On Irma And Stupidity
The Market Ticker - Commentary on The Capital Markets
2017-09-06 10:52 by Karl Denninger
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On Irma And Stupidity
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Yesterday the local WalMart was completely sold out of bottled water.

Irma has not had more than 5% chance of getting this far west -- ever.  There was exactly one model with any sort of support for even tropical storm force winds here, the CMC -- and that took the storm into Appalachicola, which would mean that we'd get..... a rainstorm.

Really.  Not flooding, not wind damage, not surge (we'd be on the wrong side) -- a rainstorm.  Never mind that the CMC is one of the less-reliable long-term models and has been left behind by more-recent evolution in hurricane path modeling.

Nonetheless the one thing that's literally the most-stupid to buy was stripped out of the local stores instantly: Bottled water.

Folks, what's wrong with your tap?  Fill up a cooler or any other clean container.  That's nearly free instead of standing in line and carting around bottles which, I remind you, then turn into trash you must dispose of in the middle of a storm when services (like garbage collection and recycling) might be disrupted.

Never mind that most houses have tank-style water heaters.  They typically have 50 gallons of drinkable water in them even if the water pumps are dead.  They also have a nice draincock on the bottom to which one can either attach a hose or simply put a glass under and open (if it's on a platform.)  Turn off the breaker or shut off the pilot (so you don't dry-fire and damage it) when the storm comes and you have 50 gallons (enough to last a family of four nearly two weeks in drinking water!) of clean, drinkable water.  Just open a hot-water tap so as to break the vacuum when you need to drain some for drinking.  When water comes back on fill it back up completely before turning it back on.  Easy, free, and already in your house or apartment.

real problem is that lift stations typically go down with the power which means you can't flush the toilet or take a shower or you will flood.  Worse, your neighbors can't either or they may flood you (if you're lower than they are.)  This means you need to figure out how you'd going to use the bathroom when you can't flush for however long the lift stations are out of service.  Know where the cleanout plug is in your drain line and/or figure out how to plug that line to block reverse flow (e.g. with an inflatable device); while it's illegal to open the plug I'll take the fine for doing it if caught if I can't block the line over the alternative of a house full of raw sewage which is going to wind up in the environment anyway if your neighbors do a stupid thing during or after a storm.

When it comes to places like Houston, Miami and elsewhere the federal government has cheered on utterly stupid things.  So have the state, local and county governments, by the way, all in the name of "economic growth."  Houston is a particularly-glaring example in that damn near the entire city is flood-prone and always has been; the early settlers that came to the area literally found a swamp and turned around, deeming it unfit for settlement.  Miami is built largely on reclaimed swampland that has and will continue to subside; that's not from global warming, it's from stupidity.  This means that both ought to be full of literally-disposable buildings along with those built on high enough pilings and 200mph wind ratings so that over their economically-useful life they won't get wet or destroyed.  But that costs more money and doesn't look as "cool", never mind the code madness cities impose that prohibit low-cost disposable structures for those who either don't want to or can't afford such stout construction but are expected to be destroyed in a major storm and thus are deliberately not insured.  Why no, instead we must build edifices and palaces in places known to be prone to inundation and then expect the taxpayer to cover it when they get trashed while the profits from building same have gone to private parties.

This is madness.

Everyone wants to say that Irma is the "strongest hurricane ever in the Atlantic."  Nonsense.  We didn't have weather satellites until the '60s and thus the only way to know one was coming was when the weather went to crap or a ship went through it (by accident) as ships sure didn't go through the eye of a hurricane on purpose!  Second, anemometers (windspeed indicators) don't generally survive 150+mph winds even today (several government-bought and thus high-quality ones failed at ~130mph last night as Irma came in), and 50-100 years ago they never did, so we have no accurate records with regard to hurricanes that are older than the last 50-75 years since flying through them is pretty-much how you clock maximum windspeeds; ground-based equipment tends to get destroyed.  What we do know is that two really nasty hurricanes came through Florida just prior to the '29 crash; the 1926 Miami 'cane caused a hell of a lot of damage and it then hit Pensacola, causing heavy damage, after re-emerging into the Gulf.  Two years later almost to the day a monster storm came in between Jupiter and Boca Raton known as the Okeechobee hurricane.  Between the two they trashed what was at the time a monstrous real estate bubble and in fact set off a property market crash in the state that has been memorialized in the famous (and true) saying "selling swampland in Florida."

Hurricanes are part of the natural phenomena in nature and redistribute energy from the oceans into the atmosphere.  While Irma has already done a lot of damage in the Leeward Islands and will undoubtedly do more intentionally stupid decisions by humans are responsible for far more economic damage and loss of life than the weather itself.

While you and I can probably not do much about the idiocy of city planners and politicians we do have the choice to not do dumb things that destroy our own financial lives, or even worse, get people we love hurt or killed.

Use your heads folks.

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