Natural Disasters, Endurance, and Observation

Hurricane Michael missed us. Fortunately. All we got was a lot of high wind, rain, and frayed nerves. People well east of us… were not so lucky.

They’re going to be picking up the pieces for months over in Mexico City and nearby. Likely longer. Storm surge does not screw around; it just goes in and wrecks things.

I was looking at some of the news photos, thinking just that, and picking out other ways places had been damaged… and it occurred to me that I’ve been through enough of these dratted things that I can identify just how something got itself smashed up.

Flattened tatters of thin metal, nearby lumps in the concrete with metal lids? That was a gas station, taken out by wind damage.

Flattened but slightly corrugated and thicker metal on top of the debris? Siding and/or roof, peeled off by winds.

Same metal but in the pile of debris, stacked up against objects in corners, with insulation still clinging on? Probably wind and storm surge, and some poor schmuck is missing their house.

Pool of standing water with traces of seaweed? Storm surge. Similar pool but higher elevation and mosquitoes already swarming it? Rainwater. And determining the difference is important, because insurance companies may pay out for wind, and sometimes rain, but storm surge is covered by flood insurance, if it’s covered at all, meaning most people are up the proverbial creek.

Note that a boat on someone’s lawn (in someone’s garage, lodged in their house, wrapped around a power pole, etc.) could be wind or water. Depends on how big the boat is. Rowboat? Pfft, a strong breeze could do that. Tugboat? Most likely storm surge.

Oh, and someone needs to bap FEMA over the head with, do not tell people to evacuate just before the hurricane hits. By then it’s too late. You will be caught on the road, and your chances of survival go down significantly. The time to evacuate is the day before. Or earlier.

(Seriously, if you’re near a disaster or disaster-to-be, tune in to local stations and get their advice. They’re the ones who will know which evacuation routes will be hopelessly clogged in hours, because they’ve seen it before.)

Anyway. Just… considering the fact that when we look at RL or worldbuilding, people with experience are going to see a lot of details where a newcomer sees a lot of chaos.

15 thoughts on “Natural Disasters, Endurance, and Observation

  1. Sorry for the people who did get hit by Michael through I’m glad not to have experienced it beyond a little wind and some scattered rain from the outermost edges of the storm.

    Sometimes getting people to evacuate before it’s crisis time is hard because until reality is smacking them in the face with the danger, they don’t want to believe it. Surely natural disasters are something that happens to other people.

    And sometimes, by the time they figure out that natural disasters can happen to anyone and that they really are in danger, it’s too late to run. They either can’t run because all ways are blocked. Or they try and get caught in exactly the wrong place.

    A lot of debris from disaster looks like a confusing mess unless you know what you are looking at. Hurricanes, floods, mud slides, fires . . .

    Probably also doesn’t help that sometimes your brain doesn’t want to make sense of something horrible. It nopes as hard as it can and hopes you look away before the nope runs out.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. glad it didn’t hit your area hard.
    Interesting about the debris, I had never thought of that angle, but now you’ve pointed it out, seems obvious.

    Around here it’s earthquakes – and mudslides in the hills – and you can’t evacuate for earthquakes.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Glad you are alright. I agree with the whole locals know how to deal with local disasters. We had half a dozen tornadoes recently and neither the infrastructure or people could handle it. Give us a blizzard or an earthquake OTOH and we’ll be just fine.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It had to be intentional that the news station I was watching did back to back stories on the path of destruction wreaked by Michael, and Trump welcoming Kanye to the White House. Like, ‘Oh yes, while this devastation was happening? Our President was holding unrelated PR events.’ He has two more rallies spaced out over the rest of the week, but then after that he’ll definitely get on that Michael thing.

    Sorry for the brief digression into politics.

    It is neat, two people looking at the same thing and seeing vastly different amounts of information.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I live in earthquake and volcano country(there’s really only been one big earthquake in my lifetime, lots of destruction, not so much loss of life), and yeah, it’s amusing to hear people talk about how they could never live in such a disaster prone area and the like. Well, and blizzards and fire season has been getting progressively worse.

    I have to admit, hurricanes and tornadoes give me the heebie jeebies. Volcanoes, fine. Earthquakes are good if you know what to do(and if you’re me, can hear them coming. Having a minutes’ warning is a lifesaver). But the sky randomly opening up and the ocean swallowing people, just a huge no.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I find tornadoes scarier than hurricanes.

      Hurricanes are not subtle storms. The weather people might not be able to predict their EXACT path but they can predict their general path with a decent amount of accuracy. They also usually have at least some idea of how powerful the hurricane is. You have a couple of days, at least, to prepare for a hurricane. To evacuate out of the danger zone.

      Tornadoes don’t give nearly as much warning. They know the thunderstorms that are PRONE to making tornadoes but they cannot say with any certainty that THIS severe thunderstorm will produce a tornado, when and where. You know the storm is producing them when someone spots one on radar or someone sees it on the ground, reports it and the sirens go off (or the weather people say something). People have MINUTES to get to shelter. If they are lucky. You don’t how powerful a tornado is before it strikes. The weather people give an estimate based on reports but its looking at the AFTERMATH of said storm that tells them just how powerful that tornado was.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Tornadoes can be predicted further in advance than that. Sometimes. In areas with a national weather center focused on weather radar, in the middle of a rather nice network of weather data collection systems, with whole bunch of people, state, local, and national working to improve predictions.

        And bank vaults have been known to survive tornadoes. Tornadoes are only a construction problem because we haven’t yet learned to make really solid residential bunkers cheaply enough.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. That is a lot of qualifiers for that advanced prediction.

        And not everywhere that gets those storms HAS all of those qualifiers. Because that kind of stuff costs money. A fact The Powers That Be hate, avoid doing whenever possible, and tend to cut that kind of spending under the logic it hasn’t happened in a while so it probably isn’t necessary . . . one week later, storm destroys half the area.

        Improved construction would help . . . for those who can afford to pay for it. Not everyone living in those states can. Heck, building a decent storm cellar can have quite the price tag.

        Yes, it is their lives at stake if they need a cellar and don’t have one but if it a choice between eating today and worrying about a hypothetical storm . . .

        Liked by 3 people

      3. And severe, prolonged civil disorder is the worst. Compare Nika to a really big tornado.

        (I’m cheating. Modern American standards of tornado prep on impact is compared to the impact of a riot in absence of modern American standards of riot prep.)

        Liked by 2 people

  6. You also get some interesting results when people who are accustomed to one sort of natural disaster get thrown into the middle of another.

    I’m originally from Virginia. The only natural disaster we usually get there is tornadoes, but in August of 2011 we had a magnitude 5.9 earthquake. My dad worked less than 40 miles from the epicenter, and when the building started to shake he turned to one of his coworkers and asked what you’re supposed to do in an earthquake. The guy’s reflex response? “Uh… go to the basement!”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. The closest I’ve been to experiencing a natural disaster was living in the Seattle metropolitan area when Mt St Helens blew. The wind blew just about all the ash to the East, so all we got was a light dusting you could see on the leaves and plants, but you could see the eruption cloud. While the Cascades and Okanogan Highlands suffer wildfires, there aren’t any real seasonal “disastrous” weather to contend with, though flooding is not uncommon in Western Washington. In the last decade or so, attention has become focused on the Cascadia subduction zone, and its next major rupture, which WILL be sure to trigger a massive tsunami along the NW coast… Seattle and Tacoma might be spare much of the Tsunami, tucked as they are deep in Puget Sound, but there are plenty of other faults that might be affected by a major earthquake, and plenty of vulnerable infrastructure, and unreinforced conctruction. (like brick School buildings.

    2 cases come to mind, of the… Makah indians (iirc), who are in the process of moving their entire village to higher ground over time, and Westport Wa, that built the local elementary school gym/cafeteria to act as a “vertical tsunami evacuation” shelter.

    Liked by 2 people

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