Hurricanes Verses Human Stupidity or Ignorance

I live in Florida, on the East coast, in a medium sized town called Vero Beach, which is also a VERY expensive place. We have a barrier island between the mainland and the Atlantic Ocean, crossed by two bridges. There is a river in-between – actually a lagoon – which ranges in width from 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile. It is mostly pretty shallow.

If one checks a hurricane progress or history map, one will find that Florida his smack dab in the middle of a natural hurricane path and bracketed by the paths of many of the storms. That would give one the idea that Florida gets hit pretty often and the understanding that, sooner or later, the majority of the state is going to get slammed real hard.

As a kid, I learned to always be ready for storms. My folks and the neighbors always bought several weeks supply of food and simply replaced it as we used it up. We kept storm boards on hand to cover windows with – though most of the houses had those jaoulsey windows designed for storms. (Horizontal strips of glass in frames, Usually 4 inches wide and the width of the window. They could be opened to any angle.) We kept candles, kerosene lamps, sterno or gasoline stoves, rolls of duct tape and batteries. We always had several flashlights and even gasoline lamps. Most of us tended to live in cement block houses.

When the storms came, we filled up jugs with water to drink for when the power went off, filled up the bathtub for water to wash with and to flush the can. If we had time, we bought or made masses of ice and packed it in our freezers to keep the food cool.

After the storm, we stored our plywood window coverings or shutters away, cleaned up the mess and went about our normal lives. One often found houses with those big clamshell awnings so popular in the 50s and 60s, which were designed to be lowered down to seal off windows. They were also designed to ‘cup’ the window and resist or blunt high impact objects.

After reading about and watching television reports of current storm disasters here in the states, I’ve been appalled to find that people in the storm path are living in wooden houses – usually coated with a thin layer of cement. Very few do much to ready themselves in advance of any storm – though many do buy generators – and those who rush to buy out the plywood often THROW IT AWAY right after the storm.

My signature is ‘think of it as evolution in action’ which originally came from a book where the saying indicated that the stupid get wiped out while the smart remain. Nature culling the herd.

Is it just me or are people getting stupider as time goes on in relation to storms?

I was stunned to find massive housing developments built on old flood plains. A flood plain INDICATES that nature is going to flood that place sooner or later and, if you live there, you’re going to get wet. Then I observed many lax building codes in populated areas for houses made mainly of wood – also built in storm areas. (Fewer truss fasteners, trusses no longer firmly anchored into cement or fastened EVERY beam to the wall top. Weaker outer walls, walls made of 2 x 4s filled with insulation, covered by plastic and sheet insulation, then plastered over with cement. Wide, thin glass windows, weaker interior walls and so on.)

Plus natural wind barriers had been removed, like great stands of trees, low hills, rises in the ground and so on. many places had these thin, spindly replacement trees planted which seem to take about 100 years to grow into anything good. Natural drainage had been reworked and turned into parking lots, streets or fields with insufficient man made drains installed.

Now, who is in charge here? Are people actually so stupid that they will not take time to protect themselves? Plus, what about those who every year rush out at the approach of a hurricane and buy new plywood only to toss it away when it is over? Whatever happened to those clamshell, aluminum shutters, or the actually functional vertical and decorative ones places used to have?

When did governments decide to risk the lives of people by cheapening the building codes? (Anyone familiar with General Development Corporation in Florida knows all about substandard housing.)

Here, our local government allows businesses and homes to build right up on the beach. Beaches are variable and when hurricanes hit, sand is removed. So, every year major bucks are spent of replacing washed out sand at the bases of homes and buildings and every major hurricane means a beach evacuation. Plus, the construction of high rises has changed the direction of the inshore winds, forming an artificial cliff. Sand does not gather at the base of a cliff. So, now people gripe that our once vast, tropical beaches are vanishing, which has allowed some businesses to install ugly, massive sea walls. What were they thinking? Plus, blocking the in shore winds has altered the off shore currents, which takes away even more sand.

I’ve watched while homes are built on marshy ground by filling the site with fill and built on naturally flat flood areas after stripping off all of the natural growth. This is asking for trouble! Even with fill the foundations settle and crack! Marsh ground naturally is full of water and it gets worse in the rainy and storm season.

Are folks getting too complacent or is the average intelligence level dropping?

Currently, the government publishes continental maps showing things like Cancer Zones, high pollution zones, tornado zones, hurricane zones and flood zones. Anyone with some background knowledge from reading something like National Geographic can go into an area and determine for himself what the land might be to a small extent. Anyone reading the news or watching television can figure out that living close to major rivers like the Mississippi might not be a good idea because of the major floods every so many years. Kind of like going into California and not buying a house which is on top of the San Andreas fault. Like not living within 5 miles of an active volcano and especially not on the sides of one.

(I’m not real sure about people on some of the Hawaiian Islands because they KNOW that their homes probably will be burned up in lava flows but they still build nearly on top of them ‘for the view’.)

I wonder about some of the mentality of people also. In the last major floods in middle America, farmers were wiped out. Yet, by gosh, they were going to rebuild right where they had been before. Their grand pappy had been wiped out 6 times by the flood and rebuilt, their pappy had been wiped out 4 times and rebuilt and they just got wiped out and they were going to rebuild also.

Not only were they going to rebuild but they were not going to move to safer, higher lands, nor rebuild their homes on stilts – like some more or less intelligent ones did and who comfortably survived the flood.

Any thoughts on this really stupid attitude so many people seem to have?

I mean, would you knowingly move into a nice home on top of a toxic land fill? How about into a new wood house snuggled into the middle of a pleasant stand of wilds that fires burn off every 5 years or so? (See California wild fires. See also that the surviving homes have been made of cement with tile roofs - but they seem to be like one out of 100.)

(SIGH) I dunno. But, then again people love to buy cars that the crush zone includes the drivers side, speed around in SUV’s that will easily tip over, cruse in sports cars that are made of fiberglass and buy trucks with exploding gas tanks.)

“Think of it as Evolution in action.”

Wow, Mark, you’ve single-handedly presented a Great Debate.
I was also raised in a hurricane zone. Back then we figured the houses on the flood plane were built for tourists who were looking for a second home (and who didn’t do their homework).
The lax enforcement of building codes is a different matter. And it could be a crime.
I don’t want to come across as cynical on this subject (hell, maybe I do), but here’s a phrase that pops up from time to time:
Tombstone Technology.
It refers to something that can and should be improved but won’t be until large numbers of people die. The ValuJet crash is an example. The Triangle Shirt Waist fire of 1911 is another. And hurricane building codes could be another…it’s been almost 100 years since 6,000 people died in Galveston, so there’s been a lot of time to forget.

I see the same sort of thing where I live (about ten blocks from the Mississippi River–on a hill) people build on the floodplain and then complain about the high water–EVERY SPRING! Get a grip folks.

It’s a long way to heaven, but only three short steps to hell.

Well, I’m all for people’s right to kill themselves in whatever way they see fit, be it drugs, storms, or rectal inflation. But when my tax dolars start having to pay for it, I draw the line. Disaster recovery dollars are getting rediculous, as it is just a safety net for people who want to build shoddy housing on land known to be unsafe. But, what politician is going to be insane enough to agree with me? It’d be suicide. So, what I propose is that when we hand out disaster recovery money, we do it on the condition that the recipient move someplace else. And if that land had suffered a disaster in the last 5-10 years, they aint getting a cent – they should have known the risk. Maybe unless they can show that the building was supposed to be stormproof and just had bad luck. Or something. If it were poor folk getting hurt I might be a little more sympathetic, but it’s always rich fucks with their precious beach houses that get washed away. Bah, let em swim.
The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

Agreement with all!

I’ve heard of Tombstone Technology. Kind of like the very much denied but still used practice by the local road and bridge departments. They will NOT install a stoplight at a dangerous intersection until X number of people have been killed.

My city is now pretty well off – actually too fucking rich – but as a kid, it was a small town. We had one of the best school systems in the US – except that I went to 7th and 8th grades in an old school which had been condemned for 5 years but the city was too cheap to tear down until it started to fall apart in chunks.

Every year I watch people flood to the building supply stores and department stores to buy batteries, bottle water, wood and so on and have to resist this urge to hit them on the head and yell in their faces ; ’ THIS HAPPENS EVERY YEAR! DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST FRIGGIN MINUTE AND PAY ELEVATED PRICES AND DON’T THROW THE FRIGGIN PLYWOOD AWAY!’

Walmart makes a major killing during hurricane season here.

A motion was placed before the city to prevent anyone building right up on the shores of the Atlantic ocean but powerful property owners and Realtors with beach front property, knowing well how the very rich had begun flocking here to live on the beach, shot it down. Now we have a section of a very, very exclusive community – John’s Island – where presidents have stayed, built RIGHT ON THE BEACH. (Course that is the CHEAP section. Apartments run only something like $500,000 and up for a small, two bedroomer in something that closely resembles a Grecian palace.) Then Disney came in and poked a snob hotel right on the shores.

I keep waiting for the ‘BIG ONE’ to come ashore and wipe the beaches clean again. There’s an abandoned house on a stretch of beach that I know of, and when it was built around 30 years ago, it was quite a ways back from the shore. It’s ON the shore now. Each year it gets a little closer to the water.

I recall watching contractors build solid, cement houses here. I also recall the new designs for hurricane proof housing and buildings. Well, now they build these wooden framed things and the hurricane proof houses with their slanted, downward-air-pressure-directing roofs were not all that pretty, so none got built. People build these lovely homes with GREAT MUCKING BIG WINDOWS FACING THE SEA and wonder why they get blown into the next county.

I agree. I’m tired of my taxes going to pay for human stupidity. I got this little building on my land, left over from the 60s. Its a nuclear bomb shelter and while, with today’s weapons, I figure it might last about 1 second longer than the house in a blast, no tornado nor hurricane can budge the damn thing.

Walls of reinforced concrete 3 feet thick and the base is buried 3 feet into the ground. THAT is good hurricane construction. It is kept as a back-up just in case our cement house finds a storm that might be a bit much for it. Since the mass development around us has stripped away the great acres of buffering pines and Oaks, it has opened us up to more direct winds. Still, my place is over 30 years old and has weathered every hurricane which has hit the area with no damage.

NOTHING like good old fashioned, solid construction!

“Think of it as Evolution in action.”

Money Talks. This says it all. San Francisco burned 6 time in the 19th cent. & once in the 20th. Destroyed by earthquakes, the town scooped up all the rubble & dumped it into the bay. Then they built expensive housing on top of the rubble fill. Not only will this rubble fill flow like jelly in a quake, the very existance of the rubble should serve as a reminder. It doesn’t. Ask a Californian about earthquakes & he will say “They’re no real problem”. And then , he’ll try to sell you a house.

Lemmings have a keener survival instinct than Man.

Real Estate developers are total ASSHOLES!

Is an appreciation of beauty a function of the human soul?

If the government lets you do something, it must be ok. Everybody knows that. If a floodplain has been “reclaimed”, that means it no longer floods. It has been claimed for man’s use, and if it floods, then dadgum the government out to bail out my sorry ass.

And as long as the government keeps doing so, amoral jerks are going to keep on making money off the rest of us.

There are two towns near me which flood nearly every spring. The first one was full of old cottages owned by people who realized and accepted that they had to move elsewhere for a month each year and repeatedly clean out a lot of mud. The other was settled by new urban refugees building expensive weekend homes. They were shocked and surprised by each flooding and got the government to finance more and more flood-control measures. Eventually even the people who knew better began to whine, too, and got the money flowing into their town. They all vote. That’s the way politics works.

Okay, I am a Californian, and you’re right, earthquakes aren’t a real problem. I’ve spent very little time in hurricane-y places, and have never been in danger from one, but I seriously doubt that serious earthquakes occur as often as serious hurricanes. (I’ve lived in the Bay Area my whole life and have felt THREE earthquakes. The last one was ten years ago.) Not only that, but earthquake codes are very strict, and new buildings tend to be built with steel frames, which hold up very well in quakes. Anyone with half a brain has earthquake insurance and food and water stored away. And only rich idiots want to live in the Marina (the aforementioned expensive housing on top of landfill). Anyway, I am shocked that people are allowed to live in such shoddy plains in what is clearly dangerous hurricane territory. I can’t believe there isn’t a law preventing this sort of thing.

Cause this is MPSISM, I’ll share: I’m scared to death of hurricanes. I live eight miles from the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta quake and that doesn’t scare me at all, but I’d rather…do something bad…than move to Florida.


The main problem I have with idiots who keep building on floodplains, etc are the HUMAN BEINGS who have to pull their sorry asses out of the mess- risking thier own lives. I swear to God my blood boils when I see some moron, water rising up to his armpits saying “I’m not leaving MY home. Screw this storm”. Then some rescue worker has to risk life and limb to pull his stupid ass off the roof an hour later. I bring this up because these have just GOT to be the same people rebuilding on floodplains and costing taxpayers dollars to do it.

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