Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday 8-31 Evening Update

Gustav Growing

(Storm clouds build over Havana, Cuba as Gustav approached from the south)

GUSTAV: 10 PM Sunday Analysis. It's a forgone conclusion that landfall as a Category 3 is now just a matter of time. It appears from latest satellite and radar imagery that a slightly discernable northward jog is occuring, which is very troubling. I also notice the Central Dense Overcast seems to be wrapping around a reforming eye. This indicates strengthening and unless the storm slows overnight, we could wake up to an intensifying 3 in the 125-130 mph range about to make landfall. Remember that each mile Gustav nudges east of the official track makes the damage to New Orleans, Lake Ponchartrain and surrounding areas that much worse. A surge of 10-14 feet traveling up the Mississippi River will overwhelm levee areas that were not affected in the same way as in Katrina. Water is again going to surge into the lake, and probably already has. It is at least reassuring to see the highways leading out of the city empty this afternoon, unlike last time. With a slowing of forward speed forecast near and after landfall, the flooding and rainfall impact of this may be worse than Katrina, and over a larger area. I submit that those who claim a westward track is better for New Orleans than Katrina's eastward jog are following wishcasting or don't understand the true nature of water movement under a long duration fetch of wind. This will be catastrophic any way you slice it. Below is my probably the last image of Gustav I will before of 10:30 PM 8-31-08.

Gustav in the Gulf 3

HANNA: A SURPRISE FOR STUDENTS? Until Monday, the projected path is an easy bet..west toward the Bahamas, then it gets complicated. The high pressure ridge that will build into the Northeast this week is going to influence her direction in the medium range. This in combination with Gustav's outflow may even weaken the storm somewhat. Once Gustav moves into Texas and the ridge in the Northeast moves offshore by Friday, divergent flow created by the departing High may provide Hanna with an "out." Tropical cyclones, just like air, water and school students, like to follow the path of least resistance. What looks more likely now is a recurvature east of Florida, with a landfall in the Carolinas. If Hanna is traveling north or northeast by then, the southern Chesapeake Bay, tidewater Virginia and the DelMarVa peninsula are put into play for secondary landfall by the weekend. Also note by that time, Hanna will be entering the westerlies, and thus forward speed will increase significantly. I've seen before a number of times where a fast moving system on such a track led to Tropical Storm Warnings for the entire Chesapeake Bay. While it may seem premature to say this, that raises the specter of disruption to the school schedule this coming Friday for at least many schools in Eastern North Carolina and even southeast Virginia. A stronger storm at landfall that moves more quickly will impact schools from Washington DC north and east into New Jersey. If history is any guide, many Mid-Atlantic schools closed for similar track storms (though not similar intensity) such as Gloria in 1985, Floyd in 1999, and the new historical indicator storm for Maryland-- Isabel in 2003.

Hanna Computer Tracks 1

IKE: THIS ONE YOU WON'T LIKE. Currently pegged as "Invest AL97" and located now west of the Cape Verde Islands, this next long track storm has climatology on it's side, along with favorable easterlies and thousands of miles of warm Atlantic waters. I'll be among the first to say this storm has potential to affect a wide area, so I'm sure many weatherfolk from the Gulf Coast to Florida to the Mid-Atlantic are already watching this storm's every move. One thing for sure, if it continues on a westward track, we will have a new round of major headlines in another 8-10 days after we get done with Hanna.

Invest 97L Track 2

For details on all these systems, visit this high quality tracking site: or view the National Hurricane Center's main page.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Less We Forget 1

Three years ago, the worst case scenario became a reality. The predictions came true, the projections were justified and the suffering of a city and the people it left behind became inhuman. For years, some said that someday, the luck would run out in the Crescent City. Others claimed we were safe behind our technology and devices. The levees will hold, the pumps will work. Leaders made it look like we were ready when really, it wasn't even close. And now today, it looks like all hands are finally on deck to salvage the good work that's happened in these three long years. Friday, August 29, 2008 saw the final burial of 80 victims from "the storm" whom were never claimed, except together by God and Nature's wrath on that fateful day. Today, those 80 souls among a thousand or more look upon us and whisper ever so quietly in the late night breeze wafting across the wetlands... "Lest We Forget." Waiting to see if perhaps this time, we have learned the lesson, so that their lives and unhappy deaths were not in vain.

Lest We Forget 2

If you have loved ones or know of anyone in the storm danger zones, take the time now to locate them, and see to it they are going to survive this with dignity and determination. Let the headlines read when this is over that no baby died from exposure by being stuck in a 14 hour traffic jam. Let's not have someone's grandmother left to out to die on the sidewalk because no one came to her aid before the storm. Let's make sure those without transportation are helped to the pickup stations. This time, let's get it right, not because it will look better for the cameras, because it is human thing.. the American thing to do.

Lest We Forget 3

FRI PM NOTES: You are no doubt aware that Contraflow is a go for all of the New Orleans Metro area starting early Sunday morning, and a mandatory evacuation for everyone south of Interstate 10. If it were my family, I would be leaving SATURDAY MORNING, because you know this scene above will be repeated across many highways. I hope none of you reading this will be stuck in that, because you're on the ball and have a plan in motion. Regarding the storm, I strongly suspect we will see explosive development in the next 24 hours, bringing it rapidly to Category 3. Wilma in October 2005 was in a similar location of the northwest Caribbean and intensified from tropical storm to Category 5 in just over 1 day, so it is possible again. Later in the weekend I will discuss the implications of the slowing forward motion projected for Monday to Wednesday, as I believe this will be the factor to cause as much OR MORE flooding in New Orleans than Katrina. Worse yet, if Gustva reaches Category 5 in the central gulf, and comes ashore as a 3 or above, we may look back on the whole situation and realize that Katrina was a rehearsal.


If you live along the I-10 corridor between Pensacola, Florida and Beaumont, Texas, please scroll to bottom of this post for a special list of recommendations I have regarding hurricane preparations for your family. This storm has the potential to be as bad or worse than Katrina, especially for cities such as Lake Charles, Lafayette, Baton Rouge. Towns along the Route 90 corridor could experience a direct hit, from Houma to Morgan City to New Iberia. Please take the necessary precautions now and review the Red Cross Planning Guide as well as my suggestions below.


NHC Gustav 6

FRI AM PROGRAMMING NOTE. Now that my 5 year old will be at kindergarten full time each day, I plan to complete and post a daily update either 9:30-10:30 AM or 1:00 and 2:00 PM during major storm periods. This is to clarify posting times for those of you keep checking back for updates, and are disappointed to find none. However, graphics and previous text or links will be tweaked as conditions change. Although I am on a sabbatical from school this year, there is much to do each day watching and teaching nearly-three-year old in addition to keeping the home clutter free of toys and completing coursework for my certificate renewal. I tell you this not because I am self-absorbed, it is so everyone is aware of the factors that will affect the frequency and extent of storm updates. Heck it might even help keep posts shorter!

SNEAK PEEK AT AFTERNOON UPDATE IDEAS: I am conducting an analysis of the factors that will influence Gustav's wind speed, the expected slowdown Monday into Wednesday, and how that could also be affect Hanna's trajectory. I will discuss Hanna's projected path beyond next Tuesday based on upper air factors, and her sustained wind speeds during that time.

EAST COAST RESIDENTS: I strongly suggest filling up your tank early in the weekend, as gas prices will eventually be affected by this storm, since nearly 90% of U.S. Gulf oil production is expected to be shut in by Sunday. Example: In Clearbranch, MS gas at a Kroger store went from 3.19 to 3.51 in less than 24 hours. You know that price action is going to work north.

New Orleans Nightmare

THU PM UPDATE: Three years ago today I was beside myself in bewilderment as to why it took until the morning of August 28 to issue evacuation orders for the City of New Orleans. Finally in the mid-morning hours that Sunday, Mayor Nagin made the announcement. Unfortunately it was beyond too late, and the delay was ultimately a death sentence for many. In 2008 there is hope that the lesson has been learned, for it seems FEMA and Governor Jindal are making it clear they will stay ahead of this storm and a state of emergency was issued early Thursday for Louisiana. It appears that federal and local officials now fully understand that a major evacuation requires at least 60 hours..which is well before even a Hurricane Watch is normally issued (at 36 hours).

NHC Gustav 4

The projected path of Gustav is very different from that of Katrina's and if this comes to pass, puts New Orleans and the southern Louisiana coast at greater risk for long lasting damage. Why? First, the significant loss of wetlands since the storm have reduced this natural buffer even further (a rate of 3 football fields per day). Second, a slow moving strong hurricane approaching from the southeast or south is the worst possible track, for it allows the storm to continuously funnel Gulf water in across Lake Borgne as well as the Breton and Chandeleur sounds into Lake Ponchartrain. Well before any landfall storm surge, this wall of water will overwhelm whatever levee systems are there, repaired or not, just by sheer force of volume. If Gustav slows down by day 5 or 6 as NHC is indicating, this will make the flooding problem just as or more catastrophic as Katrina. The only way to view this storm in a good light is that at least this time, there are less people to evacuate. The image below was taken from a special report on the week before Katrina, and featured as part of my reporting in August 2005.

No Margin Of Error

For those new to the site since our last major hurricane event, please know there are a few procedures I follow with regard to safety of readers in affected areas. If people reading this site happen to be located in an area of forecasted danger, I normally post recommendations that I would take were it my family facing the situation. However, the responsibility for taking appropriate action lies with the individual, and any harm that might come to someone while following my recommendations is a result of nature driving the environmental conditions. This of course has never happened to me in nearly 5 years of forecasting online, however I make it clear that if someone chooses to act on my ideas, it was a choice of their making, and not something I forced upon them. None of this "But Mr. Foot said I should..."


IF YOU LIVE ANYWHERE ALONG THE INTERSTATE 10 CORRIDOR BETWEEN PENSACOLA, FL AND BEAUMONT, TX, I offer these ten "Foot Would Follow" Recommendations. This is only a temporary partial list of actions I personally would take if my family were facing this storm. More details will be added Friday and Saturday, for I know many of you will be preparing to head out by then.

1. GET REAL GONE: Making arrangements with family at least 100 miles inland (for peace of mind regarding food, electricity, supplies, availability of cash from your bank, cell phone coverage, etc.). If no family nearby, you better get on the phone and reserve a hotel room or two immediately. Remember the gridlocked traffic? Have 2 evacuation routes mapped out.

2. LEARN FROM THE PAST: Reviewing what happened in recent hurricanes.. what went right and wrong about preparation? What would you do different this time. If you've never been through one, talk to someone rational and realistic in the neighborhood about what they are doing. I've read on forums that Gulf coast residents felt they should have left a day earlier in Rita/Katrina.

3. AM I COVERED: Check homeowner’s insurance, what does the policy say about wind versus water damage? How does it define flooding? Locate all the important family/home documents, take 30 minutes right now and put them in a binder, and put that in a water tight bag. Throw in a couple pencils, sharpies and some notepads. Review the links posted here on An Emergency Plan for Your Family... the Red Cross and FEMA also have good information.

4. STOP THE SALE: Don't be attempting to close on a home right now as insurer’s will not provide a policy within 30 days of an area being declared under a Hurricane Watch. Betcha didn't know that one.

5. BATTEN DOWN: Remove the boats today if feasible and hauling them very far inland. Boaters know how long this takes so it is not a quick and easy job. Leaving your boat at the dock allows it to become a missile into someone else's property or on to a public road hampering relief efforts.

6. DIVIDE AND CONQUER: One of you head to Home Depot today, the other go to the grocery store, right now this exact moment. Non perishables, comfort items, bottled water, canned goods and an opener, soap, insect repellent, first aid kit, batteries batteries batteries. Try an Autoparts store first before the HD. Before you go, Google the phrase: "100 items that disappear in an emergency." I've read that in Lafayette, LA many stores have already run out of supplies, and a similar situation in places even in Jackson, MS.

7. STORM SURGE: If your home is at risk for water or wind damage during landfall… and it’s a Category 3 or above, there’s not much that can be done to protect it. Boarding up windows won't help if the roof is ripped off and the walls collapse inward. Don’t believe me? Look at pictures of Pensacola before and after Ivan in September 2004. What's more important..getting your family to safety or fruitlessly protecting a structure that can be rebuilt?

8. TANK UP OR ELSE: Filling up the car right now this exact moment on the way to Home Depot and before moving the boats. Try to fill up a few of those red lawnmower cans too.

9. WHO'S ON THE TEAM: Making sure everyone in the family is on board and taking the storm seriously. Check on neighbors and elderly or those less mobile. What is the plan to get them out? Who’s in charge of them? Where will they be going? What's the phone number there? Better check on that crazy guy in the neighborhood who says he rode out the Biblical Flood, so he's not leaving this time.

10. TAKE THE INITIATIVE: DON'T WAIT FOR LOCAL OFFICIALS TO CALL AN EVACUATION. If you are of sound mind and body, are a responsible adult with or without a mortgage, with or without children and/or a spouse, and have generally developed a good sense of right and wrong… then by all means.. beat the crowd and evac early to avoid the miles of traffic line that YOU KNOW are coming. Don’t wait for contraflow. Don’t wait to be stuck on a bus that’s stalled in traffic with no air conditioning. It would have taken 72 hours to evacuate pre-Katrina New Orleans, yet the call was not publicly issued until Sunday morning less than 24 hours before landfall. That was way beyond too late.

CONCLUSION: I know some of my reader friends will be saying, "There goes Armaggedon Weather Foot again." I wouls say back to them... "Hey, you have to be right ALL THE TIME.. in a storm like this, I only have to be right ONCE." This time I hope I'm wrong. I’m not advocating that you jump in the car today and split. I’m saying that areas along and south of I-10 are at highest risk for damage and service disruption from this storm. If you want to have a reasonable existence in the post storm period during recovery, make the preparations now.

Let's compare this situation to what would happen if Gustav were heading for the Chesapeake Bay/Baltimore-DC, (as Hannah might do next week!) and I was going to experience 100 mph winds at my house in Dundalk, MD. I would be leaving and fairly soon, probably by Friday. I’d head directly for State College, PA, not up the 95 corridor with my other 9 million metro friends. Sound ridiculous to go 4 hours inland? Not when you consider I have 2 small children, and want to temporarily relocate to an area that is not directly affected, so I can still get groceries and supplies because they haven’t been snapped up already by people living in a “semi-storm” zone that just went a few miles more west to the next store over.

Much remains to discuss, including what Hannah may bring late next week to the Southeast and or Mid Atlantic. Please continue to be patient as the site undergoes revisions. I hear your suggestions to widen the fields, and I am trying to launch a 3 column format, but don't want to inadvertently delete all the features in the sidebar. I hope the biege/green motif is acceptable for now until I find something better.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Gustav in the Gulf 2

WED 8-27 SYNOPSIS: (Supporting links to be added later)
1. Gustav threatens to shut down at least 80% of US Gulf oil and gas production for 5 or more days, depending on the extent of damage and it's eventual path. Energy companies already evacuating personnel from offshore platforms, which are indicated by the white tower symbols on above map. Oil, fuel gas and natural trading are up sharply today in anticipation of supply disruptions before and well after the storm.

2. Galveston, Houston and New Orleans (and their surrounding communities) launching pre-storm preparations, realizing that the hurricane strength could reach Category 3 by early Saturday. Over the weekend, Gustav will traverse a long expansive of the Gulf that has surface temps of nearly 30 C (86 F). This "high ocean heat potential" which will fuel explosive growth, possibly bringing the storm to near Category 5 strength on Sunday.

NHC Gustav 2


This post marks the beginning of "high season" on my summer forecasting calendar, for the next 3 weeks is considered the climatological peak period of tropical cyclone frequency in the Atlantic basin. Right on schedule, a new hurricane is moving across the Caribbean. In an eerily similar script to Katrina, Rita, Dean and Ivan, early indications are Gustav will easily reach major hurricane status prior to a landfall along the Gulf Coast. If you consider the NHC current projected path (central Gulf by Sunday) and intensity forecast (a strong Category 3 by then) This storm has the makings of a very significant event, as some bloggers I've read have noted even the name "Gustav" seems to sound like it means business. Since the weather is serious business for many of you, improvements to this site continue so that information and posts are real-time or more accessible.

Gustav Tracks 2

Although this site normally focuses on weather risks for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, Gustav poses a unique threat to the entire country much the way Katrina and Rita did. The reason centers on likely impacts to the U.S. petroleum industry clustered in along coastal Louisiana and Texas. Ironically as I was preparing this report, The Weather Channel posted a very similar map as featured below. I’m sure you know what’s going to happen if a major hurricane churns right through these platforms, and as expected, the energy industry has already launched storm preparations for next week. Likewise, the State of Louisiana has laid out a comprehensive evacuation and emergency plan. Even the oil futures market stomached a $5 swing over a 24 hour period ending Tuesday evening. Whether you are ready or not, in a week our less this storm will have affected a whole lot more than just the price of gas at your corner station. Recalling my pre-Katrina example, I filled up the gas tank the night before she made landfall, and within 48 hours regular 87 octane in Dundalk, MD had jumped 90 cents. Keep in mind that Katrina pummeled the eastern edge of the platform area, and just 3 weeks later Rita sliced right through it. Gustav's track could affect both sections at once. While I don't want to incite "weather panic", if the projected path into the Gulf becomes more likely, those on a restricted income should consider filling up before the weekend (even here in Maryland). You know full well what the energy market will do, and how it will hit your wallet when it does.