Hurricanes: A Primer
Sunday, August 17, 2008
We've been put on a hurricane watch. Looks like Fay is going to make landfall some time mid-day Tuesday.
They're predicting it will be a category one, and there's a big difference between a cat-1 and a cat-5. Since hurricanes play a big role in my next novel, I'm going to call on protagonist Linc Menner to explain the differences. (I'm lifting this directly from "Man of the House.")
"...There are five categories of hurricanes. A category-one blows up to 95 miles per hour. Some trees will lose limbs. Kiss that gazing ball in your garden goodbye.
"A category-two blasts up to 110. This is when power lines start snapping and swimming-pool cages start to shed their screens. Trees get stripped of leaves. Business' signs get blown out. The older, more brittle asphalt shingles get torn from roofs like pages from a word-a-day calendar.
"In a Category-three, with winds up to 130, you'd better be thinking of leaving town for the day. Mobile homes and anything made of aluminum, which is about half of the construction down here, begins to shred, and the pieces fly through the air like a pair of wayward nunchucks, knocking out windows and slicing through power lines. Lots of storm surge, lots of flooding.
"A category-four is anything with sustained winds stronger than 145. Flooding is so bad that cars and other big things start to float and collide with houses or anything else in their path. Entire trees fall over, ripped up from their roots. The towering live oaks down here aren't as mighty as they appear. Because the aquifers are so close to the surface, there are no deep tap roots that act as an anchor, so these giant trees have root systems that spread out instead of down. I've seen photographs of big oaks and Jacarandas and banyans that simply fell over, pulling their entire root structure, which look like an immense, shallow plate of spaghetti noodles, out of the ground with them.
Me again: Linc doesn't describe a cat-5, but I pulled this from the National Hurricane Center's web site. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ which is our Bible this time of year. We check it several times a day once a storm is marching our way. Anyway, cat-5: "Storm surge generally greater than 18 ft above normal. Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. All shrubs, trees, and signs blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Severe and extensive window and door damage. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the center of the hurricane. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 15 ft above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline.
Our house on the water is 4 feet above sea level.
What I'm doing today:
1. Getting all the laundry done now so we have plenty of clean clothes should we lose power.
2. Tying the canoe and kayak to palm trees. (Hey, palm trees are MADE to withstand hurricanes. Look at the post-hurricane pics from history; oftentimes the palms are the only things left standing.)
3. Planning a big meal for Monday night. We generally eat one of our favorite dinners (My family likes pasta bolognese) the night before a storm's arrival because we know it'll be the last real, hot meal we get for the next several days. (No power = no stove.)