Ike's wrath, The Big Picture

By Phil Plait | September 16, 2008 3:00 pm

I was very moved to look at The Big Picture’s feature of Hurricane Ike.

When we read about hurricanes or even watch news of them on TV, it’s really hard to assess their reality, to grasp it. These pictures bring it home.

I’ve been through a few hurricanes — I was driving out of Houston and getting slammed by the outskirts of Danny in 1985, and sat through others that summer in Texas — so I have a visceral feel for how freaking scary they are. I wish everyone could feel that, if even for a moment, so that they can truly understand the raw fury these monsters unleash.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Pretty pictures

Comments (64)

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  1. images of ike « towlebooth | September 17, 2008
  1. Beah, the aftermath is pretty bad. But Pets and Wildlife also hit hard by Hurricane Ike, too.

  2. Quiet_Desperation

    Wow. A fresh thread. I better be brilliant!


    I saw a tornado in real life once.


  3. Corey

    We survived (NW ITL Houston representing) and we are already back to work. No gas or groceries yet. Most of my peers have no power and even the water is suspect. I can’t see the road from my house for all the fallen limbs we’ve cut and piled.

    We were very fortunate. That storm could have been substantially worse. It missed worst-case scenario by only a few miles. Most of the people who were ordered to evacuate and didn’t should never forget how close they came to losing their lives.

  4. Law Mom

    Interesting comments after the pictures. It never ceases to amaze me that people see death and destruction as evidence of a god.

  5. deep

    I was in the midwest when the aftereffects of Ike hit. I’ve lived all my life in areas without hurricane problems so I don’t think I’ve ever really seen what a hurricane could do. I mean we’ve had twisters but in all those years I’ve never seen three foot trees break in half like I seen the other day, and just from the remnants of the storm! Winds over 60 mph. Who could believe it? The power is still out in some places.
    Hell, I wouldn’t live on the coast for nothing.

  6. justcorbly

    I saw the photos yesterday and they are simply magnificent. Do not screw around with Mother Nature.

    Deep: Voluntary Tar Heel here. We’ve seen more than our share of nasty weather. I talked to family in Ohio after the weekend’s windstorms. More than a bit freaked. Take solace from the fact that you lost all those trees because they were able to grow old and feeble. Down here, we lost our feeble trees long ago. For those who don’t have a clue about hurricanes. consider the damage done to the midwest and understand that Cat 4 and Cat 5 hurricanes pack winds of twice that strength, never mind the storm surge.

  7. juanjux

    A thing that always strikes me when I see on TV those tornado images is that lots of houses there in the US, if not most, are made of wood, even on tornado-frequent zones while here in Europe where tornados never hit all houses are made of brick. Is there any specific reason for that?

  8. sdrDusty

    No one could have predicted…
    ( http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/09/03/katrina.chertoff/ )

    I can’t help think that there has to be better policy for coastal management.

  9. Ticknick

    Incredible pictures, as always.

    Something else, quite interesting

  10. Grand Lunar

    I survived Andrew’s outer winds in 1992, and Wilma’s wrath in 2005.

    The pictures of Ike remind me of what Andrew did to Homestead, FL.

    I know the road to recovery will be long and difficult. I just hope lessons learned will remain, and that recovery efforts won’t be botched up.

  11. I’ve done the hurricane thing myself. Had to evacuate Key West a couple times when we lived there and one of those times there was considerable damage in the Keys and we were without power and drinkable water for a couple of weeks. Now that’s nothing compared to what the Gulf has been hit with this past couple years.

    One time when we evacuated we went to Orlando. Figured we might as well try to take our minds off the situation. We didn’t own a car (didn’t need one there) but managed to rent a minivan and me, my husband, our best friend, his partner along with 6 cats and the few things that would fit in the van that we couldn’t live without headed to Disney World. Truthfully, it was kind of surreal. We weren’t – by far – the only ones that did that. The displaced Key’s folks were easy to spot.

    At one point we stepped into one of the buildings that had a huge screen tv and it was on the Weather Channel and filling the screen was this ginormous hurricane and filling about a pixel was Key West. We just kind of stood there for a bit. Then we thought we’d try a ride or two. Thinking back, I don’t really recommend the “Twister” ride if you’re waiting to see if your house is going to get blown away by a hurricane.

    Come to think of it, my husband (before we met) was living in Key West when Hurricane Andrew came that way in ’92. They thought it was going to hit the Key’s, in which case he would have been done for. He was stuck on the island. It took a slight northward turn, though, and hit Homestead and pretty much leveled it.

  12. Heard from relatives near Houston — they are doing okay after Ike, but have no power back yet.

    We occasionally get hurricanes up here in New England; they are never as strong as when they hit farther south, but they do still pack a punch. The winds are always the scariest for me… remind me of the windstorms that the front range of Colorado sometimes gets in January and February, but packed with water.

    The pics of Ike are amazing…

  13. Arthur Maruyama

    deep wrote:
    “Hell, I wouldn’t live on the coast for nothing.”

    The remnants of Ike and Lowell are hitting the US Midwest simultaneously, creating floods in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, plus tornadoes and windstorms from Arkansas to Ohio.

    BA: thanks for the photo link.

  14. I live in Southeast Houston and the amount of damage caused by Ike has been pretty awe-inspiring. There are trees throughout my neighborhood that were entirely ripped out of the soil, roots and all. Thankfully power was restored in my area last night, and we never lost running water.

  15. David Sharp

    I just couldn’t imagine what a hurricane up close and personal would be like – Phil: You got out of Cincinnati just in time: The remnants of Ike blew thru here with winds up to 74 mph on Sunday afternoon. A tree with a 2-foot wide trunk was uprooted in my back yard. Fortunately, it fell through our privacy fence into the wooded vacant lot next door. Our power was just restored within the last hour, but there’s still almost half a million people without power here.

    98% Chimp

  16. WestSider

    West side of Houston here…

    Power went out at 11:30 AM on Saturday but came back on at 11:00 AM on Sunday so not too bad. My in-laws have been without power since 3:30 AM on Saturday. We lost some shingles and got some water in the attic, but are lucky considering. One of my neighbors had his roof collapse and his entire house filled with water. I have a good friend that lives on the Southeast side. He and his family are basically homeless now. The storm completely shredded his apartment complex. It looks like it is under construction with only the frames standing.

  17. These pictures make me thankful that I live in an area that does not have to deal with this. They also make me feel for these people and all they have endured.

  18. Don Snow

    The photo of the hurricane from the ISS underlined its size: 600mi across. Even from 200mi altitude, the whole of Hurricane Ike would not fit into the frame. Staggering.

    I was at work Friday night in the DFW metroplex. I had my car’s radio tuned to one of the talk shows I listen to. The regular hosts, bless them, had let coverage of Ike displace them. Through the night, I heard step by step about Ike as it approached Galveston, landed, came ashore and then the eye wall swept over Galveston. By that time, the leading edge was pounding Houston.

    In this area, all we had were thunderstorms and rain, Saturday afternoon. I love the sound of rain, to sleep by. But, at what a price.

    I heard the weather people could still track the storm’s center, when it entered Arkansas.

    I’m just glad it wasn’t worse. Because, it could have been.

  19. Pete

    Having endured one big typhoon, and a couple of big hurricanes, I have a healthy respect for them. But one of my most amazing sights was the eyewall of the typhoon, and it passed over during the day – the vertical wall of clouds was impressive.

  20. MarkH

    My father was transfered to Puerto Rico in 1979. Less than a week after we arived there hurricane David, a cat 5 hurricane hit the island. We had just moved into our house on the coast guard base there. It used to be Ramey Air Force base during the 50’s. The housing on base was great. No damage to the buildings, I guess that is what you get when you build for nuclear war. hehe

    By the way, the 2012 wooers made an appearance.

    Post #52
    “Seems these disasters keep getting worse. I wonder if December 12th 2012 there will be a world disaster as the planets are going to all line up and cause MAJOR dissasters around the globe. Scientist say the planets will line up on that day, the scary part is the Mymes calendar just so happens to stop on that day”

  21. Quiet Desperation


    I don’t think a brick house would help all that much in an F3 or higher tornado. Brick walls are constructed to support a vertical load. The main wind stress in a tornado is horizontal. If you Google, you can find reports of brick homes that were wiped away just as handily as the wooden ones.

    There’s also cost versus risk. Brick construction is much more expensive, and many people live their whole lives in the mid West without encountering a tornado.

    It’s probably possible to build a tornado proof home, but only Bill Gates could afford it.

  22. Tom Marking

    Here’s a report from the northwest side of the Houston area, Katy to be specific which is a suburb on the west side. We stayed throughout the storm. Maximum sustained winds forecasted in our area were 81 miles per hour with gusts up into the 90’s. Given that we sustained remarkably little damage to our house. We lost about a dozen or so shingles from the roof and we have a section of fencing on the west side leaning at about a 60 degree angle.

    So we were very fortunate. The location of our house probably helped – we have a single story house that is surrounded on three sides by two-story houses which probably blocked a lot of the wind from directly hitting us. We know of several houses in our neighborhood that sustained major damage with the roof collapsing partially. Of course, nothing like the photos you’re all seeing out of Galveston. We have a few trees down in the neighborhood but nothing catastrophic.

    Curiously, the electricity remained on for most of the storm. It went out from about 3:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Saturday morning when the eye of the storm passed just east of us but then came back on. Then by noon Saturday the power went out for good. Probably it was turned off deliberately because of hazards with downed trees. But we were fortunate in that it was only out about 24 hours. By Sunday noontime it was back on. More than half of Houston area residents still are without power. Saturday night was completely miserable with the temperatures in the 90’s and with 90+ humidity. Very hard to sleep without air conditioning or a fan.

    One things that really ticks me off is the lack of gasoline. By Thurday at 4:00 p.m. (34 hours before the storm) more than 95 percent of the gas stations in the Houston area were already shut down either deliberately or because of lack of fuel. Even today, 3 days after the hurricane most gas stations are closed or low on fuel. After Hurricane Rita hit near here in 2005 we were promised by the politicians that this situation would never happen again – that we would never be without fuel in a dire situation like a hurricane bearing down on us. I feel our politicians from both parties have lied to us yet again – they are completely worthless and incompetent. Read the recent stories about FEMA’s response and it’s deja vu all over again. History is repeating itself. The Katrina scenario is playing out once again.

    Well, that’s my 2 cents. For all those affected by the hurricane – stay safe and do the best you can. No one’s looking out for you so you’d better do it yourself.

  23. Gorthos

    Hey Phil

    Where I live north of Lake Ontario, we occasionally get slapped with a post-hurricane storm after one moves up the coast or in the case of Ike two days ago, after one just slides on North after thumping Texas or nearby areas. I can barely imagine what it is like to be in the middle of one that is 1500 miles wide, right after it leaves the warm waters of the Gulf. We had 70 km/hour winds at about 2 am Tuesday morning and trees were crashing down all over the place. Freaky as hades, temperature went from 22 celsius to over 32 in 30 minutes… went outside just to see how nasty it was and I scurried in after about 5 minutes. Cannot imagine 130 mile per hour winds in person for hours upon hours.

  24. theinquisitor

    Number 13 was bizarre. That one house left intact among all that devastation. It was just like that Star Trek episode where one house was left while the rest of the planet was flattened.

  25. theinquisitor
  26. taiki

    not to make light of the disaster… But am I the only one who was reminded of the Homer Simpson epic fail pic when looking at the house that was on fire that was in the flooding?

    (see: http://chrisonrails.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/epicfail.jpg)

  27. Tom, thanks for that report. I remember after Andy hit we heard from a married couple we knew who lived near Homestead. They lost nearly everything… and eventually their marriage just broke up over the stress. As with most natural disasters, the true price people pay won’t be known for some time.

    My sister lives in Florida and she said that two days before Ike hit Texas there was extreme price gouging on gas and shortages all over her town. It just made NO sense, since the storm wasn’t hitting anywhere near there.

  28. juanjux and QD, I’ve very limited experience with tornadoes. We don’t get many in Oz but we did have one touch down about 20km from where I lived once. The track it left was amazing, mainly through vineyards and farmland. Right in its path were two churches. A new all brick church and a hundred year old timber church. That’s right you guessed it, nothing but foundations left where the new brick church was and the old timber church was untouched. The churches were about 50 metres apart. My understanding is pretty much nothing can withstand a direct hit from a tornado.

    We’re lucky in South Eastern Australia. Not so much in extreme weather as far as big windy cyclones go. What we do get, similarly to Southern California, is big bush fires. A wall of fire coming over the hills or the massed clouds of a cyclone? I dunno but I think you have more chance of finding shelter from a storm.

    Just on the timber construction in the US. It does seem that a majority of home seem to be built from wood. Is that just for historical reasons or is it that much cheaper than brick? More than 90% of homes construction in Oz are brick and have been for decades.

  29. Shane,

    Yes, wood’s more plentiful, and for a long time, cheaper and faster to build with.

  30. Richie

    Incredible pictures.

    Asinine Comments.

  31. Sunny

    Another natural calamity (flood) that has recently happened in north of India, displacing over a million people.

  32. Holli

    Juanjux, I think the main reason we use so much timber is it’s relatively cheap, readily available and it’s traditional. We are nothing if not traditional. We had all those settlers moving across the country having to build with what was available and that they could put up with minimal tools. I don’t know about Europe, but for example, I traveled in South Africa a while ago. They build all their houses out of brick because wood is not an option for them. The few trees that grow there are short and twisty. You have to have strong, straight, tall trees to build houses out of them. Perhaps Europe has (had?) plenty of trees, but used them for fire/making coal instead of construction? Plus we have so much more space we had enough timber for both…
    Let me tell you, it was bizarre to know you were in a house with no skeleton. I was constantly waiting for them to just fall over…lol!

  33. Holli

    P.S I just realized that probably wasn’t the point…
    I don’t know why they make timber houses in places where they have hurricanes. It seems pretty silly to me. Of course, I’m still wondering why they build houses in places that have hurricanes, volcanoes etc. at all.

  34. Murdats

    I used to live in a town in australia that would get multiple cyclones per summer.
    I have never been able to figure out what the big deal about them is, I mean sure our town was built for cyclones but even a category 5 just meant a couple of days off work or school and some branches all over the place, and the houses by the shore being sandblasted, oh and the tv would stop working when it got close, that always sucked.

    but as for these massive trails of devastation, that seems to be more an issue of bad civil engineering then a powerful cyclone, I have no doubt that a bad cyclone in a place not prone to them could cause damage due the unexpected nature of it, but the kind of destruction america suffers just seems inordinate.

  35. Grand Lunar

    Excellent pics, T.Phillips. Really gives a look into the damage done.

  36. Murdats, you obviously don’t remember the big blow on christmas eve 1974 that wiped Darwin off the map.


    I reckon Australia probably learnt a lot from Cyclone Tracy and probably why where you were you could ride out the big ones.

  37. bill ringo

    This was a bigger storm than most folk realize. After leaving Houston a mess it moved NE and REGAINED hurricane force due to a fortuitous cold front. It flooded St. Louis while it knocked out over 1M peoples electricity in Ky and OH. Huge footprint. Big storm winds up being an afterthought to the next financial crisis.

  38. jrkeller

    Picture 8 is about five miles from my house, and about a mile from my ex inlaws.

    I’m in Dallas now and heading back to Houston today (9/17)

  39. Well said Phil. Living through a hurricane, or any natural phenomena, is a truly exhilarating event. I was in Halifax, Nova Scotia for Hurricane Juan in late September, 2003 on the 7th floor of an office building working backshift. The building started to shake and wobble to and fro. My boss eventually called and told me I had the night off. And all that because of wind, temperature, and spin!

  40. I wonder why we aren’t seeing more pictures of the devastation on the national media? CNN carries very little to none of it… this looks, from the pix Phil refers to… as if it’s Katrina-scale or larger in terms of damage. My heart goes out to the folks who have lost everything there.

    As for the questions about “why build in place XX” you do have to take history into account. Galveston, like New Orleans, was a port city for a long time. You (people) build where the ports are so you can move goods and people. While those places are more than likely to receive damaging storms, etc. in reality, nearly anyplace is subject to some danger from storms. We may be inland where I live, but we still get heavy damaging winds or snow or rain from time to time. Heck, we even get earthquakes, which supposedly we aren’t supposed to have.

  41. KC

    Quiet Desperation:

    We can build tornado-proof homes by going below ground. This, however, creates other problems, and a surprising number of people have a psychological aversion to living underground.

    Above ground, it really doesn’t matter, though I suppose you could build a house out of concrete and rebar with walls several feet thick – if you had the money. Otherwise . . .

    Well, I remember the “Hurricane House” during Hurricane Camile. The owners were so convinced it was hurricane proof that they held a hurricane party as Camile headed for the coast. Afterward, the only thing left was stubs of the foundations. The house crumbled during the storm, and I forget how many died.

    Getting back to Ike, as you look at the photos think on this: The storm surge was much *less* than predicted.

  42. Cheyenne

    Simply amazing pics. Thanks for linking them BA.

  43. Tom Marking

    “My sister lives in Florida and she said that two days before Ike hit Texas there was extreme price gouging on gas and shortages all over her town.”

    Of course, in the Houston area we are having our share of price gouging too. Fortunately they have opened a hotline where you can call and report instances of it. If you are caught doing it you can go to jail for six months and be fined $20,000. Hopefully that will stop at least some of it. Also, today they just lifted the boiled water advisory for most of Houston. Since the hurricane we were supposed to boil all of our drinking water due to fears of contamination.

  44. KC


    About wood construction:

    For most of the U.S., it’s always been cheaper to build a wood frame home than brick. Most of the “brick” homes in the U.S. are actually brick veneer, which is a non-supporting brick wall in front of a wooden frame.

    Whether masonry homes are stronger than wood frame where wind is concerned is debatable. You have to attach the rafters to the walls, and while I’ve never done this with solid masonry walls, I assume that the brick layer sinks thick straps or “L” bolts into the wall. A short strap/bolt isn’t going to hold all that well in very high winds. It would seem to me that the builder would need to set rebar all the way from the foundation up to the roof, but that’s just my assumption.

    I’m thinking that poured concrete walls with rebar, similar to bridge construction, might hold up. Please be aware that I don’t *know* that they would, that this is my *assumption.* There are actually a few homes built this way (you can form them with any surface you choose, including fake log walls, which is pretty neat). Concrete block and brick have and will blow over in a tornado, and debris can still punch through them. In particular I’m thinking of a case some years ago in Georgia were a woman and a child took refuge in a basement, and part of the masonry wall collapsed on them.

    I don’t know how this would hold up in an earthquake. Since we’ve had rare but strong earthquakes pretty much all over the U.S. (New Madrid, the Charleston, South Carolina earthquake, etc.), that is a factor to keep in mind. Cost is another, although I’m not sure if concrete is still high – it was a few short years ago due to the demand in China.

  45. Gary Ansorge

    We get micro bursts and full blown tornadoes in Georgia. Micro bursts will fell large trees. Last month we had one at the Park that uprooted trees several feet thick.

    Gee, wish I lived in a satellite colony(Gerard K. O’Neille type and size) where the rain only falls when you want it to and your only worry is will your laser cannon take out a small asteroid or will you have to move your colony out of the way?

    Just a plug for large space colonies,,,

    GAry 7

  46. Gray Lensman

    Photo #11 was the one that really got me. I grew up near Port Arthur to the east and traveled that beach road many times to the Galveston ferry landing at Bolivar. There were many houses perched on stilts along that stretch of road through Gilcrest, Crystal Beach, Bolivar. Many were weekend cabins, but some were full time residences. The beach along this part of the Gulf is not a Florida beach with crystal clear water. The water is usually muddy and the beach smelly but it was what we had. A funky area of nice people, great seafood cafes, bars, fishing piers. There was often damage to the road and some houses from storms, but I never expected to see this. It’s like a war zone. There is no seawall like the one protecting parts of Galveston so the devastation is almost total. I hope most of the folks headed north and west before the storm hit. I now live in Colorado and we sometimes have interesting weather but not like this.

  47. Growing up in Florida and spending most of my life here, we have spent a lot of time dodging bullets (and getting hit sometimes). Come to think of it though, in my years growing up there were only two hurricanes, David and Frederick that threatened us in Miami (I was away in grad school for Andrew). That frequency of two in about 20 years stands in stark contrast to the frequency of threats and hits now.

    I have been through a few large storms, so when my heart goes out to the people of the Gulf area, know that it is from similar experiences that I empathize with you.

  48. Dave Hall

    Law Mom Says:
    Interesting comments after the pictures. It never ceases to amaze me that people see death and destruction as evidence of a god.

    Well, a pissed off one at least. A few centuries back, the Chinese would look a floods, earthquakes, storms and attacks from enemies as signs the Emperor had lost “The Mandate of Heaven,” and would than go shopping for a new dynasty.

    Not all change is progress.

  49. Gary Ansorge

    Ummmm,,,, a new dynasty. What a tasty idea,,,

    GAry 7
    PS. on the other hand, Arabs say it only rains on good people so I guess we’re,,,(Hey, what would you expect for people who see less than two inches of rain a year?).

  50. More pictures of Ike’s after-math — all the way in the mid-west where there was lots of flooding, power, loss and casualities.

  51. Robert Jones

    Dave Hall,

    There’s no change there. The “God is pissed” loons on that page want the same thing that the Chinese wanted: a new dynasty.

    The problem for us is that they want to replace our already terrible one with one that’s even *more* paleo-cultural and dominionist.

  52. Stuart Goldman

    As many of my friends will attest, there’s much about hurricane news reporting that I don’t like, some of which, I feel, is a danger to the public.

    Number 1 on my list is the use of “minimal hurricane.” A hurricane is a hurricane and can kill you.

    Putting reporters out at the beach waiting for landfall is another. They’ll be out there saying things like, “Whoa! That was a hurricane-force gust!” Um, no it wasn’t. If it was 75mph, you would be blown off your feet and rolling down the pavement. And we probably couldn’t have heard you because of the wind roaring by the microphone. Anyone who goes to report on a hurricane needs to be strapped down in a wind tunnel and experience high winds. I’m sure few would want to go beyond 50mph.

    When reporters are in winds of 30-40 mph and claim they are in the deep of the storm, that, frankly, makes the storm look *fun.* Result? People think they can stay and they’ll be fine. They might be, unless a storm surge floods the entire first floor or an hour’s worth of 100mph winds rips the house apart.

    TV news is in it for the spectacle, but does a poor job of actually showing the danger. It may take a reporter getting killed by flying debris (live on the air) to get the point across.

    Katrina probably changed some minds of residents threatened by hurricanes, but seeing how people acted during Gustav and Ike illustrate we have a ways to go.

  53. Tom Marking

    “I’m thinking that poured concrete walls with rebar, similar to bridge construction, might hold up. Please be aware that I don’t *know* that they would, that this is my *assumption.*”

    In the Philippines where my wife comes from they typically build their houses using hollow blocks (i.e., cinder blocks). So they stack the hollow blocks with the holes going up and down and then they put rebar through the holes and pour concrete through them. Let me tell you, those walls are damn strong. Some have even survived direct hits by tsunamis. The roofs tend to be flimsy metal constructions that will blow away in a typhoon but there is no way even a category 5 hurricane is going to breach one of those hollow block walls. The only problem is that they heat up in the sun and the interiors become like ovens during the day.

    But I would have no worries at all staying in one of those houses during even the worst typhoon. It would be much safer than staying in my house here in the States.

  54. KC

    Well, to quibble, I wouldn’t call it a hollow block wall, since it’s filled with concrete. Where they do storm damage tests by shooting lumber at walls, they punch through hollow block. If I were to build one, I’d be tempted to pour each course of block full as I went up to make sure there were no voids.

    Your observation about poor insulation reminded me of something: Masonry walls have low R values and dealing with condensation can be a headache. You can circumvent this somewhat by a 2×4 wall inside and attaching insulation, but I would think there’s still water vapor issues. There’s probably a study somewhere that address this.

    There used to be a loose granular insulation for pouring in hollow block walls, but I’m unaware of how well it works. That takes us back to essentially hollow blocks, anyway.

    BTW, I do recall that one weak point in a standard hollow block wall is the mortar. However, hollow blocks do break readily.

    For what it’s worth, it’s possible to build hollow blocks by pouring concrete into forms. Very handy if you have the concrete but don’t have the blocks.

  55. !AstralProjectile

    I thought I’d share…..
    My power is still out (In Columbus, OH) Work was without power Mon and Tue. Back to work today- Its weird when a working traffic light (of whatever color) can cause a sense of relief. I heard 2 transformers explode- they sounded like 10 simultaneous shotgun blasts. A lot of the line[wo]men are down in TX, so a few more days w/o power- this morning they had restored power to 1,000,000 homes/businesses.

  56. Gary Ansorge

    What you probably heard was the 50 amp fuses blowing(typical for transformers in a resedential district). While staying with my daughter in Buckhead a few years ago, I twice heard such “shotgun” blasts and when talking to the power company crew, learned about the fuses. Really loud when they blow but there was no damage to the transformer itself.

    I grew up in Los Angeles, Ca and am inured to earthquakes. After so many years in LA, I could tell within .1 or.2 the magnitude of the quake, from the intensity of the shaking and its duration. I think I’d prefer earthquakes to tornados and hurricanes,,,

    GAry 7

  57. KC

    Well, I was going to say it could have been a fuse, but there was a possibility it could be a transformer. The latter is rare, but it does happen.

    Fuses on transformers depends on size and line voltage. According to my fuse coordination chart, 10 and 15 KVA transformers takes a 6A fuse at 7,200 and 14,400 volts, 25 KVAs take a 10A at 7,200v and 6A at 14,400v. A 167 KVA transformer, the largest you can hang on a pole, has 40A at 7,200 and 25A at 14,400.

    Larger fuse sizes are used for sectionalizing line, and are based on available fault currents and load. These can go on up to larger sizes.

    Even a smaller size fuse can make a loud boom. I think it was a 6A fuse that went off like that one fine morning right after I energized a line. It’s gotten so I put in ear plugs before I close in a bank.

    As said, though it’s rare sometimes a transformer will let go. This is typically from lightning damage.

  58. Faithful Reader

    Whatever the natural “disaster,” weather or geologic, it’s only a disaster because of all the people involved. If a storm such as Ike blew through Texas 300 years ago, or an earthquake hit Sichuan in China, or a tsunami in Indonesia, the people undoubtedly suffered and died, but not on the epic scale of today. (The rate of death was probably much higher.) The cleanup was minimal and mostly taken care of by natural processes– rot, fire, and scavengers. That’s what happened at Mt. St. Helen’s, where the human population and presence was thin.

    Our planet’s population continues to grow in dangerous habitat. I’m afraid things will get worse.

  59. KC

    Actually, hurricane death tolls have decreased. Some examples:

    Galveston Texas, 1900: 6,000 – 12,000
    Florida, 1928: 2,500 – 4,078
    Georgia – South Carolina, 1893: 1,000 – 2,000

    Compare this to:

    Katrina, 2005: 1,800
    Hugo, 1989: 76
    Andrew, 1992: 65
    Ike, 2008: 55

  60. JB of Brisbane

    “… it looks like a war zone.”

    No, it looks like a hurricane/typhoon/tropical cyclone hit it.

    Dresden after the firebombing… now THAT looked like a war zone.

  61. Mike C.

    I sat through Ike at Westheimer and 610. Not much damage in that area, but not a lot of fun in the aftermath. Wednesday I had an airline carry me back to old Virginiy, as I was tired of sweating in the dark.

  62. Faithful Reader

    KC, I didn’t explain myself very well. The actual numbers of deaths and injuries were higher for hurricanes 100 years ago, but the rate of death (percentage of population) was much higher. And if a band of Native Americans lost 20/100 people in a storm 300 years ago, that’s a huge rate of loss.

    The economic and personal disruption is on a grander scale now, in billions of dollars and millions of people, rather than millions(?) and thousands.


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