Category Archives: weather

We Dodged Florence, but Millions of Others Didn’t: Thoughts and Prayers are Nice, but More is Required

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I spent the better part of the past week at work and at home getting ready for the possible impact of Hurricane Florence. I had two of my personnel and their families who lived in mandatory evacuation zones and did evacuate. Until late Wednesday when Florence took her turn to the southwest we had made reservations in a local hotel since our neighborhood typically floods. The last storm that we had, Hurricane Matthew dropped 15 inches of rain on us in a period of about 10 hours, barely a week and a half after another system had dropped 16 inches of rain on us in a three day period. During those events I fought to keep water out of our home and we lost one of our cars to flood damage and the other had a couple thousand dollars of damage. We could not leave our neighborhood for almost three days because of the depth of the water on the streets in our subdivision.

High winds and water surround a house as Hurricane Florence hits Swansboro N.C., Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)

This time we got lucky. Florence, after making a jog to the northwest turned back west and then southwest. For us she was pretty much a nothing-burger, but we live in a place that is incredibly vulnerable should a major storm hit. A category three of four storm would devastate the area. Hampton Roads is in an area of Virginia known as the Tidewater and Tidewater is a polite word for swamp. In fact that applies to most of the East Coast from us down to Florida.

But, since Hampton Roads one of the nation’s major seaports and transportation hubs, as well as the home of the largest naval base in the world the effects would be more than local. Though since I am local it would really suck. So the fact that Florence missed us was not a bad thing for us, but  it was a really bad thing for millions of people in the Carolinas, including many of our friends. I know a number of former shipmates who will quite probably lose their homes. Likewise  There are others who have evacuated and don’t know what they will return to when the go back.

I saw pictures and videos from places near Camp LeJeune where I once lived and realize that the destruction, especially where the the storm surge was massive. I saw an estimate that 750,000 homes could be impacted by the storm surge alone, this doesn’t could the added damage from the flooding rains and the runoff from streams and rivers that empty out into the wetlands and coastal areas that have already be inundated. Likewise the region will be polluted by runoff from hog farms and coal ash.

I have been through hurricanes down there and Florence looks worse than any that I went through, although Floyd in 1999 create massive flooding that isolated many towns in Eastern North Carolina. I do hope that my friends and all others impacted by her are safe and have not incurred too much damage.

After Florence passes we will see the extent of the damage and begin to count the cost in lives lost and disrupted. There will be chances for those of us who are not impacted to try to do something to help. Thoughts and prayers are fine but practical acts of assistance and mercy are much better at times like this.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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A Taste of Winter: Winter Storm Grayson Visits Hampton Roads

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

On December 23rd we went to see the Christmas light displays on the Virginia Beach boardwalk. The weather was so good that we decided to park the car and walk so we could take pictures and enjoy the experience rather than waiting in intolerable traffic. At eight in the evening it was 69 degrees. The next day the bottom fell out and for the past couple of weeks it has been unseasonably cold, and then came Grayson.

Grayson was one big assed nor’easter the wreaked havoc up the entire Atlantic Coast. Meteorologists called it a bomb cyclone because of how fast the barometric pressure dropped over a short period of time. Our area had anywhere between 8 to 12 inches of snow or more with winds between 20 and 50 miles and hour with gusts close to 60 miles an hour. When it was over temperatures fell into the 20s and teens. Needless to say this beach community was hit pretty hard, roads are treacherous with many crashes, military bases shut down, the major ports and airports closed, and central business and restaurant districts shut down. Power outages were numerous and emergency crews were working overtime. But we have made it. It will be a few days before the snow and ice melt away leaving a pile of mud in their wake but it could have been worse.

As for me I was here with two of our three Papillon dogs, Izzy and Pierre as Judy and Minnie took our friend Patty who had been visiting for the holidays back to her home in Huntington West Virginia. The snow started in earnest about 8:00 PM Wednesday and didn’t stop until about 2:00 PM Thursday. In the afternoon I cleared my driveway and front porch and decided to take an Uber to Virginia Beach Town Center, which was shut down. After I took a few pictures I walked about 2 miles home in the snow and ice. When I got back I did more work clearing the driveway while talking with neighbors doing the same thing. I quit when my next door neighbor asked to borrow my shovel so he could clear his driveway to go to work. Tomorrow after the sun comes out I’ll clear what else remains and clear the mounds of snow off of my car.

So until tomorrow I wish you a good day.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Irma Strikes

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

As I write this article before going to bed I am watching Hurricane Irma begin her journey of destruction through Florida after having traced a path of devastation across the Antilles and the Bahamas. Irma is massive and no-matter where she makes landfall the entire state of Florida will see some impact before she is done.

Irma has decreased a bit in strength having spent a little more time over Cuba than expected but will gain at least some of that strength back before she his the mainland. Winds in Key West were already gusting to hurricane force shortly after 11:00 last night. I have a friend who has remained in Key West to help those who cannot get out, even though he could have evacuated on Wednesday. He is now on some of the highest ground on the island in a cinder block house waiting for the storm to pass to begin his work. I have numerous other friends, mostly people who I have served with or taught who have evacuated to other locations from south and central Florida. I am quite anxious for them.

As I have watched Irma move across the Atlantic I have been mesmerized by her fearful symmetry, the large and well defined eye and the massive bands of rain. The radar and satellite images of Irma almost remind me of a beautiful yet deadly Great White Shark, beautiful to behold yet deadly.

My thoughts and prayers are with those in the path of Irma.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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God Help Texas, the United States, and the President before It’s Too Late


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am very concerned for all the people that I know who live along the Gulf Coast of Texas as category IV Hurricane Harvey makes landfall. That storm is likely going to be one of the most devastating to Texas and the United States in many years. I’ve lived through more hurricanes than I can count going back to Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 where I was the director of a Red Cross emergency shelter in San Antonio for refugees from the same region being crushed by Harvey. Unlike Harvey, Gilbert moved fast and wasn’t a huge rainmaker, but Harvey will be a killer, and all the President can do is pardon a man who violated the civil rights of thousands of people and who only has told the people of Texas “good luck.” Now he did sign a disaster declaration for the state but if he continues on with threatening a government shutdown and debt default if Congress doesn’t pay for the wall that he promised that Mexico would pay for, and his proposed cutbacks to every Federal agency that would normally be there to help citizens in such an emergency what will that matter? 

This is truly a frightening time. We have a President who shows no regard for the law or the Constitution and who cannot even mention the military personnel and police officers that died over the weekend during a campaign rally? I mean really. And now he goes to Camp David as Texas stands on the brink of disaster. Will he not at least do a flyover abroad Air Force One as former President Bush did during Katrina? Can he not interrupt his Twitter storm against people he believes are his opponents not to show a modicum of respect for dead military personnel and police officers? 

Actually he cannot because he has no moral center. The President has demonstrated time and time again that he is a narcissist and sociopath who cannot feel empathy for anyone, even his supporters, many of whom will die this weekend in Texas as Harvey parks himself over them. If you have been blessed not to have had to go through a major hurricane or lose property and money due to one you are fortunate. No hurricane, but especially category III and IV hurricanes are not to be trifled with. 

But then he does have the time to sign a ban against patriotic Transgender Americans who meet every physical and mental requirement to serve in the military from doing so. The fact that his order will be shown to violate the 14th Amendment and will be held up in the courts does not seem to bother him. The fact that he who enjoyed multiple draft deferments during the Vietnam War, including a medical waiver for having heal spurs even as he played college baseball and was being scouted by major league teams would forbid qualified Transgender Americans from serving when none of his service chiefs ask him to do so is dumbfounding. 

This week the President has called journalists the enemy, refused to honor the lives of 20 American servicemen and police officers who died in the line of duty, but whompardoned a man convicted of defying the courts in order to violate the civil rights of the prisoners in his charge in direct contravention of Justice Department guidelines on pardons. Yes, other Presidents have pardoned undeserving individuals, but this sends a message to Federal prosecutors, the Congress, and Special Prosecute Robert Mueller that if any of them dare to indict or convict individuals connected with the ongoing Russia investigation that he will pardon them in defiance of the law. It is setting up the very really possibility of a constitutional crisis. 

The utter contempt for the law, the Constitution, and the basic decorum of his office, coupled with his lack of compassion and empathy for anyone, including his supporters, and his lack of any strategic thinking in terms of foreign affairs is frightening. Only a despot would behave as the President does. 

My comments today are in no way disrespectful of the President, but are based on my respect for the office that he occupies and the Constitution of the United States. I do not know why the President is behaving in the manner that he is, but I have to at least consider that for all of the personal criticism leveled against him and his actions that the demands of the office are harming his mental and psychological capacity to function. He seems to be cycling down before our very eyes and truthfully I am as much concerned for him as I am the country. But it doesn’t seem that those closest to him have the moral courage to demand that he seek help before he destroys himself and possibly the country. I mean what supporter, especially Christian clergy, could not be concerned for the physical and mental health that the man that they elected President? But it doesn’t seem that they care, so long as he helps give them what they want. 

On the other hand any decent person can both oppose a President’s actions and policies while still caring about him as a person. Human decency requires that those serving in the administration, members of the President’s political party in Congress, and ordinary citizens have the moral courage to care enough about Donald Trump the man to start asking those hard questions. These are not normal times and no one in full possession of their faculties behaves in the manner the President is behaving. 

In the meantime I will be praying for all the people I know in Texas, those who have died in the line of duty, and yes, even the President. 

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Foul Weather, and Learning about War

Willoughby Run at Herbst Woods at Gettysburg

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Yesterday I was with my students conducting the Staff Ride at Gettysburg. About a week ago the mid-Atlantic region was experiencing record high temperatures and abnormally warm weather. In fact has the temperatures just been normal for this time of year we would have counted ourselves lucky to have such good weather, however, the trended changed and instead of warm weather we had temperatures in the low fifties, wind and rain. The weather was raw, but that is part of life, and if you want to really learn and experience military history you need to do more than sit back in a recliner sipping a nice beverage, and reading a book in comfort.

Guy Sager, who wrote the classic soldier’s account of the Second World War on the Easter front wrote in his book, The Forgotten Soldier: 

“Too many people learn about war with no inconvenience to themselves. They read about Verdun or Stalingrad without comprehension, sitting in a comfortable armchair, with their feet beside the fire, preparing to go about their business the next day, as usual…One should read about war standing up, late at night, when one is tired, as I am writing about it now, at dawn, while my asthma attack wears off. And even now, in my sleepless exhaustion, how gentle and easy peace seems!”

Our weather was by my standards not bad, but for some of my students, including veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan it was miserable. For me, adverse conditions that we cannot change are one of the best ways to learn about war. The fact is that war is inconvenient, it is uncomfortable, and it is more often than not quite inhuman.  War is nothing to celebrate, battles, even victories are to be commemorated not celebrated, and not celebrated as our President said this week this week in reference to the Battle of the Coral Sea. Sadly, the current American President is neither a historian, nor a soldier; he is a draft dodger who loves the instruments of military power without appreciating the sacrifice of those who serve in combat.

Yesterday was a relatively miserable day as far as weather goes, but we had it easy. We can ride around the battlefield in vans and cars, we take a long lunch break, there are restrooms, and we don’t have to lay our bodies down in the dirt, grass, or mud to sleep.

For me that is one of the most important lessons of going on a Staff Ride or visiting a battlefield. Those are lessons that our civilian leadership and those who are cheerleaders of war need to learn. Sadly, very few Americans understand this. Too few of us have been to war to understand this, and many who have gone to war have stayed on well protected bases with air conditioning, heat, plentiful food, and even internet and television access. That wasn’t my war i n Iraq out with our advisors in  Al Anbar Province, but I digress…

Today we will do the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. We will walk the path trod by Pickett’s Division during Pickett’s Charge, we will visit General Meade’s headquarters, and then go the the Soldier’s Cemetery where Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. The weather will be cool, but clear with no rain, although there will be quite a few places that we will have to walk through muddy ad very wet ground, but c’est le guerre.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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The Great Hampton Roads Blizzard of 2017

dairy-queen-restaurants-blizzard-deal-for-september

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I live in southeastern Virginia and beginning last night we have been under a Blizzard warning. Blizzards are not uncommon here, but normally when one wants a Blizzard here they go to Dairy Queen, but this time Mother Nature has given us a real blizzard.

It’s crazy enough here that the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore is in town. Parts of the area now have over 10 inches of snow although our neighborhood only has about 6 inches on the ground right now and I expect by the end of the storm our total will be between 6 and 8 inches of snow. The one thing that has kept our snow total down is the fact that we began the storm with sleet and freezing rain, which has also been interspersed with the heavy snow and high winds. The combination has left the roads very icy and dangerous.

We lost power for a couple of hours when according to the police some idiot crashed into a power line pole. When that happened we bundled up, defrosted the Escape and took a short drive over to Gordon Biersch until we knew that power had been restored. Since there were very few people there we had some wings and a couple of beers and Judy introduced me to a fascinating tile game called Quirkle.

The road conditions were bad. The snow was heavy and the roads icy and though few people were on the road, it was obvious that many had no idea what they were doing.

Now our Papillons love the snow, especially Izzy. It is so fun to see them play and get what Pappy owners call the “zoomies.”

So anyway, wherever you are I wish you a great day while I eat my special recipe chili and drink beer.

Peace

Padre Steve

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After the Storm: Hurricane Matthew and Hampton Roads

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Hurricane Matthew made his way past the Hampton Roads area last night and our neighborhood received over 15 inches of rain between about 3PM Saturday and this morning. Flooding has been severe throughout the area. We fought waters coming over the threshold of our back door and the sandbags we had put out for 10 hours. Thankfully we didn’t lose power or we would have lost our living room. I have to thank all that I learned from the Damage Control Technicians on the USS Hue City from whom I learned a lot about fighting water. We got through the storm with no damage, unlike the last storm where one of our cars was totaled and the other damages by the flooding. 

Our neighbors were not as fortunate, one neighbor had several inches of water in her home and one of her cars partially under water. I saw quite a few cars that were flooded in the neighborhood. A number of friends in other parts of the area are without power and will remain so.  Right now the water on the roads is too high to take a chance on driving and I expect they will remain that way through Monday. 

The intensity of the storm took people by surprise including most meteorologists as it took a more northern tack and didn’t head out to sea as was anticipated. Even so the eye of Matthew was over 75 miles from us at its closest. The storm rivaled Hurricane Isabel in the damage that it caused in the area. I am told that such occurrences are 50 to 100 hundred year events. But between Isabel, Matthew, and the remnants of Tropical Storm Julia which dumped 16 inches of rain here just over two weeks ago. 

The Navy is beginning a study to determine how climatic changes in the local communities are going to effect operations of the bases here. One thing noted in regard to this is that the area has experienced a sea rise of over 15 inches since the 1930s, the highest on the east coast and this trend is only going to get worse and the effect of these storms is only going to get worse. This is a matter of national security and denial will not make the problem go away. 

As for us we are looking for ways to mitigate the effects of future storms and already are working on ways to make that happen. But tonight I am going to watch the second Presidential debate. I am not going to talk about the latest remarks or actions of Donald Trump until I watch the debate. I have strong feelings about them and analysis of I what this portends for the race as well as the future of the GOP, but those will wait. 

So have a great night and if you are in the areas effected by Matthew please be safe, take care and you are in my thoughts and prayers. 

Peace

Padre Steve+

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