Tuesday, November 6, 2012

11/5/2012 Namazu on Storm II


Namazu The Earth Shaker

                       A FEW THOUGHTS ON STORM NO.2   

  Those of you who read my post titled "UH....About Jack" last week know that based on insider information provided by my Cajun Cousin Jack I predicted another storm would batter the North East later this week. By now most of you have heard the official word from NOAA that a serious coastal storm is forming and headed your way if you live between the Virginia Capes and New York. This won't be another Frankenstorm but expect wind, rain, some snow in places, and power outages. Winds on the coast in places could exceed 60 mph in gusts and sustained winds in the 30 to 40 mph range will be wide spread. So you know that means power outages, including power outages for people who have just recovered power and protracted misery for those who don't have it on by the time the "re-do" hits. Folks I know this seems strange, unheard of, and positively unfair. But in fact the old one/two punch is far from unheard of among us forces of nature. 

 Think back just a bit. Katrina, that old city killer was followed in short order with Rita a smaller Hurricane that barely brushed New Orleans while it was down for a long count after being flooded by Katrina. Rita did some additional property damage as far east as New Orleans and spread hurricane force winds and tides westward along the coast to Beaumont, Texas. Before hurricane season was over the Central Gulf Coast from Mobile to Beaumont had experienced property damage and   power failures. The death toll due to the levee breaches in New Orleans was in the thousands. 

"Forces of nature" like my Cajun giant catfish cousin Jack and I don't do these one two punch tricks out of any ill will to the two legged kind. If your perception of us is a mere sum of our parts there is no way that anything so lacking in consciousness as a low pressure system, a high pressure system, and steering currents could have "ill will" towards you. If you have the imagination to see us forces of nature as the ancient Japanese saw us with personalities and names then hear this. We mean you no harm! We are giant catfish and we gotta wiggle, its in our nature like your DNA. We are absolutely neutral we just gotta wiggle. 

 But for those who believe, we want to communicate. We want to point out to you how we can share the planet with a whole lot less friction. Believe me nobody knows more about the Southeast American Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico than my cousin Jack the giant hurricane causing Cajun catfish. But you people have been listening to NOAA. NOAA don't know Jack!  You depend on FEMA, ask any Cajun, FEMA don't know Jack. If you want to know Jack, ask Jack, or at least ask me Namazu through the comment section at the end of the post. I'll pass your questions on to Jack and report his answers. 

 But one thing that you must be prepared to understand is that many mistakes were made before these storms and if you want to undo them you have to start to rebuild differently. You have to rebuild infrastructure differently, you have to rebuild homes and other human dwelling places differently, you have to protect beaches differently, approach flood control differently, approach sharing the risk differently than conventional insurance, and develop a totally different attitude. FEMA will eventually get the flood control ( as if there really is any such thing as flood control ) infrastructure back to where it was,or slightly improved. Well, how'd where it was work for ya? FEMA will eventually fix you up with some woefully inadequate funding that coupled with some more woefully inadequate  insurance settlements may allow you to rebuild without going bankrupt. Are you going to put everything back the way it was ?  Then you don't know Jack. 

Was your house over one hundred years old? For 99 % of those who lost homes the answer to that question is no. Will the one you rebuild last 100 years? Not if its like the one you lost save for the Federally recommended "Dade County" roof.

 Lets look at a case study that Jack suggests. The Pass Christian Yacht Club is the oldest yacht club on the Central Gulf Coast. It was founded in the 1870s. Within the living memory of the oldest members there have been three clubhouses on the extremely exposed peninsula over looking the Gulf that the club sits on. The oldest clubhouse that any living members can remember was constructed after the 1948 hurricane that wiped out the Mississippi Gulf Coast. By most accounts it looked a lot like the clubhouse it replaced which may have stood 50 years. The club sells prints of a painting of the 1948 club house.  While there are wonderful Gulf and beach views through the floor to ceiling "storm glass" in the new post Katrina club I doubt that anyone will ever do a painting of the club that draws anything like the demand for the prints for the 1948 club.

 The pre -1948 clubhouse was a traditional raised West Indies cottage with a big porch set up on masonry piers at least five feet above the grade of the site which is a filled rubble mound about fifteen feet above mean Gulf level. The windows were a little short of floor to ceiling and only filled with the ordinary glass of the time. But the shutters were real and fashioned of stout cypress. No one had heard of "Dade County" standards but roofs were most often slate with terra cotta cylinder halves covering the critical seams.  Doors were made of solid planking not hollow laminated material. The club house survived many a tropical storm, many a direct hit from what we might call a Force 1 hurricane today. But apparently the storm of 1948 (before we started naming and  force designating them) was something stronger and the club house was shattered. The result was the 1948 club house, which based on the prints of its image, was a kissing cousin of the pre-1948 structure. The 1948 club house stood until about 1969 when it was wiped out by Hurricane Camille.


File:Hurricane Camille 16 aug 1969 2340Z.jpg
Hurricane Camille as seen from low Earth orbit

By the time Hurricane Camille ripped the needle off of the wind gauges at over 200 mph, we had taken to naming and classifying by force all manner of tropical cyclone type storms. FEMA wasn't around yet so the U.S. Navy Seabees  and Army Corps of Engineers were a major factor in the clean up, and reconstruction; and the military didn't have to ask the nanny state representative "May I " before clearing at lot or street. But the Feds were getting more involved and were spreading their untested gospel of the one size fits all coastal building codes. The Pass Christian replacement club house didn't look traditional at all. Designed to "withstand a Camille" it stood on cement piles at more than triple the height of the old West Indies Cottage club house. It had floor to ceiling "storm grade glass windows". It withstood a number of force one hurricanes and tropical storms and then in 2005 disappeared without a trace after a getting hit in the chops by Katrina. 

 So after Katrina the members discovered that the insurance people were again raising the minimum building standard and premiums for insurance for such scenic but exposed building sites.  The insurance settlement for the Camille club house turned out to be about a million dollars short of replacement costs. The members who could afford to stay on payed heavy assessments to make up the difference and raise the new and improved, looks somewhat like the Camille club house, post Katrina club house which recently took damage from a not very close pass by from Hurricane Issac. Jack will tell you , it won't survive the next Katrina which if we are lucky is hopefully twenty to forty years off. Would anyone like to take bets on whether or not the post Katrina club house stands? Now none of this is intended to be critical of the Club's managers, directors, or committees, or of the City Fathers of Pass Christian at the time of Katrina or Camille. By that time all decisions relative to rebuilding anything were being driven by building codes heavily influenced by Federal bureaucrats and Insurance companies. The simple solution of rebuilding a traditional West Indies cottage at a fraction of the new costs and self insuring probably seemed impossible. You see as early as Camille, the recovery, rebuilding process was increasingly coming under the control of the Feds and Insurance people who don't know Jack. 

To rebuild coastal communities quickly in the wake of the more extreme  portions of the tropical storm system , (whether caused by "barometric pressure differentials" or giant catfish demigods) you need building codes created by locals for the actual local conditions and they have to be flexible allowing for both expensive "light house standard" architecture and traditional semi "disposable" structures where indicated. In a few of those light house standard public buildings there should be community power tools  and building supplies. There ought to be a mayoral office of emergency preparedness that has pre- identified citizens with construction skills to issue those tools and materials to. Those on the volunteer call up list who weren't homeless themselves would immediately turn out and make temporary repairs to still standing homes to restore dwellings, not to code, but to functional shelter. 

 You would be amazed by how much used to get done by neighbor helping neighbor before any government beyond the local sheriff appeared on scene. I could go on and on. remember Jack and I have been watching cultures cope with forces of nature for 3,000 years. We've seen what works and what doesn't work. 

Those of you in Jack's turf often think of your country as having been occupied for about 500 years including the colonial period. Jack wants to remind you that there were 500 nations in North America before Columbus. Many lived quite happily on the coasts some times in settlements as large as 15,000 and in at least one case that we know of as large as 50,000. They knew jack! They survived and thrived in the worst the climate had to offer. But these cultures had certain characteristics that worked with Jacks required and routine activities. Homes were relatively easily replaceable families had their personal shelters and plans, communities pulled together to rebuild and they started as soon as the skies cleared. There were no FEMAs and NO Insurance companies.

 Two leggers think about it! What is the first principal of your insurance law? Is it not that an assured must at all times act like a prudent person who had no coverage? Aren't you as an assured required to do everything reasonably possible to mitigate your loss? Doesn't that tell you that there are going to be times when you think you are insured, but in fact, you are not? Ever since Hurricane Betsy a few years before Camille the Federal Government has been getting ever more deeply into natural disaster recovery and the response rebuilding time keeps getting longer, and more expensive. I could go on and on but the bottom line is that you must get involved in community planning, including disaster mitigation and recovery planning at the local level. When homes are leveled, power lost and roads cut off the first issue shouldn't be how to secure federal money, when or if the President will visit the area, and where will FEMA set up its office. Folks, its bulldozer and chain saw time. More on this as history unfolds. North Easterners you will survive. But if you are to rebuild in such a way as to have an easier time of it next time, and there is always a next time, you can't let FEMA run your recovery. Remember......they don't know Jack!

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