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Old 08-16-2006, 04:59 PM
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Default Kiting Into Squalls


COWABUNGA, looks good, let's rig up the kites and hit it! A supercell storm inbound to Ft. Lauderdale earlier in the year.

Short version:
- A very nasty series of squalls were obviously inbound to SE Florida to the naked eye and hours ahead on radar and satellite imagery.
- Two guys rigged up to ride out into it just before it arrived, ten miles apart. One guy ended up with a serious neck fracture (C2, Hangman's fracture frequently fatal) and the other guy escaped without injury but trashed a $1500. kite.
- Many kiters booked into shore, landed and secured well in advance of the squall winds but obviously not all.
- Some are still indifferent to the hassles, maiming and death, squalls can very easily dish out.
- AVOIDING VIOLENT WEATHER IS USUALLY EASY IN FLORIDA, if you try.



This is a tale of Squalls at three launches, perhaps soon to be four along the southeast coast of Florida in the USA. That is including Delray, Pompano, Ft. Lauderdale and perhaps Miami if more info comes in. Unconfirmed reported accidents and experiences that may have happened to kiters at perhaps four launches within a narrow range of time along a 65 mile section of coast follow.


A large disorganized tropical system was moving over the SE coast of Florida (highlighted in red, not TD Chris). The powerful cells and potential squall areas were obvious in brightly colored areas in both radar and satellite images, hours before landfall in the area from Ft. Lauderdale to Delray. Also, there were hazardous weather notices up online warning of powerful wind gusts as is so very common here in the summer.


This is an actual archived satellite image of the system appears above, shortly before things took off from Ft. Lauderdale to Delray. Miami had been lathered much of the day already by squalls from the tropical system. The northern lob was rotating towards the shore.

NOTE: Not all dangerous squalls are as obvious and dramatic as those shown in photos in this account. Still, when realtime radar, satellite and wind data are combined with launch observations and common sense, they often aren't all that difficult to detect or avoid. When in doubt, sit it out and live to kite another day. There was a case of an extremely experienced and well known Pro kiteboarder who was seriously lofted into a life threatening situation in a 25 kt. gust generated by a far less threatening looking cloud. More about this incident HERE .
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Old 08-16-2006, 08:30 PM
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Squall Story #I - Pompano


Something evil this way comes ... no, just a squall, usually not that evil aside from the odd tornado, burst and lightning, if you choose to deal with it properly. This is that same squall that hit Ft. Lauderdale earlier in the year.


The first accident happened in Pompano, approximately in the area highlighted in red. A kiter reportedly had just rigged up a 15 m C kite and launched as a nasty black squall was obviously moving into shore. Other riders, although not all riders at this launch had already landed to prepare for the storm. The wind had been east, onshore at about 15 kts. when it very suddenly shifted south, sideshore to about 35 kts. by reports. The rider had his kite at the zenith when he was lofted approximately 30 ft. high by an observer account. He cleared some steel and canvas cabanas fortunately in this flight. The rider accidentally pulled hard on one side of the bar while in flight and was in turn hurled him about 50 ft. downwind to several hard impacts against the sand. The rider was reported not to have tried to activate his quick release. He struck head first and inverted against the sand in this process, presumably knocking him unconscious. The kite powered up and autorelaunched lofting him another approximate 100 yards down the beach to the north northwest unmoving and apparently unconscious. Another kiter sprinted to grab and secure the kite but before he could reach it a bystander grabbed the control bar and not knowing any better initiated dragging of the victim roughly 20 yards further. Emergency services reportedly arrived within a few minutes and transported the kiter to the hospital. The kiter was reported conscious at this point but incoherent and in pain. The man's rig had one broken line. The quick release was reported to have worked properly when checked shortly after the accident. Information was gathered from an account on kiteforum, Graham Goodwin with Ft. Lauderdale Kiting and other sources.


The kiter suffered a broken C2 vertebra, usually the goal in hanging. This injury is often fatal but in this case the rider was very lucky. He also fractured his collar bone. It was indicated that he will have to wear a halo perhaps similar to that shown above for perhaps 3 months. He may require surgery to address the fracture. The kiter reportedly has lost recollection of the accident to amnesia. We all sincerely hope the rider suffers no permanent disability from this accident and heals fully and fast.
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Old 08-16-2006, 08:30 PM
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Squall Story #II - Ft. Lauderdale


Wonder if it is safe to fly a kite the size of a station wagon?
CLICK FOR FULL SIZED IMAGE

The second incident happened at the Ft. Lauderdale launch. Several riders had been out but most had landed before the incoming squall boosted winds. In fact the winds actually had died a bit as the black cloud mass was edging toward shore. Neil Hutchinson has setup a new beachside kiteshop here, Tiki Beach Watersports and was engaged in giving lessons until the squall became an obvious threat. He told his students the time with kites was over but not the lesson, it was just starting. Have a seat and watch carefully what happens as the squall moves in. We have squalls so frequently in light wind summer that such lessons are readily available.


The action happened perhaps in the vicinity of the red highlighted area.

Neil was evaluating the Link, the new Slingshot flat kite and wanted to see how it would do in gustier conditions. This was before he noticed that the squall had disgorged a large waterspout about a mile upwind. He thought better of it and decided to sit this one out. Some of us have already had our windblown collisions with harsh reality and don't hunger for avoidable repeats.


Another waterspout but perhaps in not too dissimilar a position.

One experienced rider had returned to shore to exchange a 12 m Link, for a 16 m five line Octane as the wind had died. The winds had been about 12 to 14 kts. The squall was just offshore and influencing weather in a big way. The rider launched the 16 m and proceeded to ride offshore. At about 25 yards off the beach the wind boosted to about 34 kts. in no time based on Neil's beachside anenometer station. Building to this moment, the rider tried to edge in some minor lessor initial gusts, and was popped off the water a short height. He then fully pulled in his depowering trim strap. He was then lofted all the way to the waters edge, kicking his board off before landing. He had the kite at the zenith and was trying to sit down to anchor the kite before he was lofted again a horizontal distance of about 30 ft. and again about 45 ft. Another one of Neil's past students who was previously treated to a display of summer squall power, chased after the rider trying to help. The kiter was then lofted about 15 ft. off the ground and was coming closer to the roadway, he then elected to ditch the entire kite. The kiter free fell about 15 ft. to the sand. The kite flew free and drapped over a lamp post with the bar catching in the crown of a palm tree. The approximate $1500. kite was destroyed on the lamppost but the rider was very fortunate to escape injury.
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Old 08-16-2006, 08:38 PM
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Squall Story #III - Delray


I had been watching the system online while deciding whether to head out of the office a bit early to grab a session before the squalls arrived way to the north in Delray. I decided that I might have two hours before an eastern lobe of the system swept into shore. I planned to be onshore and secured before the winds or temperature changed. I had been looking at this thing for several hours prior to heading over to the beach. I thought I should photograph the cloud front as it was so dramatic and obviously hazardous. I concluded, there would be no value in passing along the images as the severe hazards would be obvious to anyone seeing it. My mistake. I have used images from another squall that has some similarities instead.

I arrived, started to setup and noticed a particularly dark squall area due south down the coast about 10 miles. The wind suddenly boosted in the area from east about 12 to 13 kts. to south about 25 to perhaps 30 kts. I started running along with other guys on the beach to catch a flurry of kiters looking to land and secure rapidly. All the riders in Delray landed their kites before the peak winds arrived without incident. There were no dark clouds within many miles of our position. The wind then died and shifted side offshore for the rest of the night. The lobe that I was watching offshore and appears in the sat. image above apparently dissipated before hitting land. Trends and things can change from the Internet to the beach.

By the way, much further north on the same afternoon, northern Florida was being treated to similar but apparently unrelated squalls to the south Florida system with gusts into the 55 to 68 kt.+ range. Quite a bit of damage resulted. More at: http://www.srh.weather.gov/TLH/Aug08event/
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Old 08-16-2006, 09:44 PM
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Squall Story # IV - Miami



Earlier in the day a squall also moved westward towards Matheson Hammock on Biscayne Bay opposite Key Biscayne. All the riders except one had landed in advance of the squalls arrival except for one kiter. This rider was out with a 16 m flat kite and waited until what appeared to be a solid wall of water was almost upon him. He booked into shore overpowered from the squall gust and was able to have his kite caught be another rider and secured. Guys land and take off of the northern central area of the parking lot. The wind this time boosted to about 35 kts. No one was hurt in this instance fortunately, but easily could have been and have been here in the past.


This is a wind record for the area, although not on August 8. It shows a fairly common squall wind graph with all the gusts, lulls and violent direction changes. Take this graph and expand some of the gusts up to 50 to 60 mph + and you will have some squalls that are not that uncommon here.

Expose yourself to an unquantifiable hazard because of ... (?) or land and secure before the squall hits and head back out after it passes. Choices.
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Old 08-17-2006, 03:13 PM
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Kiting in squalls is a very bad idea and will lead to damaged gear, injured riders, death and threats to access over time.

* You never know how strong and erratic the winds will be in a squall. It may just die or could boost to 30 to 40 to 50 to 60 kts. +, violently change directions and frequently several of the above. Nor do you know how far away from the squall dangerous winds may set in.

* Powerful squalls happen in many, most parts of the world and have severely injured riders in places like France, Spain, Mauritius, Canada, Germany, Okinawa, Connecticut, Utah, Florida, Belize, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Korea, New Zealand and many more. It is a global issue, of importance to ALL kiteboarders.

* Riders frequently fail to successfully depower their kites once lofted in squall gusts. Assuming that you will do so successfully and come out unscathed along with your gear and bystanders is a poor bet.

* In many areas and conditions, although not all, avoiding squalls is fairly EASY. Squalls are a substantial hazard to kiters mainly because we allow it to be so through ignorance and indifference.

* One of the largest bans in the USA was supported in part by the death of a very experienced kiter in excessively gusty onshore conditions in a nearby but outside area.

* Competent kiters MUST know weather, what to look for, what to avoid, internet resources including how and when to react at the launch area.
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Old 08-17-2006, 03:58 PM
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1. Kiters should check forecasts including hazard warnings, realtime winds (in the area and upweather), color radar and satellite imagery to assess the odds of storms impacting a session.

2. Kiters should be on the beach with their kites secured, ideally put away before winds change direction, speed or the temperature drops. Runaway kites have done damage in past squalls.

3. Do not try to ride out a squall with a kite up. If you are too late to land, totally emergency depower your kite EARLY before gusty winds arrive, don't wait as seconds may count.

NOTE: You may be able to ride out some squalls by keeping your kite low and plastered to the surface. Some squalls will pluck you off the water or land despite this and slam you into what ever to live, be severely injured or die. You never know how strong the winds will be in advance. Kill the kite power totally EARLY.

4. Have your hand on the kite release to detach if the kite fails to properly totally depower.

5. Wear proper safety gear including a good helmet, impact vest, hook knife, gloves, etc..

Some riders get a second chance and some aren't as fortunate. Is a questionable session worth the possible destruction of your kite, loss of income from work for several months, painful and costly rehabilitation, permanent impairment, perhaps paralysis, loss of access for yourself and friends and perhaps your death?

Think about it.

While you're at it, take a hard look the following table of reported but unconfirmed kiter fatality information:


Fatalities vs. Experience

Skill and experience don't seem to help much when things go wrong in severe accidents. Why not try caution, good technique and judgement instead? Things are upside down when our most experienced riders are also the ones most at risk of losing it. Something is fundamentally wrong to where riders would do well to have a fresh look at how, when and where they kite, safety practices, etc..
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Old 08-20-2008, 09:45 AM
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Here's a blast from the not too distant past. What has changed? Two guys in the last few days coming close to killing themselves in two squalls from the same tropical storm, 25 miles apart and within a half hour of each other? History repeats itself again.
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Old 10-10-2008, 09:19 AM
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We had another kiteboarder end up in a Halo neck brace recently. It happened about a half hour before Kevin Kearny's lofting in Ft. Lauderdale in Tropical Storm Fay. More details to come on that soon. In the meantime stay away from squalls.
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Old 09-25-2012, 10:05 PM
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I wrote this six years ago, it is hard to believe folks are still not taking this weather as seriously as they should even today. So, might as well bring it back up to the top. Stay away from squalls.
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