Showing posts with label hurricanes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hurricanes. Show all posts

01 September 2019

Helpful Hurricane Guide


by Leigh Lundin

At times I live my life around hurricanes, which is far better than dying by hurricane and not quite the same as living with a certain Gale. For the moment, powerful Dorian is presently confounding predictions but, with luck, may spare Florida and most of the North American east coast.

In honor of the moment, I promise not to be long-winded. For those who suffer mere tornadoes, here are actual tracking maps followed by what the hurricane categories mean.

Hurricane Tracking Charts
Hurricane v Florida size comparison
Florida Hurricane tracks
‘Smallish’ Hurricane Fran Hurricane Tracking Example

Hurricane Meanings and Actions
Category 1     119kmph • 74mph • 64knots
When cooking on the grill, you switch from paper plates to weightier melamine. You’re careful your new drone doesn't drift too far off course.

Category 2     154kmph • 96mph • 83knots
You bring beach towels in from the clothes line, assuming you live in a community that permits clothes lines. Peculiarly, many Florida towns and homeowners associations ban drying laundry outdoors in the Sunshine State.

Category 3     178kmph • 111mph • 96knots
Mow the yard. Think briefly about purchasing extra water, food, propane, and gas for your generator and your car… then decide to buy if the storm makes Cat 4. Chuckle about your timid neighbor who packs his SUV full of supplies and family and heads for Georgia or Alabama.

Category 4     209kmph • 130mph • 113knots
Reluctantly head to Costco for 400 gallons of water and discover the wretch before you bought the last three litres. Decide queue for gasoline looks too long. Buy beer.

Category 5     252kmph • 157mph • 137knots
Damn. Governor calls for evacuation. Your car’s tank reads ⅜ and your wife’s Volvo reads a quarter. Find the lawnmower where you left it in the back yard. Empty the fuel cans for mowing and then the mower’s tank itself into your car. Drain fuel from your motorcycle, your kid’s go-kart, weed-whacker, and chainsaw. Siphon wife’s vehicle. Your gas gauge now reads ¾, thanks to discovery of a gas can your neighbor left when they packed up and ran two days ago. Whoops! Electrical power goes out. You scramble to find your flashlights and then realize why batteries were on the shopping list. By candlelight, you grab a forgotten bottle of Zephyrhills someone opened and stuck in the fridge. Way in the back your wife retrieves a can of Tab she’s been hoarding. You load the unrefrigerated beer and depart with wife and child. The gate at the guard shack has blown shut, wrapping itself around a post. You squeeze past as it scrapes your car. Child wants to stop for restroom and food. Thanks to buffeting headwinds, your mileage drops to 14mpg. Every gas station has closed. Screaming child wants McBurgers. No restaurants remain open. Dodging debris, uprooted trees, and a sailboat in the road, you’ll make Gainesville and perhaps a little farther. And then you encounter a flying cow…

Category 6     285kmph • 178mph • 155knots ?
No such thing… yet. However, as climate change accelerates, so does the violence of cyclonic winds. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (actually a peculiarly numbered damage scale) does not define anything above a Cat 5 storm. Many experts believe it’s merely a matter of time before meteorologists are forced to include at least a Category 6 and possibly 7 if not switch to another scale entirely.
Stay safe!

06 October 2017

More About Inspirations


I started writing in high school and in college, nothing publishable. When I became a road deputy (patrol officer), I took note of what I observed and felt. Notes I'd use to inspire stories. When I became a homicide detective, I knew - this is what I should write about. While my first two novels were not inspired by real cases, the anecdotes in the books were. The small stories and the way the characters talked and thought.
My third novel BLUE ORLEANS is based on a real case we worked. Not only a whodunit, it was a whoisit as it started with a dumped body. Didn't take long to identify the victim as a New Orleans drug dealer, which led to his family and friends, which led to the solution of the case. I jazzed it up in the novel, put in a little sex and violence, created a femme fatale.

   LaStanza Novels 3, 4, 5

My fourth novel CRESCENT CITY KILLS is a telling of another dumped body case, the case of two young New Orleans women executed on the river batture (land between the levee and the water's edge, in this case the Mississippi River). In real life, the murders occurred in Jefferson Parish. In my book, I moved them back to New Orleans were my recurring character NOPD Homicide Detective Dino LaStanza could work it. Condensing the 13-month investigation wasn't hard but pacing the novel was difficult.

Those books also had strong ancillary plots - LaStanza's personal life. But I was fortunate to have a framework. Real cases.

The inspiration of my fifth novel, THE BIG SHOW, came from a phone call from Harlan Ellison who said he had an idea for LaStanza. He gave me flashes of an opening scene and suggested I run with it. I did. All he asked was for me to put an acknowledgement: Thanks Uncle Harlan. Which I did. I made up the rest of the story. Inspiration from a phone call.


The third novel in my Lucien Caye Private Eye series - HOLD ME, BABE (which was a finalist for this year's SHAMUS Award for BEST ORIGINAL PAPERBACK PRIVATE EYE NOVEL) - was inspired by a conversation with my literary agent Joe Hartlaub (who is also an agent for musicians). He relayed an emotional story about a lost song. I got caught up in the emotion and was inspired.


Hurricanes are inspiring. Look at the flood of Hurricane Katrina-inspired books. I waited eight years before penning CITY OF SECRETS, a story triggered by the haunting poem "Eternal Return" by James Sallis. Sometimes you just have to let an idea ferment.

We writers get inspiration from a lot of sources. The night my wife walked into my home office with a catalog (either a Victoria's Secret or Frederick's of Hollywood catalog) and showed me a new product - the kissable cleavage bra. I made note of what she said, then wrote a story "Kissable Cleavage" that's been published three times. Sorry, don't have a picture of the brassiere to share.

Sometimes it's the little things, sometimes the big ones. Whatever causes emotion in a writer can cause emotion in a reader if well written.

That's all for now.
www.oneildenoux.com

09 October 2016

The Fantôme


Hurricane Matthew
Hurricane Matthew
My SleuthSayers colleagues became a comforting presence as Florida braced for a hurricane that had already killed 800 people in Haiti. Fortunately my area was spared with little more damage than downed limbs and a 13-hour loss of power.

Fixed in my mind was 2004 when four major hurricanes attacked Florida. Three of them impacted me personally but I came out of them with the most important thing, bodily intact.

One other positive grew out of the devastation. Enduring endless hours without electricity, with canyons lined with debris and so many fallen trees that roads remained blocked for days and weeks, I began to write.

For this Hurricane Matthew, preparations included food, water, batteries, and propane for cooking on the grill with my friend Thrush. About the time SleuthSayers started, fellow mystery author Susan Slater moved from New Mexico to St. Augustine two miles from the ocean, well within reach of the winds and surge zone. She retreated to stay with friends on higher ground. Another friend and writer, Claire Poulsen, abandoned Amelia Island for the safety of a cabin in North Carolina.

But when I think of hurricanes, I don’t think of my own experiences, fortunately dreadfully dull. Instead, other efforts come to mind.

Labor Day Hurricane

The building of the Florida East Coast Railway makes a fascinating tale involving ingenious engineers, incredibly brave laborers, and an indomitable entrepreneurial spirit.

During construction, hurricanes struck in the late 1800s, then again in 1906 and 1909. I have been unable to identify the date, but one of the stories involved a rescue train chased by a ’cane that didn’t take the time to turn around. The train raced up the coast backwards to avoid the deadly winds.

In testament to the careful planning and design, the current US 1 Overseas Highway is partly built on footings constructed more than a century ago. The FECR sold the right-of-way to the State of Florida for pennies on the dollar following the deadly Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, the one described by Lionel Barrymore in Key Largo.

Castaway Cay
Hurricane Floyd

The incredible engineering of a century ago was brought home in a personally observed way. Disney Cruise Line leases Castaway Cay (formerly Gordo Cay) from the Bahamian government. In taking over the private island, Disney built a pier its ships can sidle against so that passengers can come and go using gangways rather than tenders.

In 1999, Hurricane Floyd swept through the Bahamas. Disney evacuated the island of the few dozen resident cast members (employees). It was with trepidation a team returned to the island where they found two surprises.

Voices in the Dark
In my teens, it was ‘a thing’ to visit the airport at night where we could stand out on a deck with our dates, cuddling and watching flights coming and going. Well, mostly cuddling but we could tune in speakers to listen to air traffic controllers in flat, unemotional voices direct planes amid hand-offs with ground control.

NASA flight controllers use similar restrained, equable commands and commentary during launches and landings. Those passionless voices sends chills when listening to the unforgettable recordings from the takeoff of the Space Shuttle Challenger and the fiery disintegration of Columbia over Texas.
The buildings remained largely intact and most of the wind destruction involved little more than shingles and lounge chairs. The real surprise was the pier. That massive hunk of concrete and steel twisted up out of the seabed like a bitter joke. The storm surge made a mockery of our so-called ‘modern’ construction. Whereas hundreds of Flagler’s railroad foundations remain intact today, this present-day foundation ended up junk.

Hurricane Mitch

On 26 October 1998, I joined a consulting project with shore-based operations of Disney Cruise Line. The people I worked with were experienced ship’s officers, mostly captains extensively recruited from Europe and the US Coast Guard, plus a couple of South Africans and Australians. Unlike me, the other members were professional seamen.

The same day I started my job, Tropical Storm Mitch became Category 5 Hurricane Mitch heading toward Honduras. Unleashing twenty days of hell, it would become one of the most unpredictable of cyclonic storms, wreaking devastation through Central America, slugging Florida, then sailing across the Atlantic where it slapped the British Isles and Iceland. It would take 9000 lives, mostly in Central America. Thirty-one of those lives became of special interest.

Fantôme
The Fantôme (The Phantom)

The four-masted, steel-hulled Fantôme was a beautiful ship with a fascinating history. Purchased in 1927 by the Duke of Westminster, it was later acquired by the Guinness family. At the outbreak of WW-II, Ernest Guinness docked her in Seattle. There it remained until 1953 because of unpaid fees and taxes.

Aristotle Onassis, who would later marry Jackie Kennedy, purchased the yacht, renovated it, intending it as a wedding gift for Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco. Gossip says the couple omitted Onassis from their guest list, forfeiting the lovely present. In 1969, the owner of Windjammer Cruises swapped a freighter for the schooner and spent another fortune, reportedly $6-million, refurbishing it as the Windjammer flagship.

The Wait

On 25 October, TS Mitch, a thousand miles distant, grew in strength and changed course toward Jamaica. As a precaution, Captain Guyan March dropped off the one-hundred passengers and ten non-essential crew at Belize City.

Based upon the latest models and frankly unpredictable storm path estimates, March headed north. The hurricane stopped dead. Then it turned. The Fantôme reversed south in efforts to dodge the onrushing storm apparently driving toward the Yucatán. The captain intended to shelter in the lee of Roatan, but Category 5 Mitch with winds of 300kmph (185mph, 162 knots) veered magnetically toward the ship. A desperate Fantôme turned eastward toward the open sea.

31 Souls

In the Disney Cruise Line offices in Celebration, Florida, the European staff had set up an espresso machine with a number of flavored syrups to supplement the coffee maker. The coffee station contained one other instrument, a shortwave radio.

Upon arrival, I found the professionals gathered around coffee and charts. While tracking the hurricane and the Fantôme, they listened in on the cat-and-mouse playing out in the wavebands of the radio, the coast guards in the flat tones of men aware lives were at stake.

The hurricane picked up her skirts, exchanging eye-wall speeds of 250kmph (155mph, 135 knots) for forward motion. About 16:30 on the 27th, the Fantôme relayed her position. As the storm center approached the vessel, the Fantôme radioed she was fighting winds of 100 knots and four-storey high seas. Five o’clock approached. Few standing around the radio moved to go home.

And then…

And then nothing. Silence. Not silence, but a repeating call into the abyss.

“Fantôme… S/V Fantôme… Fantôme…”

Through the next day. And the next.

“Fantôme… S/V Fantôme… Fantôme…”

Men wore hollow looks. Women blinked away tears.

“Fantôme… S/V Fantôme… Fantôme…”

Days passed. The hurricane swung north.

On 2 November as Mitch took aim at Florida, the British destroyer HMS Sheffield found life-preservers and rafts bearing the stamp S/V Fantôme floating off the coast of Guanaja.

The beautiful Phantom had vanished.