Posts Tagged ‘weather’

Stupid Storm Tricks

Posted: September 8, 2008 in Uncategorized
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When I left work on Friday, Hurricane Ike appeared to be setting a course straight for us.

The storm wasn’t expected to get here until Tuesday, but by the time I got home, the winds of Hurricane Ike were beginning to blow.

I’m not talking about feeder bands and storm surge. I refer to the cyclonic blasts of hot air issuing from the local news outlets.

This is my first hurricane tip to anyone new to the hurricane experience: turn off the television.

Everything the TV weatherman says is presented in a simpler, more concise and less ambiguous manner on the National Hurricane Center website, supplemented by any number of other weather sites (see my previous post for some favorites.) Keep an eye on the maps showing the 3 and 5 day cones. Think of the line as just the centerline of the cone, and not the actual track. The accuracy is good up to 3 days, but at 4 and 5 days, not so good.

Until the storm gets here (or there,) you can familiarize yourself with the official Horace James Top 10 list of Stupid Storm News Tricks:

  1. Empty shelves at the grocery store. The purpose of showing this bit of reverse product placement is to induce panic spree buying. (Tip: you don’t need bottled water. The shit is just tap water. Load up some empty bottles or the bathtub or whatever and save some hassle.)
  2. Consumers at the Home Depot tying sheets of plywood on the roof of their Corolla. (Nailing up plywood is about as useful as taping your windows, the shit will just blow away and damage something else in a storm of any size.)
  3. Interviews with panicked consumers in the parking lot.
  4. Film of palm fronds waving. Note that palms, having evolved in the tropics, are designed to handle tropical storms, and that the fronds move in the slightest breeze.
  5. Massive ficus tree leaning against someone’s house/crushing a car. These trees have shallow root systems and dense foliage and are like giant sails. They fall over like teenage drunks in a stiff breeze.
  6. Interview with owner of said house/car: “We’re pretty darn sure it had to be a tornado!”
  7. A sand-blasted windbreaker-clad reporter standing on the beach filming idiots on surfboards. The police are telling people to evacuate, and channel X is providing a surf report. Gnarly, dude.
  8. A line of cars driving through water half way up their doors. And you think people aren’t herd animals?
  9. Reporters standing next to a large puddle. Usually happens after the police kick them off of the beach for creating a nuisance. It looks like the ocean with the wind.
  10. People nailing shower curtains and blue tarps over the holes in their roofs.

Someone could make some cash by creating some stock footage of the above items, superimpose the content from the National Hurricane Center over it and do a green screen thing in a studio with strong fan and a hose and cover the storm without setting foot in the state. Throw in some local/state/federal talking heads and you’re done.

Anyway… they kept moving Ike’s track west and south so that we ended up not doing any hurricane prep — shutters, clearing the patio, etc. etc. Looks like Ike’s heading for Texas.

Glad we didn’t get to meet.


It’s peak hurricane season here in the subtropics. We’ve already seen Fay (a sloppy drunk of a storm, staggering across Florida like an incontinent cruise ship passenger hitting the bars on Duval Street,) and Gusty Gustav, who fortunately eased up before hitting the Big Easy.

At the moment, we have Hanna (who, if she had any poetic sense at all, would be heading for Savanna) heading up the Eastern Seaboard. Floridians are keeping an eye on the eye of Ike (minus Tina and the Revue) who is looking pretty damn evil at the moment.

Anybody who’s been through a hurricane season down here knows that with rare exceptions, the local news outlets are useless, more effective as 24-hour advertisements for plywood, flashlights and duct tape at Home Depot.

Unless you’re a fan of newscasts featuring soggy geeks in windbreakers, toppled ficus trees and empty supermarket shelves, leave the TV off.

This goes double for that obnoxious loudmouth at the Weather Channel.

Fortunately, the web is an excellent resource for all kinds of up-to-date, official and downright interesting information. Here’s a list of my favorites.

  1. The National Hurricane Center is an essential part of any hurricanist’s repertoire. All the official government stuff: advisories, discussions (my favorites) and the official forecast paths and maps, which are based on computer models, satellite images, floating buoys and the famous “hurricane hunter” recon flights — the drive-bys of the weather world.  Also historical stuff and a wealth of official (important concept!) info. Convenient links to NOAA for local forecasts and radar.
  2. Experimental Forecast Tropical Cyclone Genesis models. I don’t know what that means exactly, but what you’ll find are animated java movies of some of the computer models. Just pick your model, the storm and hit animate. This part of the Florida State Meteorology department.
  3. One of the best overall resources I’ve found: the Central Florida Hurricane Center. It’s a very well-organized aggregator of hurricane information, including links to the NHC forecasts. Everything’s organized per storm, not by type of info. Makes it VERY easy to access everything. Also has forums, although based on my very brief experience, they have NO sense of HUMOR!
  4. The US Navy’s Fleet Numerical Meteorological and Oceanographic Center (FNMOC).  (Note: there’s always been some weirdness with the certificates for this site.  I’ve never encountered any thing that didn’t seem kosher, but fyi.)  Lots of goodies, more detailed maps than the others; check out the wave height and direction prediction tools (also animated.)

There are plenty more, but these are a good start.

May your roof remain attached to your house.

Hey-hey-hey, Hurricane Fay

Posted: August 18, 2008 in Uncategorized
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The Cone of Destruction!

At the moment, it’s still a tropical storm but is expected to strengthen to a hurricane strength before it hits Florida, somewhere between Tampa and Ft. Myers by the map.

No big deal here. We’re under a tropical storm warning. Rain and some gusty winds. Today was the first day of school, which was canceled last night. They’ve also canceled classes for tomorrow. You might be surprised to learn that my son’s actually happy at this turn of events.

We don’t get off of work unless there’s a hurricane warning. As much as I’d love to get off work, spending 3-4 hours hanging storm shutters and moving outside shit inside sucks ass even more.

Still a month and a half of peak storm season to go. Hang on to your monogrammed panties.

The Night Yakker

Posted: August 16, 2008 in Uncategorized
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I like to kayak.

We have three boats, and a truck to carry them around, but we haven’t been out much in the past year for a bunch of reasons. Too busy writing, I guess.

I joined this Miami Kayaking Meetup Group about a year ago, and have been seeing all these tantalizing boat trips in my inbox every week. So, on a whim, I decided to show up for a Thursday night 6pm paddle from Matheson Hammock park. (Note – link to funky commercial site, but has nice pictures.) No big deal, a short run down Biscayne Bay and then up a mangrove creek to Hidden Lake, then back.

It was a deluge all day long, with massive electrical bombardment. One of the nice things about my work is that I have a big window. I enjoyed the show, but by 5pm there was still major voltage flying around.

But I had to show, you never know. My boat was hanging out of the back of my truck, and it was going to get wet driving home anyway, so I figured I might as well be in it. I headed for the park.

I met Miles, the organizer, by the boat ramp. We stood in the warm drizzle shooting the shit and waiting for this third guy who didn’t show. The sparks were lessening, more horizontal now, but still — more people get celestially fried in Florida than anywhere else, and I’ve had my share of close calls.

But man… the water was sooo calm. The boats were ready to go. It was my call. “Let’s do it,” I said.

So, we had a nice paddle, he gets a variety of skill levels and enjoyed being able to go at a faster pace. We shared tales of weather and hurricanes, he had some wild kayak stories, my favorite being one about the two girls, one of whom was towing the other by a towline made of bikini tops. This may show up in a future story.

I’d been to Hidden Lake before, but wasn’t aware of the back passage in. The tide was coming in and it made for a fun ride through the mangroves. We hung there for a while, marveling at the electrical show up in the clouds, then checked out the birds on rookery island for a while. Headed back (against the tide was more challenging, but fun) and back up the bay. The rain started up again, with my boat you get wet anyway, so I didn’t care.

Soon, the Miami Skyline was visible and we were back.

First time I’ve ever done an after-work paddle, and I’m going to do it again. Restores the soul to working order, it does. And you can imagine all kind of spooky stuff in the mangroves and under the surface of the water in the moonlight. Inspirational. Especially the girls without the bikini tops.