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Storm warning

Just a heads-up to anyone in the UK who hasn't been keeping a close eye on the weather; Hurricane Katia, which was a cat 4 hurricane off the North American coast last week, has decided to go walkabout, and is due to hit Ireland and the UK tonight and tomorrow.

It's unusual, but not unprecedented, for a west Atlantic hurricane to end up in the north east. By the tiume it gets here Katia will have declined from hurricane force to a strong post-tropical storm, but we're expecting gusts of up to 100mph over Ireland, and 80mph over northern and central Scotland. There is scope for structural damage, travel disruption, and flooding. Even over here on the sheltered east coast, we're looking at winds gusting to 70mph tomorrow.

If you're in the UK, keep an eye on the Met Office severe weather warnings.



I was about to post a witty bit about this being the only chance to see flying sheep since you don't get tornadoes.

But then I started wondering if tornadoes ever spawned in the UK and learned that you guys experience 35-40 annually!


We do have a fairly high number of tornadoes in England, yes, sometimes going walkabout through the big cities. A friend lives (or lived, he may have moved since) on a street in Birmingham down which went one of the more celebrate recent ones, and there is also record of them in Acton in London.

Scotland is another question, I don't know whether they're known up there.

However, what we don't tend to get is the biggies. That one in Brum? Took a few tiles off roofs, maybe a chimney pot or two, some scattered bricks. There can be damage to buildings, but not the trail of devastation that yon US ones may produce.

I did once see a waterspout out in the English Channel - not what one wants to see off the bow when helming a three mast top sail schooner.


I think we also had a bit of fallout from Irene a few days back. In general, any time a hurricane wanders up the Eastern seaboard of NA, I expect strong winds and gales here a few days later.

There is one thing, though: the ones that don't come ashore over there will tend to be the ones that have lost least strength when they get over here. Katia is one of those.


When asked about Irene, my brother in New York replied "Hurricane, what hurricane?" Unfortunately its effects northeast of there were pretty bad. He's seen more hurricane action up there than we ever saw growing up in north Florida.

Here in Colorado, we can get a lot of rain from monsoons off Baja. the counter-clockwise motion funnels it straight up the eastern Rockies. Year round, up to 80mph winds are not unusual here.


Hmmm, both BBC and xcweather forecasting pretty benign weather for here on the north coast and only fairly windy but not too spectacular winds for SW Scotland. Still, tied the wheelie bin up just in case.


What we don't have in any quantity are wooden houses and trailer parks (aka tornado magnets). So damage is relatively light compared to what might happen in the USA. However, we do not get the super big tornadoes like the MidWest.


Before Irene, I generally assumed that the main risk of hurricanes was wind. That's a real risk, but we were completely inundated here in Vermont. We had the worst flooding here since 1930. The problem was that the storm was so big that it just completely overwhelmed all the watersheds.

Normally you get a big storm through, and some rivers run high, but by the time they get down to the lower confluences, enough rivers didn't run high that there's room for the water in the main river. This time, we got rain in every single watershed. Lots of rain. Enough rain that it was running in sheets down slopes that never see any significant runoff. The damage was spectacular and sudden. Waters rose from nothing to life-threatening in minutes. There are road beds that are now full of boulders the side of car engines that were carried downstream by the flood waters.

My point is, pay attention to what this weather system looks like. If it starts hovering over the highlands, and it's covering all of them, think about how you're going to get to high ground if you're not there already. Make sure you have drinking water for a week if you are separated from town by bridges, or if the only way into town involves driving alongside a river. Stock up on food. Some people were completely out of food when the rescue crews got to them here in Vermont, because they'd assumed it couldn't be more than three days before rescue came, and they didn't imagine it would be needed anyway.

I can't get enough information about the storm from Weather Underground to get a sense of how dangerous it might be for you, and of course I don't know the lay of the land in Scotland, but I get the impression that the topography there is not entirely dissimilar to Vermont. The fact that you're talking about the winds and not the rains is what leads me to relay my cautionary tale to you.

I hope this storm turns out to be a minor blip on your radar. I wouldn't wish a repeat of Irene on anyone.


We got hit by Irene here in Connecticut. The main damage was from wind and flooding, and a storm surge that hit waterfront property at high tide.

I'm not sure how well your utilities are able to handle winds, but it is always a good idea to stock up on batteries and lighting. The newer solar powered LED lamps proved pretty useful -- people here were using the outdoor patio models, recharging them during the day and bringing them inside at night.


In general, except in rural areas, electricity cables are buried underground. I live in the middle of the capital city; many phone lines are also buried/trunked up the side of tenement buildings from ground-level installations. Power cuts aren't totally unheard-of but they tend to get fixed fast (see "middle of capital city" above).

I'm about a mile and a half inland from the nearest coastline, up a fairly steep hill, in the top floor apartment in a four storey building that has survived nearly two centuries of bad weather. I'm not too worried.


So, how does this Katja remnant compare to the great storm of '87? The one that Michael Fish said wouldn't hit the UK... and that flattened thousands of trees across Southern England. (Personally, I slept right through it, only vaguely aware of the tree outside thrashing around a bit.) Or the Burn's Day storm of '90?


All, good luck with any prospective storms!

Three years ago this month, Hurricane Ike went through Louisville, knocking out power, internet, etc., for betwixt 1 and 2 weeks (ours was out 10 days). My workplace had to operate on generator power for 4 days. Fortunately, at home we still had gas for hot water, and heat wasn't an issue (temperatures were about perfect for the duration).

Having been under a tornado (the April, 1974, Louisville tornado, which was at the time several hundred feet AGL), I can most sincerely say that I hope none result from Katia.


So, how does this Katja remnant compare to the great storm of '87?

We won't know until I gets here.


I keep thinking back to "Mother of Storms", John Barnes, 1995. The hurricanes become permanent and start circling the Atlantic and Pacific.

We now have tropical storms forming in the south of the Gulf of Mexico west of the Yucatan peninsula. Nate is there now, Lee was formed there a couple of weeks ago. At one point the NHC maps showed Lee crossing into northern Florida from the Gulf at the same time as an Atlantic hurricane made landfall in northern Florida. Could they join for a 2x hurricane? Lee decided to head north through Alabama, and the Atlantic hurricane (Katia?) stayed offshore, so we didn't find out. Unfortunately, I'm sure we will find out soon enough :-(

I'm about a mile and a half inland from the nearest coastline, up a fairly steep hill, in the top floor apartment in a four storey building that has survived nearly two centuries of bad weather. I'm not too worried.

You'll be fine. The biggest worries here in Florida are storm surge (the lower-pressure air in the storm causes the sea level to rise) and wind knocking down trees (there's a reason we have more palm trees than leafy ones here in Miami).


My parents are flying into Dublin in an hour from now. Let's hope the storm is gentle.


How socially inept is it for me to go "yawn, this is Scotland we get stuff like this every year. Sure a few more tree's will fall down, there might be a power cut and possibly a couple of people will be killed, but it really isn't that big a deal".


Re: Tornadoes in Europe

Make no mistake, they may be much less frequent than in the USA, but they follow roughly the same statistical size distribution. Which means that there are reports of two tornadoes in Germany and Poland in the 18th century that must have been solid F5's.

If one of those were to hit these days, the first thing you would hear is the unison shout of climate change and everything is getting worse ...


I figured you'd be okay in your apartment, Charlie; my caveat about rain was more directed to the people to whom your warning was directed, who might not be sitting quite so pretty.


I'm in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York (just re-read that bit in your Merchant Princes series about how Angbard got his place near Rochester -- I'm southeast of that.) We've been getting far more hurricane-related rain than we ever wanted.

So I've been accusing Texas Governor Rick Perry of using satanic rituals to keep rain away from Texas, lest he get some on him and do an "I'm melllllting! What a world ..."

The rituals were disguised as those prayer events you may have heard of.

And that's why Texas is burning and the rest of us are getting soaked.

(Now you have a temporary new contender for "Dumbest explanation for the weather.")


It's fine, right up until it turns out to be a Michael Fish event.

(Which is to say we're probably going to be fine, modulo some downed trees/damaged buildings/power cuts, unless it turns out to be freakishly extreme. Which I am averse to betting against, this decade.)


Well yes I wouldn't bet against freakishly extreme, but I hope their forecasting ability has improved in the last 23 years.

It seemed to get through to my dad that Texas is a bit hot (After he'd commented on the cold summer we've had here in Scotland) since they set a new record for warmest month ever recorded in August.
Thus beating the old record.
Set in July...


There's a limit to how accurate a forecast can be that no amount of computation can resolve. The further ahead the more guesswork it is, esp for somewhere like the UK which has chaotic weather


Hmm, not sure how to say this politely - Yuo do realise you are saying what I already know, in a very general way of little use in this situation? Moreover you probably have not gotten the reference to Fish and 23 years ago, when a large storm that had been misunderstood to be only a small storm caused unexpected devastation across England? Like I said, I rather assume their forecasting ability will have improved a bit since then. (Although since the government want to privatise it all I hate to think what they'll propose)


Back in the late 70's it was said that if work was not started on Global Warming there would be so much fires and flooding it would be hard to impossible to work on Global arming.


I wish we had something like regenerative braking for hurricanes.

All that energy, thousands of nuclear bombs worth of energy, all going to waste. And doing worse than going to waste, using itself out by laying nature and civilisation to waste. If only we had giant ultra light, ultra strong (carbon nanotube structure?) wind turbines that would fly up like kites to gather and dampen some of that free energy, and store it in flywheels or compressed air reservoirs underground.

The other day I was looking at a video of a Porsche 918 RSR on the "Jay Leno's garage" web site. It had an impressive flywheel for catching and storing the braking energy, while braking the car at the same time. I wish they'd talked more about the tech and the science involved instead of just showing Jay Leno being impressed out of his mind and the Porsche people looking secretive. But it was nice to see another step towards alternative storage systems.

It seems to me that if we can think of a future with cars equipped with such flywheels and/or a future where the terraformation of Mars entails the creation of continent-sized transparent structures meant to retain the new atmosphere (since the Martian gravity is too low to retain a breathable atmosphere) then we can also think of a future where we can dampen hurricanes and harvest their energy.


"Yuo do realise you are saying what I already know..."

Why should I? And even if I did know that you know, which I did not, there are presumably others reading here who do not know about the computational limits of forecasting. Anyway, I would expect the forecast to be only marginally better than 25 years ago.


Weather forecasting has improved quite a bit. I've been quite impressed with how accurately they predicted the track of Katia, for example. The weather people weren't surprised by what happened in Vermont and upstate New York either. I don't think they had any idea how bad the damage was going to be, but they did predict severe flooding. The problem we had was that we didn't grok what "severe flooding" was going to look like.

John, I think you may be on to something. What Rick Perry doesn't realize is that when you beseech the Elder Gods for rain, they may well answer your prayers, but you can be sure of only one thing: you will not like their answer.

(Of course, Perry claims, for the sake of appearance, that he's beseeching Jesus' dad. But it should be intuitively obvious to even the most casual observer where his true allegiance lies.)


All that energy, thousands of nuclear bombs worth of energy, all going to waste.

The problem is the energy needs to be dissipated. Into the atmosphere. Hurricanes are just a way of the global climate righting things when there is too large of an imbalance. Taking the energy out of the atmosphere and storing it somewhere is would very likely lead to some huge cases of unintended consequences.

Ditto tornadoes.

And by atmosphere I'm fudging a bit as I also mean near surface heat from dirt and water.


Oh, yes! It could make for some great science fiction drama, along with the possibility of those arrays of huge town-sized kites breaking free from their lines and their programming and landing in some very inconvenient places.


There was a big storm in January 1968 that hit the Scottish west coast hard. It went through the Central Belt knocking down thousands of trees like it was clear-cutting them. About twenty people were killed, mostly in Glasgow where many tenements collapsed. Wind speeds in the Highlands reached over 130mph on some mountaintops.


Best of luck to the folks in the UK, and may you all enjoy your cyclone season, because it looks like you're getting one.


Harnessing Energy from hurricane is probably beyond our technical capabilities, but Intellectual Ventures Lab has an idea to weaken the hurricanes.


Probably the best method of harnessing its power is to divert it into a large hollowed out mountain where it can be kept spinning to drive turbines.


Just how many mountains are there where we can hollow out a 600 mile wide chamber?


The real problem is the National Grid, the multi-kilovolt lines which get power from the generating stations to the cities. Much of that network is above ground.

It's well clear of the trees which can fall and bring lines down. The towers and lines will be specified to stand up to high winds. But the engineering has a limit.


Well I suppose you would have to go out and build that very big and tall mountain since there are no suitable existing ones.

I'm not sure that carbon nanotubes would be strong enough but there is always the possibility of using instead some Polyyne rods, once they get seriously past their current limit of 44 atoms in a chain.


Not inept at all. This is Scotland, it happens every year, a few trees fall down.

The only tree able to reach our house is a typically downwind, somewhat sturdy oak (i.e. a few hundred years old) sheltered by a mature forest (i.e. several thousand years old). Like 99.9% of all houses around this neck of the woods, the house is a layer of brick tied to a layer of concrete block, sitting on a concrete raft (see: millennia of coal mining around here) with underground power and phone lines. We're 10m above the nearest river level, and 20m below the ridgeline. The prevailing wind comes from the west, and we're on the lee side.

Smug comes from having the Police Divisional HQ half-a-mile away in one direction, the Fire Station a quarter-mile away in the other, and an Ambulance station a bit further south - so the main road is generally kept clear.

Our most realistic worry is that roof slates get blown off and drop onto the car, or that we lose the TV antenna. Generally, we're not too worried...


We had one in Leeds a few yeaars ago. Went by along the next ridge to the one I'm on for which I was very grateful since they'd only finished my new roof the day before. Never made the news outside Yorkshire though despite the amount of damage to property and trees.


The only tree able to reach our house is a typically downwind, somewhat sturdy oak (i.e. a few hundred years old) sheltered by a mature forest

A dense growth of trees can be a help. During Fran 15 years ago central NC had trees down all over. My neighborhood was an great example. I did a rough count of some of my neighbors and I estimated something like 3 to 5 80 foot plus tall trees per 1/2 acre yard came down. One house had 9 trees on it. My house and my 4 closest neighbors had no tree issues. We had never thinned out ours like most people had and as best I can tell the wind just blew over us. It seems our trees were packed close enough that it formed a solid lump that the wind went around.

Of course now all those neighbors have thinned out they yards for various valid reasons so when we get another blow of 70+mph for 6 hours I suspect to have a tree or two on my house. And if my biggest comes down I might have a house in 2 parts.

But as to power, the pole supplying my house has the first disconnect point for the loop covering my part of the city. And my transformer for some strange reason is connected directly to the line from the substation on the substation side of the disconnect. So unless the wire to my house goes down I get turned on with the first group to get power on my side of town. So far that means within 12 hours for the 3 long term power events over the last twenty years.


dirk, guthrie:

the storm was the same size as the computer grid that they used at the time (50 - 75 miles /km ? from memory) so it fell through the cracks as to a it true power.
"The met office" had also recently had cancel a weather ship in the Bay of Biscay which would have added more data. AFAIK

The twist of the knife for Fish was: that he announced on prime time TV that 'a lady had phoned in asking if there was going to be a Hurricane'. He forecast high winds.
As a meteorologist he would be pretty strict on his definitions and not call something it wasn't. - So he denied the hurricane.
It turns out the lady's son was a meteorologist who had access to the same date the met office did, so she wasn't calling out of wacky land as Fish implied at the time. If five people hadn't died nor millions of pounds worth of damage caused in a part of Britian where media types live the quip would have gone unnoticed. If nothing else it taught the weather people to keep the banter down.

The number of tree felled was also related to the fact that it had been a warm wet autumn, so at the end of october most of them were still in full leaf and the soil was saturated and very week.

The most unnerving thing I remember about that night, beside the room swaying as if in an eart quake, was the pressure gradient between the inside and outside of the house. It was very difficult to get a inward opening door open, because of the positive pressure inside the house. Oh and all of south london* in the dark. Unsurprisingly many people slept through it, and without a battery radio had no idea what happened until they tried to leave the house.

Afterward mother said: the trees are all dead. they aren't moving anymore.

All these things would be something people from places that have many storms would be familiar with.

* For such a dense (sub)urban ( a generous houseplot might be 10x20 metres) area, south London is very green with a great many mature trees. that's a lot of blocked roads and squashed houses.


Bad weather is usually local news -- for example the north-west coast of Japan has just been hit by a typhoon that's killed over forty people, about the same death toll from the US east coast hurricane. Several villages are still cut off and the death toll could be double that. It's not popped up on the news in the UK as a headline and I expect it's not appeared on US news either as they have been distracted by other events (9/11 24/7) over the past couple of weeks.


My sources also being professional meterologists: Michael Fish also misunderstood the information. There were two storm systems in the North Atlantic that night. The one that hit Southern England, and a more violent one that took a more Southerly course. Michael not only got the wrong system, but underestimated how powerful the one that hit England actually was.

On Charlie's OP, I'm presently pleasantly surprised by just how little wind power and rain there actually is around here (Outer Hebrides).


Yeah, Typhoon Talas (AKA Typhoon #12) wound up being pretty nasty out here (50 dead and more than 50 still missing), mostly due to mudslides caused by heavy rain.

Beforehand, the wind was the biggest concern, but the storm weakened rapidly as it approached land. But then it just stalled out (it took nearly two days to fully cross over) and dumped crap loads of rain, in a fairly random manner - the river near our place was indeed high, but I've seen it much higher during the early summer rainy season - but maybe 50 miles away in places like Wakayama, they just got hammered.

So sometimes, like with Irene as was previously mentioned, the rain can be just as dangerous as the wind and storm surge. Good luck out there!


@maggie, "'... all of south london in the dark ..." I remember that. We were living in Nunhead at the time. The electricity went out and we lay in bed listening to the wind and a battery-powered radio. Surprisingly, it wasn't *completely* dark outside - some light can get through the clouds. Enough to see just a few things. One of the things we saw was our next-door neighbour's greenhouse rise up in to the air, hang just outside out bedroom window, then fall into the garden on the other side of ours.

We were due to move house the next day. The electricity came back at about 9am, we made a pot of tea, and then the bloke from the electric company came round to turn off our power because we were leaving. You'd think he could have taken the day off work like everybody else did. It is not easy to move house on a day when there are trees lying across the road between your old home and your new one.

As for winds and floods, I think we can do floods in London. Most places are tooled up for the disaster they expect. Round here we don't expect hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes or wildfires. But we have spent a lot of money on flood defences over the last few centuries. As have the Dutch and the Danes of course. It goes with the territory, literally. London is probably contains the largest concentration of urban population in the world living below high tide level. And certainly the largest concentration of obscenely high-priced land at flood risk anywhere in the world. So that attracts money. The Thames Barrier (which would probably cost over two billion quid to rebuild nowadays) is just the most spectacular part of hundreds of miles of sea wall and barrier and drainage.

As a sort of aside, that one of the things that confused us here about Katrina. We would have thought that New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta would have the sort of defences that places in the Netherlands and southern England have. They were supposed to. But somehow it wasn't quite enough. So the US government ended up spending billions of dollars after the flood fixing sea defences that it would have been cheaper to have built properly in the first place.


As a sort of aside, that one of the things that confused us here about Katrina. We would have thought that New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta would have the sort of defences that places in the Netherlands and southern England have.

Well, there was one little difference. How much of London is typically 20 feet below the mean level of the Thames through the city?


Yes, but the point I was making is that people prepare for the disaster they expect. Knowing ttat, they might have prepared better for it. In the long run - in the medium run - they would have saved a lot of money. Of course they would also have saved a lot of lives and pain, but the money is probably more important to the peoiple who were making decisions.



Nowt to worry about right now?

In live in Glasgow South Side and, apart from a few trees shaking, it seems to have passed us by. Touch wood.

I do not understand what our good host's point is. Are we suopposed to suffer too, or summat?


"Well, there was one little difference. How much of London is typically 20 feet below the mean level of the Thames through the city?"

Conversely, how extensive is the New Orleans subway system and how many people are in it at any one time?


As a sort of aside, that one of the things that confused us here about Katrina. We would have thought that New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta would have the sort of defences that places in the Netherlands and southern England have. They were supposed to. But somehow it wasn't quite enough. So the US government ended up spending billions of dollars after the flood fixing sea defences that it would have been cheaper to have built properly in the first place.

Our Congress over hear likes to do it that way. Stupid in my mind but that's they way it is.

As to why the levees weren't better. That's another Congress two step. They pass bills telling the CofE to do "this". They do this to many agencies. To do this the agencies say "we need $xxx". Then Congress passes appropriation bills, which is when the money shows up, and many times the money is $xxx * .8 or some other factor usually less than 1 but at times much greater than one. So the agency takes the money allocated at pretends to implement the program as specified in the first bill.


They pass bills telling the CofE to do "this".

Congress tells the Church of England what to do?

That's news to me!

(Or do you have a different CofE in mind than the default on a UK blog?)


CoE - the atheist branch of the RCC


Probably US Army Corps of Engineers, USA CoE...but the 'USA' part is deemed unnecessary for some reason.

The Corps of Engineers somehow got the remit to manage water systems in the US. They did the work on the NO levees, the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, and several flood-control devices on the Mississippi river.

So far, their success rate is decent, though not perfect.


In the US, that would be the (Army) Corps of Engineers, who are involved in most Federal river projects (among others). Dams, levees, dredging, etc.



I imagine any one trying to get from York to Newcastle by train today would be well aware of the weather. It's been the lead on the local traffic news (London) all day.

Also lots of the Thames Estuary is low lying and you can get some nasty storm surges in the north sea with the wind in the right direction, not to mention the measurable negative glacial isostatic adjustment we have in southern England.

But flooding in the capital doesn't have to be natural. On the news to day a water main has flooded a neighbourhood and closed a tube station. It seems a popular past time in Bayswater and Edgware, must be something to do with the underlying geology because every where has antique water mains; if they don't have new plastic ones.

As for flooding the tube, if you know where to look at certain riverside stations the water tight doors are quite obvious. But remember it's not just the Laundry that keeps its archive under London… and the water table is rising, recovering from over extraction due to Victorian heavy industry including lifts.


I thought "Church of England" first, too, even though I listen to Harry Shearer's frequent comments on our Army Corps of Engineers on his radio show.


Wikipedia has some more information about the Great Storm of 1987, including some comments that it led to improvements to forecasting. It says that the main improvement came from increasing the amount of observational data from ships, aircraft, buoys and satellites.


You beat me to it.
I recently heard an NPR interview with Shearer (of The Simpsons) talking about his Katrina documentary. I couldn't find a link to the one I heard, but if you search for Harry Shearer & Katrina you'll find something.

One clip from the film was of the Army Corps of Engineers commanding General explaining that their goal is to provide a Good Product, like a CEO rather than an Engineer.

Not that this has anything to do with anything.
My mother was, strictly speaking, an Army Engineer. Her Health Physics training was as part of the Facilities Engineering Support Agency, at the Army Prime Power School in the SM-1 nuclear power plant (same building, that is) at Ft. Belvoir, Va.
Wearing the castle was a point of pride, it's kinda sad what's happened with them.


I just endured Irene, which was less windy than Isabel, which was several years ago. OTOH, it had been raining much more prior to weaker Irene. Perhaps as a consequence, although the landscape wasn't covered by a snow of shredded leaves, way more trees were down across roads and wires after Irene.


I'm not too sure what the overall success rate of the US (Army) CofE is. The first work of theirs that I saw is still in operation at Sault Ste. Marie, and I think they also worked on a canal in Panama.

Their flood-control projects may be less successful. I'm not too sure whether the fault is theirs, or that of the several layers of politicians involved in planning/funding the flood-control projects.

With that in mind, I hope we've all cleared up the mystery of "CofE" for our host.



Sorry. Yes, the USA Army Corp of Engineers. I figured the references to Congress and Katrina implied it.

They have authority over much of the locks, dams, levies, etc... on the rivers of the USA. I didn't say "army" as we never really said it during the 20 years when I grew up near where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet. Given that plus the two other mid sized rivers and the one small river that all merge in the area the CofE was a regular presence in our lives.

But back to my point, Congress always gives them conflicting goals and then yells along with the media when they have to pick between the goals. Usually when a town or city is about to be submerged. Or better yet when directed to finish something like a levie on the Mississippi river by a date. The problem is that with this is that the river levies are never done as building the levies causes the sediment to build up in the river channel and thus the bottom is continuously rising. Congress want things to be done, not continually needing to be fixed


Back when I was a kid, I complained about going out in rough rain. My father told me I wasn't sweet enough to melt, so I brought up the Witch and he told me to shut up or he'd hit me.


Does the UK have a Congress as top level government?


Probably depends where you are. We had a few trees in the condo development fall from Isobel, but none from Irene. We've had a lot of flooding in places close to streams and rivers, though, and that's because Irene left saturated soil and then heavy remnants from Lee took a few days to move on.


No, only a CofE. Which is why the puzzlement.


Dunno about the New Orleans subway (if any), but the London Tube has lots of "sump pumps", and flood doors at strategic points to help keep it dry.


Yes and no.

Yes we do have a national government.
No it isn't called "Congress", and there are some organisational differences:-
1) The Lower House, the "House of Commons" contains elected members from roughly equal population areas.
2) The Upper House, the "House of Lords" is not presently elected, but consists of a mixture of inherited seats (hereditary peers), political appointees of the party holding a majority of seats in the Commons at the time (life peers), and senior Church of England (Co[f]E) clergymen (peers spiritual). Now you can see why disestablishmentarianism is or should be a bit of an issue in UK politics, and why your Constitution contains that clause something like "Congress shall make no law concerning the establishment of religion...": It's because no-one should become a lawmaker because they hold a certain office in $church!!


During the Cold War, the tube system was also part of a system of underground works for the protection of the government. This built on some WW2 work using tube tunnels which were not completed for trains, and purpose-built tunnels used for such things as the telephone system.

It turns out that putting this stuff in tunnels, rather than mere underground ducts, could work out less expensive in the long term.


There are benefits to having a non elected second chamber. Namely, they do not have to worry about being elected or fired, so they can do what they think is right.


There's a lot of odd stuff under London. The huge WW2 citadels are still there, some flooded and collapsed, others have vanished from the public record. There's an active urbex group at a website called 28 Days Later that's into that sort of thing. Probably best as a spectator sport rather than one to participate in.

re:London water table - one of the main problems encountered by MOLAS archaeologists is having to pump water out of digs, prop up shaft sides etc. In London hole=pond.

And on the topic of the Cold War, there's an amusing article here about Moscow.


I was specifically commenting on the points in constitutional law, particularly since many Americans mis-interpret the "establishment of religion".

Charlie, I was trying to stick to the aspects that answered Marilee's question, and only used your site because I don't LiveJournal.


I think he was being sarcastic. There's no subway in New Orleans, they have streetcars and busses..


Equally to the point; where your tunnel is wrt the river is irrelevant; the issue is where the entry points are wrt the river.


it's a long time since I did any soil mechanics so please take this in the spirit its being offered.

Many alluvial soils contract to a large degree when dried (or drained). Norfolk is made up of the runoff of England central hills when they were cleared in the early bronze age. Deposits there are several metres deep. Now much of the land, protected and drained in the early modern age is below mean sea level, because the land surface has sunk.
Perhaps the areas of New Orleans protected by sea walls that are low lying developed in this way and are now subject to the red queen race of water and man.

There are areas of London, up stream of the central area but still in the tidal reach, which clearly lie below mean high tide level and are only protected from flooding by extensive embankments. This can be seen by the hinged lids over the storm outlets into the river which prevent the river from flowing up them when the tide is in. There are also some areas that regularly and ubiquitously flood, much to the amusement of the locals when visitors think they are taking advantage of free parking. (A quick google gives a rough tidal range of about 6 metres in the Thames. - its a lot more complicated than that of course - and that's not the biggest tidal range in the uk, )

One thing that is unnerving in central London when the tide is high is that the water level seems on the same level as your feet, the only thing that is keep it back is the low wall at the edge of the pavement. Further up stream it's often a bout a foot below the top of the embankment which could mean several feet above the surrounding land. The river people so a fine job of controlling water flow, but it's probably a much closer call than we would like to imagine.


I'm pretty sure that what you're saying is basically correct, but the thing I was thinking of in New Orleans was the Mississippi levees, where my memory says that the river bed is actually above the base terrain level, so that the least break in the bank will result in the flooding of literally square miles of territory.


The ground water level is so high in New Orleans that people are not buried underground. They would float right out.

I was highly amused went I went to one of the better restaurants and the wine cellar was above ground. So no, they've never attempted to build underground transport.


New Orleans water. Short version.

Mississippi river carries huge amounts of sediments from about 1/2 of the US. Most everything between the Rockies and the Appalachians. Both the Missouri and Ohio rivers merge into it plus a lot of smaller rivers. Prior to 200 years ago it would regularly flood and spread this out across the delta and at various other places along the river path. This action kept the delta in place and expanded it slowly. And about every 500 or so years when the delta was getting too high a big flood would cause the lower part of the Mississippi to change course and find a new path to the Gulf of Mexico.

Now we levee the river along its entire path. So the sediments never get to be deposited during floods. So it both accumulates and gets dumped into the Gulf. This means near the Gulf end of the river the river bed is rising and the levees have to rise with it. So they are never really "finished". And now the river bed is above "ground level" for the last few 100 miles except at the very end. And the sediment that gets to the Gulf doesn't grow/maintain the delta so it is shrinking.

And yes the dried muck that is the delta tends to compact when you put cities on it so N.O. and other towns in the delta are slowing sinking. N.O. Has something like 20 pumping stations to keep out the seepage. They can pump about as much water as the flow of the Ohio River.

And the biggest long term issue that no one talks about that may require abandoning N.O. and many other cities along the lower river is the problem of the Atchafalaya River.

If you look this up on something like Google Earth you'll see just how bad it could/will be if/when the Mississippi moves again. A Mississippi creek from north of Baton Rouge all the way to the Gulf will do way more damage than Katrina to the economy of the US.

If you read the New Yorker article linked above you will notice that we got "lucky" in the later 1800s when a log jam kept the Mississippi from moving back then. But maybe if it had of moved we wouldn't be in such a big long term mess now.


thank you david L

I suspected that this might be the case. But as it took me about half an hour to write the last comment I didn't want to fill it with more supposition than necessary.
I suppose what I was alluding to is that it takes agency to raise a river above its drainage basin, and hopefully responsible intent to maintain it there or 200 years of trail and error. In the Uk we have lots of problems with flood plains and water flows, our rivers aren't as big, but we are much more crowded: so it's build houses there or one the sides of hills.
There's a movement too, to 'soften' the flood defences in the Thames estuary, flooded wet lands hold a lot of water that's not pouring into basements in the city. There were a lot of barriers built in this area after a tragic flood in the 1950's that look reminiscent of the ones we saw on TV from N.O.

Another thing that struck me about the disaster there was that there seemed no effort to divide up the areas vulnerable to flooding so to minimise the loss. BUT a) that makes it a pain to live there if you have to keep climbing up and down 20 ft embankments b) see comments above at CofE and Congress.
There's an attempt here to extend London east into the 'Thames Gateway' all this residential are is essentially underwater. I'm not sure how that squares with the rest of government policy. Or who's meant to live there.


There are places on the Humber Estuary where the agricultural land by the river will be flooded, if things get to the limit. There's a huge swathe of land on the East side of the Trent, below the village of Alkborough, which would be allowed to flood. Mostly, it would be taking water flowing down the Trent which a storm surge would otherwise trap.

Planners sometimes seem to have a poor grasp of how water flows. They will cheerfully give permission for housing development which is several metres lower than the local sewage treatment plant.


See, Charlie only took the part of the post that doesn't clarify what the post was about: That's another Congress two step. They pass bills telling the CofE to do "this".

So Charlie knew it was the US, since the UK doesn't have a Congress. If we're going to have to constantly list where we live, there should be some kind of tag we can permanently add to our posts.


Maybe they'll build on stilts?
Or rather, they'll demand flood prevention measures after the houses are built.

Or possibly, with a Tory government in charge, they are planning some major 'restructuring', and will need a place for their underwater slaves to live.


The Dutch are starting to build their floating houses on stilts.
I just wonder how the 'English' would react to punting to the DLR station, or how the local infrastructure would cope with regular inundations.


'Congress' is not a problem: it's a widely used term that is familiar to non-US readers, and there is no British Congress for it to be confused with.

On the other hand, to a British reader, the term 'CofE' has one meaning and one meaning alone: Church of England. To use 'CofE' on a British blog for any other meaning would be of the same order as using 'USA' to refer to something that wasn't the United States of America, on a US blog. Introducing the abbreviation with no previous referent here is what is confusing: most of us in the UK are unaware of the organisation. Nor does the rest of the post clarify it, it merely indicates that the primary referent of 'CofE' is incorrect.

Hence Charlie's irony.


The inclusion of various church dignitaries in the House of Lords has the interesting (or depressing) result that the United Kingdom can be counted as one of the worlds few theocracies, along with Iran.

Oh, and Life Peers are not solely members of the majority party currently in power - they are created amongst all parties, but the ruling party can often have an excess of the current batch!


The Lords Spiritual don't vote in the House Of Lords - they can, but they choose not to at the moment. It's still depressing, though. Sessions in both houses are still opened with prayers, which is frankly ridiculous.

Some city councils have a Church block vote - as a student in Canterbury it was damn near impossible to get a late night entertainment licence within the city walls, and Last Temptation Of Christ was a banned film, even the University Film Soc were unable to show it or Life Of Brian. That might have changed now, but it was true in the 1990s.

Prince Charles has said that when King he'll be "Defender Of Faith" rather than "Defender Of The Faith" - which only he thinks is a step forward. Apparently, he also intends to be called King George.


I did not know that. So, if they choose not to vote, why are they there? Either to reserve the right to vote when they decide they really want to, or 'merely' to influence legislation? (Or is it just for the expenses?)
Either of these are still an abuse of democracy.


All of those reasons, plus keeping their heads down and hoping they don't get kicked out in the next reforms.

'twas ever thus. It's Tommy this and Tommy that, and our grandads marched here and there, and some didn't come back. All for democracy.

"It seems now, except a man has a fixed estate in this kingdom, he has no right in this kingdom. I wonder we were so much deceived. If we had not a right to the kingdom we were mere mercenary soldiers."


It's now a few days later, so I'll just drop in what Wikipedia is reporting as the impact on the UK:

"Once the storm made landfall in Britain a maximum wind gust of 82 mph (132 km/h) was recorded, in Capel Curig, Wales. A man was killed when a tree fell on a minibus he was driving in County Durham. Across the United Kingdom, damage was estimated at £100 million ($157 million USD)."

That's a fair bit of damage, but it comes out as less than £2 per head of population of this island when averaged out.

(And Capel Curig is mostly down in a valley - I'd have been interested to know if the wind in Capel Garmon was stronger. Capel Curig is usually known for the amount of rain rather than wind.)


Just got back Stateside today. The whole time we were on the Dingle Peninsula, the waters whipped up by Katja made it impossible for the boats to go out and visit the Blaskets and the Skelligs.

Lovely time otherwise.


I've seen the Blaskets, but only from a distance (not having been there in the summer season). However, I trust you went over Conor Pass. The view from the carpark at the crest, with sight of the Atlantic to the North and to the South, is well worth any hassle from the wild goats.

(Seeing tourists freaking out over an overly friendly billy clambering into their car for an exploration is amusing for those of us who grew up with goats.)



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on September 11, 2011 2:08 PM.

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