August 25, 2011

When the Answers Aren't There

Commenter, Jilly, asked the question of when to know when to get the hell out of Dodge. Referencing... when a hurricane is staring you down.

She thought it was a stupid question, but it's anything but that. Although I answered her, I'm going to put more of it in this post. I think people who don't live coastal have good questions. They've not lived in our shoes.

As I put in the comments... if you google the population of South Florida, throw in Central Florida too, you come with with millions of people. Just the Eastern coast line from Miami to Palm Beach County (where I live), in 2010 had over 5.5 million people and that doesn't include the folks that are west of us. That's just the eastern counties. That small section is the 8th most populous area of the US.

We're busting with people.

The entire state has over 18 million people and it's mostly coastal. We're a peninsula. So even if you don't live directly ON the coast... you're... what? A few hours away? Big deal. When a hurricane decides to hit S. FL, it hits the entire pan of the state. Everything gets hit. Which is why seven years ago, I got hit three times. Tampa was hit probably three times. The entire state was hit FIVE times and of those five... only two didn't effect me.

So looking at those odds... every time the state takes a hit, there's over a 50% chance I'm going to take part of that.

I researched and found over 10 million people live 'in the pan' of FL, on the Peninsula as opposed to the northern part, that's a bunch of folks to evacuate and we have THREE northern roads, only TWO go all the way through.

I-95 will take you right up the Eastern Seaboard from Miami.

I-75 will take you from the Gulf Coast (Tampa area) all the way to Midwest.

The Turnpike is a fake escape route. It will take you from Miami to just north of Orlando where it dumps you on I-75 with everyone trying to escape from the Gulf coast.

That's it. There is only one way out of here and that's North.

This is where you start strategizing as to what's best because not only will you and 10 million of your closest friends be trying to flee, there won't be any gas. All the gas stations will be sold out and that sucks.

Essentially every northern road becomes a parking lot.

If you're lucky and you have a lot of vacation time you don't care about or you're retired, you can board up and leave as soon as you realize it could get ugly. No harm no foul... even if it doesn't hit, no biggy. I actually have guys I work with that do that. In the event a Cat 2 or above is coming, they board up their houses and leave... and they don't care if it hits. They aren't staying to deal with it. A lot of my retired friends do this.

But then you fall into the realm of the rest of us... where we have decisions to make.

If a Cat 5 hit us in FL, we lose everything. If we stayed and lived through it, we lose the family business, our house would probably be demolished, the schools destroyed, the entire infrastructure of S. FL would be decimated. Essentially, S. FL would be uninhabitable. Misery doesn't begin to describe how bad it would be as the entire economy completely collapsed upon itself... perhaps back to the stone ages. It would be that bad.

So you don't really want to stay for that. And if you leave, you know... you're not coming back. My husband wouldn't leave. So would we leave him? Split the family? Stay? Maybe he would go, but since he owns his own business, he's not one of those that would say, "Oh, let's go 3 days out and I don't care if it hits." He'd be one that on the day before finally made the decision and that would be a tough one.

This goes for a Cat 4 as well. Same scenario, not as bleak in the long term, but very ugly and very scary. Cat 4 is reparable I think. It would just take a long time to dig out from under it. We'd probably stay for that... and if it was that bad with the schools, we'd move up to my folks' house and enroll my kids in school up there.

A Cat 5 though... that's different and hard decisions have to be made pretty early.

And the more I process this as I write... if a Cat 4 was barreling down on us with the potential to turn into a 5, I'd probably be able to convince my husband to bail. It just wouldn't be safe. The question... is... at what point do you decide. That was her original question.

All that and my answer is probably... I just don't know. I hope I never have to figure it out.

As for Irene coming down in the most highly populated place in the US, all those big dang cities... I see bad stuff coming, but it's going to be a Cat 1. I don't see misery for 65 Million people. I think the news likes to over inflate.

But... I think it's going to be pretty damn horrible. I think looting will be one of their biggest problems, ne'erdowells doing bad things.

I think it's going to suck. I think people will die, some because of the storm, some out of stupidity. People don't fully appreciate what is coming their way. You cannot appreciate the power of a hurricane until you've endured one. They come with tornados too.

If I lived in Philly or one of those big cities, I might consider leaving to visit family.

I'm just thankful they won't be smacked with a Cat 2. A Cat 1 will be nasty, but a Cat 2 in those big city infrastructures would be very very ugly.

And I'm praying for the folks who will take the full brunt as a Cat 3, perhaps the outer banks of NC and coastal VA. Those are the folks it is going to truly suck for... for a long time.

For any of you new readers, seven years ago my kids lost their school to two hurricanes. It was an absolute disaster. My husband's building lost a window and water came pouring in his office. It took a long time for us all to recover. It was seven months before all the repairs on the house were made. His business took a financial hit as everyone was more concerned about fixing their dwellings (rightfully so) than spending money on anything else. It was a tough tough time for us financially and emotionally...

... and we were LUCKY. There were folks that lost EVERYTHING. They lost their businesses, homes, vehicles... everything. All possessions... GONE. EVERYTHING.

We were blessed and we know it.

And the folks on the outer banks and VA... they are not going to be so blessed. Those folks are in for some tough times, like the people of Pensacola after Ivan and Mississippi after Katrina. (NOLA still pisses me off.) That's what NC and VA are about to get.

Long post... rambling. It's just... sad.

Posted by Boudicca at August 25, 2011 01:15 PM

My brother is in VA....outside Norfolk in the Williamsburg/Newport News area. He says they aren't leaving, or rather, haven't been told to leave (Even though the Navy sent *their* fleet to sea).
Go figure.

But he, unlike Floridians, can go West. :)

Posted by: Rave at August 25, 2011 09:54 PM

If he's not on the coast, he is good to stay. He just needs to be prepared for the misery that is going to follow. It sucks. Because... when a hurricane hits, it's still summer. There is no power. No air. No nuthin'. So it still gets to be 90 degrees...

I'd not leave if I were him. I live 10 miles from the coast. But... the aftermath is going to be nasty. I'm so sorry for him...

Posted by: Bou at August 25, 2011 09:59 PM

I've been saying it for years about the infrastructure of the megalopolis of the NY/plus areas. It's going to be ugly if it's a big hurricane. There's just no place for those people to go. They won't have the flooding of a Katrina, but the recovery...ugly, ugly, ugly. I just don't think they have the planning for that kind of rebuilding, even given the post 9-11 disaster awareness. I think it'll make the Nola looting look like daisy-picking.

Posted by: Mrs. Who at August 25, 2011 10:41 PM

The question in my mind becomes... are they preparing like they should be? They should be VERY worried. Everyone. And the folks in the outer edges too because my fear is they're going to be forgotten. Everyone is going to be so up in arms that the big cities are a disaster that the folks that live outside will sit out and suffer.

And it's going to be interesting to see how Obama handles this. He needs to be consulting with JEB. FL does hurricanes right. I don't see that happening in the NE.

My sil owns a business on the shore in NJ. I asked her if she was worried and she is absolutely NOT. 'It's only a Cat 1...' She's going to evac off the shore, but she's not worried.

Finally I said, 'OK, so do you have wind storm coverage in your insurance.'

This is a funny story. The difference between the NE and FL. She lamented, "Yeah, but it's a $3000 deductible..." like that's high and bad. I laughed. My deductible is FIVE FIGURES. It's the only way I could afford to keep my insurance.

The insurance companies are going to have a FIELD DAY up there raising rates...

Posted by: Bou at August 26, 2011 05:48 AM

It always amazes me how lax people are on storm preparation. Buying canned food you can always eat after storm season isn't a waste. Batteries last a LONG time. My shutters have paid for themselves by preventing damage to the house in two storms. And I hope your in-law gets FLOOD insurance along with windstorm coverage. Some folks assume it's covered in their main policy. It isn't.

Posted by: George P at August 26, 2011 07:56 AM

Bou, I started reading you in 2004 after Charlie smacked us.

I said to the husband last night that I am worried, especially if a big place like NYC takes a massive hit. You know, we Floridians know how to handle and recover from massive hurricanes. But as NOLA taught us, some people help themselves and some people are whiney bitchy perpetual victims. I suspect blue NYC would fall into the latter category if a hurricane dramatically affected them. Hurricane damage is not the same as 9-11 damage. And I'm afraid for any major metropolitan area that is not accostomed to hurricanes taking a hit.

I am relieved to see the eye is north of me now. I can breathe a little easier.

Posted by: wRitErsbLock at August 26, 2011 08:22 AM

Bou I started reading you in my off time during the hurricane season in 05 (remember Florida was impacted at least twice that year too). We had a Presidential level disaster in the keys at the same time Katrina was heading for NO.

A positive in Florida is that while we have limited routes north out of the state, once an evacuation is ordered there is a plan to implement contraflow. That way both side of an interstate or the turnpike are directed into the direction of the evac. For example I-95 would have all lanes heading north for an impact in S. Florida. The same with I-75 etc. Some states, most recently Texas a couple years ago, didn't do that. result is a huge mess.

The current Director of FEMA was the head of Florida Emergency Management. ( the only competent member of the current admin in my estimation ). He is a good man. That is a plus. However, he works for Big Sis so who knows what will happen. Overall this admin seems to respond to every situation politically, so red states may have issues.

That said, the main responsibility for response lies with each individual state. The pitiful response to Katrina was a direct result of a lack of leadership in LA and NO. FEMA can not act until they are asked. The Mayor of NO sending people to the dome was a stupid, stupid mistake and would not have happened in FL. Worse was the failure to order evacuation in time.

New York may experience flooding similar, or worse than NO. Depends on storm surge and whice side of the storm they are on.

WHat ever happens it will be an interesting weekend.

Posted by: Pappy at August 26, 2011 08:28 AM

I just read that Bloomberg is telling New Yorkers that they 'might' have to leave if the storm stays on it's current track. They 'might' have to leave Saturday.

He should be facilitating an orderly exodus. Instead, his head is firmly planted in his nether regions.

I understand not wanting to overexcite that many people, but facts are facts.


Posted by: pam at August 26, 2011 09:14 AM

Bloomberg's head is so far up his nether-regions, when he blinks he massages his prostate.

Posted by: Rave at August 26, 2011 09:40 AM

He is doing the same thing Nagin did in NO. In 04 Nagin was screaming that NO would need thousands of body bags if Ivan hit them. Instead Ivan veered north and hit Pensacola. Nagin learned nothing from 04 and sat out Katrina until it was too late.

Bloomberg may as well have a D after hi name. If NY has a severe impact he'll start screaming for help and blamng FEMA.

Posted by: Pappy at August 26, 2011 12:35 PM

Pappy- I am in 100% agreement with you, on all accounts.

And it is so the state's responsibility and the area's... Negron botched that up. What I'm hoping is that Obama is consulting JEB since JEB can tell him what problems we've had on a National level... since they WILL be called in. Also, I'm hoping that the Gov's of all those states as well as the Mayors of the big cities are talking to FL, the past admin during our hurricane problems, to find out what we did right.

Honestly, nobody does hurricanes like Floridians. We have it down to a science. As sick as that is...

Posted by: Bou at August 26, 2011 04:50 PM

It is amazing. I now I have bunches of peanut butter, water and other things ready. And watching it go elsewhere is scary... I am afraid they just aren't going to be ready... I swear they must have the same management I had at an older company...

Posted by: vwbug at August 26, 2011 06:52 PM

Well, this could have been a lot worse.... Bou, I don't think Obama would ask jeb for help, he's too arrogant. The next best thing is Craig Fugate, the FEMA Director. A good guy and very very capable of handling thinks. A real pro. The problem is, and my feelings were validated after watching some of the news conferences this weekend, that The big O and Big Sis can't get out of the way to let people who know what to do work. Big Sis referred to Fugate as "her" FEMA Director the same as O refers to generals etc as "my". They lack the minimal skills sets attached to leadership positions. Also watch to see which states get aid and which don't. If this admins response holds true to form, Red states are going to get short shrift.

In 05 Florida suspended all assistance from FEMA so that they could stage west and be ready to assist the rest of the gulf coast post Katrina. All Gov Blanco in LA had to do was ask for help. SHe never did even after Pres Bush called her and asked her to ask.

The vast majority of folks, that includes news types and politicians don't understand that FEMA is like a vampire.... they have to be invited in.

Posted by: Pappy at August 30, 2011 10:51 AM