Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, August 10, 2009 7:54 pm

God promised not to flood the Earth again, but He didn’t say anything about Taiwan

Filed under: Say a prayer — Lex @ 7:54 pm
Tags: , ,

This is staggering:

TAIPEI, Taiwan – A mudslide touched off by a deadly typhoon buried a remote mountain village, leaving at least 400 people unaccounted for Monday, and military rescue helicopters unable to land because of the slippery ground dropped food to desperate survivors.

Typhoon Morakot slammed Taiwan over the weekend with as much as 80 inches (two meters) of rain, inflicting the worst flooding the island has seen in at least a half-century.

In my lifetime, the two worst hurricanes to hit North Carolina have been Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Hugo was a monster, the most powerful North Atlantic storm ever to hit the East Coast anywhere north of Florida. Floyd had demolished the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm, but it had weakened to Category 2 (max sustained winds 138 mph) when it made landfall four days later in North Carolina’s New Hanover County. Though its winds and storm surge were less intense than Hugo’s, it dumped as much as 23 inches of rain on some areas of eastern North Carolina already saturated with rain from a weaker hurricane, Dennis, that had passed through about 2 1/2 weeks earlier.

The result? Flooding on land that had been dry since before Columbus. The Tar River at Tarboro crested at 40.9 feet, 21 feet above flood stage and 7 feet higher than the previous record, which had stood for 80 years. All that water killed 51 people, led to 1,400 swift-water evacuations (else many more might have died), destroyed 17,000 homes, damaged another 54,000, destroyed seven dams, flooded 24 sewage plants, and caused highway, drainage and agricultural damage totaling more than $1.2 billion. The dead cattle numbered in the tens of thousands, dead turkeys in the hundreds of thousands and dead chickens in the millions.

The storm that hit Taiwan and then China this week dumped 3 1/2 times as much rain as Hurricane Floyd did.

I can’t even get my head around the idea of that much rain in the time it takes a hurricane to pass by. As of this story, Taiwan had 14 confirmed dead, along with at least 400 missing after a mudslide demolished a village. I cannot even begin to imagine what the final death toll will look like.

As the 20th and 10th anniversaries of Hugo and Floyd, respectively, approach, I guess it’s good to know that thanks to El Niño, we who live in the path of Atlantic storms most likely can expect an average to below-average hurricane season. On the other hand, there’s no guarantee that a single storm on the order of a Hugo or a Floyd couldn’t make landfall in the U.S.

August, come they must …
September, remember …

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  1. Because we North Carolinians have been “blessed” with a number of significant hurricanes over the last 20 years (let us not forget Fran, which did Hugo-like damage to the Research Triangle in ’96), I think we sometimes overlook Hurricane Mitch, which was a Cat 5 at one point and dumped Morakot-level rains over Central America and killed 20,000 (I remembered it as more but they must have revised the numbers downward) and left 3 million homeless. Whole villages were completely buried in mudslides, including a couple that were buried when the side of a volcano gave way. I’ll be surprised if we don’t see similar numbers coming out of this one I’m afraid.

    Comment by Tony Plutonium — Tuesday, August 11, 2009 5:56 am @ 5:56 am | Reply

  2. I hope not.

    Yeah, I remember Fran well — it was the only extended power outage we ever had in Lake Daniel, since that n’hood is just across the creek from the substation and all the power lines are underground. With no power for the sump pump, the water in our basement was waist-deep before power came back on. Another 3 inches and our furnace would have been swamped.

    Hugo did some damage, too, even though it passed 100 miles west of here. Snapped off a big oak limb that punched a hole in the roof of the Wharton Street house (right over one of the bathtubs, fortunately).

    And, yes, I remember Mitch. I also remember thinking that the international community dragged its feet an AWFULLY long time on its response. I hope that doesn’t happen this time, and I hope the Chicom government isn’t too proud or paranoid to accept immediately whatever offers of help it gets, the way Indonesia (?) was after the tidal wave.

    Comment by Lex — Tuesday, August 11, 2009 9:37 am @ 9:37 am | Reply

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