Alberto Saturday Evening 26 May Update

As the sun sets over the western Caribbean, Alberto is starting to develop a swirl of clouds, but still isn’t much more than a big “comma” with most of the clouds and rain many hundreds of miles from the center, which is located just off the tip of Cuba … this is (hopefully!) an animation of the storm from GOES-16 this afternoon that you can click to get high res:

As expected NHC continues to shift the forecast track eastward as the storm formation location has moved and the driving forces seem to be pushing it more that way.  Here’s the 5pm EST track and impact forecast from my Svarog/Perun model, based on the official NHC forecast.  While the landfall location hasn’t shifted much, they are showing the storm center shifting much closer to the west Florida coast.  Since the worst impacts are normally on the east side of the storm, that means worse conditions over the state.

The main risk from Alberto no matter if it technically becomes a tropical storm or not, is rain and flooding.  The Southeastern US is saturated from over a week of wet weather, and another 4-8 inches doesn’t really have anywhere to go.  That said, saturated soils make it easier for trees to blow over, so that’s not so great either even if the winds are not that strong. Here’s the radar composite from just before 5pm …

I hope this new format works better for everyone  It’s certainly much easier for me, and I think lets me put more stuff in (like the higher res animations) that FB just doesn’t seem to permit.

Florida declares “state of emergency” over Alberto

There was a time when a “state of emergency” (SOE) meant something.  Nuclear war.  Major natural disaster.  Riots.  Devastation on a grand scale.  Dogs and cats sleeping together, that sort of thing.  But not any more, at least in modern America.  Election years seem especially prone to SOE’s and sober pronouncements by Those In Power that while the situation is dire,  under their beneficent leadership, It Will All Be Ok 😛 .  Politicians running for higher office love them – they get to “show leadership”.  But snark aside, what are some of the factors here?

Declaring SOE in advance of a potential disaster has become a normal way of doing business. It supposedly allows preparations for the disaster.  If the event actually happens, then a “disaster declaration” is made triggering further actions.  In one sense I get it, because the normal workings of bureaucracy have become so slow, convoluted, and constrained, that getting things done in a timely manner (or even at all, given the hyper-partisanship rampant in America these days) is difficult, and a streamlined process for preparing and ordering preparations is perhaps needed.  But there are also down sides.  For one thing, “emergencies” become the normal way of doing business.  In most states, an SOE allows the Governor to suspend the normal budgeting and contracting process, and this encourages abuses. It allows order preventing Price Gouging (which is a good thing, but I guess is OK the rest of the year, given Disney prices!).  It also often has civil rights implications with respect to Police powers and private property, something the US already has problems with.

Another issue is that over time it causes disaster fatigue – most of these “disasters” are  ultimately localized events, or events where there are widely scattered impacts but, in the great scheme of things, while they do hurt those immediately impacted, the events are really not that bad from a wider perspective. I worry that people don’t react with the urgency they should in cases where there really is a threat, when every inconvenience is treated as an “emergency”.

The economic impacts of SOE, watches, warnings, and disaster declarations go far beyond government operations. We are likely at a point where we spend more on preparing and anticipating disaster than if we did nothing except protect lives or when something truly catastrophic was imminent, and cleaned up later.   Many private firms are forced (either for the avoidance of liability, or other reasons) to follow the status of Government, which can be highly disruptive.  A major factor here is the insurance industry.  Now that Alberto is a “named storm,” many onerous insurance restrictions kick in such as restrictions in writing new policies, much higher deductibles, and so forth.  While linking insurance provisions to disaster response may seem to make sense at first cut, in fact it has had a significantly negative impact on consumers.

On the surface, it may seem that declaring an SOE for an incoming storm makes sense, but as with so much in the area of disaster planning, response, and mitigation, it’s a lot more complicated than it seems.

Alberto Update

As of 11am today (Saturday 26 May) “Subtropical Storm” Alberto is still pretty disorganized. There is no real center, certainly the satellite presentation isn’t much, although there are indications of a center trying to form between Cuba and Yucatan. Here’s the current (11:00am) satellite view:

I think the main reason NHC is even tracking it is that it is a holiday weekend, and they want to make sure folks are paying attention in case it really spins up into a real storm.  Tropical Storm watches are now up for the west coast of Florida. Note the subtle shift in the forecast track, it may shift further east (towards Florida) later today. The main risk from the storm is heavy rains across Florida and the Southeast, which have been drenched over the last week from a moist tropical air mass.  There may also be coastal flooding, and rip currents across both Florida and the GA/SC coasts. Here is the latest NHC forecast map, with the damage swatch from my new Svarog/Perun hazard model:

Admin note: Sorry it took a while to post this, it is an experiment with a new integrated social media approach, which is a fancy way of saying I’m only posting on my blog, and it is echoing to Facebook and Twitter. The main reason is to try to reduce my work load during real time events.  Does it work? No so far, I’ve spent all Saturday morning working on it 😛