STORM DAMAGE COSTS
(…ounces of prevention vs. pounds of cure?)

The damages from the recent late-season hurricane Sandy range from the Caribbean to New York and beyond. And much like previous storms such as Andrew, Katrina, and Irene, those damages are more than just a matter of dollars (Sandy’s bill is estimated at $40Billion plus… just for New York state alone).

But how does one measure the costs of lives lost, lives disrupted, infrastructures ravaged, homes, businesses and enterprises destroyed beyond either repair or replacement…not to mention the overloads and stresses placed on local, state, and federal emergency resources and services? We really can’t quantify these in only dollar terms because the shock waves of disruption in peoples’ lives linger on long after such events have past. So, considering all of these factors, might it not be worth it to consider things in terms of applying a few ounces of prevention, rather than just paying for dollar pounds of cure…after the fact?

What follows is an outline of an idea to do that. It was first broached after hurricane Andrew blasted southern Florida some years ago, and has been kicked around and argued about among friends and associates of mine all these years, to refine its conceptual merits as much as possible, and better define its feasibility. Not so much to prevent hurricanes (we can’t) but rather…to diminish their potentials for damaging effects.

To that end we studied and researched what are the essential elements involved with coming up with a workable way to minimize or reduce these negative impacts of hurricanes reaching our shores. There were three basic issues to be addressed if we were to create a workable formula. The first issue was…we had to determine the how and where such hurricanes were born. The second was…what were the mechanisms that drove such hurricanes…and the third issue was…was there a reasonably certain way to disrupt those mechanisms. The system we eventually came up with we named – Hurricane Defense Task Force (HDTF), based on the question … what if we could develop the means to reduce a hurricane’s wind velocities BEFORE these made landfall on our shores?

The following outline explains how we think that could be done, and, without the need of extra budgetary loads to put it in place. In fact, it actually recycles otherwise wasted assets the taxpayers have already paid for, plus, it may have other preventative applications besides:

As can be seen, such storms not only collide with the SE US coast lines, but, because of those coasts’ orientation, and the Gulf Stream which very closely follows that orientation, they tend to continue northwards along the entire eastern seaboard.  Many of them reaching as far north as New England, and even Labrador, before veering out to sea and dissipating. Others, pass through the West Indies, and continue into the Gulf of Mexico, where they build up again to impact anywhere along the Mexican or US Gulf Coasts.

In recent times, the Earth appears to have entered a period/cycle when such storms are becoming more numerous during the season, much larger, and more violent, with each following hard on the heels of the one preceding it.  That, in turn, taxes the limits of available emergency and disaster relief resources. The economic losses and damages from these are also in the billions of dollars.

While we have evolved a highly sophisticated and effective storm watch system in recent years (especially with the use of satellite imagery), the system is essentially a passive system, performing only early warning functions, by providing projected storm tracks, dimensions, wind velocity data, etc. And while that has helped to reduce the loss of human life each year, it can do nothing about the physical damages to property and infrastructure.

What follows is an outline to create a companion proactive system which, once a potential hurricane has been spotted, and the formation of its “eye” becomes clearly defined, would be able to launch counter measures to either nullify its intensity, or reduce it to just a nominal and seasonally beneficial tropical storm, minimizing both loss of life and economic damage.

COMPOSITION OF HDTF: This would be a seasonal operational entity, composed of personnel and assets attached to it from various Federal departments and agencies, under the direction of a designated Task Force Director/Commander. Agencies and Departments involved would include NOAA/USWS, NASA, USAF, USCG, FEMA, and others, as appropriate.

MISSION: To create a means to effectively defuse or nullify the potential effects of approaching hurricanes, before they can impact on shore.

BASE LOCATION: Given the latitudes where such storms are formed, and their general lines of approach, basing the HDTF at Homestead AFB, at the south tip of Florida, would provide a relatively short radius/strike distance to intercept such storms, in a matter of just a few hours.  Thus, the interdiction/strike zone would only be on the order of 500-1000 NM off shore, depending on circumstances.

PRIMARY EQUIPMENT: The primary equipment for this would be a number of superannuated B-52 bombers, no longer suitable for military operations. Since the taxpayers have already paid for them, rather than scrapping these, a more beneficial ROI would be to select a number of them to be refurbished and reconfigured for this purpose. That is, they would be stripped of all military equipment, to a bare bones condition. Fuselage and engines would be zero-timed and overhauled, and bomb bays and related systems would be reconfigured for this new purpose. 

THE MAIN ADVANTAGES OF USING B-52s:

* We have a lot of them parked in our desert storage locations. Enough of them to be able to cannibalize whatever parts we need to have a dozen or so in flight condition for this purpose.

* They have a very high altitude capability, thus able to over fly any storm to reach its inner eye area.

* They have a long range capability, thus, well able to range out the required distance and back with a nominal fuel load.

* They have a very large payload capacity, especially if they are stripped of all non-essential military equipment.

* There are a large number of former pilots and crews of these craft who, either retired or in reserve status, could be available on a seasonal basis to perform such missions. Thus, reconfiguration of these aircraft, and crew training for these missions, could be accomplished in a short time frame, and at a relatively low cost.

* Given the nature of these anti-hurricane missions, and their relatively short flight times involved, not more than a dozen such aircraft would be needed to perform these missions. Organized in flights of 3 aircraft per sortie, the HDTF would thus have the means to launch a continuous series of strikes against an advancing hurricane, until it collapsed or diminished its intensity.

MATERIALS TO BE USED:

The cargo used by the planes for these missions would be DRY ICE STICKS, of approximately 25-50Kgs each.

Since the driving mechanism of a hurricane is the warm/hot air rising along the wall of the eye, with its force or intensity deriving from the temperatures therein (that is, the higher the temperatures, the more violent the storm), it seems logical to devise a method that can simultaneously radically drop the air temperatures within the eye wall’s entire circumference.

B-52s can deliver the massive payloads required to accomplish that. Dry ice sticks (at minus 107F) can provide the extreme cold effects needed to achieve the desired temperature drop results. The stick configuration should allow a deep vertical penetration of the eye wall strata, before completely dissipating. Dry ice is also the most desirable material because, besides its extremely cold temperature, it is easy and economical air chemical product to produce (it sucks CO2 from the air, compresses it, resulting in dry ice). The HDTF could thus have its own producing plant at its base, to allow for continuous production, as needed.

ADDENDUM:

Such a HTDF unit could also be applied to other work besides counter-hurricane missions. That is, Tornado season begins in the spring in the Midwestern part of the country. The driving forces of tornadoes are similar to those driving hurricanes…..rising warm air masses. But instead of aiming at an eye-wall, counter measures here would aim at identified “cells” within the thunderstorms, that are the generating sources of potential tornados. In that application, the ability to over top such storms, and, with advanced radar and IR technology pinpoint such cells, to drop a cooling load on them, could eliminate many tornado formations before they can do damage..

In the summer, the Western part of the country is subject to wildfires. Since many of these occur in extremely difficult and remote terrain, ground crews have great difficulty getting them under control. Further, their tanker and helicopter resources do not carry heavy loads. HDTF aircraft, however, besides being able to be high enough not to be affected by the heat thermals from such firestorms, have a much larger capacity to carry a combination of water and retardants. To that, they also have the capability of applying “carpet bombing” techniques to deliver water and retardant loads, to more effectively “kill” such wildfires.

In the Fall, the HDTF would revert back to hurricane missions, as required.

Thus, such an HDTF organization could be given these different seasonal missions, making its operating costs a very good ROI proposition, when one compares the cost of damages to property and infrastructure that these seasonal events cause.

Well, some folks might consider such an idea as too far out to be practical. No doubt there are a number of refinements that could be made to it. Nevertheless, the fact remains, as a preventative effort, it may rightfully be a creative way of applying…ounces of prevention… rather than dollar pounds of cure…after the fact.

 CENTURION