Monday, August 20, 2007

Clueless Bureaucrats

Thanks to SciGuy over at the Houston Chronicle, we're starting to sniff the massive emergency ops in Texas and detect a noticeable stink. The Governor down to all the locals have been maintaining that Hurricane Dean could smash into Texas late Wednesday, and have mobilized even more equipment and manpower. The reason is because two model tracks come to Texas, as is shown in the above graphic (thanks, Eric!).

As SciGuy proves, the two tracks coming to Texas either (1) aren't models or (2) so dumbed-down as to be useless. What the heck is going on? Or as SciGuy asks in his blog, "Anyone else found hyperbole with regards to Dean in the last week?"

Seeds of the story seem to come from two immediate sources, a spokesman for the Brownsville Weather Service and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, the latter of which shared the news on Fox TV (see a pattern here?). The offending quote from the Brownsville NWS reads:

"We're in full swing. There are still a couple of models that show us getting a direct hit."

What a load of pure, unmitigated crap. I should have known better last night when mysterious, anonymous bloggers were preaching on the Weather Underground blog that "Dean is shifting north right now; Texas WILL be hit." Then this morning I read the Valley Morning Star, our local newspaper, and about blew coffee ('Tracking storms no exact science,' Amanda Harris, August 20, 2007). You guessed it, Amanda quoted a spokesman for the Brownsville Weather Service.

Conspiracy or not, it does appear that from top to bottom, the emergency planners were struck by an intense lightning bolt of dumb-ass. Get over it, folks, there is no three-story wall of water coming to flood SPI this week, and Hurricane Dean is headed for landfall south of Cozumel and then south of Tampico, Mexico. You don't have to justify spending tens of millions of my tax money on some kind of stupidity and folly.


Mike said...

Because of the geometrically increasingly supply-relief scenario and the burn the government experienced with Katrina, is the government damned if they do, and damned if they don't? And, I am not addressing your local officials. They are not near the level of consideration of my comments.

You know how historically fickle hurricanes are. Even with our advanced prediction models, we can not be positive of the course of these storms until they are about to strike landfall. They can even whirl around out at sea about us and go elsewhere.

Once the track of a megacyclone like Dean is close enough to be determined; well enough, but then it is almost always too late. Then, everyone has their false hurricane party, (I hope).

But, fact for us beach folks is that we wait, and we watch and we hope we won't wait too late to leave our homes. It's a game of probabilities. Our numbers will all come up sooner or later; but hopefully later.

Sam said...

I understand exactly what you're saying, Mike, and appreciate the comments. I WANT the officials to respond, and appreciate their concern for my safety.

It's just that they based a command decision on ... a model!

Ouch. There were 15 models available to the emergency officials, in addition to all the other forecasting tools. Two or three of them showed a Texas landfall. One or two went up to Corpus Christi.

One was called GDFL, a super-ensemble from Florida that tracked Dean to the right of an upper low, a condition thought possible as late as last Friday. Later however, it switched to a track was to the south.

The other was called CLIPS. This was the model used to "make the decision." It turns out CLIPS (and XTRAPS, a second one) aren't even true models. Nope, they use historical track data to predict likely landfall, and have absolutely no predictive power or skill.

In a way they hung themselves with their own rope. Weather experts all over the world were baffled by the "wish-casting" coming out of Texas. None of the reliable models had a "cone of uncertainty" even near the Texas border by Monday. That cone of uncertainty was nearly 150-175 miles either side, too!

But no, they picked the two answers that were not even models but looked like Texas landfalls for sure. That's what bothered me the most. /sam

Lucinda said...

I'm with you, Sam.
It seemed very obvious to me as early as Sat. that this storm was not coming anywhere near us and yet you have the Mayor declaring a state of emergency before the storm even hits the Gulf and we all know how the media loves to pick up on that stuff -- days after the situation has changed.

My tenants for this week bailed and while I am kinda enjoying a sweet quiet week after a frantic summer season, there is no reason why this town should be dead when we are enjoying such lovely weather.


Everett said...

Hi Sam, Well we all got a look at SPI last night on the NBC news. They had a guy standing on the deserted beaches telling us all where Mr. Dean took his show! Looks nice down there except it would be too damned hot for me. AH it is 62.5* this morning! By now

Sam said...

Argggg, you and your "Nantucket Nut Coolers" Everett! I guess we could use a shot of the cool stuff but 50's and 60's, shiver me timbers that's downright cold.

When are ya going to update yer blog?