Category Archives: Weather

Dominica is still incommunicado

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At the very bottom of The New York Times story about Puerto Rico being without power is this paragraph:

Maria had battered the island nation of Dominica a day earlier. Prime Minister Skerrit described the damage as “mind-boggling” and wrote on Facebook that he had to be rescued after winds ripped the roof off his official residence. But little information has emerged since then, with the storm having taken out phone and power lines on the island.

And that’s the way things still stand. My wife has had two conversations with stateside Peace Corps officials. In the first, they said all PC personnel are safe and accounted for.

That’s it. We haven’t spoken with our daughter or been able to communicate in writing. Which we’re anxious to be able to do.

And there have been virtually no news reports. I’ve grabbed the images above and below from the Facebook page of WIC News, “Your home for Caribbean and global news you can trust.” I hope they don’t mind my using them.

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My mind and heart are focused on Dominica tonight

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This morning, I knew that Hurricane Maria was headed toward Dominica, the tiny Caribbean island where my daughter lives in sight of the sea.

But I was reading that it was a Category 1, and I knew that my daughter would be with the other Peace Corps personnel in a hotel in the city of Roseau — a place U.S. officials considered safe.

I’d heard that by the time the storm reached Puerto Rico it might be a Category 4, and I took that to mean AFTER Dominica. And I had exchanged Facebook messages with my daughter, and she seemed unworried. This was the third time this month the Peace Corps people had gathered at that hotel ahead of a storm, and to her, it seems to have become something of a routine.

So I was shocked when I got come and learned that it was bearing down on Dominica as a Category 4.

And I realized my mistake: American news is tailored to American audiences. And too few Americans are familiar with the Caribbean, beyond a vague notion that Puerto Rico is there. So when that report said it would be a Category 4 when it reached Puerto Rico, it was assuming I didn’t care about Dominica.

But I do. A lot.

Now, American news media have caught on to the existence of the island, and are reporting such things as ”

“‘Extremely dangerous’ Hurricane Maria heading for Dominica, Puerto Rico”

It’s supposed to hit at about 9 p.m. We’re trying to stay in touch with my daughter, but how long will they have wi-fi? If they lose that, and phone service, we’ll just have to wait. Like this is the 19th century or something.

Anyway, that’s what’s on my mind and in my heart tonight. Prayers will be appreciated.

A Dominica scene.

A Dominica scene.

Open Thread for Monday, September 11, 2017

Part of a tree has fallen across my neighbor's driveway. That's all I've seen, I'm happy to say.

Part of a tree has fallen across my neighbor’s driveway. That’s all I’ve seen, I’m happy to say.

I decided to stay home today. You? Here are some possible topics:

  1. Anything to report about Irma? — My parents have no power at their house. They were told about 6,000 homes are in a similar situation. And there’s that tree across my neighbor’s house above. You?
  2. Irma knocks out power to more than 6 million in Florida — Which, I suppose, puts our 6,000 into perspective.
  3. Desperation in Caribbean: ‘All the Food Is Gone’ — And then, farther south, things are worse than that. Which is usually the case.
  4. From Sept. 11 To The Beatles’ British Invasion: How We Remember Our First News Events — It seems incredible to those of us who were stunned by JFK’s assassination, but there are actual, technical adults walking around for whom 9/11 was the first huge news event they can recall. For others, it’s smaller events such as the death of Princess Diana.
  5. Pope Francis: If Trump is ‘pro-life,’ he should extend DACA — You bet.

I do NOT like the looks of this…

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The maps I’ve been seeing today are pretty disturbing.

If Irma makes landfall in South Carolina south of Charleston, and the eye then passes to the west of Columbia, we could be seeing damage and storm surges worse than Hugo — a lot worse, it seems to me.

I’m no meteorologist, nor yet a physicist, but it seems that the counterclockwise winds of the storm would his these population centers much harder than what we experienced in 1989.

And remember, Hugo came ashore as a category 4. This is a Category 5, and then some. The only reason it’s not a Category 6 is that there is no Category 6.

The only solace this course offers South Carolina is the probability of the storm using up a lot of its energy running up the Atlantic coast of Florida.

Which is cold comfort if you live in Florida….

By the way, as you can see, these are screenshots from my Washington Post app, updated at 9:27 a.m. and 2:19 p.m. today…

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Breathing a sigh of relief over Hurricane Irma

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That headline may seem jarring, given that our governor has just pre-emptively declared a state of emergency in anticipation of a storm that may or may not make landfall in South Carolina days from now.

We are, it seems, at “OpCon4.”

But last night, the Category 5 hurricane passed north of the island of Dominica, where my daughter lives and works for the Peace Corps.

She and other Peace Corps personnel went through several days of uncertain waiting to find out whether they’d be evacuated to another island. Then, with the path reducing the threat to Dominica to tropical-storm level, they were simply gathered together in a hotel and stayed on the island.

The weather is fine now, she reports, but Peace Corps officials are having them stay where they are another night, until it’s certain that roads are clear.

Quite right, too. I’m all for caution.

As for the threat to SC, well, I’m concerned, of course. And the effects could be terrible, as we saw last week in Texas. But we live on a biggish landmass, and at the moment I’m less worried than I was the last couple of days…

How much Harvey coverage is enough?

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OK, people are going to start throwing brickbats at me for being mean and uncaring, an apathetic monster.

But I’m not. In fact, I have relatives I saw just the other day down at the beach who have thus far been unable to return to their homes in Lake Charles. I get the human cost. I care.

I’m just asking, how much coverage of Hurricane Harvey do we need? And my tentative answer is, “Maybe a little less than we’re getting.” Or maybe the same amount, played a little bit differently. Or maybe I’m wrong. It’s just a gut thing, based on my experience the last few days.

I ask this as a guy who has spent most of his life as a newspaper editor, figuring out how best to deploy finite resources — people, space, time. You can’t cover everything, so what will you cover, and to what extent? And how will you present it?

I was part of the team at The State that was a runner-up for the Pulitzer in 1989 for our coverage of Hugo (we’d have won it, too, if San Francisco hadn’t had an earthquake in the middle of the World Series). I’m proud of that wall-to-wall coverage that went on for days, weeks, while our state struggled to recover.

But as someone who is sitting outside the affected area, looking at national media outlets, I have to think the coverage, and/or the play, may be a tad excessive.

You may recall — if you’ve read anything other than Harvey coverage — that a lot of people accused Trump of burying the pardon of Joe Arpaio by doing it as the storm bore down on the Texas coast. But here’s the thing about that: News organizations can still cover such a political development, and play it prominently — if they choose to.

The last couple of days, I’ve started wondering about news organizations’ willingness to do so.

In the past day, North Korea fired a missile over Japan. Meanwhile, it was learned that a guy who worked for Trump reached out to a high Russian official for help in building a Trump tower in Moscow at the height of last year’s election.

You will say, But that’s just petty politics, and we need to take a break from that stuff when there’s something that affects real people happening — such as a big storm.

Well, yes and no. Assertions such as that always bring me back to the First Amendment. The reason the press has that special protection in the Constitution is so that it can make you aware of things you need to know in order to be an informed, empowered voter.

The kinds of decisions that you, as a citizen, are called on to make with regard to Harvey, are limited. You can volunteer to go help, if you see a way you can do so and make a real contribution. You can give money, or donate food or clothing, or give blood, if those things are identified as needs. You can tell your congressman you want him to vote to fully fund FEMA.

And I think that coverage that a) communicates the situation fully, and b) clearly shows how you can help is all to the good. Give us that coverage, and plenty of it.

But cover the other stuff, too. And, yes, that is definitely happening, or I wouldn’t know about those things. But I get the impression that these other important stories are getting pushed to the margins.

Look at the home pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times, above and below. Those screenshots contain nothing but headlines about Harvey. If you scrolled down on both of those pages, for at least another half a screen, it would be all Harvey.

And to me, that seems a bit… off. What’s wrong with letting people know, in their first glance at your news offerings, that there are other important things happening as well — such as the aforementioned missile over Japan? Harvey could still get the biggest headlines, and the most of them. But give us some balance, some perspective.

It’s a big planet, and most of it is not affected by Harvey. There’s a lot of other stuff going on. Don’t hold back from telling us anything we need to know about Harvey. But tell us the other stuff as well, and don’t bury it.

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My car is SUCH a crybaby

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Stop me if I’ve mentioned this before…

These days I drive a 1997 Volvo. It’s a great car, although a bit worse for wear. It was my father-in-law’s car, and my wife inherited it from him. The last few months I’ve been driving it, because our larger, newer Buick is more suitable for my wife to chauffeur the grandchildren in.

I love it, especially in the winter, as it’s the only vehicle among our three with heated seats. I hate having hot, dry air in my face. So I fire up the seat, and let the air I’m breathing stay relatively cool. It’s great.

But, being from Sweden, the car gets seriously traumatized by Columbia summers. For one thing, it has air-conditioning that probably works great in a place where a hot summer’s day is about 75 degrees, but tends to get overwhelmed by our Famously Hot days. But that’s OK; I stay comfortable enough.

I can’t say the same for the car. It freaks out, and the most dramatic manifestation of this is that it starts lying pathologically. On a typical summer day, it pretty much always claims that the temperature is 10 degrees higher than it is. It’s like it’s making excuses: You expect air-conditioning to deal with this kinda heat? Are you nuts?!?

Today, I left it parked with the windows and sunroof open, so it wouldn’t get too hot. I came back to the car, and it was claiming that the temp was 108 degrees!

I checked my phone. It was 92.

Again, I love the car, but it is such a whiner…

Ah, for the days of the September Gale

I was riding down on the elevator this morning with a gentleman who regularly breaks his fast at the same place I do.

He was wearing his usual LBJ-style Stetson and some Clemson suspenders, having retired quite a few years back from the extension service.

As we stepped onto the elevator, as people tend to do, we started talking about the weather. (Yes, I know — we should all try harder than that.) Mindful of my audience, I expressed the wish that recently planted fields not be washed away, and mentioned how much nicer it would be if instead of getting our rain all at once, we could have a nice, steady drizzle for a number of days (my wife, the gardener, once told me that was better for crops).

He remarked that the weather used to be kinder that way, long ago. Then he said:

“When I was a boy, 75 years ago, we never heard of hurricanes. We called them…” and he paused to reach back for the term… “September Gales.”

That certainly sounds like a gentler, less menacing time.

I didn’t realize that term was a thing until I looked it up. Turns out it inspired a poem in The New Yorker, back in September 1960:

September gale

No, I wasn’t making a point about anything. Just sharing…

Just to get us in the right mood for the snow…

I’ve got to stop by the Food Lion to make some routine purchases for the weekend, and I’m already dreading having to fight the “Oh, my God; we’re all gonna die!” crowd stocking up on bread and such because the world will be coming to an end with a few flakes of snow.

So I rewatched the video above, to get me into a mood for laughing at the situation…

Has someone decided to burn down the country literally, as well as figuratively?

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Actually, no, as WIS reports

That smoke you see or smell in the Midlands is likely coming from wildfires burning in western North Carolina and northeast Georgia.

One such fire has resulted in the evacuation of the areas near Lake Lure, NC.

A front moving through the area has picked up some of that smoke and has created some hazy conditions.

“Visibility is reduced and people with respiratory issues should be extra cautious outdoors for the rest of the afternoon,” said WIS First Alert Meteorologist Ben Tanner. “Until the wind speed increases mid/late afternoon, smoke will continue to be a problem.”…

So, we have this to contend with as well. I just pass it on, thinking y’all might have been as curious as I was…

No sand dunes in Surfside

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Have any of y’all been to the beach since the hurricane?

My parents are there having some cleanup done around their house in Surfside — the house my grandfather built, and left to my Mom — and my mother sent me this picture, with the caption, “No sand dunes.”

Wow. The dunes we’ve had for the last couple of decades had been artificially restored, but over the years the sea oats had grown on them, and they had become at least natural-looking.

Below is a shot I took of some of my grandchildren playing in an extreme high tide that came all the way up to the dunes — which you can see at left — in July 2015.

So this is a dramatic difference…

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Man, I’ve got to get back down to the beach!

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A couple of post=hurricane stories from down on the coast are making me feel like I’m missing out, stuck here in the Midlands.

First, there’s this item from the Sun News about the million-year-old Megalodon shark’s tooth someone found north of Myrtle Beach. My whole family spends a good bit of their beach time with eyes down looking for sharks’-tooth fossils, and if any of us found anything like this, we could retire happy from the search.

Wow.

I also love the idea that ImagiNation Athletics of Myrtle Beach had of putting the awesome Jason Hurdich, the sign-language guy who got us through Hurricane Matthew, on a T shirt. It looks like Mr. Hurdich is giving us a double “shaka” sign — hence the interest taken by surfers — but The Island Packet reports that to signers, that means “now.”

I got a little bit of sun at the Fair yesterday, which was nice, but it looks like the place to be right now is the beach…

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How has the storm affected you so far?

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I’m just interested in collecting any stories you have of evacuating, or dealing with kids being home from school, or being prevented from doing things you had planned, or whatever.

My club was closed for breakfast this morning, so I made a smoothie and coffee at home. That’s about it for me personally.

My wife was taking care of all four of our grandchildren who live here into town this morning. They were having a good time when I left.

All that bottled water I bought Tuesday night is sitting there in my garage, probably to await the next emergency.

But then… the storm is still headed this way, and I don’t place absolute faith in those projections that say it will continue to glance off the coast. As I read the map, if it were to continue in the direction it’s going in right now, and not turn for the land or anything else, it would be coming straight at us, with the dangerous west side of the storm blowing straight through Columbia.

So I’m not ready to scoff at Matthew yet.

But how is it affecting you?…

Hurrah for Jarvis Klapman!

Look at those beautiful green lines of flowing traffic!

Look at those beautiful green lines of flowing traffic!

The story on the front page of The State about flood-related traffic jams seemed a bit out of sync to me (although I understand plenty of others continue to have trouble), because I read it right after my easiest crossing of the river since the floods.

Opening Jarvis Klapman really made a huge difference. I left the house worried that I was going to be late because I had less than an hour to get downtown… and it was a breeze. I couldn’t believe how well things were flowing on Sunset, until I saw the reason why — cars whizzing overhead on the Jarvis Klapman overpass.

You really don’t appreciate a simple thing like having a 15-20-minute commute until you lose it for a few days. And I would never have thought that closing Jarvis Klapman — which is never particularly crowded — would turn Gervais, Meeting, Sunset, Knox Abbott and Blossom into parking lots at rush hour.

So I’m happy.

How are y’all’s traffic situations going?

The Saluda River is now back to within its banks!

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At least, it is at Quail Hollow, which is all I can testify to for sure. (The Congaree, which I crossed a couple of times today, still looked fairly high — no doubt thanks to the Broad.)

The above photo was taken at 5:31 p.m. today from approximately the same angle as the one below, taken at 10:41 a.m. Monday.

See? I told you there were tennis courts under there…

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Tenenbaums find refuge at hotel in Lexington

File photo: Samuel Tenenbaum at the HQ of Columbia's operation to help Katrina evacuees in 2005.

File photo: Samuel Tenenbaum at the HQ of Columbia’s operation to help Katrina evacuees in 2005.

Concerned about this Facebook message from Inez Tenenbaum, as of Monday evening:

Our home on the Saluda River is flooded and the renovations will probably take six weeks or more. If any of my Facebook friends know of a place we can rent (with two dogs and four cats) please let me know! Thanks so much.

I called and talked with Samuel. I knew how close their house was to the river. You know those pictures I keep showing of the pool and tennis courts at Quail Hollow? They’re like that close — although the house is on stilts.

Samuel says they’re doing OK. They’re in a Quality Inn Suites in Lexington that takes pets, which I found amazing. There are plenty of other flooded-out folks with pets staying there. The dogs are with them. The cats, who as we know fend for themselves, are back at the house with plenty of food — and Samuel is anxious to get back to check on them.

They evacuated on Sunday, just minutes before the Lake Murray floodgates were opened. Good call, since they are very close to the dam — they live in a rural area off Corley Mill Road.

There was already five feet of water in their driveway — not from the river, but from nearby creeks feeding into it. The water was moving too swiftly for a boat to come alongside to pick them up, so Samuel put Inez and the dogs into a kayak and pulled them, wading through the water himself. He told himself while doing so that any snakes in the water had already had the sense to abandon the area.

“Now I know what it’s like to be homeless,” he said — if only temporarily.

This is especially ironic because Samuel ran Columbia’s response to Hurricane Katrina 10 years back, heading up the operation to accommodate refugees from that disaster.

As he sees it, he’s following that protocol: “We established the plan 10 years ago. We put people in motels.” And that’s where he, Inez and the dogs are.

“It’s a bummer, it’s emotional. Here you are, 72 years old” and you have to deal with this. But he’s dealing with it with typical aplomb: “It’s a bummer, it’s emotional. “My name is Noah T-baum,” he’s telling everyone.

As for longer-term rental accommodations, the Tenenbaums have a line on a couple of places, although nothing is set in stone. So pass on any tips you have…

Drone pictures of Lake Murray dam with gates open

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I thought these were pretty cool images shared by the National Weather service yesterday evening, which I just saw. Here’s the caption info:

Drone images of the Lake Murray Dam Spillway. These floodgates have not been used since 1969. Photos courtesy of Ebben M Aley.

Technically, have those floodgates ever been used? Wasn’t the dam rebuilt a few years back? Of course, maybe the floodgate part is original equipment; I don’t know.

Finally, I can see the thing that caused the flooding in my area.

Here’s hoping letting off that pressure did the trick, and the dam remains strong.

Speaking of which, in my household we got to contemplating this passage in The State this morning:

SCE&G operates the lake originally built for hydropower 85 years ago but now a major source of recreation and drinking water for the Columbia area….

Which raises the question — are those good enough reasons to have those millions of tons of water poised over us? Couldn’t we get drinking water some other way?

Needless to say, you and your recreation seem kinda low priorities to me at the moment.

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Saluda River recedes to late-Sunday levels

recedingWell, this is encouraging.

I went down to check the river this morning (8:53 a.m.), and the water had receded to about where it was Sunday evening. The Quail Hollow pool was now visible, although full of filthy river water, and garbage bins that had been floating on Monday were on dry land. Well, not dry land, but merely soggy land.

I apologize for the dimness of the pool and surrounding area. There was this strange yellow thing in the sky that was too bright to look straight at, giving off an intense radiation that caused a backlighting problem.

Anyway, things are looking up in Quail Hollow.

Meanwhile, I’m working from home today. The twins are here because their school is out, and I just didn’t want to spend the day on the other side of the river from them and J. I don’t think there will be further trouble, but who knows. The edges of the road into our subdivision doesn’t look too great…

Now, the Quail Hollow pool is completely inundated

Monday morning, 10:38.

Monday morning, 10:38.

Here’s how I’m keeping track of the rising water…

There was the picture I took of the Quail Hollow pool — which is normally right next to the Saluda River — at 1:09 p.m. Sunday.

Then there was the one I took at 5:18 p.m. Sunday.

This morning at 10:38, the pool was no more to be seen.

Now, let me put this in perspective — especially for my kids in Thailand, who are worried about us: This represents a rise of a couple of feet in about 17 hours. It would still need to rise two or three yards to reach the street, which is the lowest-lying road in Quail Hollow — which is what, 50 feet or so from the high ridge that we are on.

So we’re fine. Our neighbors who spent the night with us because they were told to evacuate checked on their house this morning and there’s no water anywhere near it.

We’re fine.

In fact, watching this slow rise of the river through these images is sort of reassuring. If not regular and normal, it as least has a slow, plodding predictability to it. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.