Friday, September 14, 2018

Florence and the Rain Machine

I've been periodically checking in on the progress of Hurricane Florence, and I am reminded of 2011's Hurricane Irene and 2012's Superstorm Sandy. Florence, like Irene, is a slow moving rain machine- while 'only' a category one hurricane at landfall, the main damage will be due to storm surge, largely an effect of the storm's 500 mile (800 kilometer) diameter, and the flooding rainfall. Here in the Northeast, Superstorm Sandy's destructive effects were due to storm surge while Irene wreaked havoc in New England due to its slow pace and heavy rains. Florence looks like it'll hit the Carolinas with a combination of both.

The real 'elephant in the room' is the development of the Outer Banks, the barrier islands along the North Carolina coast, which are being inundated, and other low-lying coastal areas. Even under the best conditions, barrier islands are ephemeral- they go, move, shift with the currents. I'm not a big Bible reader, but there's something to be said about not building a house on a foundation of sand.

To compound the dangers of flooding, North Carolina is infamous for its pig manure lagoons which, if flooding causes them to overtop their 'banks', will contaminate rivers and groundwater before the fecal flood pollutes the coastal waters, possibly causing algal blooms and sea life die-off. Even worse than the pigshit is the coal ash from power plants, which contains heavy metals, which are even worse than fecal coliforms. I'm of the opinion that a 'war on coal' is a good thing, but I'm one of those 'nanny state' regulation junkies.

One concern that I have is that the coastal devastation in the wake of Florence will result in an orgy of Disaster Capitalism. One particularly vulnerable population is the Gullah Geechee community of the low country and offshore islands, who have largely preserved their African heritage through the centuries. The Gullah Geechee are already beleaguered by global warming and predatory developers, and a destructive storm might be the factor which pushes them over the edge.

At any rate, I have a suspicion that Florence will be another unmitigated disaster, partly due to Trumpian incompetence, partly due to rapacious disaster capitalism.

Post title taken from one of contemporary pop music's most dramatic performers...

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