Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Hurricane Gustav LiveBlog, Part 1

Yeah, it seems odd to post a LiveBlog nearly a week after the event happened, but that's what happens when you're blogging on a six-column columnar pad instead of a computer.

The following three blog posts are the summary of what I did during Hurricane Gustav. I hope it is as entertaining of a read for you as it was for me to write it.

Part 1: 01 September 2008, 0615-1130 CDT

0615: My father does his usual walking-alarm clock routine by turning on the television and making sure that the volume is high enough to scare me out of my skin when he turns it on. I get the cobwebs shaken out of my head fast enough to catch Dave Baker from KATC, a fellow with whom I once had a running conversation about hurricane prediction models up and down ten aisles of a Super Walmart (Note the new spelling convention for the Big Box Store of Doom™), repeats the 0400 CDT advisory that Gustav’s maximum sustained wind speed is down to 115 mph. Looking at the forecast track, I’m betting on an official landfall within 8 miles of Cocodrie.

0702: KATC broadcasts the 0700 CDT advisory, which drops Gustav down to 110 mph, the maximum sustained wind speed for a Category 2 hurricane. Its movement remains approximately NE (320°) with a forward speed at 16 mph. I just finished tossing my stuff into the truck to head over to Carla and Eric’s house (My parents’ neighbours). Winds ≤ 20 mph almost due north (350ish°). No precipitation.

0745: Eye of Gustav passes over Port Fourchon/Grand Isle area, but centre of circulation remains over Terrebonne Bay. Official landfall looks almost to be a cinch within 5 miles of Cocodrie. I wonder who said that? Oh yeah, I did. Eat your heart out Jim Cantore.

0800: We walked next door to my parents’ neighbours to ride out the storm. Why you ask? Because my parents live in a camper trailer (not a FEMA Trailer. Long story.). On the walk over winds seem to have shifted to north-northwest (340ish°) but are definitely in the sustained 20 mph range. Precipitation in the form of mist increasing to sprinkles.

0830: Eric changes the channel from KATC to The Hysterical Weather Channel. They’re up to the usual histrionics with their chief meteorologist estimating storm surge for St. Mary Parish and Vermilion bay to be in the 9 ft-16 ft range. Look, I know you have a Ph.D. in meteorology and all, but how can Vermilion Bay get a 9 ft-16 ft storm surge after landfall when the wind is blowing the water out of the bay? And by the time the storm passes enough to the northwest to allow for a southerly wind to pile the water onshore, the winds will have lessened enough to Category 1 or even Tropical Storm force, making a storm surge that high a bit difficult to say the least. Perhaps Charlton Heston will be on the job?

0900: The Weather Channel is already on my last nerve with its “live report from the impending disaster here in New Orleans!” said oddly enough by their reporter in Morgan City. Luckily Eric saves my sanity…or so I thought by changing the channel. Instead of hysterics and poor geography, we’re stuck with a pseudo-Spaghetti Western written, produced by, and starring Jack Nicholson. Yeah, it seems as nonsensical as you assumed it would be when you read that last sentence. My mom and Carla jumped into Carla’s truck to run to Marceaux’s, Gueydan’s local grocery store that’s open for all disasters, but never on Sunday afternoons, for some more junk food. Winds sound about 25 mph remaining from the north-northwest (340ish°)

0938: Enough of Jack Nicholson already. I’m bored out of my mind, so there’s only one thing left to do: pull out my dynamo-powered shortwave radio! Unfortunately it’s a cheap model, so I’m only able to catch the SW1 and SW2 bands, so my chances of catching anything really interesting are slim to none. But offhand I think I can catch a BBC World Service snippet, which would let me in on what’s happening on the transfer market in European soccer, since today is the deadline. Let’s see what I can find.

0945: Snap. Nothing on shortwave. Here’s the result of my shortwave search:

(1) Spanish Language station, probably Voice of Habana in Cuba. I can guess this not so much because I know Spanish (And I don’t. Just enough German to [successfully] pretend I’m fluent to strangers and enough Dutch to read de Telegraaf.), but because I don’t think after over forty years, The Beard has managed to find a good enough translation for “Marxist-Leninist Dialectic.”

(2) Chinese-language station, probably Voice of Taiwan. I’m not positive of its identity but based on previous jaunts with this radio, I seem to remember the Voice of Taiwan in that vicinity.

(3) Random Christian Televangelist. Hmm, no low-power FM station to hitch a ride onto?

(4) Conspiracy Theory Talk Show. Whoa Nelly! I couldn’t figure out what this was initially since the host was talking about calling in the hotline early to get their introductory offer, but the nature of the show became evident when the special guest, a “world-renown expert on high-altitude poisoning, shadow governments, and UFOs (A Tinfoil-hat Brigade Yahtzee?),” came on an said how he was happy to be on to spread the word in the fight against the New World Order. Apparently, the airlines are poisoning us with Chemtrails sprayed by airliners at high altitude. Thankfully, we know when the International Conspiracy is harming us by the trails in the sky! Er, they do understand the concept of condensation don’t they? Perhaps this fellow was in the same science program when they were discussing storm surge values on the western side of a tropical system in the Northern Hemisphere? Oh, I almost forgot. Winds up to 25 mph and continuing north-northwest (340ish°), but it doesn’t seem long until I can say it’s coming from the northwest. Precipitation in the form of tropical showers coming down constantly now.

1000: New National Weather Service advisory and forecast track: centre of Gustav is just SW of Houma (between Houma and Waterproof) and eye wall approaching Morgan City, possibly already affecting Amelia. Gustav is moving to the northwest (340°) at 16 mph. Winds sustained at 110 mph. KATC states winds in Franklin will probably just miss 100 mph in sustained wind speed, but I disagree considering the current track will put Franklin in the southwest quadrant of the eye wall. I say sustained winds of 80-85 mph with gusts probably 95-100 mph. Don’t believe me? Well you should. Dave Baker just confirmed that Gustav made landfall 4 miles southeast of Cocodrie. Perhaps I should moonlight as a meteorologist? Winds here approaching 30 mph, now from the northwest (315°). Rain continues.

1024: For some inexplicable reason the TV goes back onto The Weather Channel. Storm Magnet Extraordinaire Jim Cantore is in Houma outside a Catholic church in the eye of the storm. Damage is everywhere including the new copper roof on one of the buildings sitting on a police car. After much hand wringing, they admit that the storm surge won’t be as high as they were saying in Vermilion Bay and St. Mary parish. Duh.

1030: TV goes back onto KATC (Why did it leave in the first place?). Canned news report interviews a family that evacuated from New Orleans in a U-Haul. When interview, the guy, who had 10 dogs; 2 ferrets; 3 adults; and a lawn tractor in the back of the U-Haul, said “I’m not going back! It can sink or drown or whatever for all I care!” You’re probably not the only person that’s thinking that, mate.

1100: I finally asked and got permission to go online (Yippee!). First thing I did was went to check my e-mail. Server down. No go. Gmail? Yes! Any mail? No. :^(

1115: Lunch. Good old-fashioned German food: Sausage and Potato Stew. Carla made some fig cake that was rather tasty. The TV remains on KATC but I’m not listening. More of the same things I’ve heard for the last 48 hours really.

1130: KATC reports the centre of Gustav is over Lake Palourde and eye wall is approaching Franklin with winds > 90 mph. Nicht so gut. Rather than sit through a wretched remake of the Magnificent Seven, I sit hidden in Carla and Eric’s office in the northwest corner of the house on the magnificent (sic) 24.0Kbps dial-up connection, as opposed to the 6.0Mbps I get in Franklin. Hey, I’m not complaining. It’s better than nothing! Winds near 35 mph from the northwest (315°) with rain continuing.

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