Irma — history in the making

As I write, I am watching live weather coverage from NBC2 in Fort Myers, Florida to track Hurricane Irma.

A week ago forecasters thought the war goddess would target the east coast of the state. Consequently, orders were for an east-to-west evacuation. Two days ago, the projections changed to the west coast of the state. By then, even though people wanted to leave, there was no more petrol to be had.

Irma is a perfect storm in a number of ways, both scientifically and socially. Her eye has been perfect during her transit across the Caribbean with at least one eyewall replacement. Irma makes 1992’s Andrew look small by comparison. Right now, at 12:30 p.m. BST, Irma is over Key West and will graze the southwest coast of Florida later today. However, the east coast of the state is getting hurricane force winds. Irma’s reach is so great that the Bahamas are also affected at this time.

Once Irma hits the southwestern peninsula, the winds will change direction and come in off the Gulf of Mexico. Then, there will be not only high, sustained winds but storm surge which is likely to cause flooding. Storm surge started on the east coast and will turn to the west coast.

One man has already died in southwest Florida because of the winds. He was driving a truck, attempting to deliver a generator.

Power lines are likely to go down soon. Trees close to power lines, including palms, look vulnerable in places.

Topographical change could also occur. The author of The Conservative Treehouse has lived in Florida for many years and participates in hurricane rescue and assistance. He also lives in the southwestern part of the state. This is his verdict:

The tenuous coastal and barrier island ‘ground‘ is crushed shell and sand, and their entire topography is subject to change as the shallow and severely churned gulf waters carry in sand/silt and excavate the same.

Just like 2004’s Hurricane Charley split an entire island (Upper Captiva) in less than 15 minutes, so too could entire coastal communities be split or covered in sand within a few hours. Bridges rising from mainland on one side could disappear into the new coastal Gulf of Mexico on the other, with the barrier island completely removed.

There is more to Captiva’s history. It was created — through storms — out of neighbouring Sanibel. Subsequent hurricanes and storm surge changed it further:

Originally part of neighboring Sanibel Island to the southeast, it was severed in 1926 when a hurricane‘s storm surge created a new channel, Blind Pass. The channel filled in over subsequent years, but was reopened by dredging in the summer of 2009. Like Sanibel, Captiva is a barrier island to Pine Island (to the east of Captiva and north of Sanibel), however it is much narrower …

North Captiva Island or Upper Captiva is another island, in turn severed from Captiva in a 1921 hurricane, creating Redfish Pass. North Captiva has power from lines that originate on the north end of Captiva, and is privately owned. With about 300 homes built and 300 vacant lots, the island is about half way to build-out. Since the island can be accessed by boat or small plane only, North Captiva real estate values are generally lower than on Captiva.

Another thing that makes Irma unusual is that she will be going south to north rather than east to west. That has not happened for several decades. The whole of Florida will be affected in one way or another. Heavy rains could cause inland rivers to overflow.

Socially, how Floridians on either southern coast respond will depend on a few factors. First, many Floridians are relatively new to the state and are unaccustomed to hurricanes. Secondly, because newer residents underestimate the power of hurricanes, not many prepare for them thoroughly. Thirdly, urban centres have a number of immigrant groups that deeply dislike each other. I read anecdotally about men from two different national origins fighting over plywood, spitting on each other. Finally, most people underestimate the time it will take to get up and running again. Fuel — especially petrol — is unlikely to reach the southern counties for days. Food availability — e.g. in supermarkets — could be similarly patchy. What happens if power is out for several days in places?

Here are excerpts from another post on The Conservative Treehouse:

The earliest fuel shipments I could confirm are (hopefully) anticipated to arrive on Wednesday of next week. That’s approximately 5 days of self-sufficient fuel needed for those with portable generators. (5 gallons usually runs about 12-14 hours under normal loads). That means anyone with less than 50 gallons of fuel can’t make it from Sunday to Wednesday …

Power is going to be a big issue. If the path is anything like current projections we can anticipate a power outage in Florida breaking all known records. This issue is made complicated by the South To North direction of Irma keeping the inbound power recovery teams from being able to head south …

With all of these combined factors, essentially, after tonight – everything is in full hunker down mode until approximately a week from now. I’m not too optimistic that most people are aware of that likely probability. That leads to the concerns of lawlessness etc.

As a rough guess, based entirely on just driving around paying attention, it would appear about 25% of homesteads are not prepared at all. About 50% of those observed in the region are moderately prepared, and about 25% appear generally well prepared.

I would estimate the number of people fully comprehending what might take place over the next 5-10 days (meaning having some foundational knowledge of how to move forward amid chaos) in the 3-5% range. Not coincidentally, that’s about the same range of the general population who would be considered “preppers”.

Then, this entry from September 9:

Let me be clear. It is impossible to hunker down near the coast in SWFL with 15′ of storm surge.  It is understandable the mandatory evacuations would be expanded.  Shelters are filling as fast as they can open. –Local News Link–  This is the largest mass movement of people in South Florida History.

This morning we’ve been transporting people with pets inland.  Desperate people.  Well prepared people.  Almost everyone was/is prepared for the 130+ MPH possible wind damage; but there’s no way to prepare for 15′ of water above ground level.

If these storm surge projections hold true, we are on the cusp of witnessing history.   These coastal areas, and some even miles inland, have never seen anything like this.  Florida Governor Rick Scott promises there will be enough shelters for the new influx of evacuees from the areas.  These are massive and widespread population centers all along the West coast of Florida.

My prayers for everyone.  Remain calm.

As for the Keys, there hasn’t been a hurricane that significantly impacted them since 1846.

One hour later and ocean water is being sucked out to sea off Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel. This also happened in the Bahamas. The water level in the Cape Coral Canal is also two feet lower than it should be. The water will be back in a short while with a vengeance. That’s how powerful Irma is. Meanwhile, one of the rivers is starting to rise. In another coastal area, waves are already surging over a bridge.

In closing, since Harvey, the question has been asked whether climate change is causing the recent concentration of hurricanes and tropical storms. Steven Crowder interviewed climatologist Dr Roy Spencer, who worked at NASA for many years and has been  a Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville since 2001. Here is the YouTube video, which is 20 minutes long.

Spencer says that all these departments rely on federal funding. They have to present a ‘problem’ in order to get funding. Hence, climate change hysteria. He said that there are many climatologists but only a handful of activists make the media. Spencer describes himself as a ‘lukewarmer’. He knows something is happening, but he says mankind can do very little about it.

We are likely to be witnessing history with Irma. I will have more updates on my site.

5 comments for “Irma — history in the making

  1. September 10, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    I recommend a purchase and quiet read of a novel entitled Condominium, by John D. MacDonald.
    Although fiction, it coves many of the areas you discussed in your writing, inclusive of building in the wring places, building in the wrong fashion; plus letting graft and corruption rule the political process.

    I enjoyed it, and it just might be prophetic!

    • September 10, 2017 at 5:14 pm

      Shall look out.

    • September 11, 2017 at 12:01 am

      Thanks. I like this quote from one of the reviews:

      ‘Very dark look at the venality of human greed and lust in the sun baked sand spits and keys of Florida. Examining the shortcuts taken by everyone from the developers, real estate agents, zoning commissions, building contractors, and bankers – all to get a cut of action and make a bunch of cash. The novel is actually a collection of stories of ordinary people trying to live the Golden Life but getting hammered down by the harsh realities of the system which seemed rigged for disappointment and sorrow …’

      I can readily believe it. My parents and neighbours were approached by salesmen in the early 1970s about buying properties in southwest Florida. They all met in our flat. One couple bought a plot. Later, they were very sorry. Of course, property there has improved since then, relatively speaking. That said, I remember my parents saying at the time, ‘If no one has bought there before, why should we?’ Some would say they were fools. I think they did the right thing. Everything was sandy and empty. (I saw the slide presentation — current technology then. Shook my head, even as an adolescent.)

      Back to the present day, although Irma is now Category 2, the winds are strong around Immolakee and LaBelle — both inland. They are on the edge of Irma’s disintegrating eyewall.

      Storm surges now expected for Sanibel (island), Naples and other coastline resorts and towns. NBC2 reporters are telling people to remain indoors. Naples had 130 mph winds today. It isn’t over yet.

      I experienced a Category 1 — Gloria — in 1985, which had started out as a Cat 4:

      Seriously unfun, sitting alone with windows taped up, strong winds on the coast (not far from where I was) and power lines down for the whole afternoon. Still, by comparison with Irma, nothing to complain about. After everything was over, I went to a neighbour’s home for dinner and took a torch to reveal any downed power lines, of which there were some.

      One cannot be too careful in a hurricane.

  2. September 11, 2017 at 5:38 am

    The bit that gets me is the water sucked out of the bays and coastline. Awesome power.

    • September 11, 2017 at 11:35 pm

      Indeed. Then the water returns quicker than most people can run — and with a vengeance.

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