Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
A Hurry Up and Wait Hurricane;
Birdies Go Bump in the Night
I’ll go a bit storm heavy this week. Admittedly, it wasn’t that much of a hurricane but it sure was one hell of an evacuation.
I would love to get overly critical of some misstep or foul-up from the myriad of emergency management folks but damn if I could find anything that rated less than excellent in the way evacuation things were run. Down below, I will go after the lack of real-time storm communication but that is not in the same hands as those stewarding people off the Island.
If Irene goes down as merely an unscheduled test of rapid evacuation procedures, it was a glowing success. And much of the Island was also a-glow after the storm. For everyone who joined the Irene event, that free home and vehicle power washing was a nice little bonus.
HURRY UP AND …: I’ve heard Irene called a big fizzle. I agree she was a total Alka-Seltzer sandwich. You mean you’ve never?
For those of us who stayed put on LBI (more on that below), there was this insane macroburst of evacuation activity, highlighted by a torrid traffic outflow, the frantic nail pounding of plywood sheets and dramatic ripping of tape to slap across windows (as if), instantly followed by dead calm. Here I spend years, even decades, bundling life into comfortable daily units, when a searing question-of-the-day might be whether to have one of two Wawa soft pretzels, then, heartbeat-style, the Wawa is boarded over, the island lies doomsily deserted in August, and lonely eelgrass balls blow across the open plains. (I just added that “open plains’ part for effect.) Absofrickinlutely nothing to do. Not what my attention-deficit doctor ordered.
Here’s a portion of my pre-storm blogging, as I sat on the middle of the Boulevard idly taking notes. :
Let’s get this party rollin’! No, I’m not being indifferent to deadly dangers, nor am I morbidly anxious to see mayhem -- though he seems kinda cool from what I’ve seen, via those TV commercials. I just want to get this over with -- to return to the golden normal days of, say, last week – pre-earthquake, that is.
This has become the longest arriving storm in the history of the world. One has to wonder if the faster-than-sense Internet and the commercials-driven Weather Channel will, for the remainder of mankind, draw out major weather events, making days-away seem like minutes-away. It’s all a long-term sell, a bit like Christmas – which, by the way, is expected to soon form off the Bahamas, then rapidly intensify before severely impacting the United State’s mainland in the very near future – give or take.
By the by, I’m now fully willing to go for a cataclysm trifecta. If we were to get a tornado in the near future, that would be oddly cool, when combined with an earthquake and hurricane. In fact, when one combines last Thursday night’s nasty thunderboomers, with the quake and hurricane, we babyboomers finally achieved the song lyrical “hurriquakes and lightning,” aptly prophesized in Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Risin,’” way back in 1969.
STAY, JAY, STAY: I opted to stay on the seemingly ultra-safe surely-secure third-floor of the well-built SandPaper office building.
This is maybe my fourth or fifth NJ hurricane/tropical storm, along with countless nor'easters. My staying was an educated reading of the storm, not an arrogant "I ain't goin' nowhere" attitude, like I used to use back in the day.
I waited until a final read could be made on the arriving storm. Along with a number of other stayers, I saw something odd happening to the 'cane as it made landfall in North Carolina. It began losing its contained circulation. Huge dry lines were forming and, eventually, an entire section of circulation went missing. That is always a sign of decay, though not necessarily to the point of dropping the storm below a "hurricane" rating. It simply told me it had lost its potential "epic" rating.
And just to show how tricky such a read can be, at around 9 p.m. of the storm, there was strong evidence that a tornado was low-aloft in the exact vicinity of the very building I was confidently residing within. I went with an educated guess and the storm, maybe as a friendly reminder, threw a curve that could have taken me out. It's yet more data to deal with when the next biggy comes along.”
Speaking of that tornadic episode. A number of stayers in Surf City felt that sky spasm, and its odd deportment. I not only felt the building shutter one good -- very close to matching the quake shake of last week – but I also duly noted the windows bellow a bit, as the pressure rapidly changed.
Pressure pulses are not at all common in the straight-line winds of a squall. I quickly phoned the Weather Service and, sure enough, they had just detected a clear-cut tornado signature – a hook of sorts -- on the Doppler radar. A tornado warning was issued as the hook moved along LBI, then over toward Little Egg and Warren Grove. Corroborating the oddness of the sky behavior was the way the rowdy rock-and-roll session stopped instantly, as if someone had hit that big “Pause” button in the sky.
Gospel truth: My worst injury of Irene occurred when I was walking down the middle of the abandoned Boulevard, Saturday a.m., to get a picture of the HazMat team at the fuel oil spill in south Ship Bottom. Don’t I go and twist my ankle when I slipped on – you ready? – a jellyfish cap. Turned out the entire exposed roadway was covered with those famed surfline caps, as slippery as greased banana peels. I walked off my ankle twist as if nothing had happened. I could have had compound fractures and wouldn’t admit that I had been injured during Hurricane Irene -- on a frickin’ jellyfish!
BLOGGING IRENE: One thing that kept me sane during the boredom of the blow, were my blog writing duties and my fielding of a huge number of emails – many by folks as bored as myself. One of my favorite communiqués arrived as the storm was commencin’.
Mr. Jay, We are evacuated at the school. My mom said I could send you an email to ask you where the birds all go when a hurricane comes.”
Girl, they go crazy.
Just kidding – but only a little bit.
There might be nothing worse for birds than hurricanes – though DDT ain’t so great either (and don’t say “ain’t!”). They can barely fly because of the wind and, worse, they really can’t eat the way they need to. Birds have to eat a lot, and often – just like many of my friends, but we won’t go there now.
As to where birds actually stay during wicked weather, the ground is a first choice for larger birds, including almost all gulls.
Right now, the many sedge islands in the bay are all but covered with cowering gulls. Sadly, the rising flood tides will wash over the islands and drive the gulls into the air. Seeing it’s night, many flushed birds will fly headlong into, uh, very bad air experiences. Your mom can explain that euphemistic wording.
Smaller birds have it a lot easier. They find cuddly cubbyholes, hide inside and openly discuss if this insane storm has something to do with the reversal of planetary polarity. Small birds are much smarter than you think. Mom will also explain that reversed polarity thing.
Not to worry, most of your favorite feathery friends will back to their established pecking orders come Monday -- though you might not want to look too hard at what has collected in gutters and sewer grates in the wake of the storm.
(Why do I think this might be the last email mom ever let’s her send to me?)
WHEN TO RETURN: Here’s where I lose some Christmas cards.
I was in Ship Bottom Sunday morning, as the storm lost steam. I quickly got to check my unbalanced bungled bungalow – a teardown if ever – and was relieved to find all was right in my small edificial realm. Such relief was not being afforded to those stuck across the great divide – the Causeway bridges.
On the mainland, anxiety drenched evacuees were Jonesing and Smithing to get the hell back to check on their properties. Expectedly, there was an instant buildup of angsty motorists along Rte 72, awaiting word that LBI was open again.
And they waited and worried and soon ranted throughout Sunday morning.
I’ll now clue you in on some essential data, based on my I-was-thereness: Up until noon, there were floodwaters across the entire Boulevard from Ship Bottom southward to Beach Haven. Actually, somewhat common. Adding insult to flooding, a heating oil spill was discovered at the Brant Beach/ Ship Bottom line. The Boulevard was fully blocked by a herd of Hazmat response units. A mass return of vehicles was truly and utterly impossible for the entire a.m. timeframe.
Even as the afternoon hours dripped away, there was still deep water around Wawa, on 9th Street, Ship Bottom, and at other deeper flood points along the Boulevard.
Backing up a bit, the notion that many vehicles nowadays (SUVs, trucks, vans) can easily traverse a lightly-flooded Boulevard totally ignores the danger from unseen deeper spots. Also, the collateral damage from the nonstop wakes of water-plowing vehicles can be devastating for homes and businesses along the flooded roadway. Wrecking homes and businesses just to allow folks to rush back a couple hours quicker doesn’t make sense.
Now, in an effort to get some Christmas cards back, I absolutely agree that the lack of public service information disseminated during and after this storm was unacceptable.
Personally, I kept my blogs going (you can go read all of them at www.jaymanntoday.ning.com).
To illustrate the desperate need for real-time info, one of my sites went from a few hundred daily hits to two thousand-plus – in one night! I also contributed to Facebook, where a circle of friends kept concurrent accounts of storm things. However, that left a million or so people clueless.
CREEPING BACK ON: Then, it was on. Just like that, the bridges opened -- but with no fanfare. No flares, radio notices, sirens, loudspeaker announcements from fire trucks.
At first blush, that seemed crude and rude, considering how much of a noisy fuss was made when getting folks off.
But, on second thought …
I was talking with a colleague of mine, Gail T., regarding that lack of a high profile throwing open of the Causeway. That’s when the reality hit: Is it the wisest thing to dramatically throw open the Island, so to speak? A shotgun start would loose folks far and wide, all hell-bent on reaching their homes. It would be a race – and convergence – of monumental proportions. And I’m not just talking locally. Cavalries of vehicles would suddenly be tearing down the Parkway or accelerating (hop-frogging) the deadly straight-aways of Rte 72 and Rte 539. Here you save lives by evacuating people to then have them going dead trying to get back.
I don’t expect a lot of agreement on that but it’s something to chew on – while waiting in line to get back on the Island.
APROPOS ANGLING EMAIL: “Jay, as a fall angler, I’m wondering how many boat fishermen will now come back and how many will just call it a season? D.”
That’s a hot question. I’m getting tired of saying “cool” all the time.
The curiously ineffective Irene has nonetheless removed a goodly number of summer fluke fishing vessels from the angling flotilla. Many a seasonal craft will surely stay mothballed, the annual pullout work having already been done.
Obviously, no ‘cane will keep most of us from our assigned fishing course. Hardcore fall folks are going to find a way to fish, even if we have to gnaw our way through piles of debris – which we only have to face in Holgate this go’round.
Irene was fairly merciful on the mobile fishers of LBI. Post-blow, the clean-up crews were immediately out there shoring up the street ends of jetties, allowing an uninterrupted drive of the beachfront by emergency, beach patrol and maintenance vehicles. A perfect prep for when mobile anglers can once again cruise the beachfront.
I probably shouldn’t say this – since my buddy Keith might be reading – but the replenished sands of Harvey Cedars and Surf City lost so much meat in the storm that many recently buried jetties have been re-exposed. This is great for surfers and surfcasters alike.
Finally, I predict an insanely busy surfcasting season. Why so? First, it’s going to be a great fishing fall, I just feel it. Then, add the folks who left their boats out of the water. They’ll be fishing the suds – many of them returning to their roots, so to speak.
That’s all a lead-in to the fast-approaching Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic. Why not make this the year you get back to the event? The politics have quieted and there remains a load of dough and prizes to make a seemingly everyday bass or blue into a surprise breadwinner.
Important: Do not let the free registry bug you a bit. Just go on-line and register -- or get a friend, maybe your fishing club, to help, if need be. At worst, a couple minutes of time is used up.
I DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ ANEMOMETER:
I had no wind gauge during this storm. However, I knew I could always resort to one very scientific way to determine how hard the wind is blowing.
Using a blue waterproof ink pen, I draw a base water level line around the inside the commode. I then carefully observe the water level and determine how much it begins rocking, technically known as escalated sloshing action (ESA).
Using a green pen, I adroitly mark the high slosh points (HSPs). Next to each HSP, I use a fine indelible black ink pen to write down data, detailing the measurements I have taken between the base blue line (BBL) and the slosh points, to establish the aqueous differential attitude (ADA). The higher the ADA, the greater the wind-induced ESA.
Using a supremely simple equation: ADA = BBL/ESA minus HSP (carry the 5), I then bar graph the ADAs on the underside of the toilet lid.
During a big storm, I sometimes have to carry the graphing from the under side of the commode lid and onto the seat itself. I can even extrapolate the seriousness of a given storm by the graphic coverage of the toilet seat. “Damned if this blow isn’t a three-quarter seater,” etc.
It’s all good clean science.
RUNDOWN: The surf and bay are already highly fishable. The fluke will soon be ravenously eating just about everywhere, though I’m betting the east bay areas and the ocean will rule the hookup roost, especially with bigger flatties.
I have to think this super stir – and the ocean did take a royal whacking – will activate a nearshore bass bite. Nothing like a blitz, just every resident and nearshore striper moving in to suck up clams, worms, lobster (yep, lobster), mantis shrimp (in huge numbers), exposed shedder crabs and even loosed mussel clusters. Those are all food items I’ve commonly pulled from bass bellies after larger storms.
HOLGATE HARD HIT: Holgate’s beach entrance was possibly the most ravaged place on all of LBI. Chucks of concrete dating back to the Cretaceous Period were exposed right where we drive from the overlook zone onto the beach.
As of today (Tuesday), a pessimistic read has the entrance un-fixed for a week or more. Stu D. is down there and said the zone is police taped to hell and back. No vehicular or pedestrian passages allowed.
This fix might even require trucked in sand. How hard will that be to get after this storm? I’m hoping to humbly ask Long Beach Township if it might consider opening (Sept.1) the Holgate (Beach Haven Inlet) front beach section from the Beach Haven line down to the parking lot. That would allow some decent mobile fishing territory, so we can get in some fluke fishing before that fishery closes.
I’ll be updating progress in Holgate on my blogsites.