Monday, September 19, 2005

Smoke on the water

A friend of mine lives on a boat in Galveston harbor; a lot of you know him and of course I've mentioned him before, Jim from Smoke On The Water.

Galveston may be the point of Landfall for Rita. Even if it isnt, the projected tracks will all result in significant storm surges for the entire Gulf Coast.

Right now Jim is securing and preparing the "New Dawn", and within her the remainder of his worldly goods (anything that doesn't fit in his land yacht with his exceedingly unhappy cats); and waiting for a better picutre of whether he needs to evacuate or not.

I don't know if you've ever been out in a small craft in a heavy storm. There is nothing that can so fiercly remind you of the power of nature as being in a little tiny boat, on the great big ocean.

Perversely however, you are actually safer OUT of the harbor, and well offshore, when there are large storm surges involved. A 10 or 12 foot storm surge (and there are wildly varying predictions for tropical storm/soon to be hurricane Rita from 6-20 feet) can take a small boat a half mile inland, or smash her against a seawall in a heartbeat.

Galveston is a relatively protected harbor, and the hope is that Rita will keep to a category 2, or at least reduce to it by the time the effects reach Galveston on Thursday or Friday.. unless she speeds up or veers off or does any other crazy thing.

See, hurricane models are a little bit better than what we engineer types call WAGs.

I think you can figure out what a WAG is.

The environmental variables that combine to produce a hurricanes track are so numerous, and so complex, that it takes a fair percentage of the worlds supercomputing resources to calculate them, and even then they have about a 50% accuracy rate on a good day.

So the WAG is that Rita will intensify to a cat 2 or low cat 3 storm by late Wednesday early Thursday, with a significant effect on NO (yes, god really does hate you. Just face it now, he wants the big easy to die. No really, I'm serious, god must hate Mardi Gras or something. Maybe he didnt get enough beads last year); then diminish to a category two or strong cat 1 and make landfall somewhere along the texas gulf coast.

So basically, unless it takes a good turn north, or dumps a lot of energy before it hits the gulf coast (both of which are possible, but both of which would screw an already devestated area even harder), Galveston is in trouble. Best case scenarios, they see a 6 foot or so storm surge, and 40-50kt winds (that assumes the eyes passes to the far north).

6 FT. storm surges are about the most a moored boat in a slip can take without serious damage, and possible loss. Even in a protected anchorage with a long rode, the forces on the vessel, cable, and anchor itself are tremendous.

Good luck Jim, and let's hope this thing loses power (it's 50/50 to do so in theory), and you stay frosty brother.