NEW YORK -- With June's arrival, hurricane season is here.
Government forecasters expect eight to 10 hurricanes to tear across
the Atlantic through Nov. 30; four to six could equal or exceed
Category 3 strength. "The potential for hurricanes striking the U.S.
is high," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief
Conrad Lautenbacher announced May 22. Among the 28 cities University
of Central Florida professor Mark Johnson just analyzed, the
likeliest to face a hurricane is none other than America's battered
jewel _ New Orleans.
Peter Cordani ponders this with a grim sense of deja vu. As
America yet again stares down this cannon and watches its fuse burn,
he wonders, "Why do we put up with this?" He explains, "We're losing
the battle against hurricanes. They are overtaking us. Half of
Florida still has thousands of homes with blue-tarp roofs. There are
dumpsters everywhere. New Orleans is still in shambles."
"Last year we got pummeled by four hurricanes," Cordani adds. "It
costs us billions to deal with this, so it's worth a try to see if
something could improve this situation."
That "something" might be Dyn-O-Gel, an advanced polymer that
Cordani's company, Dyn-O-Mat, Inc., produces in Jupiter, Fla.
(dynomat.com). Just as a similar substance makes diapers absorbent,
Cordani hopes Dyn-O-Gel will decelerate or even derail hurricanes
before they kill again.
Dyn-O-Gel swallows up to 1,500 times its weight in water. Cordani
hopes to deploy aircraft to bombard incoming hurricanes with this
substance. Chopping a slice from a swirling cyclone can cost it
speed, momentum, and energy, and reduce its ferocity. On July 19,
2001, Cordani chartered a plane and released $40,000 worth of
Dyn-O-Gel onto a thunderstorm east of Palm Beach, Fla. Local
air-traffic controllers and a Miami TV station both said the storm
clouds virtually vanished. They became a gel and dissolved
harmlessly among the waves below, Cordani says.
"I have heard of plans that sound far more ridiculous, such as
pouring things on the ocean's surface," Weather Channel hurricane
expert Steve Lyons says. "Dyn-O-Mat's intent is reasonable. They are
not attempting to kill a hurricane, which would be impossible. If
you could just weaken it a little bit and make it just a category
weaker, maybe there's some hope there. As a scientist, I am
skeptical. But I would like to consider myself an optimist rather
than a pessimist. I say go for it, if you have the money to try it.
I hope they're successful."
Cordani seeks between $50 million and $100 million over three
years to sic Dyn-O-Gel on incoming storms and scientifically
evaluate the results. He has no desire, however, to surrender his
company to venture capitalists, who, he says, demand full control in
exchange for funding. Insurers, who Cordani could save billions in
claims, should wire Dyn-O-Mat millions _ today. Though asked, none
To preclude another $88.8 billion in hurricane relief, as it
already has spent since Katrina, Congress should authorize up to
$100 million over three years for hurricane-modification research,
including Dyn-O-Mat's plan. It should finance this by junking a $700
million earmark to reroute publicly a Mississippi railroad that CSX
Corp. rebuilt privately for $250 million after Katrina.
Mississippi's GOP senators, Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, hope to
replace this railway with a road to link Gulf Coast casinos and
condos. Taxpayers would save $600 million on this tomfoolery while
devoting $100 million to investigate whether Dyn-O-Mat can deliver
on its cost-cutting, property-protecting, life-saving potential.
This comparatively modest sum could advance America's general
welfare far more than pointless bridges, the Sen. Robert C. Byrd
Hardwood Technologies Center, or any of the 13,997 pork barrel
projects that Citizens Against Government Waste calculates cost
taxpayers $27.3 billion last fiscal year alone.
At least Cordani focuses on the big picture. His office walls
feature dozens of newspaper banners from the 2005 hurricane season.
Remembering last year's pandemonium keeps him motivated.
"New Orleans emptying," a headline reads. "DEVASTATED," screams
another. "Only dead remain," mourns one more.
"This gives me my energy," Cordani says. "This gives me my drive,
when I see what these people have gone through."
Someday soon, one hopes, Peter Cordani will affix happier
headlines to his wall. Why not this one? "High-tech powder tames
hurricane. Thousands spared."
(New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the
Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas
Economic Research Foundation in Arlington, Va.)