Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Storm Warning

The novel the Colonel has been working on supposes a Category III hurricane hitting the Northeast megalopolis -- overwhelming the Feds -- followed in a couple of weeks by a 7.8 temblor on the New Madrid fault. 

So much for originality...

News of the 5.8 earthquake that rattled the East Coast today is taking up all of the oxygen in the room, but the Colonel's eyes have been glued to a hurricane gathering steam south of the Bahamas.  Hurricane predicted paths five days out are notoriously inaccurate. 

But, this much is clear:

If a Category IV hurricane races up the Eastern Seaboard this week, or any week, there is great potential for a disaster that will make Katrina pale white in comparison.

The following Forward extract from the Colonel's book in progress (working title: "Tallahatchie") provides a concise 200 year history of hurricanes hitting the vicinity of New York City.

"Three years after the earthquake series [New Madrid, 1811/12] that struck the middle Mississippi Valley, a Saffir-Simpson Scale Category 3 hurricane struck New York City, washing over Long Island and dramatically rearranging the barrier island features.  Another even stronger Category 4 storm, the so-called Norfolk and Long Island Hurricane struck the city in 1821, swamping Manhattan under a 13 foot tidal surge.  Seventy-two years later a mere Category 2 hurricane made landfall on Long Island and completely washed away a mile long barrier island and brought waste deep water to the streets of Brooklyn.  One and a half million inhabitants were eyewitnesses.  
In September of that year a hurricane formed off the west coast of Africa and rapidly grew to Category 5 strength.  The monster storm roared straight west across the Atlantic until it was north of the Bahamas and then turned north.  On the afternoon of September the 21st, only a couple of hours short of astronomical high tide, the storm sliced across the middle of Long Island, having weakened to a strong Category 3.  Still, the hurricane carried with it a storm surge in excess of fourteen feet.  Making landfall as it did to the east of Manhattan, the city only experienced 75 mile per hour winds and minor flooding as winds backed up the East River.  The Eastern end of Long Island, on the storm’s stronger right side, took the brunt of the storm.  Barrier islands and inlets were rearranged; roads and structures washed away, and 100 people lost their lives.  The storm barreled north across Long Island Sound and bulls-eyed the city of Westerly, Rhode Island.  The eastern quadrant of the storm pushed full moon and Autumnal Equinox tides straight up Narragansett Bay and poured thirteen feet of water into downtown Providence.  Although on the weaker western side of the hurricane, water piling up in Long Island Sound inundated Connecticut’s coastal cities and caused the most damage from a natural disaster in that entity’s 350 year history.  By the time the storm tracked over Massachusetts and New Hampshire and then dissipated over Ontario, Canada, nearly 800 people were dead.  The storm destroyed or severely damaged 30,000 dwellings, destroyed 25,000 automobiles, and severely disrupted rail and road transportation for weeks.

Today, the behemoth megalopolis that is New York and the major cities to its north and south, and whose built-up areas merge and extend nearly without interruption from Washington, DC to Boston, is home to three times the population that existed in 1938.  The building boom that ensued after the Second World War has increased the density and subsequent vulnerability of the infrastructure in the region by a factor of 10...  "
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