Friday, September 12, 2008

"It's the size of Texas, Mr. President."
- Billy Bob Thornton as the Johnson Space Center Director in Armaggedon,
explaining the width of an asteroid poised to strike the Earth.

Ike from Space


Galveston Landfall

7AM FRI: This modified and enlarged map from the StormPulse tracking site shows that hurricane force winds of possibly 100 mph or greater will encompass the entire Houston metro area, especially considering the NHC official track has shifted again to the right. This already horrific projection is assuming Ike does not increase in intensity from the current landfall expectation of Category 3 at 115 mph. Gusts may exceed 125 mph. If you're inside this zone, prepare for sustained winds at or above 75 mph for at least 10 hours, with a period of 100 mph or higher for a few hours inside that as the center nears the city. It is looking more likely this storm makes a direct hit on Houston and will not pull a "Rita" and shift considerably in some other direction.

It may sound too doomsday to you, but the graphic headline of "Certain Death" reported in the news this morning is the most focused way to sum up this situation for those staying behind to face a 20-foot storm surge. (This warning originates in the NWS text of a hurricane statement for Houston). We are facing a near-catastrophic event which could become the Katrina of Texas in terms of damage and flooding.

Ike Path and Texas Coast Refineries

Regardless of where you live in the continental United States, this storm will be impacting your life in major ways. I know, you've heard that before. The dire predictions of oil and gas barreling upward in the wake of Gustav did not materialize. This time it is different, and 3 years ago I posted extensive information about the impacts of then-Major Hurricane Rita. Neither Gustav, Rita or Katrina actually took a track that is as potentially destructive to our nation's gas and oil production facilities as this one. That's because coastal and inland areas of the southeast Texas house some of our most important petroleum facilities. Ike is currently mirroring the path followed by that of the devastating 1900 hurricane which nearly wiped Galveston off the map, and is still the number one deadliest disaster in in U.S. history. If you've not read the gripping account of that storm in the book Isaac's Storm, check your local library before someone else snaps up the one copy there. Below is an image of what remained in Galveston the last time a storm of this magnitude struck. Not much, as you can see.
Galveston Hurricane of 1900

Let's break it down folks...we're talking about hurricane force winds that will buffet the entire Texas coastline and western third of Louisiana's coast. Winds 75 mph or greater currently extend outwards 120 miles from the center. At present, the overall wind field is actually LARGER than Katrina was at her maximum strength, and to the chagrin of Houston/Galveston, air force reconnaissance aircraft have observed some of the strongest winds (at or above Cat 3 levels) are far removed from the center...100 nautical miles away, in the right front quadrant. It will not matter where this storm lands, it's nasty jaws are as wide as the state it is about to strike. As reported by the Oil Drum, source for the map shown above, this storm will shut in 20% of all U.S. gasoline refining capacity, (which is 5% of the world total) and 96% of all Gulf oil production is already offline, as well as 73% of Natural Gas operations. Please understand that despite these energy-related concerns, what matters most is the safety and security of every single human life in the path of this storm. Down there in all that crawling traffic is someone's grandmother in and un-air conditioned car, or a single mother with children in diapers, or an elderly father in frail health. Tonight and tomorrow, we should be keeping those and more in our prayers.

Houston 6

ALL THOSE BUILDINGS, ALL THAT GLASS. While we focus on the on-shore landfall dangers, the other huge risk when a storm strikes a major population center like Houston or New Orleans is the hugely complicated cleanup task. Exacerbating the process will be a storm surge possibly 20 feet or more, bringing with it dangerous debris and toxic chemicals from the many refining facilities throughout the region. Below is an image I designed based on an interactive feature published in the Houston Chronicle during Hurricane Rita in September 2005, that illustrates the storm surge potential. Click on the image below to see in greater detail the ironies of this graphic: Ike's projected surge of 20 feet versus the 19 feet hypothesized, the fictious landfall date of 9/11 (as opposed to 9/13), and the nearly identical landfall location.

Houston 2

What do you suppose a 14-20 feet storm surge will do to a beautiful place like the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Galveston? Rebuilt after being nearly totally destroyed in the 1900 Hurricane, it is possible that today's storm poses the greatest threat to this symbolic and spiritual center since that fateful September day 108 years ago. With most of the island projected to be underwater and flooding to the eaves of many homes, it is not a surprise the mayor finally ordered a mandatory evacuation of the entire island city. Those who stay do so at their own peril.


Galveston Sacred Heart Church
As time permits, I will be adding additional details, although I realize folks in Texas aren't reading it right now. For those of us along the East Coast, each day we can knock off the calendar in September is a real bonus, but don't think the danger has passed. I am refining a post that dicusses whether or not our neck of the woods faces another storm this month, and what may lie ahead in October. The premise going forward is this: Hurricane season is NOT over and we follow storms in other areas to LEARN about what to do when our time comes, because someday, it sure will.

4 comments:

Mary said...

Wow! those pictures you did are scary. People better get out of there. Big Storm.
Guess no Ravens game on Sunday.

I think this will come up Mary, but I am photofreak.

Julee said...

Holy cow Mr. Foot ... those graphics are riveting.
What do you think about the path? WILL it veer off?
Although it would have to veer a LOT not to do major damage somewhere along that coast.

Thank you for keeping us in the loop.

snow lover said...

hey me foot I have just found the new adress thanks to a teacher at Dundalk who I emailed and they were kind enough to help me by giving me the adress. can I give you my email so you can email me when the site change. when I went to ur old web adress I was so angry then it said that I had to be invited I thought I wouldnt ever read groom here again boy would I have been mad. now to the weather what will the intesity be do you think

Mr. Foot said...

Sorry snowlover, all is well with the world again. Thanks to Julee's internet posse, I was able to "hijack back" the site using legal methods, have regained control of the domain and the lady with the backpack is no more.

I've posted a redirect on the site that will send everyone this way and checked for accuracy on search engines. Seems to be working so far, should be no more problems.

Anyone been to Galveston?