Irma’s Crosshairs on South Florida

As I type this Thursday night (7 September), Hurricane Irma is motoring along between Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos Islands, on an increasingly probable Sunday rendezvous with at least South Florida and the Upper Keys. This map, edited for space considerations, is for the historical record, frozen in time, at the time I write (see the National Hurricane Center for the most current information!!!):

If this forecast track verifies (and there still is uncertainty involved, as per the width of the cone!), then South Florida would see the most destruction at least since Hurricane Andrew, and probably much more. For those of us who were inside Andrew (see my lengthy retrospective here for more), it’s hard to imagine how it could be worse, but it can.

Yes, Irma could be (it’s too soon to use “will be” as some media headlines already tout) much more dangerous and destructive to more of South Florida and Keys than Andrew. This dire scenario is realistically plausible for four principal reasons:

  1. PATH/INTENSITY COMBINATION: When one examines historical tracks of South Florida or even specifically Dade County and middle-upper Keys hurricanes, readily one sees that category-5 Andrew was the anomaly, with its perpendicular, fast-moving westward path. The paths of major hurricanes Donna, Miami-1926, and Lake Okeechobee (1928, which made landfall near Palm Beach), among others, followed a more common and potentially destructive (to today’s South Florida) track from the south-southeast or southeast. Even when I was at NHC, an increasingly long time ago, a more southerly track and category 4 or 5 intensity combination with the area on the near-right side of the center — almost exactly that currently forecast by NHC for Irma! — was hailed as the worst-case scenario for the South Florida megalopolis. This track would wreck a long swath of my beloved Florida Keys too. That time may be almost upon us. Let’s hope otherwise while preparing for this most-extreme possibility.
  2. INEXPERIENCED FRAMES of REFERENCE: Most people now in South Florida and the Keys weren’t there for Andrew. The bulk of those who were did not experience the real Andrew in person; they were north of the devastated zone — or in the Keys, south of it, with little direct effect. There is a relatively mobile, young populace with a lot of turnover — more of it not speaking English as a first language than in most other metro areas nationwide. Anybody can learn facts; however, true understanding also includes direct, first-hand experience, which most folks in South Florida do not have. I hope they pay attention to those who do and prepare well!
  3. EXPOSED POPULATION: Andrew did not substantially impact most of South Florida. Only Dade County (since renamed Miami-Dade) south of the latitude of Coral Gables experienced widespread damage, with a few hundred thousand residents in the most-damaged areas south of Kendall Drive (SW 88th St.) to Homestead and Florida City. Andrew then quickly swept across the Everglades and out to the Gulf. Though the storm surge peaked at almost 17 feet, it did so in a small and mostly uninhabited area, and largely was stopped from going very far inland due to damming by mangroves and debris. Such is not the case in this setting, with damaging storm surges possible up a long swath of developed, exposed shoreline largely unshielded by mangroves. Now, with Irma’s worst side potentially roaring right up the Interstate-95 corridor in South Florida, over six million people occupy a similar relative position of this forecast track even inland, in the prospective wind-damage swath. If even the same percentage of people don’t prepare well and/or experience misfortune as in Andrew, a far higher number would die, suffer injury, and experience unsafe and unsanitary conditions in the aftermath, and probably with longer power outages…
  4. INFRASTRUCTURAL LOGISTICS: A lengthwise path up the metro corridor maximizes destruction potential. Simply put, more targets means more damage! Even with some of the best building codes in the nation, Andrew showed us that codes aren’t necessarily followed. Even with mostly well-built structures, damage still happens with gusts potentially in the 125-180 mph range. Think Andrew’s swath area, in multiples of ten — yes, plural “multiples”. Though Andrew had its notable resource-mobilization problems (remember Kate Hale’s infamous, “Where the hell is the cavalry…?” plea?), and presumably lessons were learned at all levels from that on through Katrina, Wilma, Matthew and other storms there, this kind of path is the worst logistically. If it happens as currently forecast, the entire South Florida strip from Homestead to north of Palm Beach is vulnerable to destructive winds, near-coastal storm surge, flooding rains, and maybe even tornadoes in the outer bands before Irma’s core region arrives. [See my scientific review article on the tornado threat with hurricanes, if you aren’t yet familiar with it.] This would be much akin to running a lawn mower along the full length of that overgrown strip of grass by your curb, instead of quickly across it. In the storm’s wake, with a far larger swath of populated area devastated, first-response, massive debris cleanup, sustained humanitarian relief, environmental-hazard mitigations, and power-restoration efforts all would be much more difficult and time-consuming, with a risk of more suffering and death per square mile, over many more square miles than Andrew, before the “cavalry” in all its forms can arrive.

If that track bears out, we would witness the greatest amount of single-storm damage ever inflicted upon this nation. Because of forecast uncertainty regarding timing and angularity of the likely northward turn, it is too soon to use the unqualified verb “will”, however. That confidence won’t exist until several hours beforehand. Still, all must prepare for the worst, while hoping and praying for the best. Even a little over two days out, it’s already too late for many of the unprepared to evacuate, shutter up, or stock supplies. The best that can happen is for Irma to make that turn unexpectedly soon, along 80W longitude or sooner, and go up the Gulf Stream. [Even then, it would mean awful developments somewhere in the Carolinas, lest we forget areas downstream.] That best-case scenario is looking less probable with time. A delay, with a turn up the lower/middle Keys and west coast, would be less devastating for the South Florida I-95 corridor, but would visit horrible havoc on smaller communities in the Glades and perhaps the coastal corridor from Chokoloskee and Marco to Naples and Fort Myers — an area of which I also have grown quite fond.

Please do not forget rural folks and the agricultural impact of Irma also. For crops, this also represents a worst-case hurricane scenario, as most of the Florida Peninsula would be affected by destructive winds and flooding rains. Fruit crops, berries, vegetables, tropical plants, sugar cane, and livestock all would suffer massive losses with a large hurricane barrelling right up the peninsula. You and I would see the impacts at the grocery-store checkout counter, and local farmers (as with many in southern Dade County after Andrew) could be bankrupted.

As of this writing, a small subset of NHC forecasters is in Tampa, having been moved there on a special small-plane flight out of Opa-Locka Airport to catch commercial flights to Washington, DC, tomorrow morning. They will staff ready-set-go workstations at the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, MD, and issue hurricane forecasts from there in the event the NHC facility is too disabled. Unlike in 1992, NHC and the Miami NWS office are in a reinforced concrete facility well inland, specifically engineered against this very contingency, and shuttered with metal already tonight.

NHC did similar backup procedures for Andrew as well; fortunately and somewhat miraculously, most systems stayed online despite the lack of air conditioning (not enough generator power for that and the computers), and the generators worked as designed until commercial power was restored within a couple days. The backup forecasters from NHC came home a few days later, having not been needed, though one whose car was parked at the center’s then-location in Coral Gables found it in an awkward position. Because Andrew’s effects largely were from there southward, north-south power restoration happened fairly quickly. This time, with the potential for a long-axis path of damage up the I-95 corridor, such geographic fortune would not be available, and as noted above, restoration of commercial power for much of South Florida may be a much-longer process.

That’s enough for now. Again, see the National Hurricane Center for the most current information, watches and warnings on Irma. They are the sole official authority on hurricane forecasting and the center of world expertise in predicting these storms.

God be with the people of South Florida and the Keys as they face their greatest threat of modern times.

He Had It All. He Had Nothing.

Dudes: think back to when you were of high school and college age. Consider how you were wired. Put yourself back in that place for a moment, ride the time machine back, and do your best to ignore everything since.

Now be honest — not with me but with yourself. What if you were told that, as an “old man” of 41, you would be:

    1. Famous and admired for your talents the world over
    2. Wealthy beyond need, for life, can buy whatever car or electronics you want
    3. Married to a Playboy model
    4. Rock star
    5. Able-bodied, free of cancer and heart problems
    [In other words, by virtue of 1-5, you have the world by the balls.]
    6. One more thing.

What would you have given to be granted 1-5? It would have sounded like an amazing life, right? Most young men’s dreams.

Most would answer affirmatively, regardless of whatever #6 is. Yes, I know there are remarkably mature and self-aware exceptions. I’m not talking about that minority of men. The *overwhelming* majority of those I knew would have taken 1-5, without pause. Most of the others who paused would be curious about 6, but chanced it for the sake of 1-5. If we’re honest with our 19-year-old selves, perhaps even older, most of us would have chanced #6 too.

Now what if I told you that #6 was: suicidal, alcoholic, ravaged mind from abuses by others and self, dying at 41? That changes things.

Chester Bennington seemed to have it all, and killed himself yesterday.

None of those 1-5 was enough. Is it ever? Do the world’s material provisions, fame, wealth, sex, recognition, fulfill and complete?

As the linked story above notes: “He admitted to ‘hating the world’, adding: ‘I had a song in my phone at the start of the process called I Hate The World Right Now.'”

He had it all; he had nothing. In his eyes, life was worthless even with all the worldly money, accolades, sex, drugs, and material things he had. All those he was given, none nor all were enough to drive away his demons. They never are. The material world only offers temporary relief, never true escape. Some think death is the only escape. They are wrong, but it’s too late to convince them otherwise. So we are left with the reality of great talent gone too young, and with lessons.

We can’t bring Chester Bennington back and rescue him from his demons — nor other famous-musician suicides and overdoses who have preceded him across generations, such as: Bennington’s good friend Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave), or Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots), Prince, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Jamison (Survivor), Jonathan Melvoin (Smashing Pumpkins), Michael Jackson, Rick James, Mike Starr and Layne Staley (Alice in Chains), Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Mindy McCready, Steve Clark (Def Leppard), Pete Farndon and James Honeyman Scott (The Pretenders), Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake and Palmer), Tommy Bolin (Deep Purple), Bon Scott (AC/DC), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols), Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison (The Doors), Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and far too many more. Not even music could light the way out. In many ways, the band lifestyles that came with that musical talent actually influenced them deeper down the hole.

If these deaths accomplish anything for those left behind, if they are not to be in vain, it should be in the form of lessons for the rest of us. One of those lessons is that the material world cannot fulfill us, by itself. Yet this keeps happening, in generation after generation, from the ’60s and before to today, as if we have learned nothing…nothing. What good is ‘having it all” if we’ve got nothing? The truth you haven’t been told is: all the world’s pleasures still add up to nothing in the long run. They’re never enough!

We all have our demons, vices, regrets. Bad stuff has happened to most of us, both at the hands of others and in self-inflicted ways. The world cannot — cannot!!! — make us happy. We have to choose joy, and sometimes it takes going through hell on Earth to get there. There is more to life than money, fame, or physical pleasure. Those feel good in the moment, but cannot complete you. What else is there? The answer to this question is where our paths to wholeness and joy must lead.


Yes, terrible things can happen that are out of our control. We’re loath to admit that although there is evil aimed at us by the world, we can decide our response to it. Make the right call before you’re too deep into depression or addiction to think straight.

Ladies or dudes alike, there are important truths in all this. These musicians are gone. It’s too late for them. However, it isn’t for you. They hated the world, thought the world had nothing more to offer. Do you? Maybe the world really has kicked you to the curb. That doesn’t mean your life is without purpose, or that you are worthless today. You still matter to someone, somewhere — today, and in the future. I promise this, even if it’s not any “someones” that presently come to your mind.

If you are enduring depression or addiction, seek professional help. And right now, if you are suicidal, call this number: 1-800-273-8255. Visit this website, immediately.

If not for yourself, do this for the sake of those who do care about and have tried to help you (even if you don’t think they care now). Truth is, even folks who do care might not know how to help or what to do, so they back off, not out of hate or disregard, but out of a fear of making things worse or doing harm to you. Having felt helpless in the face of suicidal and addicted friends and loved ones, I know that is the truth.

And I firmly believe there is someone bigger than all of us who does care. If you are so inclined at all, please pray to be shown a living way out of your living hell. Even if you don’t believe, or used to and lost hope and faith, what can it hurt to cry out for help? I believe you will be shown a way out, or that you have already and you’ll see it. I also believe that you do and will matter to someone, today and in the future. You may not even know it (or them) yet.

Take a chance on life, not death. Many others have: real people who have been to that darkest of places and survived even attempts on their own life. They know. They have been there, and here you’ll find some of their stories. If you have lost a friend or loved one to suicide, you are not alone — visit this site.

By virtue of seeing this, you know it’s not too late. Make the call, visit the sites, pray, and open up to turning this around.

Scattershooting 170710

Scattershooting while wondering why, on cars with computers, they don’t display the specific problem in plain English (“Intake manifold broken” or “Throttle body needs cleaning”) instead of activating a generic “check engine” light or giving an obscure diagnostic code.

LEFT-WING BUTT-HURT over where IVANKA’s BUTT WENT: A friend recently posted to Facebook: “First and foremost, I don’t approve of Trump as POTUS. However, hypocrisy is rampant in our political system and the backlash about Ivanka Trump sitting at the table during last week’s G20 summit is a prime example. Many on the left have expressed outrage given quote “She wasn’t qualified to sit there.

So now, (according to many on the left) in order to have a voice at a world forum that is made up of 95% men (G20 Summit) you must have a PhD and Master’s degree in political science and you certainly can’t be a conservative woman. That’s the new rubric, you must have a PhD. Kinda puts the 99% into a smaller bucket.

Incidentally, the majority on the left applauded this statue when it was placed on Wall Street [bronze sculpture of girl staring down a huge bull] yet they then denounce an educated woman sitting at a table (albeit briefly) during the G20 (which by the way is an economic symposium). And as the father of two daughters I find the “outrage” quite amusing.

Hypocrisy abounds.”

Splendidly expressed! The left keeps moving the goalpost on conservative women and minorities, now finding assorted, alleged and largely imaginary disqualifications to credibility under every nook and cranny. It’s as if the conservative racial minority and/or woman has gotten too “uppity” and must be put in her place. That mentality is just as racist and sexist as anything they (often with some justification) accuse Trump and his followers of doing.

COMMENTARY with a CLEAR CONSCIENCE: As one who has been labeled (with abundant justification) as “fiercely independent”, I’m more glad, by the day, to have voted third-party. One reason is that my hands are clean of all this nonsense. I also can credibly evaluate these events from the side, as an independent thinker, not beholden to defending a vote for either of the corrupt, egomaniacal, contemptible jerks who led the major-party tickets!

LIBERAL TALIBAN in AMERICA: I strongly disagree with aspects of what the subjects of Confederate statues stood for; yet it is part of their (our) history. I also attended an elementary school named after Robert E. Lee, and am not the least bit bothered by that, regardless of the side he defended. You see, wisdom (which too many lack) dictates that such things be examined calmly and rationally, which means with level head and clear thinking, in the context of the time they occurred and/or were memorialized — not in the throes of emotional, reactionary revisionism of many decades or more later. Having them there doesn’t “glorify” the wrongs their subjects committed. Instead, examined through pragmatic, educational frameworks, the monuments and names can help us to learn of and understand them better. That’s a win-win.

Being offended is a choice! If you feel sad or angry, look in the mirror for the solution, not the oppressive hammer of censorship. You see, snowflakes, life isn’t unicorns crapping Skittles in fields of marshmallows. Leave the statues and names up as a reminder of that history, good and bad, in all its influences.

Moreover, realize this: There are two groups in this century actively, zealously and shamelessly pulling down multiple monuments to past people and ideas they oppose:
1. Taliban
2. Left-wingers
The similarity is not coincidental.

TRASHING the ECO-HIPSTER LEFT — A CONFESSIONAL: Portland is well-known as a bastion of left-wing ideologues and self-righteous, latte-sipping eco-hipsters. Even many liberals there admit this. Such is not news, yet it is important background. Also important to this tale is the fact I often pad my suitcase’s empty space with paper or throw-away clothing to cushion contents and occupy the space that will be used for items being brought back.

Before going to Portland for a recent trip, being a longtime iconoclast with a well-developed (figurative and literal) right jab, and knowing of the greenies’ Earth-worshiping piety and smugness: I quite deliberately and purposefully saved up non-numbered plastic trash instead, and padded my luggage with that. Once no longer useful, it then was discarded properly in trash receptacles, to go to the Portland landfill instead of mine in Oklahoma. Admittedly this felt marvelous, not at all shameful…much in the same spirit as when staying in Hyannis, MA, in 2004, and I wore a bright white Bush/Cheney-2004 shirt whilst strolling with friends all over the liberal artists’ colony of Provincetown. [Some conservative restaurant patrons bought my friends and I a round of drinks for that!] Like chocolate for the tongue, such actions are not-so-guilty pleasures for the ideological conscience. Smiling even now…sue me.

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