So here comes Wilma.
I woke up this morning to the radio telling me it’s already a Category 5 hurricane and it hasn’t even gone over the warm waters of the Gulf yet. And there is no number higher than 5. So it was something of a relief to see that the current forecast predicts Wilma will encounter something called “shear” at about the time it makes its strange predicted right turn Friday morning. Even so it will be “formidable” (er, what exactly does that mean?) when it comes ’round here. And the eye is currently predicted to cross not too far north of us. In fact, not very north at all. Well within forecast error. So this is not, on the whole, good.
I trust the house to withstand a major hurricane; rebuilt to the latest codes it is in theory supposed to be able to withstand over 160 MPH winds, even a weak five, although I have no desire to put it to the test, and you have to wonder what would be left of the surroundings at that point.
It would be nice if the weather service could cough up some numerical idea of what “formidable” means…although short of buying plane tickets, there’s no way I or most of the people here can do much about it. We can’t go south, there basically is no south, and the hurricane itself will be north of us. There are not many highways, and a mass exodus from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach would make the chaos on the Texas roads look like the Indy 500.
As is traditional, I went and stocked up on dry goods this morning. I think the real panic shopping started yesterday; some of the shelves were looking quite Soviet. The Publix supermarket employees were grumbling about the extra work (“I’m not coming in on my day off whatever the hurricane does,” one humphed to another.) In addition to fighting for parking, one had to keep a sharp eye out for a shopping cart.
It’s only Wednesday, and it won’t hit until late Friday at the earliest, if at all, and people are already worried and distracted, with some reason. The chance of actual disaster doesn’t (yet) seem that large, far too many variables, although right now due to its sheer force this one looks like the most ominous one so far this year. And some part of Florida is going to get it. And, they now say, maybe even New England too, later on.
This is all very distracting.
[Obligatory Flintstones reference: this story about Bamm-Bamm isn’t true, is it?]
The unnerved citizens of Florida may have seen this Washington Post headline:
Chertoff Says FEMA Was ‘Overwhelmed’ by Katrina.
I suppose that the President could help out after the storm hits by passing out ice and water. At least those tasks are within his competency.
I live near St. Petersburg, Fla. I blogged an open letter to Hurricane Wilma. Maybe she’ll end up missing Florida completely. It never hurts to ask, right?
Best of luck with Wilma. I’m sure all your readers will want to know as soon as possible after the storm that you and your family are all right. In case you lose power, could your brother let us know in his column?
“Shear” (if you’re curious) is just a change in wind speed and/or direction with altitude. This tends
to weaken hurricanes (which are most intense when the thunderstorm column goes straight up).