Friday, January 04, 2008

The Great Storm of '08

At least, I hope this is the biggest one; oops, the lights just flickered. Power's on now, but not for about 300,000 people elsewhere; and it was off when we got up. We're in the second of three storms, here, and the Bay Area is essentially closed due to weather. Some of it - the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, for instance - is actually closed. Also Golden Gate Transit bus and ferry service - you have to drive to get from Marin to S.F., and watch the roads for flooding. And don't even think of flying into or out of SFO today.

Winds over the bay are gusting to 70 MPH (80 MPH in Los Gatos); they closed the Richmond Bridge, if I heard the traffic report on KQED FM correctly, when a Safeway delivery truck blew over onto a fire truck. The article doesn't mention the fire truck. BART is mostly functional except in western S.F. where a tree blew down over the tracks and a train hit it. The National Weather Service has issued every weather advisory they have except tornado: small craft, high wind, high surf, flash flood watch, flood warning.

It isn't just the Bay Area either - the Sierras are expecting up to 10 feet of snow in one storm, and they've forecast 100 MPH winds. This would NOT be a good weekend to drive up to Tahoe for the skiing.

Honest, I've lived here all my life, and I've only seen maybe 5 storms of this magnitude; this is crazy stuff. I know we need the rain, but yikes!


  1. Anonymous7:36 PM

    Hang tough, hedera. When I saw the weather reports, I wondered what your situation was. And if the vast majority of the world's climatologists are correct, it can only get more exciting.

    Anonymous David

  2. Thanks, David - you're right, of course, it'll only get worse. The worst of this wave is over and we're in the hole between storms at the moment; forecast for tonight and tomorrow is down to "showers." There's another one coming for Sunday but unless it really bulks up between then and now, it's nothing to worry about. But what a wild ride that was!

  3. I was watching ABC's news this evening; it occurred to me that they'd missed a bet not going to the Donner State Park to film snow falling in front of the tree trunks that were lopped off at "ground" level when that disaster happened.

    Seeing that really brought home to me what that family was facing that winter.

  4. Anonymous4:46 PM

    Sad news on the broadcast front: the Weather Channel, which has defied Cheney's goons and stood up and called global warming what it is, and why (Lobster love Dr. Heidi Cullen), is now up for sale by the family that has owned it since its inception. It's the sale of CNN redux, and this time it really smacks of GE or Rupert Murdoch waving way too much money in front of the family so the Weather Channel's stance regarding global warming can be silenced. It's what probably motivated GHWB's Carlisle Group to purchase Loew's Theaters, and certainly the reason Lions Gate changed hands after the screening of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911. These fascist bastards are simply using their massive concentration of wealth to gain primacy over all the broadcast outlets that matter. They already have the energy. It's the formula that Stalin said was essential to control of a population. His variation on the theme was: Control the electricity and the movies, and you control the people. This ain't conspiracy theory. It's what has happened before, and it's what seems to be unfolding again. Executives value control. They have no use for uncertainty or actual civic freedom, and they do not trust democracy if they don't have control of the important levers. Sure hope I'm wrong about how insidious it will ultimately become.

    But they now have the technology, the wealth, the skills, and the complicity of Team Bush and the FCC. Clinton made a hell of a mistake on this issue in 1996.

    Anonymous David

  5. Anonymous7:56 PM

    Michael Moore also comes down in favor of Edwards:

    Anonymous David

  6. I've lived in the Bay Area most of my life--except for brief stints in the Midwest and in Japan--and it's true, we seldom get strong storms here.

    One thing that really ticks me off these days is the TV weather people, endlessly worrying and trying to stir up interest in "dangerous" "unseasonable" storms that--horrors!--interrupt commutes and cause FLOODING!! Seattle gets three times as much rain (60 versus 20) as San Francisco. The weather wonks up there merely say (...sigh...) scattered light showers and slight gusts of 35 mph over the next 36 hours, and everybody goes about their business.

    Here, we're supposed to be ringing our hands and stocking canned goods in the basement against the possibility of power loss and the imminent end of civilization. People in the Bay Area are spoiled--our weather is the mildest in the world, practically speaking. We don't get snow, we don't get freezes, we don't get oppressive heat and humidity, we don't get dry, parching winds or hail or thunderstorms or tornadoes or monsoons or tidal waves or hurricanes. We don't even get many rainbows.


    Our real concern should be earthquakes. But even they're still too unpredictable to really anticipate with any certitude. My personal position is that we shouldn't spend millions and millions "retrofitting" everything to get ready for them. When "the big one" hits it's going to be ugly, with probably hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in property damage and considerable inconvenience and hardship, which will take 2-5 years to clean up.

    Chicken little isn't my favorite mascot. I think we need to live for, and in, the day, and stop letting anxiety dictate our attention to the exclusion of what really matters: Living life to the fullest, and dealing with those catastrophes when they happen, but not one minute before. Emergency preparedness is fine; I just don't like going through all the hand-wringing and hocus-pocus every six months in the media.

    If you're afraid of living, build a steel bomb shelter and hide in it. Crossing the street is more dangerous than any natural "disaster" ever will be.

  7. Anonymous7:21 PM

    Hand-wringing is certainly a waste of time, but facing, analyzing scientifically, and preparing rationally for changes and actual threats is not. Steel bomb shelters were always an idiotic idea, but the threat of nuclear annihilation was quite real, and far more dangerous than crossing the street. The historical record indicates that we were more lucky than intelligent in dealing with that threat, a threat renewed by the policies of Team White House Idiots.

    Hocus-pocus more appropriately fits the policy pronouncements of the good folks at the helm of the ship of state, not the media, except when they are serving as spear carriers for Team Idiots.

    But I do very much agree that we are quite spoiled with regards to the normal vagaries of intense weather. Here in Florida the developers pretended like there was no such thing as hurricanes, and people flocking to Florida in search of their subtropical paradise bought into the pretense. That said, sustained 105 mph winds up Seminole Avenue in Goldenrod (middle of the state) was the result not of past vagaries, but an intensification of the hurricanes that do hit, and that is a result of global warming. Curtis, we live in an era in which the sky has already fallen a couple of times, and looks to fall with much greater force again. I'm talking about not only global warming, but also about deforestation; environmental degradation and despoiling; more, newer, and deadlier toxification; and ever improving technological ability to exploit and devastate. We also have the ability to use our technological advances positively for the planet, but I must ask you as you survey the state of the planet: which are we doing?

    I do share your perception regarding what I think is a common human failing: the easier we have it, the sooner we panic, which is probably the most useless thing humans faced with any problem can do.

    But on balance, the sky is falling.

    Anonymous David

  8. I don't actually worry much about earthquakes any more; if they happen, they happen. But when I worked in the San Francisco Financial District, on the 19th floor of 333 Market Street - then I worried! Because (as is well known) the fire dept. ladders don't reach above the 6th floor to rescue you, so you get to walk a looong way down. And while those high-rises will probably stand (given how long the neighbors have to listen to the piledrivers as they go up), I won't bet a nickel against the prospect that they'll shed every piece of their glass skin. I've heard serious projections that the Financial District streets will be 10-12 feet deep in broken glass; and anybody on the 19th floor of a high-rise will be there for at least several days (with the wind whistling through the floor, since the glass is out), until they clear the glass out of the streets. I used to keep a week's worth of my thyroid meds in my desk, just in case.

  9. Dear anonymous: I agree about the sky falling. I don't hold out much hope for our continued existence on the planet, or our fragile environment.

    I guess my point is simply this: We shouldn't worry endlessly about things we can't control, and can't predict. Reasonable precautions can be taken. Beyond that, it's best to keep providence at a safe arm's length, mentally.

    I don't think it makes much sense for everyone to hire a contractor to put foundation bracing in--if an 8.0 or stronger quake hits, any standard perimeter battered wall foundation is going to crumble anyway, no matter how much bracing you put in. How much expense can society bear to stave off the possible event that may not even occur for another 50 to 100 years?

    In the meantime--

    Nature is unpredictable. Be nice to her.

  10. Anonymous5:49 PM

    I love your closing sentence, Curtis. Elegant in its simplicity, and so true. That is a bumper sticker worth printing and putting on one's vehicle (or backpack),

    Anonymous David

  11. Anonymous8:31 AM

    Been trying to sort out the Weather Channel going on the auction block. If I remember correctly, it was the guy who came up with the idea who was so upset about the Weather Channel taking a stand on global warming.

    The parent company had previously rebuffed attempts to purchase the Weather Channel. Now, suddenly, to the shock of the employees, it is for sale. Same reaction at various newspapers owned by this hundred-year-old family company.

    Are the offers now too enticing to be rejected? I guess so. But whether there is a direct assault, which would make James Inhofe happy, or just the ongoing well-financed bulldozer of conglomeration, I don't know. But I do feel confident that the end result will be the same. CNN comes to mind, and has always made me wonder why the Cable Cowboy ever, for an instant, allowed himself to be suckerd by those ba$tard$.

    I am curious if there are simply financial stresses at that company which are driving it to want the big bucks. But I do not doubt what will happen if Rupert Murdoch or General Electric gains control of the Weather Channel.

    Anonymous David

  12. The whirring sound in the background for the last 10 years or so has been Thomas Jefferson, spinning in his grave, as the mega-business interests gutted the Fourth Estate. The press is not "free" when it's all owned by the same 3 guys...

    You really should read Reich's SuperCapitalism. This is a classic example of what he's talking about: aggregating the news media into a few huge conglomerates is wonderful for investors (economies of scale and all that), but disastrous for citizens. And over the last 40 years or so, Reich argues, the balance of power has shifted decisively from citizens to consumers and shareholders/investors.

    I'm not sure how all this aggregation is good for consumers, though - unregulated monopoly usually means higher prices and crappier service. Ma Bell gave solid service as a monopoly because it was regulated; you notice, now that it's back and not regulated, the service is much iffier.

    We need a trust-buster. Teddy Roosevelt, thou shouldst be living at this hour.