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The first days of April 1974 were perfect for thunderstorms. On April 1, a strong low-pressure system settled across the Upper Midwest. On one side of this low pressure dry, very cold air began to descend from the Canadian interior. At the same time, warm moist air surged up from the Gulf of Mexico. As a front built up across the country, the differences between one side and the other were extreme.  For the next two nights, thunderstorms appeared around sunset and people across the Midwest were kept awake by rocketing winds and lightning storms so constant that the pyrotechnic display turned into one continuous pulse of flashing light accompanied by pounding drums.

On April 3, the atmosphere exploded. In a line stretching from Michigan to Alabama, potent "supercell" thunderstorms formed as a strong upper level jet stream finally sent  the cold air crashing through the warm. In storm after storm, whirling mesocyclones developed high in the atmosphere and in storm after storm cold air along the front dragged downward on these vortexes, hurling them to the earth. Just after noon, a tornado was spotted on the ground in central Illinois. More tornadoes were born, sped through towns and farmlands of Illinois and Indiana, and faded to twisting ropes. Quickly the activity spread east and south, and as it did, the tornadoes grew more intense.

Tornadic storms are rated on a scale developed by Dr. Ted Fujita of the University of Chicago. The scale is intended to judge the intensity of the storm based on size and wind speed, but the measurement is almost never made directly. It's made by looking at the damage. There was plenty of damage on April 3, 1974.

Most tornadoes fall in classes F0 and F1.  These storms are still dangerous, with the power to topple light buildings, bring down tree limbs, and push cars into ditches.  About a fifth of all tornadoes are F2 storms, able to uproot large trees, smash windows, and send objects whirling through the air.  Moving upward along Dr. Fujita's scale, the frequency of storms drops quickly once you're past F2. Only about one tornado in twenty reaches F3 – which is a good thing, as these storms are able to level homes, lift cars from the ground, and twist even steel-framed skyscrapers.  One out of a hundred reaches F4, where even the best-built buildings are liable to be leveled, cars aren't just lifted but thrown through the air, and where bricks, boards, and trees become screaming missiles.  About one tornado in a thousand reaches F5. F5 storms can have wind speeds above 300 miles per hour. They can be a mile, even two miles, in width. In an F5 storm, even houses become missiles. F5 storms are erasers.

In a two hour period on the afternoon of April 3, 1974, at least six F5 storms were spawned across the Midwest.  Just before 5PM, one of these storms plowed through the city of Xenia, Ohio.  It struck a high school where students practicing for a play scattered in time to avoid a school bus that was dropped into the middle of the stage. The students survived. Residents of subdivisions along the city's west side were not as lucky. 34 people died as literally half the town was leveled in the space of minutes. When the Xenia storm had faded, there were five more F5 tornadoes on the way. By the afternoon of April 4, 163 confirmed tornadoes had spread out over 13 states and traced out a combined path of destruction over 2,500 miles long. More than 300 people were dead.

The "Super Outbreak" of 1974 is the worst day of tornadoes and thunderstorms on record in the United States, and the United States is the world capitol of tornadoes.  This is about as bad as it gets when it comes to weather over land.

Having watched in horror as Hurricane Katrina blasted through the City of New Orleans, you may think you've seen the worst that storms originating over water can do. In terms of pure dollars of damage, Katrina did $81 billion in direct damage and the total bill topped $100 billion. Much of this damage remains unrepaired. (In other words, it cost about as much as one year of the war in Iraq, and while it may be patriotic and freedom-loving to spend that money causing death and destruction elsewhere, it's traitorous socialism to spend an equal amount creating jobs, helping neighbors, and building homes in America...)  

The power of hurricanes (in the North Atlantic and NE Pacific) is measured on a scale named for engineer Herbert Safir and meteorologist Bob Simpson. Like the Fujita scale for tornadoes (and the Richter Scale for earthquakes) Safir-Simpson was originally based around the amount of damage that could be expected from a storm, though these days it's completely defined by wind speed.

On any scale, Katrina was a particularly erratic storm. One day before it struck Florida, Katrina was still an unnamed tropical depression with winds below 40 mph. It reached tropical storm status on that last day, and crossed the line into hurricane force winds only two hours before striking southern Florida on August 25, 2005. Though the National Hurricane Center had correctly predicted the storm's growth and shelters were opened, many people were taken off guard by the rapid change, which  helps explain why 14 people died in Florida as Katrina passed across the peninsula and entered the Gulf.  The Gulf waters were extremely warm that year, and the energy of those waters quickly returned the storm to hurricane status. At one point in its development, Katrina carried winds of 175 mph – a record that was broken later that same year by Hurricane Rita. At that speed, Katrina was a Category 5 storm.  Fortunately, by the time it reached landfall in Louisiana on the storm had weakened somewhat to a very strong category 3. It reached the coast with winds of 125 mph, pushing a storm surge of 12-16 feet. That surge would go on to break the levees of New Orleans in over 50 places.  In total, over 1800 people would die. Most of them drowned either as a direct result of the storm surge, in areas affected by the broken levees, or from flooding associated with the storm's heavy rains.  The nation looked on in horror.

What may be surprising is that Katrina is not the deadliest hurricane to rise out of the Atlantic. In fact, it's not even in the top ten.  Even if we restrict ourselves to hurricanes that did their damage in the United States, there are storms that caused more damage and took more lives.

In 1928, a storm formed in the Mid-Atlantic, several hundred miles east of the small archipelago of Guadeloupe, and began to move almost directly westward. By the time it reached the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, the storm was carrying winds in excess of 120 mph and pushing a wall of water a dozen feet high that surged over homes and drove ships inland. That would have been bad enough, but as it pressed on it ran into warm currents that gave it more strength and winds that slowed its forward motion. The hurricane slowed almost to a stop. And grew. It reached Puerto Rico on September 13 and by tradition became "Hurricane San Felipe" – named for the saint whose feast day matched the landfall. Saint or no, the winds of the storm were in excess of 160 mph – Category 5.  Creeping along, San Felipe battered the island with hurricane force winds for 18 straight hours, and slashed the island with a twelve foot storm surge and 25 inches of wind driven rain. Because the storm had approached so slowly, there had been time to give many warnings and to evacuate areas near the coast. Fatalities were "only" 312. Then the storm turned toward Florida. Again, the warning time meant that the coasts could be evacuated and causalities there were light. But there was another coast that was not as prepared – the shoreline of Lake Okeechobee. Inland residents had thought themselves safe from the storm, but the hurricane arrived almost perfectly aimed at the Lake and its many vacation homes and fishing lodges.  The storm surge carried across the low ground between ocean and lake, then across dikes, dams, and canals. Twenty feet of water carried homes into the lake and into surrounding forests and fields where they were smashed like kindling. The death toll ran upwards of 3,000 and for weeks afterwards floodwaters carried bodies into the Everglades.

And that still wasn't the worst.  There was no organized system for tracking hurricanes in 1900, but at the end of August ships traveling new the Windward Islands reported difficult weather.  By September 4, officials in Galveston, TX received notice from the weather bureau that a tropical storm was affecting Cuba. There was no way to know which way it would go from there, though the best guess was that it would turn up along the coast of Florida. It didn't. At dawn on September 8, 1900 skies in Galveston were clear, but those looking out at the water – which on that Saturday morning included many visitors to the area -- noticed particularly large swells rolling into the beach. A few hours later, clouds began to scud across the sky. Isaac Cline, the head meteorologist for the US Weather Bureau office in Galveston, had written an article some years earlier saying that the idea of a hurricane striking the city was "ridiculous." The article had been a big factor in halting plans to build a sea wall to protect the city. But on that morning, Cline had his doubts. Increasingly concerned by what he was seeing in the skies over the Gulf and by the heavy, rising chop of the waves, Cline bypassed official channels. At noon, he issued a hurricane warning without waiting for permission from Washington.  At 5pm hurricane force winds reached the city. Cline's office recorded speeds of 100mph, at which point the instruments were destroyed. It's likely that the storm which reached Galveston that Saturday afternoon was a Category 3 storm, with wind speeds matching those of Hurricane Katrina. As darkness fell, the eye of the storm passed over the city and wind direction changed. With that change in winds came a 15' storm surge. The highest point in Galveston was 9'. In the next hour, somewhere around 8,000 people (and possibly as many as 12,000) drowned as the island temporarily vanished beneath the wild sea.

These are all interesting, if terrifying events, but what good does it do us to review and morn these catastrophes? Maybe it would help to review another storm.

In 1915, another hurricane struck Galveston dead on. As with the 1900 storm, this one was a category 3. In fact, the winds of this storm were higher -- 135 mph -- and it also carried with it a storm surge of 12-15 ft.

In May of 2004, another great outbreak of tornadoes occurred. 389 twisters hit over an 11-day period as a series of fronts clashed over the Plains and Midwest. Over the Memorial Day weekend, violent tornadoes cut across Missouri, Illinois, Nebraska, and Iowa, including one tornado that was 2.5 miles wide, the largest known.

Why bring these up?

Because of what happened between 1900 and 1915, and what happened between 1974 and 2004. After the almost incomprehensible disaster of 1900, the City of Galveston finally built that sea wall. They also dredged sand from the harbor and raised the elevation of the island by several feet. In addition, the weather service was much more vigilant after 1900. More stations were set up to track storms, and warnings were given earlier and across a wider area. All of these help to shape the reason why the first Galveston hurricane is remembered as a monster and this second storm is all but forgotten. When the second storm struck, the death toll in Galveston wasn't 12,000 or 8000. It was 11.

In the 2004 tornado outbreak, a total of 7 people died. There were twice as many tornadoes as the 1974 event (though fewer F5s) and the property damage was several times greater. Why were the human causalities so much less than in 1974? There were much less knowledge about how tornadoes form and no Doppler radar to spot their incipient appearance. The tornadoes that hit town after town in 1974 might as well have appeared by magic. In most towns (including Xenia) there was no early warning, no system of sirens, no plan for how to respond. On the other hand, when an F5 tornado obliterated the town of Greensburg, KS in 2007 the tornado was literally wider than the town. It didn't take out half the buildings, it took them all. 12 people died, but the number could have been in the hundreds if it hadn't been for a warning system that gave most people in the town a critical 20 minutes to find shelter.

Not every disaster is avoidable. We may never be able to stop a tornado in its tracks or alter the course of a hurricane. But the expenditures we make to research causes, provide warnings, and plan responses are far from wasted. Yes, there are some classes of disaster that may be so enormous, or so unlikely, that addressing them is pointless. No one should put any funds behind a "Stop the Sun from Expanding" committee. But there are a great swath of events in the middle ground where planning and consideration may greatly reduce, if not eliminate, the consequences. Next week I hope to look at some of the possible challenges we may face (from nature this time, not at our own hands) to see which of them might be worth an investment of time and materials.

Oh, and one last quick note. The population of Galveston when the great hurricane swept through in 1900 was around 42,000 -- less than 1/10th that of the City of New Orleans itself (not to mention surrounding communities) in 2005. Over 1800 people died in Katrina (including some who perished in the post-storm chaos), but tragic as that number is it's much smaller than what might have happened if a well-informed National Hurricane Center had not contacted an alert mayor who responded quickly to get most of the city's populace on the road. If New Orleans had suffered losses proportional to those in Galveston, the count could have been in six figures (and if you think that can't happen, look at up the results when Hurricane Mitch dropped 75" of rain on Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua in 1998, or the toll from the 1970 Bhola cyclone).

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 06:00 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  So (21+ / 0-)

    what you're saying is we should privatize those evil socialist warning services or get rid of them altogether! Cody and Buffy need a tax cut!

      •  Infrastructure is what makes government possible (12+ / 0-)

        Our roads, bridges, tunnels, water lines, sewers, electrical distribution, natural gas pipelines, levees, dams, seawalls, were in many cases built half a century ago. Since then few have been properly  maintained.

        While we spend money on unnecessary wars and tax breaks for billionaires our infrastructure crumbles and is patched, crumbles and gets worse.

        Its easy to see that more people doing more things means the infrastructure is more heavily loaded than what it was designed for but add to that climate change, peak oil and economic collapse; its easy to see us becoming as ungovernable as Afghanistan.

        We are headed for conditions that make what we are presently seeing in the third world just fair warning of what we can expect.

        Its time to stop thinking of consequences as something that the future will bring.

        The destruction of our governments ability to govern is a fairly high probability for our immediate future.

        The consequences of our inaction are here now staring us in the face as the teabaggers in Congress are unlikely to recognize the clear and present danger in time and even if they did would probably applaud rising sea levels for taking out the Blue States first.

        Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

        by rktect on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 06:56:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The History Channel just ran a program on (3+ / 0-)

          our decaying infrastructure.  Srsly, it's condition is pathetic, mostly because we have let it go to pot.  The developing world can't figure us out.

          Back in the Eisenhower administration, we spent about twelve percent of our budget on our infrastructure.  Today it's in the low single digits.  

          Just wait 'til truckers and railroads can't ship goods from coast to coast.  We're getting there.

          Never meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer.--Bruce Graham

          by Ice Blue on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 08:08:00 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Infrastructure saves lives in coastal areas (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Flaming Liberal for Jesus

          It will become very crucial as sea levels rise and storm surges grow.

          We need the basic infraxturcture that makes commerce and civilization psosible, but we also need the infrastructure to protect us from coming disasters.

          I think the need will become apparent before the wrecking crew gets through dismantling our society.

          The scientific uncertainty doesn't mean that climate change isn't actually happening.

          by Mimikatz on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 10:28:43 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  What protection? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Moving further inland is the best protection.

            If you are implying that we can buid sea walls to protect areas, well we could - but in the long term it would be money wasted.  Rising sea levels will render walls useless.  You can't hold back an ocean for long.

            England did a survey of its entire coastline to decide what would be sacrifed and what might be worth protecting.  They've got far more coast as a percentage of their geographical area than we do.  What they are doing is being Realistic and Pragmatic.  

            Show me the POLICY!

            by Fabian on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 04:17:07 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Ok, we move inland and abandon our cities. (0+ / 0-)

              Individual buildings can be picked up and moved, but not whole cities let alone their most critical infrastructure, roads, bridges, tunnels, water and sewer, electric grids, power stations, substations, airports, ports, subways, trains.

              How far to move them is another story. It wouldn't make much sense to move them just far enough to avoid flooding by 2100, a better scheme would probably want all of our East Coast cities moved back to somewhere around the Appalachians

              I can remember seeing much of Charlestown, MA burn to the ground c 1968. By 1998 much of it had been rebuilt as a part of the big dig so lets allow it would only take a few decades if we started now.

              The costs might run somewhere in the range of 3.5 billion dollars per thousand people, or about 350 billion for a city like Boston, just to get the basic services back for a population of 500,000

              With 90% of the US population of 300 million living on coasts that's 270,000 x 500 Million or 945 billion, just short of a trillion dollars spread out over 30 years bringing us to 2040.

              $31.5 billion dollars a year for three decades instead of tax breaks for the rich might get the job done in time if we started now. For comparison purposes Boston's big dig originally estimated at about 1.9 Billion came in at about 19 Billion spread over thirty years or about 666 Million a year disrupted the entire city for three decades, was obsolete by the time it was built, and focused just on major traffic routes around the city.

              I grant you it would provide a lot of jobs, certainly enough to justify doing away with the military and the defense department.

              Keep in mind that the rest of the world would be in competition with us for the raw materials, labor, construction equipment and that in the third world people would be dying by the millions of famine, epidemic disease, resource wars making global solutions somewhat urgent.

              Peak oil which is already ocurring would mean no more cheap fossil fuels so think of this building project in terms of wind and solar powered construction equipment.

              There would also need to be some sort of a hazardous wastes plan for things like sewage treatment, nuke plants, and landfills.

              I'm not optimistic.

              Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

              by rktect on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 08:15:05 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  When conservatives whine about our socialist (4+ / 0-)

      government, I remind them about the socialist tornado warning system that woke local residents 2 years ago, giving them time to take shelter.  There was massive damage, but nobody died.

      Yeah, what a great idea.  Let's privatize everything.  Only the rich will get the warnings.

  •  Fujita scale (12+ / 0-)

    Has actually been replaced by the Enhanced Fujita Scale in the United States. But since now one outside meteorological circles ever seems to talk about the "EF" rating of storms, I chose to ignore that.

    Some references if this is an area that interests you:

    Howard B Bluestein, Tornado Alley: Monster Storms of the Great Plains,  New York, NY, Oxford University Press, 1999

    Levine, Mark, F5 Devastation, Survival and the Most Violent Tornado Outbreak of the Twentieth Century, New York, Hyperion, 2007

    Larson, Erik., Isaac's Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History, New York, Crown Publishers, 1999

  •  Climate Change is a Hoax! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joffan, teabaggerssuckbalz

    Mindless repetition works!

  •  Acts of FSM need no socialist warning systems (9+ / 0-)

    the invisible hand of the FSM rules all markets

    "calling for a 5" deck gun is not parody. Not by a long shot." (gnaborretni),Warning-Some Snark Above

    by annieli on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 06:12:03 AM PST

  •  The U.S. basically won't spend the money (6+ / 0-)

    to keep what it's got running.  New stuff is probably beyond the pale for our elites.

  •  i remember it well (18+ / 0-)

    when the tornadoes struck in '74 i was a kid in elementary school in louisville, ky. we kids were sent home early. we kids knew something was amist because we saw the teachers huddled together during recess, we just could not figure out what it was.
    it was very dark, gray, gloomy. we were instruted to go straight home-that is when we knew something was up cuz the teachers never ever made such a statement before.

    looking back, i realize now we were in harms way. tornadoes were already touching down in ohio, and other states surrounding ky, and other counties in ky. every spring we practice tornado drills only to have the school board decide to allow students to go home! students, many of whom WALKED home. what would they have done if the tornado had touched down while they were on their way home?
     many of my friends lost their homes either cuz the f4 tornado completely devestated them or because while the home looked liveable, they were not structuraly sound. mercifully, the tornado decided to go back up into the clouds and my home was spared.

    there may be a weather cycle-i really do not follow those things or fully understand them. what i do know is tha lives are interrupted and change. to this day i have friends whp have panic attacks eveytime a siren goes off whenever severe weather approaches our area.

  •  Don't kill me - OT (0+ / 0-)
    Looks like Sarah has some 'splainin to do:

    SarahPAC second and third quarter 2010 - Summary - PLUS: FEC questions SarahPAC - What is Sarah Palin doing with her mysterious company Pie Spy LLC?

  •  Xenia (17+ / 0-)

    My aunt's house there was destroyed, and a guy from my (very small) high school was one of those killed.  Nixon flew in to survey the damage.

  •  It's scary to find yourself within an intense (14+ / 0-)

    storm. I was at home in Magnolia, Delaware years ago when what I believe was a microburst hailstorm, if that's the right terminology, struck, breaking windows in many homes and even the glass on some vehicles. Nearby crops were wiped out. Outside my window, the hail appeared to be flying sideways.  I seriously wondered for a brief time whether my old frame house would remain intact.

  •  This bring back memories for me (13+ / 0-)

    Back in 1974, my friend and I had a strong interest in weather.  He had access to the local weather service office in New Orleans.  I got to go there with him on one of those early April days.  They had old-style teletype machines spouting out information.

    I remember that the staff had little time to talk with us, because they were so busy tracking all of the tornadoes around the country.

    I left New Orleans long before Katrina, but I know many friends who are in the area who likely survived Katrina because they were given warning with enough time to get away from town, even as their houses were badly destroyed or ruined.

  •  This is so true (11+ / 0-)

    In terms of pure dollars of damage, Katrina did $81 billion in direct damage and the total bill topped $100 billion. Much of this damage remains unrepaired. (In other words, it cost about as much as one year of the war in Iraq, and while it may be patriotic and freedom-loving to spend that money causing death and destruction elsewhere, it's traitorous socialism to spend an equal amount creating jobs, helping neighbors, and building homes in America...)  

    I just have a very hard time comprehending why this is so hard for so many to understand.

    Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day. Harry Truman

    by temptxan on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 06:28:00 AM PST

    •  me too - I don't get it (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MeToo, jayden

      If the president called on me to name the things that really bother me, one would be the homes on the Gulf Coast not repaired, the lives not made whole, the loss of half of the New Orleans population, the tragedy of broken families not returned to the city they loved. It makes me feel a new American helplessness.

      CLEAR Act would sell carbon shares to fuel producers and would return 75 percent of the resulting revenue in $1,100 checks to every American.

      by mrobinson on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 08:41:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Um, because $81 billion is (0+ / 0-)

      a) Just the damage.
      b) Does not include the cost of restoration.
      c) Does not include the time and money wasted in the inevitable political fights about who controls any money the region receives.
      d) Doesn't include the damage to the social structure to the area.

      So even if you had $81 billion to give to the affected areas, it wouldn't fix things.  

      Show me the POLICY!

      by Fabian on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 08:46:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  An excellent book: Isaac's Storm (8+ / 0-)

    is a gripping account of the Galveston 1900 hurricane and the development of modern meteorology and storm warning systems.

    Isaac's Storm by Erik Larsen

    Highly recommended!

  •  I was in Xenia, Ohio on April 3, 1974. Although I (16+ / 0-)

    wasn't there when the tornado actually hit I was just a few miles away. The news traveled very quickly about the devastation and I went with my dad to see if people he knew were okay, not being able to reach them by telephone, ect.
     It is one of those thing a person can never forget, cars in treetops, a train lifted off the tracks, ect. The one thing that stands out most was passing what used to be houses where the only thing that remained were the slabs they had sat upon and the toilets and bathtubs still intact, the only thing left of them.
     As a kid the thing I saw that messed with my brain for years was seeing a chain with a collar attached strung through a chain link fence. There had been a dog on the end of that chain before the storm hit, it had gone though the chain link. To this day I won't let my dogs out in bad weather having seen that graphic image.
     May sound odd to say but the timing of it hitting could not have been much better. One of the most severely damaged buildings still standing was the old Xenia High School, had the tornado hit about an hour earlier it would have been full but as luck had it, school had been out long enough for those kids to make it home before it did hit. It could've been much worse.
     I have a book somewhere that the Dayton Daily News put out that documented the devastation of Xenia, I am unable to find any references to it on the web, but the photography they did won the Pulitzer that year.
     Oddly, Xenia was hit by another tornado again around 1989 and again in 2000 if I recall correctly.
     Check out these links for pics and info about Xenia's tornado:


    If the Republicans will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them. Adlai E. Stevenson

    by teabaggerssuckbalz on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 06:47:29 AM PST

    •  I wasn't living in Ohio then, (9+ / 0-)

      I was living in suburban Chicago, and I remember how weird the sky was that afternoon, black and green and yellow, it looked and felt weird.

      I moved to the Dayton area in 1980, and even now the people I know from Xenia who lived through that day get very freaked out if the weather conditions are right for a tornado.

      Isn't that supposed to be one of the possible effects of climate change, that the storms we get-whether they be snowstorms or thunderstorms (and tornadoes) or hurricanes-are more likely to bigger and nastier than we've had.

      And yet most Americans don't want to look at the weather pattern over the last few decades and see how it is changing.

      Some men just want to watch the world burn.

      by Anon in Ohio on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 06:56:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I was in east Dayton that day.. (4+ / 0-)

      was at a friend's house and saw the funnel directly overhead, headed east toward Xenia.  I still remember a photo of a railroad boxcar perched atop a nearby Kroger grocery.  The torn-up trees near City Hall were still noticeable 10 years later, when as a teen I would ride my bike through Xenia on the way to visit relatives at Shawnee Lake.

      Definitely a day I'll never forget...

      "Secrecy is the beginning of tyranny"---Robert Heinlein, writing as Lazarus long

      by justadood on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 08:07:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for the links (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The video taken by the 16 year old is both amazing and horrifying.  I saw the Weather Channel show on Xenia and remember an interview with a woman, elderly now, who lost a child in that tornado, and as she told the story, she was overcome with grief as if it had happened yesterday.  Very tragic.

      "Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home?"...Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird

      by ImABlondOK on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 04:11:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Greenland (5+ / 0-)

    so if the ice melts on Greenland how fast will the water rise around the world?
    is there any chance that it can be an event that happens over a 7 day period?

  •  I was going to school in the next town over (12+ / 0-)

    Well, actually it was about an hour away - Xenia is on the east side of Dayton, while Oxford, Ohio was on the west.  I was matriculating at Miami University in Oxford at the time.

    What devastated Xenia, I've come to understand through subsequent reading, is that this rare tornado went up and down the most populated areas of the city, by happenstance.  Virtually, up main street, for instance - throwing cars through shop windows as it went.

    PS. I do indeed tell my friends that I'm Oxford educated.  See how I am?  :-)

    No more Mr. Nice Guy . . .

    by thenekkidtruth on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 06:54:28 AM PST

  •  Scary stuff, but positive nonetheless (10+ / 0-)

    We are not powerless, and the better our science and infrastructure, the better we deal with these phenomena. Knowledge is powerful stuff and those who mock efforts - I'm thinking of "volcano monitoring" - are really saying that people's lives are not worth the effort.

    This is not a sig-line.

    by Joffan on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 06:56:42 AM PST

    •  Speaking of "volcano monitoring," (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fabian, Ice Blue, Joffan

      Bobby Jindal has a new book out, "Leadership and Crisis."  It is not supposed to be fiction, although it blasts Obama for his handling of the BP spill while Jindal is portrayed (by Jindal, of course) as a hero of the disaster.  Also, he wants more oil drilling in the Gulf.

      "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

      by SueDe on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:07:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  As a government emergency planner (14+ / 0-)

    I found it perpetually difficult to get organizations to plan for "the Big One."  Their tendency was to plan for "likely" disasters based on frequency statistics.

    But, communities tend to be pretty good at absorbing the impacts of the most frequent disasters, the average flood or small tornado. Emergency teams become experienced in responding to those kinds of disasters.  

    Monster storms, however, occur so rarely that no one may remember the last one, and the storms can wipe out so many local resources that there recovery is close to impossible without extensive outside help.  But, for outside help to be effective, all of the involved organizations need coordinated emergency plans designed to address "worst case scenarios."  Otherwise, the result may be chaos like the situation following Haiti's earthquake.

    What's particularly odd is that officials who resist planning for worst case scenarios typically plan for worst case scenarios in their personal lives...for example, buying car insurance with large deductibles, a clear acknowledgement that the fender benders in life are easily absorbed, but an accident would total the car, although most unlikely, is deserving of costly preparedness.

    Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne. - James Russell Lowell

    by Deep Harm on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 06:58:13 AM PST

    •  Haiti was almost a worst case scenario (4+ / 0-)

      Heavily populated
      Inadequate construction (woefully)
      Less than adequate government, let alone government response.
      Very limited access to affected area

      The only thing they were missing was area affected, which was relatively small.

      Show me the POLICY!

      by Fabian on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:03:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Haiti built to withstand hurricanes (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ice Blue

        which is totally different than being prepared for earthquakes.

        •  True. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Flaming Liberal for Jesus

          Despite the fact that it sits on the confluence of multiple tectonic plates.

          It's probably more accurate to say that no one ever made a priority to build earthquake resistant structures in Haiti.  When I visited San Jose in the late 1980s, there was a campaign to raise money for a building that needed to have earthquake resistant engineering retrofitted or it would be razed as per the law.  The previous earthquake had created an awareness of the need for structures that could withstand earthquakes without becoming badly damaged or worse.

          The pitch was that this was a grand old historic building and its loss would be a great loss to the city.  If there had been a previous serious earthquake in Haiti, perhaps the idea that grand historic buildings needed to be safe as well as beautiful may have taken hold.  Unreinforced masonry is one of the worst materials in terms of resisting seismic damage.  Nifty book.  

          Now armed with the latest in research and technology, Haiti has the opportunity to build better and stronger.  

          Show me the POLICY!

          by Fabian on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 11:19:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I too worked in Emergency Management (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fabian, Ice Blue, Deep Harm

      and I too have seen the shortsightedness of TPTB...

    •  On behalf of the population of Oklahoma (7+ / 0-)

      I want to thank you for your work as a government emergency planner.  Growing up in OK before tornado warning sirens and doppler radar, I remember my father standing outside in the spring watching the clouds before coming back inside to herd us all into the area under the stairs several times each year.  Radar that can measure storm proliferation and intensity and warning sirens save hundreds, if not thousands of lives every year in that state alone.  Thank you again.

      "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

      by SueDe on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:13:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Also total misunderstanding of statistics plays a (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fabian, Ice Blue, jayden, Coilette, foresterbob

      part. I remember someone, a minor local official, wailing about his second house flooding to above the doors after he rebuilt on the exact spot a "100 year flood" had wiped out the first about three years before. Of course they also seemed to have a bit of trouble realizing that an interstate causewayed through a nearby swamp with only a few bridges over permanent branches of the river played any part in skewing statistical odds.

      I've pretty much given up on the sanity of "the public" in such matters. A people so scientifically illiterate as to fail popular tests on simple Newtonian physics and see a blizzard as proof "global warming" is a fraud? People that cannot see a connection between becoming truly elephantine in girth and health issues . . .

      The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

      by pelagicray on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:24:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why are people so scientifically Illiterate? (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Fabian, Ice Blue, Coilette, foresterbob

        More now than before? Effect of home schooling? I remember the high status of math and science in school in junior and high school, even before NASA.

        CLEAR Act would sell carbon shares to fuel producers and would return 75 percent of the resulting revenue in $1,100 checks to every American.

        by mrobinson on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 08:51:51 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Lots of reasons--and in specific sectors of (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          society as well.

          A sort of general factor seemed to be a shift thirty some years ago, remember "greed is good," that the money was in finance. Many of the "elite" went that way instead of into science and technology. Somewhere in there the native U.S. graduate level seemed to drop compensated by an increase in foreign graduates from our universities.

          Consider this hypothesis, but one I'd argue could account for a big part of what we see today. I'd really like to see some hard research into this too. Integration. Yep, integrated schools.

          If you look at the deep South and much of the Midwest the immediate reaction to integrated schools, sometimes 100%, was re-segregation through "private academy" foundation for white students. What was the origin of those academies? Churches. All over the south, and I visited some towns where it was 100%, fundamentalist leaning churches were founding "Christian academies" to suck up the white population. What kind of science did they teach?

          You got it. The American madrassas and a pretty damn high correlation factor I'd bet between our current "flat Earth" population and those places that fled public, integrated, and scientific reasonable systems into something entirely akin to the American madrassas where religious doctrine trumps science.

          The flip side? In little county after county in those areas the public schools became places for "those people" and funding went to the bare minimum to keep courts off their backs. Result? Double whammy. Better off white kids often got indoctrinated while less better off white and black kids--or the few "liberals" believing in strong public schools--got a very slim system.

          By no means in every case. Better off suburban areas were often exceptions. Take a close look at small towns and rural areas in much of that territory and you likely find a stark example of that situation.

          The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

          by pelagicray on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 09:41:59 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  TV (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Deep Harm

          People are now trained to react to what's given them rather than to learn and explore.

          There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited. The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. - Sun Tzu

          by OHeyeO on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 09:44:27 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Because they know what they know (0+ / 0-)

          They know what what is reinforced through the media and the people they talk to.

          One of the worst aspects of our social preferences is that we prefer to be with people who share many of our values and culture.  We often avoid spending time with people who challenge our points of view.  As a result, people not only share misinformation, they often repeat and reinforce it so that something that is objectively and provably incorrect will be taken as "everybody knows that...".

          Like: You should open your windows in the event of a tornado because the vaccuum will break them.

          Lolz.  If your windows break, it won't be because of the suction but because of high winds and flying debris.  You should be finding the best shelter you can, NOT running around opening your window.   But most people will hold onto "what they know" if it seems even remotely plausible.

          Show me the POLICY!

          by Fabian on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 10:14:00 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Wasn't this BP's rationale, statistical modeling? (0+ / 0-)
    •  Dayton, Ohio area here (3+ / 0-)

      After experiencing the 1913 flood, the 1950s nuclear target scare (WPAFB), the 1974 Xenia tornado and the 1986 Miamisburg train derailment, the Dayton region has had a fairly good group of people aware of planning for the "big one." We used to have a two-county (Montgomery-Greene)emergency management agency, but state-level politics and rigged funding formulas forced it to split into two separate entities about 8-10 years ago. With the agency split and disaster memory fading into the past, it will be interesting to see if the old comraderie and cooperation mindset is still alive when something occurs.

      There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited. The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. - Sun Tzu

      by OHeyeO on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 09:58:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  A tornado once hit downtown Kalamazoo, MI. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      IIRC, it was an F-3.  In any case, it was substantial enough to rip a six story brick-built department store wide open.  

      There were some fatalities but there were several reasons the city really dodged a bullet.  First off, there was a hospital with a trauma center literally blocks from where it hit.  In fact, some of the patients said they watched the whole thing from their hospital beds.  Further, it struck within minutes of that hospital's afternoon shift change.  One ER doctor remembered how he heard about the tornado on his car radio a couple of minutes into his trip home.  He turned right around but by the time he got back to work the ER already had everything under control.  It didn't hurt that most of the downtown businesses were in brick buildings with basements--and were still Open--so most pedestrians could take quick refuge.  The casualty rate would have been much higher if it hit after closing time.

      Never meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer.--Bruce Graham

      by Ice Blue on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 01:02:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Galveston should not be considered a success stor (8+ / 0-)


    Galveston was and is a barrier island, made of nothing but sand and extremely vulnerable to everything from storm surges to ocean level changes.  In fact, barrier islands "migrate" dramatically due to changes in the ocean level and less dramatically due to strong storms and hurricanes.

    Galveston may be a particularly large barrier island, but it is still at high risk.  Modern land use development would prefer that such areas be used for minimal development: primarily recreation and agriculture.  That way when the inevitable happens, the loss of life and property is minimized.  

    So Galveston is not a stunning success in terms of human ingenuity overcoming natural threats.  It's mixed:  Yes, we were smart enough not to recognize the dangers and take some actions to deal with the threats.  No, we weren't smart enough to realize that those measures were only half measures at best.

    Show me the POLICY!

    by Fabian on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 06:59:23 AM PST

  •  Tornadoes ... (8+ / 0-)

    Ugh!! You've stirred up all kinds of memories of growing up in the Midwest (Detroit area). Even now I can remember the times when all of us kids were herded down into the basement as the sky went pitch black and the winds pelted the rain in sheets against the sides of the house. There was a particular corner of the basement where we were instructed to shelter ... funny, I can't remember if it was the northwest corner or not any more. But the child in me interpretted this as the corner facing the oncoming tornado. You see, the tornado would rip our house off its foundations right over our corner ... but would drop all the wreckage over in the opposite corner! So you fer sure didn't want to be in THAT corner! Funny how kids think, eh?

    While living briefly in Sioux City, IA, I lived in a mobile home. HAH! That lasted until the first tornado warning.

    Nowadays I live in California. Give me an earthquake any day. I never want to live through another tornado event ever ever again!

    •  Lived in IL, MO and WI (6+ / 0-)

      Tornadic weather was a way of life. I just don't get how people can be so blase about them. I know people that were very nearly killed by them.

      One woman I knew had a tree barely miss her as she huddled in an outside stairwell - It came by so suddenly that she was caught unprepared. No warning, as she lived in the countryside. The tree trapped her in the stairwell until rescuers with chain saws arrived to help her.

      "Ridicule may lawfully be employed where reason has no hope of success." -7.75/-6.05

      by QuestionAuthority on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:09:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Tornadoes have multiple advantages. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pat K California, Ice Blue, Eloise
      1. They only strike above ground.  

      Anything underground is fairly safe.  Sure a building may be dropped onto a basement, but all the underground infrastructure - gas, water, sewer and possibly electricity is unlikely to be affected.  Earthquakes have the potential to disrupt anything underground as well as structures above ground.

      1. Structures level with the ground are reasonably safe.

      Roads may be temporarily impassible due to debris, but they are still there.  Earthquakes can take out roads, bridges, tunnels, overpasses and create rock and mud slides as well.  It took 6 months to merely repair an overpass very close to me after a truck struck it.  

      1. The average tornado has a fairly narrow footprint.

      This means that even if you and a few dozen of your neighbors lost your houses - the remainder of the community can offer shelter.  A major earthquake can render buildings uninhabitable - even if they remain standing.

      1. You can get out of the way of a tornado.  (This is not recommended)

      It requires that you know where the tornado IS - which means you are too close to begin with.  Since most tornadoes track ENE, your best bet is to head south at top speed - assuming you are in a vehicle and not taking shelter.  Only do this if you must.  Earthquakes...not so much unless you already happen to be in an aircraft.

      Show me the POLICY!

      by Fabian on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:17:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Lifetime tornado count: 2 (5+ / 0-)

        Leetle ones, only about F0-F1 but the one that passed close by at night was the scariest by far.  I was staring out at our mercury vapor lamp when every went blurry and the window pane shuddered and bowed as the wind blew in every crack and seam.

        I pronounced it a tornado and the rest of my family was skeptical until the report came in the next morning: tornado.

        I was pissed.  It threw all of my flats with seedlings off the porch and across the yard.  Stupid tornado!

        Show me the POLICY!

        by Fabian on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:27:29 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Heh, Lifetime Earthquake Count ... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fabian, Ice Blue, Eloise

          ... 2 good sized ones, including Loma Prieta. You know, Fabian, my brains tell me that all of your points above are only too true. But my inner child shrieks, "NO, NO ... tornadoes are WORSE!!" Frankly, I think they so scared the willies out of me when I was a kid, that that fright has stuck with me all those years.

          By contrast, I was in my 30's and 40's when I experienced earthquakes for the first time. Most of them last less than a minute and are gone. You can't anticipate them, so you tend not to even think about them after a while. Heh ... talk about blase, eh? Boy, won't I just be surprised when the Big One comes along someday and I wind up sailing out to sea with 1/2 of California!!

          •  I would be perfectly happy (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Pat K California, Ice Blue

            to not be around for The Big One.  Large chunks of California losing roads, power, water, sewer....even if you aren't there, you will be affected.

            The scientist in me wants to know how the earthquake resistent engineering will do....  Cali has invested a lot of money into that.

            Show me the POLICY!

            by Fabian on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 10:00:21 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  But tornadoes don't have aftershocks (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Pat K California, Fabian, Ice Blue

            And that's what gets me about the earthquakes, even the mild ones. The 5.5 I experience in 1990 wasn't bad at all, it was all the little earthquakes afterward-you knew they were coming, but you didn't know when, or how big, etc. I hated it.

            Some men just want to watch the world burn.

            by Anon in Ohio on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 11:41:47 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Earthquakes vs Tornadoes (5+ / 0-)

      When I was in college in the Cleveland area, my student dorm head was from Sacremento. We native midwesterners used to scare the bejesus out of her, telling her tales of tornadoes and t-storms and the like.

      But the one thing about tornadoes, they can only happen during specific weather. An earthquake can happen anytime (that same dorm head moved back to NoCal just in time to survive the Loma Prieta quake).

      I do know I don't want to experience either an tornado or a major earthquake (I've experienced a 5.1 and a 5.5).

      Some men just want to watch the world burn.

      by Anon in Ohio on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:35:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not exactly blase (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pat K California, Eloise

        but when I hear the sirens, I check the Doppler to see where the red blobs are.  If they aren't west of me, I don't do anything special - other than keeping the window open.

        We will get sirens for danger within 15 miles of us.  Considering the predictable nature of tornadoes, 15 miles away is a complete miss.  Had a few funnels within 5 miles of us this year - more than usual.

        Show me the POLICY!

        by Fabian on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 08:41:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I should say... (0+ / 0-)

          15 miles away to the North, South or East is a complete miss.  Especially the East - tornados sometimes wobble back to the West, but that is very rare.

          15 miles away to the west means I pay sharp attention to the track of the red blobs.

          Show me the POLICY!

          by Fabian on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 10:05:28 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  The Katrina contraflow evacuation was a miracle (9+ / 0-)

    What most people don't realize is that NOLA had been trying to get a better evacuation plan in place for nearly a decade, with failure at every turn.  It took years to get cooperation among all the parishes and the Mississippi state government and its southern counties where the interstates had to be reconfigured.  It had never actually worked before, and most of us didn't expect it to work for Katrina -- but it did, for the first time ever.  The nightmare of stopped traffic being caught on bridges as the storm arrived did not happen; instead Katrina drowned a ghost town, and tens or hundreds of thousands of lives were saved.

  •  Okla City 'May 3rd tornadoes' 1999 49 killed (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fabian, Ice Blue, SueDe, deha, Eloise, jayden, Coilette

    we had six hours of warnings, but IF no warnings, like in 1974, THEN hundreds would have died

    80 % of showing up!

    by Churchill on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:12:55 AM PST

    •  I was there, on the south side of the city (7+ / 0-)

      in my mother's house (I was visiting).  The tornado chewed up Moore, just a few blocks south of us, then traveled 20+ miles on the ground toward the northeast to take out a good portion of Midwest City, including Tinker AFB.  Horrific, but you're right, if there had been no more warning time than when I was a child, hundreds at least would have died.

      My favorite picture of the devastation after that tornado was a picture in the next day's paper of a horse that had been, without a scratch, deposited on the roof of Moore High School.  Tornadoes do really, really weird things.

      "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

      by SueDe on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:21:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  A friend of mine's son died in that Tornado. (6+ / 0-)

      He lived in Moore. He was talking on the phone to his Dad when the warning was issued and he asked his Dad. What should I do? My friend told him to hang up the phone and go get into the closet. Later no one could make contact with him. So my friend got in his car and drove to Moore. The Apartment complex his son lived in was a pile of rubble. But the closet in his son's apartment was completely intact. Unfortunately my friend's son was not in the closet. They found his body a few day's later several blocks away. Apparently he either didn't have time to make it into the closet or choose to go in the Bathroom instead. Either way had he made it into the closet he would have survived.  

      •  Oh, so sorry. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eloise, jayden, Coilette

        Had he lived there long?  Even in Ohio, children are taught what to do in the event of a tornado.   The basement is always the first choice, and a small indoor room well away from windows is the second choice.

        Every house I have ever lived in has had a basement.  Having been through tornadoes, I don't consider them optional.

        Show me the POLICY!

        by Fabian on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 08:37:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I live in Ohio (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fabian, Churchill, Eloise

          and we get just enough tornadoes and just enough violent ones that I don't consider a basement optional, either.

          I remember the only time we had an actual tornado warning in school - where we had to go into the halls and the sirens in town were going off - was my senior year, 1999.

          Thankfully we didn't get hit by anything, though my now-husband saw a rotating wall cloud that same afternoon!

          "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." --Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

          by Coilette on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 09:01:26 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  houses in Okla usually don't have basements (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          80 % of showing up!

          by Churchill on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 03:35:30 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Bedrock that close? (0+ / 0-)

            I know someone in Idaho described having a basement there would be closer to having a built in swimming pool.

            Other than bedrock a few feet down and a water table at the same depth, I don't know why you wouldn't want a basement.  

            I saw a great YouTube of someone insulating his heat ducts in a 3 foot high crawl space under his home.  I was floored.  He said the wrap insulation really helped.  I BET!  When your ducts are radiating heat galore into the drafty crawl space, it's surprising any gets into the house proper.

            Basements are additional expense, but they are wonderful for many things - including not having water pipes freeze in the winter since the water main enters your basement below the frost line and is never exposed.

            As for the water table, I lived in NE Ohio where the water table was high and the land was often swampy.  The century old house was elevated about 15 feet above the surrounding land - for drainage.  It worked fairly well.

            Show me the POLICY!

            by Fabian on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 04:08:52 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  The May 2003 tornado (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ice Blue, Churchill, Eloise, Coilette

      had no fatalities as the result of further refinement of our mesonet warning system. It's one of the very few areas where we are actually cutting edge and can be genuinely proud. That tornado wasn't quite as big as the 1999 storm, but it was plenty devastating.

      We were living in Moore at the time (right where the 1999 tornado went through). Thankfully, it missed our house on its way to destroying most of the neighborhood (again). Some of our neighbors were going to rebuild for the third time, but we decided not to push our luck any further and got the heck out of Moore.

  •  Oklahoma, Tornado capital of the world; sadly (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ice Blue, deha, Eloise

    80 % of showing up!

    by Churchill on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:13:23 AM PST

    •  And many there don't have basements (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Or any kind of storm shelter. My brother lives there, and I was amazed they had nothing. Just amazed!

      You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you. - Eric Hoffer

      by splashy on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:24:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Scary facts - though I thought for a moment (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SueDe, Eloise, OHeyeO

    that this story is snarky analysis on the the recent after mid-term discussions on dailykos.

    As a front built up across the country, the differences between one side and the other were extreme.  For the next two nights, thunderstorms appeared around sunset and people across the Midwest were kept awake by rocketing winds and lightning storms so constant that the pyrotechnic display turned into one continuous pulse of flashing light accompanied by pounding drums.


    You write so darn well, one almost could wish for another desaster, just to enjoy another of your great pieces.

    I am kidding of course. And I shouldn't kid about it. Forgive my mouthy comment and acceot a respectful kudo.
    Many thanks.

  •  I was stranded once for ten years in the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ice Blue, Eloise, Coilette

    Texas Panhandle.  My kids were convinced that anytime clouds gathered, we were going to have a tornado:  truth is, they weren't far from wrong in that part of the country.  I've seen I-40 closed because of of 2-3 feet deep hail that had collected in the underpasses.

    I remember driving through Witchita Falls after a tornado and seeing an endless sea of concrete slabs where a new subdivision had once stood.

  •  The Strongest Tornado Ever Studied using Doppler (6+ / 0-)

    Radar was May 3. 1999. It a F5 that stretched 3 miles wide and killed 36 people.

    The outbreak of 1999 The Moore OK Tornado was the first time Researcher were able to get radar in place to actually see inside the Tornado. They were actually able to determine it was 5 Tornadoes that had combined into one giant breast.    

  •  A quibble for Mark (8+ / 0-)


    An excellent essay but I need to address a common misconception regarding Hurricane Katrina:  that Katrina directly struck the city of New Orleans.

    As a MS Coast resident, I find myself repeatedly correcting the record.  Granted, the loss of life and property, the scale of destruction in the city of New Orleans was horrific, but it is simply not correct to claim the hurricane "blasted through the City of New Orleans".  

    Katrina was a huge storm, but its LA actual impact (referenced to the eye) was east of the city.  Please note the worst of the storm (the infamous northeast quadrant) was concentrated on the MS Coast where I live.


    Bo Alawine

    I had come to an entirely erroneous conclusion which shows, my dear Watson, how dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data.

    by TheBigKahuna on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:23:20 AM PST

    •  Common enough (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fabian, Eloise, Coilette

      It's funny, because when the Weather Channel's hurricane coverage talks about the locality of landfall, of course the impacted area is much larger.  I think the main issue is that impacted cities will be more salient in the public consciousness in such disasters, and it's true that we should make an effort to remember that other, less populated areas were hit more directly and forcefully.  I remember from that day that despite the damage Katrina inflicted on NO, it could have been far worse had Katrina not veered east, sparing NO the area of max winds.

      Whistleblowing is the highest form of dissent.

      by Leftcandid on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 08:02:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The forgotten Katrina and Rita victims (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fabian, Eloise, Coilette

      It's easy to forget that had NOLA simply not existed, the one-two punch of Katrina and Rita would still have been among the most enormously destructive events in US history.  Katrina erased everything within a few miles of the coast from NOLA to east of Biloxi; Rita erased everything from Lake Charles to almost Grand Isle (and did what Katrina didn't do, pumped a bunch of water into Lake Pontchartrain to re-flood NOLA and flood areas that hadn't flooded for Katrina such as Mandeville and Manchac).  Katrina went up I-59 bringing Category 2 winds as far as 200 miles inland; the day after the storm, traveling from Jackson MS toward Tennessee to stay with my in-laws, I found the first open gas stations in Tuscaloosa, AL.  Just about everything south of that point was all blocked roads and down power lines, and with NOLA sucking up much of the rescue and recovery capacity it was months before a lot of those areas were restored.

  •  I vividly remember 4/4/74 (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fabian, Ice Blue, Eloise, Coilette

    I was in a college journalism lab that ran all afternoon.  We had one of the old AP teletype machines that clicked out stories on rough paper rolls;  the machine would ring if it was a particularly newsworthy story.  That afternoon  it jingled continuously with stories about the tornadoes and also Hank Aaron's home run that tied Babe Ruth.  I also have some memory of important Watergate news but can't remember what it was.

  •  The only thing I noticed in April 1974 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fabian, Ice Blue, Eloise

    was that the Watergate grand jury had named Nixon an unindicted co-conspirator, and four weeks had passed, and Leon Jaworski hadn't done a thing.  It was two more weeks before he subpoenaed the tapes.

  •  Then there was this lovely outbreak (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fabian, Ice Blue

    many years ago.

    Some men just want to watch the world burn.

    by Anon in Ohio on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:46:21 AM PST

  •  And on April 5th (0+ / 0-)

    I got married and that storm lasted 7 years.  Still a record for me

    "Play it LOUD Robbie, Play it fucking loud" Dylan

    by NearlyNormal on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:56:22 AM PST

  •  This chaser must pick a tiny nit in a good read: (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mark Sumner, Fabian, Eloise, Coilette

    A tornado is not a storm; it's one part of a supercellular storm.  So storms aren't rated on the F scale; only tornadoes are.  

    As to your overall point, though, disaster prevention and mitigation is a critical role of loal, state & federal government.  Not only that, but natural disaster is simply metaphorical for more personal disaster, like illness or accident, the mitigation/prevention of which also should be the role of government.  And it's a damn shame that people have been conditioned to believe that we should all be on our own when disaster strikes on any level.

    Whistleblowing is the highest form of dissent.

    by Leftcandid on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:58:30 AM PST

    •  Although... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eloise, Leftcandid, Coilette

      The standard warning is that you should plan on being OYO/self sufficient for up to three days after a major disaster, since that is how long it takes to gather and deploy emergency personnel and supplies.  

      It's not intentional neglect, it's simply that the bigger the need, the more resources you need to respond to it.  Also, the greater percentage of the infrastructure that is affected, the more difficult it is to communicate, plan and transport resources.

      It's simple logistics.  

      For people who live in relatively inaccessible areas - islands or any area that lacks robust transportation infrastructure - you should probably have up to 2 weeks worth of supplies.  This probably isn't as burdensome as it sounds since people who live in these regions are used to making infrequent supply trips.  

      Also remember that emergency response priority will be given to humans, not animals.  So anyone with pets or livestock needs to not only make emergency plans for them, but to plan for at least a week or two.  

      Show me the POLICY!

      by Fabian on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 08:31:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Xenia, Ohio (6+ / 0-)

    As a nine-year-old, I watched the F5 that destroyed Xenia from my front door in a neighboring town. Even though it was clear that it was not headed toward my house, I was petrified. Seeing debris swirl about and realizing that those were formerly buildings made a lasting impression on me. I slept on the floor of my parents' bedroom that night, needing the reassurance that a nine-year-old sometimes needs. Hard to believe that was 36 years ago.

  •  I've been a weather nerd since I (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fabian, Ice Blue, Eloise

    was a kid.  And the first weather event to capture my mind was the April '74 Super Outbreak (even though it happened almost five years before I was born).  The book Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman, which is loosely based on the outbreak, certainly helped that.

    Awesome diary. :)

    "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." --Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Coilette on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 08:52:43 AM PST

  •  Beautifully written diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fabian, Eloise, Coilette

    Very suspenseful.

    CLEAR Act would sell carbon shares to fuel producers and would return 75 percent of the resulting revenue in $1,100 checks to every American.

    by mrobinson on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 09:04:04 AM PST

  •  4/3/74 - A day etched in my mind forever (7+ / 0-)

    I was attending University of Cincinnati that year, talking to my thesis advisor in a classroom with a glass outer wall. The sirens went off, the sky became dark and I suggested we move to an inner part of the building. He said "Aw, they always blow those sirens and nothing ever happens." (It was the first Wednesday of the month and the sirens were tested at noon earlier that day.) We then watched it hail until the ground was white. He decided to shorten our meeting after that.

    When I made it back to my apartment an hour later, my wife said the cat had gone nuts. Everyone in the complex was out watching the sky continually roiling and commenting on its eerie greenish-yellow color. Usually, that occurs for a short while before a storm, but on April 3 the sky was alive all afternoon and evening. As we ate supper, the sirens went off again and the TV channel we were watching switched to a live shot of the Sayler Park tornado churning through western Cincinnati. The sirens went off twice more that night.

    The next morning, our planning class was recruited to help Cincinnati-Hamilton County Emergency Management survey and map out the damage. My group went to Sayler Park, the worst-hit area. The images of destruction, quirky damage and dazed residents will always be with me. It was an F-5. One of homes only had an interior clothes closet standing.

    My first employment out of school dealt with assisting local governments in Greene County, Ohio plan in recovery from the F-5 Xenia tornado. Xenia was interwined with my childhood, as I had relatives there and lived in the adjacent county. The 1974 tornado transformed it within minutes. It seemed everyone was on the same page during the short-term recovery efforts. But the long-term planning for rebuilding was the difficult part, complicated by competing interests, a sluggish economy and continued loss of the old manufacturing base. Five miles to the northeast, the Wilberforce community anchored by Central State University and Wilberforce University was also decimated and took a long time to recover.

    One of the short-term hardships was endured by Xenia's school children. Until a new high school was constructed, the students attended classes at Beavercreek high school after the Beavercreek school day ended. Today, Xenia schools are designed with tornado safety in mind.

    In this area of the country, we now pay heed to the sirens.

    By the way, Dr. Fujita came close to classifying the 1974 Xenia tornado an F-6, but didn't. It moved railroad cars, picked up trucks and busses and deposited them on buildings, and collapsed brick and steel structures. It, along with the 1925 Tri-State and 1999 Moore tornadoes, were true monsters.

    No tornado has ever been rated F6 (with winds of at least 319 mph). The F-Scale, developed by Ted Fujita in 1971, is based on the evaluation of damage caused by a tornado. Fujita came close only once to rating tornado damage as F6, and that was the Xenia, Ohio, tornado of April 3, 1974. He rated it F5 – one of six tornadoes that caused "incredible" damage during the so-called Super Outbreak that killed more than 300 people across the Midwest and South.

    - Dan McCarthy, warning coordination meteorologist at NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla, January 16, 2007


    There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited. The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. - Sun Tzu

    by OHeyeO on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 09:28:29 AM PST

    •  Amazing comment (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I had never read that about Dr. Fujita.  Before they dropped the F-6 designation from books and such I always wondered about it.

      "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." --Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

      by Coilette on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 09:53:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Mark, well written as always, but (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mark Sumner, Fabian, Ice Blue

    a true story, recited with writing to keep us engaged.

    Somewhere this week I read about people who search for big mid ocean waves.  Apparently until recently there was mostly a feel of myth to 100 footers.

    But there have been ships coming in reporting such monsters and surfers search for them. I read a review in Mr. Regina's New York Times Book Review, but here is a good link from the Wall Street Journal.

    It looks like the frequency and size of "freak" waves are increasing.

    I would like to add eKos to your tags.

    Thank you so much.

    "Never, desist till we ... extinguish this bloody traffic, of which our posterity, will scarce believe that it suffered a disgrace and dishonor to this country.

    by Regina in a Sears Kit House on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 09:55:46 AM PST

  •  I remember 1974... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mark Sumner, Fabian, Ice Blue

    and a couple others as well.

    May 31, 1985 Tornado outbreak (#211) - Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York state. I was living in NE PA at the time.

    July 4, 1969 - The "Ohio Fireworks Derecho" that rolled off Lake Erie and hit Cleveland as folks were settling in to watch the evening firworks displays. I was at a lakefront park that evening and rode it out with my grandparents. It's what got me interested in severe weather and later, photography and chasing.

    Nitpicking aside, a really great diary. Thanks!

    •  My best friend in college lived through the 1985 (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      djMikulec, Fabian, Ice Blue

      outbreak, in NE Penn. One of the family friends was killed. When she would take me home on visits, you could see the tornado's path through the forests (she tried not to show me 'human' damage'

      That outbreak was just a couple of months before our Sacremento raised dorm head started college in the Cleveland area, so it was one of the ones we used to 'scare' her-she'd not though of Ohio, and especally NE Ohio, as a place where tornadoes struck.

      Some men just want to watch the world burn.

      by Anon in Ohio on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 12:02:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Mother Nature always has the last word. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The only thing we can do is take protective measures.
  •  I was in Fairborn when the Xenia (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tornadoes hit. We watched the eerie sky that day, it was extremely green and scary. We stood outside watching the clouds roll and roil, really close to the ground.

    My sister-in-law was actually in Xenia, and the only warning she got was her brother calling her to tell her to seek shelter. While she was talking to him she looked out the window, saw three tornadoes come together into a very large one, told him about it, then the phone went dead. He was beside himself, as we all were.

    She didn't have a basement, so she turned her couch over and hid under it with her very young son. Amazingly, her house wasn't touched much at all, but the ones across the street were demolished, in a path all the way through town.

    We went there the day or so after that to see if anything could be salvaged from my brother-in-law's home, and were totally astonished at the destruction. It hit every school - fortunately they had let out about a half hour before so no children were there. All the schools were demolished, leveled to the ground, as was most of the center of town. It was a mile wide swath right through the center, flattened. We couldn't figure out where we were when we went there most of the time, it was so torn up.

    Never want to see that again! That year was a doozy in Ohio!

    You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you. - Eric Hoffer

    by splashy on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 07:04:15 PM PST

  •  Forgive me (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    if someone has already mentioned this upthread. The SPC now relies on the enhanced Fujita Scale (EF) due to the unreliablility of gaging the power of a tornado on the damage it causes. The explanation and graphs are worth a look:

    Good diary.

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