Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Forgiving Being the News: My Report from the Eye of Hurricane Irma

Florida and hurricanes go hand in hand. Sometimes many years go by where Florida has no hurricane action (like 2006-2016) and sometimes years go by where Florida is under constant threat by hurricanes (like 2004-2005). Living in Florida for much of my life, I've seen so many storms that I can't keep track of them all. Nonetheless, there have been three storms that have stood out from the rest: Andrew in 1992, Wilma in 2005, and Irma in 2017.

Andrew was a close call but went far enough south to spare my area from the worst of the storm. Wilma was a direct hit. And Irma was a direct hit. Out of all three, Irma did the most damage.

In the movie Fight Club there is a great line: "On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero."

As I sat with the electricity knocked out listening to the howling winds of Irma 9/10/2017, I kept on thinking about that line from Fight Club. On a long enough timeline, every structure in Florida will be rendered uninhabitable by a hurricane, especially structures near the coast. My family's home has stood since 1988 and has weathered three major hurricanes. But eventually a hurricane will come along that makes the house unlivable. When that inevitably happens though is unpredictable. It might take hundreds or thousands of years. And how exactly it happens is also unpredictable. It could happen due to 185 mph winds, or a massive storm surge from a storm approaching at just the right angle, or heavy rain leading to flooding (like Harvey and Houston), or even a tornado in an outer squall of a hurricane.

All in all, for many people, the perks of Florida outweigh the inevitable occasional hurricane. Although it can be oppressively hot any time of year in Florida, winters are usually quite nice. Plus, in the summer, it can get just as hot if not much hotter just about anywhere in the U.S. as it can in Florida. And the nice thing about Florida summers is that a thunderstorm will often cool things down. With air conditioning and mosquito control, Florida is a relatively nice place to live. Without those things though, it's only nice in the winter.

Every place comes with risks of natural disasters. Whether it be earthquake, tornado, blizzard, fire, volcano, flood, drought, lightning, hail, coastal flooding, tsunami, avalanche, mud slide, sink hole, asteroid, hurricane... on a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone and everything drops to zero. That's just the nature of entropy and the universe. The universe wasn't made to work.

Monday 9/04/2017 I sent an email out to my immediate family members that said: "The GFS model has us all basically dead by next Monday 9/11." I also told Mike Lemieux that he might want to rethink his Florida visit scheduled to start at the end of the week. The GFS model had an 895 mb pressure hurricane hitting our area. Fortunately, the GFS model got the intensity wrong a week in advance but it had the point of landfall pegged perfectly. I knew no matter what, the storm would likely get close enough to knock out power, so at the very least I made plans to lose power. The models fluctuated throughout the week, but by the end of the week hope of avoiding Irma was dwindling. Consequently, for the first time ever we boarded up the windows of the house.

Good news came Friday as Irma interacted with Cuba weakening its southern half. But by Sunday morning Irma was looking too healthy for comfort as it slammed the Florida Keys. At that point, a direct hit was looking better than Irma staying offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Staying offshore meant that Irma could strengthen and make for massive storm surge. The storm surge potential was high enough that it could have flooded the house. Wind was better than flood.

By the time the power went out at 11 am Sunday 9/10, it was clear that a direct hit was the most likely scenario. At that point, all communication with the outside world ceased to work except for the radio. At 3:30 pm the radio let me know Irma was coming on shore at Marco Island, just twelve miles to the south of me. Things started getting more and more intense from that point on. The winds got even stronger and the rains got even heavier. Trees were falling and breaking left and right.

I figured the worst of the storm, the eye wall, would last about 15 minutes, but the storm wasn't moving very fast and after 35 minutes I started getting worried. My worry came from watching the water in the back of the house and in the front of the house rise higher and higher. A bit of storm surge combined with over six inches of rain in a little over an hour on top of the five inches that had fallen since Saturday evening on top of a very wet summer had me scrambling to get anything valuable off the floor. The radio wasn't providing the best information and I started to wonder if maybe the storm was stalling or the storm surge was building.

Just as the water reached heights I hadn't seen since tropical storm Jerry in 1995, the rain stopped and the winds started to calm. Within minutes, I was in the eye of Irma. So, I went outside to take a look around. The neighborhood looked eerily different due to the walloping the trees took. I felt as if I had time traveled. In the eye, my home weather station recorded a low pressure of 938 mb.

The house lost some shingles, some screens, and some vegetation but nothing too bad. Since Cuba weakened the southern half of Irma, I knew the worst was over. The back end of Irma brought strong winds from the opposite direction. But without much rain on the south end, there was little to bring the strongest winds down to ground level.

The hurricane was actually the fun part lol. What followed was five days of hot, muggy, isolated misery. With no power or internet/phone, the most entertaining thing to do was go walk around looking at storm damage, which led to some interesting holy encounters. With much of the region without power, looking at the stars at night was also entertaining. I had never seen the actual Milky Way band across the sky until Monday 9/11/2017.

Trump, Pence, and the governor visited a neighborhood of wrecked manufactured homes (real homes mostly fared fine) a mile from my neighborhood the Thursday after the storm 9/14. I would have taken a walk over there to check things out if I had known exactly what was going on with the presidential visit, but relying solely on the radio I wasn't informed in time to do that.

It took five days for power to come back on (six for internet/phone) and we were relatively lucky. There are still a lot of homes and businesses without power as I write this well over a week later after the storm.

I've already forgiven hurricanes in the sense that I've accepted them as an inevitable part of Florida. But there are things about hurricanes I haven't quite forgiven. One thing I realized I haven't quite forgiven is the financial vulnerability of having so much wealth tied up in "stuff" vulnerable to being destroyed by natural disasters. Just the food wasted by having no freezer for five days was financially annoying. Hurricanes are actually quite fun when you don't have anything to lose lol. When you have stuff to lose though, they are stressful. Irma made me realize just how much I'd prefer not to own anything other than money to buy the day to day necessities of life.

Another thing that I've noticed that I haven't quite forgiven about hurricanes is something I haven't thought much about for the last twelve years due to the lack of hurricanes; that something is the global-warming-CO2-hurricane-link-guilt-trip lol. In the old days people used to project guilt about weather by attributing it to things like an angry god, now it's human caused CO2. Can't there be anything in life without guilt projection lol? I've had a lifelong interest in weather and my younger brother even became a PhD atmospheric scientist. So, when it comes to a subject like global warming I'm interested in the truth divorced from the hyperbole of guilt projecting political agendas. When it comes to hurricanes, it's just as ignorant to attribute any given hurricane or hurricane season to CO2 global warming as it is to attribute a colder than average day or winter as evidence of no global warming. When you consider that there is only about 40 years of good data about hurricanes and about 100 years of decent data on land falling ones, hyperbolic talk like "worst ever" falls hollow on the ears of a person exercising rational thought. Serious people don't say things like that. Political guilt projecting zombies do though lol. Serious people also don't say things like "weather disasters are increasing due to global warming." Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. did the research and found that the perceived increase in weather disasters was the result of land development creating more areas of higher wealth density (more target areas) not discernible weather changes. But you risk a lot when you are faithful to facts that downplay climate change; Pielke was tortured by the political left after he dared to release those findings.

Global warming is abstract and ambiguous enough that you can project onto it whatever you want. You can project on to it that it's the cause of all negative weather. You can project on to it that it's a big problem that's going to destroy the world. You can project on to it that oil companies are conspiring to downplay global warming. You can project onto it that it's a hoax for a carbon tax money grab or conspiracy for a world government. You can project onto it that it's a beneficial blessing since, for instance, CO2 is plant food and so the world is about 14 percent greener than thirty years ago. Whatever you want to see you can see.

When these charts show a clear uptrend I'll be perfectly willing to accept a link between hurricanes and CO2. Until then though, it's all just guilt projection fantasies by people looking to be proven right. How can it be that global warming made Harvey move slow, Nate move fast, eliminated wind shear to incubate Irma and Maria and then also during the prior twelve years global warming kept major hurricanes away from the United States? Also, why is it that when it's hotter than normal that's global warming and when it's colder than normal that's also global warming but called climate change? That CO2 must be some really magical stuff! I believe in psychic ability but not cold reading, just as I believe in the ability of CO2 to influence climate but am unimpressed by vague predictions bound to be right eventually regardless of actual cause. Forgive me if I need more evidence for things than confirmation of predictions vague and universal enough to amount to psychic cold reading lol.

Anyway, I already wrote a piece on forgiving global warming and it's the delusion that politics (government force) is any sort of solution to it that consistently disturbs me most about global warming. Realistically, I have zero respect for anyone's concerns over global warming who isn't actively working on inventing new clean energy or air cleaning technology that is good enough to not have to rely on the force of government (including patents) for people to accept and use it. That's just the reality. I'm personally not working on new energy, which goes to show I don't really care lol. I'm not the kind of guy impressed by shallow guilt projection lol. I'm impressed by results. That's why I have zero respect for all politics lol. If you believe CO2 is a big problem, do something authentic about it instead of just bitching and guilt projecting that politicians won't, as if they really could anyway. Politics is the hobby of lazy guilt projectors. People who actually care about solutions just go out and pursue them privately and try to work around the stifling force of politics. 

Permanence is a frustrating thing to aim for in this universe. Permanence in this universe requires dependence on the undependable. Permanence is a futile attempt to substitute oneness. What we all really want is oneness. And oneness isn't of this universe. On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone and everything in this universe drops to zero. Therefore, save yourself the aggravation of trying to make what was made not to work work. The physical world doesn't work, but fortunately spirit does.