15 votes

Worst weather experience?

Since it's the peak of tropical storm season again, this thread is open for all to share stories and thoughts about weather experiences. Not necessarily concerns about climate change, but the incidents you've had personally, and whatever you've learned about preparation, resilience, and recovery.

I'm no longer a Florida resident, but my contacts are blowing up with concern over Hurricane Dorian.

I've been watching the storm on this nifty site, which has great tools and visualisations to satisfy the most avid weather geeks.

Dorian is likely to be another devastating, small-region, high-intensity buzzsaw, like last year's Hurricane Michael, which practically erased towns in the Florida panhandle, or the 1935 Labor Day hurricane. [I'm not really a good person - I'm having more than a little schadenfreude that Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort is near the center of the storm's predicted path. But I'm not the only person who thought of that.]

According to the Insurance Information Institute, Florida has nearly $600 billion dollars of single family housing at risk from a Category 5 hurricane, leaving aside loss of life and injury.

My stories, compressed for those who've read this before

Some of my friends and colleagues have families still recovering from the impacts of 2017's Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria.

While I had to deal with these storms' impacts to infrastructure professionally, the hurricanes didn't have enormous personal impact. I was mainly supporting friends or covering for colleagues struggling to help family in Texas, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean Islands. Our house was eight miles from the coast, so we only dealt with a downed tree and other cleanup, a few hours without power, and some blocked roads.

Because I have dumb hobbies, the most extreme weather dangers I ever encountered were while kayaking and canoeing. Five years ago, I was on a guided ocean kayaking trip that ran into an unpredicted storm squall. Perfect blue skies and calm one minute; near darkness, huge waves, practically solid rain, and 40-knot winds the next. The party got scattered all over half a dozen of the 10,000 Islands. I struggled to get off the windward side of a long isle, so the wind banged my kayak into mangroves for an hour, then I was paddling furiously to avoid being swept into the Gulf of Mexico. But we all survived without major harm, the guide managed to reconnect us without calling for rescue, and we arrived at our destination with good stories. I can only imagine what it's like to be exposed to worse conditions in a hurricane.

Up to that time, the most dangerous weather I'd run into was snow and ice storms. When I was a kid, the Blizzard of 1978 left my family stranded, without phones, power or heat, for five days. We had a fireplace, plenty of hardwood, and an ample store of dried and canned provisions, so it felt more like a rustic adventure than the dire situation it could have been. My brother and I thought 10-foot snowdrifts were the greatest fun ever - we spent more time outside than in, "helping" to dig out by making snow forts and tunnels with the neighbors' kids. Of course, it was followed with a spring of chores like putting up half a kilometer of snow fences, learning to drive a 40-hp farm tractor, and setting up a ham radio antenna and generator, as my city-raised parents had come to grasp what rural life really entailed.

6 comments

  1. AugustusFerdinand
    Link
    On a road trip with one of my best friends to pick up a new project car; have a truck bed full of tools and parts, a tow dolly, and a car strapped to it, when we run into the worst storm I've seen...

    On a road trip with one of my best friends to pick up a new project car; have a truck bed full of tools and parts, a tow dolly, and a car strapped to it, when we run into the worst storm I've seen in my life. Radio is giving tornado reports, hail is coming down, rain so heavy you cannot see more than 10 feet in front of you, finally see an abandoned gas station on the side of the road and pull in to get some cover. It's the middle of the night and pitch black aside from the headlights as we are far out into west Texas with zero other lighting, can actually see a tornado in the distance when it is illuminated by lightning strikes. Radio tells us we are smack dab in the path and have no where to go.

    'I love you' texts are sent to wives.

    My typically very stoic friend turns to me and says "Just in case man... I love you."

    Checking news reports showing damage a few days later and I see that the tornado went straight through a farm about half a mile away from the gas station we were stationed at.

    9 votes
  2. [2]
    JXM
    Link
    There’s been too many to count. I’ve lived in Florida for 25 years. From Andrew to Irma, we’ve had so many hurricanes hit us that I just don’t panic at this point. Andrew was the worst though. I...

    There’s been too many to count. I’ve lived in Florida for 25 years. From Andrew to Irma, we’ve had so many hurricanes hit us that I just don’t panic at this point.

    Andrew was the worst though. I was a little kid when it hit and we had no power for two weeks. I remember breaking out in hives because the heat and humidity were so unbearable.

    At one point, the other side of our street had power and our side didn’t, so neighbors were running hundreds of feet of extension cords across the middle of the street to get everybody power.

    6 votes
    1. patience_limited
      Link Parent
      We moved to South Florida a couple of years after Hurricane Wilma, and made a number of friends who related horror stories - whole households destroyed, mold everywhere, flooded cars, long...

      We moved to South Florida a couple of years after Hurricane Wilma, and made a number of friends who related horror stories - whole households destroyed, mold everywhere, flooded cars, long insurance fights.

      We had a long think about buying a house next to a major power line corridor. We spoke to other homeowners in the area, and discovered that whatever the downed line risks, it meant that we almost never lost power for more than a few hours, whatever the weather.

      Not long after Irma, we started connecting the dots - my increasingly untenable work situation, the likelihood of worsening climate risks, my spouse's portable job, peaking real estate prices, and decided to get out.

      4 votes
  3. Rainbow
    Link
    The worst I've ever been through was a severe ice storm in my hometown. We had no power for an entire week and had to go to a family friend's place because our gas fireplace couldn't make enough...

    The worst I've ever been through was a severe ice storm in my hometown. We had no power for an entire week and had to go to a family friend's place because our gas fireplace couldn't make enough of a dent, even with every warm piece of clothing we had on. But I barely remember that, I only remember staying at our friend's house, not any of the severe cold.

    The worst I remember was in college. There was a severe thunderstorm lasted about an hour, and knocked out power for days. It was in the high 90s outside, and only barely better inside. We had the windows all the way open in our dorms but it barely helped. It was cooler in the common area than in our rooms so I made some very close friends talking late into the night. We also drank a lot because there was a fair amount of alcohol that required refrigeration on our floor and people didn't want it to go to waste.

    I've never dealt with flooding, tornadoes, or hurricanes. I've been within a few miles of a tornado during high school, but it didn't come close to us.

    3 votes
  4. [2]
    eladnarra
    Link
    A tree fell on our house during Irma, so that was probably the worst. We'd evacuated to avoid the inevitable power outages, but woke up to pictures from our neighbors. It fell on my bedroom,...

    A tree fell on our house during Irma, so that was probably the worst. We'd evacuated to avoid the inevitable power outages, but woke up to pictures from our neighbors. It fell on my bedroom, basically. I wouldn't have been hurt, since the ceiling caving in missed my bed, but it would have been a terrifying way to wake up.

    We spent several months in a hotel (complete with bed bug scare), then many more in a rental house. And even after all that, we recently learned that our contractor cut corners (against code and engineer drawings), so who knows if the roof will hold up with Dorian. Hopefully we won't get a direct hit, and it can handle tropical storm winds.

    1 vote
    1. patience_limited
      Link Parent
      I hope you and everyone else there remain safe through this one. I had a couple of friends at work who were sheltering family members made homeless in St. Thomas and Puerto Rico, and then had...

      I hope you and everyone else there remain safe through this one. I had a couple of friends at work who were sheltering family members made homeless in St. Thomas and Puerto Rico, and then had their own homes damaged by Irma. There was little rental housing in Florida that could accommodate eight or ten people, and their lives were mayhem for months. Home insurance was nearly non-existent on either island, and both families had to resettle in the U.S. because rebuilding was impossible to afford.