Dodging Dorian, and the different rules inland

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 3, 2019, 8:08 PM | comments: 0

We got pretty luck with this hurricane, largely at the expense of the northern islands of the Bahamas. Had the track from last week stuck, we probably would have seen a direct hit on the coast in the category 3 range, which is really bad news for the coast, but for us would have just been bad... -ish.

When Irma hit almost two years ago, I confirmed what I already kind of knew. The highest recorded sustained wind speed in Orlando proper was about 86 mph in 2004, with Hurricane Charley. That was pretty serious, certainly, and I remember seeing all of the blue tarps on houses on my next trip here. But while roof damage is possible, maybe even likely if you have an aging or poorly built roof, new construction since 2010, as a result of that year's hurricanes, prompted higher standards for much of the state. Andrew already in 1992 prompted higher standards. For us in most of Orange County, new houses have to be able to withstand 3-second bursts of wind at 130 mph. The science suggests this is a "700 year" scenario, where sustained winds would likely be around 100 mph. Again, the recorded history tops out at 86 for Orlando (presumably measured at MCO).

That's why Walt built his theme parks here. There's a good trade-off between the risk of serious weather and endless summer. Heck, if things were to get super serious, I'd consider a stay on-property, because they have their own power company and it's unlikely that their Internet would go down. They also happen to be in the business of feeding tens of thousands of people at a time.

So it's not really a place that you evacuate from. It doesn't mean your house, even if it's new, won't take damage, but having built two of them now down here, I understand some of the fundamental design considerations that make them pretty durable. The roofs are tied down all the way to the foundation with a series of beams, straps and such. The first floor is all concrete block, the exterior is stucco. The difference compared to a Midwest house is staggering. You also don't need to stock up on gas and food this far inland, because it's unlikely that you're going to go weeks without. This is the opposite of being on an island. There won't be shortages or any real delay longer than two or three days. Heck, the Amazon Prime delay would be even shorter.

That said, you don't want to be cavalier about the safety or short-term potential for pain. Power can and will go out, maybe for days, so you have to plan accordingly. You could lose water as well for a few days, so you fill a tub up so you can at least flush your poop. You definitely bring in everything from your patio or porch. Plan on being inside for at least 24 hours, maybe 36, because it's not the wind itself that's dangerous, it's the stuff that gets airborne.

For Irma, I believe our sustained winds were in the mid 50's, gusts in the 70's. That was certainly "exciting." A direct hit from Dorian would've likely been a little more intense than that, but not seriously so.

We have a beautiful sunset right now, with the clouds moving by incredibly fast. Our sustained winds are about 20 mph, and it's gusty on top of that. Morning will bring the peek, probably not more than mid-20's. We got lucky this time.


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