Built on Facts

Gustav Rising

“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”

This is said by people all over the country, especially so in the coastal south where 90+ degree heat is made that much worse by air thick enough to swim in. But heat is usually an inconvenience. Hurricanes are another matter. It’s not the wind, it’s the water.

I was in Baton Rouge during Katrina. We had tropical storm force winds that knocked around anything not car-sized or bolted down, downed trees, and some lost power. What’s a little less well known is that New Orleans only experienced category 1 winds – low category 2 at the absolute most. And indeed just after the storm passed it looked like the city would be all right, and suddenly the city was under water. Without the water, New Orleans would have lost power and been pretty well torn up, but two months later Katrina wouldn’t have been much of a blip in the public consciousness. Hurricane Gustav hit Baton Rouge not so many weeks ago with roughly as much force as Katrina hit New Orleans, and though the city was badly damaged and even now parts are without power, it’s not a life-and-death ongoing disaster. The city didn’t flood badly and that’s all the difference.

Ike, powerhouse though it isn’t, is carrying an unusually large storm surge which has the capability of doing immense damage even without a large category number attached to its wind. I hope the predictions turn out to be wrong, but when it comes to hurricanes it’s almost always a better idea to evacuate and risk looking silly than it is to stay and risk death. And even if you don’t die, it won’t be fun. My old college roommate evacuated from Katrina to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Even that wasn’t far enough, they were without power and water for a week. When you evacuate, you need to get way out of the way. And you need to do so far in advance if you live in a major city – traffic is always horrific.

Weather Nerd is following the storm progress closely and he has links to NOAA tidal gauges which even now are skyrocketing alarmingly.

I’ll keep you updated on what happens here in College Station as well. We’re right in the path, but far enough inland so with luck we’ll only get category 1 winds at worst, and more likely just tropical storm force. Class was canceled today as a precaution anyway. I’ve stocked up on food and fuel so I should be fine even in the worse case. I even bought a little propane camp stove I can use to cook if the power goes out (yes, I know better than to use it inside). Gasoline, by the way, was only $3.55 yesterday. Not sure what it is now – I haven’t been out as I don’t want to use any of it. In the event of major supply disruptions I want to stretch that tank as far as I can. Which shouldn’t be hard, Texas A&M has bus service and my car is pretty efficient anyway. I bet I can make that tank last well over a month.

That’s it for now. I’ve done all I can do in preparing myself, and I hope everyone else has done the same thing. Stay safe, and be prepared.


  1. #1 razib
    September 12, 2008

    god be with them!

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