Miami Beach Florida, March 19
“Toto, I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore.” How true that it is. Crowds throng along the sidewalks. Mopeds, roller bladers, cars, bikes and people all seem to compete for the same space on the streets, with little regard for traffic lights or lanes. That last is actually somewhat reasonable given that traffic moves so slowly at crowded times. U-turns, double parking, stopping to chat from car to sidewalk, all are constant occurrences. Coming across the causeway from the mainland, there are skyscrapers lined up along the shore as far as the eye can see.
Sidewalks are always busy. Some walkers wait for the lights, most do not. Many forget that the sidewalk has to be shared with people going in the opposite direction. Of course, with restaurants taking up more than half of the sidewalk for al fresco dining, walking is even more of a challenge but people watching is enhanced.
The Beach was jammed today (Sunday). Normally we arrive around 10:30 as we did today and get an umbrella and beach chairs in the front row. Today we were in row three. Sat next to a nice family from Vancouver BC that are heading out for a 4 day cruise tomorrow. Six cruise ships departed between 4:15 PM and 5:10 PM. Numerous foreign languages heard on the beach; I thought Trump was scaring foreign tourists away? There were a lot more selfie sticks being used than I remember from previous years.
La Sandwicherie, a hole-in-the-wall frequent stop for take-out dinner (salads and sandwiches) is open from 8 AM to 5 AM, closing only for three hours. The closest Walagreens is only two blocks away but has no pharmacy. It is basically a convenience store. It is relatively new, much cleaner and better prices than the old, run-down grocery we used to frequent. I had to ask three staff members before I found one who knew the closest Walgreens that had a pharmacy. That Walgreens is three blocks in the other direction. We went there tonight but the pharmacy closed at 5 PM on Sunday. We got used to 24 hours pharmacy back home. Suntan lotion and food seemed to be the big sellers; this Walgreen also sold beer, wine, and alcohol.
Several of our favorite places are being renovated. This happens constantly down here. It is amazing how long it takes to complete the work, we can go several yearly trips before a place re-opens. The hotel next to us, the Betsy, has taken over an old hotel across the alley and is renovating the old hotel and connecting the two buildings. Another hotel and restaurant a block away is wrapped in plastic with workers going in and out. No idea what is happening.
Our place, the Hilton Grand Vacation Club timeshare looked different to us as we walked back tonight. Then we realized, the two building comprising the HGVC property were both bathed in green LED light. Previously each building had its own color in neon lights.
So, yes, we have left the prairies of Kansas and Nebraska behind. The forests and farm fields of Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama are gone. Concrete, asphalt and steel have replaced it, along with sand beaches and blue oceans.
Saturday was projected to still be a little too cool and breezy for the beach. I was reading the Miami Herald and there was a short blurb that the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center were having an open house. What the hey, why not go? So we did. It was a 45 minute drive out there which included two wrong turns. Only two was pretty good. We were using Google directions but sometimes the spoken direction was different from the wording on the freeway traffic signs. Even at 70 mph we guessed correctly on several of the differences but did miss two of them.
The two agencies are part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and share one concrete and steel hardened facility west of the Miami airport. A guided tour was offered in groups of about 25. The two missions collaborate and support each other while still being distinct. The Hurricane Center focuses on tracking severe storms in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific. They will also provide weather and wave information to mariners, like cruise ships and freighters. There is a room that converts into an emergency weather media center during hurricanes.
The National Weather Service will take the broad hurricane forecasts prepared by the Hurricane Center and localize the impact. They deal with local emergency management teams to inform them which communities will be spared and which will likely be struck by the storm.
One of the speakers had piloted the planes that fly directly into the storms when they are occurring. Another guy, not a pilot, recalled being onboard one of the planes as it flew through the storm and admitted he had gotten sick. We did ask if they could address climate change and they answered “No”. On the issue of budget cuts, they just said they were awaiting details.
This place is open 24/7, 365 days a year. The data they collect helps prepare for emergencies from hurricanes to fires and floods. Our reading indicates the NOAA is proposed to be cut 17% in Trump’s budget. How penny wise and pound foolish.
The Weather Service sends up two Weather balloons each day to gather weather data. The balloon goes up 100,000 feet before disintegrating and releasing an instrument package tethered to a parachute which brings it slowly back to earth. THe data is relayed back here. If I heard correctly, there are 1000 locations around the world that release a balloon at the same time. During severe weather, the Weather Service will release four balloons a day. For this open house, a third balloon was released at 1 PM. We all got to do the countdown and watch the balloon float off into the atmosphere.
Video of balloon launch
Ed and Chris. March 19