View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Tuesday 1 February

A bright day with good sunshine - and equally good, heavy, showers. The wind turns squally in the showers, but otherwise it's not too bad. We are on warning for severe gales on Thursday and Friday.

Queensland is on warning for tropical cyclone Yasi, which will strike near the northern city of Cairns during Wednesday local time. At present, maximum sustained winds near the centre are at 135 mph, gusting to a puny 160 mph. This is likely to increase further, and the cyclone could carry winds of 150 mph at landfall, gusting to 180 mph. For the hurricane savvy among you, this is equivalent to a top-end category IV system. I don't think I'd like to be in Queensland just now. Because a category IV hurricane does this:

There is a very high risk of injury or death to people, livestock, and pets due to flying and falling debris. Poorly constructed homes can sustain complete collapse of all walls as well as the loss of the roof structure. Well-built homes also can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Extensive damage to roof coverings, windows, and doors will occur. Large amounts of windborne debris will be lofted into the air. Windborne debris damage will break most unprotected windows and penetrate some protected windows. There will be a high percentage of structural damage to the top floors of apartment buildings. Steel frames in older industrial buildings can collapse. There will be a high percentage of collapse to older unreinforced masonry buildings. Most windows will be blown out of high-rise buildings resulting in falling glass, which will pose a threat for days to weeks after the storm. Nearly all commercial signage, fences, and canopies will be destroyed. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Long-term water shortages will increase human suffering. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

Still on weather-related topics, the Chief Coastguard, Sir Alan Massey, made some breathtaking remarks on Scottish TV last night. He said that local knowledge should be pooled onto Google Earth. Well, that's bonny. There is such a thing as the Gaelic language in these parts; and anyone who has ever done a search on Google generally knows what a pile of results can crop up. Secondly, he said that coastguard stations are often overmanned in relation to the amount of work. Accidents and emergencies do not occur on schedule, and do not wait for daylight, when the proposed satellite Coastguard Stations may be manned. Sir Alan also admitted that the cutbacks in service were purely money-related, and if the demand for savings had not come down from upon high, nothing would have changed.