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Monday, October 15, 2018

Hurricane Michael

About a month ago, central North Carolina went a little crazy preparing for Hurricane Florence. While Florence did severe damage tot he coast, it never really found its way to where I live in central North Carolina.

But this week we got hit - with little warning! - by Hurricane Michael. We got hit on Thursday around 11 am. We lost our power around 2:30pm. The storm was gone by 6:00pm, but the damage still remains. We got our power back on Saturday night around 9pm, which was surprising. We expected it to take longer. We were just getting into the grove of the silence. The AC and Fan kicking on and off. The sound of our ceiling fan when we are trying to go to sleep. And the never ending sound of our commercial refrigerator - you don't realize how loud a commercial refrigerator is until you put one in your kitchen. Comment below if you want to know why we went that route.

While it was inconvenient to not have power, it also wasn't that bad. We got lucky, as we are surrounded by large trees, and many fell, but nothing hit our house. I posted video of the storm at its worst on instagram.

Two things struck me during this exercise of no electricity.

First, as I mentioned, the silence. People have a hard time with silence. It is the reason your friend calls you when they are driving home from work. A lot of people have a hard time embracing the quiet, because when it is quiet, when there are no distractions, you hear the voice in your head. As a culture, we are bad at quieting that voice in our head and it makes people very uncomfortable. Part of why I like long kayak trips is there is plenty of time to quiet that voice in your head. It takes practice, and you can call it meditation, or deep breathing exercises or whatever you want. But it is a good skill to have, the ability to keep your wits when all is quiet. We have so many distractions to day that keep us from practicing that skill, and it really does scare people. Try this, go to have lunch with a friend, and put your phone on the table, face down. Don't look at it or pick it up during the meal. Just connect with the person across from you. You may find this difficult, but give it a shot, and invite the person opposite you to do the same.

I am really enjoying the new screen time app that is included with iOS 12. It gives me the ability to see where I am spending my time on my phone or my tablet. It is sort of a device separation detector. As I look at screen time now, I can see on Friday my usage ballooned, because I couldn't use my iPad or desktop. But when I look at the app on my iPad it was way down. I average about 45 minutes a day on my phone - which sounds like a lot, but I think it probably isn't. But on Friday it was right at around 2 hours.

Okay, the second thing that struck me was the storm itself. On Monday I looked at the weather radar and the Michael was a tropical storm and a poorly organized one at that. Meaning it didn't have a very pronounced circular motion. It just looked like a large storm, and I didn't think it would be that bad. On Tuesday I wasn't too surprised to see it was a Category 1 hurricane, but when it made land fall the next day it was a powerful category 4 hurricane. So how did a poorly formed tropical storm become a powerful cat 4 in two days? How did it do this in a location where storms rarely form, the Gulf of Mexico (most hurricanes form off the coast of Africa, and take their time moving slowly across the Atlantic picking up strength.) It is also surprising that the storm did this in October, the end of the hurricane season?

Well, the answer to all these questions is abnormally warm water. Warm water is what feeds hurricanes. The warmer the water, the more evaporation there is, the more moisture they carry. And while the wind from a hurricane is bad, it is the water that does the damage. As bad as the damage was it would have been far worse if it hadn't been going so fast. If this storm had lingered the way Florence did, thousands would be dead. They are actually thinking of changing the saffir-simpson hurricane scale, to reflect water content as well as wind. Because wind levels only tell part of the story. Honestly, we dodged a bullet with Michael. It could have been much worse.

But, abnormally warm water? Why? Simple. Take a guess? Climate change. The only way for a storm to form that fast, in October is the abnormally warm water from the changes to our climate.
Hurricane Michael, was the exclamation point added to last weeks IPCC report. Unless we take dramatic action to curtail greenhouses gases in the next 12 years, by 2040, storms like Michael will seem small. Ask someone who lives on the coast of Florida what they think of storms like Michael being small.

Climate change isn't a hoax, or a Chinese scam, or a ploy by money hungry scientists. It is a dire warning that this planet is done with us. If we don't make dramatic changes now, life as you know it will be very different in 20 years. Cities will be underwater, food shortages will be common - because  it will be harder to grow crops. (oh, and Michael killed millions of pigs, and hundreds of millions of chickens. it is starting already) Both of which will lead to devastating wars.

So when you put your phone down over breakfast, talk to your friend about climate change and what they are going to do about it. Because it is going to come down to all of us doing something. We can all do a little today, or a lot tomorrow. It is your call.