Storms of life (Aug 27 column)


While it is hotter than blazes in Emmet County, the Derecho storm that cut a stripe across the state's beltline could have effects on crops, businesses and the state's entire economy for a long time to come. Then the wonder twins, Tropical Storms Marco and Laura come in from the Gulf of Mexico. Marco cut out early (isn't that just like a man?) while Laura is coming for Louisiana and east Texas, especially. Here's where it gets personal: hurricane remnants have hit Iowa before in the form of thunderstorms and such, though never like the Derecho. My middle child, Iowa born and raised Caitlyn, 24, lives in deep east Texas with Corey, her true love of five years. Caitlyn is in school for design with a focus on civil engineering; Corey is general manager of an auto parts store hoping to go back to school for physical therapy. They live simply and joyfully with their assortment of four-legged children.

Laura is coming for them. Jasper, where they live, is under a mandatory evacuation order. Normally, I would think Jasper is safely away from the coast, but Laura is going to tear up from Lake Charles, Louisiana and tear up the Texas/Louisiana border as she gains momentum from the sea.

When Corey called his corporate manager to ask if he should for sure close the store, corporate said, “Oh heck no.”


“Be the last out of town. People may be needing parts for their vehicles to get out of town. Business accounts and fleets might need to do quick tuneups before driving their stuff to higher ground.”

Okay, fair point, but if I may offer an alternative perspective: there is a Category 4 hurricane coming for my soulmate of a daughter and her partner and best friend.

I also may have not seen the correct information for when Laura was going to hit. I was a day or so early, and hence frantic when I found out Corey was also reporting to work Wednesday morning while Corey's dad helped them get their RV, which is usually parked, up and running so they can get out of there and live temporarily wherever they stop.

Caitlyn and Corey are smart, practical, determined, brave, handy (Caitlyn changes our oil when she's home; we do our own or have someone local do it in between times) wise, and rational, Caitlyn's occasional anxiety flareups notwithstanding.

I am trying to not be that mom, to not blow my own anxiety all over her. All I could really say is that I love her, that she is so brave, that I believe she will do great, and to please get out of town really like now, now, now.

The other part of me is thinking of them as action heroes. So Corey's dad and stepmom drive over from about 100 miles north to help them get the RV up and running after it has been parked for quite some time. It really does seem best to take what is essential and drive away with the animals in a home on wheels, stopping wherever they need to even if they can't get to Corey's dad and stepmom's house or if their town ends up having to evacuate as well.

I wish I was there directing the whole operation, only, I think Caitlyn might actually be smarter, better at all this than I am. I don't know if I could have done what she has – take a chance and move a thousand miles away from home with some guy (he turned out to be the one and a great one, but what if she ended up having to toss him back?) and go back to college and adopt pets and work and make a life. She is so brave, and between her and this Laura, it's on, and she will take it on like Captain Marvel.

But I hope this publication finds that they got the thing running and got a move on, because with the surge, water can start coming in early, and no matter if you would rather have your RV, you might have to just get in your Mazda or in dad's truck and speed away.

Laura has already killed a couple of dozen people in the Caribbean. When you live on an island, it is pretty difficult to just drive away from the coast to get away from a storm.

There are a few things a parent never wants to hear, and “unsurvivable storm surge” is one of them. National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott said he had never used the word “unsurvivable” before, and he would not use it lightly, to be sure.

It could reach as high as a 20 foot wall of water and travel 30 or more miles inland. TV meteorologists from that area and from national news outlets, usually cheery and keeping the storm patterns light are uniformly somber. Will it be 75 mph sustained wind gusts? 140 mph sustained wind gusts? At that level, I'm not sure it matters. Let's learn some climate/weather science. Storm surge is water level rise caused by hurricane winds and low pressure pushing water onto shore, and it is even worse when hitting a coastal area during high tide.

Oh. She is Category 4. This level of hurricane brings especially strong winds of between 130 and 156 miles per hour that make storm surge more destructive.

I think Laura has the potential to shake things up as much as her auntie Katrina did 15 years ago.

It is the storm surge that pulls water inland, to places like Jasper which you would not call coastal. That part of Texas is just the pine-covered hilltops known as Deep East Texas, and which we call deepinahearta Texas (clap clap clap clap).

People in Port Arthur were boarding buses as I wrote this Wednesday afternoon. Flooding was already starting in Louisiana. As with Hurricane Harvey, forecasters said the surge will likely reach I-10, that route between Lousiana and Texas that Harvey hit hard in 2017.

Is this a random occurrence?

No, it is not.

Climate change has resulted in hotter atmospheric and ocean temps as well as sea level rise, which combined have driven more intense and rapidly developing hurricanes with more dangerous surges.

I am seeing more and more evidence that 2020 is not going to go down as the best year ever. But hurricanes may become the big winners. This year's hurricane season is on track to become one of the worst in recorded human history, according to forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.

For storm watchers, this is a banner year.

I hope you readers are weathering all the storms as well as can be expected, and I wish you a good weekend as we careen into September. Stay safe, be excellent to each other, and if you are warm and safe and dry, give thanks.

Will Caitlyn's college be standing? Will they have relief funds to send her the civil engineering drafting software she needs for this semester.


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