Making progress after Sandy

A common sight now in gift shops along the Jersey Shore is this tee-shirt, "Restore the Shore"

A common sight now in gift shops along the Jersey Shore is this tee-shirt, “Restore the Shore”

I spent the day last Friday re-tracing my steps in New Jersey where I was during Sandy last October. It is always an odd feeling to come back to an area that I feel like I have so much invested in emotionally. I knew no one when I arrived early in the morning of October 29, 2012. Now, I have new friends; connections made because of Sandy.

I re-visited the Long Branch and Belmar areas first since it was these two areas that I spent the most time in as Sandy’s effects turned the region in to a disaster area in less than a day. Then, I ventured south to Seaside Heights where it looks as if time has been put in to slow-motion mode. I’ll elaborate on that more later.

My day actually began in New Brunswick where I ended up the night of October 29 after Sandy finally came ashore in southern New Jersey. I was amazed at the amount of tree damage still evident though most of the obvious scars have been removed for the most part. It’s easy to see where there were power failures as brand new power poles, complete with shiny new transformers, pepper the landscape. Ah how I remember watching the grid go down as each brilliant flash of light set the sky ablaze with an eerie blue-white-green hue; a sure sign that more people were just plunged in to darkness.

I traveled along the Raritan River which surged out of its banks, flooding homes and leaving roadways impassable that night. I should know, I had to deal with that in trying to get to my hotel. Had I not been there to see it in person, I may not have believed that storm surge from Sandy had penetrated that far inland – but I was and it did. To me, it still seemed like a wild, fever-induced dream. Being back on this incredible spring day with so much growth and green foliage around me was surreal. It’s like Sandy was already a long lost memory on the landscape.

My next destination was Long Branch. It was here that I set up a remote cam unit- now we call them “Surge Cams”. The boardwalk was intact again though sand and debris was still easy to spot; a telltale calling card of a significant surge event. All around me was the sound of construction. Whether it was bulldozers on the beach or renovation crews trying to bring homes and businesses back to as close as they could to pre-Sandy conditions, the area was alive with rebuilding and moving on.

Not far north of the cam unit location lies the Monmouth Beach Club. This is where I set up the weather station (see the screen shot from our app which captured the last image from the web cam attached to the weather station). Here too was a flurry of activity as construction crews worked like bees in a hive to get things ready for the summer season which was quickly approaching.

It’s the tourist dollars of the summer months that really drives the economic engine down along the coast. It’s no different than say, Orange Beach, AL or Pensacola Beach, FL or Wrightsville Beach, NC. The beach brings the people and with them comes the dollars. There was a sense of urgency in the air as the sand was slipping through the hour glass, about to usher in a new season along the Jersey Shore.

Next up was Belmar. This is where I had one of the most profound experiences I’ve ever had in a hurricane event. I met several people here who relied on me for up to the minute information during the height of Sandy’s onslaught that night. It was by total coincidence that this happened. I was in the right place at the right time and it really helped them to understand what was about to happen, especially with the incoming surge. For my part, the boro saw to it that I met New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie the day after. It was an incredible honor and one that I will not soon forget.

So here I was a little more than six months later. I met up with Belmar police captain Drew Huisman who gave me a tour of the small but diverse city. The recovery efforts are nothing short of remarkable. He told me back in December that they wanted the boardwalk open by Memorial Day. It will open this Wednesday and is a marvel to see in person. Belmar did not wait for aid to come to them. Instead, the leadership stepped up, the people worked together and made it happen. The results are stunning. The city is alive and bustling with so much activity as people come back to the coast that Capt Huisman will need more than two dozen new recruits soon to keep up. Sure there is a long way to go but from the marina along the Shark River to the waterfront bordering the Atlantic, Belmar is back on its feet with an awesome new boardwalk and businesses ready for the summer crowds. It is my opinion that Belmar serves as an example of working together as quickly as possible to make positive things happen. It is a monumental task to come back from an event like Sandy. Ask anyone in Waveland or Bay St. Louis or New Orleans about that. The more people can come together and work together, the less painful the recovery process can be. Want proof? Visit Belmar this year…you’ll see first hand.

Sadly, the trip south was somewhat depressing. It’s like time had stopped in the days after October 29th, 2012. In areas such as Mantoloking, Bay Head and Seaside Heights, the toll of Sandy’s relentless storm surge and pounding waves was still evident more often than not. The washed out shells of homes still lay pretty much where they settled after Sandy slammed ashore last October. It’s not that people aren’t trying, this as an overwhelming disaster that people simply could not prepare for- not on this scale. Each municipality is different with each having their own set of challenges that have been waiting ever since that fateful day.

I was also pleased to see my friend Kathleen Koch, former CNN correspondent and author of Rising from Katrina, was working with mayors and other political figures from Mississippi in conjunction with mayors from various New Jersey towns who are all going through similar situations – just eight years apart. Her idea is to get people together who have been through disasters such as Katrina and Sandy to allow them to help one another avoid pitfalls and endure the relentless stress that the aftermath leaves. This is a great idea and I can only hope it takes off and spreads beyond the hurricane zones as there is much potential from learning from others.

Everyone I have met had a positive, can-do work ethic; knowing that the only way to full recovery is to focus on the future and not dwell on the misery that Sandy left behind. In that regard, the coast will be re-built stronger and thus a new and improved Jersey Shore will rise from the sucker punch that Sandy delivered to the region.

I am proud of what I saw, I really am. People have come together and have done what needs to be done.

Here is a video clip that I shot last Friday from Belmar, NJ:

Next up: NOAA’s Hurricane Season Outlook later this week.

M. Sudduth

 

East Pacific hurricane season begins today as does my trip to New York and New Jersey

East Pacific invest 90-E

East Pacific invest 90-E

It’s May 15 and that means the east Pacific hurricane season is now underway. Right on cue, a tropical depression appears to be forming well off the coast of Mexico where waters are warm enough to support the deep convection noted in satellite imagery.

All of the forecast models indicate that the developing low pressure area will move westward and away from the Mexican coastline over the next several days.

The east Pacific season begins two weeks ahead of the Atlantic season though both basins see about the same amount of activity per 100 years during this time of the year – so I am not certain as to why the Atlantic season does not officially begin until June 1. In any case, we do have something to monitor on this opening day of the east Pacific season though it poses no threat to land areas at this time.

In other news – I am heading up to New York and New Jersey beginning later this morning. I have a couple of projects to follow up on in New York City tomorrow and then I am going to travel back to coastal New Jersey where I was when Sandy made landfall. I’ll re-trace my steps in Long Branch and Belmar and might get to travel to other places farther south if time permits.

The unique thing about this trip is that I am going to stream the entire journey live on our public Ustream channel. I want to demonstrate our new “everywhere cam” that we’ll be using for our subscriber site this season. We’ll still have a free live camera streaming but it will be a traditional dash-mounted video camera. This new technology is amazing. There’s no laptop needed and the cam is so small and versatile that I can take it anywhere. The audio is incredible as well. I thought it would be great to test it out while showing anyone viewing a little of the East Coast countryside.

Once I get to the Jersey coast on Friday, you’ll want to tune in and see how things have progressed since Sandy. I’ll provide narration and insight as to what the impacts were and where I was and what I was doing back on October 29 of last year. Watch our Twitter feed for updates as to when something really worthwhile is streaming and then tune in by clicking the link below or simply bookmarking our Ustream channel page: Ustream.tv/hurricanetrack

Click here to watch our live Ustream feed

 

My next post will cover some exciting news about our app which is about to have a major update completed. Plus – is an Android version in the works? Check out the blog on Monday to find out.

M. Sudduth

One month to go until hurricane season and we are getting ready

Welcome to May! Hard to believe we are just a month away from the start of the Atlantic hurricane season. Before then, the east Pacific season begins on May 15, so we will be ramping up our blog posts, etc in the coming weeks.

So what’s new for us in 2013? A lot. Too much to cover in one blog post, so I’ll spread it out over the next couple of weeks.

First, you’ll be hearing a lot more from and about colleague Mike Watkins. He has been working with us since late 2004 and has been with me personally on some of the biggest field missions of my career.

Mike started a new company last year called Hurricane Analytics. It is more than just about hurricanes as Mike is very good at deciphering data, all kinds of data, and making sense of it. However, his tropical weather expertise will allow him to utilize his site for some excellent analysis projects. You may follow Mike and his site on Twitter: @hurricaneanalytics or @watkinstrack

Mike has a new Podcast series called The HurriCast which will provide listeners with a different perspective on tropical weather news and data info. You may find his Podcast linked from the HurricaneAnalytics homepage.

Look for blog posts here from time to time from Mike as well and I too will be guest-blogging for his site. This cross-collaboration will be a nice new touch for our partnership as we go forward in to our ninth year working together.

Today begins our season pass sales for our subscription service

We have had a private subscription service since 2005 and it has grown to include nearly 500 members from around the world. Our annual plan is the most popular, and costs $99.95 per year for unlimited access to all we offer on our Client Services site. However, some folks find that the use the subscription site only during hurricane season. So, since 2011, we have offered a “season pass” for $59.95 and that too has become a successful part of our funding projects each season.

Well, today marks the first day that the pass for 2013 is available for purchase.

This year we are bringing a whole new experience to our members with a brand new live streaming camera system for our field missions. We call it the “everywhere cam” and it will be just that. Using new technology, we will be able to take our members anywhere we go during our field missions. No longer will you have to “wait” in the Tahoe, watching the Tahoe dash cam while we go do something outside of the Tahoe. Whether it be that we are scoping out a place to deploy one of our remote cams or actually setting up a weather station or remote cam, you will be there with us, complete with audio! In the past, we’ve only had our dash-mounted video camera for streaming from the Tahoe. This year, we’ll utilize cutting edge technology to give you a completely immersive experience in to our field work. When we go eat and discuss what’s going on with the hurricane that we are intercepting, you’ll come with us. When we head in to a police department or emergency management office to work with the local officials, you’ll go with us. It will be as if you are truly a part of what we are doing – no longer wondering what we’re up to as you sit and watch the dash cam. This is exclusive to our members and is 100% ad free. The general public will have access to our dash cam that will have commercials playing via Ustream every 12 minutes or so. This is an exciting new feature and we are looking forward to giving you a brand new look at how we do our field missions.
For a sample of how well this cam works, check out this actual recorded stream event from Louisiana back in March just after the National Hurricane Conference which was held in New Orleans:
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/30534667 (note this has commercials since it was recorded using our public Ustream channel)
In addition to our successful live video streaming capabilities, Client Services members will also enjoy:
  • Stormpulse maps
  • Live chat with other members and us
  • Daily LIVE hurricane outlook videos during the hurricane season (ad free)
  • 30 frame satellite and radar animations
  • Access to mobile device formatted pages, including pages that contain some of our live streaming feeds
  • Access to our three mobile weather stations that we deploy to capture live wind and pressure data
  • Access to our three private Surge Cams – 100% ad free
  • Expert analysis from Mark Sudduth and Mike Watkins throughout the season
  • Complete mission coverage from start to finish of each tropical storm and hurricane we intercept this season
All of this for just $59.95 for the season. To sign up today, use this link: Client Services Season Pass for 2013 Season
On Monday I will talk about our app. I have some much-anticipated news to share and look forward to that post. I think a lot of people will be VERY excited to hear what’s coming….
M. Sudduth

National Hurricane Conference next week in New Orleans

Next week, experts in all aspects of hurricane planning, forecasting and emergency response will gather in New Orleans for the National Hurricane Conference. I too will be there and look forward to learning from the very best in the industry.

I have been attending this conference since 1999 and enjoy the chance to broaden my scope of knowledge by interacting with people who themselves have dedicated their careers to studying various components of hurricanes and how they impact our society.

I am very interested in learning more about Sandy and what affect its legacy will have on future events that may be similar. Sandy was a lesson for the ages for a lot of reasons and I am sure it will be discussed at great length throughout next week.

In addition, I will be curious to see how the new storm surge warning process will take shape. I believe that we are most vulnerable to storm surge in this country and can point to Katrina, Ike and Sandy, at the very least, to prove it. This topic is especially interesting to me as well because of the new Surge Cam we are putting in to operation for the public this season. It is my hope that seeing what the surge is doing in real time will help to convince people that they made the right choice in evacuating while giving the public and the media that “point of view” shot without putting lives at risk.

There will also be other topics of interest such as conveying hazards information better to the public and how local governments can work to better communicate what their response is going to be to the hurricane impacts that are coming.

I’ll post blog updates here each evening so that they are online by the next morning while I am in New Orleans. I will also post video blogs to our iPhone app (don’t have it yet? Get it now and be ready for the hurricane season) with a few posted here as well. Who knows? I may get to interview some big names in the business but I will also seek out other people who are less known but whom I think bring a lot to the table with their research and accomplishments. I’ll also talk to some of the vendors at the expo to give them some exposure.

The conference is unique and really serves to get people together to better understand and then plan for the next hurricane disaster. We know the hurricanes are not going to quit coming, being ready ahead of time to the best of our collective abilities is important to minimizing the impact. The National Hurricane Conference is a great forum to help make that happen.

I’ll have more from New Orleans next week.

Two live video feeds will be made available during our field missions in 2013

I am pleased to announce that during the 2013 hurricane season we will provide a 100% free live video feed from the HurricaneTrack.com Chevy Tahoe during our field missions to cover hurricanes and tropical storms.

Thanks to improvements in technology we will be able to stream one feed from our dash mounted camera to the public via our Ustream channel while continuing to offer our Client Services members with 100% ad-free streaming through a completely separate set of technology.

HurricaneTrack.com Tahoe cam on CNN during Sandy

HurricaneTrack.com Tahoe cam on CNN during Sandy

Our Ustream feed is often utilized on CNN as has been the case since 2005 when we first began live streaming events during hurricanes.

For funding purposes, we have had to limit the amount of time that we can provide the stream to the public at no cost, instead making it available to our subscribers. Now, thanks in large part to the number of subscribers that we have and the funding that their support brings in, we can offer the best of both worlds: a free cam and a cam solely for our members.

I feel that providing the general public with access is important for many reasons. One of those is the fact that we can instantly relay information about the hurricane to our audience the moment we get it. There is nothing better than live video and having a captive audience made up of people who are, for the most part, heavily engaged to the event itself, we have a chance to pass along critical updates.

In addition, the live feed gives our audience a chance to see not only what conditions are like where we are, but also a chance to see how we do what we do. It’s more about the science and education than the thrill and excitement and having a live audience of thousands of people at once is a great motivator to get the job done and done right.

The live dash-cam feed will be turned on the moment the Tahoe leaves the driveway in Wilmington, North Carolina and will stay on for as long as humanly (and technologically) possible throughout the entire hurricane landfall event.

For our Client Services members, their live camera experience will be a little different. Both cams will have audio, but the member-only cam will be quite special. No longer will it be tethered to the Tahoe. This season, our subscribers will be treated to a totally new experience, immersing the viewer deep within our every move. We are putting in to operation a brand new camera system that can go anywhere we go: inside the Tahoe, outside the Tahoe, anywhere. While we set up equipment or place an unmanned cam, our members will be right there with us via the new system we are implementing. It is their dedication to our mission that has helped to fund most of our operations over the last several years and for that, we are rewarding them with an all new, incredible experience during our field missions. At the same time, we will do the right thing and that is provide the general public with a live feed, complete with audio, at no cost what so ever. I am excited about this and look forward to putting this new technology to very good use this season.

But wait, there’s more!

In addition to the live dash-cam for the public, we will also make available a brand new version of our unmanned camera system that will be put in to operation this season. That’s right! We will have two live feeds now for the public’s use during 2013. Once again, a leap ahead in technology has allowed us to develop a new generation of our remotely operated camera systems. We call it the “Surge Cam” since it will be mostly used in surge prone areas that are far too dangerous for us, or anyone else for that matter, to be in. We’ll have four Surge Cams in operation this season and dedicate one of them to the public at no cost through our Ustream channel.

Click here for example of Surge Cam from hurricane Isaac last August

This is more important, to me anyway, than the dash-cam feed. The vulnerability of some locations to storm surge cannot be over-stated. I believe that showing the public, through the use of unmanned, remote video, is a win-win way to convey the real effects of a hurricane while providing the public with a live view. Humans are naturally curious yet we all know how dangerous a hurricane can be. We have responsibly set out these cameras since Katrina in 2005 with incredible results (see our YouTube channel for clips)

Our collaboration with NOAA’s COOPS program will also allow us to place the cam in a location that will offer an incredible point-of-view live feed of potentially dangerous and deadly storm surge flooding; all without any risk to life and limb.

I am extremely grateful for the support we have from our paying members and from our sponsors over the years. Their collective efforts and financial support have helped to make this happen. We have steadily grown our Client Services site to almost 500 members from all over the world. Sales of our app have also helped to keep the wheels turning and projects moving forward.

While this announcement is great news for the public as a whole, I would not be doing my job if I did not mention that yes, we do have a great subscriber service that offers many features not found anywhere else. The wonderful Stormpulse maps that we are privileged to offer, to our daily live video updates, to the live chat just for members and of course our multiple live video feeds, all 100% ad-free, are part of what makes our subscriber service as successful as it is. We offer annual memberships for just $99.95 and season passes (May – November) for $59.95 which will be available on May 1.

Hurricane season is approaching and we’re getting ready. Make sure you are too even if it’s just thinking about what you and your family or business will do if a hurricane comes your way. It’s been a busy couple of years for U.S. landfalls and while no one knows precisely what will happen this season, I can assure you that you’ll have access to some amazing live video from our vehicle and our Surge Cam this season- assuming, of course, that we have to actually put it all to use. You never know….maybe we stay “in port” all season. Wouldn’t that be nice? In case that’s not how things turn out, tune in during our live coverage, you won’t be disappointed.

Next week: getting ready for the National Hurricane Conference in New Orleans.