The Fish Story

A Round of Applause for Florida Evacuees; Should a Tsunami Approach, Count in Curly

By JAY MANN | Sep 13, 2017

I was among the cheering throngs watching H. Irma bearing down on Florida. When I say “cheering,” I’m referring to how many of us were duly impressed with the exceptional evacuation obedience of Floridians. Now, that’s how a massive number of folks move out of harm’s way in a calm and orderly coastal manner. Nicely done.

As I noted in my ongoing fishlbi.com blogs about Irma, we can now use the Sunshine State’s stately storm response as a high-water mark in sidestepping a closing-in-fast catastrophe.

Admittedly, I’m already hearing grumbles from evacuees saying the storm wasn’t nearly as bad as predicted. While that is prematurely understating Irma’s impact – much of the damage is still untabulated – the need to get out of town and even state was absolutely warranted.

For those now questioning fleeing from future storms, I find it effective to humanize catastrophes. Picture them as disastrously devious, all too willing to throw in some near-misses and not-so-bads, just to lull folks into complacency … for a killer knock-out punch.

As ugly proof, amateur and professional hurricane watchers compulsively point to The Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900. A Cat 4 storm, with winds of up to 145 mph, it made landfall on Sept. 8, on Galveston Island, Texas. Incomprehensibly, that hurricane killed upwards of 12,000 people. The exact number was uncertain due to the failure to ever find thousands of known-missing bodies.

That “Great Storm of 1900,” as it became known, perfectly exemplifies being lulled in complacency by clever catastrophes. There are well-documented accounts of why folks didn’t flee the storm, dominated by “We’ve survived storms like this in the past.” And they had, thus the islanders threw caution to the wind – and also threw heavily attended “hurricane parties.” Those ended with virtually everyone drowning or being killed by crushing pieces of wave-driven debris. I, somewhat morbidly, try to imagine when the raucous partying turned to rampant panic.

Back to Irma, I’m obviously relating the Floridian hurricane evacuation effort to we-here folks. It’s surely one of those “There but for the grace of God,” etc.

By the by, September is National Preparedness Month, with ready.gov in the lead. It hosts the slogan “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.”

NPM’s website reads, “We should all take action to prepare! We are all able to help first responders in our community by training how to respond during an emergency and what to do when disaster strikes – where we live, work, and visit. The goal of NPM is to increase the overall number of individuals, families, and communities that engage in preparedness actions at home, work, business, school, and place of worship.”

I’ll ditto that … and also begin adjusting NPM for LBI.

YOU SURE ABOUT THIS?: We currently have a unique evac situation here. While some other barrier islands have a similar one-way-off set-up like ours, the ongoing work on the Causeway throws a wrinkle – hopefully not a wrench – into getting out of Dodge, if need be. In a big-ass emergency, it’s now spookier de-Islandizing, especially if something blocks the progress of our egress.

I’ll now get dutifully cynical about an LBI evacuation, playing devil’s advocate in hopes to possibly avoid a hellish situation in the future.

Firstly, a portentous little news alert: There will be future LBI evacuations, hopefully far into the future. Therefore …

When the new Causeway is completed, 2020-ish, we’ll all be obligated to memorize newly developed evacuation routes and procedures. Looming lifesavingly large will be an NJDOT ability to convert Island-bound (eastbound) Causeway lanes into an outgoing (westbound) flow. The DOT is banking on the effectiveness of this traffic turnabout, come dire emergencies.

My cynicism – though far from mine alone – arises when wondering out loud what happens when up to six lanes of westbound evac traffic runs, firstly, into a reduced number of lanes on mainland Route 72, and, secondly, single-lane traffic near the hospital.

Rerouting to a less cynical train of thought, I see an obvious out, pun intended. It centers fully on our future willingness to leave LBI … way early, if not sooner. Thus, we cycle back to Florida’s newly established standard of brisk exiting.

My just-devised motto: Wait too long and an evacuation route all too quickly becomes an escape route. I think you sense the difference.

Now, if I’ll only listen to my own stellar advice.

OFTEN BEEN ASKED: “Jay, what about a tsunami hitting us?” Let’s see, we’ll have maybe a couple hours, tops, if a tsunami is coming at 500 mph from a landslide in the Canary Islands. Here’s hoping you’re on someone’s speed dial. “Hey, Jay, you hear about that tsunami about to hit ya? Just sayin’ ...”

As to a tsunami from a midocean earthquake – or a meteorite/asteroid strike? It’s everyone for themselves. I prefer first doing one of those Curly floor spins.

Should a tsunami warning arise, I urge mariners, PWC-riders, stand-up paddlers and surfers to head straight out to sea, speedily. During recent tsunamis in the Pacific, snorklers not that far from shore had 20-foot, once-called “tidal waves” pass harmlessly past them. A tsunami is more of the sea rising than a traditional surface swell. Major tsunamis can pass unnoticed beneath boats in the open ocean – again, where you want to be. The other option is bolting to the forest fire tower on Route 539, Lacey. “Make room!”

There is currently no tsunami siren warning system hereabouts. Even if there were, Islanders would be inclined to take a solid half-hour or more idly wondering if we should start giving a rat’s ass about those blasted sirens going off. I relate that prolonged pause to the regular testing of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant sirens. Their effect on Island folks: Zero. Hell, we’ll need a mushroom cloud arising above the plant before we commerce to scurrying – or doing Curly spins on the floor.

In case of a little old nuclear meltdown across the bay, there is an impressive, well-thought-out evacuation game plan in place. You’ve surely seen those little blue and white signs pointing out the route meant to side-step a wave of radiation. Those who have this vital nuclear plant evacuation plan memorized, please raise your hand.

Just as I thought: one gal in Beach Haven – who just happens to hoard old phone books, wherein lies the published exit strategy.

Thusly, I parlay a tsunami question into repeating the need for all Islanders to memorize current and, more so, upcoming evacuation procedures related to storms to be.

EUROPE MODEL IS HUMAN: Irma has proven the thought-invincible “European model” forecasting is just as vulnerable and fallible as the next guy’s.

Yes, the Euro-model was a hair more accurate in its final, last-minute guess that Irma would go west coast, not east coast. However, that big-bucks, high-sponsorship computerized forecasting system initially had a young and formative Irma taking an abrupt jog northward, almost 90 degrees, out of the Caribbean – and annihilating New Jersey. Maybe those European forecasters were still clinging to the glory days of perfectly predicting Sandy.

For you Euro-model lovers, there’s no need to get all panty-bunched. That system has been a gamechanger when it comes to more-accurate year-round weather forecasting. It has greatly enhanced the abilities of our downhome forecasters. In fact, it has forced other weather prognosticating systems to up their game.

The Euro model’s early misses in forecasting Irma further prove something dating back forever: Hurricanes have minds of their own. In fact, it seems the bigger the hurricane, the greater its liberation from predictability. However, any hurricane of any size can turn on you faster than a rattlesnake in a mailbox.

MANN OVERBOARD: (I’ve written this based on a didactic tale I heard at church years ago, so it’s Pope approved. Only recently did it strike me how it reflects on the sanctity of first responders.)

During the worst flooding in history, an old man living in a large house on an open plain saw the flood waters slowly moving in. When the flooding reached his front stoop, he fell to his knees and began praying. But the muddy water just kept rising.

Before long, a firetruck splashed up and rescuers came to the door – but the man defiantly turned them away, saying, “God will save me.” They left.

Soon, the water snaked into the man’s living room, forcing him to the second floor, where he knelt and resumed praying.

As water continued to rise, a rescue boat came to the window. The old-timer was implored to leave. This time he refused even more vigorously, swearing that God would save him. The rescuers reluctantly left.

Before long, the man retreated into the attic, where still-rising water eventually forced him to break a hole onto the roof, where he knelt and continued praying.

In a matter of minutes, a helicopter was hovering overhead, readying to hoist him up … but he defiantly stayed on his knees, more confidently than ever saying, “God will save me.”

Within an hour, the house went under … and the man was lost.

Upon arriving in heaven, the man, while thankful to be there, asked God, “But, God, why didn’t you save me?”

To which God incredulously replied, “Why didn’t I save you! … I sent a firetruck, a boat and even a helicopter for you!”

Sometimes God works in unmysterious ways. A sincere thanks to all first responders. You know who sent you.

RUNDOWN: The blowfishing inside Barnegat Inlet is excellent. To target these tasty critters, begin by anchoring up in slightly deeper water, preferably waters low in current movement. Throw in a clam chum log, or sprinkle some grass shrimp chum. Match your bait to the chum.

For gear, go with light or even ultralight saltwater equipment.

Use a small beak hook, maybe weighed down with a split-shot. Kids of all ages love using bobbers when blowfishing.

With late-season puffers, you can keep a load of them. They’re spawned out. I doubt they’ll make it back up here for a second summer spawn.

Prepare blowfish tails by dipping them in beaten eggs and rolling them in breadcrumbs. Self-seasoned matzo crumbs work perfectly.

With household deep-fryers being somewhat out of fashion, a quarter-inch of hot olive oil in a skillet works perfectly. Change oil after each fry.

It seems best to thoroughly cook the blowfish tails, avoiding cool sashimi centers. However, closely related fugu puffer fish are considered the greatest sashimi in the world. I’ve never tried our puffer raw.

I don’t want to jump the gun – or jinx things – but I’m seeing quite a showing of slammer blues in the local system … yes, recently. I saw a pic of a chopper pushing well over 12 pounds taken bayside, Holgate. Another photo from that same area showed a 10-poundish slammer caught/released by Jerry G., taken off his backyard dock. Jerry caught it on a plastic shad.

IT’S GETTING CLASSIC QUICKLY: For the many who anxiously await this year’s 2017 Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic, these big blues are propitious. Yes, propitious is a good angling thing, dude.

The 2017 63rd annual LBI Surf Fishing Classic will run over two months long, Oct. 7 to Dec. 10. Yahoo! There’s always added fun and energy in the surfcasting air when this event is in play.

The new nine-week format offers a load of time for entrants to wet lines.

A $2,000 first prize for a grand-prize striper is enough to get even reluctant casters out in the fresh salt air.

Per usual, it’s important to get signed up early … and often. The “often” part means you, family members and fishing friends. Nothing wrong with a little in-house wager.

Make certain to read the details of the event; take advantage of all the “Bonus Cash Days.” It’s a win-win … coupling special-day prizes with the already hot regular prizes.

To get an online read of the classic’s brochure, go to lbift.com. On that homepage, click on “About” in the blue box with the event logo.

Note: Registration is underway at all participating tackle shops. The first 300 registrants signed up before Oct. 6 get a FREE LBI Surf Fishing Classic Tournament T-shirt and hat while supplies last. After the tournament starts on Oct. 7, the T-shirt will be $20.

jaymann@thesandpaper.net

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