Hurricane Update

 From Harvey to Michael: how America’s year of major hurricanes unfolded: The US has now been hit by four category 4 hurricanes of 130 mph-plus – Harvey, Irma, Maria and Michael – in the past two storm seasons, the most in 150 years of records.

Blog note: And great earthquakes shall be in diverse places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. (Luke 21:11). Jesus is giving a series of prophecies about what to look for as the age of grace comes to a close. This verse from Luke is one of many such prophecies from throughout the Bible. 2017 was the worst year in recorded history for the intensity, frequency, severity, duration and occurrence of a large number of severe natural disasters worldwide. Earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones, torrential flooding, unprecedented wildfires in unusual places, devastating droughts, excessive/scorching heat setting records everywhere, record snowfalls in Europe and Russia. Snow in the Arabia. This list can go on. Most studied eschatologists believe these ‘fearful sights’ and massive natural disasters are all part of the ‘CONVERGENCE’ of signs that this Biblical and prophetic age is closing. Most people who study prophecy are familiar with the routine reference(s) made that these things will be like a woman having labor pains that occur in greater severity, frequency, size and duration prior to giving birth. End of note.

 From Harvey to Michael: how America’s year of major hurricanes unfolded

The past year has been marked by storms of record ferocity, apocalyptic damage and thousands of deaths

Tuesday, October 16, 2018. The Guardian. Oliver Milman.

Just two years after Hurricane Matthew forced her to flee her home temporarily, Adrienne Kennedy has again had to pack her bags and leave. Hurricane Florence, which drenched the Carolinas last month, punched holes in Kennedy’s roof, causing it to collapse.

“You do get kind of hopeless,” said Kennedy, who is renting a place 30 miles away. It may take a year to return safely home to Lumberton, North Carolina. “I was born and raised there. I don’t see myself living anywhere else. You have to be proactive. But it’s all up in the air,” she said.

Kennedy, who has turned into a local organizer for climate resilience and disaster recovery, is far from the only person to suffer repeated hurricanes. Remnants of Hurricane Michael, which roared over Florida’s panhandle and other states last week, hit those still recovering from Florence.

The past year has been marked by hurricanes of record ferocity, apocalyptic damage and thousands of deaths, forcing increasingly frantic discussions about disaster preparedness and climate change.

Florence and Michael have been “devastating for those affected – and for those not affected they should learn from the impact of these storms,” said Jennifer Collins, a researcher of weather and climate at the University of Southern Florida.

After a relatively quiet post-Katrina period – no category 3 storms had made landfall on the US mainland for 10 years until 2016 – the past year or so was a jarring reminder of the toll they can wreak. “We had hurricane amnesia and now our period of good luck has come to a screeching halt,” said Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane expert at Colorado State University.

The US has now been hit by four category 4 hurricanes of 130mph-plus – Harvey, Irma, Maria and Michael – in the past two storm seasons, the most in 150 years of records. Last year’s, which decimated Puerto Rico, drowned parts of Houston and rattled most of Florida, triggered another record in terms of total damages – $306.2bn, eclipsing the previous high from 2005, the year Katrina hit New Orleans.

Every hurricane is different and its impact is shaped by surprisingly subtle variances – wind shear, the depth of the seabed near shore, dry air coming off Sahara dust storms. But climate change is a growing influence, as storms are energized by rapidly heating ocean waters and rainfall is exacerbated by a moisture-laden, warming atmosphere.

“The past couple of years have been seasons of records, and I’m sure we’ll have more to come,” said Collins. “New records may even occur again this year. There’s general agreement in the scientific community that the intensity of the strongest storms are increasing.”

Here’s how America’s year of major hurricanes unfolded.

Hurricane Harvey – record flooding

In August last year, Hurricane Harvey smashed into Texas, near Rockport, with 130mph winds, the first category 4 storm to hit the US in 12 years. It slowly meandered across east Texas triggering biblical floods – more than 30in of rain fell on to 7 million people in a few days. In Nederland, Texas, rainfall reached 60.5in, a US record.

Over six days, more than 20tn gallons of water poured on to Texas and Louisiana. Eighty-nine people died. More than 200,000 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, with $127bn in damages – a cost rivaled only by Katrina in US hurricane history.

“We got 17in of water with Harvey,” said Gaye Marie Thurmond, who had to flee her Houston home of 40 years. It was subsequently demolished. “I think it gave me PTSD, my brain was in a fog. People are still suffering down here because of it.”

Hurricane Irma – record duration of speed

If Harvey’s mode of destruction was rainfall, Irma was notable for extraordinary, enduring pace.

Hurtling into the Florida Keys as a category 5, Irma wiped out a quarter of the Keys’ buildings before surging up the spine of the state. Unlike Harvey, which slowed and dumped buckets of rain, Irma maintained wind speeds of 185mph for 37 hours – the record in modern measurements. It cost 97 lives and $51bn in clean-up costs.

“Irma was a real outlier; it’s incredible it stayed so fast for so long,” said Klotzbach.

Hurricane Maria – Puerto Rico’s deadliest disaster

Maria pummeled other Caribbean islands but is chiefly remembered for devastating Puerto Rico, where about 3,000 people died.

The category 4 storm affected the whole island, crippling the electricity grid, tearing off roofs and causing deadly mudslides. A year later, Puerto Rico is still dealing with multiple problems caused or worsened by Maria.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) response to Maria, at a time when it was overstretched by the previous hurricanes, has been widely criticized, as has Donald Trump for arriving in the US territory late, then jocularly throwing paper towels to residents in front of the cameras, and later spreading a baseless conspiracy theory about the estimated death toll.


The thread linking Harvey, Irma and Maria was “rapid intensification fueled by warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures and additional water vapor, which provide the main fuel for storms”, said Jennifer Francis, an extreme weather expert at Rutgers University. Researchers know storms are gathering pace far quicker than they were 30 years ago, with climate change expected to add even more speed.

Hurricane Florence, wettest storm to hit the Carolinas, and Hurricane Michael, strongest storm to hit Florida Panhandle

Compared with recent hurricanes, Florence was relatively sluggish when it made landfall as a category 1 storm, although still bringing 100mph winds and a 10ft storm surge to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

Rain was the biggest catastrophe. A large, slow-moving storm, Florence crawled across the Carolinas, dumping as much as 35in of rain. Roy Cooper, North Carolina’s governor, called Florence an “epic storm that brought unprecedented, widespread disasters”, causing an estimated $13bn in damages.

Michael arrived on its heels, but a different beast – a tropical storm that within two days morphed into a major hurricane, unleashing a sneak attack on Florida’s Panhandle.

It accelerated rapidly across the Gulf of Mexico, reaching 140mph. Michael obliterated Mexico Beach and Panama City, delivering 14ft in storm surge. It plunged over a million homes and businesses across six states into darkness. The latest death toll of 18 is expected to rise.

“With warmer oceans and increased atmospheric water vapor, these rapidly forming storms are likely to occur more often,” Francis said.

The year of hurricanes has delivered painful lessons to Americans on a range of related issues, from building regulations that help homes stay upright and dry, and residential proximity to a rising ocean, to whether the Saffir Simpson wind scale, used to rank storm strength, is an out of date system for assessing overall risk.

“It is simply a wind scale,” said Collins. Some people “chose unwisely” to ride out Florence when it weakened to a category 1 storm.

Will the US government continue to face the cost of repeated disasters without admitting the role of climate change in exacerbating them?

“We need to build back smarter and realize the impact climate change will have, rather than dismiss it,” Klotzbach said.

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