Monthly Archives: August 2005

Law School Closed Monday

I’ve just received an e-mail announcing that,

UM’s Coral Gables Campus Closed Monday
Medical Campus and Rosenstiel Campus Open for Business

The University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus will remain closed on
Monday, August 29, to continue campus clean-up, and all classes,
activities, and events are canceled for Monday.

May as well go ahead and finish writing the lecture….

Incidentally, the law library will be open tomorrow, as will Subway. So there will be air conditioning and food of a sort.

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Of Envy and Gratitude

Anyone who doubts the idea that perceptions of one’s wealth and well-being are strongly influenced by interpersonal comparative factors need only contemplate the position of someone remaining without electricity while much of the surrounding county’s power is being restored. It is very hot and humid in our house.

On the other hand, I did see a power truck go by a few hours ago.

Then again, one always remembers how much worse it could be. I hope somehow it misses New Orleans. (Steve, we’re thinking of you.)

Meanwhile I’ve relocated temporarily to my nice air-conditioned office in order to write tomorrow’s 8am lecture.

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Sue Ann says that while we may not have any gas or food available in south Florida, we do have beer.

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Like most of Miami-Dade, we got sucker punched by Hurricane Katrina. Several factors combined to make us overconfident: First, the track showed it going far enough north of us so that we’d only get tropical storm force winds … and we know we can handle that. Second, we had four false alarms last year, each characterized by hysterical warnings to prepare, all of which resulted in us hunkering for naught. Third, and no doubt following from the second, the media played this one very low key. Fourth, having gone through Andrew 14 years ago, a strong category four hurricane, or maybe even a five, the sound of Katrina, a ‘mere’ category one, just didn’t get the panic juices flowing.

It should have.

Katrina went south of the predicted track. The power went out about 8pm on Thursday night. The morning after revealed a scene of devastated vegetation only slightly less than after Andrew. Roads were blocked in every direction. Between here and the law school, for example, about a block and a half, the road is blocked by two gigantic fallen trees. We escaped quite cheaply, losing our favorite frangipani tree. Unfortunately, it landed on the neighbor’s car. Fortunately, the fall was broken by an intervening hedge, and the car has at most a scratch.

Caroline and I had a hard time after Andrew, or at least as hard a time as you could have when you hadn’t lost your roof. We had arrived in Miami only a few days earlier, had no hurricane supplies, not even a candle, and no idea where to go to get food or ice. The entire neighborhood was without power for two weeks; four lucky homes, of which ours was one, were without for five weeks. At night we would lie exhausted, overheated, by the open window that rarely vouchsafed a breeze but certainly carried the enviable and very loud noises of next door’s generator.

It’s not as bad this time: we have hurricane glass instead of those beastly metal shutters, plus after we had kids we bought a generator, and consequently we are able to keep our food from spoiling. There’s ice. There’s a light in the evening. We cook with gas. We can even run (one) fan. And if I manage to post this, we were even able to get the modem and router to wake temporarily.

Florida Power and Light says that 90% of the homes in Miami-Dade lost power. Of them 10% got it back by last night. They predict that 90% of those who lost power will have it back by Tuesday night – still more than 72 hours away – but that the remaining 10% may have to wait as long as Friday. Meanwhile it’s unclear when the schools will reopen (the paper suggests it may be as soon as Monday). And if I can get online, I’ll find out more about whether I need to get my lecture ready for 8am Monday.

I imagine there won’t be much blogging until the power comes back.

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So far, it's just an awful lot of rain and gusty wind. This is the first serious storm we've had since we redid the exterior to our house. It's very nice not to have to put up those metal shutters any more, and quite impressive to see the ferocity of the wind, even when it's just bands from the way outside of the edge of the storm.

The schools are closed again tomorrow. The university closed at six p.m. If the forecasts are to be believed, I think the major danger tomorrow will be the roads,1 which is why everything is closing. The hurricane itself looks most likely to make landfall enough north of us that we will miss the worst — and at Category one, the very large majority of structures are designed to weather this intensity of storm.

What's slightly disconcerting, however, is that NOAA is predicting even more hurricanes than it did last month:

The updated outlook calls for an extremely active season, with an expected seasonal total of 18-21 tropical storms (mean is 10), with 9-11 becoming hurricanes (mean is 6), and 5-7 of these becoming major hurricanes (mean is 2-3). The likely range of the ACE index for the season as a whole is 180%-270% of the median.

This is, I gather, in part due to the warmer oceans, which in turn is due to global warming.

1 And restless children.

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It’s Like a Snow Day In Florida

When I was a kid growing up in Washington DC, they used to close the schools if a snowflake was sighted anywhere in the metro area. It’s true that back then DC had rather primitive snow plowing capabilities, so that a serious snow fall would in deed paralyze the city, first by panicking the drivers and then by blocking the streets, but we must have closed four out every two major snowfalls.

We don’t get much snow down here in in Miami, so the kids don’t get snow days. But it seems they do get hurricane days. The latest weather forecasts don’t show Tropical Storm Katrina hitting in any serious way until fairly late tomorrow — well after school closes — although not all the models agree on whether it will remain a tropical storm or graduate to a full hurricane around when it makes landfall. But the kids are going to get a day off from school anyway, as the Miami-Dade school system has just pulled the plug on Thursday. We used to like playing in the snow when school was closed, but there’s not much fun to be had playing in a tropical storm (much less a hurricane) and it would in any case be unsafe due to the danger of falling and flying objects. The calm before the storm is real, but before the storm hits it can be awfully still and muggy.

The law school, meanwhile, is playing a more sensible game of wait-and-see. As a result, unless something changes overnight, I’m teaching two classes tomorrow morning. But I imagine turnout will be much reduced since those who drive from far away will probably choose to stay home, and those who suddenly find they have to care for their children won’t have a choice. But until further notice, the show will go on.

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