Friday, August 28, 2009

v29.8: Calm Before the Storm

Morning folks,

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No, you're not seeing things.  My last musing was titled "After The Storm" and this one is the Calm Before the Storm.  It is hurricane season and as such it has been predicted that we will get more hurricanes this year than we have in the past.  Already this is the second disruption that has come our way and while Hurricane Danny hasn't fully formed yet, there is a chance this could turn into a category 1 hurricane and hit us head on.

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I'm not too worried though.  At most, I think we'll get some wind and a bunch of rain but I don't think it will cause much damage just like Hurricane Bill which blew through this area last weekend.  As a result of the storm, I do plan on cutting my weekend trip to the South Shore short as I really don't like driving on the highway (especially that highway) during stormy weather.  I also need to ensure I'm home at a decent hour Sunday because I have a lot of things that I need to figure out and do before the work week starts again.

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So what exactly is a hurricane?  I have wondered about this and always wondered what the difference between a category 1 and a category 2 hurricane was.  Well today the wondering is over because today I'm going to tell all!

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So in pure Musings over Coffee fashion, I must define the thing I'm talking about.  In this case, a hurricane is nothing more than a tropical cyclone.

A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Tropical cyclones feed on heat released when moist air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor contained in the moist air.

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I watched a documentary on television a few weeks ago about our earth.  They talked briefly about hurricanes and described them as nature's air conditioners.  It is no secret that the planet is getting warmer.  Global warming is starting to become more evident as the years go on.  You see this in our winters and how much warmer they seem.  You see this during hurricane season with more violent hurricanes and more frequent disturbances.  This is nature's way of telling us to stop.

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Of course I drive a car, I burn fossil fuels and I don't always separate my garbage.  I have no write to tell people how they should change their lifestyle and save the planet when I myself have issues with it.  The most I can ask for is you teach your children (or grandchildren) about conservation and saving the planet.  I know it sounds horrible but my generation was brought up with leaded gas, oil burning furnaces, huge v8 gas hog vehicles and wide open landfills where we threw away EVERYTHING.

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So back to the tropical cyclone.  What is the difference between all the categories?  Who is responsible for categorizing a hurricane?  How the hell do they get that soft flowing caramel inside the Caramilk bar?

Fortunately I have the answers to the first two questions and I'm still working on the third.

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Hurricane categorization uses the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale system.  This system takes into consideration sustained wind speed, pressure and categorizes tropical cyclones from 1 to 5.  It also defines what kinds of damage you can expect.  Below was taken from the National Hurricane Center website:

Category 1

Sustained winds 74-95 mph (64-82 kt or 119-153 km/hr). Damaging winds are expected. Some damage to building structures could occur, primarily to unanchored mobile homes (mainly pre-1994 construction). Some damage is likely to poorly constructed signs. Loose outdoor items will become projectiles, causing additional damage. Persons struck by windborne debris risk injury and possible death. Numerous large branches of healthy trees will snap. Some trees will be uprooted, especially where the ground is saturated. Many areas will experience power outages with some downed power poles.

Category 2

Sustained winds 96-110 mph (83-95 kt or 154-177 km/hr). Very strong winds will produce widespread damage. Some roofing material, door, and window damage of buildings will occur. Considerable damage to mobile homes (mainly pre-1994 construction) and poorly constructed signs is likely. A number of glass windows in high rise buildings will be dislodged and become airborne. Loose outdoor items will become projectiles, causing additional damage. Persons struck by windborne debris risk injury and possible death.. Numerous large branches will break. Many trees will be uprooted or snapped. Extensive damage to power lines and poles will likely result in widespread power outages that could last a few to several days.

Category 3

Sustained winds 111-130 mph (96-113 kt or 178-209 km/hr). Dangerous winds will cause extensive damage. Some structural damage to houses and buildings will occur with a minor amount of wall failures. Mobile homes (mainly pre-1994 construction) and poorly constructed signs are destroyed. Many windows in high rise buildings will be dislodged and become airborne. Persons struck by windborne debris risk injury and possible death. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.

Category 4

Sustained winds 131-155 mph (114-135 kt or 210-249 km/hr). Extremely dangerous winds causing devastating damage are expected. Some wall failures with some complete roof structure failures on houses will occur. All signs are blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes (primarily pre-1994 construction). Extensive damage to doors and windows is likely. Numerous windows in high rise buildings will be dislodged and become airborne. Windborne debris will cause extensive damage and persons struck by the wind-blown debris will be injured or killed. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted. Fallen trees could cut off residential areas for days to weeks. Electricity will be unavailable for weeks after the hurricane passes.

Category 5

Sustained winds greater than 155 mph (135 kt or 249 km/hr). Catastrophic damage is expected. Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings will occur. Some complete building failures with small buildings blown over or away are likely. All signs blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes (built in any year). Severe and extensive window and door damage will occur. Nearly all windows in high rise buildings will be dislodged and become airborne. Severe injury or death is likely for persons struck by wind-blown debris. Nearly all trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months.

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There you have it, some nasty stuff there.  As I already mentioned, Hurricane Bill hit is last weekend and was only a Category 1.  Thankfully it was far enough off the coast that it didn't cause much damage but Hurricane Danny is threatening to hit is head on and while it is only a Tropical Storm right now, there are projected models that show it reaching Category 1 before it hits.  That could be interesting.

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Well folks, time for me to make like a tree and leave.  It is Friday and that makes me happy.  Remember to make sure you clean between your toes when you shower, there is a lot of bacteria there that is often overlooked and can lead to warts and other foot related issues.

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Cheers,

Al