Wednesday, September 7, 2005

DC without AC

5:30 update:

Tomorrow, from 2:00 to 4:00, the Brookings Institution is sponsoring
"a panel discussion aimed at analyzing the federal, state and local response to hurricane Katrina and identifying next steps to speed the recovery of the Gulf Coast and its people. Experts on homeland security, the armed services, federalism and cities will unravel the questions that will be most important to policymakers moving forward at all level of government: How should disaster relief be organized? How can we better prepare for a natural disaster or a terrorist attack -- including coordinating the national guard and active duty military? How can we address the long term recovery of New Orleans and the rest of the region? And what does Hurricane Katrina mean for the congressional agenda and the Bush Administration's agenda?"

The Washington DC region's natural air conditioning continues this afternoon. Temperatures are mostly in the low 80s with low humidity. Radar is once again clear in all directions. Total precipitation for the month is still 0; the last measurable rain was 10 days ago, on the 28th of August.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Tonight's lows will again be in the mid 60s in the city, near 60 in the 'burbs. Tomorrow will see highs around 85 and slightly higher humidity as winds become more southerly.

Tropical Beat: Two Hurricanes and a Storm

Tropical Storm Ophelia developed this morning from T.D. 16. It has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, and some strengthening is possible. After drifting northwestward at about 3 mph, the 2pm report has the storm stationary about 80 miles off the coast from Cape Canaveral. A tropical storm warning is in effect for central portions of the Florida east coast, and a tropical storm watch is in effect for the northeastern Florida coast. Although a gradual northwestward track is most likely, the "cone of uncertainty" is a circle, indicating the storm could move in any direction. Yesterday we noted that this is only the 5th "O" storm since 1950. Since 1851, there have also been 15th storms in 1887, 1933, and 1936.

Maria appeared to weaken and was downgraded to a tropical storm for a while, but is now back to hurricane strength at 80 mph. It is continuing to move northeastward away from land and is expected to weaken as it also begins to lose its tropical characteristics.

Nate was upgraded to a hurricane this morning with maximum winds of 85 mph. The track is a bit uncertain, but it is expected to pass close to Bermuda tonight or tomorrow morning. A tropical storm warning and hurricane watch are in effect for Bermuda.

The season has been so busy, we lost track of Dr. William Gray's updated forecast for the remainder of the season, issued last week. He is predicting 5 named storms, 4 of which are hurricanes (2 major), for September and 3 named storms, 2 hurricanes (1 major), for October. This gives a total of 20 named storms for the year, including 10 hurricanes (6 major). The Net Tropical Cyclone Activity index is forecast to be 220% of the long-term average.

Katrina's Cost

This week's issue of Business Week, published last Thursday, contains an article "Let Katrina Be a Warning" about the environmental and disaster preparedness policy issues of the storm. It quotes Fred Krimgold, director of the Center for Disaster Risk Management based at Virginia Tech's Advanced Research Institute in Arlington and a Yale classmate of the President:
"[W]e've had a tremendously irresponsible policy, destroying protective natural features while encouraging risky and precarious development."
A Wall Street Journal editorial yesterday commented on the disaster response:
"Mr. Bush is going to have to recognize the obvious initial failure of the Department of Homeland Security in its first big post-9/11 test. The President created this latest huge federal bureaucracy, against the advice of many of us, and we're still waiting for evidence that it has done anything but reshuffle the Beltway furniture."
CNBC reported on the air this morning that the Katrina disaster is costing the Federal government alone $700 million per day. That's about 10 times the cost in a day than the total annual amount cut from the Corps of Engineers fiscal 2006 budget, including a study to protect the New Orleans region from a Category 5 storm. Estimates of the required total Federal spending in connection with the storm's aftermath are now in the range of $200 billion.

House hearings which had been scheduled to examine federal hurricane response were abruptly canceled late yesterday and replaced by joint Senate-House hearings to be announced, according to CNN.

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