Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hell No, We Ain't Gonna Go!

Okay, Di and I are going to ride out Hurricane Ike here in Corpus Christi. We were prepared for the possibility of leaving until we saw the 7:00 am National Hurricane Center forecast this morning. Ike is now strongly projected to pass to the north of us, and the odds of us getting hurricane force winds here are now less than 20%. The current forecast is for winds no stronger than 50 MPH and less than three inches of rain-----in other words, no worse than a severe thunderstorm. Our real concern here, living about a mile from the Gulf, was a storm surge but that now seems a very remote threat. We'll just lower our hurricane shutters tomorrow afternoon and hunker down. Like Travis, Bowie, and Crockett at the Alamo, I will stand my ground to the very end!

I do feel for the people in Galveston, as the chances for significant flooding from Ike's surge are high. I am also worried about the possibility of tornadoes Saturday in east Texas; I fear people in Tyler, College Station, Huntsville, Longview, etc., are going to fare much worse than we will.

At any rate, I'll be updating this post over the next couple of days to reflect what's happening/happened here in Corpus Christi.

Friday, September 12, 8:30 am: I drove a couple of miles up to Ocean Drive, and----zowie!!!-----the Gulf looks really angry this morning! Lots of waves, some very high ones, and it looks like high tide. . . . . . . . but low tide was around 8:15 this morning. It was odd to see such a violent ocean under blue, cloudless skies. I suspect there is going to be some flooding along the Corpus beachfront later today.

Friday, September 12, 12:30 pm: Clouds are starting to arrive in Corpus, although the water seems calmer than it was this morning (although the level is still elevated from normal). Below is a photo I took around 12:30 from Palmetto Park, which is located on Ocean Drive a couple of miles from my home. Normally you can see a sandy beach there, but not today. You can see downtown Corpus in the distance. Our home is adjacent to the Oso Beach golf course, and the course looks as crowded as a Saturday-----I guess a lot of people have the day off! It's almost unnaturally calm and quiet here------the proverbial "calm before the storm"-----and I fear things are going to be a lot nastier twelve hours from now.

Friday, September 12, 5:45 pm: The clouds are building up and starting to look angry. It's also weirdly silent; there are no birds flying or chirping/singing. Yet a few golfers were still out on the Oso Bay golf course when I walked out on it to take the photos below. The first is of a water hazard connected to Corpus Christi Bay. I'm going to use it as my reference point for any storm surge here. The first photo looks to the north and shows a wooden bridge across the hazard; I can already tell the water is higher than normal. The second photo shows how the hazard flows out to the bay under the bridge you see. Any storm surge in the bay will also flow into the hazard. I plan to go out as soon as I can tomorrow and check on the water level in the hazard.

I am astonished to hear that as much as 40% of the population of Galveston may have declined to evacuate and may still be on the island. It might be true, but there is something in me that refuses, or maybe is unable, to believe that figure. If it is true, a substantial number of those people will die for no reason whatsoever other than flat-out stupidity. I'm already hearing reports some people are trapped on rooftops and can't be rescued by helicopter because of winds. If I've learned anything from my situation, it is how fragile and precious life is, and it is beyond my comprehension that people, through a combination of lethargy and idiocy, would let themselves be trapped such a dangerous situation. If I had the opportunity to drive away from cancer, I'd be hauling ass down the highway right now!

I also dread what is going to happen when Ike moves inland and all the momentum in those cloud bands has to be dissipated in some fashion. The easiest way for Ike to shed it would be through a tornado outbreak, and I get this ugly feeling tomorrow is going to see a lot of twisters.

From a scientific perspective, a hurricane is a fascinating phenomenon. From a human perspective, it is an unmitigated disaster. I have this awful feeling a lot of people are going to die tonight.

Friday, September 12, 7:46 pm:
I took our dogs out to let them relieve themselves, and saw an incredible sight as the light of the setting sun reflected off Ike's high-altitude clouds. I dashed back to grab my camera, and managed to catch the shot below. Unfortunately, it's not as spectacular a view as when I first saw the clouds:

Friday, September 12, 11:05 pm: I stepped outside and the moon is clearly visible through high, wispy clouds. Only a slight wind, and still very warm for this time of night. Are we going to dodge a bullet here in Corpus? I still want to stay awake long enough to see when/if the heavy stuff arrives here, but at the moment we seem to be incredibly lucky. Those poor people in Galveston-----back on Tuesday, it was looking as if that was going to be our fate.

Saturday, September 13, 12:45 am: Incredible! Not a drop of rain, not a strong gust of wind, and you can still see the moon here in Corpus! Maybe we'll pick up some rain and wind later tonight, but I don't think I'm going to be able to stay awake long enough to see it. I'm going to watch some more TV coverage of Galveston/Houston and probably call it a night in a half-hour or so. Unless something major happens here, this will be my last post until morning.

Saturday, September 13, 8:30 am:
Absolutely nothing happened last night. No rain, no wind, no nothing. I was out this morning and the Gulf from Ocean Drive was calmer than it was yesterday morning. The water hazard on the Oso Beach golf course was still elevated, but it was about the same as last evening. On one hand, I feel lucky. On the other hand, I feel this was a demonstration that our models for projecting the path, intensity, and effects of hurricanes are badly flawed and much, much less reliable than they are purported to be. While I decided to stay based on the projection for low impact here, I now realize the opposite outcome-----namely, high winds and widespread damage-----was probably just as likely. We are still a long, long way from being able to make reasonably accurate (say within 20% of the actual outcome) predictions of hurricane behavior. If anything, this experience has probably made me more likely to leave in a similar case in the future. Oh well, this will be my last update to this thread; I'm going to now raise the hurricane shutters and get some light back into this place!