The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on September 22, 2005 · Page 17
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 17

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West Palm Beach, Florida
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Thursday, September 22, 2005
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THE PALM BEACH POST THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22. 2005 I7A View photo gallery of Keys damage, aftermath at PalmBeachPost. com Galveston took protective steps after 1900 disaster Reconstruction after the hurricane that destroyed Galveston, Texas, on Sept 8, 1900, led to protective measures. Engineers raised the island-city's elevation as much as 1 1 feet and built a sea wall that extends more than 10 miles along the gulf. Hurricane's deadly path v cateeorv 4 nurncane nit Galveston almost head-on Deaths: 10,000-12,000; at least 6,000 on Galveston Island Homes destroyed: More than 3,600 Losses: $30 million (about $700 million in today's dollars) Bay ' M!LS rx V . i . r - : r Virgina Point Pelican IslandS? s---. West Boy -g UT . ' X .-v ;V ' Gulf of r -i . JT Galveston Xi. Aerico A '1 i Oklahoma $ I Fort rr ITff'Tifl New . p I Mexjco . i Daltai 1 1 V CarthageN Seawall D Paso T m Boulevard Concrete KAat 5 (g; ) The sea wall I apron: ffa Austin ( Ground slooes .4 -Directs V V San 0 4 VHouston) upward J,ij V MEXICoP -'fjjgjj A cffirf g0 i i i I B McAllen 'Brownsv e i I I I til PIHngs ;; upward behind wall to let overflow run back to gulf. Height 16 feet , rMa Base: i i Seawall 16-20 feet Sources: The Daily News (Galveston. Texas), University of Wisconsin, U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration KNIGKT RIDDER TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE 2,400 more dead often forgotten GALVESTON fromlA Florida. So, American forecasters believed the storm would bounce up the eastern seaboard toward the mid-Atlantic states. A Cuban forecaster at the Belen station, however, predicted it would head for Texas after crossing the Gulf of Mexico. This is exactly what happened. The tempest behaved weirdly, like our own recent hurricanes, Katrina and Rita. It brushed Florida with its wingtips winds of 48 mph were recorded at Jupiter then roared into the gulf, gathering strength from warm waters, to bludgeon Galveston nearly to death. Though anemometers spun away and broke at 100 mph, the Galveston hurricane may have been a Category 4 storm with 140-mph winds. The lowest barometric pressure recorded was 27.49 inches (normal barometric pressure at sea level averages 29.1 inches). Weather forecasting in 1900 was a far cry from what it is today. Observation was by line of sight. It went no farther. Isolated scientists looked out their windows, gazed at their barometers and, if there was a telegraph, wired warnings to their colleagues. Ships at sea had no radios. Only the barometer could "see" beyond the horizon, by measuring trends upward or downward in atmospheric pressure. Radar, satellite pictures, C-130 aircraft flying into storms and dropping radiosondes to taste the wind speed and air pressure: all these lay far in the future. Galveston was an island 30 miles long, but the city was situated on its northernmost tip and was only 8.7 feet above sea level at its highest. Isaac Cline, the local U.S. government weatherman, had never seen a hurricane The forecaster who said Galveston was hurricane-proof ended up clinging to his roof to save himself. and referred to the storms lightly as "tropical cyclones." He had formed an odd theory, that Galveston was practically hurricane-proof precisely because it lay so low. Wind and water would pass over it in shallow waves and dissipate in the coastal marshes inland. Cline paid dearly for his faith. About 50 people took refuge in his house during the storm. All but 18 died, including his wife. One in six Galveston citizens was dead, including all but three boys of the 93 orphans and 10 nuns in the city orphanage. The terror of that night still leaps off the page of an anonymous handwritten letter, composed during the height of the storm and found in the wreckage of Sealy Hospital. Today, it is in Galveston's Rosenberg library historical collection of documents relating to the tragedy: "It is all a grand fine sight Our beautiful bay, a raging torrent! . . . Darkness is overwhelming us, to add to the horror. Dearest, I reach out my hand to you, my heart, my very soul." More than 3,600 buildings were destroyed. Weatherman Cline's official report, filed later, relates how he finally awakened to the magnitude of the disaster, after spending the night atop his house, clutching his youngest daughter. His roof was drifting like an unwieldy barge in the storm surge. Timbers flew through the air like blunt spears, hammering and braining people alive amid the welter of water. "Sunday, September 9, 1900, revealed one of the most horrible sights that ever a civilized people looked upon. About three thousand homes, nearly half the residence portion of Galveston, had been completely swept out of existence, and probably more than six thousand persons had passed from life to death during that dreadful night The correct number of those who perished will probably never be known, for many entire families are missing. Where 20,000 people lived on the 8th not a house remained on the 9th, and who occupied the houses may, in many instances, never be known. On account of the pleasant Gulf breezes many strangers were residing temporarily near the beach, and the number of these that were lost cannot yet be estimated." In the baleful glare of the Galveston disaster, it is often forgotten that the hurricane went north afterward and traveled through Texas, the Midwest, the Great Lakes and Canada before returning to the Atlantic from which it sprang on Sept. 12-13 off the coast of Newfoundland. It managed to kill at least another 2,400 people, on land and sea, before sputtering out at last over Siberia. In all, it may have annihilated 12,000. Property damage in Galveston alone was $30 million in 1900 dollars, about $700 million today. As the death toll from Hurricane Katrina topped the 1,000 mark, more than a million people were fleeing the Galveston-Houston area Wednesday. Galveston County, home to 267,000, was emptying out and Houston, which at its lowest is only 6 feet above sea level and which owes much of its modern prosperity to Galveston's tragedy in 1900, was doing the same. michaelbrowningpbpostcom II rail J. The Associated Press The Gresham House, now known as the Bishop's after the Galveston hurricane, while the nearby Sa-Palace, sits relatively unscathed amid tons of debns cred Heart Catholic Church was damaged heavily. Refineries' recovery time depends on storm's path OIL from 1A Michael Schlacter, chief meteorologist for the New York-based company Weather 2000, the bulk of whose clients are energy companies. He said the clients he has spoken to are "panicked." "Mother Nature could not have picked a better sore spot for the energy industry," Schlacter said. "It's already taken a big blow on the right cheek, and now it's taking a blow on the left cheek." Four coastal refineries remain closed from last month's Hurricane Katrina, which toppled rigs and cut the gulfs oil production by 55 percent Including the rigs and platforms abandoned in advance of Rita, 73 percent of the gulfs oil production was shut down by Wednesday afternoon, the federal Minerals Management Service reported. Industry experts said refineries would recover within a couple of days from a glancing blow. But if Rita swamps Houston as Katrina did the northern Gulf Coast, the storm will take more dollars from motorists' wallets and add to the problems of the nation's airlines. American Petroleum Institute spokeswoman Jane Van Ryan said it was too soon to predict how many rigs, platforms, refineries and pipelines will withstand Rita. "They're developed to withstand some pretty high waves and pretty high winds," she said. "But there are storms that nothing is going to stand up to." Even days before landfall, Rita already was racking up milestones that had meteorologists watching in awe. Rita's 175 mph winds made it the gulfs seoond Category 5 hurricane in less than a month, after Katrina. This is likely the first time two Category 5 storms have spawned in the same region in so short a time, National Hurricane Center meteorologist Stacy Stewart said. In intensity, as measured by sea-level pressure, Rita surged past Katrina to become the Atlantic basin's third most powerful hurricane since at least 1851. The only stronger storms were 1988's Hurricane Gilbert, which killed more than 300 people from the Caribbean to Mexico and Texas, and Refineries in Rita's path? If Hurricane Rita hits near Houston, wind damage and flooding caused by the storm surge could damage refineries located along the coast and on waterways. Area refineries account for 13 percent of the nation's refining capacity. HARRIS COUNTY ', "iS LyofldeN f - Houston Cttge u I Valem-OOO O I Ckn7 PaudM I Stttam V Gdvestm ' Dow HaltaflMM M fo5nMbll CHAMBERS ShellFeme j COUNTY FORT BEND COUNTY V. Bay 41 Texas City BP BRAZORIA COUNTY alveston ConocoPtilllp A Bay City Freeport MATAGORDA COUNfy Sources: fexas A&M University; Energy Information Agency v., Marathon JAshland y. Petroleum ' Gulf of Mexico r ! HOUSTON CHRONtCUEPAlM BEACH POST Rita easily could undergo an Ivan-like yo-yo in strength. the 1935 Labor Day storm that drowned the Keys and killed at least 409. Everyone along the western gulf must prepare for Rita, federal meteorologists said. "They better take this hurricane dead-serious or they're going to be dead," Stewart said. Rita also could match the frightful pattern of strengthening and weakening that Hurricane Ivan showed last year, when it astonished meteorologists by reaching Category 5 intensity three times. Ivan weakened a final time before striking land as a Category 4. Rita could easily undergo a similar yo-yo in strength, Stewart and Schlacter said despite an official hurricane center forecast calling for the storm to plateau and gradually weaken to a Category 4 before landfall. Rita surged in strength far faster than the hurricane center had predicted, although Stewart said Tuesday night that a Category 5 storm was a "distinct possibility." The meteorologists' efforts were further hampered when glitches in three Air Force planes forced the cancellation of Wednesday's 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. hurricane hunter flights. The planes finally got aloft for the 2 p.m. flight said John Pavone, chief of aerial reconnaissance coordination at the hurricane center. Rita's surge reminded hurricane center meteorologist Chris Landsea of the 36-hour burst that took Hurricane Andrew from a tropical storm to a Category 5 killer in 1992. "That was kind of my first impression: Wow, this one is deepening as quick as Andrew," Landsea said. But Rita has one major difference: "It's larger." Hurricanes naturally fluctuate in strength in ways that meteorologists have trouble predicting. Katrina and Ivan weakened before landfall, but Charley surged to Category 4 before taking a right hook into Punta Gorda last August Rita has ideal conditions for continued strength: bath-water temperatures in the gulf, a lack of hostile winds and no obstacles to block the storms' exhaust in the upper atmosphere. "The only thing that could slow this down is itself," Stewart said. The Associated Press and Palm Beach Post-Cox News Service contributed to this story. bobking9pbpost.com Hurrricanes thwart oil and natural gas production in the gulf When Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29, more than 90 percent of the Gulf of Mexico's oil production and more than 80 percent of its natural gas production were shut down. Volume was recovering until Wednesday, when more than 70 percent of oil and more than 47 percent of natural gas production was interrupted as companies shut down rigs in anticipation of Hurricane Rita. 100 90 80 70 60 50 10-n 29 30 31 1 2 3 5 6 August Note: No reports were taken on Sept 4, 11, 17 and 18 Source: Minerals Management Service Hi fi .n U - ... LI , Oil Gas 47.1i 73.2 13 14 15 9 10 12 September 16 Mon. Tue. Wed. BRENNAN KINGStaf Artist FEMA People, equipment moving early The Associated Press WASHINGTON The government rushed hospital beds, rescue teams and evacuation buses to Texas on Wednesday in an urgent effort to brace for Hurricane Rita and prevent a replay of the missteps from Katrina. President Bush, pledging to be "ready for the worst" declared a state of emergency in Texas and Louisiana. Late Wednesday, the Homeland Security Department declared Rita an "incident of national significance," allowing the federal government to take over if the storm overwhelms the ability of state and local authorities to respond. The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent nearly 1,200 medical and rescue personnel into Texas. The agency asked the Pentagon to send 2.500 hnsnital hns tn nntpnrial Hipster zones and was directing 200 buses to Texas. Representatives from at least 19 state and federal agencies discussed concerns during conference calls throughout the day. Ed Rappaport, National Hurricane Center deputy director, said the calls are used to "ask for clarification, or perhaps alternate scenarios or interpretations. We speak some of the same language but . . . want to make sure everybody's on the same page." It was clear that the Bush administration wanted to act quickly to get supplies and reinforcements into the region. The Homeland Security declaration, which releases a quick and massive federal response to national emergencies, was not triggered for Katrina until a day after the storm struck. "We want to make sure we're ready" for Rita, expected to strike Saturday, said FEMA's acting director, R. David Paulison. "We'd rather pre-position more assets than we needfthan not have pnouph."

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