- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 3, 2006


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 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,” Mr. 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, Mr. 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. Mr. 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, Mr. 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, Mr. 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.”

Mr. 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, whom Mr. Cordani could save billions in claims, should wire Dyn-O-Mat millions — today. Though asked, none has.

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 Republican 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, lifesaving 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 Mr. 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,” Mr. 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.”

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Arlington, Va.

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