A Bit About Hurricanes ⚡

Sep 30, 2022 2:01 pm

Happy Friday,

Let me begin this email with the hope that if you or your loved ones are affected by hurricane Ian that they get the help, they need quickly.

I don't suspect any of you know that I grew up on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I've been through dozens of hurricanes growing up. I've even done rescues in them when I worked in Ocean Rescue. So I want to share a bit about how I see hurricanes and what is going on.

First, it seems that hurricanes are getting stranger and stronger. What I mean by that is their paths are less typical than they used to be, and they are reaching higher categories sooner. I'm not saying this as some sort of scientific thing, but rather just watching over the years.

Hurricanes are huge, complicated storms that most people tend to see as wind and rain. However, going through them is a bit more like a play that unfolds over multiple acts as different parts of that hurricane moves around you.

It begins 2-3 days before the hurricane arrives. Hurricanes push the ocean in front of them, and several days before landfall, the swell of waves at the shore often becomes a surfer's paradise. Of course, they may be the only ones interested in 20+ foot tall waves. By now, people should be evacuating, but many don't yet. They don't because there is still, at this point, a ton of uncertainty as to where exactly it will hit and how strong it will be.

I'll come back to the evacuation thing.

Over the next few days, it becomes clear whether the hurricane will or won't hit and how strong it will be. The waves the surfers loved erode and the larger wall of water called storm surge shows up. This storm surge is what can cause the most damage the quickest.

Where I grew up our islands ran north and south. When hurricanes hit us, they ran mostly parallel to us. So the storm surge only glanced us, and our islands were so thin the water could literally run off the back side. Our islands were, in a way, built to handle hurricanes.

But when you see a hurricane hit land straight on, it pushes a wall of water onto it. That water destroys electrical lines, water, and sewage infrastructure quickly while causing huge amounts of property damage.

Then come the winds which tear apart things that were weakened.

Hurricanes are fairly fast-moving storms. It may not seem like it since most coverages of hurricanes is across multiple locations, but it appears to be more lumbering than it is. For most, a hurricane starts and ends within 6-12 hours.

Growing up, we'd all host friends who were more exposed, and we'd all basically camp out in our home for the three or so days around a hurricane. We'd make sure the generator was ready, our neighbors were ready, and we'd make a party out of it. The hurricane itself was a quieter time during those days when we'd watch and wonder what would happen.

And that is going to bring me back to evacuation. There is a reason you almost never see footage of people trying to get back. Evacuation may take days for a location, but returning may take weeks. A lot can happen in that amount of time. For people who think the hurricane may not hit as hard or would like to have a better chance of protecting their homes, staying close is the only way they can make sure they can get to it.

We almost never evacuated growing up. It was always a tough decision.

In the aftermath of a hurricane, the biggest problem people face is water. Not just flooding, but access to clean water becomes almost impossible.

Where I lived, we could mark the ocean with red flags for no swimming for days after the hurricane. Even if the waves or currents were fine, the flags stayed up. One of the reasons was all of the exposed sewage and septic systems.

Anyway, I thought I'd share a little bit of what I've seen about hurricanes. For me, they were a part of my childhood and teenage years, and I forget that it is a pretty unique thing.