The new, much anticipated $400 million Hampton Weather Control Center opened last week deep in the woods of Water Mill, north of Deerfield Road. It’s a state-of-the-art facility designed and built in just four hectic weeks, beginning the day after Hurricane Irene roared through this area creating havoc everywhere. It’s been funded by a group of seven alarmed billionaires who all have homes in the Hamptons, each of whom has sworn not to allow a hurricane of this magnitude to come through the Hamptons again. The facility will accomplish that.
On Tuesday, two days before the official opening, the commander of the establishment, Tom Richfield, gave Dan’s Papers an exclusive advance tour of the facility. All executives who work at HWCC, as it is called, wear uniforms similar to those worn by officers at military bases and have military titles, although this is not a military base. It is a subsidiary of the billionaires’ Limited Liability Corporation, WINDEND, LLC. [expand]
Commander Richfield saluted when I arrived and led me off to see the complex, at least the part of it open to the public.
“It’s five buildings altogether,” he told me. “There’s a central courtyard beyond those trees for four of them. But this one, the fifth, is administration inside of which is the main mission control hall, which we are able to look down at from this balcony.”
Richfield led me past a group of secretaries and junior executives to a large steel door, held his palm on a screen next to it and, after a series of clicks, watched as it slid open. We entered a balcony space, went over to a railing and looked down at a vast room about the size of a Wall Street trading floor filled with uniformed men and women and banks of computers. There was a soft humming sound occasionally interspersed by people giving orders. On one wall was a giant video screen showing a map of the Hamptons, its outlines in white on black, 30 feet high and 100 feet wide. Another adjacent video screen, about half that size but also rising to the ceiling, showed the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” the Commander said, extending an arm. “Of course, at the present time, sir, it’s All Quiet on the Western Front.” He smiled.
“What does this do?” I asked.
“When there is hurricane activity in the Atlantic, we monitor it. If it heads our way, we deal with it. That’s our company motto, sir. Monitor and Deal. Pressure and Divert.”
“Much of how we do this is top secret. But I can tell you, sir, if a hurricane heads our way, we have the ability to create low-pressure and high-pressure zones in the atmosphere that can cause it to veer away from the Hamptons.”
“You can do that?”
“We can’t stop it, sir. Hurricanes create an amount of energy well beyond any human control. But we can manipulate the atmosphere, and we will.”
“I know the Town Board rushed this project through.”
“In 24 hours. The billionaires have lots of pull.”
“And it’s created jobs.”
“Tons. But I can’t tell you how many. That information is above my authorization level.”
“Is this legal?”
“President Obama is on board. And this is private enterprise, not a public work. There are different legalities when it involves private enterprise. I will say, sir, that if any other area in the United States wants to protect itself from hurricanes and they have the means to do it, they can follow our lead.”
“And it was built in just four weeks?”
“Where do you send the hurricane?”
“We can steer it off either to the east or west by about 150 miles, depending how soon we can get on it. So it might be possible, for example, to send it to Trenton or, the other way, we could send it beyond Nantucket and out to sea.”
“Did I say Trenton, sir? I didn’t mean to mention any specific place, actually. But there are places that would benefit from a hurricane, in the urban renewal sense of the word.”
“And what if there is a facility in Nantucket that wants to send the hurricane over this way?”
“It’s like anything else. From a practical matter, we don’t see any billionaires on Nantucket putting together a Weather Control Center anytime soon. But if they did, sir, I think we would work with them. I think that’s possible.”
“How many people were employed for the four weeks building this project?”
“Talking about that would be above my authorization level, sir,” he said.
“Can you tell me anything about what is in those other four buildings?”
“No, sir. Nobody will tell you that. But I will say that the science being produced is at the very top of what America, along with contributions from China, Japan, Germany and Russia, is capable of. It is at least three levels above the Brookhaven National Lab, no offense to the Brookhaven National Lab.”
“You have your own power plant?”
“That I can tell you a little about. Of course. It’s capable of providing the sort of power you might need for, say, New York City.”
As we were speaking, something of a stir began to take place in the hall below. More people had come into the room and were now walking briskly here and there. And now I saw on the lower right-hand corner of the Eastern Seaboard map a dark red and yellow ball beginning to appear, off the coast of Cuba. It was about the size of Cuba to judge by the first half of it that was now on the map. Loud buzzers began sounding at one-second intervals.
Commander Richfield spoke softly into what I now saw was a tiny microphone along the side of his cheek. I had not noticed it before.
“Code Yellow, Lieutenant,” he said. He turned to me. “Nothing to worry about, sir” he said. “I’m just putting everybody on alert.”
“That thing?” I pointed.
“Yes. Hurricane Pincus.”
“A male name?”
“An old Jewish name, I think. But not our call. This will be a good time for us to end this tour, sir. I’ve probably told you more than I should, but I do know the billionaires are fans of Dan’s Papers or they wouldn’t have allowed you to come here. Especially that part about Trenton.”
“My lips are sealed,” I said. “That was off the record.”
There was a small slit window running floor to ceiling off to my right, and I glanced out of it. It looked out in the direction where the other buildings would be, but all I could see were trees. Then I did see something. It was a pale yellow dome of light, getting brighter and then dimmer and then brighter again. A flock of birds just outside the window fluttered off.
“This way, sir,” the Commander said, ushering me out the way I had come in.
And so I left, glad to go home, knowing that we were safely under the protection of WINDEND, LTD., and all the billionaires who have made this happen so soon after Irene passed through. And then I thought of another thing. My homeowners insurance had ceased covering floods and other disasters. Perhaps now that would change.
And perhaps the space program, or what’s left of it, and surely the military, will be able to learn much from what goes on here.
HWCC, as I now referred to it, is quite an installation. I think.