June 3, 2007

A challenge to Mr. Baker, who is a journalist.

The Code of Conduct has been suspended for this post.*
Stop the presses. I just found out that a major hurricane might hit the Outer Banks and if it did it might do a lot of damage. Mike Baker has penned the kind of piece that gives the press a bad name. If this is journalism, I'm glad that I'm a politician. It is inflammatory and it is inaccurate.
The basic premise seems to be that Prof. Stan Riggs thinks that a Katrina size and intensity storm striking the OBX at just the right angle would open up several new inlets and wipe out a all of the development that has occurred in the area over the last century. Riggs theory may be a geologic possibility but it seems far fetched to me. Yes, a major storm coming up the sound would push a lot of water north then back south and east as the storm passed. This is what opens up inlets (really outlets). At the point of landfall the storm surge would be devastating. If Katrina is a gauge this area could cover 20-30 miles of oceanfront and extend inland for many miles. Here we hit a small problem. A storm following that track doesn't push storm surge across the entire OBX and a storm coming in due east (rare but possible) would push up lots of surge but again how wide is the swath. Soundside flooding doesn't destroy building on a widespread basis. Somebody needs to show me the model of this storm that pushes up a 20+ foot storm surge across all of Hatteras Island, across Oregon Inlet and up to Corolla. This is what I get from terms like 75 percent of these islands could be gone,"It just isn't how storms happen. Come on Stan you can do better than this.
Mr. Baker says that "Dozens of hurricanes" have hit the OBX in the last 400 years. Really?? Dozens, how many dozens pray tell, maybe a gross or more. Yet the islands are still here? Yes, Isabel reopened an inlet and we are overdue for another one to open up due to conditions at Oregon Inlet but multiple inlets from Corolla to Portsmouth Island, is that really what Dr. Riggs is predicting? I sincerely doubt it.
Next quote:North Carolina's Division of Emergency Management estimates that, even if a Category 5 hurricane turns toward the Outer Banks, several hundred defiant homeowners will try to ride the storm
Yes, there are idiots who would stay behind, even in the face of a Katrina like storm approaching the coast. This number gets smaller every year and with a storm like the one Riggs needs to fulfill his geologic predictions the death and destruction is just as likely to take place inland as on the coast. Isabel did major damage across eastern NC. H. Floyd tore up southern and central NC. Its not just coastal residents that are at risk. I guarantee there wouldn't be many of the 300,000 people who are in the area on any given summer weekend around. They would have been sent home in an orderly manner a long time before the storm hit. Sorry, I guess this point doesn't seem to advance Mr. Baker's alarmist agenda. I'm not even sure you would find 100 people in Dare County in the face of a Katrina type Cat 5 storm. You wouldn't find many people from local governments. Most of them would have followed the tourists inland. Even the rescuers get out of the way of storms like that.
So what happens when this monster storm hits. and what does it destroy, what are its impacts? Who better to ask than Dr. Orin Pilkey? Almost anyone actually! Lets see what Brother Pilkey has to say from his perch in Durham and remember as one friend reminds me emeritus means he's unemployed.
And the islands won't simply disappear. While much of the Outer Banks are untouched by man, protected as part of two national seashores and a national wildlife refuge, there is rampant development elsewhere. A storm that wipes out the islands could dump an untold amount of gas, chemicals and remnants of destroyed homes and buildings into the ocean.

"The environment is the sort of the unnoticed victim that barrier islands face in hurricanes," Pilkey said.

OK, I admit that the term "rampant development" caught my eye. This coming from a TV station in Wake County where they build more houses in a week than we build in Dare County in a year. Where storms, hurricanes and winter storm have done more damage to more homes and dislocated more people in the last 20 years than has occurred in Dare in 40! Go look it up Mr. Baker. You want to slow storm damage stop building homes in Raleigh. Look at photos from the storms of the 90's. See damage in Dare NO! see damage in Durham Oh!! You are a lying sack of ... but I digress.
Ok so we have a lot of homes on the OBX that weren't here 40 years ago, Dr. Pilkey what happens when they get destroyed? They pollute the ocean! are you serious?. I will stipulate that there will be household cleaners and bleach released in damage of a major storm Some septic tanks will uncovered and their contents exposed, if you stipulate that a much larger (much is not the right order of magnitude make that a Super Enormous More) pollution problem is posed by inland flooding both the surge in storm water caused by the destruction of natural water sheds in Wake and Johnston Counties and pollution from the flooding of agriculture and industrial development that simply doesn't exist on our rampantly developed Outer Banks. Discharges from overloaded centralized sewer plants casuse more pollution in everyday operation than would be released in a storm on the OBX. Environmental damage from a hurricane OK maybe if I think New Orleans style flooding, flooding that wouldn't have occurred if the Federal government had done the job of flood damage prevention right in the first place. Just like the damage that would be prevented by a flood damage project in Dare County. Orin Pilkey is worried about some Clorox in the ocean? I don't think so. He is worried about his agenda to get publicity and promote his books. If he is so concerned about pollution then why doesn't he support flood damage prevention projects that would prevent the environmental damage? This stuff is laughable if it weren't so dangersous. Next quote:
"Riggs estimates that some 1,250 acres of shoreline and wetlands erodes into the ocean each year."
Wetlands erode into the ocean? Where? There are no wetlands that have eroded directly into the ocean. Maybe via the sound? OK but that number is really big. That represents an area the size of Nags Head Woods every year. What is the scope of Dr. Riggs projection? Is it the world or the OBX? I don't believe it is the OBX. You wouldn't need the megastorm, this rate of erosion would destroy the area inside of a century. Next quote:
Officials have spent millions trying to salvage homes with stilts and sandbags, and even by moving sand on their own. The costs can be staggering: a 50-year beach nourishment project to protect just 14 miles of beach in Nags Head and Kitty Hawk would cost $1.6 billion, according to an U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimate.

"These are just stopgap attempts," said Jan Deblieu, the Cape Hatteras Coastkeeper for the North Carolina Coastal Federation, a conservation group. "We won't ever get the equation exactly right."
What planet are you on? Officials haven't spent millions on stilts or sandbags. They have barely spent thousands and that was on sandbags to protect roads. Virtually all sandbags are paid for privately exactly because the Federal government won't honor its commitment to flood damage prevention. Stilts, did you say stilts. Mr. Baker you are either an idiot or intentionally misleading your readers. There is no other explanation. Homes on the coast are elevated to prevent flooding. I thought flooding was bad. I thought damage was bad where did I get that? The homes are elevated because local zoning rules require it. The local rules are required to keep the communities in the Federal Flood Insurance program. A program that limits the amount of public money needed to clean up after a storm. A storm that hit an unprotected coast because officials didn't spend millions to protect it. You disingenuous bastard. Make up your mind. Do you want destruction or prevention. Do you want the government to pay or private property owners. Stilts.... yeah now there's a really bad thing.
OK, its time we meet the third member of the holy trinity of the High Church of the Anti-Coast, Jan Deblieu. Riggs, Pilkey and Deblieu, now there is balanced set of views for you. Read OBR on the coastal federation. (I had planned some additional comments on his topic but there is not time.) 1.5 billion over 50 years is a stop gap plan? Try again. Try calling Spencer Rogers of NC Sea Grant and talking about coastal development and building standards, hell just ask Dr. Riggs his views on beach nourishment (he understands its costs and benefits, just Google it you'll see). Jan, if you have your way we won't ever get to try to get it right, whatever it is. If it is preventing the kind of devastation the article leads off with or more realistically limiting damage from the more probable smaller storms that will hit the OBX, then Jan Deblieu and the CF would rather have damage than protection. We won't get it right because they don't think we should even live here.
Next quote:
Even a minor hurricane would be devastating to some parts of the Outer Banks. In Nags Head, for example, the homes that once sat comfortably on the beach now sit in the foaming seas several times each year.

Neil Carignan, an independent contractor, said a Thanksgiving nor'easter destroyed the septic drain field, water line, electricity and driveway of a client whose property is now condemned. Though the home has sandbags piled underneath its stilts, Carnigan pointed 100 feet behind the home to a plowed mound of sand.

"The waves were coming all the way up here across the street," Carnigan said. "The people across the street are about to have beachfront property because this home will probably fall in the ocean in the next Category 3 hurricane."

Damn, a storm caused damage in south Nags Head, now that is news. The ocean was up around the house, really? Wow impressive. Mr. Carigan is a builder and developer i assume. I guess Mr. Baker wants us to think that most builders abhor ocean front development or that some how coastal building isn't the most heavily regulated type of residential construction in the state or that somehow one house, probably built over 30 years ago, that has now been impacted by erosion is a unique or symbolic icon. It ain't. Erosion happens, and long term, slow erosion, often driven by nor'easters, is a much larger cause for concern than your projected monster storm. It is also addressed by lots of state and local rules. It doesn't represent the impact of "rampant development" but the visible sign of the lessons we are learning about living on the OBX.
OK I'm getting tired of this and you are too, so lets end it here. Simple challenge, Mr. Baker if you want to write a piece about the impact of storms on the OBX email me. I will be happy to help you learn about the issue and present both the very real threat and the very real responses that responsible people are taking everyday here on the coast. Then we can go work on your piece about the threats that storms pose to the rest of the state and what they are doing to prevent environmental and property damage, except that article will be much shorter because that's where people don't see the risks and aren't acting responsibly to protect against high probability events like a H. Floyd or Fran or Bertha or Isabel. That's were the our state's real storm scandal is about to occur. But what do I know. I'm not a journalist. Thank Heavens for small favors.

*Mr. Mayor
Yes, Mr. Muller
I move to suspend the rules for the duration of this post
Is there a second.
Moved and seconded by Mr. Muller to suspend the Code of Conduct for the duration of this post all in favor indicate by saying Aye.
Motion carries 1-0

A motion to suspend the rules is a procedural motion used set aside the agreed upon rules of procedure for legislative bodies. This is what Senate Republicans threatened to do to get Bush's conservative judges rammed through, but that is a different post.
In this case I am using it to set aside the Code of Conduct I have adopted for this blog because I need to be free to tell Mr. Baker what an idiot he is in plain language.

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At 11:26 AM, Blogger Ronnie said...

Watch out - Bob is on fire.

Looks like he also owns a copy of The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure.

At 2:34 PM, Blogger Monticello said...

Wow. I mean, "wow". That's all I can say. Except--I DO want to know the brand of coffee you drink that sustains these posts. I want some of that stuff!

Again, "wow".

PS: Wow!

At 6:03 PM, Blogger Overwash said...

Thanks for steering us to the WRAL website, to read the Mike Baker story. It was "right-on spot".
But, more importantly, it led us to the two video documentaries on the moving of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. They were great

mr./ms. Brian U.

At 11:20 PM, Blogger Ronnie said...

Who the heck is Brian U? They must not live here if they think the story is "right on spot".

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Overwash said...


65-70% of your locals don't want to pay for beach nourishment (wit: 2 elections)......only 52% of nags head oceanfront owners said yes...that puts the rest of obx cottage owners somewhere in the middle. It's over, bob. Chill.
Or, is your last name Bush?

At 2:46 PM, Blogger BOBXNC said...

I don't disagree about local sentinment, your % may be a little low. That said, it does not give Mr. Baker license to write fiction in the name of journalism. You can't just make stuff up. All I am trying to do is kept stuff like this from going unchallenged. Keeping it honest if you will. Much as you do for me OW, (grin)

At 3:35 PM, Blogger Overwash said...

We had four staffers read your blog and Mr. Baker's article; and, all are somewhat confused by your ranting. They suggest and I agreed to ask you if you would mind listing (as #1,#2,#3) the exact statement(s) by Baker that you consider untrue.
Then, list under each one why you consider it to be untrue.
We work for a U.S. Senator and are not the smartest people in the world. :)
Brian U.

At 4:55 PM, Blogger BOBXNC said...

BU said:We work for a U.S. Senator and are not the smartest people in the world. :)
I believe that one of those statements is true.

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Ronnie said...

We work for a U.S. Senator and are not the smartest people in the world. :)

At least OW has a sense of humor.

At 5:04 PM, Blogger Ronnie said...


You beat me to the punch.

At 6:48 PM, Blogger Overwash said...

Trust us, we DO WORK in a field office for the Senator.
He has property interests on the Outer Banks, as well as family ties. The Overwash account is available to no less than 6 people.
You will figure it out one of these days, we guess. Meanwhile, humor us and tell us where Baker lied.

At 8:01 PM, Blogger Overwash said...

In calling Baker an "disingenuous bastard" you implied that the gov't had not spent $$ on "stilts" to protect homes. Do you have a figure of how much the gov't has spent on elevating homes around the country, etc. that have been flooded from storms multiple times?
Was Baker really wrong here, or did you over-react?
Sorry, but we just couldn't wait for your reply on Brian's post.
Kelly in Missouri

At 8:53 AM, Blogger BOBXNC said...

First I said one of the statements true, I just didn't say which one. It is very possible you work in a Senator's office in which case the "stupid" statement was false. I can live with that.
You make an excellent point, except that to the best of my knowledge NO FEMA Mitigation funds, the "government fund" most commonly used to flood proof structures, has been spent on the OBX. You may argue that flood insurance funds have been used but that's not government money it is policy holder money. I don't think Mr. Baker can point to a house on government stilts in South Nags Head.
As far as an over reaction, I couldn't agree more. I said as much, the piece pissed me off. I still be believe it to be both inaccurate and inflammatory. It was inflammatory and I got inflamed.
Bring you Sen. down and we'll talk. I would love to meet him/her and hear their views on Mr. Baker's trash.

I doubt that I am every going to figure out the intricacies of the Overwash account, but then that's not my job, besides I'm just an old washed up politician. Maybe an investigative journalist like Mr. Baker could unravel the mystery. I'll ask him when he calls.

At 9:17 AM, Blogger Ronnie said...

It seems OW has multiple personalities. It will be difficult to get all six (or more) of them to agree on anything other than "No Beach Nourishment".


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