When I was a child, my dad took me to see the damage a hurricane can do. It was quite impressive to a kid to see pieces of a broken 2×4 stuck into a telephone pole. I couldn’t even imagine how such a thing could happen. A month later, we went to the beach to see the impact of the hurricane. I remember driving for miles seeing an occasional chimney, a toilet sitting on a drainpipe, and absolutely no houses. A few years later, my mom sent me to the local grocery store to buy some milk during a lull in a hurricane. I opened one of the glass doors and the door on the opposite side of the store imploded sending glass everywhere inside. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. Lesson: hurricanes are nothing to play with or taunt. They are powerful and terrifying.
This past month, Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston. Between the winds and flooding with up to 50 inches of rain, Americans were all treated to another significant display of nature’s fury. It will take Texans weeks, months and even years to rebuild and regain a sense of normalcy. And some have said it just isn’t worth it as the beauty of Texas and convenience of the Gulf Coast isn’t worth your life.
Now we have another hurricane, Irma, bearing down with winds that have been touted as the most horrific ever seen in the Atlantic – 185 mph sustained with the hurricane’s forward speed of about 15 mph. This hurricane’s cumulative wind speed independent of gusts is approximately 200 mph.) There are very few structures and almost no homes that can withstand such velocities. One meteorologist has said that all of the barrier islands on the Western side of Florida are likely to be substantially reconfigured and some will disappear.
The smart people are running from the storm taking their most valuable possessions with them. None of them knows when they will return or when it will even be possible to return as the whole of Florida is at risk. Attempts to hunker down in place are essentially suicidal. The idea of playing in the storm for the heck of it is stupid and likely to create numerous Darwin Award winners if their bodies are found.
Here in Virginia, folks talk about the possibility of a Rte 95 storm. Hurricane Irma is projected to go south to north up the Florida peninsula and follow the highways north give or take a couple hundred miles. The greatest catastrophes will be in Florida where hundreds of billions in damage will likely match or exceed the Houston destruction. However, Virginia is by no means out of the woods. Storms of this magnitude while dissipating over land still carry a substantial punch, and flooding in the tens of inches and gale (or even hurricane) force winds will kill people, topple trees, and knock out power.
So, if you are one of these wait to the last minute people, I suggest you move just a minute or two sooner than normal.