Waiting for the End of the World…

…turned out to be a bust.  Which was OK with me.

Week before last, the projected track of Hurriance Isaac had it coming ashore around Apalachicola, a historic fishing village about 90 miles southwest of where I live.   Since we would be on the northeast side of Isaac, we’d be getting a lot of rain.

My house is atop a hill, so I’m not worried about flooding.  All that water is going downhill into the homes of my neighbors across the street, who are below the road elevation.  ( I’m mystified why anyone would buy a house below the street elevation.)

But I decided to get ready for the rain.  Just in case Isaac’s westward drift did not continue, which I believed would based on historical patterns.

During the 25+ years I’v lived in Tallahassee, there has been only one hurricane that hit here.  That was Kate, a Category 1 that came ashore on Tuesday before Thanksgiving 1985.  I was in Tampa on business that day and my late afternoon flight was cancelled when Tallahassee airport was closed.

Following the airline agent’s advice, I showed up at the airport early Wednesday morning and was able to get a seat on a small (15 seater maybe) commuter plane home.  (I think I was given a seat because I belonged to their frequent flier program.)  What normally would be a 20-minute drive home from the airport took a good hour as I hunted for roads which did not have a huge tree across both lanes. There was no electricity but fortunately few folks were on the road. (Where would they go? Nothing was open.)

I had scheduled Wednesday as a vacation day to spend the long Thanksgiving weekend with friends in Jacksonville.  After I made it home, I repacked my carryon and left town.  When I returned Sunday evening, I learned that power had been restored to my neighbohood just a few hours earlier.

Some far northern portions of the county did not get power back until the following weekend.  The southern portion of the county, which is at a lower elevation, had massive flooding.

So Saturday of last week I got on my roof to sweep off the accumulated pine straw that somehow collects there even though there are no pine trees closer than 15 feet to the house.  Unfortunately, my roof isn’t sloped steeply enough to wash the pine straw off when it rains. I survived that job.
Next, I cleared the off the leaves and other debris that had washed off the roof and settled on my gutter guards.  In the Pihlippines, I rarely saw a house without gutters. When those typhoons come, you need those gutters!  But in the U.S., many homes have no gutters.  (In fact, my house had no gutters when I bought it and so I wisely paid to have them installed.)

I was ready for Isaac!  Of course, it continued its westward drift and whacked some high school friends of mine who now live in Louisiana.

There’s one more month of “peak” hurricane season.  So if another storm heads this way, I’m ready.  But geography is in my favor; something has to turn a storm to the north once it gets into the Gulf for it to come to my area.  The most likely trajectory is towards the western Florida panhandle or further west.  Which is why there’s only been one hurricane to hit here in over 25 years.

I like those odds….


6 responses to “Waiting for the End of the World…

  1. Well, my house is below street level, BUT. The ground slopes down from the street to the house, then continues to slope down in the back yard until if reaches the deep ravine behind the house. So the water goes around the house and continues its downward path. So far. But we’ve never had 15-20 inches of rain in a few hours either.
    If Isaac had hit here it sounds as if it would have been a lot like Kate, and similar to New Orleans (thankfully), a lot of downed trees and no power. It’s been interesting to watch the reactions of people outside the City, who are very resentful that New Orleans was protected and they weren’t. What? New Orleans should have opened the flood gates and shared the pain? I actually saw one person on TV who said that since the water had to go somewhere and couldn’t get into New Orleans, they got it all. It’s easy to understand their depression, after all, Plaquemines Parish is utterly destroyed. But it’s just stupid to blame New Orleans. And poor Mississippi–no one ever pays any attention to them. I saw one hilarious fake news item, “Lost Land Mass Found Between Louisiana and Alabama. Now Called ‘Mississippi'”.

  2. There’s one more month of “peak” hurricane season. So if another storm heads this way, I’m ready. But geography is in my favor; something has to turn a storm to the north once it gets into the Gulf for it to come to my area. The most likely trajectory is towards the western Florida panhandle or further west. Which is why there’s only been one hurricane to hit here in over 25 years.

    SC you are forgetting the no name storm of March 1993, which killed 47 people in Florida and 14 just South of you in Taylor County. Keaton Beach was devastated, Adams and Dekel Beach were destroyed.Storm surge was 12 feet. I remember sitting through gut wrenching post event bridge loan meetings with State officials, FEMA, Red Cross and DCA. I particularly remember one resident of Dark Island who said, “we just lived through the storm of the century, so we got another 100 years before the odds will tip against us again therefor we don’t need to take any additional public safety actions for 2 generations.” I knew then it was time for me to make a change in employment.

    History means absolutely nothing when forecasting the weather and unanticipated catastrophes

    • pt, you are so right. Even here, inland, people are confused by the meaning of “100 year storm”. You could have one today…and another one next week. I believe sc is referring to a storm that made it as far as Tallahassee from the coast. Certainly there has been plenty of devastation on the coast since Kate in 1985. But you have shocked me, pt. There was an unnamed storm in 1993 that did that much damage? Why wasn’t it named?
      In the May 9th Flood (New Orleans, 1995), it was just a freak thunderstorm that parked itself over the city and rained 18-20 inches in 6 hours. Then half the existing pumps failed. Before Katrina, it was the worst disaster New Orleans had ever experienced in terms of property damage, though “only” 6 people died. I still have nightmares about floods. I started shaking even tonight watching the CBS News when they were showing pictures of water pouring into Laplace, LA. People don’t realize that the water literally turns into rapids, and you have no power against it.

    • > the storm of the century, so we got another 100 years

      That shows a lack of understanding about how probability works. If there is only 1 chance of X every 100 times, then it is always still 1% probability. If 500 times go by without X, that does not mean X is “due.”
      It is still only 1%. The “it is due” thinking is how folks lose all their money on a slot machine that is “due.”

      > History means absolutely nothing when forecasting

      It is the probability history that has meaning. If you look at hurricane tracks over as long as they have records, you will see that the probability of it coming to Tallahassee is low. Not that it cannot happen, but that it is unlikely to happen.

      I rely on probability on what to do in my cash poker games. After some five years of tournaments before the feds shut my site down, I was up by 30% of my starting stake. It’s not “gambling” to go all in with pocket Aces, but it is gambling to call with 7-2 off suit. I’ve lost many hands with AA against foolish calls, such as J-3 off suit which hit the J on the flop and the 3 on the river, but I’ve won a lot more than I’ve lost.

      I prefer poker to the stock market. I know the probability in poker, but you cannot even begin to calculate “probability” in the stock market. Too many variables. Hence the “spread it out” advice.

  3. “There was an unnamed storm in 1993 that did that much damage? Why wasn’t it named?”

    Because it sprang up like a monster with no warning and swept across much of Florida and moved over the entire Eastern Seaboard causing severe devastation and loss. The flooding in the beach areas of the Gulf Coast kept rescuers out for 48 hours while victims perished. I toured the devastation on Monday morning and I will never forget it.

    Speaking to the survivors during the subsequent weeks was a truly gut wrenching experience. Many of them had nothing at all. FEMA works slowly and standing in line to be told that is a particularly enraging experience to someone without food, water and shelter. The look in their eyes is truly unforgettable.

  4. pt, I figured the storm was something like that, which is the reason it was unnamed. Just like the thunderstorm over New Orleans in ’95. There was no possiblity to prepare.
    sc, you can order your life according to probability, which is as good as any other system such as religion. And you do understand there is still a 1% chance in your example, unlike the person in pt’s example who said, we’re safe now for another 99 years.
    In the one and only statistics class I took in college (probability being different from statistics, but part of it) I made the only A out of 11 survivors in a class that started out with about 40 people. And here’s why: I understood it as soon as I realized that it does not correspond to reality. Probability has its own laws, so once you accept that framework, it falls into place.
    What was funny was that my prediction was that the people who dropped out of the class would never make it to graduation. Perhaps they thought they would take it later. But it doesn’t get any easier. Most of them were psychology majors and this course was required for them, whereas it wasn’t for me. I had to take a math course of some kind, and this was the one I chose.
    I also took a course in surveying, which was in the engineering department, also not required for me and made the only A there too out of about the same number of people. They thought it was a chore, I thought it was a blast.
    My favorite illustration of probability has always been the Three Door Problem. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Hall_problem

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