Thursday, September 13, 2007

Zero to Deadly Hurricane in 2 days.

"Humberto strengthened from a tropical depression with 55 km/h winds to a hurricane with 135 km/h winds in just 18 hours" NOAA says. That's a 2.45 times increase in less than a day. This pales in comparison to anything, even the most massive F5 tornado, which can drop out of the sky with barely an hour's warning.

Two days ago there *was no* Humberto. In just over 48 hours, we had nothing, and two days later we have a hurricane slamming the coast, travelling completely across the Gulf of Mexico. That puppy was moving. From 11AM Wednesday where it first gathered together as a tropical depression, to Eastern Texas where it finally lost steam and dropped back down to a depression, Humberto wasn't just a fall storm.

The earliest traces of it were only scattered clouds Saturday afternoon. Four days later it has 55km/h winds and becomes a depression. Just hours later it's a Hurricane hitting the US coast. We've already had two Cat-Fives in just over a week. Humberto apparently spent more time on land as a Hurricane than it did over water. Should anyone worry? I'd think so.

Not that I'd live in Florida, but everyone from Texas to New York has reason to be concerned about 150MPH winds that hurricanes can bring, and sustain. These are killing winds. Any airborn item becomes a projectile that can kill. Anything not bolted down becomes airborn. Cars and buildings can be tossed. Huge yaghts can wind up miles inland from the wind-blown surge waters. What the wind doesn't break, the water does.

People saw what Katrina did, and now we know what havoc a category five hurricane can bear. Even inland states are not entirely safe from the hard weather, with torrential rains, sustained high winds, and damage to services. If there was ever a category six, it's easy to see that it could travel right up the mississippi and hit Canada, but we don't need to imagine as-yet unmaterialized hazards. There are record-setting hazards appearing already.

They're coming in faster, the season is longer, they're hitting land more frequently, they're growing faster, and the winds are higher speed. All the data points to an increase in the strength and chaotic nature of weather. I don't think people should gamble that their house can take 200+km/h winds, or that no windblown semi trailers won't come through their roof. The weather has changed, and now we have to build accordingly.

I think that economically depressed housing should be shifted and distributed across largely empty midwest states. Offer them new homes and build a few new colleges to drive industry. Make all new homes in hurricane zones meet stringent Cat-Five requirements just like California homes which have to meet earthquake codes up to 7.5 Richter. In other words, concrete and steel construction, elevated floorplans above surge levels, and no more building cheap condos on the beaches.

Anything less is just darwinian in stupidity.


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