in the bay) and a fairly narrow causeway that I personally wouldn't want to be on in anything resembling a stiff breeze. But Lee probably knows more about this than I do.

#39 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 11:56 PM:

Part of the reason people aren't leaving is that Ike is "only" a category 2 storm. (By 1 mph sustained winds.) And they think, "I've been through worse than that." But Ike's storm surge is way worse than a normal cat2 storm.

That said, I understand the people who stay. I would certainly strongly consider staying, were I given that choice.

As to Cuba - yeah. Excellent planning and drills. They're by far the best-organized country in the Caribbean when it comes to hurricane preparation. Toilet paper, not so much -- but damn are they good with hurricane prep.

#40 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 12:01 AM:

Is there something about planning and drills that is logically incompatible with having reliable supplies of toilet paper? Or visa verse?

#41 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 12:40 AM:

No. It's just that toilet paper is low on the ranking of things Cuba can manage in their condition of 100% economic self-reliance. I don't think much of their elite having electronics and mobile phones when the people can't afford toilet paper.

Cuba has done some truly amazing things. Their educational system is fantastic and well-supported (given what they've got). They've already gone though Peak Oil, when the Soviet Union cut them off in the 90's, and they've responded in extremely innovative ways. They're doing a lot of things in agriculture that we're all going to have to get used to eventually.

And their hurricane preparedness is second to none. Seriously.

And yet it is not a good place to live, from what I understand. Of course, I've never been there; that would be illegal. But Puerto Rico is pretty close, and there are legal trips taken, and I've talked to some people who have been there. The pictures they bring back are ... fascinating. It really is like a Soviet Caribbean, and given that my wife is Hungarian and I live in Puerto Rico, that's just a mind-blowing combination from where I stand.

So I crammed too much into too few words. Cuba is a huge island and a quite interesting country, and I don't think much of its government and even less of our government's moronic continuation of embargo -- and thus my comment.

Cuba is good at hurricanes, but they're not good at general prosperity, and I honestly don't know if that is necessary given their situation. Ideologically, I suspect not -- but on the other hand, if Puerto Rico were cut off from the world, things would not go nearly as well here (we have greatly overshot our carrying capacity insofar as food production is concerned -- Peak Oil truly worries me in terms of famine here).

#42 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 12:52 AM:

P.J. I don't know. I do know the Amtrak employees seem to think the track from L.A. to Seattle is all UP. I do know that Amtrack is bottom of the pecking order through the entire corridor.

#43 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 12:59 AM:

For those who might be interested, the LA Times has photos of one of the triage areas in Chatsworth, from the air, as well as others that ... well, I can see why there are so many dead. The Metrolink locomotive was shoved into the first car, which is favored by a lot of people (me included - I'd have been flattened if I'd been on that train). If there's any bright spot, it's that this was the 3:30 train, so it was only three cars and probably not quite full. The next two trains are four cars, and each car can hold 200 or more people.

#44 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 01:30 AM:

Well, so far there's very little in the way of "adventure" here, which is good. The wind and rain have reached us, but only at tropical-storm levels yet. We still have power, and full Internet access. But the eye of the storm is still at least an hour away from the coast, and those coastal areas are already taking heavy damage. I think I heard a transformer blow a few minutes ago, but it obviously wasn't the one feeding our street.

#45 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 02:19 AM:

At 12:49am CT, via LJ voice, Lee reported that her power went out. To be continued tomorrow.

#46 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 03:08 AM:

Does somebody know Lee well enough to be able to put her and her family on the Safe and Well List?

#47 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 03:58 AM:

Michael Roberts @3: Side note - the price of gas in Knoxville has gone up $1/gallon since yesterday, apparently due to the distribution network having been affected by the hurricane _before_ this. So those in the Southeast USA may want to fill their tanks if this hasn't already hit your area. (I can't imagine the price rise will last all that long...)

What an unfortunate circumstance for those trying to evacuate right _now_ that is, by the way.

--Dave

#48 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 05:51 AM:

After Katrina there were stories of prisoners being locked into their cells to drown, in New Orleans. No evacuation. And then the story seemed to fade away.

We have similar no-evacuation stories now.

What really happened? Now and then?

If it comes to that, what have the hurricanes been doing in Gitmo? It's on the coast, but where can the people there evacuate to?

#49 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 06:59 AM:

From Russ Ault's partner (sorry I'm spacing on her name, her lj is starcat_jewel):

“Well we are now officially a casualty. We've lost a big huge chunk over the bedroom and there's water coming in. We've moved what we can out of the immediate danger zone. Russ and ___ are trying to control the water. There's not enough room back there for 2 people. If someone could for making light sees this please post it over there, I have no way to poster without getting internet access. It's about 5:00, we have a couple of hours left of rain blowing directly into the hall. I don't know what's going to happen”

They live 50 miles inland.

#50 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 07:08 AM:

#49: That's a LJ voicepost from Lee.

#51 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 07:56 AM:

Dave Bell #48: they built those cells strong enough to hold Osama's driver, a little thing like a hurricane is no problem.
This story says just a few street signs toppled and a temporary power outage.

#52 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 08:06 AM:

My grandmother survived the 1915 storm as a small child. Her parents and older siblings were recent immigrants from Finland and her father was a stone mason.

They did leave their house and got to higher ground. Everything they owned (and everything they had brought from Finland, was lost in the storm except for a scrap of curtain.

After the storm, they lived in a refugee camp. Theirs was a large family with a lot of kids. My grandmother's sister, a toddler, accidentally drank cooking fuel in the refugee camp. The little girl -- my great aunt -- was hospitalized in Houston for several months, and finally died of the accidental poisoning. I think she was 3.

My grandmother had a fear of water for the rest f her life and would not go swimming.

#53 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 08:23 AM:

#41 ::: Michael Roberts: Is Cuba cut off from the world, or just from the US? If they had much to sell, I assume they could sell it in Latin America-- not as rich a market but still something. And what they sold could be relabeled and resold into the US. Commercially speaking, the embargo makes them more distant from the US, but they aren't on another planet.

#54 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 09:11 AM:

Nancy: We get their chocolate here. It's very nice. It's good enough that Lindt, who are a Swiss company I think, are using it to make a varietal bar. And they're doing that knowing they have a limited market because they can't sell it in the US. I don't know where they are selling it, apart from Canada, but I assume in Europe. I don't know how big a market the US is for Lindt generally. I also don't know what Lindt are paying the Cuban chocolate farms for it. They may be getting it very cheaply because there's no competition for those beans from US companies. Embargoes make things weird in ways it's hard to predict.

People who like rum speak highly of Cuban rum, too.

#55 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 09:21 AM:

I believe that Constance (another poster here) has spent a goodly amount of time in Cuba, so I'm looking forward to what she has to say on that subject!

I've been watching The Weather Channel this morning, and as yet, their newscrews are still pinned down, so no big picture on how much damage was widespread. On the bright side, Jim Cantore was a little gleeful about finally having gone through the eye of a hurricane after 19 years as a meteorologist.

#56 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 10:22 AM:

Cuba is also still growing tobacco and making cigars, still considered by many the finest in the world. There is steady traffic from Cuba to various places in Central America and thence to the US.

#57 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:11 AM:

Marna@#46: Lee has a followup LJ voicepost here, reporting that they are still there and safe, albeit roofless and receiving heavy rain, as of this morning.

#58 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:25 AM:

I didn't mean (and I hope I didn't say) that nothing good is made in Cuba or that none of it is exported, but that the US embargo is not the sole or even major cause of the poverty there-- I believe that bad Cuban policies are most of the problem.

#59 ::: Remus Shepherd ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:42 AM:

I have a friend trying to ride Ike out. He's in South Houston, near Galveston Bay. His site is here. He has a webcam, but it went out last night sometime.

Haven't gotten a report from him since 3 AM. I hope he's just sleeping.

#60 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:53 AM:

Lee: "Well it's daylight, not that you can tell it in here because all the windows are still boarded up and we have no power. I don't know if I remembered to say this last time or not but what took out our roof was the top half of a tree next to our house that just came down on top of us. It looks like pretty much that whole side of the house is going to take some heavy repair. We're still shipping water, the wind has lightened up considerably but now it's a good hard soaking rain which is exactly what we don't need with a hole in the roof and we're tackling it with mops and buckets. I can't reach Lollee, she may just be asleep or she may have evacuated but I'm concerned. If anybody hears from her please ask her to call me. Not much else going on, I will keep you posted semi regularly. Bye."

#61 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:53 AM:

As of ~7am EST, saw the following posted to a (private) mailing list:

Currently the Houston metro area is completely without electricity, except for Texas Medical Center. It has been a pretty impressive night. The wind definitely howled and continues to do so. There hasn't been so much rain yet, but the dirty side of the storm is circling around now, so we will see.

#62 ::: Kelley Shimmin ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 12:00 PM:

I have a very nice road bike. I can ride it for about one hour at speeds above 25 mph, thereafter I have to drop to about 15 mph and can maintain that for an entire day. If I had a child and a child seat on the back I could do that 15 mph and get us a good 100 miles away without any problems. I could have a backpack with all our stuff and a saddlebag equipped with spare tubes and tools and just take off and fly past all the cars stopped pretty much everywhere.

Why do not more people do that sort of thing? It seems like a no-brainer - in a situation where the traffic is likely to be horrific, why do people even try to take cars when bicycles will suit them just fine?

#63 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 12:26 PM:

Kelly Shimmin: Because they have stuff. Because being able to maintain 16 miles an hour (the best regular pace I was up to, when I was young, fit and biking 20 miles a day, five-six days a week)is time and energy.

Because people who use public transit (or walk) everywhere don't need a bike.

Because 100 miles is a long way to go if one isn't trained up for it (ten hours, at ten miles an hour).

There are lots of way we can condemn people for not being as clever as we think we would be. They don't deserve it, and it doesn't help.

#64 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 12:34 PM:

Some people like to carry stuff away with them when they evacuate; some people have kids or other family members who can't bike that far; some people don't have bicycles.

Brenday Loy is reporting from tide gauge data that the storm surge appears to have topped out at 10-12 feet, much lower than expected. If so, this is very good news.

#65 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 01:20 PM:

I wouldn't bike to evacuate because a) the car is armor. If the way out is at all hazardous, like a causeway, I'd rather be wearing a ton of steel and fiberglass. b) at some point in the evacuation, it will be useful to have a car. It may not be at the bottlenecks, it probably won't be at the beginning, but at some point, the roads are going to clear and I'll want to be able to move more quickly. For a short evacuation, yeah, I'll get there however I can. But if interstates are involved, it's not safe or legal for me to be on a bike. c) I have a cat.

It says something about my father that he brought his bike to Iowa City just as Flood Week kicked off-- he intended to take me on a bike tour of his old haunts, but by that time, I was tired and dehydrated from the walking tour of the flood. He said, when he got here through the minor detours, that when he made it to Iowa City itself he knew he'd get here. If all the roads were closed to cars, he'd bike in. I like that about him, even if it does show a certain tendency to getthereitis.

#66 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 01:27 PM:

Kelley, 62: If you had ever been to Houston, you wouldn't be asking. It is nearly as unbikable as LA. I know people who bicycle in Houston, but even they aren't able to do it every single day, and they certainly don't do it in average Houston rainstorms, much less with a hurricane on the way.

And are you telling us that you would get on a bicycle, with a child, in gale-force winds? With debris flying as fast as the wind? Even a twig will hurt you if it's going 75mph.

#67 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 01:28 PM:

When it comes to hurricane warning, information, preparedness, effective action, protection and clean-up, as in providing all social services, Cuba's scores are excellent to extraordinary.

Long ago the state created a most efffective system that includes safeguarding your private/personal property from both storm and looting, that includes the sick, the physically and mentally handicapped, the elderly AND your pets. The shelters are known to everyone. Every neighborhood in the cities and communities in non-urban environments know where they are to go, including where to get transportation to go there. The shelters are prepared with all that needs to be there, including well-trained and highly skilled medical professionals, who have a great deal of experience and skill at operating without electricity -- battlefield techniques in other words, which medical personnel here in the U.S. don't possess. Hospitals here stop working without power. Usually they have back-up generators, but in flood conditions as in New Orleans, that was useless, as we saw to our horror, and many elderly just died.

You cannot imagine the horror of Cubans that this was allowed to happen to the elderly in this nation. It could not and does not happen in Cuba. This is the positive side of a socialist state. One of Cuba's great exports is medical professionals, whose services and training and organizing capacities are loaned or rented out to other needy nations, as part of their community service to the state. A very good physician specializing in skin diseases, has been stationed in Port-au-Prince for his service, for instance.

Additionally the state keeps stocks of supplies for structural rebuilding post the storm. And since this is a highly organized state from top down, everyone has his or her role in the clean up and repair afterward. Mostly though this falls to the young and to the military, as well as engineers and so on.

Their problem this summer is repair and replacement of the power grids that Gustav did such terrible damage to in the West, and that Ike, who was even larger, did even worse to in the more middle section of the island. Not to mention the damage from the other two in the east.

It was a 1-2-3-4 hit to Haiti and Cuba.

As far as what Cuba has to export, her music is among her strong economic producers -- but, of course, no Cubans have been allowed to enter the U.S. to play or sing since the current regime dismanteled all the people-to-people policies that the Clinton administration put in.

The most important thing the Cubans want to trade with us, because we're the closest source, is pharmaceuticals, electronics and food.

Recall, that the reason Cuba isn't part of the global internet systems is that the U.S. forbade that big Fiber Optic Cable project to include Cuba. That's a big problem right there. The U.S. has been interferring with Cuba and her autonomy since there has been a United States. The goal since Jefferson has been to annex Cuba to the U.S. Much of the support for this latest Cuban state structure has come from its success at keeping the U.S. from controlling Cuba.

Recall that Cuba was U.S. controlled through various dictators up through the Revolution, and much of that control was wielded via the Mafia.

Love, C.

#68 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 01:40 PM:

P.S. Whether you agree with it or not one of the motivations to keep disposable paper products out of Cuba is environmental -- this includes diapers and tampex, which are a huge black market item -- is because of the rickety sewer systems, water in, under and around the island. This is changing, of course, since Cuba weathered the Special Period and is slowly growing its economy.

As for who has cell phones and so on -- again, part of it has to do with the band width available on the island, which is about what you can find in a single upper middle class household in the U.S. Which, as mentioned above, is because the U.S. bullied via various military and economic threats the Fiber Optic Cable project from including Cuba. With the help of Venezuela a project has begun to replace their old grid, with a fiber optic system the covers the whole island. If given enough time -- i.e. lack of interference by warmongers in the U.S. (see the latest Bolivia-Venezuela-Honduras-U.S. blow up), this should be in place relatively soon.

I don't defend or like everything about Cuba, but by golly it has soul. And for some of us it would be a good place to live. And no, it isn't soviet at all, as you realize when you go there, and it isn't like Puerto Rico either, which I also know well. But Puerto Rico and Cuba have always been loving sisters.

Love, C.

#69 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 02:17 PM:

I'm relieved to hear Lee and Russ are unhurt. I am hoping, from the initial reports this morning, that Galveston didn't get hit as hard as it might have. Keeping my fingers crossed for everyone in harm's way.

#70 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 02:42 PM:

Kelley's question reminds me of a conversation I had with one of my uncles a few days after Hurricane Katrina. He lives on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain (one of the first of Mom's siblings to "flee" from Orleans and Jefferson Parishes), works in the medical industry (and is convinced that many of his poor black patients are welfare queens who think they're entitled), and is prone to using the "n----r" word more than is healthy... all of which means I shouldn't have been surprised to hear him harping on how all those stupid people didn't leave, blah blah blah...

"But many of those people were very poor and didn't even have cars. How were they supposed to get out?"

"Well, why didn't they just walk?"

"..." (sound of my jaw dropping) "In 90+ degree heat with only as much water as they could carry, possibly in poor health, likely with elderly and small children, with no guaranteed shelter at the end of their walk, heavy winds throwing debris at dangerous velocities the whole way, and a hurricane that was 200+ miles in diameter bearing down on them?"

"Yes! Exactly! They should have tried!"

"..." (jaw dropping) "!!!" (inarticulate spluttering) "..." (changing the subject now)

And this isn't even touching the issue of being very poor such that you'd rather go down with the only ship you have than risk losing everything in the world. There was simply no convincing my uncle that all the poor (black) people of Orleans Parish were better off in the shelter they had than in trying to win a footrace against Hurricane Katrina.

I have a pretty good bike myself, but I don't bike when winds are in excess of 20 mph because I know I can't hack it. You would never see me biking alongside a highway in 110 mph winds. It's not safe at all.

And if I couldn't outrace Katrina on my bike because of how big she was, why would I think anyone could outrace the giant Ike whose bands fill the entire Gulf from side to side?

#71 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 02:44 PM:

And of course there was that other small problem with walking out of Orleans Parish after that 200+ mile diameter storm passed over, that being the Gretna Police and their big manly guns and their "no Superdomes here" mantra.

Hopefully no one from Galveston will have to face that sort of social injustice, on top of the inevitable natural one.

#72 ::: Emily ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 05:19 PM:

I've ridden my bike in 40mph gusts (*not* steady 40mph wind). This is enough to blow 170lb me, a 30ish lb bike, and whatever else is in my panniers a good 2 feet to the side... or drop my speed down to less than a walking pace. Downhill. While pedaling. I've also ridden my bike in heavy rain. (normal rain, not hurricane rain) If you have glasses, you can't see because your glasses are a wavery sheet of water. If you don't have glasses, you can't see because your eyes are full of water. A visored helmet doesn't help much.

In a full on hurricane, you will have steady winds well in excess of 40mph, and sheets of rain... not to mention all the other excitement.

So yeah, I don't ask why people don't evac by bike. I know. For Ike (and for Gustav before him), you would need to evacuate about 3-4 *days* before landfall to make reasonable headway, and you're not looking at 100 miles inland. Try more than 300, and for Ike, probably more like 500. Mandatory evacuations didn't kick in until about 24 hours from landfall...

(and this is leaving aside the whole "can you afford to evac" issue... a lot of people who depend on a bike for transportation can't.)

#73 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 05:26 PM:

We will now conclude the dogpile, the consensus being that using a bicycle to escape bad weather is a bad idea.

#74 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 05:37 PM:

abi @ 73... using a bicycle to escape bad weather is a bad idea (Cue in the Wicked Witch's theme music.)

#75 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 06:34 PM:

I've just spoken to Lee. The computers were in the room the tree landed in, and she doesn't expect to get power back any time soon (meaning weeks, knowing how these things go). She sounded tired but relatively optimistic, even so. I'm sure she'd appreciate prayers, good thoughts, positive energy, or whatever your belief system provides for.

#76 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 07:51 PM:

Toronto is forecast to get something between 75 and 90 mm of rain tonight and tomorrow from Ike's remnants.

From what I can tell from the satellite shots, this is because Ike is tracking right up the Mississippi.

Hope any flooding is minimal and well controlled.

#77 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 07:59 PM:

The predicted track isn't up the Mississippi, though of course it crosses that river (from Texas to Toronto, you have to): it's loosely north of the Ohio and aimed for the Great Lakes. (I don't think this link to the National
Hurricane Center
will work for more than a day or so, but it's what I've got.) There's uncertainty in that forecast track, of course.

#78 ::: Kelley Shimmin ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 03:21 AM:

Of course I don't mean that people should go out exposed and try to travel unprotected in high winds. I maybe be a cyclist but I'm not bonkers - I'm talking about leaving before the storm hits. One CNN article from 5:30 am EDT on September 11 indicated that people were making evacuation plans; at that point I seem to recall that things were still quite calm. If they had a "go-bag" as I think I've heard Jim Macdonald call them, they could grab it and take off. If people tend not to leave as soon as they can and thus there isn't going to be any congestion, sure it makes sense to take your vehicle. Is it that people don't leave that early? Is vehicular congestion generally a non-issue if you have the sense to leave that early?

Obviously, if people have family members that can't cycle (or pets they can't carry), that isn't an option. Similarly the notion that I would judge those who didn't evacuate is jumping to conclusions - with regard to the cycling issue, some people have bad knees, some people are old, some aren't in good shape, etc. It should have been clear I was only talking about a particular subset of the population for whom it is possible. (Why not have a debate on the ideal delivery conditions for pregnant men while we're at it?)

A few mentioned that some people probably can't afford to evacuate at all, and that's likely to be an issue for young people for whom the cycling option might be physically possible. There are a lot of considerations, from the need to keep working up until the last minute for a daily paycheck, to the cost of a good road bike, to the affordability of paying for a hotel after each night of cycled evacuation, to the stores necessary to feed and hydrate themselves to be able to expend that kind of energy, but again I'm only talking about people for whom it could be feasible, not those for whom it couldn't.

What I wanted to know though is why I don't hear of anyone at all doing it, especially when it could help ease congestion on evacuation routes for those for whom it isn't an option - why wouldn't someone like me for whom it is not an impossibility evacuate with a group from the cycle club in an attempt to ease congestion?

I've never cycled in Houston but to say that it isn't feasible since there are interstates involved sounds improbable. The MS150 (http://www.ms150.org/ms150/) ride from Houston to Austin doesn't seem to use interstates - http://www.ms150.org/ms150/maps/2008/Tour%20Map%20Final.pdf seems to show that they use farm routes and if those routes are suitable for a major ride they are probably suitable for a bicycle evacuation (again, provided you leave early and have the ability to cycle and aren't abandoning a loved one and have the money to do it).

As a note I find the assumed tone of my prior post pretty funny. Come on, folks - why assume I thought I had a reactionary one-size-fits-all plan? My query as to why more people don't do something shouldn't indicate I thought I'd come up with some kind of universal solution. If just 2% of the Galveston population could evacuate in that fashion that's 1,000 less people and presumably 500 less cars clogging the roads for those for whom it isn't an option. Perhaps I'm just courteous to a fault by thinking that choosing differently in order to ease congestion rather than adding to it is a no-brainer if you have such an option. And perhaps I'm naive for thinking that Austin's a good destination for waiting out a storm like Ike. Such is life.

#79 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 05:47 AM:

Constance @ #67:

You cannot imagine the horror of Cubans that this was allowed to happen to the elderly in this nation. It could not and does not happen in Cuba. This is the positive side of a socialist state.

There are countries that are not socialist in the Cuban sense (allthough US right-wingers might describe them as such) but still have reasonably good disaster response systems. Not meant to denigrate the Cuban achievements, though.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @ # 70:
Ugh. Unfortunately, that attitude seems to be all too common among parts of the medical profession, though.

#80 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 09:10 AM:

A centralized government that can send the army around to say to everyone "Get in the truck, comrade," greatly facilitates 100% evacuations.

#81 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 09:24 AM:

#67 ::: Constance:

Thanks for the information about the US keeping Cuba off the internet-- that's a disgraceful piece of policy.

More generally, I count the embargo as a major violation of human rights.

I also believe Cubans would be a great deal better off, even if the embargo continued, if their government allowed as much commerce as Sweden does.

#82 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 10:17 AM:

Kelley Shimmin @ 62: You need to have a bicycle and be physically fit. You can transport only one child, and a bag full of papers and valuables. No pets, except a well-trained medium-to-large dog that is used to running alongside a bicylce. You need decent roads -- even mildly damaged roads can slow down a loaded bicycle immensely.

A lot depends on personal fitness, but even when I was bicycling 150 miles per week, having to go a mere 15 in torrential rainfall and Beaufort 8 winds was a stupid thing to do. Add a child and... well, it would be better than drowning, but not better than sitting in a car in a traffic jam.

#83 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 10:45 AM:

There's an interesting photo set on Flickr, here: eerily beautiful pre-hurricane sunset clouds and the later night sky over Elmendorf, Texas, 250 miles away from Galveston.

#84 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 10:48 AM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little on "Well, why didn't they just walk?"

I seem to remember that infantry with baggage train and camp followers used to be able to do something like 10 miles a day in low-tech conditions (correct me if I'm wrong). Not the way to outrun a hurricane. And considering the death toll on (forced) faster marches involving civilians and bad weather, sitting on your roof and praying might be way safer.

#85 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 10:51 AM:

abi @ 73: Sorry. I should update more often.

Constance about Cuba: This is very interesting, thank you!

#86 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 10:55 AM:

Lee... I hope things soon get back to normal.

#87 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 01:43 PM:

Ir's more the case that the United States punishes those who have commerce with Cuba. Any nation that buys or sells to Cuba is not allowed to buy and sell to the U.S.

It's a bit difficult to wrap one's mind around, if you haven't been living with tracking these ever-more inclusive and draconian rules, regulations and acts of the U.S. for as long as we have.

Back in 2000 the us regime declared it was keeping all the money from the Cuban telecommunications owed from us traffic over Cuban lines. Fidel then cut the transmissions, period. I was on the line with my husband in Havana when the snip happened.

In 2003 seeing the us dollar sinking in value, while we took on tremendous and still ever-growing debt, for the first time since Independence (though the island was governed by a U.S. general for a while, and then through a puppet), the Cuban currency was no longer pegged to the U.S. dollar. Cuba now operates in euros. Which means for anyone going there from the U.S. you come with devalued currency to start with -- and you cannot use your credit cards there due to the U.S. Trading With the Enemy Act. So you must change your already devalued dollars for euros, and Cuba charges a 20% surcharge for that. So much for the bushies 'punishing' Cuba even more.

The Cuban economy isn't anywhere near as badly off as the ignorant U.S. gummit and Miami bastianos think it is. Cuba hasn't stood still over all these years at all. (Though these hurricanes have clobbered it very, very badly. It will take at least two years to pull back up to where they were before hurricane season.)

Cuba is not like the U.S. in tradition or cultural orientation. How many of you know that Cuba is more African than it is Spanish? That the majority of its population is African heritage? Slavery was abolished there so late that I know people whose grandparents were slaves. Plus it is an island. Look at all the islands in the Antilles. Which ones have a sustainable, self-sufficient economy that isn't either 100% dependent on tourism and / or laundering money - tax havens? Or as with the French Caribbean, those islands, Martinique, Guadeloupe and so on are a part of France, i.e. they are as much French citizens as Parisians, thus provided all the benefits of the French socilaist state from child care subsidies, free medical care and education, etc.

Cuba is the only one that is as self-sufficient as it is, and done on its own. Cuba has no debt. That is the goal -- self-suffiency and sustainability that is environmentally postive and productive. With Chavez's oil they've made great strides in the last decade, while they work on alternative forms of energy. That is the objective and official policy.

Love, C.

#88 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 03:27 PM:

Headline spotted just now on MSNBC:

OVER 1.2 PEOPLE LEFT TEXAS AHEAD OF IKE

#89 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 03:53 PM:

OVER 1.2 PEOPLE IN MY HOUSE RIGHT NOW

#90 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 03:54 PM:

inge: re rates of march

With baggage train and camp followers an army made about 10 miles a day, but that was, in no small part, because of the logisitical requirements of breaking, and making camp. Absent a need to do that, fit soldiers (a rare commodity) could make 25 miles in a day.

That was hard marching, and 20 was considered a full days movement; absent some serious need.

If they were stripped to nothing but essentials, and trained thoroughly they might be able to keep to a rate of 30 miles; but this was really rare (Jackson's, "Foot Cavalry" of the Shenandoah comes to mind).

(nb when I say make camp I am not talking about setting up a bivouac with tents and pickets, but rather an ordered posting of units, mess sections and the like. Often with, at least, impromptu defensive works)

#91 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:02 PM:

Followup headline: MILLIONS CONFUSED, WANDERING AROUND TEXAS.

#92 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:33 PM:

Constance @ 87 ...
Ir's more the case that the United States punishes those who have commerce with Cuba. Any nation that buys or sells to Cuba is not allowed to buy and sell to the U.S.

With apologies for the contradiction, that's not at all true. Cuba's biggest trading partners are also major trading partners with the US, and include the US itself.

#93 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:46 PM:

James @80:

A centralized government that can send the army around to say to everyone "Get in the truck, comrade," greatly facilitates 100% evacuations.
Only in libertarian theory.

What Cuba shows really *works* is a network of trust and equality. What people like Nicole's uncle (@70) show is that we don't have it because too many of us don't want it.

#94 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 05:29 PM:

#92 ::: xeger

No, Venezuela is Cuba's biggest trade partner currently.

As of 2004 Cuba's trading partners were ranked as Netherlands, Canada, China, Russia, Spain, U.S., Italy, Mexico. U.S. has fallen further down the list since 2004. What keeps it on the list at all is the pressure from agriculture economy states like North Dakota and Iowa, who love Cuba as a market for their products. The current regime hates this.

This info is widely available, as here.

The Bush administration tightened its embargo in June 2004, allowing Cuban Americans to return to the island only once every three years (instead of every year) and restricting the amount of U.S. cash that can be spent there to $50 per day. In response, Cuba banned the use of dollars, which had been legal currency in the country for more than a decade.

In March 2008, the Cuban government lifted the ban on purchasing computers and other consumer electronics including DVDs and microwaves, which may signal greater tolerance of internet use in the future.

In June 2008, the EU lifted diplomatic sanctions that were imposed on Cuba in 2003 when plans were announced to abandon salary equality—a radical depature from the country's longstanding Marxist principles.

Love, C.

#95 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 06:50 PM:

Terry @ 90: Thanks for the info!

#96 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2008, 04:02 PM:

This in from Lee, at 2:20 her time, via a voicepost over on LJ:

Well, its a beautiful day today, sunny, around 70, and blessedly dry for a change.

We still don't have power; our land line is still out. There's a crew down the street that looks like they're working on the tree that's keeping them from restoring our power, so I have some hopes that it might be back up by this evening.

What we really need more than anything is to be able to borrow some internet - and a shower, because we still don't have water. Russ is working on that.

If you need me call me on this phone.

I'm trying to stay upbeat about this but, but it's not easy, especially in the middle of the night, I've been haveing trouble sleeping. I think I'll be better when I can get online and actually talk to people in the middle of the night when it gets like that.

At any rate we're doing all right. It's just going to be months getting everything sorted out.

Talk to you later. 'Bye.

#97 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 01:46 AM:

Quick update:
- We still don't have power. This is being posted from a hotel.
- We'll be talking with the insurance adjuster on Saturday.
- We've got a long, hard slog ahead of us.

Notable contrast: Allstate Insurance auto-called every one of their policyholders on Friday to provide them with the phone # for filing emergency claims. Early Saturday morning, they had that number manned, and the "all our agents are busy" message took your number and gave you an estimate of how long it would be before someone called you back.

The FEMA emergency-claim number directs you to their website and then disconnects your call.

#98 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 04:23 PM:

Good to hear from you, Lee. Good luck.

#99 ::: Trip the Space Parasite ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 05:32 PM:

Terry Karney @ #90: So the thing about the Roman legions marching 40 miles in a day is... not as accurate as it might be?

(I know the Roman mile was different than the modern mile, but only by about 10%, not a factor of 2.)

#100 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 06:01 PM:

Trip:

That's been discussed here in the past; IIRC, Dave Luckett had done quite a bit of research on it for his historical fiction. The legions trained for marching much more than a modern army, but I think the conclusion of the discussion was that even so they would do a 40 mile "magnum iter" only under exceptional circumstances, and I believe that would be in a 24-hour period, not continuously day after day.

#101 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2008, 08:25 PM:

This was the best thread I could think of in which to post this.

Baytown teacher brags of eating free MREs in her undamaged house.

That's just sickening. She has a house, she has power and running water, she's STILL GETTING PAID even though her school is closed -- and she's out there stealing disaster-relief supplies out of the mouths of the homeless. I hope they do manage to turn her in for fraud, and I hope she gets 20 years or more in which to blog about how horribly ill-done-by she is... from a prison cell.

#102 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2008, 01:27 PM:

We don't know she stealing from the hungry. I don't know what her pantry looks like, this long after Ike. Money in the bank, no food in the stores and nothing in the larder = needy to me.

All things being equal I'd pass on the MREs if I didn't have to, and I don't know what she means by, "four boxes" (I think of them as being in cases, and a case is 12 meals, which is, in practical terms, rations for one person for six days) so if so she's got almost what I have in my emergency stash, she's not really in need of more. If she has 12 rations, well that's still about a week's worth of food and she's doing a bit of hoarding; not completely unsurprising. I can see being a little prone to hoarding if I were dependent on the largesse of FEMA for my daily bread.

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