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Hurricane Irma imperils first ever SpaceX shuttle launch: US military's secret squirrel X-37B

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Nobody knows where Irma is going. It's *supposed* to just hit the Keys, but there won't be real data for a couple days still.

Then there's TS Jose that just popped up just behind, and there's no telling what that'll do either. Irma is probably stealing all the heat energy, but tons of rain can still be painful, as Texas found out.

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Jose is expected to swing north away from the US.

Jose predicted path

Katia will only hit Mexico.

Katia predicted path

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Alert

"Nobody knows where Irma is going."

Not 3-4 day out maybe, but Puerto Rico are pretty definitely in the firing line.

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Just Category 5?

Category 5 (252 km/h or higher): Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of frame homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

What about when it is basically a giant tornado? When the percentage is 100%. When the power is gone? When the islands are gone?

Do we then start using Category 6?

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Trollface

Re: Just Category 5?

Category 6 will be implemented by Trump, when he starts bragging how he has overseen the yuuugest storms, the bestest storms, the powerfulest storms.

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Re: Just Category 5?

Try to keep a grip on reality. Trump is not omnipotent.

Besides, when Bush was done with that hurricane-guiding machine he had it dismantled. ;-/

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Re: Just Category 5?

Trump is not omnipotent.

We know that, does he?

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Unhappy

"Cat 6 will be implemented by Trump,..starts bragging.. overseen the yuuugest storms, "

Be very careful what you say in jest about the D.

Today's tweeted joke.

Tomorrows policy.

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Re: Trump is not omnipotent.

"We know that, does he?"

He's also not omniscient.

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Joke

Re: Just Category 5?

Presumably a cat 6 storm will be just like a cat 5 storm, but with less crosstalk.

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Looking at the forecast cone, it could bypass Florida and whack Cuba and Texas.

Too far out to be certain.

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Anonymous Coward

This seems like it comes more to what KSC, AF range and SpaceX policy on evactuation are as current track indicate it still should be quite a ways away on thursday, and they have an airport runway effectively to them self on site for if need an expedited exit backup.

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Happy

It would be much cooler if they could make their escape by rocket...

Perhaps in ten years, when they have a re-usable fleet of rockets and Dragon 2 capsules.

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Anonymous Coward

Leave...

Personally, having experienced a Category 1 (bordering on Cat 2) hurricane, I've decided that we're not doing that again. We own a car. We're not on an island, We'll just get in the car and take a road trip. We'll leave 36 hours before all the others, and we'll leave 12 hours before even the others that leave early. I can drive 1000+ km in 24 hours easy. See ya. I'd rather be eating a hamburger in a nice restaurant in some distant town, than cowering in fear while the roof is torn off. There's nothing you can do. You're not going to hold the roof on with a small rope.

My sympathies are with the poor folks that live on the islands island. The timing is impossible. If the flights are full, you're stuck.

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Re: Leave...

I survived Wilma (Cat 5) in Cancun. It went right over us. Mexican houses are concrete block (including roof) so hold out a lot better in hurricanes. Not so good in earthquakes.

Only 2 deaths IIRC, both ventured outside during the high winds, one got nailed by a flying sheet of iron, the other by a downed power conductor.

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Unhappy

"Mexican houses are concrete block (including roof) so hold out a lot better in hurricanes."

So I guess it's a question of what you get more of, hurricanes or earthquakes.

BTW I once did a very rough BOTE of the energy in one of these things.

It's about 1000 GW (YMMV).

The entire UK generating capacity is about 54GW. I couldn't find a number for the US

Takeaway lesson. Don't get into a fight with Mother Nature.

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Re: "Mexican houses are concrete block (including roof) so hold out a lot better in hurricanes."

The entire UK generating capacity is about 54GW. I couldn't find a number for the US

The average US electrical consumption in 2014 was 473GW, based on a total usage of 4,144.3 Terawatt hours.

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Unhappy

"The average US electrical consumption in 2014 was 473GW,"

Thank you for that statistic. I hit the EIA but that only gave new capacity increases and old capacity retirements, not an overall figure.

So still < 1/2 a Cat 5 tornado.

Hence why it's probably a good idea not to be around when you get one of these windy visitors.

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You can design houses that work against both

The reason concrete block homes are bad in earthquakes is because concrete is strong compressively, but not good for shearing forces. Block homes have only mortar holding the blocks together, so they can easily fall apart during a violent shaking.

If you build with poured concrete reinforced with rebar, with the rebar tying the foundation to the walls, and the walls to the roof then you may end up with some cracked walls after an earthquake, but you'd be safe inside (unless your antique dresser falls over on you or something) Well, you'd also need hurricane proof windows that are laminated like car windshields, but those are very expensive so probably easier to just have a safe room in the house that's got concrete walls on all sides and no windows. Good place for your home theater.

Of course building that way is more expensive because you have to lay the rebar, set the forms, and bring in a concrete pump to pour it in the forms, which is why most homes in the US and Mexico are either stick framed or concrete block which are only resistant to certain disasters but not all of them like reinforced concrete is.

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Re: "The average US electrical consumption in 2014 was 473GW,"

"Hence why it's probably a good idea not to be around when you get one of these windy visitors."

Or ya figure out how to stick a wind generator and battery in there...

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Anonymous Coward

Re. storms

I second that, get out of there (Klingon voice)

But it does raise an interesting point: can hurricanes be diverted?

It would be a political hot potato because weather modification is one of those areas where national obligations apply at least in principle.

Irony: one potential use for SDI (aka Star Wars) satellites was suggested, "zapping" the jet stream to affect rainfall and potentally stall a storm in a remote location to limit damage.

Can't say any more as references are classified information...

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Re: Re. storms

Hurricanes have a very large energy flux by human standards. Even nuclear devices are popguns by comparison.

To change what a hurricane does, it would be necessary to affect the weather system far in advance, the same way a threatening asteroid would need nudging way before approaching Earth to have enough effect.

Trouble is, chaos gets a say. For the asteroid, the chaotic effects don't have time to operate since the "relaxation time*" for solar orbits is quite long. Not so with Earthly weather, which has a mere two day relaxation time. But two days is not nearly enough lead time to steer a hurricane, so we are stymied by a lack of predictive power. Otherwise, people COULD steer weather at enemies, at least in theory.

* Relaxation time for chaotic systems is the approx time it takes for the chaos to increase beyond the ability to calculate future states.

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Re: Re. storms

There have been studies that suggest large oil slicks prevent hurricanes gaining the energy/moisture they need to sustain themselves.

The very best of luck to anyone trying to get that kind of preventive measure approved.

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Re: Re. storms

The Hurricane Research division of the NOAA has apparently been asked enough times as to why we can't just nuke (?!) hurricanes out of existence that it's one of their FAQs....

http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/C5c.html

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Re: Re. storms

That's a much longer answer than I was expecting. The short answer is basically: "Because then we'd have radioactive hurricanes to worry about instead of just hurricanes."

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Devil

Re: Re. storms

Couldn't we just nuke Florida? Then the hurricane damage would make no appreciable difference - so everyone's a winner.

Plus we get giant mutant alligators.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re. storms

"To change what a hurricane does, it would be necessary to affect the weather system far in advance,"

I thought emacs had a mode for that?

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Re: Re. storms (can hurricanes be diverted)

DDT applied to that bloody butterfly?

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Trollface

Re: Re. storms

"But it does raise an interesting point: can hurricanes be diverted?"

Don't give Trump any ideas - he will declare them "illegal immigrants" and try to deport them.

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Re: Re. storms

"Couldn't we just nuke Florida? Then the hurricane damage would make no appreciable difference - so everyone's a winner.

"Plus we get giant mutant alligators."

We'll NEED those to combat the inevitable series of Sharknados (with OR without frikkin' lasers)

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@fishman

Maybe Trump will want to build a wall to keep out the hurricanes. 10 or 15 miles high ought to do the job.

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Re: Wall

There is no need. Simply have The Donald station himself directly in the path of the hurricane. It wouldn't DARE muss his elaborate hairstyle.

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Re: Re. storms

It would be the mutant crocodiles that would worry me!

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Re: Plus we get giant mutant alligators.

We've already got mutant alligators

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwY2E0hjGuU

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Unhappy

This is a really important launch for SX in so many ways

It shows the can launch the X37b (presumably a lot cheaper than on an Atlas V)

By implication the F9 is good enough for National Security Space launches, which any major LV mfg has to get a piece of, as it's a huge pie.

It will set the conversion schedule for the pad to take the FH launch.

Note a postponed launch due to a cat 5 storm is acceptable to the DoD, as long as it goes OK when it does happen. It is an issue for anyone who was hoping for an FH launch this year.

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In such conditions the space center goes into lockdown. Non-essential staff are evacuated and a core team of volunteers stays on site until the storm is past, safe in the launch bunkers.

My first thought was yeah, if there's a superhurricane coming, even a sharknado, one place I wouldn't mind being is in a rocket launch site bunker. Then I thought... ummmm, it IS waterproof, right? Because it'll be a lot tougher to get out of than an attic onto the roof once the storm surge puts everything several meters underwater.

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I bet they have plenty of scuba gear.

BTW, I saw a report once about three people who survived such a hurricane right over their little Caribbean island by hiding is a water-filled concrete tub, approx 18 inches high inside. They shared a scuba breather when it got so bad they had to stay underwater. Seems the rest of their house was gone, but that big heavy shower stall tub saved their asses.

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Anonymous Coward

If we had

Time travel, with say a seven day window.. Might reduce needed resources to slightly less absurd levels.

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Windows

Ummm

Minor correction to the article. Cape Canaveral is in Florida. *FLORIDA* is basically a sandbar. ( check out the fallout from the 1970's condo building mania in Florida, I mean its pretty clear they still haven't learned yet.)

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Happy

"*FLORIDA* is basically a sandbar.

So the good news is that quite a lot of people who bought houses in land will be the owners of very desirable beach front property quite soon?

I'll bet they are excited by that prospect.

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Facepalm

Way to Manage Risk guys

"Since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, all new buildings at the location have been built to withstand wind speeds of up to 130mph. However, Irma is, right now, producing winds in excess of 180mph and may pick up more strength before it hits the coast."

So after a category 5 hurricane caused damage to Florida, they reacted by ensuring that they built strong enough to withstand up to category 3 hurricanes. That's some reaction and from an organisation that knows just a little bit about the effects of a changing climate.

I really hope the nuclear facilities in California aren't built to withstand earthquakes merely up to 7 on the scale....

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Unhappy

I honestly find little sympathy for Florida and Space X despite the tech and space angle.

Please spare a thought for the poor people of those Caribbean islands that will take the full force of this monster. They have nowhere to go and nothing to fall back on and very little help from outside.

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Four thumbs down? You heartless bastards.

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Def
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Joke

If this is such a top secret craft, why are those bee keepers allowed to get so close to it? (See story picture.)

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Anonymous Coward

Every thing is fine

Turned out was not an issue after all, went up pretty much at the start of the launch window.

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