The wait is almost over (for Irma’s landfall in Florida) .. the latest tracking has hurricane Irma has Key West in the cross hairs, pass on the east of Ft Myers and Naples, and then hit St Petersburg and Tampa.
Florida Governor Rick Scott urged people on the coast all day Thursday and Friday to get out, and hundreds of thousands did, but many still stayed in their homes. The big problem is the storm surge that will surely flood thousands of homes on the Keys, and those on right on the Gulf of Mexico.
Check out the Washington Post’s free updates for Hurricane Irma, here. Late Friday night the storm system was brushing by the north of Cuba. (It devastated Barbuda, St Martin and the Turks & Caicos Islands). It is expected to make landfall on Sunday morning in Florida (but storm conditions will start to appear on Saturday). The latest modeling has shifted its landfall slightly to the west — but all of Florida will feel the effects of the hurricane.
Nevermind that Donald Trump Jr. testified before a Senate committee today (about his admitted meeting with Russians in June 2016), or that President Trump made an agreement with the Democrats on Wednesday*, blindsiding the leadership of the Republican Party. It’s all about the Category 5 monster hurricane Irma coming for Florida. There are gas shortages and the interstate freeways are clogged, as some 500,000 residents were told to evacuate to safer areas up north. Hotel and motel rooms as far away as Atlanta are said to be sold out. There were long lines at Miami, and other airports with people trying to get out before the airports close down on Friday.
*To raise the debt ceiling until December, and to provide $15 billion of funding for hurricane Harvey
I swept fine ash from the wildfires off my deck and front porch on Wednesday. The smoky, hazy sky hung around, but on-shore breezes on Thursday should start to take care of some of the smoke. But to help the firefighters, it really needs to start raining here in the Pacific Northwest.
Monday was Labor Day in the United States: the unofficial end of summer. By this time the traditional three week fellesferie (public holiday) in Norway and elsewhere in Europe, and the bouwvak (builders’ vacation) in the Netherlands, are long gone. I see the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant notes that it was not really a pleasant ‘topsomer’ kind of a summer in Europe, with the extreme heat there. I don’t think we can declare 2017 a great summer for North America either, with hurricane Harvey (and another one called Irma – now a Category 5! – churning towards Florida). In California and the Pacific Northwest firefighters are still battling very large wildfires. The smoke is blanketing the entire state, and we are looking to on-shore winds to bring some relief on Wednesday.
It’s official : Tropical Storm Harvey has broken a 1978 rainfall record with some places now measuring over 50 inches since Friday (the numbers on the left are from earlier). So that European weather model’s prediction was not out by much, after all. It is just mind-boggling .. to think that one or two inches of rain is a ‘lot of rain’, but here we are looking a ten, twenty times that.
It was a tough weekend for Houston’s residents, and for the first responders. The 911 service received some 50,000 calls. Houston’s airports were closed, but Southwest Airlines airlifted about 500 people out of Houston Hobby’s lights-out airport before sunset, on five special flights, so that they were not stranded at the airport. The flood water filled up all the lower-lying areas, and also reached downtown Houston. Resources are pouring in from everywhere to help; even from Seattle. A responder team of 17 people left today; they will drive 36 hours straight to make it to Houston to also go and lend a hand. Check out the New York Times articles; they took the paywall down so that everyone can access their coverage.
Just before Hurricane Harvey made landfall northeast of Corpus Christi, there was news that 1. President Trump pardoned criminally convicted Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and that 2. Nazi sympathizer and White House staff member/ deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka finally resigned. (Yay). 3. There were new subpoenas issued in the on-going Trump-connections-with-Russia investigations.
Here is Bloomberg’s Noah Feldman explaining why the pardon is so exceptional, and so bad. Others speculate that Trump is flexing his powers-of-the-pardon muscle, and sending a message to the collusion-with-Russia investigators that he can pardon others, as well. (The power to pardon is based on the honor system, and we have a decidedly dishonorable President. Not good). Pardons can be issued preemptively; President Ford pardoned Nixon even before he was officially charged with a crime.
There is a powerful hurricane called Harvey, bearing down on the Texas coast. It looks as if it is going to make landfall on Friday night, in Corpus Christi.
The projected rainfall totals in the outlook are astonishing: up to 24 inches, and even more than that in some localized areas.
The danger from a hurricane is not so much the wind, but more than often the huge storm surge from the ocean, and the flooding that it brings.
P.S. An interactive on-line article titled Hell and High Water says ‘Houston is the fourth-largest city in the country. It’s home to the nation’s largest refining and petrochemical complex, where billions of gallons of oil and dangerous chemicals are stored. And it’s a sitting duck for the next big hurricane. Learn why Texas isn’t ready’.
My flight out today was full as usual, but went without incident, and we arrived on time at San Francisco airport. The winter’s coldest weather is pushing into the midwest and all the way south into Texas, but on the West coast we have relatively warmer temperatures. I love the graphics on the weather underground’s maps. (Check out http://www.wunderground.com/wundermap/).
The snow flakes started coming down just as we were leaving the project site today, and it has been sifting down steadily since then. A total accumulation of 5 to 8 inches is expected in the lower areas; much more in the mountains. I will definitely have to navigate some snowy roads on the way to the airport tomorrow (Friday) !
Super typhoon Songda is churning near the Phillippines (outlined in grey in the NASA Earth Observatory photo I found on-line). It is expected to brush by the east side of Taiwan. These systems are hundreds of miles across ! And the recent tornados in the US makes for a grim statistic : the highest number of tornado deaths since 1953 (picture from ouramazingplanet.com).