Saturday, July 31, 2010

Gulf Disaster Not As Bad As Feared?

I'm cautiously optimistic that this story in Time is accurate. And, yes, it is the same Ivor van Heerden discussed in the "Katrina" chapters in Warnings.

"We Were Too Awe-Struck to Say a Word"


Today is the 34th anniversary of the Big Thompson Canyon Flood. More than 140 people lost their lives when Colorado's Big Thompson River flooded after thunderstorms dropped torrential rains. It was Colorado's Centennial Weekend and the canyon was especially crowded with campers.

Meteorologist John Henz, then working for a Ft. Collins radio station, tried to warn the campers and others in the canyon of the threat of flooding as storms developed over the upper reaches of the Big Thompson River. According to NOAA, more than eight inches of rain fell in a single hour.

The National Weather Service at the time had a radar in Limon, Colorado, but the warning responsibility rested with meteorologists in Denver (who could not view the radar). The Denver meteorologists elected not to issue a warning. In Warnings, I explain how this event, along with Delta 191, and others led to the National Weather Service's reorganization in the 1990's that eliminated the dangerous separation of the radar from the warning responsibility.

There is much more about the flood here.


The Denver Post's Howard Pankratz writes this memoir from which the title of this posting is taken. He hiked in to the disaster area the next morning along with Post photographer Erie Leyba who took the photo below:

The good news is it is virtually certain that today, if the same meteorological and hydrological situation were to present itself, there would be excellent warning. It is known that some people attempted to drive to safety and they were swept away by the flood. In a flash flood in a narrow canyon, the only safe course of action, once a warning is received, is to climb to safety.

More on Soot Causing the Arctic Ice Melt

On December 5, 2009, I wrote this post demonstrating that it is soot, not 'global warming' (or any warming for that matter) that has caused the recent ice melt in the Arctic.

The scientific evidence continues to build demonstrating that soot is indeed the problem.

Hat tip:  Watts Up With That.

There is an important point here: We need to correctly assign causes and effects. We can reduce carbon dioxide all we want and it will make no difference if the problem is soot.



UPDATE: Here is a graph of Arctic temperatures from the Danish Meteorological Institute with data as of yesterday to clarify the point of this posting and the comment from Van, below. The red line is the temperature. The green line is the "normal" temperature and the blue line is the melting point of ice (273°K = 32°F). Temperatures this summer are well below normal but ice is less than normal. The reason is soot melting the ice as indicated above.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Record Hailstorm

Chad Cowan (www.chasethestorms.com) took this photo of the storm that produced the record hailstones in South Dakota. The picture was taken 30-45 minutes after the largest stones fell. He graciously allowed us to post it on the blog.

Chad took the photo with a wide angle lens hanging out the car window while his girlfriend, Jenna Blum, was driving. Jenna is the author of the new book, The Stormchasers.

Patrick Marsh has a not-too-technical meteorological writeup on his blog, here.

UPDATE Saturday Morning: Photos of the "Great Hailstone Relay" drive are here.

GIANT Hailstones

BUMPED WITH UPDATE  2:25pm Friday:  Within the last hour, a three-automobile relay brought the giant hailstone (8" in diameter, 1.94 pounds) to the lab of hail expert Dr. Charles Knight in Boulder, CO. They are going to make a plaster cast so replicas can be made for display at several museums.

Here is what the storm looked like on radar with the location of the town of Vivian marked by dot. (click to enlarge)


ORIGINAL POSTING:

This is one of several giant hailstones that fell near Rapid City, SD. Hailstones of this size (based on calculations at StormTrack.org) fall through the air at about 200 mph!


One of many holes punched in roofs by the giant stones.


The updraft in the thunderstorm would have been around 150 mph. An airplane could be torn apart by flying into an updraft of that intensity which is why pilots need to give thunderstorms a wide berth. 

UPDATE:  AccuWeather is reporting that NOAA is going to certify this was the largest hailstone in U.S. history. 

Cheerleader Tackles Thief

Story from Oklahoma City where a cheerleader shopping at Penn Square Mall tackled a thief.  My favorite line: Yes, I was in a strapless dress.


To have that much energy, she must have just come from Pops, which is just a few miles away.

The Little Dental Office That Could

Blog reader D.J. sends in this story about a train converted to a children's dental office by an enterprising dentist. Note the sign on the crossbucks.
The train is now up for sale.

Thank You!

Thank you, everyone, from both Kim and me, for the biggest week of traffic in the history of the Meteorological Musings blog.  We have had visitors from all over the world:
I also want to thank blog reader John for adapting one of our posts about the importance of weather safety to outdoor entertainment events at his blog.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Get Your (Sugar) Fix on Route 66

On the old Route 66 at Arcadia, Okla., is Pops, a restaurant that features a gigantic (500+) selection of soda pop.
Not only can you buy it to go,
REAL "old Coca-Cola" with cane sugar imported from Mexico along with Dr. Pepper with real sugar, among others.

you can consume it their diner with its very tasty foods. After a hot afternoon on the road, I said to Kim, "Let's try this dessert, the menu says it is big enough to share." As we were chatting, Kim's eyes widened as she looked over my shoulder and she said, "You should see what you just ordered."  Here it is:

The two gentlemen in the background were laughing a us (actually, me) because lots of people order it not realizing how big it is. Needless to say, we didn't finish it.

So, the next time you are in central Oklahoma and need a sugar rush, you know where to find it. Exit I-35 at exit 141. Go east on Oklahoma 66 and stop at the giant bottle of pop. You can't miss it.

We Get Results!

Yesterday, I blogged about how Oklahoma's construction zones had nearly zero work going on.

This evening, on our return to Wichita from Dallas, they were comparative beehives of activity.


Almost every work zone had people working away.  We get results!

"Science Turns Authoritarian"

A fascinating look at how some view science -- not as a means of gaining knowledge and understanding but as a tool that tells people how to live their lives:


Green 7.26.10
In other words, around the end of the 1980s, science (at least science reporting) took on a distinctly authoritarian tone. Whether because of funding availability or a desire by some senior academics for greater relevance, or just the spread of activism through the university, scientists stopped speaking objectively and started telling people what to do.

The linked article is fascinating and I urge you to read it in its entirety.

In the post below, I use the term activist-scientist. From my perspective one can be a scientist or one can be an activist, but not both.

Hat tip: Edd Driscoll

Good News, So Far


You'll recall that I've blogged about the three primary seasonal hurricane forecasters forecasting a "much above normal" season in 2010. So, far that has not panned out yet with only one named storm and nothing in sight. This is due to a large area of dust coming west from Africa which has inhibited cloud formation.

That said, the water (the fuel for hurricane intensification) temperatures are warmer than normal and the lack of clouds allows the sun to continue to drive water temperatures up. The lack of storms keeps the heat in the upper ocean, available for feeding any storms. If storms occur, they could be very intense because of the hot water.

So, vigilance is still called for.

Why The Burst of 'Hottest Year' News?

UPDATE: August 2nd:  This burst of publicity just before an apparent cooling has prompted a posting at WattsUpWithThat.

If you have been reading the popular media the last few days you have seen a burst of 'hot' news from NASA...
from treehugger.com

...and from NOAA.

Other than the obvious question ("since they only have six months of 2010 data, how can they know it is the 'hottest ever'?"), what might account for this sudden burst of publicity?

Here's an idea:  Temperatures are headed down. As I explain in the "Wisdom of Inaction" post below, solar and oceanic temperature influences seem to be converging to cause a period, perhaps an extended period, of significant cooling. There is the possibility that these influences will falsify the IPCC's hypothesis that CO2 is the driving force in climate.

Lower atmosphere temperatures as sensed by satellite indicate atmospheric cooling is occurring at the present time. 
Courtesy, University of Alabama

So, I suspect that some of the activist-scientists wanted to get in a "last shot" while temperatures are still relatively high.

To be clear, I do believe we are running a risk pouring CO2 into our atmosphere and smart decarbonization makes sense. As I say in the "inaction" post, we'll likely have the scientific answers within five years. If the IPCC's hypothesis turns out to be correct, I'll be the first to say we need to take major action.

UPDATE: Fixed poor grammar.

Everywhere Is Warming Faster Than Average

The 'global warming' hype continues unabated as everywhere warms "faster than average."

Hat Tip: Watts Up With That and Tom Nelson.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Report from I-35 in Southern Oklahoma

Kim is driving and I am working in the passenger seat. We are on our way to Dallas as part of the book tour for Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather.


We are in something like our 6th 'work zone' along I-35. I put work zone is scare quotes because these people in these zones are hardly working. I snapped a few photos..
Lots of equipment, no one using it.

Miles and miles of torn up pavement, practically no one working, plus the hazard of one lane traffic and slow travel.



This very typical, bare dirt...no one working.

I will be the very first to acknowledge that I know nothing about road construction, but because of the book tour, I have covered over 5,000 miles since May by car. Whether its Iowa or Oklahoma, we frequently encounter ten or twelve miles of an interstate constricted to two lanes with no one working on the other side.

[We are now at Exit 42 and are entering the seventh construction zone! Not a single person visibly working in the construction zone.]

The 236-mile Kansas Turnpike was constructed in 22 months from 1954 to 1956. That is more than ten miles per month. Presumably, we have better tools today. Why in the world does it take (literally) two years replace a single bridge (I-70 near Lawrence) or 18 months to rework ten miles of roadway? Does this strike anyone else as odd?

An Amazing Collection of Recent Weather Photos

Click here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vacation in Wichita!


That's a great idea according to The Washington Post. I certainly agree. While you are in the area, make sure you visit the Kansas Cosmosphere, my favorite space museum. Here is what the Post says about it:

Affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, it is, in my view, every bit the rival of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. 


Wichita got some other big news this week: It is now the #1 city in growth of exports due to its world-class aviation business (Boeing, Airbus, Cessna, Beech, Learjet, Hawker and others). 


I'm very proud of my adopted home town and am an unabashed booster. Come and visit. You'll be surprised at all we have to offer.

Bronx Tornado and D.C. Windstorm

While we were dealing with a microburst in Wichita, intense storms Sunday were wreaking havoc on the East Coast. It has now been determined that a tornado occurred in the Bronx. My AccuWeather colleague, Jesse Ferrell, has details. While this was the first tornado in the Bronx in 36 years, the NYC area had a tornado just four years ago.

In Washington, D.C., 132,000 homes and businesses are still without power and many will still be without for another two days.

Fortunately, the AccuWeather Real Feel heat index in Washington, D.C. is 86°, which is lower than normal for late July.

Cuisine at 35,000 ft.

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article about a depressurize-able buried airliner that is being used to determine what foods taste best at the low pressures. Turns out that a lot of what we perceive as "bad" airline food is due to the vagaries of our senses of taste and smell being fooled by the low pressure and low humidity.

One advantage of Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner is that it will fly with more humidity making the cabin more comfortable and, based on this testing, foods tastier.

Note: Subscription may be required to access WSJ article. 

"The Wisdom of Inaction"

A few posts down, I discuss Tom Friedman's New York Times' column about the apparent death of cap and trade. Here is another Times column that has a different take on the subject that I think is about right. The final paragraph talks about the "wisdom of inaction." That is smart and here's why.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) offers the hypothesis that carbon dioxide (CO2)is the driving force governing our climate. This is primarily based on climate forecast models. We are early in a five-year period of time when we can test that hypothesis on the real atmosphere.

If those of us who believe the IPCC greatly overstates and oversimplifies the effects of CO2 on the climate are right, we should see significant cooling by 2013; 2015 at the latest. And, that cooling should last for a number of years. There are three reasons why cooling should occur:

  1. The very long solar cycle and the lack of sunspots in recent years. A number of scientists believe this alone is enough to cause cooling in about three years. Some scientists believe that there is roughly a three-year lag between dearth of sunspots and resulting cooling. 
  2. The (warm) El Nino has flipped to a (cool) La Nina in the Pacific.
  3. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation has flipped into the cool phase (after 20+ years in the warm phase).
If these three conditions do not cause cooling then it is likely the IPCC is right and major actions are needed. If the cooling occurs, we can continue to do research and try to improve our ability to forecast the future state of the climate. 

We can afford to wait. There is nothing about 'global warming' the calls for immediate drastic action (world temperatures are falling at the moment). At this moment, inaction is wise. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

"We're Going to Need An Ocean of Calamine Lotion"

I thought of that immortal line from the Coasters' Poison Ivy when blog reader Keith passed on this article about poison ivy getting worse as a result of global warming:


A study published in the journal Weed Science in 2007 stated that poison ivy is getting bigger, spreading faster and producing more urushiol as the result of increasing levels of carbon dioxide, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.


Keith beat me to one of my other favorite lines, Global warming -- Is there anything it can't do?!


UPDATE: Anthony Watts brings another example poison ivy and global warming, this from the Field Museum in Chicago. Click here to read.

Dallas-Ft. Worth This Week

This week, the book tour for Warnings rolls into Dallas-Ft. Worth Wednesday and Thursday. I will be doing some media interviews and presenting Phantom Crashes to the Rotary Club of Arlington Thursday.

Anatomy of a Microburst

At 6:46pm yesterday evening, a strong microburst (likely strong enough to bring down a commercial airliner, had it been at the end of a runway) occurred in northwest Wichita a few miles northeast of Mid-Continent Airport. Since these are fairly rare, I thought it might be of interest to view the microburst in several different ways:

First, here it is in the radar reflectivity data (the type you usually see on TV weathercasts). The center of the microburst is near the deepest red pixel. The time is 6:45pm.

A second view of the microburst comes from the Wichita Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR), an instrument designed specifically to detect microbursts, installed in the wake of Delta 191 and the series of downburst-related crashes in the 70's and 80's. Compare the location of "Wichita" on the two radar images and the freeway (Interstate 235, not labeled, but wraps around the west side of the city) on both maps to orient yourself.
This radar senses the wind in great detail. The radar at 6:46pm is showing a 46 knot (53 mph, deep brown pixel) wind blowing toward the north on the north side of the microburst and a winds blowing toward the south at 39 mph (light green) on the south side of the microburst. This represents 92 mph of wind shear, likely enough to bring down an aircraft!

From the ground, the microburst looked like this from my back yard about 10 miles away.
There is the abrupt transition between heavy rain and no rain at cloud base and the typical "hourglass" shape in the rain shaft. Had there been nothing in the way, I am certain I would have seen the curl signature at the "toe" of the microburst. Here is a photo of a microburst curl.
The rain is actually "falling" up.

UPDATE: 8/4/10: I was going back through my photos classifying them and I found a curl on one frame, which is posted immediately below. Compare the image above to the image below. There were tree limbs blown down by the microburst in northwest Wichita.  End update.


How do microbursts cause plane crashes? The diagram below will help explain (click to enlarge).
Using yesterday evening's microburst as an example, a plane landing toward the south (left to right on the diagram) would encounter a headwind of 53 mph, which would increase the lift on the aircraft causing it to rise above the black line indicating the normal landing path. A pilot would attempt to get back on the landing path by pointing the nose of the plane down. Just then, the plane would reach the strong sinking air causing it to lose altitude rapidly. Then, it encounters a tailwind causing the lift to decrease. The plane crashes short of the runway.

Added image to original post: Circles depict the amount of wind shear in knots. This display is in the control tower of major airports. Courtesy of: KXAS TV

Fortunately, most airports with commercial airline traffic are equipped with a Low-Level Wind Shear Alert System. Forty-four airports have TDWR. Since these two systems have been installed and since pilots began to be trained in microburst avoidance in 1987, those once-frequent disasters have been all but eliminated.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Putting The Blame Everywhere, Except Where It Belongs

From Tom Friedman's column in Sunday's New York Times assigning blame for the Democrats pulling the "climate" bill.

I could blame Republicans for the fact that not one G.O.P. senator indicated a willingness to vote for a bill that would put the slightest price on carbon. I could blame the Democratic senators who were also waffling. I could blame President Obama for his disappearing act on energy and spending more time reading the polls than changing the polls. I could blame the Chamber of Commerce and the fossil-fuel lobby for spending bags of money to subvert this bill. But the truth is, the public, confused and stressed by the last two years, never got mobilized to press for this legislation. We will regret it.


How about putting some blame on Tom Friedman, one of the numerous 'global warming' alarmists (Al Gore at the top of the list) who have carbon footprints that dwarf those of 99% of the world's population?!
This is a photo of Mr. Friedman's home. Need I say more?

Glenn Reynolds says, I'll believe global warming is a crisis when the people telling me it is a crisis start acting like its a crisis. 


UPDATE: Monday Evening. Pat Sajak has a sensible proposal for Tom, Al, Laurie, and the rest of the jet-set global warming alarmists.

UPDATE 2, 8/4/10:  I am not the only one to link behavior of global warming activists to the defeat of cap and trade. From Clive Crook who believes we need to tax carbon:

Second, the evident fondness of climate-change activists for delegitimizing dissent and spinning the facts to make them more "understandable" is simply not working. Cap and trade just died for lack of public support. I think climate-change activists are partly to blame, as I argue in this recent FT column. They are harming their own cause.

An Open Letter to Pilots and Airline Management



On Monday, August 2, it will be 25 years since the horrific crash of Delta Flight 191 at Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport. I tell the story of the crash and its importance to future aviation safety in Warnings. Dr. Ted Fujita investigated the Delta crash and found that a microburst had downed the aircraft after the flight crew blithely flew into a thunderstorm. This type of wind shear plane crash or major incident occurred at 16-month intervals from 1972 to 1985.

Pilots of that era were “scared safe” by the once-frequent thunderstorm-related crashes. Once those pilots had the training to avoid microbursts and the tools to assist  then to stay out of danger(the Low-Level Wind Shear Alert Systems and Terminal Doppler Weather Radar), the latter a direct result of the Delta crash, we have been crash-free for 16 years. That is an amazing scientific accomplishment.

But, there are two recent studies plus anecdotal evidence that pilots are starting to take thunderstorms for granted. My concern has been heighted by three recent examples of airline pilots flying into turbulence.  You can read more here, here and here. And, that is just one airline. 

We don’t want to go back to those dark days. I urge pilots and airline management to redouble their efforts to give pilots state-of-the-art training on the danger of thunderstorms and turbulence.  

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Wichita Thunderstorms

This photo shows the thunderstorms developing northwest of Wichita this afternoon...


while this photo shows the underside of a different thunderstorm this evening in southeast Wichita.


What is a Thunderstorm's Anvil?

Below, I have posted about the United 777's encounter with severe turbulence in the anvil of a thunderstorm over Missouri earlier this week.

I have been asked, "what do you mean, 'anvil'?" Good question.

Here is a drawing of a blacksmith's anvil. Note it is flat and wide at the top.

Here is a photo of a thunderstorm (technically, a cumulonimbus cloud) with the anvil shape. We refer to the large flat cirrus top of the storm as the "anvil."

UPDATE: Here is a view of a thunderstorm taken from my back yard a few minutes ago. If you ignore the building, you can see an almost perfect anvil shape.


"M" is for [E]Mail

I've added several options in case you would like to share blog posts with your friends. The "M" allows you to email that blog entry.

"Expect the Unexpected"

On July 16, I wrote about disaster preparedness. My number one suggestion was "expect the unexpected." Apparently, BP didn't as this story (subscription may be required) from The Wall Street Journal indicates.


A critical alarm system that should have warned workers of danger aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig had been disabled before the rig erupted into flames on April 20, the vessel's chief electrician testified Friday at a federal hearing into the accident.
Michael Williams, an employee of Transocean Ltd., the company that owned the rig, said the general alarm system aboard the Deepwater Horizon had been "inhibited." It was intended to automatically sound an alarm warning workers to move immediately out of harm's way.
But Mr. Williams said the automatic system had been switched off because Transocean rig managers "did not want people woken up at 3 a.m. with false alarms." Instead, the rig-wide alarm had to be triggered manually—and never sounded.

No one -- no one -- expects a fire or other disaster. That's why we have warning systems. But, they can't do their job if they are disabled, without power, etc.  Keep fresh batteries in the smoke alarm, keep your seat belt fastened while seated (post below). If you missed my suggestions the first time, the post is here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Clear Air" Turbulence

While I was in Orlando, a United Airlines 777 was reported to have "encountered clear air turbulence" over "Kansas." Because I am a meteorologist from Kansas, many, many people have asked me about it.

I've now done a little checking and,

  1. The plane was over Missouri, not Kansas.
  2. It almost certainly was not in "clear air." 
There is a fairly detailed article about the encounter at AvHerald.com from which the image below was taken:
Above is a GOES weather satellite infrared satellite image from the route of flight. Assuming the Herald has the time and location correct, the plane was not in "clear air." It was flying in the expanding anvil of a thunderstorm which is a well known location for turbulence. If you'd like more information about anvils and turbulence, go here. Severe "clear air" turbulence is quite infrequent in the U.S. in July. 

That said, always keep your seat belt on when you are in your seat!

Mark Your Calendars

I will be presenting Miracle at Greensburg and doing a book signing for Warnings at the University of Oklahoma's National Weather Center on September 7, 2010, at 3:30pm.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lightning Injuries

This story of hikers struck and injured by lightning in Jackson Hole, Wyo., reinforces the critical nature of lightning awareness, especially on high elevations. The higher you are, the more of a target you are for lightning. Always check the forecast for thunderstorms and carry a portable lightning detector in the summer months.

Arctic Temperatures

When you hear someone complaining about the extent of Arctic ice (which is currently about the same as it was in 1990), you rarely hear them discuss temperatures in the Arctic. Here is the latest temperature data from the Danish Meteorological Institute and it represents the area north of 80° N latitude. The blue line is the freezing line (273°K = 32°F) and the green line is average. As you can see, temperatures have been below normal this summer.
As we have discussed previously, the primary reason Arctic ice has been less in some recent years is soot (largely from China) darkening the ice and unusual wind currents, not 'global warming.'

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tropical System Heads Toward Florida then ??

AccuWeather is tracking a tropical weather system over Hispaniola that will begin affecting Florida late Thursday and Friday.

From Florida, the path is much less certain. It may affect the oil spill area in the Gulf over the weekend.
The link will take you to AccuWeather's hurricane center with constantly updated information.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Tropical Weather System to Watch

Keep an eye out if you live in the southeast United States later this week. A tropical wave is starting to show signs of development. The National Hurricane Center gives it a 40% chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next 48 hours.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

This Week

Kim and I are off to Orlando this week. Wednesday evening, I will be delivering the dinner address at the AON Benfield Analytics Conference. Thursday, I will present The Phantom Crashes to the Orlando Rotary Club. I'll be happy to sign copies of Warnings if anyone would like to bring theirs and we will have some for sale.

We Miss You, Lou

As I was working on the posting about disaster mitigation which included comments on the dysfunction in Washington and the mess on Wall Street (i.e., SEC, financial meltdown, Madoff, etc.) it occurred to me that little has gone right in either place since the passing of Louis Rukeyser in May of 2006.

I was a huge fan of Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser and counted on his weekly tutorials and his pun-filled good humor to help navigate the world of investing. He was and is the only person in the field of economics dubbed "sexy" by People magazine, largely for his dapper appearance (and George Washington haircut) and his ability to make complex financial information simple to learn and understand. One of a kind, he is greatly missed.



UPDATE:  Some of our readers are too young to remember the program. Here is an example of W$W right after the crash of 1987 (the edition the week before had Marty Zweig explicitly predicting a "crash" which occurred three days later). And, how right Lou was in counseling that the bull market wasn't over. The Dow was 1,700 at the time this program was recorded. Friday, it closed at 10,097.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Out the Back Door: Ice Crystal Clouds

With a heat index of 107°, its hard to believe these clouds (located about five miles above my head) are made solely of ice crystals.

Temperature Fact Versus Fiction

Anthony Watts has done yeoman's work to disprove the recent claim that earth's temperatures are "warmer than ever." Highly recommended, non-technical reading.

This is the entire problem with the 'global warming' debate. So many of the claims of catastrophe simply do not withstand scrutiny. 

"Return to Prairyerth"

Here is your chance to visit the Flint Hills and learn more about the history of the area. William Least Heat-Moon will be in the Hills next Saturday for the debut of the documentary, Return to Prairyerth, based on his best-selling book. Details are here. There is a video introduction to the movie at the link.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Time to Rethink Disaster Response

Those who have read Warnings know that I am quite critical of the Bush Administration's response to Katrina. Now that the oil has stopped gushing in the Gulf, I can state that the Obama Administration didn't do any better, and was likely worse, than Bush during Katrina.

James Carville, hardly anti-Obama, seems to agree:

From CNN's "Anderson Cooper Show"

CARVILLE:  The people here have been so let down. The federal government let us down.  They're killing the economy here.  People in the interior department that issue these things don't have the foggiest idea about life here, they don't have the foggiest idea about what's going on, and they have got to do something about this because the federal government is about to kill us.


The problem isn't Republican or Democrat, the problem is Washington, D.C. As I write in Warnings, the culture of our nation's capital is where the problem lies.

As the insiders in D.C. say, "nothing succeeds like failure." What that means is there is little money for proactive measures to solve problems. But, when there is a failure, the money flows in gushers.

Don't believe me? Consider this quote from today's Wall Street Journal regarding the new financial services bill that just passed Congress:

What started as a promise to streamline and modernize the financial system turned into 2,300 pages of new agencies and new powers for the very authorities that fomented the financial crisis.

See what I mean? The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) completely failed to prevent the 2008 financial meltdown and the Madoff fraud, so the 'solution' is to give them more money and power. In a rational world, people would be fired given this level of incompetence and the agency disbanded. Instead, they are rewarded.

Please let me state again, this has nothing to do with Republican or Democrat but everything to do with the dysfunctional culture of Washington.

So, since the Federal government cannot be counted on when there is a major crisis, here are a couple of thoughts regarding disaster preparation and response:
  • Expect the unexpected. Washington, D.C. had an earthquake today. Boston and NYC have had earthquakes. San Diego once had a hurricane and California will have one some day in the future. We will have a volcanic eruption in the West sometime in the coming decades. Everyone should have at least three days of water and easily prepared food (we do!) in their homes along with flashlights and extra medicine. 
  • I don't allow the gasoline supply in my car to drop below a quarter tank. Most all of today's pumps require electricity. 
  • A number of companies sell a separate battery that can be attached to a cell phone. Get one so that you have a few hours of extra power for your cell phone. Remember, your recharger won't work during an extended outage. 
  • It may be counterintuitive, but the bigger the city (denser the population), increase your preparations (i.e., a week of food). How many grocery stores are there in NYC relative to population? Not many oil refineries, food warehouses, or locally grown food there, either. 
I would also urge everyone, regardless of your other political views, to start pressing candidates for national office what they propose to do to change the culture of Washington. If we are going to pay federal agencies (FEMA, etc.) literally billions to deal with disasters, we need to be getting value for our hard-earned taxes. 

On Broadway

"They say the big rain drops fall down, on Broadway."  

Taken looking north down Broadway in Wichita. The white streaks at the top represent heavy rain falling to earth.
The Smith House received 0.33" from the storms this afternoon.