Hurricane Harbor

A writer and a tropical muse. A funky Lubavitcher who enjoys watching the weather, hurricanes, listening to music while enjoying life with a sense of humor and trying to make sense of it all!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Nargis - A Worst Case Scenario to Learn From...

A beautiful color satellite image of Nargis.. nestled in the Bay of Bengal just before it hit land... prettier to show than the pictures of the people dead and dying from this horrible disaster that will probably have the highest death toll of any Tropical event this year.

Tropical Cyclone Nargis that hit the heavily populated city of Rangoon or as it is more commonly called these days Yangon. To understand what a massive event this is you must understand that it is the rice belt.. an area similar to what is known as Rice Country in parts of Louisiana.. a delta, low land, low swampy sort of rice bayous with large population centers clustered through an area.

Aside from the phenomenal loss of life (tallies coming in that could possibly go as high as 10,000 people dead) the rice crop is gone and that crop feeds people throughout the entire region. It is devastating from an economic point of view aside from the mind boggling death toll that is reminiscent of what is now referred to as the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004. That part of the world suffers huge losses of life when something goes wrong and it so often does be it meteorological or geological... people die in huge amounts that are hard for us in the West to comprehend.

Learn more about the area here:

Hurricane Katrina is the only disaster in recent times that we can even begin to compare it with in our time.

The storm.. a very small, intense storm that fluctuated wildly in it's intensity went through an eye wall replacement cycle and pretty much exploded just as it was plowing into the heavily populated delta region. The storm surge was tremendous, the winds intense and the rainfall heavy. The rice ...whether destroyed by the high winds or the heavy rain fall is gone... and so are the people and the general infrastructure of life in an area remote to many and known only in story books or travelogues.

In the Bay of Bengal water can pile up in the same way it does in the Gulf of Mexico..and there is no where for the water to go but inland when the storm makes landfall. A beautiful place to visit and sightsee but not to be during the cyclone season when the worst case scenario turns the area into a disaster zone.

So often storms do a bobble just before landfall or they go down a drop in intensity such as Opal that could have been an even bigger disaster.. they bobble south just a drop enough to plow into the farming/suburban area of Homestead instead of plowing west up Flagler Street as Hurricane Andrew could have done but didn't.

So often I have said that Hurricane Andrew was "kind" and people get upset when I say that but they don't realize how it bobbled just enough south on a due west track to hit the area in Miami Dade County where people live but is LEAST heavily populated... filled with farms, nurseries and empty land.. Andrew could have been so much worse.

We get so lucky with these storms so often that we have come to trust that something will save us at the very last moment, some dues ex machina will come down from heaven and save some heavily populated city that hovers at sea level at the very last minute. It doesn't always happen that way.. and Nargis should be a lesson to learn from that sometimes, sadly the worst case scenario really does play out in the very worst way.

Look at Miami.. sitting beautifully at sea-level, basking in the warm sunshine at the edge of beautiful, blue Biscayne Bay and think on what might happen should some small intense Category 4 Hurricane like the 1926 Great Miami Hurricane should go through an eye wall replacement cycle and slam into Downtown Miami as a Category 5 and do not think that disasters only happen far away or in the movies.

History is about learning from the past... it's time to learn a sad lesson... it can happen there as well as here. Sometime over history a hurricane did.. it may not be in our recorded history but trust me.. sometime, maybe once long ago but at least once... some strong, small category five hurricane created deep scars in the mangroves that used to be an area populated only by a few tribes of scattered Seminoles and other Caribbean Indians... oh what stories their ghosts could tell...


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