CC attribution: Public Domain. NASA via pingnews on flickr.
The fresh smell of swelling panic swirls in the air.
Isn't life on the Gulf Coast grand?
Thanks to Erin and our drainage systems (or lack thereof) Thursday turned into a major rain event for Houston and it's surrounding area.
Our regional operations were shut down and staff sent home not too long after the lunch hours on Thursday. As I live on the far East side of Harris county, my two main freeways were out of commission with water blocking all main lanes. So I hung around with one other person in the office and kept working until my regular quitting time, hoping that the waters would subside once the rains stopped.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
So after a long time monitoring my potential "escape" routes with Houston TranStar Real-Time Traffic Map, Houston TranStar Cameras, and Houston TranStar Incidents and Road Closures I decided on my driving plan.
I ended up having to go south down I-45 towards Galveston and then cut back North over the Beltway 8 until I could make my way back East past the flooded sections.
All in all, it wasn't near as bad as the folks going the opposite direction. Never seen the Beltway that packed with cars for that many miles.
Yuck. Bet the toll-way authority made a killing at the toll booths that day.
So now all eyes on the Gulf Coast turn to Dean.
We are dusting off our emergency ops center, checking the phones and connectivity to the room, and planning a response...just in case.
I can again feel the almost PTSD-like "bad mojo's coming" emotional level rising in me again.
I will say this, I don't plan on sitting in a car for hours like last time. Unless there is a very real danger of extreme flooding...or Cat 4-5 high winds aimed right up the ship channel, I think we might be sheltering in place and digging out afterwards. Two years ago was a nightmare of man-made levels.
So here are the hurricane links I am watching at home and work, to track the impending winds.
Hurricane and Storm Tracking - Terrapin's site remains my favorite. It is lean and simple and allows for quick location of information without lots of graphic overkill. The storm-track plots come in two flavors, a simple historical and future projection track that is static as well as a java-based animated one. Loads fast and updated as new forecasts are posted.
National Hurricane Center - This website maintained by the National Weather Service is my number two choice. Lots more linkage on the sidebar for hurricane related topics and preparations. The main page has links to a number of graphics and advisories.
(NHC's) Atlantic Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook - A "beta" sub-page of the site listed above. This is pretty cool. Any current tropical systems are overlayed on a satellite image with an icon. Hovering over the icon pulls up a quick update view. Clicking on the update popup then takes you to the system's detailed page.
Moreweather.com -- Tropical Atlantic Weather Page - T-Storm Terry Faber has created a great hurricane system page here. Not only does it have lots of links to any active systems, but it also contains links to radar and satellite images, many in great details and high resolution. The hurricane tracking maps and projections are there, of course. There is this neat new link: Plot Models using Google Maps. T-Storm Terry also provides links to other sources of information as well as historical data on previous storm systems.
Tropical Weather : Weather Underground - This is a fantastic site that has the widest range of linkages, maps, images, models, and everything. Just about the only thing it doesn't provide is winds blown into your face through the monitor. Which is why I put this at the bottom and not the top: there is just so much information it overwhelms. This page on Hurricane Dean has some neat graphics including wind speed values from the last Hurricane Hunter flight and a GFDL model run which animates (kinda blocky) the storm tower tracking across the Gulf and a Flash based tracking map.
For local Houston area facts and updates, most of the local news stations have their web-sites powered up.
Hurricane Central | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle - I generally turn to the Houston Chronicle's website for the majority of my information locally.
Harris County Homeland Security & Emergency Management - Main page links to the new Evacuation maps, Contraflow routes, etc.
Harris County Homeland Security & Emergency Management - Sub-main page with more information and links.
Fox News 26 - Hurricane Toolbox - Lots of links and helpful tips
abc13.com: Gulf Coast Hurricane Guide 2007 - Again lots of links and preparedness tips.
Texas Hurricane News, KPRC Local 2 Click2Houston - News channel 2's public information page.
HURRICANE CENTRAL from 11 News KHOU.com - One more local news site's tropics page.
And in honor of those brave folks who fly into the storms to help keep us safely informed, here are some fascinating links to those they call the Hurricane Hunters.
Lots of great facts, stories, and amazing photos on those pages.