Browse Category


Chesapeake Bay wind speed maps for Irene

The net is a great source of information in storms like this.  In fact, sometimes you get too much data, but you can eventually sort through it to come up with a pretty good picture of the current situation.

This weather map from WeatherUnderground shows the potential wind speeds from Hurricane Irene.

Starting from the hurricane icon off the coast of Ocean City, those in the closest rings will have hurricane force winds. As you’ll note they are stronger on the right side than they are on the left. What I’m talking about below is for the circle WHEN the hurricane is in the position in Ocean City area, not when it is moving up to that area.

The next ring is tropical storm winds > 50 knots per hour but less than 73 knots. This includes parts of the Eastern shore just about to Cambridge.

The next ring, the largest ring, is tropical storm winds > 34 knots and < 50 knots. This includes basically everyone East of Bethesda, East of Woodbridge, East of the Mixing Bowl.

Please note the storm will be moving, which is why toward the bottom you see the remnants of other circles drawn. There you will see a large swath of hurricane strength wind to the right of the storm when it the hurricane icon (not seen) is south of Newport News. In this ‘circle’ you’ll see hurricane strength winds extending over nearly the ENTIRE Eastern Shore.

What does this mean in English?  Check out the Washington Post’s story on Wind Speed and what it means for your home and trees.

Direct link to map:

You can monitor the wind speeds on the various bouys in the Chesapeake Bay if you so desire, all from your mobile phone.






Hurricane Irene on the Chesapeake Bay–time to get nervous.

I’ve been quite busy over the last 24 hours tracking Irene. Well that’s not entirely accurate–I’ve been tracking Irene for days, but I’ve gotten quite worried about Irene in the last 24 hours.

The “Oh Crap” moment came yesterday when I took a look at the computer models that showed a distinct Western track of the storm, taking it not up the outer islands of the East Coast of the USA but rather straight up the Chesapeake Bay’s Western Shore, which is where I have my house.


The computer models that were put out by the European meteorological agencies showed a storm track through Southern Maryland’s St. Marys, Calvert and Anne Arundel County. This would have had the eye of the hurricane going over my house, which, while a pretty cool thing to see and witness, would have also brought with it some massive destruction. Trees would be falling like toothpicks and storm surge flooding would wallop low lying areas of Annapolis and Baltimore, much like we saw with Isabel in 2003 (but probably not as bad).

But the GFS computer model, which mirrors much of the NOAA National Hurricane Center’s forecast is now showing a definite Eastern approach of Irene. The storm will actually stay out to sea and not pass directly over the barrier islands with Ocean City, Rehobeth and some of the Jersey Shore. If this comes to pass then that would be good news for the Chesapeake Bay area. Fingers crossed that the track starts to mirror this model.

During Isabel, we lost a few dozen roofing shingles along with having quite a bit of water flood into our house through the ceilings. All told I think it was about $10,000 in damage after FEMA and the insurance companies finished arguing. I also lost quite a bit of soil on my seawall, which spent hours underwater.  The nearby towns of Chesapeake Beach and North Beach were heavily flooded, with 4 feet of water heading inland a few hundred yards and National Guard troops called out to control security.  We were also without power for 7 days.

The posts are normally 6 feet above sea level



So how will Irene stack up to this storm?  It’s slower moving, stronger, but also further away than Isabel.  The most similar track was that of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, which caused considerable rain and flooding along with some tropical storm level winds.

As you can see from the pictures, I’m not really worried about a storm surge taking my house.  That would be basically a biblical level Tsunami to get up the 40 odd foot cliff to my actual house.  I do anticipate my seawall getting another battering from this storm, which means I might need to rearrange the rocks (again) before the coming winter squalls.

The rain is going to be a big pain in that the soil is already pretty wet in the area.  The super saturation along with the winds will likely result in a number of trees falling over in the forests just North of my property.  I just have to hope they don’t come to rest on my roof.  They are a shallow root trees and even a good thunderstorm takes out more than a few, dropping power lines in the process.

For much of the other areas around me, I anticipate some pretty heavy flooding in Southern Maryland mixed with near hurricane force winds.  Tropical Storm winds that will hit the middle Bay will be annoying but many homes there are built with hurricanes in mind (we have hurricane struts in our roofing).

Still, I’m plenty nervous.  This will be a very long weekend staring at computer screens and the weather.





Now that you’ve stopped paying attention to the Japanese Tsunami

Some interesting videos have come out in the last month or so now that the hype and Tweeting about ‘watch this video’ has subsided.

First up is the ‘in car’ camera version of what it was like to be in one of those thousands of cars floating around in the water.  A driver had an HD camera attached to his dash as he floated around (note the wipers were on despite his floating).

The second video is more of a good news story.  One town had tsunami barriers 15 feet higher than most due to the insistence of a former mayor.  It worked, and only 1 person in the town died and the entire village is still intact.

This one is a bit hard to watch as you see and hear the panic of people running.  The camera turned away as the waves approached one old man.  One can only hope he was not taken in the waves.


Hacking to help Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims

UPDATE: Wed. March 23. 8:00 PM. We’ll be meeting to put together the remaining kits at offices.

Last night members of the Hong Kong Hackerspace, aka Hong Kong Hackjam, got together at the Boot.HK offices to undertake a quick project to help victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. With electricity out in many parts of Japan, the call went out from the Tokyo Hackerspace community asking for help in providing lighting, networking and other electronic supplies for victims of the disaster.

Here in Hong Kong we settled on the quick and easy (somewhat) task of building “Minty Boosts“. These are battery powered USB chargers that can be used with any AA battery to charge a mobile phone or other electronic device. The entire hardware is soldered together and throw into a candy or mint box, thus the name “Minty Boost”.

Over a dozen hackers and technology enthusiasts gathered last night to throw together some relief supplies that will be sent to Tokyo in the next day or two. Only a couple of the devices (mine included) ended up FUBAR, as is to be expected as some of us were not that experienced with a soldering iron. But many others were thrown together by are more hack-savvy members and were charging phones by the end of the night with great success.

Here are some pics of the effort. If you want to donate other supplies or time, check out the requests from the Tokyo Hackerspace.



Collection of Japanese tsunami videos and live news coverage

The massive earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan has unleashed a torrent of coverage on the net.


TBS News has a MASSIVE collection of videos online

Warning maps of the Tsunami throughout the Pacific

Live Coverage

NHK World Service has an NHK iPhone app. You can watch coverage there.

BBC News is now streaming live video.

MSNBC (USA) live coverage.

Japan’s Meteorological Organization(?) is on Ustream now.

Video chat rooms at Ustream

Free live streaming by Ustream

Recorded Videos

Youtube has a “channel” for breaking news called Citizen Tube:

BAA spokesman doesn’t inspire snow removal confidence like George Kennedy did…

So I was watching BBC this morning and the British Airport Authority spokesman (who is basically being tortured this weekend) was on talking about efforts to remove the snow and how tough it was and how they were doing all that they could, etc.

Here is a picture of him.

Ok, now here is a picture of George Kennedy in the movie Airport.  He’s busy clearing a stuck 707 from a runway before a bomb-damaged aircraft comes in for an emergency landing.

Do you see where I’m going with this?  I think the British guy needs a crew cut, a baseball cap and a cigar if he wants to convince people that “we’re doing all that we can”.  Get him in a parka and demand all TV interviews be done live from the tarmac in the middle of a blizzard.

Appearances count in public relations.

bonus:  Clear that Runway!

Iceland volcanic ash map

Did you know the UK has a Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre, on constant duty to protect the skies from the threat of volcanic ash?

Well, they do.  And those guys are working pretty long hours today to keep up with a volcanic eruption in Iceland which is causing havoc with European flights.  Here is a good map to give you an idea of what is in store for Europe this weekend.

The French VAAC also issued an advisory, and we’ll see how far this plume goes over the next few days. 

Interesting warning:  Volcanic ash (by itself) is not poisonous, but inhaling it may cause problems for people whose respiratory system is already compromised by disorders such asasthma or emphysema. The abrasive texture can cause irritation and scratching of the surface of the eyes. People who wear contact lenses should wear glasses during an ashfall, to prevent eye damage.

Houston Power Outage Map from Hurricane Ike

As one who looks at power outage maps frequently (living in the boonies) I can really see the total pain in the ass that restoring power to Houston will be over the next few weeks (yea, weeks). Centerpoint Energy has a good outage map in PDF form here, but I’ve taken the big bit and thrown it in this post.

No, that's not an election map.

Ike nightmare scenarios not pretty

The Washington Post is reporting that residents of Galveston face ‘certain death‘ if they remain in their homes for Hurricane Ike. Unlike recent storms like Katrina, Ike is going to hit Galveston and Texas at full force, somewhere around Category 3 (135mph).

“This water as it comes in could be almost like a tsunami,” Dewhurst said on CNN. “Some of our computer models put the entire island of Galveston underwater.”

One worst-case scenario for hurricane planners is a giant, Category 4 or 5 storm that strikes the heavily populated Houston area, flooding Galveston Bay and driving a wall of water up the Houston Ship Channel to overwhelm port, chemical storage and water facilities, Chertoff said. Under that scenario, the homes of 200,000 or more residents could be damaged.

“It’s coming pretty close to what that nightmare is. It’s going to be somewhat south of that,” Chertoff said. “We’re talking about real impact, not only on the refineries in question but the chemical industry and a lot of the energy and chemical resources that we depend upon in this country.”