400 still missing from Ike

Discuss the recovery and aftermath of landfalling hurricanes. Please be sensitive to those that have been directly impacted. Political threads will be deleted without notice. This is the place to come together not divide.

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Re: 400 still missing from Ike

#21 Postby Ixolib » Thu Oct 09, 2008 10:14 pm

Alladin wrote:They had more than adequate warning, yet they chose to stay. End of story.
Yeah, that's quite an easy statement to make --- until you're the one who made the wrong/bad decision....

I personally know a bunch of folks on the MS Gulf Coast who are/were thinking, knowledgable, educated, and learned individuals (self included) who also learned quite quickly they made a bad decision on the day/evening before Katrina hit.

No doubt, hindsight is 20/20, but I believe if the public (again, self included) had received an ongoing education regarding specific surge issues at their particular address for particular storm conditions, their decisions may have been influenced differently.

Bottom line is this. If the NHC is in the business of providing forecasts with the ultimate intent of saving life, limb, and property, then it is incumbant upon them to seriously reconstruct their forecasts by giving absolute (as opposed to secondary) and obvious (as opposed to secondary) attention to the SPECIFIC surge potential for landfalling storms.

I mean, even the use of the word "WEATHER" in their mission and vision statement might tend to lead one to belive they are talking more about atmospheric conditions as opposed to the "other" threats associated with a landfalling system.

Certainly the threat from a tropical system is potentially greater than might be deduced from the true definition of "weather" i.e., atmospheric variables such as temperature, moisture, precipition, wind velocity, winde direction, and barometric pressure.

NHC Mission and Vision

Mission
(Why We Exist)

To save lives, mitigate property loss, and improve economic efficiency by issuing the best watches, warnings, forecasts and analyses of hazardous tropical weather, and by increasing understanding of these hazards.

Vision
(What We Hope to Achieve)

To be America's calm, clear and trusted voice in the eye of the storm, and, with our partners, enable communities to be safe from tropical weather threats.
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/mission.shtml


BTW - I'm in no way bashing the NHC. On the contrary, I belive they do a remarkable job. All I'm saying is they've got to make their forecasts send the signal that the SURGE impact is equally as great - well, actually MUCH greater - than the WIND impact. As it stands now, and historically, that is simply not the case...
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Re: 400 still missing from Ike

#22 Postby jinftl » Thu Oct 09, 2008 10:28 pm

The challenge is that the NHC has no authority to force people to heed their warnings...there has to be a coordinated effort between the NHC, local officals, and even the federal government.

Telling people to leave is not as effective as convincing people it is in their best interest to leave.....still thinking of the idea in my prior post of shutting utilities down 48 hours in advance in a surge zone....no a/c for 2 days willl get people out...and if they need help to leave, that has to be in place too.

Ixolib wrote:
Alladin wrote:They had more than adequate warning, yet they chose to stay. End of story.
Yeah, that's quite an easy statement to make --- until you're the one who made the wrong/bad decision....

I personally know a bunch of folks on the MS Gulf Coast who are/were thinking, knowledgable, educated, and learned individuals (self included) who also learned quite quickly they made a bad decision on the day/evening before Katrina hit.

No doubt, hindsight is 20/20, but I believe if the public (again, self included) had received an ongoing education regarding specific surge issues at their particular address for particular storm conditions, their decisions may have been influenced differently.

Bottom line is this. If the NHC is in the business of providing forecasts with the ultimate intent of saving life, limb, and property, then it is incumbant upon them to seriously reconstruct their forecasts by giving absolute (as opposed to secondary) and obvious (as opposed to secondary) attention to the SPECIFIC surge potential for landfalling storms.

I mean, even the use of the word "WEATHER" in their mission and vision statement might tend to lead one to belive they are talking more about atmospheric conditions as opposed to the "other" threats associated with a landfalling system.

Certainly the threat from a tropical system is potentially greater than might be deduced from the true definition of "weather" i.e., atmospheric variables such as temperature, moisture, precipition, wind velocity, winde direction, and barometric pressure.

NHC Mission and Vision

Mission
(Why We Exist)

To save lives, mitigate property loss, and improve economic efficiency by issuing the best watches, warnings, forecasts and analyses of hazardous tropical weather, and by increasing understanding of these hazards.

Vision
(What We Hope to Achieve)

To be America's calm, clear and trusted voice in the eye of the storm, and, with our partners, enable communities to be safe from tropical weather threats.
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/mission.shtml


BTW - I'm in no way bashing the NHC. On the contrary, I belive they do a remarkable job. All I'm saying is they've got to make their forecasts send the signal that the SURGE impact is equally as great - well, actually MUCH greater - than the WIND impact. As it stands now, and historically, that is simply not the case...
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Re: 400 still missing from Ike

#23 Postby Dionne » Fri Oct 10, 2008 6:59 am

If you really want to get someones attention that refuses to evacuate tell them to please write their social security number in indelible ink on their chest so that their body can be confirmed.
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Re: 400 still missing from Ike

#24 Postby Ed Mahmoud » Fri Oct 10, 2008 10:50 am

Not to speak poorly of those who made poor decisions, NHC and local NWS forecast offices for both Katrina and Ike, made very ominous statements, that made it clear the danger was incredibly high.


I don't think the NWS could have done anymore.
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Re: 400 still missing from Ike

#25 Postby Shoshana » Fri Oct 10, 2008 4:26 pm

Interesting point about turning off utilities. I wonder how many of the 40 structure fires in Galveston would have been avoided if the gas lines were shut down? That's really the only utility I'd say you could safely shut down ahead of time.

If you were to shut off electric you need to make darn sure you have evacuated everyone that needs electricity to live. I don't think you can shut off water - doesn't the pressure in the pipes help keep saltwater out? (unless the pipes crack of course!)

On Bolivar, in hindsight, telling people they were going to turn off ALL utilities 48 hours before impact might have saved some people. Maybe. If they didn't think they could 'ride it out' anyway.

The NHC did say that if you didn't evacuate you had a high chance of dying. But people looked at the wind speed, the cat rating and thought NHC was over reacting. The NHC needs to make a bigger deal about surge. Like in addition to a Hurricane warning, they need a Surge warning too or something.
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Re: 400 still missing from Ike

#26 Postby Ixolib » Sat Oct 11, 2008 3:58 pm

Ed Mahmoud wrote:I don't think the NWS could have done anymore.
I believe they could now embarke upon a more long-term and focused educational process of teaching coastians about the the surge issues related to landfalling hurricanes, and in addition, make their landfall forecasts much more specific (as in "less general") to an actual area as opposed to a regional area. For instance, with Katrina, I heard (and I quote) "storm surge 15 to 20 feet near and east of landfall -- and up to 28 feet locally". So, my mind heard "15 feet" (I mean, come on, I live all the way over in Biloxi!!!!!!!) and I just assumed the "locally" meant someone else but of course not me (stupid me...)!! Had the 15' been the case in Biloxi, I'd have faired quite well with that storm and perhaps needed only a few new shingles. Unfortunately, the exact opposite turned out to be the reality.

So, I'm really in agreement with Shoshana who earlier said:
Shoshana wrote: The NHC did say that if you didn't evacuate you had a high chance of dying. But people looked at the wind speed, the cat rating and thought NHC was over reacting. The NHC needs to make a bigger deal about surge. Like in addition to a Hurricane warning, they need a Surge warning too or something.
:uarrow: AMEN!!
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Re: 400 still missing from Ike

#27 Postby Sanibel » Sat Oct 11, 2008 4:19 pm

Sounds like a few concrete hurricane shelters would have saved some lives.
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#28 Postby CajunMama » Sat Oct 11, 2008 5:12 pm

They're adults who make the decision to stay. Whatcha gonna do? You could probably scream till you're blue in the face and they still wouldn't have budged. I don't mean to sound mean and callous but it is up to the individual to do what he/she wants to do. It's their decision to stay and unfortunately a fatal decision by many.
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Re: 400 still missing from Ike

#29 Postby Ixolib » Sat Oct 11, 2008 9:00 pm

Sanibel wrote:Sounds like a few concrete hurricane shelters would have saved some lives.
Absolutely -- as long as they're about 40 feet above sea level... But, on the other hand, if all coast dwellers were housed at 40 feet above sea level - even in a plain old basic stick & nail subdivision house - the deaths resulting from virtually ANY storm would be quite minimal.
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Re:

#30 Postby Ixolib » Sat Oct 11, 2008 9:20 pm

CajunMama wrote:They're adults who make the decision to stay. Whatcha gonna do? You could probably scream till you're blue in the face and they still wouldn't have budged. I don't mean to sound mean and callous but it is up to the individual to do what he/she wants to do. It's their decision to stay and unfortunately a fatal decision by many.
Which is exactly why I say significantly improved education, coupled with much more suscinct surge forecasting and warning, is necessary.

I'm not talking about screaming, I'm talking about:
a. Informing each and every address - individually - exactly where they stand in relation to sea level. Obviously, a local issue - not the NHC.
b. Providing forecasts with greater surge awareness for specific areas at and to the right of landfall.
c. Getting away from generalities on surge by getting much more specific on the issue.
d. Stopping the use of ranges (i.e., 15' to 20') and instead use absolutes (i.e., 20' or 25' or 28' or whatever the highest value happens to be).
e. Stopping the use of the phrase "locally higher" by replacing it with an absolute value for each specific area of coasline within the warned area.
f. Providing on-going, focused, and concerted education regarding the relationship of surge, category, landfall angle, and wave action atop the surge. (By now, everyone knows about the wind issues but very few have had the same drilled into their heads about the surge issues!!)
g. Letting those in the "surge areas" know -- well ahead of time -- that they will be F-O-R-C-E-D to leave their location when a landfalling hurricane is expeted to bring life-threatening SURGE conditions to their neighborhood. IOW, change the laws to make mandatory evacuation truly mandatory.
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Re: 400 still missing from Ike

#31 Postby Sanibel » Sun Oct 12, 2008 10:12 am

Perhaps a before and after picture shown of Bolivar in the media and by hurricane flier in the mail to residents in vulnerable areas.
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Re:

#32 Postby MiamiensisWx » Sun Oct 12, 2008 2:05 pm

CajunMama wrote:They're adults who make the decision to stay. Whatcha gonna do? You could probably scream till you're blue in the face and they still wouldn't have budged. I don't mean to sound mean and callous but it is up to the individual to do what he/she wants to do. It's their decision to stay and unfortunately a fatal decision by many.

If the adults had kids with them, your views could change, especially if the adults' unwillingness to evacuate endangers the children.

That's where the issue becomes more contorted. If adults are solely involved, your points are very valid, but it appears to be a different story when the adults are responsible for kids' safety.

Of course, this post merely represents my views...
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Re: 400 still missing from Ike

#33 Postby GalvestonDuck » Sun Oct 12, 2008 5:28 pm

Sanibel wrote:Perhaps a before and after picture shown of Bolivar in the media and by hurricane flier in the mail to residents in vulnerable areas.


For me, the before and after pics of Galveston in 1900 were enough. I've sworn I'd never stay for even a Cat 1 or the threat of a Cat 1. Heck, I didn't even stay on the island for Edouard (and was more than happy to laugh about it later). Anyone who knows the history of the island should have known what we were in for, seawall or not. Everyone *should* have already seen the surge zone maps before this. Or those who hadn't surely should have been informed by those who had.

I'm not sure what the media was saying about the warnings because I was too busy packing my car, moving it to higher ground, and then hauling my butt outta Dodge. But I do know what the NHC said and I repeated it to a number of people -- "life-threatening inundation is likely...those who stay face certain death." The few times I did watch the news or weather, I wasn't seeing enough about that.

I know of at least two people who got off the island late in the afternoon on Friday. So I'm not sure how accurate the numbers are of those who stayed and rode out the whole storm. All I can say is that those people who stayed had no excuse. But I believe it was fewer than the news reports said.
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#34 Postby DanKellFla » Sun Oct 12, 2008 8:00 pm

Until a nationwide surge map is created, the NHC/NWScan only give vague, and dire warnings. I live in South Florida and a Storm like Ike would not have had a surge arriving so far ahead of time. When I saw Ikes surge so far ahead of the storm, I learned something new about the geography of the Texas coast. I had no idea that a surge could arrive so far ahead of a storm. Interesting, but this is not the way I wanted to find out about that.

Does anybody know what the current missing persons count is? Thanks.
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Re: 400 still missing from Ike

#35 Postby GalvestonDuck » Mon Oct 13, 2008 8:26 am

DanKellFla wrote:Does anybody know what the current missing persons count is? Thanks.


The Laura Recovery Center's site lists 143 missing from Ike, but I'm sure that's in a limited area. http://www.lrcf.net/Ike/display.names.cgi At least two on that list are patients I recognize from UTMB.

Speaking of UTMB and missing -- it's not doing Galveston any good to have seven hospitals, over 10,000 employees, and 2500 medical and nursing students out of commission. We're coming back slowly but surely. But it's been hell. The main hospital is still being remodeled and can't open until the sprinkler and fire alarm systems are working, as well as getting the pharmacy, blood bank, admitting offices, and food prep areas back in full swing (all were on the first floor along with many other ancillary services). Other buildings are in the same condition and we have to sign in and out as a safety precaution.

So far, the cost of Ike to UTMB alone has been over $700 million.
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Re: 400 still missing from Ike

#36 Postby Ed Mahmoud » Mon Oct 13, 2008 9:39 am

Dead tree Sunday Chron said authorities suspect most of the 'missing' are on the lists in error, but there are about twenty five people, mostly elderly, who lived on the Bolivar Pensinsula that the authorities suspect are dead. Story had details about cadaver dogs and handlers, with an armed escort to make sure the dogs didn't become alligator food.

The dogs have marked several debris piles as 'hot spots' that need to be excavated, and authorities also suspect some cars in the bay may have corpses in them.
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Re: Re:

#37 Postby jinftl » Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:57 am

The challenge with using absolute numbers...and not ranges...is that the storm path is not set in stone when warnings would need to be issued. A deviation of even 50 miles could have huge surge implications for a given area. When the evacuations would need to take place, the storm would still be offshore, and people would need to understand and accept the possibility that a deviation in track from that time until ultimate landfall could take place.

If you tell an area they will see a 26' surge...and at the time that warnings is issued, that would be the case given the forecast track....but the ultimate landfall is 50 miles from that point and a 12' surge is all that area actually sees, you have the risk of a 'cry wolf' claim and people won't leave the next time a 26' surge warning is issued....except then it could be a direct hit.

Forecasting is not an exact science so exactly knowing the surge depth for 'point x' 24 or 48 hours out will not be possible given the normal error in landfall forecasts that far out....the time when preparation and evacuation is needed.

Ixolib wrote:
CajunMama wrote:They're adults who make the decision to stay. Whatcha gonna do? You could probably scream till you're blue in the face and they still wouldn't have budged. I don't mean to sound mean and callous but it is up to the individual to do what he/she wants to do. It's their decision to stay and unfortunately a fatal decision by many.
Which is exactly why I say significantly improved education, coupled with much more suscinct surge forecasting and warning, is necessary.

I'm not talking about screaming, I'm talking about:
a. Informing each and every address - individually - exactly where they stand in relation to sea level. Obviously, a local issue - not the NHC.
b. Providing forecasts with greater surge awareness for specific areas at and to the right of landfall.
c. Getting away from generalities on surge by getting much more specific on the issue.
d. Stopping the use of ranges (i.e., 15' to 20') and instead use absolutes (i.e., 20' or 25' or 28' or whatever the highest value happens to be).
e. Stopping the use of the phrase "locally higher" by replacing it with an absolute value for each specific area of coasline within the warned area.
f. Providing on-going, focused, and concerted education regarding the relationship of surge, category, landfall angle, and wave action atop the surge. (By now, everyone knows about the wind issues but very few have had the same drilled into their heads about the surge issues!!)
g. Letting those in the "surge areas" know -- well ahead of time -- that they will be F-O-R-C-E-D to leave their location when a landfalling hurricane is expeted to bring life-threatening SURGE conditions to their neighborhood. IOW, change the laws to make mandatory evacuation truly mandatory.
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Re:

#38 Postby wxman57 » Fri Oct 17, 2008 3:00 pm

DanKellFla wrote:Until a nationwide surge map is created, the NHC/NWScan only give vague, and dire warnings. I live in South Florida and a Storm like Ike would not have had a surge arriving so far ahead of time. When I saw Ikes surge so far ahead of the storm, I learned something new about the geography of the Texas coast. I had no idea that a surge could arrive so far ahead of a storm. Interesting, but this is not the way I wanted to find out about that.
... snip


No such "nationwide surge map" is possible. Storm surge depends on a variety of factors, and none of which is its Saffir-Simpson rating. Most important is the size of a hurricane's wind field, the shape of the coastline and the bathymetry offshore. Also important is the angle and speed at which the hurricane approaches.

So an accurate prediction of storm surge at a location relies on a perfect forecast of both track and wind field size. If the forecast is off even 10 miles it can make a significant difference in the storm surge at a given location. Since evacuations need to be started 2-3 days before impact, and the average track error that far out is over 150 miles, there's no way to be confident in even an approximate surge range. Just too many variables that we don't know and can't forecast.

As for the surge arrival time, you're talking about two different things as far as Ike's surge. There is the true storm surge that arrives about an hour ahead of the eyewall and then there's what's called a "setup tide". A setup tide is an increase in coastal tides due to strong onshore winds in combination with large waves crashing into the coast. Such setup tides can arrive days ahead of a hurricane's eyewall, shutting off evacuation routes quite early. We saw this with Frances in 1998. Frances was nearly stationary in the central Gulf, producing a large area of 40-50 kt winds blowing from east to west right into the upper Texas coast. This fetch of strong winds pushed tides 5-8 feet above normal 2-3 days before the center finally moved inland. But this isn't a storm surge.
The early arrival of a setup tide can be predicted if we can predict the general movement and size of a hurricane (or TS).
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#39 Postby DanKellFla » Sun Oct 19, 2008 9:47 am

Thanks wxman57, really good information. Everything seems obvious now that you mention it. So, I guess we are back to 'Listen to the Weather Service' and 'Just because the last storm didn't get you, doesn't mean that this one won't.'

I would rather evacuate 9 times for no reason, than not evacuated one time and wish I did.
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Re:

#40 Postby jinftl » Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:45 am

We need to take our cues from nature...so many times when a storm is approaching, people will report seeing the animals acting unusually. I will never forget the image of about 100 ducks sitting in a circle in a protected courtyard of my condo complex during the brunt of hurricane wilma. One of the most striking images I have ever seen.

What I am trying to say, is that if a storm threatens, ordinary life does get interrupted, even for the ducks. Living in harmony with our environment is not a concept that we have really been taught or even practice. When you are lucky enough to live on the ocean's edge, there needs to be an understanding that even such a beautiful setting can be dangerous at times. Living in harmony with that would be recognizing that and getting out of harms way when a storm surge threatens.

If you are under a hurricane warning and live in an evacuation zone ordered to evacuate, how can it ever be said that 'we evacuated for nothing' if an area is lucky enough to be spared the worst? Is saving your own and your family's life a 'for nothing' decision to make? We need to start listening more and thinking less in some respects...if we are told to leave due to a storm, we need to take that seriously and understand the message....a direct hit will inundate my community. Drowning is not a 'somewhat survivable' risk to encounter. If your home is in a surge zone and 15' above sea level and a 20' storm surge is forecast given a direct hit, people need to understand that subjecting themselves and their family to water 5' above their heads is worth leaving for.

If people feel they are veteran storm survivors and made it through some landmark storms without flooding, they are blessed. But there is no scientific reason why an area 15' above sea level in a surge zone will not flood with a 20' storm surge given a worst case hit. Why one area 15' above sea level in a surge zone did not flood with "(fill in the blank with a name like Camille, Audrey, Hugo, etc)" has more to do with that areas location in relation to landfall than anything else.

Rarely have I heard that people stayed behind because they didn't know a storm was coming or didn't know that an evacuation order is in effect. More often people stay because they have made the decision that 'it is not coming here'. We hear it all on the time....storms don't hit Tampa, storms don't hit after a certain month, etc. It is not the lack of easy to understand info that is the problem, it is that people are making catastrophically bad decisions to gamble with their lives. Of course evacuating is stressful and a nuisance and maybe even logistically a challenge...but how is that the ducks know to change locations and seek refuge during a storm but humans throw 'caution to the wind' and become the real 'sitting ducks'?

The public needing better surge forecasts is a very small part of the solution to getting better compliance with evacuation orders. Such forecasts are not even possible given the margin of error of a storm 2 days out from landfall. All that the public needs to understand is that if they are under a hurricane warning and ordered to evacuate, that means a direct landfall..or a worst case hit... will probably drown them and their famlies if they stay. They may luck out, but if it comes to pass, they are doomed. Officials have done the leg work for us...taken the guesswork out....they don't order evacuation orders lightly. They have the maps and data to back those decisions up...that goes with the whole 'public service' aspect of their jobs.

Warnings during Katrina and Ike come to mind....they are some of the most graphic warnings I have ever read. A day or 2 before landfall terms like 'certain death is likely' and 'uninhabitable for months' were used by the NHC and NWS offices. Honestly I expected them to receive some criticism for being 'alarmist.' That invokes much more of a reaction in me than some 'code red, level IIIA storm surge warning' that may be issued....and the public can understand that better as well. I think the ability of the public to understand the threat of a storm is underestimated. What they do with that comprehension, however, is another thing.

It comes down to this...if you don't believe in your mind that a storm, regardless of category (and boy oh boy....what an education some major metro population areas lke Houston and South Florida have gotten in the last few years on even what cat1/cat 2 conditions can do thanks to ike and wilma), you are not going to respond appropriately no matter the warning system in place. If you are told to leave, go with flow...best case, it was a nuisance and waste of time and stressful. Consider those some of the inevitable 'perks' of being alive and safe.

DanKellFla wrote:Thanks wxman57, really good information. Everything seems obvious now that you mention it. So, I guess we are back to 'Listen to the Weather Service' and 'Just because the last storm didn't get you, doesn't mean that this one won't.'

I would rather evacuate 9 times for no reason, than not evacuated one time and wish I did.
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