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, August 20, 2018

Tropical Update. Slow Day in the Atlantic Basin. Hurricane Lane Threatens Hawaii. A Long Read on a City I love South Florida.. Overbuilt? Global Warming or Pollution and Too Many People Living on a Sandbar and a Drained Swamp at the River's Edge?

Not much going on in the Atlantic today.
Some ULLs in the Atlantic with potential...
...for Subtropical Storm status possibly.
Huge wave complex in East Atlantic.
Small wave hanging on in the Caribbean.
Frontal boundary near South Florida...
...could be a problem down the road.
SAL is losing it's grip on the Atlantic.
Water is warming up.
Shear is lessening in some areas.
Now we wait for surface pressures to drop.

A few days ago I misquoted Jim Williams in that I wanted to say he said one of the main reasons for the lack of development in the Atlantic is that surface pressures were NOT low and apparently I said they were low. He's a Virgo born during the height of the hurricane season in September and he's got an awesome eye for detail; he's a perfectionist. Sorry on that there... wanted to give him some credit but messed it up. Maybe it was wishful thinking on my part :(

Excellent graphic he put up on Twitter today.
It's actually a complex process to get hurricanes to form.
Last year they formed everywhere often.
This year we are back to a basically average season.
Good.. many in the Islands and Florida are still recovering.
Houston is still recovering.
This may be the Year of the Subtropical.

But in a week to ten days Climo should kick in..
.... and we will have more tropical events to discuss.

The rest of this is a long rant.
The part on today in the tropics is done.
I'll get back to normal tomorrow.
I needed to rant....
... I needed to go long today.
So continue if you wish.
Really a post on Miami History.
And the history of flooding in coastal cities.
What do New Orleans, Charleston and Miami...
...have in common?
They were built by the coast near a river over a marsh.
Marsh or Swamp it's basically the same thing.


Today I'm talking on Miami.
Seems Miami is often in the news...
Often it's crazy stories.
Often it's real concerns.
Often when it's slow in the tropics...
...some bring up how Miami will be under water soon.
Not from a Cat 5 Hurricane but from Global Warming.
I prefer to blame it on people and pollution.
On poor planning and ignoring real problems.
Miami was built at the edge of the Everglades.
Between the Glades that began around  SW 27th Avenue ..
..and beautiful Biscayne Bay.
It was swamp land mostly.
It's now common for people to live past SW 137th Avenue.
To make matters worse...
..we paved over the barrier island
 that was basically a sandbar.
AKA Miami Beach.
People used to picnic there.
It should never have been built up the way it was...
...but it was and it is what it is.
A beautiful place. 
But it's still a sandbar in the Ocean.
Years ago every storm rearranged the shore line.

Miami once looked like this below.
Brickell Property.
A home, a trading post at the mouth of the river.

Now that same spot looks like this below.

One of my favorite places.
Almost the same spot as above.
You can see the mouth of the Miami River below.

That's where the picture above was taken years ago.

I love Miami.
But when the population expands the way it did.
It brought with it problems intrinsic to Miami.
It's built over a swamp.
Only a small ridge existed originally.
High ground.
Between the Everglades and the Bay.
We ignored the rules of nature.
It floods as swamps do ...
..especially when the natural monsoons come.

This is a long rant today on the stupidity of calling the lack of Urban Planning back when some cities were built up onto "Global Warming" and why that diminishes the real dangers of Global Warming and Pollution that exist and need to be resolved by lumping in every day greed and ignorance into the file labeled "Global Warming" when it's just a total lack of common sense. A lack of common sense that we decided to build on sandbars that were barrier islands to coastal marshy, swampy areas on the mainland that had some high ground for the early settlers to live that were later built up into large metropolitan cities. When the early settlers settled they settled onto the areas of high ground and avoided the low lying marshy areas. In the case of barrier islands like Miami Beach no one lived there people just rowed over on Sunday to go to the beach and then rowed back at sunset. They are barrier islands, they were sandbars and nothing more. Very beautiful sandbars then and very beautiful islands now that are wonderful to live on especially in the winter but because of the invention of Air Conditioning it became possible to live on them 365 days a year as long as the AC is running well.

Two links below to great articles explaining flooding problems in New Orleans and Charleston, two cities very similar to Miami in both lifestyle and ecological problems that are rooted in the fact that they were built over marshy areas on high ground between areas that flooded always and years later people tried to drain the marsh or fill in the marsh and build subdivisions with beautiful homes promising a beautiful place to live and play. And most of the time those places are indeed the best places to live until the rains set in or a hurricane makes landfall.

Charleston today spreads out in different directions.

Key West is built on a small rock in the middle of the Florida Straits closer to Havana than Miami. Part of it was originally uninhabitable as it was a swampy, salt pond and low lying area prone to flooding. Early on the first cemetery built by the Atlantic Ocean flooded after a hurricane and the graves opened up and the bodies washed across the island; some call Bone Island today. The Church moved to higher ground, the lighthouse was moved to higher ground and people built on high ground and the cemetery was moved to near Solares Hill; it really is a hill by the way if you don't believe me walk it on a hot day in August. The island still floods but homes built on high ground actually have a smaller chance of flooding than most homes in Miami. Note the pictures from Hurricane Wilma showing the new parts of town where many people live flood vs Old Town that basically doesn't flood as much.

How Key West looked....
 shortly before my family moved there.
Just a few roads, some homes and a....
 port of call for ships from everywhere.

Bottom right picture is flooding during Wilma.
See Old Town bottom left is above water.
Just like the map above it shows.
Key West took a huge hit from Wilma.
Often it gets very lucky.
Last year Irma missed a direct hit.
Thank God.

This blog post was inspired by an inane segment during the Tropical Update on TWC about Sea Level Rise in Miami and Miami Beach and how in less than a decade Miami Beach may be under water. Talk about alarmist headlines before the commercial to get viewers to stay tuned to a tropical update when there is nothing to talk about in the Atlantic Tropical Basin today. Yes, Hurricane Lane is headed towards Hawaii and that's something to talk about if you are interested in Hawaii, but most people who watch TWC live in areas that care more about the GOM, Caribbean and East Coast landfalling hurricanes. So as the TWC has an ongoing agenda to talk to Global Warming they decided to show an segment explaining how Miami Beach won't exist much longer because of Global Warming an in less than a decade it may be gone, under sea. Maybe it's an attempt to make travel advertisers happy that everyone will rush out and take a trip down to Miami Beach fast while it's still there.

Obviously if you want a real Tropical Update check out Mike on Facebook or @tropicalupdate on Twitter as he was smarter than TWC realizing he could get that Twitter handle before they did and should have .... seriously go with someone smart. Go with Mike. And, I'll add in the Naples to Tampa area on the West Coast has many of these same problems though to be fair it's built on higher land for the most part than Miami but the boom time was good in the 1920s selling waterfront property in the Tampa Bay area and that property is now worth a fortune. Even more so they are lucky as rarely do they get a hurricane so people feel Tampa and St. Pete are safer than living in Miami which the world identifies with Hurricanes... even the local college football team is "The Hurricanes"

Set up worries me.
They said one hurricane would hit and it didn't.
Now a second one could hit Hawaii.
Locals may have a false sense of security there.

Mike is covering Hurricane Lane today in the Pacific if you want to see models for how Hawaii may get creamed or at last some weather from Lane. At least in Miami and Tampa we don't have to add volcanoes to the list of natural disasters to worry on.... though originally volcanoes did exist according to the geological history of Florida shown later in this post.

Miami Beach flooding during high tides and during the different phases of the moon in conjunction with tropical events and winter storms has less to do with Global Warming than over population growth and decades of a lack of urban planning. Trust me if I felt this was Global Warming (a real issue that needs to be discussed) I'd go there but I lived there on Miami Beach as early as the early 1970s and every full moon or heavy rain parts of town, the same parts of town, flooded. Specifically the low parts of town that probably should never have been built up the way they were back when we drained the swamps, rebuilt the natural shoreline and paved over what was a barrier island barely more than a sandbar with a beach on the Atlantic Side and tried to make it into a beautiful city where people up north in the winter could come and spend their money before going back to the frozen North.

I wrote about this in 2008 when I got stuck in a flood on Alton Road trying to get back to work on my lunch break. I was a few blocks from where my friend used to live in a nice house on Monad Terrace that used to flood so badly she often had several inches of water in her house that had to be drained out when the tides were high or a storm was nearby back in the early 1970s. Nothing has changed except they tore down those homes and put in better drains and built beautiful high rises near Monad Terrace and it still floods sometimes as it's built at the edge of Biscayne Bay on the beautiful barrier island of Miami Beach. My friend moved, by the way, to Coral Springs where it's also built on what was the Everglades but it is less prone to flooding as they have less people and better drains.

Miami Beach was a sandbar with mangroves growing on it and a shoreline that came and went with the tides providing a place for people in Miami to take a boat over to to it on Sunday and picnic on the sandy beach on the East side of the sandbar. It's not like Abilene is sinking, Miami Beach was a sandbar and now it's a built up sandbar. . We literally paved over paradise and built a city on a sandbar. And, no big surprise... it floods.  Once upon a time early builders drained swamp land to grow crops then that boom gave way to the Real Estate Boom as they knocked down the orange trees and build subdivisions. They drained the Everglades originally by blowing up the area known as the Rapids on the Miami River and dredged up sand from the bottom of Biscayne Bay to build water front property but somehow never realized or worried they might be creating a flooding problem. First it was all about farming on the rich, fertile soil from drained swamp lands, then it was about real estate. Miami is always changing, rearranging and yet it always has to deal with it's inherent natural problems such as monsoons, hurricane season and now over population in a place not meant to support that many people living there. But who can blame anyone who wants to live there? It truly is paradise.

So the Farming Boom gave way to the Real Estate Boom and they knocked down the orange trees and build subdivisions. Years later to correct this problem in an attempt to control the flooding  the South Florida Management Department was created. They built a series of canals from "the Lake" and a web was created that went out across Miami to help alleviate or really control flooding and provide metered water across the general area. When "they" (powers that be in the government) are afraid a hurricanes may make landfall after heavy rains during the Monsoon Season they are prone to letting more water out of the Lake to stop flooding there and "control" the flooding problem. Then a tropical depression wanders slowly off shore as a cold front is moving down and stalls out and it rains heavy and because the beautiful canals and creeks (especially on Miami Beach) are already at a high level due to months of rain and the release of water ... it floods really badly.

You can't fix stupid. That's a saying you hear often and it's true. But we tend to do stupid things in life and you can either buy a boat you can't afford or show a segment on how Miami is flooding without doing the historical research and show old video from about five years ago or more when they were doing construction on that street that was flooding. Maybe we should really worry on how we have overbuilt on a sandbar and allowed builders who usually give big gifts to local officials to do anything they want in the name of "progress" and let someone else worry on the consequences. Once the City of North Miami Beach accepted a bid to build a huge skyscraper on bay front property and after construction started it was found out that they ignored the fact that they were including bay bottom in the land density study and construction was thankfully halted while the property sat for years until the issue was resolved. No you cannot park cars on the bay bottom. Duh.

It's not stupid to want to live on Miami Beach. I lived there and would again if I had the money (several million) to live where I wanted to live but in general it is an overgrown barrier island that is too built up and filled with tourists and drifters who drift in and drift out and really not the way it was when I lived there in the early 1970s; a small town feel often visited by tourists during a "SEASON" however now it's a town with all year tourists coming and going from Europe, Russia, South America and the regular "Up North" places such as Cleveland, New York City, Boston, etc. 

Dolly Parton made a joke once when she had a wardrobe malfunction on stage that often happens to big busted women wearing skimpy clothes with a revealing top made to reveal their beautiful form. She laughed it off saying something to the effect of her Mama always told her you can't put X amount of whatever into a bag too small. You get the idea, and trust me she is right. I'm well endowed and I'll never be able to wear those really pretty silky colorful lacy bras they make for girls with a 34 A bra or even a 38 B bra it just ain't gonna happen. Finding something comfortable and cute that doesn't have steel structure built into it that actually works and feels good is about as difficult as trying to figure out how to build up a sandbar and yet control the effect of that many people living on the sandbar during the rainy season.

Please don't be a hater. This is not an Anti Global Warming Post. It's a post about getting a grip on reality and having common sense. It's a long read and there is nothing much to write about in the tropics today and I am pissed off at TWC because I stupidly waited around this morning for ten minutes for the update to see what they would say about the weak tropical wave in the Atlantic and the remnants of the old one swimming in the Caribbean and they did a segment on how Miami Beach is going under due to Global Warming. Obviously the same producer who thought it would be "cute" to do a segment on the adorable little Iguanas (the most hated reptile in all of South Florida) thought to do the segment on Miami Beach Flooding during the Tropical Update. Iguanas were exotic imported pets released into the edge of the neighborhood (IE a dirt road out in the Everglades) and who reproduced faster than bunnies and lay around on people's patios in West Broward sunning themselves and pooping in people's pools. There is nothing "cute" about them when they become a bigger pest than the flying cockroach previously named sarcastically as Florida's State Bird. After last year's Zika scare they renamed the State Bird the Mosquito. Why people want to live there all year is another question for a Psychology Blog.  Add in pet snakes that were released into the Everglades swimming through man made flood control canals into neighborhoods and crawling up into the back yard chasing away the Iguanas .... it's a's a swamp! For most of the history of Planet Earth South Florida was a SWAMP. We drained the swamp, we dredged bay bottom up onto the drained swamp and built a beautiful place to live but it's still a paved swamp. Florida has a rich geological history worth reading,

There were no Urban Planning Rules back when... the rule was make money fast and keep building. And, people came and now what was once an 2 hour and a half hour drive across the Everglades from Miami to Naples is mostly homes and about 30 good minutes of Everglades. We actually once had volcanoes............many, many years ago. It rose up out of the sea, parts dropped back, it's a good read. Man has only been living there as we know it for the last 100 years or so. When my Great Great Grandparents lived in Key West in the 1880s there wasn't even a mail stop for the schooners in Miami the mail was dropped off at Coconut Grove.

People have always wanted to live near the water. In the old days they needed a river for drainage, power and to transport their goods. It was common to live near the mouth of a river and a profitable place to live as ships came and went and commerce was good. It was and still is pretty, there is something beautiful about a river and a town built on a river is usually a pretty place to visit than some small town inland. Nothing I love more in North Carolina than to walk along the river at Wilmington and watch the sun set as the large ships navigate up the Cape Fear River on a beautiful day.

Charleston was such a town built basically on a Marsh, down near the river port with ships coming and going and people tried to build their homes on the "high ground" that was less likely to flood.

New Orleans is just such a town. People learned early on the "French Quarter" doesn't flood as much so they built there and lived there and life went on. Then suburbia became a thing mostly after everyone owned a car and the soldiers came home from war and the Baby Boom exploded and Vets were offered free loans on cute little homes in places near New Orleans and out in the Southwest region of Miami where the swamps were drained to build subdivisions and Charleston expanded the same way up to the North into the suburbs that were built over marsh land. Low cost housing often is build on low lying land on the outskirts of town designed to provide a good, affordable living space to people who can't afford to live elsewhere. Think Hurricane Katrina.

Marsh land tends to flood.

And people moved there before the Baby Boom, but demographically most suburbs in America exploded after the War when soldiers came home, wanted to put down roots where they could afford and got free VA loans to buy a small 2 bedroom houses with a carport that could be closed in for a family room or a 3rd bedroom depending on your needs. Life was good. People were happy. It sounded like a good idea.

Here we are in 2018 with huge cities such as Aventura built over what was marsh land between the main land the barrier islands (now Miami Beach and Sunny Isles) and when there is a heavy rain it floods. People flush their toilets often and where do you think the water goes? People use way too much water and where do you think the excess goes? Tourists who have little interest in preserving paradise while they are there for the day before they take a week cruise to the Caribbean toss their garbage down into the street and near the sewers.  The City of Miami Beach has cute signs reminding the tourists the sewers go out into Biscayne Bay and fish live there. Yeah.... and most tourists don't care and the sewers clog up and when it rains it floods that much faster than it used to. Years ago "Tourist Season" was from late November until March; now it's year round and many more tourists come to visit than they used to in 1925 or even 1950.

This is more a case of unchecked growth in areas that should have been carefully regulated from day one with limits on how many people could live there and how high the buildings should have been built. Density and urban planning weren't in demand back then when they named areas "Sunny Isles" which basically meant "come on down in the Winter to where it's always sunny" and greed sped up the growth in South Florida to a point where you can no longer drive anywhere without tons of traffic or paying a fortune to be in the "Express Lane" on the Freeway or pay the Uber Drive to navigate the mess while you sit in the back and play online on your phone or even do business on your phone rather than spend an hour trying to navigate through the maze that is South Florida traffic. Time is money, big deals are made in the back seat of Uber Cars while business flows even if traffic does not.

I live in Carolina now. I love Miami and South Florida. I also love New Orleans, Key West and other coastal cities, but I'm aware of the history there and most people are not.

Common Sense is not so common as Voltaire said. He was so right.

Besos BobbiStorm
@bobbistorm on Twitter

Ps.... We need to stop polluting our beautiful country and take responsibility for what we do in the name of progress. In order to do so we need to appreciate the natural beauty of our land and preserve it's beauty. If it means less people live in South Florida than so be it. There are only so many people you can put on a sandbar in the middle of the ocean and expect life to go on as naturally as it was once before Carl Fisher had a dream. Best historian I know, a good friend and one of my favorite people Dr. Paul George explains the story of Miami below. I love Miami but the dense population creates it's own problems and there is a reality that we really did pave over paradise and built the Palmetto Expressway.

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