Search Results

TAKINGS NEWS: Court Rules Federal Government Flooding of Homes During Hurricane Harvey is a Taking. “The decision is significant in itself and has important implications for other cases where the government deliberately damages private property in the process of coping with natural disasters.”

SNOWFALLS ARE NOW JUST A THING OF THE PAST: How The Media Enables Destructive Climate Change Hysteria. Reporters have a responsibility to challenge the assumptions and exaggerations of activists.

If journalists did their jobs, they would contest some of the assumptions and exaggerations that have now congealed as “crisis” in their newsrooms. Not necessarily the science, but the predictive abilities of scientists or the hyperbolic statements of politicians. But how can any reporter be skeptical of anyone when news organizations have already conceded that what they’re covering is a “crisis?” It would be an apostasy. Chuck Todd won’t give any airtime to “deniers,” but he’ll open his show any Chicken Little who can get elected.

Not long ago, candidates and mainstream media outlets like CNN were acting as if floods in the Midwest were an unprecedented environmental disaster. In reality, deaths from extreme weather have dropped somewhere around 99.9 percent since the 1920s. Tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and extreme temperatures can still be killers, but thanks to increasingly affordable fossil-fueled heating and air-conditioning systems, safer buildings, and better warning systems—among other technological advances—the vast majority of Americans will never have to fear weather in any genuine way.

Put it this way: Since 1980, death caused by all natural disasters and heat and cold is well under 0.5 percent of the total.

Yet, never, to my recollection, has a mainstream reporter asked an environmental activist why, if the world is headed towards Armageddon, humans are better off now than they were 50 years ago, or 20 years ago or 10 years ago? Climate change is supposedly in full swing, yet fewer people are hungry, fewer people are displaced, and we have to fight fewer wars over resources. Extreme poverty has steeply dropped over the past 30 years. There is no evidence that this trajectory is about to change.

Worse, instead of conveying this good news, the media keeps cherrypicking problems without any context. They’ve convinced large swaths of young Americans that everything is getting worse, when the opposite is true.

Just think of the media as Democratic Party activists with bylines, and their lack of pushback makes total sense.

(Classical reference in headline.)

DISASTER PREP: Earthquake, flood, hurricane: Google Maps adds tools to help you navigate a crisis.

DAVID HARSANYI: Sorry, Alarmists, Climate Chaos Is Not Here. “Despite Democrats’ cataclysmal framing of every weather event, Americans are safer than ever.”

It’s true that 2019 has seen a spike in tornadoes, but mostly because 2018 was the first year recorded without a single violent tornado in the United States. Tornadoes killed 10 Americans in 2018, the fewest since we started keeping track of these things in 1875, only four years after the nefarious combustion engine was invented.

There has also been a long-term decline in the cost of tornado damage. In 2018, we experienced near-lows in this regard. The only better years were 2017, 2016, and 2015.

After a few devastating hurricanes around a decade ago, we were similarly warned that it was a prelude to endless storms and ecological disaster. This was followed by nine years without a single major hurricane in the United States. Or, in other words, six fewer hurricanes than we experienced in 1908 alone.

According to the U.S. Natural Hazard Statistics, in fact, 2018 saw below the 30-year average in deaths not only by tornadoes and hurricanes (way under average) but also from heat, flooding, and lighting. We did experience a slight rise in deaths due to cold.

Pointing out these sort of things usually elicits the same reaction: Why do you knuckle-dragging troglodytes hate science? Well, because science’s predictive abilities on most things, but especially climate, have been atrocious. But mostly because science is being used as a cudgel to push leftist policy prescriptions without considering economic tradeoffs, societal reality, or morality.

It’s always about power, except when it’s about money, unless it’s about both.

THERE SHOULD BE FEDERAL CORRUPTION INVESTIGATIONS: Pushback: White House cites $91 billion for Puerto Rico, hits corruption, incompetence.

The Trump White House Wednesday said that it is prepared to spend up to a record $91 billion to help Puerto Rico recover from a September 2017 hurricane even though it cited the island’s history of corruption and mismanagement.

With President Trump under fire for being critical of Puerto Rico on Twitter, and Democrats blocking a disaster funding bill if the administration doesn’t cough up more cash for the island, the White House pushed back, claiming it has given historic levels of money so far.

“Puerto Rico is on track to receive an historic level of aid for disaster recovery, in spite of the fact that it has repeatedly failed to manage its finances appropriately,” said the administration.

The Trump administration says it has allocated over $40 billion so far and could spend up to $91 billion, “far exceeding funding for states hit by other recent disasters.”

Ever since Hurricane Maria hit, the president has been criticized by congressional lawmakers and Democrats on the island for not doing more to help it recover from the disaster, despite pouring historic levels of resources into the effort.

With Democrats pushing for more help, the president went on Twitter to push back and the White House offered facts and figures to back him up today as the fight escalated.

Punch back twice as hard.

MICHAEL TOTTEN: Off The Richter Scale: Can the Pacific Northwest prepare for the cataclysmic quake that’s coming? “Americans have long dreaded the ‘Big One,’ a magnitude 8.0 earthquake along California’s San Andreas Fault that could one day kill thousands of people and cause billions of dollars in damage. The Big One, though, is a mere mini-me compared with the cataclysm forming beneath the Pacific Northwest.”

Plus: “Local governments can’t possibly stockpile enough food to feed millions during a disaster; they aren’t, in fact, stockpiling anything. People will have to feed themselves until FEMA arrives, and the agency won’t be on the scene in a day, or even a week. Not a single road will be passable. An entire region 100 miles wide and 600 miles long will be ravaged. Many Americans have bemoaned the federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, but we’ll have hundreds of de facto islands in the Pacific Northwest. . . . Local governments once told everyone to have at least three days’ worth of food on hand that can be prepared without gas or electricity. They have since raised the bar to two weeks. Is that enough?” No. Next question?

Also: “‘If you have a community in rural Oklahoma hit by a tornado,’ he says, ‘the volunteers can render aid until the proverbial cavalry arrives. After a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, the cavalry won’t show up for weeks. So my volunteers need to know more than simply first aid. They need to know wilderness first aid.'”

But beware: NAACP Declares Portland Earthquake Warnings To Be Racist.

Meanwhile, a New Madrid quake would be almost as bad, and economically might be worse, since it would effectively cut the country in half for months.

THE BIG ONE IN AMERICA’S HEARTLAND: The big earthquake, in the New Madrid (Missouri) Seismic Zone. But don’t start quaking in your running shoes and try to escape to Texas because it’s comparatively geologically stable. Here’s why: In 1971 I heard a very informed discussion of the New Madrid Fault, which is centered in New Madrid. In one geologist’s opinion, that unfortunate “piston” (the word he used) could have generated a mega-quake some time in the 1970s or early 1980s. That mega-quake did not occur. However, the geologist was not making a prediction — he was assessing the fault’s instability based on data he had seen. That noted, I still recall the description of the 1811 New Madrid mega-quake.

This linked article sketches the disaster:

Back in 1811, New Madrid, Missouri, itself had only 400 people, St. Louis to the north had about 1,500 residents and Memphis to the south wasn’t even a twinkle in its founders’ eyes, according to the Central United States Earthquake Consortium. Damage was reported as far away as Charleston, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia; and the quakes, estimated at 7.5 to 7.7 magnitude, were felt more than 1,000 miles away in Connecticut.

The article includes this 21st century assessment:

Seismologists estimate that the New Madrid Seismic Zone has a 25 percent to 40 percent chance of producing a significant quake within the next 50 years, according to Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. USGS studies have concluded that the zone has generated magnitude 7 to 8 earthquakes about every 500 years for the past 1,200 years.

Read the entire article — it’s an accessible description of the geological threat. As for escaping to Texas, please stay away. It’s absolutely terrible down here. We have hurricanes and tornadoes and sweltering summers and gazillions of feral hogs. The worst of it: increasingly terrible traffic thanks to tax migrants fleeing California.

JIM MEIGS: Living on the Edge: Just as coastal communities must learn to live with hurricanes, communities that edge up against forests are going to have to learn to live with fire. “Building and zoning codes can be changed to make towns less fire prone. Homes that are built or retrofitted with fireproof materials—and landscaped to keep shrubbery away from structures—can usually survive typical wildfires. In new developments, homes can be clustered and surrounded by fire-resistant buffer zones, such as orchards. And, no matter how well designed, communities in fire zones need realistic evacuation plans and better emergency communications. (Poor communications and inadequate evacuation planning in the face of the speed a fire could move at were among the many failures in Paradise.)”

LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: Caused by climate change? “In the midst of this disaster, The Guardian runs this headline: ‘Victims of Hurricane Michael voted for climate deniers.’ The article’s description: ‘Elections have consequences. Denying science has consequences. And we are reaping what we sow’.”

DISASTER RELIEF: I Drove a Pickup Full of Supplies to a Town Flooded by Florence, and Here Is What I Saw.

IT’S TOO LATE FOR FLORENCE, BUT THERE’S ALWAYS ANOTHER HURRICANE (OR OTHER DISASTER) IN THE FUTURE: Canned water, 50-year shelf life. We store some in a shed, where it’ll be there even if the house gets knocked down.

PAST PERFORMANCE IS NO GUARANTEE OF FUTURE RESULTS:

● Shot: As Hurricane Florence approaches, American politics is put on pause.

—Headline, NBC.com, 7:52 AM ET today.

Chaser:

MSNBC: How Can ‘Climate Change Deniers’ Respond to Hurricane?

Andrea Mitchell Hammered as She Tries to Politicize Disaster Relief.

—Headlines, NewsBusters, tonight.

PREPAREDNESS: Scramble for food and water as Hurricane Lane approaches Hawaii.

Governor David Ige urged residents to prepare for the worst by setting aside a 14-day supply of water, food and medicines.

“I urge our residents and visitors to take this threat seriously and prepare for a significant impact,” the governor said at a news conference in the state capital, Honolulu.

The shelves of a downtown Honolulu Walmart were stripped of items ranging from canned tuna to dog food. Shoppers jostled with one another to get the last boxes of ramen noodles.

“There’s nothing in there,” said one shopper leaving the store.

It’s much more convenient and generally cheaper to get prepared way ahead of time than it is right before disaster hits.

PAST PERFORMANCE IS NO GUARANTEE OF FUTURE RESULTS:

● Shot:

The NYPD used a $3 million counterterrorism plane to shuttle Mayor Bill de Blasio back and forth from his Canada vacation to the Big Apple for an event Thursday, The Post has learned.

Hizzoner, who is in Quebec on a weeklong respite, briefly flew back to the Bronx for a memorial for slain Detective Miosotis Familia.

“NYPD is transporting him in their plane,” de Blasio spokesman Eric Phillips told The Post.

“Their plane” is a Cessna 208 Caravan that cost roughly $3 million and was picked up by the department in 2017, sources said.

The high-tech aircraft is outfitted with special sensors that can detect at a distance radioactive material used to make “dirty bombs.”

Police sources questioned the use of a special plane for mayoral transportation.

“It is very unusual to go on an international flight to go pick up the mayor,” one source said.

De Blasio used a $3M counterterrorism plane to zip home from vacation, the New York Post, Thursday.

● Chaser:

A week after a brutal snowstorm froze New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered a one-two punch Wednesday in the name of climate change, announcing he will seek billions in damages from five major oil-and-gas companies while moving to divest from fossil fuels.

“It’s time for them to start paying for the damage they have done,” Mr. de Blasio said at a press conference at the Manhattan Youth Center. “It’s time for Big Oil to take responsibility for the devastation they have wrought.”

The two-front attack was promptly pilloried by industry groups as a cynical political stunt, even as it put New York City at the forefront of the environmental movement’s campaign to recruit local governments as allies in the climate change fight.

Flanked by municipal leaders and top climate activists, the Democratic mayor said his goal is to divest the $189 billion public-pension funds from fossil fuels by 2022, which he said would make New York the first major U.S. city to do so.

Mr. de Blasio also announced that the city has filed a lawsuit against five top energy producers, blaming the companies for greenhouse-gas emissions that he said have produced disasters such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“I remember those days after Sandy in the Lower East Side. I remember how desperate it was. I remember how much fear and confusion there was,” said Mr. de Blasio. “And this was a tragedy that was wrought by the actions of the fossil-fuel companies. Let’s be clear: That’s where it came from.”

New York City mayor seeks billions from oil companies, blames them for climate change, the Washington Times, January 10.

● Hangover: NYC will pay you big bucks for ratting out idling trucks, buses.

—The New York Post, yesterday.

If he actually believed global warming is that existential a crisis, shouldn’t at the very least De Blasio fly commercial, as well as keeping the amount of his personal transportation down to a bare minimum? I don’t want to hear another goddamn word about Glenn Reynolds’ carbon footprint ever again.

INSIDE THE WORST U.S. MARITIME DISASTER IN DECADES: A recording salvaged from three miles deep tells the story of the doomed El Faro, a cargo ship engulfed by a hurricane.

SPENDING: House holds 5:30 am vote to end brief shutdown, sends spending bill to Trump.

The House early Friday morning passed a bipartisan bill to keep the government open, several hours into a partial government closure and despite division within both parties over the legislation.

Dozens of Republicans and Democrats voted against the bill, which provides government funding until March 23 and sets a marker for federal spending levels for the next two years. The legislation also suspends the nation’s borrowing limit for one year, and provides nearly $90 billion in disaster relief for states and territories devastated by recent wildfires and hurricanes.

Despite the opposition from Republicans opposed to new spending, and Democrats who wanted to include an immigration deal that doesn’t exist, the bipartisan support supplied enough votes to ensure House passage.

Most Democrats added some drama by not voting until the very end, but more than 70 of them ultimately joined the GOP majority to support the bill. In the final vote, 67 Republicans rejected the bill, which passed 240-186.

I’m not happy.

PERHAPS SARAH HOYT WILL LET ME BORROW HER SHOCKED FACE: In a switch, GOP deserts its budget-cutting mantra.

Republicans initially tried but failed to cut spending this year, stymied by intraparty divisions they could not rectify.

They could not unify behind an effort to slash the growth of Medicaid, a joint state and federal health-care program for low-income Americans. And Democrats unified to block other proposed spending cuts to programs for the poor.

Congress also twice agreed to raise the debt ceiling without putting any new restraints on spending.

Three devastating hurricanes in August and September ravaged Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, prompting emergency steps to seek $40 billion in new spending. A storm landing this weekend, Hurricane Nate, could create new spending pressure. In the past, some Republicans have sought to offset disaster relief spending with cuts in other areas, but no such demands were made this time.

Meanwhile, Trump rejected a proposal from White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to curb future Medicare and Social Security spending, saying he had promised voters in 2016 that he would not touch those programs.

This is not the GOP government I was hoping for, but it is the one I’ve come to expect.

WAIT, THIS IS CONTRARY TO THE NARRATIVE: Bloomberg: No, Trump Didn’t Botch the Puerto Rico Crisis: A Q&A with former Navy Captain Jerry Hendrix on smart preparations the White House and Pentagon made for the looming storm. Key bits:

TH: So, it seems like everybody has blasted Trump administration’s response to the Puerto Rico crisis. Has that criticism been fair?

JH: No, I don’t think so. First of all, there was a fair amount of anticipatory action that is not being recognized. Amphibious ships, including the light amphibious carriers Kearsarge and Wasp and the amphibious landing ship dock Oak Hill were at sea and dispatched to Puerto Rico ahead of the hurricane’s impact.

These are large ships that have large flight decks to land and dispatch heavy-lift CH-53 helicopters to and from disaster sites. They also have big well-decks — exposed surfaces that are lower than the fore and aft of the ship — from which large landing craft can be dispatched to shore carrying over 150 tons of water, food and other supplies on each trip. These are actually the ideal platforms for relief operations owing to their range of assets. The ships, due to their designs to support Marine amphibious landings in war zones, also have hospitals onboard to provide medical treatment on a large scale. That these ships were in the area should be viewed as a huge positive for the administration and the Department of Defense. . . .

Puerto Rico is an island that suffers from its position in the middle of the Caribbean and its physical separation from the U.S. Its roads were in disrepair and its electrical grid was antiquated prior to the hurricane. The island has also suffered for years from ineffective local government and rising local territorial debt.

The Navy used to operate a large Navy base there, Naval Station Roosevelt Roads. I spent six months on the island in 1993, but when the island’s population protested the presence of the training range at nearby Vieques Island, the Navy shuttered the base, taking $300 million a year out of the Puerto Rican economy.

If they still had that Navy base they’d be in better shape, but local politicos wanted it gone. (Bumped).

SO I SPOKE AT AN EVENT TONIGHT, TALKING ABOUT CIVILIAN DISASTER RELIEF AND SOCIAL COHESION, and a guy came up to me afterward saying that since Robert Putnam found that diversity is associated with decreased social trust, how did I feel about a bunch of white people going off to start their own country. (My response: Unenthused). But you see this sort of thing on the Internet enough that some people believe it, and while Putnam’s point is supported by research, I don’t think it actually supports the solution. “Diversity,” I suspect, is one of those things that actually is a social construct. If you make people hyperaware of their differences — as is done on college campuses today — you can make things much worse than they otherwise would be. (See also Tito’s Yugoslavia). If you encourage people to think about what they have in common, you can make things much better. And where it suits their interests, politicians will create ethnic cleavages. (Hutus and Tutsis are both “black” in American conception, but politicians were still able to inflame passions that led to genocide.) My prediction is that if you created some sort of racially segregated society, politicians would soon be at work finding other differences to inflame, differences that nobody’s even aware of now. The only real answer is a strong social norm that supports, for example, our common humanity and, in this country, our common Americanness. This seems to be what ordinary Americans believe, and act upon, but politicians will do whatever it takes to gain power. Keeping politicians in check is the key to getting along. Can we do more of that?

AN EASY DISASTER-RELIEF LAYUP FOR TRUMP: The law allows FEMA to help rebuild destroyed houses of worship, but the agency would rather not. Trump should fix this now.

ISIS: Hurricanes Show U.S. Must be Overrun with ‘Disasters and Illness.’

COMPLACENCY: Why Didn’t Florida Power & Light Do More To Prepare For Irma?

FPL’s workers on the ground seem to be doing all they can to fix downed lines and restore power to homes, and they deserve huge credit for working around the clock in awful conditions.

But the company’s corporate and government-relations wings have serious questions to answer this week after quashing regulations that could have made the energy grid stronger at a slight expense to FPL’s billion-dollar bottom line.

Hurricane Wilma, the last ‘cane to hit South Florida, tore through the area in 2005 and killed power to 3.24 million of FPL’s then-4.3 million customers (75 percent of the grid). Many of those customers had to wait up to two weeks for power to return. Since then, the company has spent more than $2 billion supposedly girding itself against the next storm, according to a Sun Sentinel piece published before Irma hit.

But after Irma — which by most reports brought only Category 1-strength winds to South Florida — by some measures the company did even worse. Despite all of those upgrades, an even larger percentage of FPL’s customer base — 4.4 of 4.9 million customers, almost 90 percent — lost electricity this past weekend.

Plus:

Thanks to power-company rules, it’s impossible across Florida to simply buy a solar panel and power your individual home with it. You are instead legally mandated to connect your panels to your local electric grid.

More egregious, FPL mandates that if the power goes out, your solar-power system must power down along with the rest of the grid, robbing potentially needy people of power during major outages.

“Renewable generator systems connected to the grid without batteries are not a standby power source during an FPL outage,” the company’s solar-connection rules state. “The system must shut down when FPL’s grid shuts down in order to prevent dangerous back feed on FPL’s grid. This is required to protect FPL employees who may be working on the grid.”

Astoundingly, state rules also mandate that solar customers include a switch that cleanly disconnects their panels from FPL’s system while keeping the rest of a home’s power lines connected. But during a disaster like the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, FPL customers aren’t allowed to simply flip that switch and keep their panels going. (But FPL is, however, allowed to disconnect your panels from the grid without warning you. The company can even put a padlock on it.)

That’s unacceptable.

THIS IS BAD: Virgin Islands lack supplies for second hurricane pummeling.

Still in a state of near-total destruction from Hurricane Irma this month, the U.S. Virgin Islands are now bracing for another major storm and may be woefully unprepared.

As much as 20 inches of rain could pound the islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John over the next two days, prompting President Donald Trump to declare a state of emergency on Monday. FEMA officials warn of potentially “life-threatening flash floods and mudslides” that could last through the weekend.

But the Caribbean island chain is short on crucial supplies as Hurricane Maria approaches, according to internal briefing documents obtained by POLITICO.

As of Monday morning, Virgin Islands officials had received none of the 29 generators ordered. About 15,000 sheeting covers were delivered for protecting homes, of more than 135,000 requested. And a dozen shelter kits arrived, of more than 58 ordered — with supplies like clothing, medical equipment and hygiene items.

The territory is also short about 400,000 meals, of 2 million ordered. Out of 450 cots requested, 300 are available.

Notably, the supply shortage is not an issue of cash. Congress just approved a $15 billion disaster relief package that will go toward recovery efforts in the U.S. territories, as well as several hurricane-battered states.

Not good.

YOU CAN TELL HE’S DONE A GOOD JOB BY HOW LITTLE THE PRESS IS TALKING ABOUT IT: Faced with Harvey and Irma devastation, Trump finds his footing.

A summer filled with few high notes for the Trump administration is ending on the lowest note yet: Thousands of Americans remain displaced from their homes or without power in the wake of back-to-back hurricanes that pummeled two of the top four most populated U.S. states.

But amid the destruction left behind by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, some say President Trump has flourished.

Following the president’s return to Washington after his visit to Florida, where he and the first lady passed out hoagie sandwiches to families still grappling with the damage to their neighborhoods and homes, a source close to the president told the Washington Examiner that Trump “looked like the leader Americans have been wanting to see.”

“And I don’t mean to suggest he was faking it or playing to his crowd,” the source said, adding that Trump seemed “genuinely emotional” about the devastation in a state he carried last November and where he spent so much of his time during the earliest months of his presidency.

“I know he enjoyed being down there and wants to go back,” the source said.

Thursday’s trip to Fort Myers and Naples, Fla., was markedly different from the president’s visit to Corpus Christi, Texas, last month, where he described Harvey as “murderous” and “epic” and told first responders “nobody has ever seen this much water.” . . .

But by the time Trump visited Florida, which came days after he returned to Texas a second time, the locals were gushing about his warmness and eagerness to help.

“They’re everything I thought they would be,” a woman in Naples told the New York Times after Trump pet her Chihuahua and complimented her “Bikers for Trump” t-shirt.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott had praised Trump days before his arrival, telling reporters that the president “has given me everything I’ve asked for.”

Trump rapidly stepped up to the task of coordinating with local and state officials before, during and after both hurricanes made landfall, and later ensured they had the resources necessary to carry out search-and-rescue missions and provide shelter for thousands of evacuees.

And the latest presidential approval ratings seem to reflect the mostly positive responses Trump has drawn while navigating two natural disasters.

Flashback: Katrina On The Hudson.

I LOST FAITH IN THE RED CROSS LONG AGO: Red Cross “didn’t show up” at Florida shelters during Irma. “Miami-Dade’s hurricane shelters experienced ‘chaos’ during Irma, and the Miami-Dade schools chief Alberto Carvalho says that’s because the Red Cross was missing in action. The Red Cross is contracted to run 42 shelters in Miami-Dade schools, but in many cases, Red Cross personnel were late to show up, and in others, no one showed up at all.”

KEEPING INTERIOR DOORS SHUT increases your house’s hurricane resistance. “High winds, such as those currently expected from Hurricane Irma, place homes under intense pressure. Wind entering the home through an open or broken window, can create strong upward pressure on the roof. Closing interior doors helps compartmentalize the pressure inside the home into smaller areas reducing the overall force on the roof structure, which gives the roof a better chance of staying intact.”

JUST NBC THE HYPOCRISY:

● Shot: “Former FEMA head Michael Brown remembers Hurricane Katrina ten years later, calling President George W. Bush’s decision to flyover New Orleans to view the aftermath and not land was a huge mistake.”

Hardball with Chris Matthews, August 28, 2015.

● Chaser: “The hosts of MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ mocked President Trump on Tuesday over a video of him helping load disaster relief supplies in Houston for Hurricane Harvey victims.”

The Hill, today.

Related:

Just think of the media as Democrat operatives with bylines, and it all makes sense.

GOOD FOR HURRICANE PREP: WaterBOB Emergency Drinking Water Storage.

UPDATE: In the comments from Beldar: “Five stars for this product. I’m a Houstonian, and the peace of mind these gave me and to family — one’s in my bathtub right now, another at my ex’s, and we’re not going to drain either for another few days in case Irma heads this way — is well worth the price. This is cheap and effective disaster mitigation. . . . I first saw this product on InstaPundit in 2015, and immediately ordered four. Thanks, Prof. Reynolds!”

You’re welcome. And anybody along the huge swathe of coast that’s currently threatened by Irma, etc. may want to take this advice.

SPIKED: We Need More Texas Attitude And Less PC:

The official response to Harvey appears to be very competent. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was on the ground two days before Harvey reached land. Texas governor Greg Abbott deployed the entire Texas National Guard. Houston mayor Sylvester Turner quickly activated police and firefighters, and provided calm, clear instructions to residents. This was much better than the response to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana in 2005 – indeed, it seemed to show that the authorities had learned the lessons of the botched response to Katrina. . . .

As capable as the local, state and federal disaster response has been, what has been even more impressive is the great effort made by thousands of ordinary people, volunteering to help their fellow citizens. Seeing massive flooding and destruction, many would think: ‘How do I get out of here?’ But in Houston we saw lines of cars towing boats, people driving into the worst of the flooding. Like the cavalry, on came the hundreds of the ‘Texas Navy’ (joined by the ‘Cajun Navy’ of Louisiana) in fishing boats, jet skis and kayaks.

They went about their business with modest determination. CNN found two men loading up their boat, heading into the storm. ‘What are you going to do?’, the CNN reporter asked. ‘Go try to save some lives’, one of the men said, in a matter-of-fact way. Those without a boat helped, too. Five volunteer rescuers from Lufkin, Texas stopped at a gas station, and a guy handed them three $100 bills, according to a New York Times report. ‘Texas people just stick together’, said one.

While Hurricane Harvey brought out the best in many, it also brought out the worst. Across social media, certain liberals were feeling less than sympathetic to Texans, seen as Trump voters and Republican Party backers. ‘I don’t believe in instant karma, but this feels like it for Texas’, tweeted a University of Tampa professor: ‘Hopefully this will help them realise the GOP doesn’t care about them.’ (This professor was later fired for this tweet, which he shouldn’t have been.)

The heroism shown by ordinary Texans has been a great antidote to the prejudices expressed by well-off liberals towards ‘deplorable’ Americans. The politically correct view is that white folks are irredeemably racist, and the country is inescapably divided by race, yet the images from Houston told a different story: a black deputy sheriff wading through floodwaters with a white child in each arm; a white SWAT officer carrying a Vietnamese-American woman and her baby through floodwaters; three Asian and Hispanic constables moving an elderly woman in a wheelchair.

As it happens, this was not exceptional: as anyone who has travelled through Texas and the South will know, social interactions between people of different backgrounds are casually pleasant. Unlike PC liberals, most people don’t see life through a prism of racial categories. In response to Harvey, we didn’t see the ‘diversity’ of essentially different people – we saw citizens helping citizens, Texans helping Texans.

Yes, but that offers insufficient opportunities for graft and political manipulation.

DA TECH GUY: A Simple Proof of the Insanity of Global Warming Hysteria.

When it comes to Hurricanes we have exact data that can be gleamed in real time of every aspect of a storm as it happens to add to the various computer models. Additionally we have live data dating back to the mid 19th century that has been studied by experts in the field for a century and a half to tell us how hurricanes have acted in the past including information made by first hand observation by the most advanced instruments available at the time.

Furthermore the computers now being used are leaps and bounds over machines of just a decade or two ago and unlike the mid 19th century we many venues all over the world that are a source of training in this information and an even larger pool of potential meteorologists available to allow those tasked with making these predictions to choose the very best.

Yet even with all of this, two weather services each with all the advantages listed, have 850 mile gap between where they think this storm will go over the next 72 hours.

Now as a person familiar with both mathematics and computer science, this variation is not odd, in fact it’s completely understandable. After all a computer model is based on the best possible guesses from the available data and hurricanes are “complex natural phenomena that involve multiple interacting processes” so there is nothing at all odd about there being a 850 mile variation as to where it will it. As we get closer to Sunday and we have true data to input the variation in the models will correspondingly decrease.

Now apply this to climate change models telling us we face disaster in 100 years.

Read the whole thing. A simpler explanation can be found in my old axiom: Hysteria is never whipped up for the benefit of the hysterical.

CHARLIE HEBDO MOCKS HURRICANE HARVEY VICTIMS AS NAZIS IN DESPICABLE COVER PHOTO.

Hillary Clinton’s supporters just can’t catch a break — during the 2008 Democratic primaries, Obama dismissed them as clinging to their guns and religion. This week, after a horrific natural disaster, the heartless Gallic geniuses at Charlie Hebdo smear Hillary’s supporters in Texas for having a overly toxic blend of nationalism mixed with socialism. Great timing and geopolitical knowledge, fellas.

Related: Charlie Hebdo offends Texans, but guess what — nobody will get shot over it.

 

 

GOOD QUESTION: For years, engineers have warned that Houston was a flood disaster in the making. Why didn’t somebody do something?

Harvey poured as much as 374 billion gallons of water within the city limits, exceeding the capacity of rivers, bayous, lakes and reservoirs. Experts said the result was predictable.

The storm was unprecedented, but the city has been deceiving itself for decades about its vulnerability to flooding, said Robert Bea, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and UC Berkeley emeritus civil engineering professor who has studied hurricane risks along the Gulf Coast.

The city’s flood system is supposed to protect the public from a 100-year storm, but Bea calls that “a 100-year lie” because it is based on a rainfall total of 13 inches in 24 hours.

“That has happened more than eight times in the last 27 years,” Bea said. “It is wrong on two counts. It isn’t accurate about the past risk and it doesn’t reflect what will happen in the next 100 years.”

The city chose to spend its money… poorly.

UNDERWRITER UNDERWATER: Key flood insurance underwriter already $23 billion in debt.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the singular source of flood insurance for most Americans, is already $23 billion in debt after servicing prior natural disasters, including Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. Costs from Harvey are expected to increase that debt by billions of dollars. The NFIP, which is overseen by FEMA, has borrowed money from the U.S. Treasury, and thus from taxpayers, in order to keep itself running. That debt is due next month, when the program is also up for reauthorization in Congress.

The government has already said it would be impossible for the flood program to repay such a staggering amount of dues, causing some to believe the program needs a major overhaul to prevent structural debt accumulations every time there is a disaster situation.

Stay tuned.

HOW WAFFLE HOUSE’S HURRICANE RESPONSE TEAM PREPARES FOR DISASTER.

Hurricane preparation for many can be a scramble, but for Waffle House, it’s a game of chess with military-style strategy and execution. Before a storm hits, and even before hurricane season, the company makes storm checklists for each location, meets with local authorities, and educates new employees, though many have been through 15 hurricanes. . . .

A Waffle House jump team consists of a small team of restaurant operators from outside the hurricane zone. These employees swoop in at the first possible moment after a storm to restore service and get things open. Typically after a storm, demand for food is high and functioning restaurants are in low supply, and things get extremely busy. . . .

One of the reasons why these jump teams are the key to the chain’s success is because employees may not be able to work if they’re dealing with their own hurricane damage.

“It does help to bring operators from outside so it relieves [local employees] so they can focus on family,,” said Warner. “They don’t have to worry about their restaurant at the same time.”

During Hurricane Katrina, Warner said Waffle House worked beyond its restaurants to provide temporary lodging for its workers, putting tarps on employees’ roofs and shipping in hard-to-find essentials like diapers and formula.

Very cool.

THE RISE OF “WHOLE COMMUNITY RESPONSE” TO DISASTERS: In all-hands-on-deck response to Harvey, lessons learned from earlier storms.

Ahead of the storm, there were questions about whether Texas-style self-reliance or a centralized, civil-defense-era response from the federal government should govern. But as an all-hands-on-deck response to historic floods has unfolded, the all-of-the-above support exemplifies something new, disaster experts say: a template for what the nation’s top emergency managers call “whole-community” response. It’s a dramatic shift since hurricane Katrina in how the United States prepares for natural disasters, encompassing everything from agency leadership in Washington to Mr. Sherrod and his sturdy compatriots from East Texas. . . .

During Katrina, some rescuers literally had to sneak into the city to help. In Houston, the Cajun Navy has been part of a massive volunteer response, encouraged by officials. Twelve thousand National Guardsman also are being deployed, the government announced Monday.

The Cajun Navy represents both literally and figuratively the importance of neighborhood social networks – what researchers call “social capital” – that has become increasingly part of national response to disaster.

Well, I said it was a good idea.

PREPAREDNESS: Health Care Providers Scramble to Meet New Disaster Readiness Rule. “The new rule is aimed at preventing the severe breakdown in patient care that followed disasters including Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, while also strengthening the ability to provide services during other types of emergencies, such as pandemics and terrorist attacks.”

How good will the requirements be? “At least some of those provisions were significantly modified in the final version. Chief among them was a proposal that hospitals and nursing homes test their backup power systems for a minimum of four hours every year at the full load needed in an emergency, rather than the current standard of once every three years. Generators have failed catastrophically in hospitals and nursing homes around the country during prolonged power outages, endangering patients and leading to chaotic evacuations. However, the government removed the enhanced testing proposal, stating that there was not enough evidence it ‘would ensure that generators would withstand all disasters.'”

Well, nothing will ensure that. But my generator automatically self-tests for 5 minutes every week, which adds up to just over four hours a year. Why is this so hard?

THE GREAT WHITE HOUSE VACATION HYPOCRISY, as explored by Jonah Goldberg, who notes, “Hurricane Katrina was undoubtedly a huge story, and investigating the federal response to it was squarely in the fourth estate’s wheelhouse. But there’s simply no denying that the news media used that disaster as a partisan cudgel against a Republican president it detested. Worse, the media congratulated themselves endlessly for their Katrina coverage despite the fact that they collectively did a terrible job.”

That depends on how you define their job. Just think of them as Democratic operatives with bylines, and from the MSM’s point of view, their coverage of Katrina was a spectacular success, paying huge dividends in 2006 and 2008, ultimately giving Obama one party control of the House and Senate for his first two years, and allowing him to pass Obamacare. As one of the people who issued the media’s marching orders during that period said shortly before Obama took office, “You never want a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

WELL, YEAH: Media predictably treats Bush, Obama differently on Louisiana disasters.

So why isn’t Obama visiting? And why isn’t the press crucifying him for not visiting? Well, the answer to the first question comes from Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, who I normally admire as a journalist. He explains that Obama’s just too cool and unswayed by the politics of photo-ops.

That would be a fine explanation if Bush was given the same justification during Katrina. The other problem with Cillizza’s explanation is that Obama has absolutely visited places after natural disasters for the photo-ops. He surveyed the damage of Hurricane Sandy just two weeks before the 2012 election. There’s no explaining that away as “the right thing to do” while visiting Louisiana is just politics.

Cillizza mentions that his article is about how Obama thinks of himself, not how we see him, and that he apparently sees himself above performance politics. I guess he sees himself above it all, except when it would look good right before a re-election, right?

If the mainstream media treated Obama the way it treated Bush, perhaps public trust in media wouldn’t be at an all-time low and falling. But this is how it will always be. Democrats get the benefit of the doubt and long explanations for why they did or didn’t do something. Republicans are just treated as uncaring.

Just think of reporters as Democratic operatives with bylines and you won’t go far wrong.

ACCORDING TO THE RED CROSS THE LOUISIANA FLOODS ARE AMERICA’S WORST NATURAL DISASTER SINCE HURRICANE SANDY: Louisiana is Hurricane Katrina territory. Why isn’t CNN’s Anderson Cooper down there lashing out at Bush for insensitivity?…Wait…I mean, lashing out at Obama for vacationing…never mind…

MICKEY KAUS: “My theory: MSM terrified Orlando attack will produce Trump lead. All hands on deck. Old rules No Longer Apply. We’ll show him.”

He’s very likely right, but I’m not sure about the “old rules apply” part, as the MSM pounding Trump is simply a continuation of a long playbook.

During the height of the MSM’s zaniest conspiracy theory dissembling during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Mickey wrote, “Previously, [the media] couldn’t grouse about the Iraq War without seeming defeatist (and anti-liberationist and maybe even selfishly isolationist). Even the Clintons never figured a way out of that trap…Katrina gives [the MSM] a way to talk about Iraq without talking about Iraq. No wonder Gwen Ifill smiles the ‘inner smile.’”

Such demagoguery produced results, as Bryan Preston wrote in November of 2006 at Hot Air. “What cost the GOP its majorities in Congress and statehouses?… The GOP’s fortunes fatally cratered in the Fall of 2005, and were recovering ever since minus a couple of blips this year. What happened in the Fall of ‘05? Katrina. That storm turned out to be the hurricane that changed history:”

There’s a lesson in all of this, that’s an old one but an important one to remember: Demagoguery wins, and more so when it comes in the middle of a horrific disaster. Also, lies do indeed travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on. By the time the story of New Orleans buses surfaced (only to be buried by the AP and ignored by the national media), the disaster had been framed as a Bush failure and the damage was already done. The media’s later mea culpa did nothing to change the basic narrative that already had a life of its own.

Years later, DNC Chairwoman Donna Brazile would later confess, “Bush came through on Katrina,” but as a wise future mayor would advise in the fall of 2008, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

And speaking of 2008, it was that year that the media went all-in to elect Obama, ceding their pose as “objective” journalists in order to consummate their “Slobbering Love Affair” with the man they made president, to borrow from Bernie Goldberg’s classic title.

But it’s always been just a pose. On Tuesday, CBS Late Show host Stephen Colbert “slammed Donald Trump on Tuesday’s episode of The Late Show, drawing a swastika to explain the presumed Republican presidential nominee’s response to the Orlando, Florida mass shooting on Sunday,” Entertainment Weekly notes.

The old rules at CBS certainly apply here — comparing the Republican nominee to a Nazi has a long and storied pedigree at the “Tiffany Network.” Just ask the ghosts of Walter Cronkite and Daniel Schorr, who dished out the same treatment – on the CBS Evening News no less, not the network’s late night gab fest and comedy show – to Barry Goldwater in 1964.

There’s no doubt the media viscerally loathes Trump — in large part because Trump isn’t afraid to get in their faces and punch back twice as a hard, as a wise community organizer would advise. But they’d be battering any presidential candidate with an (R) after his name right around this time. The old rules are very much in force.

WE USED TO HAVE STEELY-EYED CIVIL ENGINEERS RUNNING THIS STUFF. NOW IT’S THE DOMAIN OF CLUELESS POLITICAL HACKS. California’s Katrina Is Coming.

Most of the state’s water is drawn from the Delta, protected by levees that pretty much amount to mounds of dirt, even when compared to infrastructure that infamously failed New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Hurricanes don’t hit NorCal, but these levees are alarmingly susceptible to disaster. If enough were to breach—in an earthquake perhaps, or severe El Niño storm—sea water from San Francisco Bay could rush in, tainting the water supply serving two-thirds of the state. The worst-case scenario could cause up to three years of severely curtailed water for most Californians.

Even if you’re not a California dreamer, this affects you. Delta water keeps Hollywood in the movie business, Silicon Valley in the tech business, and 750,000 acres of farmland in the business of producing half of America’s veggies, fruits, and nuts. If the levees go, so goes the water for 25 million residents of the world’s seventh largest economy.

The Delta is a singular place, even in California’s varied geography. Most of California’s interior water flows into two river systems—the Sacramento from the north, and the San Joaquin from the south. Where they meet, just east of the San Francisco Bay, they form a muggy tidal marsh with more than 70 inhabited islands. Most of these islands sit below sea level, due to groundwater pumping and natural compaction, and are ringed by tall, earthen levees. “An island in the Delta is really a bowl surrounded by a levee,” says Dave Mraz, chief levee engineer for the state Department of Water Resources. “If that levee goes, then that bowl is filled with water.”

Since 1900, over 160 levees have breached in the Delta. Several breached islands were never reclaimed, and now exist only as levee-top lagoons.

Don’t worry. Now that that dumb cowboy Bush is gone, we don’t have to worry about government incompetence anymore.

ILYA SOMIN: Lessons from a little pink house, 10 years later.

June 23 marks the 10th anniversary of Kelo v. City of New London, when the Supreme Court held in a 5-4 ruling that government could use eminent domain to take private property for “economic development.” At issue in the case were 15 homes, including a little pink house owned by Susette Kelo, in the city of New London, Conn., which wanted to transfer the properties to a private nonprofit with plans to revitalize the area. But after the court ruled and the houses were razed (with the exception of Ms. Kelo’s, which was moved at private expense), those plans fell through.

The condemned land remains empty, housing only a few feral cats. After Hurricane Irene in 2011, the city used it as a dumping ground for debris. Yet the first real development since the Supreme Court’s controversial decision might now be on its way: New London Mayor Daryl Finizio, who was elected in 2011 as a critic of the government taking, recently announced a plan to turn the former site of Ms. Kelo’s house into a park that will “serve as a memorial to all those adversely affected by the city’s use of eminent domain.”

It would be a fitting tribute. Although the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo was consistent with precedent, it was nonetheless a serious error.

Kelo is a disaster that needs to be overturned. As Somin points out, there has been some decent post-Kelo progress in eminent domain reform at the state level, but it’s not enough. Read the whole thing.

SO I GUESS I NEED TO BUY SOME WELLIES: The Miami Herald has an editorial, “The End of Florida?,” which echoes the Al Gore/Barack Obama doom and gloom predictions about global warming climate change:

But as bad as hurricanes are, they do not pose existential threats to Florida, or to our future. The recurring peril of windstorms has certainly not stopped the influx of millions of new residents that began in the post-war years and has turned Florida into the third most populous state in the union.

But climate change — specifically, sea-level rise caused by global warming — poses a challenge of another order of magnitude. A hurricane hits our shores like a big bang. It’s here and then gone, leaving disaster in its wake. We clean up, we move on.

Sea-level rise is something else: an insidious attack, slowly gnawing away at our beaches, our coastline, our coastal cities. It doesn’t go away.

And it’s here already. Look at the flooded streets in Miami Beach. Or, further up the coast, the 450-year-old city of St. Augustine, whose streets already flood about 10 times a year, and homes built on sand dunes teetering over open space as the Atlantic encroaches on the foundations. All of Florida’s coastal cities face similar threats. Over on the Gulf side, the Tampa/St. Pete area is deemed particularly vulnerable to rising seas because roads and bridges weren’t designed to handle higher tides. . . .

These are not wild guesses or alarmist warnings. They’re predictions, based on accepted science. . . . We don’t think the end of Florida is inevitable, or even likely. But the end of Florida as we know it is certainly possible, and growing more likely every year as the state’s once limitless future erodes along with the vanishing beaches and shrinking shoreline.

Um, the flooding of streets in Miami recently was caused by heavy, slow-moving thunderstorms, not global warming climate change. And St. Augustine has always flooded because 90% of the city is located in an historic floodplain and the development of barrier islands has reduced the ability of the land to absorb the brunt of storms entering from the Atlantic side.  It has nothing to do with global warming climate change.

I live in Key Largo– one of the most “vulnerable” little islands in the Florida Keys. I have lived here for many years, and I can tell you that I haven’t noticed even the slightest change in sea levels. The tide comes in; the tide goes out. Sometimes the tide rises higher and our street floods near our boat basin. Other days it doesn’t. It ebbs and flows, as tides do. Rainy season comes and goes. When it rains a lot, we have some minor flooding. When it doesn’t, we don’t. Yes, the climate changes–every single day, minute by minute. But this isn’t a reason to fundamentally transform the energy sector, taxation policy or the global economy.

These scaremongering tactics are just that. And it’s far from “accepted science” that global warming climate change is an “existential threat” to Florida, or anywhere else.

KATRINA ON THE HUDSON: Hurricane Sandy Recovery Program in New York City Was Mired by Its Design.

The night Hurricane Sandy struck, Jayme and John Galimi swam out the front door of their home in Broad Channel, Queens, into the rising waters of Jamaica Bay with their five children, the youngest clinging to his father’s back.

Almost two years later, all seven remain jammed into a three-bedroom rental. Their debt is mounting. They applied to a federally funded New York City program for help rebuilding, but that devolved into an unending loop of lost documents, aborted meetings and frustrating exchanges with temporary workers handling their application.

A low point came in January, when the couple arrived for an appointment at the intake center to hear what construction work would be covered. But they were met by blank looks.

“Nobody knew why we were there,” Ms. Galimi said. “Again.”

So it’s basically the Healthcare.gov approach to disaster recovery.

SHOCKER: Global Warming Scare Tactics Not Working.

But claims linking the latest blizzard, drought or hurricane to global warming simply can’t be supported by the science. Our warming world is, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, increasing heat waves and intense precipitation in some places, and is likely to bring more extreme weather in the future. But the panel also said there is little evidence that this warming is increasing the loss of life or the economic costs of natural disasters.

Here’s my favorite part:

Some people, the report noted, “are likely to buy an SUV to help them through the erratic weather to come” for example, rather than support fuel-efficiency standards.

Heh.

JAMES TARANTO: Katrina and ObamaCare: The analogy is less telling than who is employing it.

Granted, it’s an imperfect analogy. So is every other analogy, but there are some particularly glaring differences here. As Karl Van Zandt observes on Twitter, President Bush didn’t push Hurricane Katrina through Congress without a single vote from the other party. And, Global-warmist superstitions notwithstanding, Katrina was a natural disaster, not a man-caused one.

Yet even if you think the analogy is a bum rap for Bush, there is a satisfaction in watching it employed by none other than the New York Times, in a Friday “news analysis” by Michael D. Shear. . . .

Shear’s passive construction reads like an effort to let Obama off the hook, but it’s damning in its own way. Being “plagued” and “threatened”–being at the mercy of events–is not leadership but its opposite.

Shear goes on to observe that “unlike Mr. Bush, who faced confrontational but occasionally cooperative Democrats, Mr. Obama is battling a Republican opposition that has refused to open the door to any legislative fixes to the health care law and has blocked him at virtually every turn.”

That’s simply inaccurate: The Republican-led House has passed several legislative fixes, including one to delay the individual mandate, one to delay the employer mandate, and one to deprive congressional staffers and senior executive branch officials of federal subsidies.

On Friday–after Shear filed his article but in keeping with previously announced intentions–the House passed the Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013, which “allows providers to continue to offer in 2014 those health insurance plans in effect in the individual market as of January 1, 2013,” thereby partially ameliorating the effects of the ObamaCare swindle. The vote was 261-157, with 39 Democratic ayes.

Still, it’s remarkable that the New York Times, America’s most important liberal newspaper, is comparing Obama to the hated Bush.

Indeed.

STAGES OF DENIAL: The NYT acknowledges Obama’s in trouble by reminding us that Bush was really, really bad. Remember?!!

At the website front page the teaser headline — which is also the headline in the paper version — is: “As Troubles Pile Up, a Crisis of Confidence for Obama.” But if you click to the article, the headline becomes “Health Law Rollout’s Stumbles Draw Parallels to Bush’s Hurricane Response.”

I can think of a whole bunch of non-parallels:

1. Bush’s political party didn’t design and enact Hurricane Katrina.

2. Bush didn’t have 5 years to craft his response to the hurricane.

3. Bush didn’t have the power to redesign the hurricane as he designed his response to it.

4. The Republican Bush believed he could not simply bully past the Democratic Mayor of New Orleans and the Democratic Governor of Louisiana and impose a federal solution, but the Democrat Obama and his party in Congress aggressively and voluntarily took over an area of policy that might have been left to the states.

5. The media were ready to slam Bush long and hard for everything — making big scandals out of things that, done by Obama, would have been forgotten a week later (what are the Valerie Plame-level screwups of Obama’s?) — but the media have bent over backwards for years to help make Obama look good and to bury or never even uncover all of his lies and misdeeds.

6. If Bush experienced a disaster like the rollout of Obamacare, the NYT wouldn’t use its front page to remind us of something Bill Clinton did that looked bad.

Read the whole thing.

DISASTER PREP: The Lesson of Hurricane Sandy: Pay Now, Not Later.

DISASTER PREP: Boosting Resilience After Storms And Disasters.

DISASTER UPDATE: Utilities caused post-Sandy fires that decimated Breezy Point and turned it into ‘war zone,’ 120 residents say in suit.

An aside: “Decimate” is not a synonym for “devastate.” That is all.

I WAS EXPECTING AN EARTH-SHATTERING KABOOM: The Biggest Threat to the Economy Could Come From Outer Space.

Imagine waking up just after midnight to a sky so bright you swear it must be early morning. Imagine seeing the Northern Lights as far south as Cuba or Hawaii. Imagine that the same phenomena behind both has also generated electric fields in the ground strong enough to power small electronics. That’s what happened in 1859, when the earth was struck by the most severe geomagnetic storm ever recorded.

Forget asset bubbles, recessions, or hurricanes—space weather could prove far more economically harmful. A severe geomagnetic storm—a sudden, violent eruption of gas and magnetic fields from the sun’s surface—could prove particularly devastating. If the 1859 storm, known as the “Carrington event,” were to recur today it could cause trillions of dollars in economic damage and take years to recover from, according to estimates.

The sun would sneeze and the economy could shatter.

Yes, I’ve been recommending hardening our systems against this and other disasters for years. It would have been a good use for the “stimulus” money, except that it would have produced too many jobs for burly men. Related item here.

HOW THE DOOMSDAY SCENARIO WOULD PLAY OUT if an asteroid hit the Earth.

In this case, let’s imagine that the conclusion is a truly bad one—that our football-field sized rock would be targeting a populated area. And for the sake of doomsday pizzaz, let’s make that populated area New York City.

An 830 sq. mi blast ring has a radius of 14.4 mi. (23.2 km). Position that over New York City and you’d have destruction reaching deep into Queens in the east and Staten Island in the South; west to Paterson and Montclair, NJ; and north to Yonkers and New Rochelle, NY. Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn would be swallowed whole. Evacuation in advance of the blast would be a massive challenge, since the array of bridges and tunnels that connect the boroughs are natural choke points. The many months of notice the residents would have before the big day arrived would make things a bit easier, but fleeing from an asteroid is very different from fleeing from other kinds of disasters. People evacuating in advance of, say, a hurricane can usually just load up their cars and go, since even after a superstorm like Katrina, most of them will simply be turning around and coming home. After a Tunguska-like blast, most people would not have any home left at all.

The bigger risk, of course, is that we get hit by one we don’t see coming, and that it’s bigger than the so-so Tunguska impact.

Meanwhile, reader Curt Johnson writes:

With asteroid hunting back in the news with the latest close approach, I thought you might be interested to know that after the Shoemaker-Levi event, I (with the support of TRW, for whom I worked at the time) designed a satellite mission we named IRASMES that would have detected every asteroid capable to threatening the Earth greater than 50-m in mean diameter. The mission would have taken about ten years from launch and would have cost less than $150 million. (Compare the cost of a single NASA or DOD launch in those days.) The mission would been completed around 2007.

My concept used American multispectral sensors and electronics on a Russian bus, and would have launched on a Russian booster. The Russian partner was Lavochkin. I presented to paper on this concept at a UN conference on the asteroid threat that was held in the wake of Shoemaker-Levi.

Of course, Congress would not fund the concept. Looks like others are starting to pick up the slack, almost 20 years on. So yes — faster, please.

Indeed.

KATRINA ON THE HUDSON, NOW WITH EXTRA BUREAUCRACY: NYC Housing Authority Misses Big On Sandy.

FEMA is still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Sandy more than a month after the storm hit New York City. Although most of the city has returned to normal, federal disaster employees continue to find distressed people, often the elderly and disabled, trapped in apartments in the farthest corners of the city. Federal and city authorities are now assessing what exactly went wrong. Much of the blame thus far lies with the city Housing Authority, which is charged with managing city-owned housing and preparing for exactly this sort of catastrophe.

A new feature in the New York Times explores just how unprepared and ineffective the Housing Authority was in tackling the largest disaster the city has seen since 9/11. . . . The article compiles an overwhelming list of failures: signs of deep incompetence, political game-playing and multilayer bureaucratic failure on the part of the Housing Authority. Faced with a serious crisis, the agency failed miserably in doing its most basic job—not so much because of a lack of money as because of slothful management and an inefficient, ossified bureaucratic culture. The Housing Authority after Sandy did exactly what bureaucracies usually do: it covered its rear, staged heartwarming photos for the press, and shamefully neglected the poor and the helpless it was supposed to serve. In other words, it behaved much like a failing public school, or any other blue model institution out of its depth and focused mostly on preserving its routine as the real world crumbles around it.

Disgraceful. But hardly surprising.

RED CROSS NOT LOOKING SO GOOD, POST-SANDY: In the hardest-hit areas, smaller and nimbler groups are playing key relief roles.

The American Red Cross “knows what it’s doing,” President Barack Obama said when he visited the agency the day after Hurricane Sandy devastated New Jersey and New York—and during the final week of the presidential campaign—as he called on Americans to donate to it. Two weeks after the storm, Gail McGovern, the group’s chief executive officer and president, deemed its response “near flawless.” . . .

But many residents and volunteers in the hardest-hit areas say they’ve been disappointed by its response, even as smaller and ad-hoc relief efforts have played a prominent frontline role in the relief and recovery effort.

It’s hardly the first time the Red Cross—which collected more than a billion dollars in contributions in its fiscal year ending last June—has come under fire. In recent years, the 131-year-old charity has been heavily criticized for its responses to 9/11, Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, and the tsunami that hit Japan, with many of the complaints revolving around mismanaged funds and misleading fundraising, as well as the propriety of its blood-bank operations.

Yet the Red Cross continues to dominate fundraising in the aftermath of each new disaster, perpetuating its dominance over the emergency-response industry. Perhaps that’s because the Red Cross’s shortcomings often come to public light only in the wake of a disaster, and are forgotten before the next one hits. . . . In the days and weeks since Sandy ravaged parts of the New York and New Jersey coasts, however, residents in some of the hardest-hit areas say they still have seen no sign of the Red Cross.

Your money is better sent to smaller, less politicized and bureaucratic organizations.

UPDATE: Like who? Here’s a list.

DISASTER RELIEF AS PORK: As Coasts Rebuild and U.S. Pays, Repeatedly, the Critics Ask Why.

Even in the off season, the pastel beach houses lining a skinny strip of sand here are a testament to the good life.

They are also a monument to the generosity of the federal government.

The western end of this Gulf Coast island has proved to be one of the most hazardous places in the country for waterfront property. Since 1979, nearly a dozen hurricanes and large storms have rolled in and knocked down houses, chewed up sewers and water pipes and hurled sand onto the roads.

Yet time and again, checks from Washington have allowed the town to put itself back together.

Across the nation, tens of billions of tax dollars have been spent on subsidizing coastal reconstruction in the aftermath of storms, usually with little consideration of whether it actually makes sense to keep rebuilding in disaster-prone areas. If history is any guide, a large fraction of the federal money allotted to New York, New Jersey and other states recovering from Hurricane Sandy — an amount that could exceed $30 billion — will be used the same way.

Tax money will go toward putting things back as they were, essentially duplicating the vulnerability that existed before the hurricane.

Yes, we’ve vacationed on Dauphin Island a number of times. It’s a lovely place, but it’s basically a small piece of sand in hurricane alley. When “disaster relief” is part of your lifestyle, it’s quit being a form of insurance, and turned into just a subsidy.

JUST RAN ACROSS THIS PIECE, which ties in with my general stuff on hardening systems against disaster: Why Cellphones Went Dead After Hurricane Sandy. Who needs regulation here? If cellphone companies don’t want to take reasonable steps to ensure reliability, then they should be liable to customers who suffer injury from failed service.

KATRINA ON THE HUDSON: 16 Days Without Power In Manhattan High-Rise; Stench of Rotten Eggs.

Also: FEMA Sold Off Emergency Housing As Sandy Approached. “Federal officials sold hundreds of emergency trailers for disaster victims at fire-sale prices in the months before Hurricane Sandy churned toward the United States, The Washington Examiner has learned. Now, with thousands of families left homeless in New York and New Jersey by the hurricane, those same federal officials are poised to spend more taxpayer dollars to buy brand-new trailers.”

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TO REVIEW ITS DUMB DECISION NOT TO ISSUE A HURRICANE WARNING FOR SANDY.

And yes, as I’ve pointed out today and also last week, this was a dumb decision that may have caused delayed evacuations and complacency that cost lives.

DISASTER PREPARATION: A Camp Stove That Also Charges Your Cell Phone.

I HAVE A POPULAR MECHANICS PIECE: Lessons Learned From Hurricane Sandy.

I HAVE A POPULAR MECHANICS PIECE: Lessons Learned From Hurricane Sandy.

WHAT WITH HURRICANE SANDY, ETC., several readers have asked for links to my disaster preparedness posts. Okay. Here’s a post on low-budget disaster preparation. Here’s one on bug-out bags. Also, stuff to keep in your car or SUV. Also, recommended preparedness books.

And, by the way, I just got the latest Consumer Reports and they really like the Generac GP5500 generator, which they say “performed almost as well as the top-rated portable generator for hundreds less.” But read the reviews on Amazon before you buy.

UPDATE: Reader Charles Cheek writes:

Bought one last year after losing about $500 worth of food due to a storm and the resulting power outage. Bought it online at www.generatorsonline.com for $200 less than what Home Depot was advertising at the time. Delivery was free, and the truck driver put it right where I wanted it. I had to install the wheels and put the oil (which was supplied) in it. It cranked over on the second crank and has served us incredibly well through several storms and outages since, the latest just last week ( 6 days with Hurricane Sandy), usually starting on the first crank, always by the second. It is powerful enough to provide my whole house with power. I haven’t yet installed a transfer switch, although I am considering it. It runs 14 hours on 5 gallons of gas (or less), is relatively quiet, and maintenance is easy. I highly recommend the Generac GP5500.

Not bad.

MORE: Generator advice from Popular Mechanics.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Reader Kathleen Wallace writes:

I have been an Insta-addict for three years. I appreciated, among others, the recurrent theme of disaster preparedness during Hurricane Irene, and was struck particularly by the role of inverters.

So, when we saw Sandy on the way, we finally got our inverter, set it up, and tested it here in our home in New Jersey. As predicted, our power went out.

We ran the inverter off the car periodically each day, an hour in the morning and the evening. We ran the fridge, the furnace, the modem, charged the phones, and caught up with the Instapundit. We were conservative (of course), and at the end of 5 days, we had well over half a tank left in our Ford Escape, were warm, and knew what was happening. The car ran quietly, cleanly, and safely, unlike the many loud, smelly generators in the neighborhood.

We never needed to wait hours in line with several red plastic containers. The candles and transistor radio made the evenings enjoyable.

I thank you for your blog, and especially for helping us rethink disaster preparedness.

Inverters are pretty cheap, too. You’ll want extension cords, too.

UPDATE: Say, here’s a question: How much power does a gas pump consume? Could you power one with a big (2000-3000 watt) inverter?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader John Marcoux writes:

I second what your reader Kathleen wrote about using inverters instead of a generator. Followed some of your links to arrive at that conclusion. Fortunately, I haven’t had to use anything yet.

One obvious reason to go this route: fridge, a big concern, doesn’t have to be on all the time to maintain, per what Kathleen is doing. I wish she had written what inverters she has.

Yeah. I assume she has her furnace wired with a pigtail connection, too. You can splice into the furnace, of course, but not everyone would want to do that.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Alan Gray writes: “How about some rules of thumb on the right size inverter? And can any size be run off a car?” Pretty much — up to 2000-3000 watts pretty easily. There are bigger ones, but they’re best hardwired. Of course, you can run low-power stuff off the battery, but if you’re running more than a few hundred watts you really want the engine running. You want to keep the inverter close to the car — no 12-volt extension cables — and then run an extension cord into the house. You lose a surprising amount of power in cabling, though, so you want to keep things as short as possible.

MORE: Reader Curtis Franklin writes: “If you’re going to try to serve circuits in your house through a generator/inverter (rather than simply plugging appliances directly into the outlets on the power source), then it’s critical to have a transfer switch wired into your main breaker box. They’re not all that expensive (thought they’re a definite licensed electrician job) and they prevent power from your house from back-feeding into the local power lines — a situation that is dangerous for the people trying to restore power and can delay that restoration for hours while they track down the homeowner working so hard to kill them.” That’s true. Not many inverters big enough people would plug them into their house, but yeah.

And reader Allan Pierce writes: “A quick search on Fuel Dispenser Electrical Requirements turned up a gas pump mfr’s brochure, which suggests a gas station pump has one or two 1 horsepower pump motors. Figure about 1000 watts per motor, so the answer is yes. Big issue is safety: wiring the gas station with a power inlet and cutover switch for each pump near its electrical panel. Could be done under disaster-recovery conditions by electricians certified for hazardous area (explosion-proof) work. It’s better not to wait, but gas stations are low-margin businesses so this is unlikely to be done in advance of need unless required by law or encouraged by economic incentive for all stations in the most-vulnerable areas (hint to people doing post-disaster ‘lessons learned’ reviews).”

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: In Backup Generators We Trust? They’re handy, they’re not perfect.

On Monday, New York University’s Langone Medical Center lost power during Hurricane Sandy, and ended up having to evacuate 215 patients when the generator that was supposed to keep its charges alive and its critical systems running failed to turn on. Across the United States there are about 12 million backup generators. Most only operate during blackouts — times when a hospital, or a laboratory, or a bank, needs electricity and can’t get it from the larger electric grid.

But backup generators aren’t 100% reliable. In fact, they won’t work something like 20%-to-30% of the time, said Arshad Mansoor, Senior Vice President for Research & Development with the Electric Power Research Institute. The bad news is that there’s only so much you can do to improve on that failure rate. The good news: There are solutions that could help keep a hospital up and running in an emergency, even if the emergency power system doesn’t work.

It’s like having a car you never drive. The less you drive ’em the more they rust.

UPDATE: Reader Will Frye writes:

As one who was responsible for operation and maintenance of backup generators during my 37 year career I can assure you that emergency generation can be a LOT more reliable than a 20 to 30 percent failure rate. Of course like other electromechanical systems they require continual attention. Maintenance and training and testing on a recurring basis are essential.

They are expensive insurance policies for worst case scenarios and management has to understand their importance. If not valued and maintained they will degrade rapidly.

I don’t know what Langone Med Center did to prepare for the storm but if administrators failed to include testing the backup generators in their preparation plan they should be summarily fired. Testing doesn’t ensure the machines will come on line next time but it should make it highly likely.

And reader Billy Rawl emails:

Don’t know about others, but my 25 KW Generac has never failed when I needed it. But like a car, boat, airplane or any other piece of mechanical equipment, they have to be maintained. My worst nightmare is to lose electrical power and have a $10,000 inoperative generator, so I do everything I can to keep it in running order such as maintaining the battery, oil, coolant and make sure it runs for about 20 minutes every week. Well maybe not my worst nightmare. That would be if we get stuck for another 4 years with that charlatan in the White House.

It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to live normally with A/C or heat, lights, computers, TV, stereo, etc. when the rest of the neighborhood is dark and cold (or hot).

It’s probably even more wonderful to know that your ventilator will keep working. And reader Harmon Ward writes:

For dozens of engineering related reasons the vast majority of commercial backup generators run on diesel fuel. In California this has led to regulations which limit how often backup generators can be tested and how long they can be run while being tested. Even at hospitals. Hopefully our Air Quality Management District has factored in the amount of air pollution caused by an emergency evacuation.

Great. I hope that New York didn’t have similar rules.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Christopher Smith writes:

I’m a life long IT worker. I worked at a high availability data center on the weekend shift. One of my jobs was to run the backup generator once a week, take the readings on the 1000 hp diesel engine, check the fuel level, write down the power output readings every 10 minutes for an hour, etc.

A critical emergency generator should not fail to start. If it failed to start when you needed it or failed to provide the power it was meant to provide, that means you failed to properly maintain it.

One would think that a hospital’s maintenance schedule would be particularly rigorous.

MORE: An anonymous reader sends this:

The generator failed because it was flooded. No steps were taken to prevent flooding from the storm surge.

Once under water, there was no way for the thing to work.

Simple sandbagging would have prevented the failure. But no one bothered.

No supporting links, but if true it’s an egregious failure.

THREE STUPID RESPONSES TO HURRICANE SANDY — and Every Other Disaster You Can Think Of, from Nick Gillespie of Reason.com.

 

YOUR FEDERAL DISASTER-RELIEF DOLLARS AT WORK: Hundreds of NY National Guardsmen Miss Hurricane for Mock Disaster Relief — Until Story Hits The News.

But remember, Romney is the idiot, because he wants to move more disaster-response responsibility to the states. . . .

And I don’t think it makes things better that they changed their plans once the story got out.

POLITICIZING DISASTER RELIEF:   Totally predictable, of course, but still utterly ignoble.  The editors of the Wall Street Journal document the Obama campaign’s–and its surrogate, the lamestream media’s–panicky attempt to capitalize on Hurricane Sandy by implying that Romney and Republicans are opposed to disaster relief.   Uh, yeah, whatever.

But seriously, here’s how inane the Democrats’ efforts are:

As for Mr. Romney and FEMA, the liberals are excavating remarks from one of the early GOP debates. CNN’s John King asked if “the states should take on more” of a role in disaster relief as FEMA was running out of money.

Mr. Romney: “Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

“Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut—we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in.”

This isn’t an argument for abolishing FEMA so much as it is for the traditional federalist view that the feds shouldn’t supplant state action. As it happens, the response to Hurricane Sandy has been a model of such a division of responsibility.

Exactly.  Word of the day for our liberal/progressive friends out there:  FEDERALISM.  It’s part of this thing called the “Constitution.”  You should check it out some time.

KRAUTHAMMER SLAMS OBAMA FOR SANDY POSTURING:  Charles Krauthammer tells Fox News tonight that Obama’s briefing room appearance was a “photo-op” that stands in start contrast to Obama’s silence on Benghazi:

It’s hard to look at this, playing the president, playing the Commander in Chief in what’s a natural disaster that really doesn’t require a lot of from the White House. It’s up to the governors mostly. The White House and the government release money. That’s all they do and he’s really good at releasing money.”

Exactly.

HURRICANE SANDY more likely to hit NY/NJ or New England.

Mr. Bingley reposts this hurricane-preparation advice. More on hurricane preparation in these posts.

And you can still get a generator by tomorrow if you order in the next few hours.

TROPICAL STORM SANDY: Now a Hurricane, and a Serious US Threat, with the potential to be a billion-dollar disaster for the Mid-Atlantic, and could impact the presidential election, “Weather Nerd” Brendan Loy writes.

ADVICE FOR THE RNC: A reader emails:

Hi, first of all, if you’re even reading this, thank you. I know you must be bombarded with e-mails. Like many of your other readers, I would ask that if you do anything with this, you do not associate my name with anything. It would pretty much destroy me professionally.

I’m a reformed liberal and hearing election coverage tends to make me nuts. You have influence and I wanted to float an idea to you (for possible consideration and publicity). I think the RNC should start a website submission process where regular people (like me) can submit ideas for adds. I’m a suburban, working mom. I am the person they’re trying to reach. You’d think that people like me would have good ideas for how the out of touch politician can speak to us and our peers. Plus, it would be easy…I swear the commercials could half write themselves.

“It would pretty much destroy me professionally.” It’s a shame that American politics have descended into such a reign of terror.

UPDATE: Reader Jody Green writes: “You are so right to highlight this most disgusting fact of life in a country built on freedom. If you are Black, Hispanic, work in Hollywood, Journalism, Law or Academia you must hide your true beliefs or your life/job will be targeted. This is the real battle for the future.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another reader emails: “Identifying with conservative issues, and I’m not even talking social issues, is professional death in the non-profit world. So, please, if you use this, don’t use my name.”

Meanwhile, reader George Milonas writes:

My advice for Romney and Ryan:

They need to take an immediate tour of hurricane ravaged areas offering help to locals and demanding Obama declare the area a disaster area. They would look presidential while Obama golfs and fundraises-what he does best.

It would make a great ad.

Indeed.

MORE: Another reader writes:

Your comment, “It’s a shame that American politics have descended into such a reign of terror” regarding reformed liberal readers’ requests not to be identified is telling. I work in an industry that is almost exclusively conservative, in a very conservative state (Texas). I’ve worked with a few liberals, and they were quite open about it. While we sometimes discussed politics at lunch or around the coffee pot, I never saw any of my fellow conservatives berate, threaten or ridicule the liberals. No one was ever called names. We respect them, even though we disagree with them.

My wife, on the other hand, works in a liberal profession. The few times she’s let her true feelings show, she’s been met with disdain, antipathy and outright disgust. She’s afraid to put a Romney sticker on her car for fear of it being vandalized in the employee parking lot. What is it that causes liberals, the so-called champions of diversity, to react so violently to conservative thoughts?

Tribalism and intellectual insecurity.

MORE STILL: Sarah Hoyt emails:

For years I worried, to the point of having an elaborate fake identity to comment on political blogs. I thought if I came out politically my publishing houses would drop me and of course, we couldn’t live without the money.

Then the one of my editors — Toni Weisskopf at Baen — who knew I was a libertarian and with whom I’d traded emails about the significance of Heinlein’s Puppet Masters to our current situation, asked me to write the foreword to the re-edition of the book. I was aware this might kill my career with every other house but Baen, and at the time Baen took maybe a book from me every two years: not enough to live on.

I did it anyway, because I felt I had to. I was right. The other houses dropped me like a hot potato and the last two years were pretty rough income wise. But then as a writer, I can now self publish, Darkship Thieves did pretty well, and Baen is now buying a lot more books from me and… I think in a year or so, once we backfill that hole, I’ll be all right.

However — in the moments when I thought I wasn’t being paranoid — I wasn’t. In the arts and creative fields of endeavor, too, being conservative/libertarian is the kiss of death. (Unless you write sf/f and are lucky enough to work for Baen.)

I’d like to point out though — the point of this ramble — that I’ve found the pay off is worth it. Not the money — though I think eventually it might be. I don’t know what other people who (like Roger L. Simon) blacklisted themselves have found, but I’ve found that being able to be me and not self-censor every word took my creativity AND my execution to a new level. It’s like… before I was sleep-writing and now I’m awake. And my beta readers seem to agree.

Yes, it would still be pointless if I couldn’t get it in front of people. So I’m not suggesting everyone does this. But maybe we need more safe havens for conservative artists, where we CAN be ourselves.

Well, there’s Liberty Island. And PJM, of course! You can donate to Liberty Island here.

AN ETHICAL QUESTION: A reader emails:

The power blackout in DC was quick. The storm arrived quickly and took most of us by surprise.

But it was the aftermath that I wanted to ask you about. Wherever there was free “juice” people were plugging in their laptops, cellphones and whatever else needed power.

There was no shyness about using the “juice” at McDonald’s, Safeway or even the mall. It was as if these things are free and use as much as you want.

Do you or your readers have any comments about this issue? Instead of a cup of sugar people now want a kilowatt. This rivals neighbors stealing your Wifi.

Well, personally I think the answer to this is somewhere between “any port in a storm” and de minimis non curat lex. The amount of power consumed by a cellphone or a laptop is quite small, and one presumes that power outlets in public places are there with the idea that they might be used by the public. Just don’t get too greedy — charging a cellphone or a laptop is one thing, plugging in your Leaf overnight is another.

Of course, a modest amount of forethought will make this sort of expedient mostly unnecessary. Here’s a post on generators, and at a much lower level of expense, hand-cranked radios like this one will charge cellphones. I have several big UPS units that will keep a laptop and cellphone going for a long time. An inverter is also a good inexpensive alternate power source. You can also get one of these jumpstarters that doubles as a portable power source.

So while I think it’s okay to charge your laptop at McDonald’s in an emergency, courtesy and good sense dictates that you should do what you can to make such an emergency unnecessary in advance.

UPDATE: Reader James Randolph writes:

The key is to not assume it is free; it is paid for by evil corporate profits. If you don’t like corporations on the good days, don’t rely on them on the bad days. Personally, I love McDonalds and regularly contribute to their profits.

Fair point. And reader Dave Moelling writes:

I read your story about using power at McDonalds ,etc. My first response is that this is OK but a courteous thing would be to buy something (coffee, etc.) when using a commercial venues facilities even if not requested. But it reminded me that the two most prepared companies for disasters are WalMart and Waffle House. (See link). A question to those in the Mid Atlantic, How is waffle house doing?

More on Waffle House here.

Also, here’s another hand-cranked radio that will charge a cell phone.

UPDATE: Advice from reader Johan Bakker:

I’m your reader that installs and services generators, including home-stand-by and portable units.

Further to your advice about generators, UPS’s and inverters, you might want to let your readers know that there are still serious issues with generators and UPS units. Except for the largest and most-sophisticated generators, these two devices do not play well together.

The issue is that the UPS makers have set very-narrow boundaries on the frequency input that their devices will tolerate before calling a fault. They will only tolerate a frequency deviation of perhaps ± 0.5 Hz before they call a defect and disconnect from the input to go on battery power.

In a way, this makes sense, because the utility power frequency is usually incredibly accurate – within 0.1 Hz and usually a lot better than that – and so the UPS makers use the disruption in frequency as a warning that utility power is going out.

But most generators in the size class we are talking about cannot maintain output frequency that accurately. Electronic governors (which control engine speed and so output frequency) are only found on one or two larger, high-end generators at present, most still use mechanical governors, which are less-precise. And even with an electronic governor, most of these generators do not have enough rotor inertia to maintain engine speed (= frequency) during the startup of large load, like a refrigerator or well pump.

Generators based on inverter technology are better because they synthesize their output frequency electronically and so do not depend on engine speed. However, inverter technology is presently restricted to very small generators, not suitable for backup power for a whole house.

Users should be aware that, for most generators that are likely to be found in a domestic application, when the power goes out, any UPS’s will likely switch to battery backup and stay there, even if the generator is energized and providing input power. Since most UPS’s have only limited backup capacity, they will be quickly exhausted and will not be replenished form the generator input.

For those with no generator, or using a portable generator intermittently, for low-level charging needs, like phones and laptops, the best solution is a 12V auto battery and a miniature inverter. The battery can be charged in so many different ways (from a car, from a charger running off a generator, from a lawnmower, from a solar panel, the possible ways are endless) and even a small lead-acid battery (like a lawn-tractor battery) has more-than-enough capacity to charge many cell-phones and laptops before requiring a fresh charge.

Good advice. And another reader points out: “The McDonalds that don’t want people to use their power have already capped the outlets in the public areas. Some newer McDonalds have extra outlets as a convenience for customers.”

Yes, the now-common McCafe setup is intended to be laptop-friendly.

A GENERATOR BLEG: Reader Russell Sayre emails: “Have you posted in the past on home generators? I’m in the market, but the selection on Amazon is fairly bewildering. Do you or your readers have tips or suggestions?” A bit, but I’ve never bought one. They can be dangerous, both electrically and from carbon monoxide. (Storing gas is dangerous, too). And my power’s pretty reliable. So even though my house has a transfer box and a generator inlet, I’ve never gotten the generator to go with it.

That said, you can go with a small inverter-based machine like this Yamaha for powering electronics, etc. Or you can get a whole-house standby generator. The key is figuring out what you want it for in advance, and then working backward. As I’ve said before, if I were building a house from scratch I’d put in a big underground propane tank and have a propane-powered backup generator. Then I’d be nearly independent except for getting my tank filled once or twice a year.

UPDATE: Reader Tom Fenton writes: “Please remind folks that they just can’t plug the generator into a convenient plug without an isolation box as power then also flows out into the network. Generators that power the neighborhood slow down restoration as utility crews often go door to door asking to shut off generators before repairing broken power lines.” Yes, that’s why you need a transfer box — or you can just run an extension cord from the generator, of course.

Here’s some generator safety advice. And with any kind of backup power or heat, a battery powered carbon monoxide detector is an excellent idea.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Dave Tulka writes:

We have a 5500 watt Diesel and have yet to install the transfer switch. We have a Coleman dual-fuel camp lantern and two Aladdin kerosene lamps. For winter heat, we have been using our Toyotomi/Kerosun kerosene heaters as an almost primary heat source. Even if the gas stays on, there is no heat without the electric blower fan.

When we updated the kitchen, we converted from an electric stove to gas and have a dual-fuel Coleman camp stove as backup. We purchased the Coleman lantern and stove for family camping when our kids were younger.

The cool thing about Coleman dual-fuel units is they run on Coleman fuel or gasoline. Both fuels are far more energy-dense than propane resulting in less space for each BTU stored.

When we first started using kerosene for winter heat about ten years ago, our friends and families looked at us like we each had a third eye. Now, not so much. We’ve had two friends lose their gas furnaces in the winter that were thrilled to borrow one of our kerosene heaters for a few days until they could get their furnaces repaired or replaced.

Our story is about reducing the absolute need for electricity. The remaining critical-path items are the fridge, washing machine and internet access. Assuming the internet stays up, each machine and the network gear has pretty respectable battery backup in place.

Kerosene heaters are remarkably good if used properly, and kerosene — like diesel fuel — is comparatively safe to store. Gasoline is somewhat more dangerous.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Allen Peirce writes:

One consideration not explicitly mentioned: fuel storage time (and therefore the likelihood that you’ll have usable fuel when you need the generator) favors the propane. Gasoline degrades quickly, e.g. in six months or less unless expensive treatments are added. Diesel degrades more slowly unless water (e.g. from condensation) gets into it, in which case algae can grow in it and the life, and cost of keeping it treated and useful, is more like gasoline. Propane on the other hand will still be good years later…but the engines for the generators are likely to be more expensive. (Note, if possible, get one that takes the propane in the liquid state rather than as vapor – much less likely to freeze up in winter!)

And reader James Loftis emails:

When we moved back to the hurricane belt that is Houston, we decided that a stand-by generator was a must. From my research into the subject, and the experience of getting it up and running:

1. Air-cooled generators are smaller and cheaper to buy and maintain, but you are probably limited to 20kV. If you have 2 air-conditioners, like many of the homes here, you will not be able to run the whole house. Some power-management planning is needed.

2. Not every contractor or electrician has installed (easy) and connected (hard) a generator, and some won’t be able to recognize problem 1.

3. If you go with NG, city authorities are likely to require a new gas meter and connection. And, the transfer switch is not “optional”, no matter what the vendor’s website might say.

4. It will take you much longer than planned to get everything done. Much longer. From talks with others who gone down this path, this seems a common complaint.

5. I noticed while shopping for generators that most every website that monitors activity will offer a substantial day-of-purchase discount to convince you to buy from them. No idea whether that’s still going on, but it happened on 3 different sites.

Plus, from Alex Nunez:

Over at ConsumerSearch.com, we have a full report on portable generators. In addition to making recommendations in a variety of product categories (based on what’s being said in published third-party reviews) on the landing page (http://www.consumersearch.com/portable-generators), we include a more evergreen What To Look For section that breaks down some basic shopping tips on choosing wattage, fuel type, and features: http://www.consumersearch.com/portable-generators/important-features. That page may help some of your readers who are beginning their research. I think the genny manufacturers are going to have a nice bottom line this year.

Yeah, me too.

MORE: Reader Teresa Hummel writes:

We have had a generator for years. It was last used during the winter of 2008 when an ice storm took out our power for 3 days. We were lucky, others were out for weeks. Had we not used the generator we would have had frozen pipes and a far greater disaster. You are correct though, using a generator takes some care. After reading your post and the other comments, I have a tip that may save someone a big headache and money in the long run.

Many people buy a generator when there is a crisis, then sell it once the crisis is past. There is one major thing people overlook, or don’t bother with, when they use a generator in these situations. Like all engines, they need to be maintained. If you read the manual you will often find it calling for an oil change after about 25 hours of use and periodically there after. I’m sure many people have no idea they need to do any kind of maintenance that soon, if at all. Even though it is seldom used, my husband does twice yearly maintenance on our generator to keep it in good running condition. In an emergency, it’s too late to find out it doesn’t work.

In the case of a multi-day power outage, such as the recent hurricane, people hurry out, buy a generator, and run them nearly continuously for days. All of this without doing anything other than adding gas when it runs out. While it doesn’t usually cause the generator to stop at that time, it will shorten the life of the machine considerably. It’s something to keep in mind for those who are thinking of buying a used generator. If the seller can’t give you any specifics on how long it was used and what maintenance was done, walk away. No matter the price, it’s not a bargain at that point.

Also they need to be started regularly — like once a month — even when they’re not used. Seems like that could become a pain.

And reader Christine Lanzon writes:

Just this weekend we installed this smallish (3500 watt max) propane-fueled generator. And this transfer switch.

The generator is being kept on the side of the house (away from vents and windows), hooked up to the same kind of propane tank I use on the gas grill (which makes the gas grill propane tank a handy spare), off the ground on a wooden platform that we built for the purpose. It’s mainly to make sure the sump pump and freezer can run during an outage, but we also hooked up the circuits for a few receptacles on all three levels so I can power my router, my laptop, some lights, and other small loads. With a grill cover over it, it’s hardly noticeable; I don’t have to store gasoline; and it starts easily. It seems like the perfect compromise between a full-blown generator and powerlessness.

You can run a small generator off those little tanks, but I believe you’re much better off with a 75lb tank, especially in low temperatures.

STILL MORE: Reader Walter Boxx writes:

You won’t need nearly as big a generator as you probably think. I have a 5500 watt generator and could get by with half that. The less the better since you may be driving 30 miles and sitting in line for an hour or more for gas. All you really need is a refrigerator, a couple of lights and some fans or a couple of small window unit A/Cs. During the recent tornado-induced multi-day power outage I got by with just the fans for a couple of days since it was cool in the evenings and mornings. When the humidity got too high I hooked up the window units and it made a big difference. My refrigerator only pulls 500 watts, as do the window units (6,000 btu) for a total of just under 2,000 watts with a few lights. You’d probably want 3,500 watts to be sure you can start them, but 5500 was overkill. And bigger means more gas to run. I was using 1/2 gal/hr. A smaller generator would have used 1/3 gal/hr. Even so, I was giving gas away before it was over. And having a spare window unit AC or two around is not a bad idea. Not only is it probably cheaper to use a small generator with window units than to buy a generator big enough to run your house unit, but I’ve used mine for backup when the A/C was on the fritz and even loaned them out several times.

And reader Jeff Pttman writes:

I have a “portable” (weighs a ton but can be rolled about on a level surface by one person) gasoline generator with 7800 watts running power and 13,700 watts starting power. The way I figure it, I can run my refrigerator, my portable air conditioner (which rolls from room to room), a few lights and electric fans, and I can recharge the UPSs that power my cable modem, wireless router and laptops. I can cook on my propane gas grill or on my bottled gas hotplate (originally bought for wok cooking). But as you say, you have to plan ahead to buy and store gasoline and you have to deal with the the risks. My problem is that I can’t find a portable propane-powered generator, or an inverter for my car, that will pump out this amount of power at anywhere near this price point (I paid about $1,600 for the generator; similar ones can be had now for half that). If any of your readers have suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

I dunno. Northern used to have a line of “tri-power” generators (gas, propane, natural gas).

MORE STILL: Reader Jon Bryan writes:

I bought a Generac/Guardian 8kw standby generator that runs from our 500-gallon propane tank.

I thought about gas or diesel, but decided that I wanted something my wife wouldn’t have to deal with if she happened to be home alone. That meant wiring it up permanently with a transfer switch (which was part of the package).

I’ve had it for almost two years now. It really feels luxurious when the power goes out. In a few seconds the generator starts up and voila! we have lights again. I wired enough circuits over to the transfer switch to keep the heat, refrigerator and freezer, kitchen, and master bed/bath on. It could easily handle more, given our modest requirements, but it only has eight breakers. A bigger one with a mains switch would have been nice, but I’d have had to hire an electrician.

I’ve been happy with it. It automatically starts up every Saturday afternoon and runs a few minutes to keep things lubed and the battery charged. The only thing extra that I did was add an hour meter from Digi-Key. I like to know how long it’s run.

I’ll be doing the annual oil and filter change in the next couple of weeks.

Maintenance is key.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Hurricane Irene: Some Lessons Learned.

IN A HURRICANE, CASH IS KING:

Banks across New York City are making provisions so people will be able to get hard currency Sunday and Monday, even if Hurricane Irene knocks power out and floods branches.

One of the enduring lessons from the hurricanes of 2005 is that cash is crucial in a storm zone for basic staples, yet often difficult to come by. After Katrina, for example, ATMs across New Orleans simply did not work.

With that in mind, people scrambled to ATMs on Friday and Saturday morning across New York and New Jersey, often withdrawing hundreds of dollars to prepare.

Keep some cash — in small bills, mostly — in your disaster kit.

GDP GROWTH UNEXPECTEDLY SLOW. How’s that hopey-changey stuff workin’ out for ya?

UPDATE: “Politically, of course, this is a rolling disaster for the Obama administration. The downward revision comes while Obama is on Martha’s Vineyard, enjoying a high-profile ‘vacation’ and promising to get around to a jobs plan … soon. Commerce will give one more revision to Q2′s estimate in late September, which will put the poor economic performance under his stewardship on display yet again — and then Obama will have to deal with a Q3 result that so far doesn’t look any better than Q2. If Hurricane Irene doesn’t bring the vacation to an early end, this number really should have the White House political team calling to have Air Force One warming up the engines.”

DISASTER-PREPARATION IDIOCY: North Carolina Governor Declares Every Concealed Carry Permit in eastern NC Invalid Due to Hurricane Irene.

INTERESTED IN DISASTER PREPAREDNESS? Check out Bill Quick’s discussion forum. And here’s a hurricane preparedness list.

Also, some bug-out bag recommendations. And some stuff to keep in your car or SUV.

UPDATE: Some preparation advice from Dr. Melissa Clouthier.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hints for boarding up your windows.

BILL QUICK: NYC Authorities Downplaying Irene Threat: Could Be Much Worse Than They Are Saying . It’s too early to be sure, but not at all too early to be preparing — or leaving — if you live in the area. Just remember: If a lot of people decide to leave Manhattan and Long Island all of a sudden, the bridges and tunnels will be pretty jammed.

UPDATE: Reader Donald Gately writes: “Paul Krugman has been publicly pining for a huge disaster to spur infrastructure spending. Do you think he’ll be even a tiny bit embarrassed if NYC gets clobbered by a massive hurricane? Or would he (like Michael Moore) decry the fact that something horrible happened to a righteous blue state rather than an evil red state?”

Well, just keep a close eye on hurricane-invoker James Wolcott.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Apparently the Krugman disaster-pining isn’t true. “Yesterday, there were rumors that Krugman stated that it would have been stimulative if the earthquake had been stronger and done more damage, but he exposed this as a prank (though it is understandable that many people — including me, I’m embarrassed to admit — initially assumed it was true since he did write that the 9-11 terrorist attacks boosted growth).” Wolcott’s not off the hook, though.

SOME DISASTER-PREPAREDNESS THOUGHTS FROM READER KEN LIGHTCAP:

We just had major storms in the Kansas City Metro and we lost power for twenty-four hours beginning at 11:30 PM last Thursday night. Forty-eight hours later there were still over 20,000 homes without power. Here are three things I learned the hard way during this latest episode:

Grandchildren, if you are not vigilant, will find your emergency flashlights, play with them and leave them on even after they put them back in the drawer thus leaving you in the dark.

Consistency is your friend. Thursday night as I was falling asleep I realized that I had my cell phone in the bedroom and not out charging in the entry which I always do before going to bed. Just this once I said to myself, it will be OK. It wasn’t. The next day I fought a drained phone trying to find places to charge it (car, McDs etc.) I also didn’t check the weather before bed and because of that we lost our porch umbrella.

Keep a land line for phone and an old low-tech phone you can plug in when power goes out. The five station high-tech phone doesn’t work when there is no power but the old ATT princess phone still does fine. I refuse to give up my land line and even had ATT work it into my new U-Verse bundle.

Just some thoughts to add to the survival posts which have been very helpful to us as we live in severe storm country where we often lose power.

With Florida facing a hurricane threat, here are some hurricane pre-preparedness thoughts, and here’s a list of preparedness gear. Also, a roundup of more resources.

WHEN HISTORY RHYMES: President Bush was pummeled by the left for his Katrina flyover moment in 2005; as Arianna Huffington wrote at the time:

The president’s 35-minute Air Force One flyover of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama was the perfect metaphor for his entire presidency: detached, disconnected, and disengaged. Preferring to take in America’s suffering — whether caused by the war in Iraq or Hurricane Katrina — from a distance. In this case, 2,500 feet.

Flash-forward to 2011 — veteran White House reporter Keith Koffler asks the current president, “What? Not Even a Look Out the Window?”

President Obama doesn’t seem to have even peered out his Air Force One window to view the swelling Mississippi, a minimal show of interest for which George W. Bush was pilloried when he took a peak at the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. At least Bush bothered to look.

Obama is traveling today OVER the devastation being wrought by the Mississippi in order to get to events in Texas, where he will rally his Hispanic supporters with a speech on immigration in El Paso and then head to the Lone Star state’s liberal bastion of Austin for two fundraisers.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who spoke with reporters aboard Air Force One, was asked whether Obama had bothered to get a view from above.

“I haven’t seen him do that but I haven’t been with him for the full flight so far,” Carney said.

Well, it certainly doesn’t sound like they were on the lookout for it, and it’s clear the plane is not intentionally headed over a particularly devastated area for a look-see.

Obama’s hopscotch over the Mississippi flooding is emblematic of his disaster no-show policy.

Fortunately, digging a nice, deep rhetorical moat should help the flood waters recede, if willing them back doesn’t work.

BLAME AMERICA FIRST:

Are Americans prone to violence after natural and man-made disasters? That’s the assertion of libtalker / Democratic Party strategist Bill Press, who used yesterday’s syndicated radio program to compare post-quake Japan to the US in derisive terms.

Citing looting after Hurricane Katrina and rioting in South-Central Los Angeles during the Rodney King incident, Press claimed the calm atmosphere in Japan proves Americans are “ruffians and thugs” by comparison.

Hmm. Those are mostly-black areas. Press’s comments sound kinda . . . racist, you know?

EARTHQUAKE/TSUNAMI TALK GOT YOU INTERESTED IN DISASTER-PREP? Check out Bill Quick’s discussion forum. And here’s a list of disaster-prep supplies. And here’s another.

MORE ON THAT CALIFORNIA SUPERSTORM SCENARIO, including this: “The 1861 and 1862 storms show what is possible. The 19th century featured much more drastic disasters than the 20th. In my previous post about the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes (Mississppi river changed course), the 1815 Mount Tambora VEI 7 volcanic eruption, the 1859 solar Carrington event and other awesome displays of nature’s power I made the argument that if the 21st century features disasters more like the 19th century then we are in some some tough times. But I missed out on the California storms of the early 1860s. With nearly 40 million people now such a storm would do far greater damage. Picture a 300 mile long lake in the Central Valley and hurricane-force winds.”

Given all the human-made disasters of the 20th Century, I suppose we should be glad that it was a period of comparative calm in other ways, but I think it did produce a false impression of what constitutes “normal.”

Meanwhile, you may want to check out Bill Quick’s disaster-preparedness forum. And here’s a disaster-preparedness list.

SO YESTERDAY’S POST ON LOW-BUDGET DISASTER PREP has produced still more email. Mostly it’s suggestions for what more people can do. That, of course, goes all the way up to a custom bomb-shelter / retreat in the mountains somewhere. But for most people, resources are limited. What are some things you can do that go beyond just keeping some extra groceries and bottled water? But not too far beyond?

You can keep a case or two of self-heating MREs around. They last a long time, they aren’t bad, and they’re more portable than canned foods if you have to leave home, but they don’t need separate water to prepare them like freeze-dried foods.

You might invest in a water filter, which will let you turn iffy water into drinkable water.

You should stock first-aid supplies and extra needed medications, in case you can’t get prescriptions refilled.

You might want some sort of backup power, ranging from a big uninterruptible power supply (keeps laptops and internet going for a long time, recharges cellphones, etc.) to a generator. Generators take annoying degrees of maintenance; a UPS can back up your computer or modem/wireless router until needed for more. But they put out a lot less power than a generator, and won’t keep your freezer from thawing. But generators cross the line into “more serious” as opposed to “slightly serious” preparedness, which is what this post is about.

Some additional source of heat. If you have a gas fireplace, make sure you know how to start it without an electric igniter. If you have a woodburning fireplace or stove, make sure you have plenty of wood, and matches and kindling, etc. (Woodburning fireplaces aren’t much good for heat, really; stoves on the other hand put out a lot). A backup kerosene or propane heater is good, too. Propane is easier to store than kerosene, and there are some propane heaters that are supposed to be safe for indoor use — though I’d invest in a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector to go with any kind of backup indoor heat. Also, extra blankets. And wool socks! Maybe even a Snuggie or two. In case the power goes out in the summer, make sure you have screens on your windows so that you can open them without filling your house with bugs. A small battery-powered fan is nice, too — clip it on to the headboard of your bed and it’ll be easier to sleep on a sticky night. Keep plenty of batteries, too.

Backup lamps and lanterns. One nice thing I have are plug-in nightlights that turn on when the power goes off, so that stairs, etc., remain navigable. I have them at the top and bottom of stairs, and in parts of the house that would be really dark if the power went off. They double as flashlights. These look good, too.

A list of phone numbers for family, friends, neighbors, and various services — plumbers, doctors, etc. — that you won’t be able to look up on the Internet if the power’s out.

A shovel, a crowbar, a water shutoff tool that fits your hookup — make sure you know that it works, how to use it, and where your hookup is in advance — and other simple tools.

A couple of tarps. During the Great Water Incident of a couple of years ago, one of these saved my basement carpet when water started coming out of the ceiling. . . .

Duct tape, duct tape, duct tape. And extra plastic garbage bags. Very versatile.

Any other reader suggestions for things that don’t cost too much, but would take disaster-prep up a level from yesterday’s post?

UPDATE: Reader Thomas Leahy writes: “Don’t forget a little extra food for the pets.” Good point.

Reader Peter Gookins emails:

This goes a bit beyond “prep on the cheap,” but you asked…

Generators-most people get one that’s much bigger than they actually need. Back north, I needed a large 240 volt generator (Honda ES 6500) to power the well pump, fridge and freezer when power went out (“locked rotor current,” which is the technical name for the high amperage required to start an electric motor from rest, on a 1 HP deep well pump is a LOT higher than the 8-12 amps (which, at 240 volts, is 1/2 the amperage it would be at 120; figure starting draw on most motors will be about 4X-5X running current; the 6500 puts out 52 amps and at pump start you could tell it picker up a lot of load) it takes to run the pump, and don’t forget that some stuff – like most -but not all- deep well pumps – are 240 volt only); here in Florida I’m on county water. During the 2004 hurricanes I loaned the big one to a neighbor, and it wound up feeding three houses for refrigerators, fans and TVs. I ran off a portable 120 volt 3K watt portable Honda RV generator (EU 3000) just fine, which powered the fridge, fans, lights and and a window AC at night for sleeping. Since then I’ve picked up a 2K watt Honda to use as “an infinite extension cord” at the gun club – it’ll power ONE saw, or a couple of floodlights and a fan, run cordless drill battery chargers, etc, and it weights 47 lbs. so it’s portable. Turns out it will run my fridge, some lights and a fan OR my window AC and some lights, all on less gas than the 3K watt Honda used. The fuel tank is small, but the RV crowd has solutions for that, just Google “EU2000+fuel tank.” And, Honda sells kits (but it’s cheaper to make your own) that allow tying two EU2000s together to get 3200 watts at 120 volts (about 26 amps) steady output. RVers do it all the time.

Remember, the smaller the generator the less fuel it uses. You can get aftermarket propane conversion kits for the Hondas, which I’ve considered doing with the 6500 when I move back north next year, because even with wheels under it it’s not very portable. I haven’t considered doing it with the 3K or the 2000 because having to drag around a propane tank reduces the portability, but if one expected a semi-stationary use, a propane conversion kit and a couple of 70 lb propane tanks would be a good investment. If I were staying in Florida I’d convert from electric water heater to propane tankless, and replace the electric range with a dual-fuel range, and stick a 250 gallon propane tank in the back corner of the yard. All the propane dealers here brag about how their trucks are propane-powered and they never missed a delivery during the hurricanes.

Speaking of well pumps…there is a great advantage to replacing the small well tank ( about 3.5 gallon draw down – one flush with old style toilets, so your pump is starting up a lot) builders always put in because it’s cheap with multiple large tanks. Well-X-Trol makes one that has a 46 gallon draw down from full before the pump needs to start and refill it. I put in two back north; in daily use the pump starts fewer times and runs longer, which extends its life, and when the power went out I ran the pump on generator until the tanks were full, which gave us 92 gallons before we needed the pump again. With water saving shower heads and minimal flushing we could get through an entire day (BTW, with a little judicious circuit breaker adjusting, one can power only one of the heating elements in an electric water heater with one’s generator, preferably the bottom element; takes a little while, but in 30 minutes or so you have a tank full of hot water. Check what wattage the elements are and replace the bottom one with a 4500 watt or 3800 watt (assuming the original is a 5500 watt) to ease the load on the generator. During normal use you won’t notice the difference.

If I were building my house from scratch, I’d consider putting in an underground propane tank and running everything off propane instead of natural gas, with a propane-powered generator thrown into the mix. A couple of deliveries a year and you’re semi self-sufficient.

Reader Anthony Swenson writes with a low-budget point that’s more in the spirit I meant for this post:

One of the cheapest things you can do – it won’t cost you anything but a nice smell in your laundry – is to make sure you always buy plain, unscented, unflavored chlorine bleach.

“In an emergency, think of this (one gallon of Regular Clorox Bleach) as 3,800 gallons of drinking water.”

Yeah, bleach is good for sanitizing stuff, too. I keep extra around — but it’s harder and harder to find plain old Clorox bleach anymore amid all the scented, splash-resistant, etc. stuff on the shelf. Read the label carefully. . . .

UPDATE: Reader Henry Bowman writes:

Another item to consider if you have a hybrid vehicle: a large inverter. I read an article a couple of years ago about a fellow in Connecticut who ran many of his electric appliances in his house for three days off his Prius, with inverter. He claimed it cost him 5 gallons of fuel. Seems like an inexpensive backup, and one for which you don’t need to worry about starting often, as is the case with a portable generator.

My sister and brother-in-law, who live in the Houston vicinity, were without power for 13 days after Hurricane Ike. They have two Priuses: they could have used a couple of inverters.

A big inverter is a lot cheaper than a comparable generator, and probably safer, too. And you can use it to recharge your UPS. But the hybrid thing isn’t as easy as it sounds. The guy you mention modded his Prius, because the big honking battery that drives the electric motors doesn’t put out 12v DC, and the 12v power system that starts the motor in the Prius (or in my Highlander) is separate. So I’m not sure there’s any special benefit to having a hybrid unless it’s modified, but correct me if I’m missing something.

Speaking of cars, think about when you’re not at home. Reader Mike von Cannon writes:

A note about disaster kits: I work for the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office and starting the morning of Dec 26 our dispatch center was flooded with calls from tourists in rental cabins who were stranded and running out of food (it was even worse during the blizzard in 93, which also hit on a weekend), so even on vacation it would pay to buy extra in case we get more snow than you expect. many tourists who thought they’d be going home sunday were stranded til Wed or Thur.

Good advice. And you should travel with at least a bit of helpful stuff. I keep some emergency stuff in the back of the car — some food bars, water, a spare pair of shoes in case mine get nasty while changing a tire, etc., and assorted minor toiletries and hygiene products and, very important, a roll of toilet paper — which helps. (And if you can produce tampons in a pinch, you can be a hero to women everywhere.)

I use these food bars, because they stand up to the heat in the summer better and they’re not appetizing enough that people will snitch ’em just for a quick snack, and these water packets because they don’t burst if they freeze. Most of this stuff never gets used, but being stuck by the side of the road for an extended period just once makes it worth having.

Also: Some survival blankets, some basic tools, and a Swiss Army knife or a Leatherman. (Make sure it’s one with a can opener/bottle opener). And a roll of duct tape! I keep all of this in a small pack that takes up very little room in the back; there’s one in Helen’s car, too.

Reader Gary Saffer writes:

A couple of things that I didn’t notice in your disaster preparedness posts.

Chemical light sticks. A friend of mine suggested these for general use. They’re cheap, they provide enough light to move around, and they save batteries for more light intensive tasks. And of course, you can get them at Amazon.

Consider that under most circumstances, it’s going to be 48-72 hours before rescue or relief shows up. If you are planning for much longer periods of being off the grid, consider moving to a rural area where you can build you entire house around being off the grid for long periods of time.

Firearms. You don’t mention them, but everyone should have a means of self defense. The veneer of civilization is thin at the best of times, it vaporizes in a real emergency. The predators will be out fairly quickly because their disaster plan is to use your prepared material to survive on. They don’t know specifically who you are, but they’ll keep looking until they find someone who has the stuff they want. Or a firearm they want no part of.

Yeah, light sticks are cool, even if Joe Biden thinks they’re drug paraphernalia. The gun issue is a whole separate post, but a gun (or several) is important disaster-prep, but that moves beyond the “easy steps” focus of this post. And the rural retreat approach goes way beyond it.

Reader Tina Howard writes:

For those who actually have a landline: an old-fashioned, non-electric telephone that plugs into the phone jack & has the handset attached to the phone. Easy to identify because there is no electric cord with it. Our phone lines worked after 2003’s Hurricane Claudette but the cordless phones wouldn’t. Very cheap at Salvation Army Thrift shops.

In the same vein, keep the necessary cords to plug a computer directly into the phone modem, because the wireless router is also electric. We were able to get online and check weather and news reports, as well as make posts to update others.

Good advice. Yeah, an old-fashioned landline phone that uses line power is good to have. Cellphone batteries die. Phone company line power is more reliable than utility power. Some multi-handset wireless phone setups or answering machines have a handset at the base that still works when the power is out. (Mine does). Most don’t. You can also hook the base into a big UPS — they don’t draw much power so they’ll work for days that way if you do. Ditto your cable/DSL modem and wireless router.

Reader J.R. Ott writes:

Three lengths of sturdy rope,5/8 climbing rope,inexpensive clothesline type,for bundling up stuff,para chute chord,All three are handy for bug out 50′ min and a few short hunks.Each bundle of rope has a snap knife taped to it (about a dollar each from the paint dept) . . . . Lastly if folks can afford it a Westie dog or a Shepard,good alarm and a Westie will shred an attacker as they are very possessive Terriers and if the dogs women folk are attacked you would not believe how damaging the dog can be.

Dogs are good to have around. More advice on low-cost preparation here, from a reader.

I should also note that while having extra stuff is handy — if the roads are blocked, and you don’t have enough food, there’s not much you can do — it’s also important to have skills. Most of the survival books are aimed at somebody lost in the woods, but, again, a low-budget approach means being able to deal with home-based small-scale disasters. This book, When Duct Tape Just Isn’t Enough, is a good focus. My own skillset is nothing to brag about: I can do basic plumbing, electrical, and carpentry stuff, but I don’t really like it because I’m a perfectionist, but not skilled enough to make it perfect very fast so I get frustrated. (Plus, I’ve usually got an article I should be writing, or something) However, it suffices for quick-and-dirty solutions to problems like clogged or burst pipes, etc. Being able to deal with that sort of thing is a big leg-up, and that’s the kind of thing this book addresses.

FINALLY: Good advice from reader Spencer Reiss: Keep some cash around. Preferably in relatively small denominations: “The universal solvent–gets anything else you need. and no power, no phone=no ATM, no credit cards. Post-Andrew desperate Miamians were driving halfway to Orlando to get some (and in some areas systems were down for up to two weeks). Much easier/smarter to keep $1000 stashed somewhere.”

DISASTER-PREPAREDNESS LESSONS FROM THE BLIZZARD:

The recent blizzard has shown once again the importance of having at least a basic short-term food store. Intentional slowdown or otherwise, people found themselves trapped in their home or apartment unable to go out for sustenance. Even if not technically trapped, many were in a position where they did not want to be forced out to face the elements or on to the dangerous roads.

The importance of having enough to eat and drink for a few days is matched by the ease of preparation. On your next trip to the supermarket, buy a few bags of beef-jerky, a jar of honey, and a mini-keg of beer and/or a few gallons of water. When you get home, put them away together in a cool dark place. That’s it.

Add some canned goods (with a mechanical can opener, and/or easy-open cans), a flashlight, a battery-powered radio and lantern, and a few extra blankets. (I don’t think the mini-keg of beer will really keep for a year, though.) You can do a lot more to prepare, but if you do this much you’ll be prepared for most reasonably-probable eventualities.

UPDATE: Reader Robert Rafton emails: “Never been much interested in your disaster-preparedness blogging until you mention this morning that one should stock a small keg of beer. You’ve now won me over.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Richard Dean writes: “Excellent advice on the storing essentials in case of a disaster, even a minor one. One word of caution: beware of the thin plastic gallon jugs of water sold at most grocery stores. They will keep for maybe a year before the plastic breaks down and they spring leaks. I found this out the hard way one time when I checked my emergency kit and found that my water had leaked and I had lost several cans of food, 100 rounds of premium handgun ammunition, a roll of duct tape, and a hand-crank emergency radio into a soupy mess. Luckily, it wasn’t during an emergency that I found this out.” Yeah, and if you store plastic containers directly on a concrete floor they break down faster. Canned goods shouldn’t be hurt by wetting, though, except for the labels.

MORE: Reader Paul Carlson writes: “For metal cans of food, write down the contents on the lid with a magic marker. Thus, if the labels do come off, you still know what you have before you open it.”

Meanwhile, Rick Lee emails:

After 9/11 I stored a bunch of emergency materials and had the nasty experience of plastic water jugs going bad and ruining a bunch of stuff in the garage.’ve never replaced those things… How SHOULD one store water?

And the response comes from reader Kevin Menard:

We buy the five gallon carboys that you normally stick in a water cooler. It’s a bit more expensive but the plastic holds up for years and we haven’t had a break or leak yet. I date them and use the oldest first. We opened a three year old one last year and the water was okay. Needed aeration but other wise fine. Since most of our emergency food is freeze dried, our expected emergency water usage will be higher. A forty pound propane tank and a propane stove help too. If you lived up north, you could run a camping heater off that too.

Yes, my sister-in-law — no prepper, but a poet — keeps those because her water comes from a well and she has to be ready for when the power goes off. Seems to work, er, well. And reader Marica Bernstein writes:

One thought about food preps. Canned goods, etc. are just common sense. But if you’re used to “real” food, I imagine it would be something of a shock to the system to switch abruptly to several days of the canned stuff. Making a weekly menu, and shopping for what you need on a designated grocery day (as opposed to stopping in at the store after work each day), wouldn’t solve all your problems, but at least you’d have on hand the items you’d need to carry on as usual– meal-wise (well, unless the disaster hits the day before grocery day).

We woke this morning after serious storm threats last night to discover we have no running water! No problem. We’re prepared.

Well, that’s always a comfort. And note that none of this requires Omega-Man style apocalypse planning — just maintaining a bit of a reserve. And when people do that, it helps things upstream, as everyone who does so is one less person trying to navigate jammed grocery stores, or calling 911 or whatever.

MORE: Bill Quick emails:

1. Crystal Geyser sells one gallon jugs of water made of the same long-lasting plastic as their smaller bottles.

2. Free: Rinse and reuse the two-liter bottles you get your soda pop in. They last forever, too, and have the added bonus that the water inside can be disinfected by letting them rest in direct sunlight. According to the medical doc posting here, the heat will kill all living organisms inside.

3. Those 2.5 gallon jugs with handles available at most drug and grocery stores will last forever, too.

All this and more, for those who read the “Water Storage at Home” thread at Survival-Preps.com!

I’ll just note that if you want to go a step farther, you might want a Katadyn (or similar) water filter, too. That lets you turn iffy water into drinkable water without having to store mass quantities. Also note that your hot water heater will contain many gallons of clean water, and your toilet tanks will, too — though you might want to treat or filter the latter, as much for your own peace of mind as anything else.

Plus, try-before-you-buy advice from reader Joseph Dorsett:

When deciding whether we wanted to go with freeze dried we got a “free sample” from e-foods direct. It actually cost the $14.95 shipping and handling. It was really pretty good though we decided to stick with canned goods and true individual meals for our boogie bags. We have friends who went with freeze dried because of the longer shelf life and variety of food. Readers may want to do this before investing in large lots. It will certainly give you a good idea of what the options are.

Yes, “large lots” go beyond the advice above, but if you’re storing food you should be sure it’s stuff people will want to eat. Even lousy food will keep you from starving, of course, but if you’re stuck at home for days because of an ice storm, food will be one of the few things that alleviates the boredom and it’s better if it’s good.

And reader Ken Lightcap writes:

Having been through several ice storms in Kansas City, once without power for four days and only partial power for another five, I was greatful beyond words for a gas hot water heater and a gas range and oven. It was forty-seven degrees in the house but we had hot water for showers (feeling clean is a huge morale boost) and always fire to cook and bake. Also, don’t over-look the old K-1 kerosene heaters popular in the 70s and 80s. I was glad I never threw mine away. It kept pipes from freezing for nine days.

I keep one of those kerosene heaters, and an indoor-rated propane heater. When I was a little kid, we got through the Great Northeastern Blackout fairly well because we had a gas stove. It would have been much worse if we’d had all-electric.

And reader Peter Gookins offers this advice for canned goods: “Don’t forget to write the purchase date on the tops of canned goods so you can use the oldest first.”

EVEN MORE: Reader Tom Anderson writes:

One easy thing to do to prepare for an emergency is to keep an extra full tank of propane for your gas grill. Not only will you never run out of propane in the middle of a barbecue, but if you lose electric power for your stove/range you will be able to cook for days using your grill.

In addition, troll Craigslist for a lightly used generator; people buy them after a storm or hurricane, then sell them after they sit for a few years. I bought one in excellent condition for $50 that would not run because an oil pressure sensor went bad from sitting too long. $20 in repairs plus a siphon line so I can use the 25 gallon gas tank in my SUV as a gas reserve of fresh gasoline and I’m good to go.

Combine the generator, the mini-keg of beer, and the gas grill, and I’m almost looking forward to an ice storm.

Heh. Meanwhile, reader Drew Kelley wonders why I’m not talking about MREs. Well, no reason — you can keep a case handy for fairly cheap, with heaters even. But they kind of go beyond the sort of incidental-effort preparedness that was the theme of this post.

FINALLY: Reader Alan Colon writes:

I am the Emergency Manager for my city, and you hit almost all of the high points in your posts on preparedness.
The most important things are the simple things. Have food and water, have medications and essential supplies (baby food, diapers, etc) for 96 hours.

That said, here’s a couple of things people should know about their homes:

Heat:
– Modern homes are very tightly insulated and wrapped with vapor barrier. Using any kind of fuel based heater (propane, etc) inside the house is an invitation to carbon monoxide poisoning.
– If your house has a gas fireplace, find the instructions and learn how to light it without the electrical igniter (wall switch) normally used.
– If your house has gas heat, it usually takes relatively few amps to run the fan the the electronic controls. With a power connector wired in and a small generator, you can keep your furnace running for a long period of time.

Phone:
– Make sure you have an old-fashioned plug-in phone in the house (less than $10 at your local big box). If power goes out your cordless phones are dead. A cheapie analog phone is powered from the phone line and will continue to function of the power is out.
– If you have gone all cellphone or VOIP, consider keeping a landline phone line on the cheapest plan your phone company will give you. With power outages, cell sites are quickly overloaded with calls, then they go offline after their backup batteries quit. Without power, DSL and cable lines will fail, then knocking out your VOIP service.

Backup Power: This is not cheap, but it provides definitive standby capacity:
– If your home or business has gas service, companies make relatively inexpensive natural-gas-powered standby generators which will auto-start and run off gas pressure (which is not dependent on the electrical grid being up).
– These will provide power for critical circuits such as heat, hot water, cooking, basic lighting, etc.
– Installed prices can be under $3000

Thanks for helping get the word out!

Happy to. I should note that you can get tri-fuel generators that will run on natural gas, propane, or gasoline, though they’re pricier. That’s kind of beyond the scope of this post.

SO THE REASON BLOGGING HAS BEEN LIGHTER OVER THE LONG WEEKEND is that I’ve been in Turks and Caicos, where I went scuba diving with the folks from Caicos Adventures and saw lots of friendly marine life. Also saw a tiger shark, but didn’t get a picture of that one, along with the usual assortment of turtles, moray eels, rays, etc. The visibility was roughly comparable to Cayman — perhaps a bit less, but they’d just come off some rough weather that left things stirred up. The Caicos Adventures folks, recommended to me by Cayman dive guide Liz Parkinson, run a good operation. We went 18 miles offshore to French Key and the boat ride, over glass-smooth water that left the bottom looking three feet down instead of 30, was delightful.

Turks and Caicos is recovering from Hurricane Ike, which did some pretty major damage, and which found the government unprepared. (If they were regular InstaPundit readers, they’d have spent more time and money on disaster-prep.) They’re still recovering, physically and financially.

They’ve also been hit pretty hard by the financial collapse. With real estate and tourism their main industries, things are, I’m told, a lot different here than they were in 2007. There are whole mothballed hotel-and-condo projects that were partially completed in 2008, just waiting for the economy to recover to be finished. Tourism is down, and the locals we spoke with seemed quite grateful for what remains. We came because we got a terrific deal (found online by the Insta-Daughter) and our long weekend here was very pleasant. We’ll probably be back. The weather was excellent, and the water is some of the most beautiful I’ve seen in the Caribbean, which is saying something. We stayed at Grace Bay, which is reminiscent of Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach, only less builtup. The whole atmosphere here reminds me of Cayman ten or fifteen years ago before the last big wave of development hit.

On the other hand, there have been big problems with government corruption, producing some political turmoil that has brought outside supervision from Britain. We’ll see how that works out.

I have neither the means nor the inclination to be an overseas real estate investor, but prices are way down. There’s some sign that the TCI government is trying to follow Cayman by building up an offshore banking sector. I don’t know how that will work out, but since — unlike Cayman these days — they don’t have tax treaties with anyone, they may manage to pull it off.

Places that depend on tourism are hurting; if your income is reasonably secure, this is a good time to take advantage of the deals, and to help out folks who can use the business. Plus, well, you get to spend a nice long weekend somewhere warm . . . .

FRANK LUNTZ: WHAT AMERICANS WANT:

Over the past two years, I’ve polled tens of thousands of Americans. Their top complaint about politicians is that they fail to “say what they mean and mean what they say.” Their top complaint about government is that it lacks “accountability.” Their top complaint about Washington is that “government has grown too big, too inefficient, and too out of control to do even the bare minimum things it is supposed to do.”

These concerns explain why Hurricane Katrina ended President George W. Bush’s presidency three years before his term expired. They explain why the gulf oil spill disaster crystallized voters’ concerns that Obama is in over his head. And they explain why the stimulus – after all those billions in debt, unemployment is still near 10 percent – has been deemed a failure.

Americans’ agenda is simple. In broad terms, they want the government to spur job growth, but not by subsidizing more government jobs with taxpayer dollars. They want Washington to balance the budget and reverse the growing influence of government on daily life. They want the government to encourage success, allow failure, punish those who break the law – and then get out of the way. And above all, they want politicians to follow through on their promises, even if that means tempering those promises in the first place.

And huge majorities, Luntz reports, agree with the Contract From America. No surprise. It was crowdsourced.

INTERESTED IN DISASTER PREPAREDNESS? Check out Bill Quick’s discussion forum.

Related: Some recommended hurricane-prep supplies.

When Bill wrote to thank me for plugging his forum a while back, I explained that I want to make sure that any post-apocalyptic world contains a disproportionate number of InstaPundit readers. This is probably more sensible than my old plan involving bikini models.

HURRICANE KATRINA, Five Years Later.

And while we’re reminiscing, let’s remember Lou Dolinar’s expose of how the media blew it.

LIST: Survive the Zombie Apocalypse. More important zombie-prepping advice here.

UPDATE: Reader Joseph Dorsett writes: “Whether or not the Zombie horde comes the second link you provided is very good if a disaster breaks. Enough food and water in a backpack for three days. Everyone should throw something like that in the back of the vehicle. Lately evidence has shown that it takes that long for the Government to get ready to help.” Yes, at best. And it’s amazing how much zombie-prep has in common with disaster-preparation in general . . . .

UPDATE: Professor Stephen Clark emails:

Robert Dorsett writes that it seems to take the federal government three days to respond with relief in the wake of a disaster. What you and your readers need to understand is that, in the wake of 9/11 and Katrina, FEMA has been pressing state and county officials charged with managing first responders to have plans in place to fend for themselves for up to three days without federal assistance.

My wife works for a regional planning commission and has had to deal with some aspects of the planning process here in our region. This is something that has been ongoing nationwide for a couple years. While FEMA and the federal government would try to bring relief the moment it is needed, the bottom line is that you need to be prepared to tough it out for three days before relief arrives. It may take that long.

Or longer, judging from the Gulf experience.

MORE: Apocalypse thoughts from War Nerd. “If there was a mass of zombies swarming the streets, I’d feel pretty good about it. Remember that scene in Dawn of the Dead when they’re on the roof of the mall picking off zombies to pass the time? It’d be that easy. Being braindead is not an advantage in war, believe it or not.”

STILL MORE: A reader emails:

Now, I’m in Earthquake country, so it’s more a shelter-in-place then get-outta-dodge situation here, but it seems to me that apart from the *need* to be prepared to handle yourself for three days, the last thing you want to be doing three days — a week — ten days into an emergency is spending your entire day in the bread-line, even if there is a bread-line to be had. I have enough food (and fuel, and water, and beer, and scotch, and hand tools) to take care of my family for a solid 14 days. You don’t want to burn your gasoline to go hang out for ten hours to get a day’s worth of food. So I’ll be in a position to help folks on my street, or for the unexpected house guest, if the wait is longer than the expected three days. (I also have the advantage that, despite being in suburban San Francisco, have a decent open space behind me with turkey, deer, and some other edible things which I’ll kill in short order (and a damned sight sooner than my neighbors) to stretch my supplies, “unlawful discharge” ordinances notwithstanding).

Good point. (Bumped). Especially about the beer and scotch. I need to add to my stockpiles. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Richard Egan emails:

I do some work with emergency management groups and the general consensus is that prep for a minimum of 3 days should be on hand per person. Key is clean drinkable water, at a minimum of 64 oz per day and you need to think of pets also. In our area it would be stay in place so planning for two weeks is appropriate. If you are in an area where you probably have to leave then 3-5 days in a bug out bag per person is good. The food should be stuff that could be eaten without adding water or heating, vacuum sealed for weight considerations.

Some general links for water.

FEMA tips.

All good advice. And Rachel Pereira emails:

You may want to mention to your minions that cash is important in their disaster preparedness pack.

In 2004, when we got slapped with 3 back-to-back hurricanes (in Orlando, which is in the middle of the state), my husband and I learned the hard way, after the first ‘cane (Charlie), that our Visa check card was useless since most of the city had no power for days and days. And we never have cash on us. So even if we wanted to go stand in a three hour line to buy ice, we could only do so if the company was compassionate enough to accept a check. (happily, they took our check)

Cash is key. And now we have a couple bucks stashed away, just in case.

Also, for those who still have a home phone, a cordless phone does not work with no power. Best Buy had the funniest signs on their door after Charlie: we sell Corded phones! And cell phones die quickly when cell
towers are knocked down, and the cell phone is searching for a signal.

Yes, keep some cash (plenty of small bills!) handy. Some of the hand-cranked emergency radios will charge a cellphone, too.

YESTERDAY I POSTED ON EDUCATION SECRETARY ARNE DUNCAN’S STATEMENT that Katrina was good for New Orleans education. Reader Wyman Duggan writes:

I’m a huge fan of yours, and no fan of the Obama Administration. But Arne Duncan Is right on the money with respect to the revolution that is occurring in New Orleans public education post-Katrina. I submit that it is highly desirable from a libertarian perspective.

And another reader who requests anonymity writes:

Though I almost never disagree with you, I have to agree with Arne Duncan that the hurricane was the best thing that could happen to New Orleans public schools.

The system was so atrocious before the storm that you actually had the valedictorian of a high school here who couldn’t pass the state exit exam. The public school system was as dysfunctional as you could find in the Western world – violence, corruption, and not much education.

The system is now improving and has the highest percentage (60%) of charter schools out of any school system in the nation.

School scores are improving and there is now hope (oh, how that word has been forever tainted by the Obama) that things can change (another word that was sullied) for the better.

It really did take a nearly-destroyed city to mostly remove the stranglehold that the teachers unions had on the local system. Sometimes good things do come out of disaster!

This is reminiscent of what Mancur Olson says in The Rise and Decline of Nations about the power of wars and catastrophes to promote growth by breaking the power of the “web of special interests” that inevitably arises in democracies. Which makes Duncan’s statement a true “Kinsleyan gaffe,” where a politician accidentally tells the truth . . . .

UPDATE: Chris Kobus emails:

If our educational system has been so corrupted that it can’t be fixed without a natural disaster to literally blow it out of the water, then we are in big trouble. Disorder cannot be destroyed (2nd law of thermodynamics), but order can be created by removing the disorder somewhere else. Problem is, that takes a lot of focused effort. Far more than the political class is willing to put in these days.

I would like to see each school compete on its own. No school districts and no monopoly. Monopoly power always seems to lead to corruption that trickles right down to the politicians and back again in a vicious cycle.

Yes. The presence of public schools of varying quality with geographically defined districts also distorts the housing market in ways that are underappreciated.