On Writing: How to Write Your Characters in a Hurricane

First, you need pen, paper, and a good flashlight….

Ahem. Well, those are useful if you’re the one in the hurricane. However, let’s consider some factors you need to account for if your characters are in a hurricane – or, goodness forbid, trying to fight in one.

First, windspeed. If you’re good and determined, you can stay standing and keep moving when the wind hits thirty, maybe thirty-five MPH; some people claim they can still move against 45 MPH but that’s pushing the bounds of human ability. A Category 1 hurricane, by definition, has “one-minute maximum sustained winds of at least 74 mph (33 m/s; 64 kn; 119 km/h)”.

Meaning your characters might still be moving on the outer edges of the storm, but once they really get into it? Nobody’s going nowhere outside. And if you are outside, hunker down and pray – there are stray tornadoes in the storm, and no few lightning strikes.

Second, visibility.

It sucks.

It is – moderately – better if you have some kind of barrier between you and the potentially eye-blinding rain. (Yes, literally – all kinds of stuff gets flung on the winds, and if that ends up in your eyes….) Then you just need to worry about the water-waver running down whatever lenses/windows you have, and the sheets of rain farther away. There are times you will not be able to see ten feet in front of you in the middle of the day. After dark? Oh boy.

Third, the eye. It may or may not pass over your characters. Probably will, nothing more Dramatic than a sudden hush, minutes before the storm returns in all its fury. Do note, though, that if the eye does pass over, then the second batch of wind comes in the opposite direction from the first. Which is what wrecks a lot of buildings that stood up to the first blasts.

Fourth, a gem you may not have considered: hypothermia.

Yes, hurricanes typically happen in hot weather; summer to autumn, though sometimes we’ve had storms pop up all the way into December. Yes, the rain isn’t going to be cold. But you lose body heat in water something like 25 times faster than in air – and when you’re being soaked to the skin, with wind whipping your heat away as your body tries to shed that water, hypothermia is a very real risk. Especially if you end up wading. Or swimming.

So if you’re trying to do something tricky in the middle of a hurricane – say, set some charges – you need to deal with slowed thinking, fumble-fingers, and your teeth chattering. In what should be blazing summer heat.

Fun, huh?

Most people should never have to face any of these dangers. After all, if you’re in a good shelter, the sanest thing to do in the middle of a hurricane is hunker down and wait.

…Then again, if the characters were sane, they probably wouldn’t be in your story….

28 thoughts on “On Writing: How to Write Your Characters in a Hurricane

      1. Waitasec. Hurricane plus flying Kabane equals…. a Kabanedo!?
        Jack: “Why couldn’t it just be sharks? Sharks’d be a lot easier to handle than zombies with armored hearts.”

        Liked by 5 people

  1. Fourth, a gem you may not have considered: hypothermia.

    Oh, peanutbrickle. I know that’s what kills most folks who get lost in the forest who die in the first day, and I never even considered it. (Hunter’s safety basics.)

    Liked by 5 people

  2. The military said I was too crazy for them (or perhaps just the wrong kind), so this is second hand, but I’ve heard that a major purpose of courses like Ranger School is to give future leaders experience – under conditions that are as controlled as they can be – with what happens to the body when it’s cold, exhausted, and fuel-deprived for extended periods.

    Jack was special forces. so he ought to know. (And to some degree be able to compensate, perhaps by focusing on one thing to the exclusion of all else.)

    Heck, there’s a scene in Tom Kratman’s Legio del Cid series, during Cazardor (i.e. Ranger) training, where someone gets hit with hypothermia during ‘good training’ condition, and the instructor gives all the students amnesty for handing over all the sugar they smuggled out of mess so that the instructor can then make hot, heavily-sugared coffee for the hypothermia victim. (Chapter 29 of A Desert Called Peace, as it happens.)

    I don’t recall enough of SG-1 to know if Jack ever displayed the habit of stashing emergency calories in his gear, but if either Ikoma or Hizumi (is that the right spelling?) show symptoms of flagging while fighting off the approaching horde of kabane,

    Scene from ADCP, chapter 29:
    At the shallow spot, the CI took his knife out and stuck it perpendicularly into a tree. Then he took a blue fuel tablet out of a metalicized pouch. He laid the fuel tablet on the knife. Reaching into the student’s web gear, the CI took out Dominguez’s steel canteen cup and filled it with water. He lit the fuel tab, letting it begin to burn over its entire surface, before placing the cup squarely upon it. He pulled both knife and cup away from the tree, holding them together.

    The CI looked around and announced, “I need a crap load of sugar.”

    Montoya went around the gathering students. “C’mon. Give it up, goddammit. Dominguez needs sugar.” The men reached into hidden stores for sugar packets filched from the mess on those rare occasions the students were allowed to eat in the mess. {NOTE: From what I’ve heard, being clumsy enough to get caught smuggling those sugar packets or other calories is usually punished harshly.}

    The CI gently slid the knife out from under the cup. The fuel tablet stayed, magically stuck to the cup’s bottom. With its own bottom exposed to the air, it flared into a respectable flame. Soon the water was hot enough for a decent cup of coffee, heavily laden with sugar.

    Montoya, standing with his hands cupped around sugar packets, looked with wonder at the CI’s method of coffee preparation in a soaking wet environment. “I believe that is the neatest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said, mostly to himself.

    So Jack might be able to give those two a much-needed boost, although I’m not sure what coffee might do to kabaneri.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh man… caffeinated kabaneri… with extra sugar-rush, no less…

      Little Hozumi will be jetting around instead of her normal antics. I can already see the facepalm Kurusu will so desperately want to indulge in.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. As the family member of runners, the body in motion processes caffeine very, very differently then a body at rest. There’s a reason for the fact that the goo packets for marathon runners, meant to be consumed while in motion, almost all contain caffeine. So if the Kabenari get whoozy, caffeinated, and kept on the move, they wouldn’t be bouncing off the ceiling. I haven’t looked into the science behind the physiological differences in how the body handles caffeine in the two different states, so I can’t give you an exact scientific definition, just second hand experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And there’s definitely some weirdness going on with human/kabaneri neural interactions when the human brain is sugar-deprived. Mumei has to take a quick nap after pushing herself too hard, as seen in the first few episodes (where she’s both low on blood and lacking a supply of medicine), and her kabane neural cords glow when that happens. Is that the kabane synthesizing enough sugar to get the human brain back up and running?

        (Remember, part of the price we pay to be sophont is that our brains need a higher energy budget than the mere animal sentience of beasts and birds.)

        I remember that one SG-1 cross with the Son Goku group, where the once-tau’ri kami-clone priest was bona fide knurd and needed regular alcohol to be properly sober. Caffeine might be just what the kabaneri need.

        Or maybe it would suppress signs that the patient needs blood or medicine until the kabane takes over and goes looking for food.


        Liked by 1 person

      2. So a chance for Jack to be helpful in the very short term – the Mosquito gets back up and darn near goes supersonic – by causing a huge problem in the slightly-less short term, particularly if any of Uncle’s people notice.

        Unless, of course, someone notices and can tell Jack to _just_ put sugar in the water.


        Liked by 1 person

      3. What about – and no, I’m not being all that serious – feeding coffee to the smarter kabane, to try to glucose-dump _them_ into dumbing-down to baseline kabane?

        Only slightly more seriously, Papa Wolf’s final solution to hordes of zombies was to set out radiation traps with enough light to gather them in and give them a lethal dose after about a half-hour of exposure. We probably don’t want Sam playing with the working fusion reactor, but if they find a derailed engine she might have a new toy. How would kabane neural chords react to a directed gamma-ray pulse? (The real kind, not the Hulk pseudo-physics.)


        Liked by 1 person

    3. I wonder if Teal’c has ever experienced inclement weather?

      The Goa’uld worlds all seem fairly temperate, although all the pine trees around suggest maybe it does get cold. And he spends most of his time on Earth living under a mountain, roadtrips to Las Vegas notwithstanding.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. There is also the issue of evaporative cooling.
    In a body of water, some molecules have more energy/heat than others.
    The high-energy molecules evaporate first, making the average temperature of the water, and anything the water touches, drop.

    Then you have windchill, which is the same thing with convection.
    Your body heats the air around you and the wind carries it away.

    Get someone wet and dump them in a windstorm, they get both.

    This is a good time to wear layers, like a wetsuit.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Well the topic of this post doesn’t bode well for our heroes.

    “Armored zombies, limited ammo, AND a hurricane . . . has Murphy never heard of overkill?”

    Maybe Murphy thinks that the Gao’uld and such aren’t challenging the team enough anymore and therefore decided to up the ante. (Think SG-1 would argue that the Gao’uld were more than challenging . . .through it does help that Gao’uld have a bad habit of underestimating humans. SGC is hoping they never stop doing this because that would be very bad for our heroes).

    or, goodness forbid, trying to fight in one.

    Yeah, that would suck.

    Of course, I can think of more than few characters who have that kind of luck (Alan / Alibaba . . . Kenshin). Or are simply that crazy (Hello Sinbad / Simon).

    Let’s also not forget that sometimes all that water being dumped by the storm picks up things and moves them. Like cars for example.

    Minor thought: While re-reading Urban Legends and Personality Conflicts . . . especially the bits where those two crossover . . . if Power Rangers Zeo takes place in the same universe as SG-1 . . . then Trey / Zeo Gold’s Zord / space-ship is going to cause a few heart attacks – it is a big, golden pyramid. What else does that sound like? (And now I’m wondering why his people designed the ship / Zord to look like that.)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Provided you enjoy Power Rangers cheese, Zeo can be pretty fun. Still within the Zordon era of Power Rangers – just after the third season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

        The Zord I was talking about is called Pyramidas. The guy who came in / uses (most of the time) is an alien from another planet. Okay, he’s a very human looking alien. Still from another planet. One that would have presumably had encounters with Gao’uld if they share the same universe. Maybe they build the Zord from canabalized crash ship or something.

        Humans living on other planets is established Power Rangers In Space – Red Ranger in the first episode or so put it best – “Earth isn’t the only place where humans live.”

        (Linkara in his History of Power Rangers series makes a joke about Pyramidas getting mistaken for a Gao’uld during the Zeo section.)

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s