Should we rebuild after hurricanes?

Over the years, I have thought about owning a house a Mexico Beach, FL. However, I knew that hurricanes are inevitable. So, there is no way I would own one on the beach because it would likely get destroyed by a hurricane. However, I felt better about a house well back from the beach, like a fifth of a mile. Michael’s storm surge leveled even half of the houses that far back.

Over a decade ago, I had a conversation with a coworker about this question. I think where I landed was a buffer zone. I would love the Florida coast to be a series of state parks. Towns can start a tenth of a mile back. The state parks could build sea walls and encourage the development of sand dunes over them. Hopefully, such a plan would better protect them from a storm surge.

The trick though is Mexico Beach is built on a barrier island. The town has not expanded much inland because bay behind the island has mostly filled in to create wetlands. Building there probably means more flooding from rain. So people would go from flooding from storm surges during the occasional hurricane to flooding nearly yearly. So, they would have to still build higher much like New Orleans.

Also, as the sea levels rise, places like Mexico Beach will need to move inland as well.

Framing Dangers

IMG_0163
From my 2015 beach trip

Hurricane Michael leveled much of Mexico Beach, which is a place I know pretty well. Spread out over my lifetime, but a rough impression is, I think, I have spent about half a year at this particular town. That would rank it third longest of places where I have lived.

Several people have expressed surprise about this hurricane was as strong as it was. I wonder if part of the problem is communication. This hurricane quickly intensified. A meteorologist I follow from UGA wrote Tuesday morning when it had increased to a Cat 2:

Michael will likely be a Major Hurricane (Category 3 or higher) at landfall.

And on Monday in Forbes:

As I write this, the [Big Bend] region is staring at the very real possibility of a strong category two or major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) making landfall in the Wednesday-Thursday time frame this week.

He was communicating this storm was quickly intensifying and to expect something far stronger than the usual storms that strike this area. People I love live in Valdosta, which was being named dropped over and over as a likely target for the storm after it made landfall. Everyone I know chose to hunker down and ride it out even as the likely winds to hit Valdosta increased through tropical storm to Cat 1 and Cat 2. People with large trees that could cave in the roof of their homes. My wife’s extended family in the Panama City area also chose to stay.

Why? I called my mother to encourage her to come to stay with us because Valdosta was in the path. She didn’t want to leave. My mother described that Hermine was pretty bad, but it wasn’t that bad for them. A tree damaged just a corner of the roof. Hermine was also a Category 1 with 80 mph winds where it came ashore and probably down to tropical storm strength where Mom lives. Thankfully Michael came ashore well west of Hermine and tracked away from Valdosta family, so they were spared the worst part. We still have not heard from most of my wife’s Panama City family.

So, while meteorologists were trying to say, “this is going to be really bad,” people didn’t really hear it that way. Mom is someone who took meteorology courses in college and wasn’t getting the message. The UGA one has a timeline defending that the NWS did enough to provide notice.

4 am Monday CDT (October 8): …  there is a real possibility that Michael will strengthen to a major hurricane before landfall.

He also said:

Yes, the rapid intensification was shocking but there was plenty of information hinting or explicitly stating that a major hurricane (even category 4) was possible.

I guess my point is hints are not enough. The reason why stores have prices ending in 99 cents is that one extra cent difference lowers sales because people tend to have the impression it is more expensive. Saying “3 or higher” pins people to think 3, not 4 or 5. This effect, called Framing, is pretty well studied in how people make poor decisions because of it. Even marketers study how to use it to influence shoppers. Maybe if some behavioral economics experiments are done to see show Framing affects the way people interpret meteorological messaging, scientists looking not to overstate what they are seeing may learn they are inadvertently giving people a different impression than intended. It is a struggle to be sure, to find the correct way to communicate this stuff.

Stress and decisions

422575945_e293c5d53dSomeone in Athens found some pipe bombs. They took it to the police headquarters to report having found it.

People question how he could do something so dangerous. My reaction is I can easily see someone thinking of the police and taking them there.

The reason why we train people how to conduct themselves in dangerous situations is because people are effectively TERRIBLE left to their own instincts. Our instincts are all over the place. Sometimes good; mostly bad. Think about all the situations where we practice what to do:

  • tornado warning
  • fire
  • active shooter
  • hurricane
  • choking
  • CPR

The hope is the training will overcome any bad instincts and save lives. And these are just a handful of situations. The military wants people for a few years because it is going to take half a year or longer just to get people not using their worst instincts in an extremely wide variety of stressful situations. And the more good training they get, the better behaved in battle they will be.

Choice

Seems like something call “Reader’s Choice Awards” ought to have more than one choice for their categories. A few did, but in most cases there was ONE choice with the option to write-in. There were more categories with NO CHOICES and only write-in than categories with multiple choices. And even then there would be a couple.

Since this is voting on local businesses, one would hope the list reflects a somewhat comprehensive list of businesses. It makes me curious who compiled the categories. Hopefully there was not much effort.

Gunfighters MC

Gunfighters MC
Gunfighters MC Georgia

Driving off from brunch downtown, I followed these three (well, five) for several miles. My motorcycle gang expertise being extremely limited, I used the power of Google to see just what notorious trouble these people have caused. Brawls? Drug dealing? Executions? Terrorism? Probably not Hell’s Angels league but there must be dozens of organizations from forking and the popularity of badassness.

Gunfighters MC appears to be:

Original Gunfighters MC World is a male only international retired and active law enforcement motor cycle club.

Oh.

It was definitely great weather for a bike ride.

In retrospect, yellow and blue do not really seem like the colors of someone seeking to intimidate.

P.S. The end scene of Ocean’s Thirteen where the beat up hotel rating guy wins a million dollars from Rusty’s playing the cheat code was filmed in front of the gate where my plane left Las Vegas from BbWorld in 2008. Maybe it is a sign I should go to BbWorld 2011 also in Las Vegas?

In Search of (No) Snow

Almost See the Loop I grew up south of the snow line. Maybe that was something my mother invented? Columbus, Macon, Augusta, usually known as the Piedmont Line, for us was the snow line. She watched the Weather Channel every day, so she would groan at all the near misses. She would contemplate driving north to catch it, but for some reason we never went. She was also the one checking outside every hour until 1am looking for flurries.

A selling point of moving to the snow side of the snow line was the prospect of actually getting to see snow.

So it surprises me when people on the snow side of the snow line complain about moving there from some place further north because it almost never snows in the south. Especially when in the past year we had a couple inches Feb 2010, a dusting in Mar 2010, a flurry in Dec 2010, and maybe an inch at Christmas. (I was not here for the Christmas one.) Since I have moved here we have had at least an inch of either snow or ice in 2007, 2009, 2010 x2, and now 2011.

Given all the snow we have had in the past twelve months, I would think the future prospects of us having more snow are pretty good for more in the next couple months. Normal snowfall periods for Athens is mid January to first week of March. By the way, average is supposed to be about 2.4 inches a year.

Scott Kelby’s 3rd Annual Worldwide Photo Walk

Just like I went on the walk last year, I went on the Scott Kelby worldwide photo walk in Athens this year yesterday. One local called us the paparazzi. Another asked if there was a photographer convention.

A couple of my takes:

Sunset Crane Founders Garden

Flickr Groups featuring photos from Athens and other walks:

Are Phone Books Necessary?

Southern Pages
Southern Pages

The Georgia Public Service Commission might stop requiring AT&T to distribute paper phone books. The rationale seems to be so many people rely on the Internet and use cell phones the phone books are less useful. That only one percent of people inside the Atlanta perimeter asked for one definitely supports stopping the service. Phasing out delivery would start with with larger populations.

I have only used a phone book once in the past 5 years. I wrote about Georgia Theatre weird phone calls. The local municipal web site provided 4 generic department numbers which didn’t help me much. The last place I lived used to publish the direct line of people in the phone book, so I tried White Pages. When I also didn’t find it there, I tried the text version just in case. Sadly, none gave me what I hoped. So I ended up calling a generic number and after wasting several people’s time, left a message for someone to call me back.

AT&T is only one of three entities offering me a phone book at both home and work. Southern Pages happened to leave a bunch of them where I could take a picture. All this duplication is a waste. I feel like I should only receive at most one every few years as a backup in case online sources are down or not useful.

I would be curious how often information in the books change over a half, one, two, five, and ten year periods. I wouldn’t be surprised if 70% of numbers in phone books don’t change over 5 years.