Numbers in context

4 December 2007

I am well accustomed to having difficulty finding a sense of scale for certain things (e.g., low temperatures, travel distances, the price of gasoline) as a result of living in The Other Two for twelve years. I was surprised to hear this morning, however, that I-5 is closed in Southern Washington today due to flooding. My surprise originates not from the closure itself, but from the descriptions of the storm that caused it:

A severe storm smacked the region Monday with hurricane-force winds and several inches of rain, and was blamed for four deaths.” (Yahoo News),

Rescue boats were used to grab flood-stranded residents, and GPS-equipped helicopters were used at night. ” (CNN, but from later in the same AP story)

The National Weather Service was certainly more sober: FLOOD WATERS WILL CONTINUE TO DRAIN OVER THE NEXT 12 HOURS BUT MANY PROBLEM AREAS STILL EXIST. THE FLOOD WARNING HAS BEEN EXTENDED INTO TUESDAY AFTERNOON.

My point in all of this was that the total amount of rainfall was somewhere between four and ten inches in something like twenty-four hours. Hilo barely even opens its collective umbrellas when that happens. I guess I’ll be adding ‘twenty-four hour rainfall’ to my list of ungrounded comparisons.

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