Friday, June 08, 2007

Bring 'em on!

The hurricanes, that is. Yeah, I know, the coastal residents are screaming "No, no!" But folks, hurricanes have been a part of your world down there forever. Deal with 'em. Just like the rest of us deal with floods, fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, blizzards, volcanoes, etc. I went through Hugo first hand in 1989 on the upper South Carolina coast. My wife's workplace was washed away, we had a tree through our roof, neighboring towns were submerged to the rafters, forests were flattened for mile upon mile. Seen it. Don't try to tell me that I don't know what the big storms can do. In spite of many claims otherwise, there was nothing unprecedented about Katrina except the precise location of landfall. Storms of that intensity are not only precedented, they are expected. Yes it's sad that so much 18th and 19th Century architecture was destroyed (built before there was full appreciation for the potential magnitude of the most severe storms), and the flooding of New Orleans was a criminal collapse of infrastructure, planning, organization, and execution. But the hurricanes are, always have been, and always will be. Adapt. And if your failures to adapt result in massive destruction and loss of life, it is very unfortunate. But it isn't a natural disaster, an "act of god" (which god would that be, exactly?), or a "tragedy." It is a largely preventable loss, just like getting T-boned at an intersection if you run the red light.

OK enough of that ranting, and on to this ranting: Give us hurricanes! We need 'em. Actually, wimpy little tropical storms would do fine, too. Even just some good wet tropical depressions getting entrained in an approaching cold front. Because our temperate zone synoptic weather systems have failed us again. Three consecutive years of spring and summer drought with abso-freekin-lutely no change in sight. Trees that just barely finished regrowing their leaves after being defoliated by the April freeze are already showing signs of drought-induced early senescence. Our drought index climbs from severe to extreme, with pockets of "exceptional drought conditions" threatening to grow. In 2005 the only thing that spared us was the tropical weather. If it weren't for Arlene, Dennis, Katrina, and Rita we'd be even worse off now, with "permanent" springs and streams possibly even running dry. All told they gave us over a foot of rain, which is probably 15-20% of our total rainfall for the last 24 months, and over half of our growing season moisture from 2005 to the present. There's been essentially no groundwater recharge since then. The tropics failed to deliver us any moisture at all in the 2006 season. As it now stands, we'll probably need something like 10" of rain before we see recharge get going again. Sure, a series of stalled-out fronts could take care of this, but they've let us down nearly every time since 2004. Three or four nice wet tropical systems constitute our best hope.

And down on the coast: get up, get back, tie down. Like they've been telling you to do for, oh, say, about 50 years.


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