Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.

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Friday, October 01, 2021

This just in: The latest weather reports show that there is no hurricane heading toward Florida this weekend. On this current track, no hurricane will make landfall on the coast of Florida, and there’s expected to be no accompanying rains or storm surges as a result.

To repeat: No hurricanes are threathening Florida this weekend.

(End Transmission)

Those of you reading this outside the state probably think I’ve lost it (and I have, but long ago, and that has nothing to do with this). Floridians reading this also may think I’ve lost it; but at the same time, could have the same odd feeling I’ve got:

For the first time in what seems like forever (but is really only six weeks or so), we’re not nervously waiting for the next big storm to strike somewhere in the state. Instead of having storm preparations on our minds, or at least in the back of our minds, we can actually experience a weekend free of hurricane anxiety.

I’m not sure I remember what that’s like. To know that I can go about my usual errands on Saturday and not get stuck behind some moron dragging a piece of too-big plywood behind his car. To go out and party Saturday night and not worry about being awoken early Sunday by insanely howling winds and pelting raindrops. To stop by the grocery store for a couple of items and not have to navigate around panicky shoppers loading up their carts with enough junk to ride out the Rapture and Armageddon combined (unless their roof gets blown off). It’s quite the novelty.

And yet, I can’t help but feel a sense of loss. No one wants the storms and the misery they bring. But we definitely got into a rhythm: Alert watch, emergency supplies, evacuation, power outages, etc. That rhythm, which became routine, is now disrupted, and initially at least, it feels like something crucial is missing.

Am I getting all nostalgic now, after my disgust from the last storm? God, I hope not. And if I am, I’m sure it’ll pass by the middle of tonight.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 10/01/2021 02:12:28 PM
Category: Weather, Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback

Monday, September 27, 2021

After a smoother drive into work than I would have thought likely, I came upon this at my office building:

- All three main elevators were out. My options were to take a maze-like patchwork of service elevators, or else take eight flights of steps. It was too early for navigating through the building’s innards, so I took the stairs.

Had I known I would be hiking up to my office first thing, I would have skipped the light cardio workout I did when I got out of bed. I made it up all eight floors, huffing and puffing.

Naturally, I got word that the elevators started running about five minutes after I sat in my chair. Typical.

- The bathrooms up here somehow got flooded yesterday, resulting in a lot of wet carpet by their entryways. It’s only water, but still kinda disgusting.

Thanks, you bitch.

Actually, the weather is shaping up to be rather pleasant — only a few scattered clouds against a nice blue sky, and relatively cool. Go figure.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/27/2004 10:58:24 AM
Category: Weather, Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Sunday, September 26, 2021

jeanne genie
It’s pretty much over. It’s still raining, and enough wind is kicking up to swing that loose storm drain gutter and make some unsettling noise. The weather should remain shitty for the next couple of hours, and get only a little better tomorrow, and the storm surges should cause headaches around the Bay. But overall, Tropical Storm (nee Hurricane) Jeanne has come and gone.

I just took a walk outside, largely to get at least a little fresh air. The damage in my little nook here is minimal: Lots of plant debris was blown about, most of the small trees have acquired new angles, and wetness everywhere. I saw a few more storm drains downed, and what appeared to be part of an air-conditioning system crashed into a far parking lot (no car got damaged from it, from what I could see). Otherwise, it’s looking okay.

As usual, the fatigue factor was more mental than anything else. I avoided watching the weather updates more than a couple of times, because that’s a sure way to amp up your anxiety level needlessly. But just having to coop myself up all day was wearing. And since rainy days always tend to depress me, it’s been a real downer of a day.

So, Round Four of Florida’s little hurricane year is largely in the books. I’m not looking for a Round Five.

I do think that a couple of changes need to be made, as far as Florida’s identity:

- With this much storm activity, in addition to the higher-than-average precipitation we got before the hurricane season even began, I feel it’s time to remove the “sub” from the sub-tropical designation of the peninsula’s geographic region. We’re as good as tropical, baby — start planting the rainforest fields in Plant City!

- The state’s tourism folks won’t like it, but it’s time to call a spade a spade: “Sunshine State” is laughably dead. Long live “Hurricane State”.

What else? A couple of bloggers found ways to make lemonade from this lemon of a day:

- Stacy at Sekimori has come up with a drinking game, dubbed “FALL DOWN”, that relies on the on-the-scene TV reporters during major storms getting pelted with stuff and blown down. Funny concept, but it’s no Three-Man. (Found via Jeff at Side Salad.)

- Mr. Bill at SoHoTampa is trying to scare up a “Good Riddance Jeanne”/Sunday Night Bucs game party tonight. It’s a natural inclination around here to punctuate a hurricane with a celebration afterward (or even beforehand). It’s tempting, if only to get out of the house and salvage something out of this day. But I’m not wild about driving in this still-windy mess.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/26/2004 06:40:20 PM
Category: Weather, Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback (2)

I just got my first tangible sign of real damage from visiting Hurricane Jeanne. Above is a picture of the storm gutter above my apartment, over my patio. I guess the day’s rain and wind finally overloaded it, and it broke loose. It’s since swung down perpendicular and is hanging on the edge of my patio window, just out of sight except for regular gusts that swing it back over.

Nothing major, but definitely noticable, as I was sitting in my living room when it happened. I don’t think it can do much damage: It’s just aluminum, so it doesn’t have enough heft to come through the screen. If I could reach it, I’d try to pull it down just to eliminate it as a possible projectile. But if this is the worst I get, I’ll take it.

By the way, it seems Tampa Bay’s special Providence that protects it from hurricanes and tropical storms has come through again, mostly. A TV report just told me that Jeanne took a turn over Polk County, going slightly further northwest than originally expected. That means the center of the storm will only brush northern Hillsborough, instead of coming into downtown Tampa. It also means Jeanne will spend more time over land, and thus will lose strength a little more quickly. We’ll still get plenty wet, but apparently it’s being somewhat minimized.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/26/2004 01:14:08 PM
Category: Weather | Permalink | Feedback (1)

With Jeanne in town, it’s a good time to look at the whack rumors that blazed through Florida during the weather crises, and why they spread.

The gas-rationing one was really noticable here during Ivan’s time, and massively contributed to my foul mood that weekend. I lucked out by gassing up the very night before; but all the traffic holdups caused by idiots piling six cars deep into pump cues really got on my nerves.

So what’s the social dynamic behind these crazy stories?

“Natural disasters are a major incubator for rumors,” said Gary Fine, an expert on the psychology of rumors at Northwestern University in Chicago. “They work so well because the events are both important and ambiguous, and often in times of great stress people lose their critical ability.”

Rumors tend to start early after the disaster when information is scarce and emotions are raw, Fine said. And in those situations, people might not be inclined to believe what the government is telling them.

“In the midst of things, people are looking for any kind information about what’s going to happen next,” Fine said. “So a neighbor will tell them something that they’re just speculating or guessing about, and the person who hears it takes it as fact. We’re searching for any kind of news we can get our hands on, and we’re not very particular about what the source is.”

Not very particular about the source — wow, that sounds like the Web/blog news phenomenon! Except there’s generally no crisis that merits it.

I think I’ll get the early jump on the rumor mill for Jeanne. This is a blog, so I’m sure the story will be disseminated widely in short order. Let’s see, how about this:

I hear a bunch of alligators escaped from Lowry Park Zoo thanks to the storm, and are marching all over town. Some have been sighted as far south as Kennedy.

(I’m counting on people who’ve never seen the gators at Lowry Park to swallow this. If you’ve ever seen how fat those bastards are, you’d know they could never waddle more than a block before collapsing into hibernation.)

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/26/2004 09:04:10 AM
Category: Weather, Society | Permalink | Feedback

blue jeanne
I had hoped to place an embargo on all hurricane-related talk on this blog, especially after Ivan was kind enough to give the Tampa Bay area a pass. Like many others here, I’ve experienced more than enough hurricane-alertness fatigue; while it’s not as bad as getting nailed, it’s wearing, and it takes its toll.

But, because Hurricane Jeanne is insistent on coming at us from the east, I guess I have no choice but to acknowledge it. And I might as well post something about it while I still have power flowing (and while I’m awake, thanks to the howling wind).

Right now, the TV is telling me that Jeanne should be in the northern part of the Bay area by 2PM. It’ll be passing directly over areas like Ybor City, Oldsmar and New Port Richey (but not me in St. Pete). We’ll be getting wind speeds of around 60 miles per hour, and plenty of rain and the dreaded storm surges. That means the threat of flooding, as usual.

Currently it’s looking fairly ugly outside, although not exceedingly so: Lots and lots of wind gusts, but only light rain so far. I’m really curious to see how it gets in a few hours.

I’m not sure if an evac order is in effect for me; it probably is. But I’m not going anywhere. It’s already too late, really. So I’ll sit back, enjoy the ride, and hope the juice keeps flowing.

Jeanne is something of a surprise. With a storm that hits the Atlantic side, you don’t expect much when it comes across to this side (relatively). Things didn’t really start to hit preparation mode here until yesterday afternoon. But since this is our fourth serious go at this, I don’t think most people hit the panic button. Bottled water sales were brisk, but otherwise, things were fairly normal. I even went out to Ybor last night, and despite the windiness, plenty of people were out clubbing.

This had better be the last storm we get. I’m so over all this.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/26/2004 08:24:19 AM
Category: Weather | Permalink | Feedback (3)

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Ivan: Not only the latest destructive hurricane to roll through the Gulf of Mexico, but also a forceful demonstration of one of nature’s most prevalent patterns of occurence.

Everything in our universe, such as the shape of hurricanes, the way the trees grow, the way the petals are arranged in a flower and even the structure of the human skeleton are all arranged by the golden means…

You can simply recreate the Fibonacci numbers if we start with two small squares of size 1 next to each other. On top of both of these draw a square of size 2 (=1+1) and so on. You can draw a spiral in the squares, a quarter of a circle in each square. The spiral is not a true mathematical spiral but it is a good approximation to a kind of spiral that does appear often in nature.

It’s not a coincidence why business cards sized 8×5 cm look pleasant to the eye. It’s because the proportions are similar to everything in nature, that we are used to for the past hundred thousand years. You’ll be reminded about this important guiding principle everywhere in nature, art and design. For example Robert Bringhurst refers a lot to the golden mean in his must read book The Elements of Typographic Style.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/16/2004 11:18:53 PM
Category: Weather, Creative | Permalink | Feedback

Monday, September 13, 2021

With the overload on treacherous weather in Florida over the past few weeks, some may have noticed the conspicuous lack of comment here on the latest hurricane du jour. That absence will continue, at least for a couple more days.

But just as you can’t escape the weather itself, it’s hard to avoid talk about the weather. So it was for me wth this story about contract meteorological services, for when the Weather Channel and Doppler-enhanced newscasts just aren’t sufficient.

Why pay a few hundred bucks a month for a weather report, when you can just flick on the TV or radio? Aside from personalized service, you get a possibly more accurate forecast:

But after 30 years of predicting weather, [Continental Weather Corp. owner Alan] Archer’s clients think his accuracy is pretty good. Bob Elek, a spokesman for Verizon, recalled sitting in his company’s headquarters in Tampa last month, watching TV forecasts that showed Hurricane Charley headed straight toward the Tampa Bay area.

That prediction conflicted with Archer, who had told them two days earlier that Charley would make landfall farther south.

“Alan would be the first one to tell you these things are very unpredictable,” said Elek, whose company has landline phone service in Polk, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota and Manatee counties. “But because of his advice, we were not as frantic. And ultimately, he was pretty accurate.”

So my question is, if private weather forecasting is more on-the-mark, why are we hanging on these idiots‘ every word?

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/13/2004 09:33:44 PM
Category: Weather | Permalink | Feedback

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

There are plenty of accounts of what us water-logged residents in Tampa Bay did this weekend. Jen at Crazy Island and Rachel* at SoHoTampa have a couple of representative samples, and Josh at A Beautiful Accident has a nice roundup of others (including me). Doubtless, you can find plenty from other parts of the state, too.

That covers us blogging nerds. What about those who don’t blog the body electric? Here’s a quick rundown from my office (names withheld to protect the embarrassed):

- One girl uncharacteristically baked a bunch of brownies and cookies, and brought them in for everyone to eat.

- Another girl got bit on her knee by a spider, and was developing a nasty-looking welt from it. Her husband’s been bit a couple of times by these spiders and gotten bad infections, so she’s nervous.

- My boss took off for her home state of Mississippi, a trip that was unrelated to the hurricane: Her dad was celebrating his 80th birthday. Unfortunately, the storm cancelled her return flight, so she can’t get back into town until late Wednesday.

- One guy hosted his parents, who evacuated from Sarasota. They managed to drive him and his wife crazy.

- Many parents were stuck in the house for 36 or so hours with a bunch of kids who were, in alternating turns, bored/frantic/destructive/lethargic.

- Lots of people lost power, for long periods of time (anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days, with many still dark). Makes me feel like I got lucky for experiencing only a half-hour outage yesterday.

- Finally, a very pregnant co-worker gave birth in the middle of this mess! She was due any day, so it wasn’t a surprise. Her chief worry: She didn’t want to give birth on her own birthday, which was on Sunday. It was a close call, as she went into labor at 11:30PM on Sunday (Happy Birthday!); fortunately, the 7-pound bundle of joy didn’t join the world until 5:30 Monday morning. I suggested ahead of time that the baby girl’s middle name should be Frances, given the circumstances; mommy wasn’t going for it.

A hell of a weekend.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/07/2021 04:45:21 PM
Category: Weather, Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback

Monday, September 06, 2021

I’m watching the continuing weather report. The weather guys keep talking about “cells” forming around the area. The term refers to atmospheric pockets where tornadoes are forming (nowhere too close to me, fortunately).

It’s a sign of the times that, whenever I hear the word “cell”, in a TV news context, I think generally of al-Qaeda. (Frances hates freedom, apparently; considering it’s holding me hostage in my own home…)

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/06/2021 09:55:02 AM
Category: Weather | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Woke up this morning, far earlier than I wished, because Hurricane Tropical Storm Frances is howling its way through my ‘hood. Terrific.

I walked into my living room, and saw the mark that Frances was going to leave on my abode. The ceiling over the southwest corner of the room had sprung several leaks, and was dripping all over the carpet. Wonderful.

It really shouldn’t have been that big of a surprise, as I get a little bit of leakage there on extra-rainy days anyway. The forecast promises non-stop rain for the entire day and evening (and maybe into tomorrow), so that dripping will persist. I wonder how I can get something like this when I’m on the second floor; I suppose my upstairs neighbor is getting something similar. But hey, that’s the advantage of renting instead of owning: I don’t have to deal with the repairs. For the short term, I have to empty the buckets periodically.

Otherwise, things are holding up. My patio is thoroughly soaked, but that’s expected. The windows are getting pounded, but they haven’t sprung any leaks. And miraculously, the power is still flowing, along with the cable and Internet. My cellphone seems to be getting a normal, strong signal. Even the St. Petersburg Times came through, with a paper on my front stoop this morning. It could be a lot worse.

It’s going to be another shut-in day, apparently. But it’s good to know that I may be able to order in a pizza (big tip for the driver).

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/06/2021 09:49:39 AM
Category: Weather | Permalink | Feedback (2)

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