Why Now?
Friday, December 31, 2004
  Wall of Water

The Farmer at Corrente talked about waiting for Hurricane Andrew and its storm surge and made the comparison with the tsunami.

I was in Opal in 1995 with a 10-15 foot storm surge and then Ivan this year with a 20-30 foot surge. I have seen what water can do, playing with bridge spans that weigh tens of tons like they were Legos, lifting 60-foot boats and carrying them a half-mile inland, picking up a four-bedroom house and moving it a quarter mile. After months they were still pulling cars and dumpsters out of the Santa Rosa Sound where the water had left them.

While you might drown in the water, the real risk is the debris that the water picks up and carries with it: you can swim to the top of the water, but not if you have been hit with a slab of concrete flowing with the water. Debris is the killer and the destroyer, remember that the Columbia space shuttle was destroyed by a chunk of foam insulation that hit a wing. Many of the buildings destroyed by tornados and hurricanes are lost when debris impacts weaken the structure and the wind can finish the job. There is a lot of video footage of buildings losing a window and then seemingly exploding. Many of those who drowned were trapped as buildings collapsed around them.

The older condos on the barrier island South of me were designed with "break-away" first floors. The concept, which has been proven through several hurricanes, is for the first floor to surrender to the pressure, which saves the rest of the structure. Only the main structural pillars remain to support the upper floors, but it is not shifted on its foundation. This same concept is the reason that many indigenous people build on stilts, to allow water to pass under the house.

 



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