Friday, September 23, 2005

"I still see her dark eye[s] glowin'"

It may be a little hard to believe just looking out the window, but it's the warmest day this month in the Washington metro area. The official temperature hit 90 by 2pm, and it was 92 an hour later. Dewpoints are in the sticky 60s. Radar at mid afternoon showed some scattered showers and possible thunderstorms, mainly in the region east of Elkins, West Virginia, and north of Charlottesville. A line has now formed east of I-81 and south of I-66 which will probably stay south of the metro area.


There is still a chance of scattered showers or thunderstorms through this evening. Temperatures will cool and humidities will drop tonight as a cold front near the Mason-Dixon line early this afternoon makes its way through the area. Lows will be in the mid 60s. An easterly flow behind the front will keep skies mostly cloudy tomorrow with temperatures in the mid 70s.

Tropical Beat

Hurricane Rita has been gradually weakening, but it is still a dangerous Category 3 storm with maximum winds of 125 mph as of 5pm. The center of the storm is located about 155 miles east-southeast of Galveston, and it's moving northwest at 12 mph. With a turn a little to the north, it will make landfall early tomorrow morning somewhere between Galveston and the Texas/Louisiana border, closer to Port Arthur than Galveston. The exact position of landfall is important for the location of maximum storm surge, but the area of hurricane force winds extends up to 85 miles from the center, and the area of tropical storm winds extends up to 205 miles from the center.

Minimal Tropical Storm Philippe is now drifting west to threaten Bermuda with tropical storm winds before being absorbed by another low pressure area.

Political Science: Disaster Planning or Planning Disaster?

The WaPo's editorial "Anticipating Rita" may be just a wee bit premature. With Houston hopefully spared the worst impacts of what could have been a more apocalyptic scenario, there could still be some second-guessing on the storm preparations. An "evacuation" which proceeds at half the speed (50 miles in 12 hours) of a storm traveling 9 mph might not be the most efficient that the greatest technological society the world has ever known is capable of. This is especially true if the evacuation process ends up killing more people than the storm itself. Evacuate Galveston in this situation? Absolutely. Evacuate most of metro Houston as well? Probably not. Granted, there are large areas of Harris County which are prone to flood and should be evacuated, but if 2 million people are living in such conditions, it's time to rethink some zoning rules. There are undoubtedly many people who could shelter in place if they know who they are and where to go. Do you know what your altitude is? Many parts of DC are quite low; the elevation of National Airport is only 10 feet. Here in Montgomery County not too far from the Beltway, it's more like 300 feet. (The only reason I know this is because I needed to set the altitude for my barometer.) It's time to ask government officials at all levels some serious questions about what they have done with the hundreds of billions of dollars they have spent in the past 4 years preparing to Defend the Motherland.

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