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To Shutter, Or Not To Shutter?

I don't have to decide today--it looks like it will still be far enough away tomorrow morning, with a better track, to make the decision then. Right now, I'm inclined not to, even though we're still in the uncertainty cone (but over at the eastern edge of it). Most of the models, other than GFDL, have the thing out in the Gulf or along the west coast of the state. We are on a tropical storm watch on the east coast from Jupiter south, but that's all.

The best outcome overall (other than completely falling apart) would be for it to come up through the swamp and run up the middle of the state, where it would weaken pretty quickly. If it stays out in the Gulf and hits farther north, it could intensify and really pound wherever it comes ashore. Either way, though, barring some dramatic shift in conditions, it looks like we're in for rain and tropical-force winds, at worst, over here on the east coast. That's a lot better than it looked a few days ago, when it looked like it might have come right at us through the Bahamas.

[Early afternoon update]

Well that's good news. Jeff Masters says that this won't be another Charley, despite the similarity in track. One thing that I notice a lot of the weather people talking about are the sea surface temperatures, but they are ignoring the fact that the upper-level winds aren't that favorable for intensification.

[Update at 4:30 PM EDT]

The latest model run (2 PM) has moved it farther to the west, which is bad news for the panhandle, but good news for south Florida. Unless they're all wrong, this thing isn't heading to southeast Florida, and we may not even get much in the way of wind, though we could use the rain. There's actually an outer band moving through Miami-Dade on the radar right now. Hope it makes it up through Broward and into south Palm Beach County.

[5 PM update]

Heh. The headline of one of the stories over at Accuweather is "Florida Approaching Land."

A lot of people who bought swampland down here probably wish that it would do it faster. Now, if they could just give the place a few mountains. Or even hills.

In "The Swamp" (an excellent history of south Florida) the author quotes an early settler who reportedly said, "I've bought land by the acre, and land by the foot, but by God, this is the first time I've ever bought land by the gallon."

Obviously, it was supposed to be "Fay," not "Florida."

[Update a few minutes later]

That was quick. Good thing I caught the screenshot. It now says "Fay Approaching Land."

[Update about 6 PM EDT]

OK, it looks like shuttering tomorrow is definitely off the table. The track, per the models I described above, no longer has us even within the cone. I expect some wind and rain (which we need) but nothing more at this point. The only preparation I did this weekend was to fill up the tank of the car, and it looks like that's all I'm going to do for Fay.

But the hurricane season is still young, and we're heading into the heart of it. It's particularly problematic because I'm going to be in LA for the last week of August and the first week of September, which is one of the highest-probability times for major storms here. I may have to shutter up before I leave, just as a precaution.

[Update a half hour later]

The first squall line from the storm is approaching. Unfortunately, I don't have a camera handy, but it's looking ugly to the south, and the winds are picking up (and the local radar confirms it). We just put in a new tree, which needs watering every day. I've put off doing it all day, in anticipation of this.

[Tuesday morning update]

We didn't actually get much rain from that squall line last night, but about 8:30 this morning, the heavens opened up. The rain's been hard and steady for an hour now. Guess I didn't need to water that satin leaf.

I should note that Brendan Loy's Weather Nerd blog is the go-to place for blogging the storm.

As he notes, it's kind of good news, bad news. The good news is that it's shifted eastward, and will hit Florida sooner, which means it won't have much time to develop. The bad news (for me) is that it will affect the east coast much more than anticipated. Hope I won't regret not shuttering, because it's too late to do so now, unless I want to attempt it in wind and rain. The rains have come sooner than I expected, and a wind gust has already blown off a down spout that I hadn't properly tied to the wall. If I get a break, I might try to fix it later today, though it's not a big problem--just blasting water against the front wall.


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john hare wrote:

Gee, thanks for sending it my way Rand.

Rand Simberg wrote:

No problem. You didn't even have to mention it. I'm sure you'd do the same for me.

Roy Lofquist wrote:

Dear Mr. Simberg,

Just a walking in the rain,
Getting soaking wet..

We can use it.


p.s., course I have the good sense to live in the safe zone.

3 of the 8 models at 8 p.m. are heading to Bangla-cola.

I wish they weren't.

Been there, done that.

cubanbob wrote:

here are a couple of suggestions:

Hire a structural engineer to look at your roof and have him design a reinforcement. For two grand I had it done along with the actual work. My house is beyond the new wind code that goes in to effect in October. Engineer states the house could withstand up to 146mph winds. Forget about collecting from the insurance companies, not likely in today's market, besides what good is a check if your home is gone?

If you can afford it, get impact glass. Make sure that the contractor does not rip you off. If the windows are not anchored in to a reinforced concrete cell they are worthless. That is why you also need to hire the engineer. If done right your house along with the reinforced roof will probably survive a cat. 5 storm. The impact glass will add a lot of sound proofing and frankly makes the house almost burglar proof. Lock the hurricane latches and in 5 minutes your done. Katrina and Wilma passed directly over my house, not a scratch other than landscaping. I slept through both storms, the glass really dampened the noise.

Flood panels: get them if your in a flood zone. They divert the water around the house and keeps it from getting flooded. Unless you are a do it yourself guy,it will cost a couple of grand, but then again you want your home intact.

Generator:not cheap but are more reasonable than in the past. If you have natural gas service available, then not to get one would be foolish. Home Depot sells them for about 6k installed for a 12kw unit. That will provide refrigeration and lights as well as a bedroom a/c. larger units are not directly proportional in price; a 25kw is not twice the money but depending on the size of your home may well power it completely including kitchen and central a/c. Wilma alone, I was without power for 9 days.9 days the generator ran non stop. In 2004/2005 between the storms I was out 28 days without power. 28 days I had power from my generator. My family thought I was nuts when I bought the generator in 2003 but the first hurricane I went from fool to genius.

Also note that power in FL sucks so it would be wise to install a surge suppressor on the mains coming into the home and FP&L also has one for the meter which they charge $9 a month. Its amazing how many spikes and surges I have experienced even with all those suppressors, lightening rod and surge suppressor on the panel. The suppressor on the main has been fried out twice before. Fortunately the suppressor on the panel kept my home from possibly being set on fire. Remember FL is possibly the worst area for lightening in the US. Now with the lightening rod system and its suppressor and the one on the main plus the one on the meter if my home gets fried then it is truly God's will.

Realistically it is not possible to evacuate 5+ million people if a monster storm should develop and hit the state. And the weak storm can become a monster in a few hours. So for those who can afford to do so, not doing so is foolish in the extreme. We are back in the 40's through 60's hurricane pattern and we are going to get hit every few years. For less than the cost of a fancy kitchen remodeling job all of the above could be done. The windstorm insurance reductions could be a significant recovery over 5 years to amortize a large chunk of the work. And if it is done right and you have no mortgage or a small principal balance you could probably cancel the policy and amortize the upgrade costs over 5 or 6 years.

john hare wrote:

Being in the construction industry, I found the last post...interesting.

Reinforcing the roof structure is all well and good. Doesn't keep the shingles on and if the plywood wasn't properly nailed it's gone too. You could end up $2k light with well braced exposed rafters and a flooded house. Checking the plywood nailing and hurricane clips involves a complete reroofing. $2k++. I suspect he got ripped off.

If your home is gone, the insurance check is very good. Cash in fist is crucial if you have a real problem.

Impact glass is nice. Anchoring it is important. What does it cost? Is it worth it for the occasional storm? Getting it done in the orriginal construction is likely a good idea in a seriously storm prone area. Retrofitting with engineers and structural upgrades is major bucks. A lot more than plywood once in a while. The phrase "reaching around your butt to scratch your elbow" comes to mind.

I would like a definition of the flood panels mentioned. For serious flooding $2k doesn't go far. Might help for light storm surge.

Generators are nice if you can use them for something other than the storm every third or tenth year. Something used that infrequently is often unreliable.

Lightning protection does make sense.

We did three hurricanes in six weeks in 2004. Cash in fist is very useful. Spending on every possible disaster is a good way not to have it. Getting the tree off your house is a cash deal. The structural upgrades don't help there.

Overprepared is parallel to the ELV vs RLV arguements. By the time you engineer every possible problem, it gets very expensive. Sometimes it is better to build a little and leave margin resources for error than try to anticipate every possible problem. It is an individual thing though.

tom wrote:

I'm in Key West, at work. We just finished doing our hurricane preps, though it looks more like TS preps. Prepare for rain! ok, signing off...

NativeFloridian wrote:

Your conventional wisdom that

The best outcome overall (other than completely falling apart) would be for it to come up through the swamp and run up the middle of the state, where it would weaken pretty quickly

is not always a model for least damage. I went through Charlie in Orlando in 2004, and it didn't seem much weakened to me. Also, research the Hurrican of 1928 - my mother was 5 years old when it hit central Florida - thousand lost their lives. There is not such thing as a 'good path' for these monster storms.

Anonymous wrote:

John you made some good points. The point of reinforcing the the rafters presupposes that the shingles are well placed and the plywood is properly nailed. That is what inspections and maintenance are for and good, honest contractors.

Generators are great if one can afford one. Maintenance is the key to making sure they work, little things like changing the oil and fluids and letting them run a few minutes a week. Maybe you are fine living in the heat without power for a month but if you factor what a hotel with power will cost you for the same amount of time it offsets a significant portion of the generator installation costs. If the weatherman are right, we are back in the 50's and 60's mode when hurricanes were a nearly yearly event. For the elderly, insulin dependent diabetics and others with medical problems it is less an indulgence and more of a life necessity.

Impact glass is great, it dampens sounds and adds a level of crime prevention. And all being the same, adds to the saleability of the home. Of course if it isn't anchored properly its pretty much worthless for storm purposes. As for the cost it usually double the cost shutters but shutters don't have any practical crime prevention value. It is nice to have your home ready as it can be in a few minutes, that has a value all of its own.

Insurance? Forget it. File a serious dollar claim and you'll be waiting a long, long time to collect. There still hundreds of millions of dollars pending trial dates from Wilma alone in So. Florida. There were eight storms in 2004 and 2005. Yes insurance in principle is better than none, but settling for fractions on the dollar is less than satisfactory. Better to strengthen ones home and avoid most of the probable damage. As for Citizens, if it was a private company without state backing it would be borderline insolvent. And the state isn't exactly flush with cash.

Cash in fist is always a good idea no matter what the weather.

Flood panels aren't going to be much help if your home is on a wide open bay and there is a large storm surge and your home is not elevated but most folks don't have that problem.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on August 17, 2008 8:08 AM.

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