Wednesday, September 1, 2004

- Pilot of the shuttle Independence, in the film Armaggedon.

What has happened only twice in 400 years may be about to happen… a major hurricane strike on the southeast coast of Florida.

Here is the projected path from the National Hurricane Center:

The potential impact estimate from Accu-weather. Notice the size of the area indicated in red.

To be truly awed by this work of nature, view the enhanced satellite loop:

But If you think I am being an alarmist, then this site is not for you. I only spend my time conveying the truth to people who consider protecting their life and family more important than protecting their “stuff.”

What follows will be a terribly sobering overview of what Frances will do to southern-central-and northeast Florida over the Labor Day Weekend. It is not for the faint of heart. If you have family or friends anywhere in the region from Melbourne west to Tampa north to Ocala and east to Daytona...

Call them, email them, whatever and tell them to START LEAVING NOW. I think this will end up being the largest evacuation in the history of the United States. Almost one third of the state’s population lives in this heavily developed area.. approximately 5 million people. You cannot evacuate that many people in 24 or 36 or 48 hours.

If Frances does a near miss and skirts the coast, at least you can say you were prepared and out of harm’s way.

You may think this sounds ridiculous. Why evacuate such a large area? Why are you blowing it way out of porportion? Doesn’t the storm only just affect the coast?

Well, Charley proved that is not true. Orlando received wind gusts to 100 mph and that was after Charley had 5-6 hours to weaken. This time, if Frances follows a Melbourne…Orlando…Ocala path, and the rides up along the I-75 corridor, everywhere from Vero Beach to Saint Augustine and all areas inland within 50 miles of the coast will experience hurricane force winds from 75 to 100 mph. Following this path, Frances will make a near-direct hit on Orlando, Disney World, Kissimmee with sustained winds at least 100 mph. And mark my words, I think that the weather service will underestimate the duration of strong winds.

IF YOU KNOW OF ANYONE LIVING IN A MOBILE HOME THAT IS IN THE STORM’S PATH, THEY MUST BE PREPARED TO LEAVE NOW AND EXPECT THEIR HOME TO BE DESTROYED. Structures like this do not withstand winds of that speed. Hiding in a bathroom or closet or under a bed WILL NOT PROTECT you in a situation like this. In a tornado, it may, but not during 4-6 hours of sustained east winds at 100 mph.


1. Slower movement. Frances is already starting to slow down, and take that every so slight WNW to NW jog. If you look carefully at the NHC forecast track, it shows the storm taking a full 24 hours to cross central Florida. Now think about that a moment. Charley went from Charlotte Bay at 4 PM to Daytona beach at 11 PM. The long duration over land will weaken the storm, yes, but not before it wreaks absolute total destruction on an area encompassing hundreds of square miles.

2. Extremely high rain totals… 5 to 10 inches and probably much more, due to the rich tropical atmospheric environment surrounding the state right now, and the massive amount of rain associated with a large hurricane anyway. Combine that with a slow-moving storm, and you’ll have an unprecendented flooding situation that will pale in comparison to poor Richmond.

3. Large wind field. Hurricane force winds extend out 80 some miles from the center. That would be like the center of the storm in Richmond, and DC is getting 75 mph+ winds from it. Tropical storm force winds extend out nearly 200 MILES. That will affect the entire state, and affect an area from Miami to Savannah. Charley’s wind field was not nearly as big because the storm was moving faster, and was generally smaller due to it’s shorter time period over open water. Frances has not been influenced by any interaction with land, allowing it’s wind field to continue expanding right until it make landfall. The satellite images show that this storm is twice the size of Charley. If it strikes Florida, the entire state will be affected from top to bottom. That was not the case with Charley or even Andrew.

4. Massive tree blow-down due to heavy rain and strong winds. Charley was a horrific storm, but moved quickly so it did not drop a lot of rain. The difference here is tremendous rain in advance of the strong winds, that will inundate all those little lakes all throughout central Florida. Then the strong winds will topple hundred of thousands of trees.

5. The strike zone is in a more densely populated area. There are simply a whole lot more people in the Melbourne-Orlando-Ocala path than Port Charlotte-Winter Haven-Orlando. With Labor Day Weekend on the docket, that means lots of tourists will be in the area. If some of them decide to be defiant, or ignorant, or uncooperative, it aggravates the evacuation order.

6. The public is not experienced. This region has not seen a major hurricane since Dora in 1964. Before that, it was a hurricane in the 1600’s. So many hundreds of thousands of people will be somewhat unprepared for what is to come. The Red Cross estimates that 60% of people in hurricane prone areas do not have a disaster supply kit or an evacuation plan.

7. Storm hype and lack of supplies. Critical goods and supplies are already running low in many stores as reported by the news, and the storm is over 48 hours away. This is different from Charley when there was a large area covered by a watch, however the sudden right turn caught many off guard who weren’t expecting a major hit.

8. Strain on the system. Whether the government says it or not, you know it’s true. Public and emergency services are already overwhelmed due to Hurricane Charley’s impact. And with the hurricane center ONCE AGAIN DRAGGING ITS FEET, it will take longer to get important advance supplies in place before the storm. In fact, I think the east coast of Florida will be less prepared for Frances than the west coast was for Charley, because the hurricane center has delayed issuing a watch for the east coast.

9. The hurricane center is hedging. We keep hearing people day "well, we are waiting to hear from the National Hurricane Center." I remember that they were right on top of Charley, but I think they are hedging too much with this one. And the next comment will indicate this, from the 5:00 PM discussion:

“Data from the NOAA p3 aircraft were used to decrease the wind radii estimates in the northwest quadrant. Because the NW wind radii are smaller than previously analyzed...the issuance of a Hurricane Watch for the Florida East Coast can be delayed a little.”

That statement … delaying the issuance of the Hurricane Watch… was the BIGGEST MISTAKE they could have made at this point. You know why I know it was a mistake? Because several counties in southern and central Florida decided to GO AHEAD WITH MANDATORY EVACUATIONS before there was ever any Hurricane Watch posted. Can you imagine the frustration of an Emergency Management Director or a Mayor trying to make a decision. And all the NHC can say is… “we’re waiting to see if the wind radii in the northwest quadrant will come up a bit.” The mayor does not care.. he wants to know.. IS THE STORM COMING OR NOT? I think it is absolutely ridiculous that they have to hedge on some splitting hairs data estimate. It is apparent by all available observations that this storm is headed towards Florida or a FL/GA/SC combination. I would just err on the side of safety and issue a watch.. JUST DO IT. The government of the Bahamas has issued a warning for all of the islands. Isn’t that enough reason to go for it? The longer they wait, the less time people have to prepare.

This will be a moot point by morning because the watch will be up by the time you read this…. But I think getting it out for the 5 and 6 PM news would have been a better move.

10. Insurance and government payouts for Charley. Insurance companies are already absorbing massive payouts from Charley nearing 7 billion dollars, and I think the price tag for this is going to eclipse Andrew. I will peg the number at $30 billion in insured losses alone, which does not include all the other costs of uninsured properties.

WHAT KIND OF DAMAGE AND EFFECTS CAN BE EXPECTED IF THE STORM CROSSES FLORIDA? This is my estimate based on what would have happened were Andrew to follow the projected path of this storm.

25,000 or more homes will be destroyed.

Tens of thousands of boats will be destroyed or sunk.

Hundred of thousands of trees will be toppled.

Lake Okeechobee will, believe it or not, will overflow due to first heavy rain and then winds that will push the rain into the shoreline areas. Dangerous poisonous snakes inhabit those waters, and one summer in the early 20th century, a hurricane in south Florida killed 2,000 people along the Lake due to… being bitten by the snakes that were thrown into peoples houses by the wind and water. I am not making this up.

Students will be out of school for weeks to a month as their buildings will be flattened, flooded, condemned or being used as shelters.

Hundred of churches will be destroyed due to their construction well before rules went in place after Andrew in 1992.

What is left of the orange crop in this area will be completely erased from existence, which will have a huge impact on orange futures prices at the stock market and the grocery shelf later on.

As many as 5 million people will be without power for several days, and fully 1 million people may not have power for several weeks.

Thousands of family pets will sadly perish in the storm because most shelters do not allow pets.

Some hospitals will be destroyed or severely damaged to the point they must be condemned. Emergency services will be totally overwhelmed by the number of walking injured, which will number in the thousands from those who chose to stay and ride out the storm

Thousands more homes not directly in the storm’s path will suffer extensive peripheral damage from falling trees and flying debris.

Disneyworld and surrounding theme parks will experience hurricane force winds in excess of 75 mph for at least 6 hours and possibly more. I am not making this up. This will destroy or severely damage many of the park attractions to the point that the park will have to close for an extended period of time.

Office building windows facing east or southeast will be blown out in the following cities…. Fort Pierce…. Melbourne…Orlando.

Extensive debris still on the ground from Charley’s damage will be picked up by the wind and become dangerous airborne projectiles.

A storm surge of 10-15 feet, and possibly higher, will inundate the coast area for up to 5 miles inland. Waves of 15-20 feet above the surge will rip apart any wooden or aluminum structures smaller than 2 stories.

Within 40 miles of the cost, flat top roofs will be ripped off most apartment buildings, houses, schools, large department stores. Mobile homes within 20 miles of the coast will be completely destroyed.

The Kennedy Space Center will be closing on Thursday and not re-open until after Labor Day Weekend.

Central Florida airports will close on Friday morning to incoming flights. Thousands of small commuter planes will be up-ended and destroyed from the 120 mph plus winds. The major airports of Orlando and… will suffer significant damage and hundreds of blown out windows, forcing the airport to remain closed at least two days to the general public. Any planes of any size left on the runways will experience major damage to the fuselage from flying debris.

A massive environmental disaster will ensue as septic systems overflow, oil containment tanks at marinas topple and spill (as happened up and down the Chesapeake in Isabel), and sewage treatment systems shut down or overflow.

And, unless people heed the warnings and evacuation orders, dozens of people may also perish in the storm due to their arrogance or ignorance or both.


I am analyzing the possibility that remains of Frances turning northward and striking GA/SC instead. That would spell big trouble for Virginia, Maryland and on northward with massively heavy rain and tornadoes.

Evidence of this possibility lies with the latest computer models, which I know you are sick of hearing about, but just hear me out.

First, the models show this:

There are 5 models. The GFS and GFDL are the programs of choice by many US forecasters. the BAM and UKMET are also very good programs, the latter being from the British Meteorological Center (hence, UK.. MET). The NOGAPS is a US Navy program that is reputable, but is generally considered to be not as reliable, or consistent as the older more established programs.

Knowing that...look at what we have here. The NOGAPS takes Frances way over to Pensacola, and the UKMET does a little westward jog, and ends up where the UK does. But look... the GFS and GFDL, which have remained dead-on with this SC/GA track, now have the BAM clustered in there too. And if you notice the UKMET has a little northward component to it before the turn to the left.

One of the ideas Accuweather has been floating is that the very large outflow, extending all the way to Bermuda, might be having an effect on the subtropical high. This effect might induce some nudging of the high prematurely toward the east. When a hurricane gets to a large enough size, it begins to control and influence atmospheric forces, instead of the other way around. So that means if the high starts to move out 6-12 hours early, that starts opening the window for Frances to start curving north. And whenever a hurricane is going to undergo a change, whether it is strengthening or turning, it will begin to slow down a little to compensate for the impending change.

So potential proof in the pudding for a northward turn toward the Carolinas is:
1. Slowing forward motion from 17 mph earlier today to 13mph now.
2. Pressure is dropping, indicating strengthening.
3. Ever so slight wobbling of the center, from W to WNW, a little NW, then WNW.
4. The pressure reading of the Atlantic high begins to decrease, from maybe 1028 mb to 1024.
5. Three of the 5 major models show a direct hit on the GA/SC border.

The hurricane center has acknowledged this potential change, but seems to want to continue finding more reasons to send the storm into Florida. Read their 11pm discussion yourself.
They do indicate that some recent flight data suggest the northward leaning models are not accurately depicting the strength of the Atlantic high.

And hurricane watches are finally up from Florida City (south of Miami), all the way to Flagler Beach in NE Florida. Those will be changed to warnings by the time you read this Thursday morning.

Thursday is when we come to the fork in the road. We'll know pretty well which way this thing will go by then.

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