Friday, October 7, 2016

Now That That's Over With

It has been a long day for us.  I only got about 3 hours of sleep last night, after setting an early alarm the day before to get the final preparations done.

The hurricane story in a nutshell is that when I last posted, the forecast was for the storm to come ashore very close to the city I live in, Melbourne, while packing winds of a high Category 3 to Category 4.  I even heard the normally-rational Joe Bastardi of AccuWeather saying (going from memory), "The last measured central pressure in Matthew was 936 millibars.  The definition of a Category 5 hurricane is 926, and the storm is intensifying, so we could be looking at a Category 5 storm at landfall".   None of this is within a light year of being "good news".  All of it was wrong.

On the other hand, there were encouraging words to be found.  The storm seemed to be starting an eyewall replacement cycle, and had two eyewalls; one about 8 miles in diameter and the other closer to 60.  With the center less than 15 hours from the coast, that could lead to a period of weakness that never gets followed by intensification because there just isn't enough time.  There were infrared satellite photos showing the storm had been sucking in dry air, a sure hurricane killer.  Then there was word that the storm was tracking east of the predicted path, putting the worst winds farther offshore.  This comment in the Central Florida Hurricane Center, was posted by a retired professional meteorologist and former Chief Meteorologist for Boeing.
Well I'm thinking no landfall at all. When I briefed EM yesterday I felt that it would stay about 30 miles offshore. I've been plotting all of the recon center fixes since 09Z and they have all been about 15 miles to the east of the forecast track that I used in the briefing - so I sure hope that the trend continues. That would put Matthew about 45 miles offshore east of Melbourne at about 07/1130Z.  [I believe EM here is Emergency Management - SiG] 
Amid all that, I noted the Thursday night forecast from the Melbourne NOAA weather forecast website - the local guys - and made fun of them.  I mailed this to my Daughter in Law (who had been pestering me to evacuate).
Hurricane conditions expected. Showers and possibly a thunderstorm. Some of the storms could produce heavy rain. Low around 80. North wind 25 to 30 mph increasing to 45 to 65 mph. Winds could gust as high as 80 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%.

Hurricane conditions expected. Periods of showers and possibly a thunderstorm. Some of the storms could produce gusty winds and heavy rain. High near 83. West southwest wind 45 to 65 mph decreasing to 35 to 40 mph. Winds could gust as high as 80 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%.

"Hurricane conditions expected... Some of the storms could produce heavy rain."  or  "...could produce gusty winds and heavy rain".   Gee... do ya think? 
More to the point of this post, the highest winds they forecast were 65mph, which "could gust as high as 80".  That's not even a category 1 hurricane; gusts don't count.

The local guys and that one comment were right.   I grabbed this screen capture of the Melbourne radar loop at 5 this morning.  This is the closest Matthew came to us.  I could believe that eye center is 45 miles from the coast, about 2 1/2 hours ahead of that 07/1130Z estimate.
I was awakened by intermittent power outages about 2:45 this morning.  I immediately noticed the wind was the worst it had been in the storm, but also noticed it didn't sound remotely as strong as the Category 3 hurricanes we had in '04.  I never really got back to sleep except for a few minutes at a time and got up for good around 4:15.  By that time the power had been out for some time and my backup generator was running outside.  The cable/internet went out around 7AM.  Both regular power and the cable came back around 4:30 this afternoon.  We got outside and started the cleanup process around 2, and except for a couple of small squalls moving through were able to work outside for a couple of hours and get the cleanup accomplished.  Most of the cleanup.  

Hurricanes are a messy pain in the ass.

While I don't think we had any damage whatsoever from the storm, some of my neighbors were not so lucky.  Going either direction out of my front door, there are two trees down within three doors.  In one case, it blew away from the house; in the other it fell across part of the garage.  The local fish wrapper newspaper has plenty of pictures of people (places) that didn't do as well as we did. 


  1. Spoke to my step-mother in Cocoa Beach (her condo is on the lagoon side, the first building south of the Ramp Street park/boat ramp) at 0730 EDT. She said that she had power and water, and that while her shutter that protected her balcony (again, on the lagoon side) was banging loudly (it is about ten feet across, with no support in the middle, so it flexes in high winds) during the higher gusts, but other than that she was doing fine. She said the winds were lessening, and she believed (per her local tv station) that the eye had moved north of her and was roughly even with - or just a bit north of - Merritt Island. She wasn't able to see any significant damage or even debris in her immediate area.

  2. Good to hear you are OK.
    What worked out well, and what needs some tweaking?

    1. The only thing needing tweaking is the house brackets. We have a system that was installed by a contractor, but turns out is based on the POMA system. I think I'm going to invest some time this coming winter in rebuilding the brackets so that they're easier to slap up. I'll leave these in place until then. I've got to remember that if we have one of these in another 10 years, I'll be over 70 and who knows if I'll be able to climb a ladder?

      When we had our fence put up, the installer put one piece that covers a mounting hole. Consequently, that bracket had to visit Mr. Bandsaw for minor surgery so that it fits the window. Thankfully, it's the smallest window and the brackets just keep the panel in compression against the house, so I viewed it as "non-critical". Of course, I'm not an ME. I kinda play one online, I guess.

      Everything else worked out fine. The backup generator does make unexpected noise in the middle of the night which takes a bit of getting used to, but it sure is comforting to have that baby come on when the lights go out! I think it's quieter than those little 8 or 10kW "window shakers" make more noise than the Generac, and it's rated 16kW. That will basically run everything in the house, central air included. Now that all the lights (except the kitchen) are LED, it's a pretty light load to run lights and a few fans. The natural gas was on through the whole storm, so cooking wasn't an issue and hot water for showers sure is a nicety. Splitting our utilities across electric and gas seems like it was a good decision.

  3. Up here in Port St. John, power went out for my neighbors and me at 5 AM on Friday morning. Almost 8 AM now on Saturday, and no sign of any line crews. But then we're a lower middle class neighborhood, so FPL doesn't particularly worry about us complaining to anybody who will do anything to them. Even though we're only one mile from their "Cape Canaveral" power plant, and even though the high voltage and very high voltage lines to Titusville and points north run along the west side of US 1, right past our subdivision.

    I suspect there are neighborhoods in the west part of Port St. John that already have power restored, because there are probably some of the Right People who live there. Last storm that went through, they restored power to the tennis courts and ball fields in Fay Park before they finally got around to us.

    1. I've always wondered why we had our power restored quickly. There's a fire station nearby, and I thought maybe we're on their circuit. Most likely it's one of those situations where they need to follow a sequence; restore one before the next can be restored. To use the electrical term, series not parallel. It's just pure, dumb luck that we're on that branch.

      There's an implication there that this must be a rich neighborhood full of the Right People, which is just plain laughable. It's a plain old "working class suburb"; 30+ year old homes, mostly small by today's standard (1500 sq ft), full of people who work for a living and some of us retirees. Several are rental houses. There are empty and abandoned houses, just like everywhere. This isn't Tortoise Island; my backyard neighbor actually kept two good sized hogs for a while (it's against the law). We're literally on the other side of the railroad tracks from The Right People.

      The one thing I know for sure about power distribution is that being near a power generation station and having those HV lines around you means absolutely nothing. That HV has to go through one or two substations before it can be reduced to the power distributed through neighborhoods. It's more important to be closer to the nearest substation, and it's even more important what's between that substation and you. This is where they literally have to replace the first pole and the first transformer before they can replace the second and so on.

      While I feel for your situation, don't think the world is aligned against you because you're in PSJ.

    2. I tried to post a comment twice here, but both times my extensive typing went "poof!" when I went off-page to check some spelling, and came back. If this is blogspot's comment system's fault, I'm not impressed.

      The storm turned out to be pretty much a nothingburger, but you sure wouldn't have known it by listening to CNN...

    3. As far as I know, I have absolutely no control over the comment box. Personally, I use a multi-tab browser and just use another tab to double check spellings or word choices.

    4. That's what I do, but when I came back to the tab with the comment box, the text automagically disappeared, and nothing would bring it back (on Disqus, when that happens, it will come back if hit "Reply" again). I know you don't have control over the comment engine. But if others have had this problem, I would suggest going back to doing it the way I used to have to do it: create the text in Notepad or something, and copy it to the reply dialog. This way it's not lost.

      Glad to see you didn't have many problems with this storm. Had the track been 40 miles further west, you would have been in hurt city.

    5. Or just hit ctrl-a (select all) and ctrl-c (copy) whenever you think you might lose a post. I do it before hitting publish or any other 'risky' activity. If you text vanishes, hit ctrl-v (paste) and it's right back. Saved me more than once....

    6. The world isn't against us in PSJ. In fact, just a few streets to the north, the crews were working enthusiastically on Saturday. Wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that a cameraman for the Orlando ABC station lives on Capron Avenue? Nah, no chance that could be the case. "Right People" does not necessarily imply High Rollers, although it doesn't exclude them, either.

      We did get our power back by 7:30 PM on Sunday, which is a MASSIVE improvement over storms past. I suspect it might have something to do with the number of out-of-state line crews that FPL brought in. When I was buying gas for the generator at SnowCone in south Titusville, there were a bunch of line trucks and their operators in there "fueling up". One of them said FPL had brought in 42,000 linemen. I suspect they realized their total cost was going to be about the same no matter how they did things, and chose to get some good publicity out of the situation.

      AT&T U-Verse, on the other hand, had some real issues. They were working fine right through the storm all the way up until about noon Saturday - roughly 24 hours after the storm passed - and then went out massively until about two hours ago. And I understand they crumped not only in PSJ, but all the way up into Titusville as well. Can't get any info on what the problem was, but they are back online now.

  4. I am going to try to say this one more time: don't you people use fuses on your pole transformers? There's no excuse to lose a transformer just because a tree falls over a line. On the other hand, if it's hit by a lightning strike, it might be fried, but even that isn't a given.

    The "stormchaser" I was watching on Periscope, who drove up A1A right beside you, said transformers were blowing all around. You could see some of the arcs light up the sky.

  5. Glad you're safe and in one piece.