Sunday, October 2, 2005


Stan 1

But not for long. This hap-hazard looking system finally developed on Saturday into Tropical Storm Stan with winds of 45 mph, however it will be short-lived. Drifting slowly west-northwest across the Yucatan Peninsula, it is expected to be downgraded back to a depression until it reaches the Bay of Campeche. The NHC official forecast is for upper level shear to relax in the coming days, and an upper level high form over the cyclone. Combined with very warm SST's on west side of the Yucatan might just allow Stan to regenerate early next week back to a Tropical Storm, and quite possibly a Category 1 or 2 hurricane before a second landfall in central Mexico.

Elsewhere in the Western Atlantic, there has been continued concern of a "home brew" system developing in the Bahamas as a result of the big high parked over the Northeast. While nothing appears disturbed at this moment, it could be a different story within a 24 hour period given the right conditions. Convection appears to be increasing each day, and the NHC is beginning to take notice of the system.

In the far Eastern Atlantic, we do have tropical depression 19, but it has formed far enough north to prevent it becoming a much feared "long tracked" Cape Verde system which has given rise to many a destructive hurricane in the past, such as Floyd, Gloria and Ivan to name a few. In fact, some computer models show the system recurving back toward West Africa, which seems to be an unusual final destination.


Too early to tell if this system has the oomph necessary to become a named storm, but "home brew" (a tropical cyclone developing close to the U.S. mainland) has led to nearly all the landfalling storms this season. The eastern Atlantic is also flaring up, so both areas will be carefully watched for further development.



I extend my appreciation to Justin Berk and Tony Pann of Weather Talk Radio for providing me the opportunity to speak on their program at their request this past Sunday afternoon, 9/25. Justin and Tony's program airs every Sunday from 3:00 - 4:00 PM on Baltimore's AM 680 WCBM. The call in number is 410-922-6680, and you even may be able to listen in live on Windows Streaming Audio. When the weather situation warrants, I will probably call in again, and hope you will too. Here is a graphic posted on Eastern US Weather which shows the listening range of the station, covering most of the Washington to Philadelphia I-95 corridor, so you should be able to get it on your home radio.

If you are new to Foot's Forecast, welcome! I invite you to participate in our respectful and courteous community of weather enthusiasts from across the East Coast, please consider joining the comments board. It does require you to establish an identity, a generic weblog title, and to login each time you post a comment. Although this website focuses primarily on storm forecasting, you are welcome to post any questions or comments you wish about weather or meteorology. Your comments are posted on the site, and emailed directly to me. I will either respond with a followup comment or compile a response to cover questions from several people. Our frequent participators include "fellow forecasters" from the Baltimore/DC area, western Maryland, central, south-eastern and east-central Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, New York City and the Boston area, as well as occasional participants from the Gulf Coast and Southeast. I hope you'll join us. If there is information you would like to see added to the links column, please let me know. Myself and others, use this site as a resource for personal or professional interests as for forecasting information, so your input will make it a higher quality product for everyone. Now back to the weather...


Rita Track 3

This graphic is from the Colorado State University's Operational Tropical Cyclone Guidance Products page. I present this because it is most straight-forward format for displaying the "composite runs" of the major computer models. But without even looking at computer programs, the TV or internet, I'll bet you can already tell from the cloud changes since Saturday, and feel it in your bones that Rita's remnants are heading for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Welcome rainfall it will be, a torrential tropical downpour it will not be. The risk of strong to severe thunderstorms can also not be ruled out, as daytime heating mixed with tropical moisture coul easily spark "popcorn variety" thunderstorms throughout the Eastern third of the country over the next 2-3 days, until Rita departs the East Coast. There is a more extensive analysis of this potential by professional meteorologist Larry Cosgrove on Eastern US Weather.

Then all eyes will quickly turn back to the tropics, because the Caribbean Sea and Western Atlantic still have plenty of untapped energy and lots of calendar left to go...unfortunately. Keep your eyes on a wave that is moving through the southern Caribbean, that could end up being Stan in the next few days. Let's also not forget that countless thousands in our country continue to suffer in the aftermath of the destructive 2005 storms, and many more are still recovering from the historic 2004 season. I encourage you to give to a reputable charity of your choice, or to the American Red Cross, because just one person can make a difference in the lives of others.

A compilation of images from the four biggest storms of the season I designed from from NASA and NOAA satellite galleries. Do you know your 2005 major hurricanes? Will this image have to change in the weeks ahead, or are we on the downside of the season? I believe we'll have the answer to that question sooner than later.

The Big Four of 2005

While Rita's winds and rains rage on in Louisiana and Texas, the worst and best of the storm's aftermath is yet to come. Read on to find out why.

Rita Track 2

Yes, I know that is a really cool graphic. Now don't get all excited about the pretty colors just yet and overlook the science behind it. This map reveals something very important for the parched northeast. I created this using Google Earth and some weather data overlays, not hard to do, and then click on the image above for a blog that has downloadable programs that will automatically load current storm data into your version of Google Earth, then you can manipulate it anyway you like. The important thing to notice on this graphic is that it shows the "Mean Steering Layer" of upper level winds that move weather systems across the globe. You'll also notice that the computer model tracks seem to indicate steering currents may take Rita toward the northeastern U.S. and not back into the Gulf of Mexico as I originally reported. From a personal observation, the air feels more tropical, looking at the upper level water vapor imagery shows Rita's northern outflow has been caught up in the jet stream, blowing it across to the east coast. It's one of those gut feelings again, that despite what the computers are saying, it now "feels" to me that Rita is coming this way, and can hopefully bring much needed rain to the Mid-Atlantic and other areas in need.
The next set of graphics I posted earlier Saturday afternoon, and the earlier thinking was into the Gulf, but now more models are showing a path more northeasterly.

Rita Track 1


Rita's winds are fading, but the real problems will become the inland flooding in the Southeast, and the new possibility that air masses moving across the U.S. are going to redirect Rita back into the Gulf! The earlier concern was a collapse of steering currents, allowing Rita to stall and dump flooding rains in the areas near and north of landfall. But looking at this new animation of the GFDL, makes you wonder if the laws of atmospheric physics are going to trump our best efforts to prevent further flooding in New Orleans. Watch closely in this animation as you see the decaying high pressure slide off the East coast, while a new ridge is building in from the west. Knowing that air flows clockwise around a high, although upper air wind systems move differently than surface systems, it is easy to see how the new western ridge could trap Rita. As this new high slides east, Rita gets pushed south, across eastern Louisiana and Lake Ponchartrain, and into the northern Gulf, with a 120 hour wind speed of 44 knots, clearly minimal tropical storm force. Then as this high continues to move east across the northern half of the country, the obvious next path for re-generated Tropical Storm Rita is to travel along the periphery of the high, just like she did this week...and the orientation of these two systems could even lead to a new landfall in the western Gulf, or Texas again. I know this sounds nearly ridiculous, but if you don't remember what Ivan did last year, take a glance at this chart. Ivan was ejected off the Mid-Atlantic coast as a tropical depression, producing massive floods in southeastern PA and central/southern NJ, before heading out into the Atlantic, being shunted south, crossed eastern Florida, re-emerged in the Gulf, and quickly re-generated, guessed it, the upper Texas coast as a 60 mph tropical storm, very close to Sabine Pass.

It happened before, it could happen again. I imagine the press will begin touting this story soon to hype the idea that New Orleans could be twice affected by the same storm. In closing, I am not going to claim credit for coming up with this scenario, I have merely noticed it mentioned on the Eastern US Weather discussion board, and have posted those ideas here for you to consider.


Rita 16

Rita at landfall as a Category 3 with winds of 120 mphs. This is now the third major hurricane to strike the mainland U.S. in three months...Dennis in July, Katrina in August, and now Rita. What follows is a post that I prepared Friday to discuss how the situation would be changing once the storm made landfall.


It has been a horrible day for all of us looking to nail something good about this storm. Maybe the best thing to say right now is that there are no tropical systems of landfall concern elsewhere in the Atlantic basin. So here is the good, the bad, and the ugly…all mixed up and throw together just like the incomprehensible nature of this unfolding drama of humans vs. nature.

1. Levees breached anew. Seems as though we are on the losing side of this battle, at least for now. It’s anyone’s guess as to what will really happen to the levees, how much rain will fall over the God-forsaken Crescent City, how much inland flooding potential there is, how much water will make it back into Lake Ponchartrain, how long it will take to re-pump, how long before citizens can return, the list just goes on and on.

2. Weakening won’t look so weak when we see what 125 mph winds and a 15-20 foot surge will do. While everyone focuses on the weakening winds in the eyewall, remember the hurricane force wind field of 74 mph or greater is over 160 miles in diameter, and will likely expand further as the weakening continues. I have my doubts about the possibility of the eyewall “tightening up” as it reaches land, causing a sudden increase in winds. I believe enough dry air has mixed into the inner core of the system that the eyewall will be too disrupted to accomplish any more tightening at this point. However….even 100 mph winds can blow out windows and then lift off roofs. Also worth noting is that the higher elevation a structure has in face of the storm, the stronger those winds will be. Even it this drops to a 2 at landfall with 105 mph winds like Isabel, buildings 50 feet or higher will easily experience Cat 3 winds. Tall buildings 100 or more feet in height will sustain serious to near-catastrophic damage, much like what we saw with high-rise apartments along the Florida coast when Ivan and Dennis roared ashore.

3. Killed trying to reach safety. What can I say? Just horrifically tragic. An unfortunate and freak event, but in light of the deadly nursing home debacle, ironically named, “St. Rita’s” in the lower 9th Ward of East New Orleans, it makes you feel like we can’t win for losing. Keep the elderly there, they drown in a rising flood. Take them out of harm’s way days before hand, they die in a highway bus fire. I am not at all criticizing the care facility’s decision to evacuate those people. Leaving them in a part of Texas under the gun for a near-certain Category 4 Hurricane would have been just as bad as the St. Rita’s disaster. This terribly heart-wrenching bad news should not detract from the fact that many hundreds of elderly and critically ill patients were lifted to safety and are doing fine, albeit confused and out of sorts.

4. Inland flooding will be the bigger story. As is now being widely reported, the light steering winds responsible for guiding Rita into the Texas/Louisiana border will either collapse, allowing the storm to stall or drift aimlessly for several days. This region of "Terkarkana" may see 10 to 20 inches of rain or more, and much of that water will flow back down rivers previously flooded by storm surge. People who evacuated to hotels farther north may find themselves trapped by the very water they were trying to escape.

5. Gotta love that dry air. Though many thousands suffered in unimaginably long traffic delays of 10-15 hours in stifling heat, it is possible to say that the parching heat and it’s accompanying dry air aloft is the very thing that may have saved Texans from a Houston-Galveston $100 billion catastrophe? We began to see dry air being entrained in the western flank of the storm, as is observed often in slower moving systems. This begins to disrupt the perfect symmerty of the inner core circulation, and allows the central pressure to rise. The storm also began a more northerly wobble, which appears to have spared Houston and Galveston the worst, for now.

6. Mr. Mayfield goes to Washington. As
Matt Drudge reported on Friday, Max Mayfield, Director of the National Hurricane Center, testified to a Congressional panel that the recent upswing in hurricanes could be a cyclical trend in the Atlantic that occurs every 25 to 40 years. The Atlantic and Gulf coasts have been on the lucky side of history the past 30 years, while supporting a massive building boom in hurricane-prone areas. It is a very positive step toward getting members of Congress to gain a better understanding of what is to come if our government is going to improve disaster planning and relief.

7. Far from the maddening crowd. Tornadoes, the smaller but no less wicked cousin that accompanies landfalling hurricanes, will no doubt unleash random destruction and take lives far from where the actual storm is located. The southeast to northwest spiral bands rolling over Louisiana have most likely spawned twisters in Katrina-ravaged areas. My concern is for evacuees still trapped on the highway unable to find safe ground, then feel the winds slowly pick up, the skies darken to their south, and look down a lone ling of cars thinking…”What am I going to do?” While we are not talking F-3 level tornadoes, F-1’s are certainly possible and could just as easily slice across a packed highway as smack a distant crop field.

Programming notes:

1. I'm having some formatting problems with the posts. Usually I create seperate posts for each topic or day. But recently, when I did that, it would disrupt the following posts and throw my links to the bottom of the page. Until I can find a solution, I have continued to update and add on to the main Rita post started last Saturday. If you have a suggestion on how to fix this, either email me ( or post a comment.

2. If all goes as planned, I will be calling in to an AM radio program called weathertalkradio on AM 680 WCBM in Baltimore, MD on Sunday 9/24 at 3:00 PM. This was at the request of Justin Berk, a meteorologist with ABC2 News in Baltimore, and his colleague, Tony Pann, who conduct this program weekly. So if you want to talk weather, Rita and hurricanes, call in if you can. The showtime number is 410-922-9280. I will actually be out of the area and calling in by cell phone, if one of our trusty Baltimore area readers would be willing to somehow tape record the program, I would be very appreciative. I'd like to have this tape to let grandparents and other family members not in the listening area be able to hear the program later. Thanks for your support of Foot's Forecast.



Rita 11

The preparation stage is coming to an end, and the survival stage is about to begin. From this point on, the storyline changes from a meteorological one to an unfolding massive human drama of unbelieveable porportions. A traffic backup for a hundred miles or more in stifling heat. People from Texas heading north or east thinking they are moving out of the storms path are encountering heavy traffic coming west from Louisiana as those residents flee the same storm since the path appears to be shifted. These drivers may be running out of gas, slowing down efforts to get out in time. So what we thought might be a heroic to save lives by getting people we hope will not turn into a deathtrap. Instead of people trapped in homes with rising water, I hope we will not see thousands of motorists stuck on roads in the storm's path with no fuel and nowhere to hide facing the exactly the fury they were trying to avoid.

Rita 12

Some points to consider as we head into this final day of "life before Rita."

1. The NHC official track has not changed much, and slight wobbles to the west or north have been replaced with a general WNW path. On the surface this would seem to take the storm to the north of Galveston Bay, and I have a sneaking feeling it will do just that. However the other concern is a sudden track-altering phenomena Accuweather has mentioned in the past, known as "frictional effects." When the Central Dense Overcast of the storm begins to interact with land, because it is moving so slowly, I wonder if there might not be a inexplicable left turn, taking the storm closer to Galveston/Houston by 30 or more miles. This can happen when the left quadrants of the storm begin to interact with the land, producing slight weakening of winds in one part of the storm, but leaving the wind field over the water intact. With left quadrant winds weaker, stronger winds from the 2 right quadrants have the net effect of driving the storm in closer to the coast.

2. My theory is that as this frictional effects phenomena is taking place, the storm is undergoing a slow weakening. The eyewall expands as pressure rises slowly, allowing the core of strongest winds to lessen by perhaps 10-15 mph in the first hour prior to and following landfall. As the core winds decrease, the storm slowly loses the tight grip it had on this strong core...and the wind field begins to expand in size quite rapidly. This could result in a much larger area experiencing hurricane force winds. At present the radius of 74 mph + winds is 160 miles (or 80 miles in any one direction from the center.) What we could see happen is in hour right before landfall, winds decreased to 130 mph, but hurricane force winds expand another 20 miles, and tropical storm force winds now extend out 205 miles from the center (or a radius of 410 miles), could expand to 220 miles.

3. As the Quantitiative Precipitation Forecast map shows above, computer project the storm to stall once inland, and rain itself out over the hapless people who thought they escaped the worst. Some other forecasters have already speculated that inland flooding may be responsible for more more deaths than might be caused by the surge and winds. This entire region of the Southern Coastal Plain and lower Piedmont is extremely flat as everyone knows, and while there is a drought with a rainfall deficit, 6-20 inches of rain will be more than the ground can handle. A saturated ground with persistent winds from a slow-moving storm will cause massive blow down of trees. Rapidly rising waters may occur in areas where people thought they had escaped the storm's wind and surge.

4. It is all but certain Rita has peaked in intensity, and will probably not regain Category 5 status. Another advantage of the current situation is that an eyewall replacement cycle could start in in the 30 or so hours leading up to landfall. This would weaken winds further, bringing the final landfall winds down to the original 130 mph I forecasted earlier this week.

5. Review local NWS office hurricane statements from the area to get a sense of the expected damage.

The on-going post for this storm, started on Saturday, 9/17, follows:

Houston 6

All those beautiful buildings, all that glass.

Rita 8

I expect this storm to be a Category 4 at landfall between Matagorda and Galveston with sustained winds around 140 mph. The official NHC track has been shifting gradually north, and as of this morning was going to bring the zone of highest winds and strongest surge right up Galveston Bay toward downtown Houston. Now that track has moved northward along the Texas coast toward Louisiana, and there's been widespread concern today that New Orleans and other areas not as well prepared may suddenly find themselves under the gun. Landfall storm surge will be in excess of 20 feet will flood 100 miles of coastline and damaging not just homes, businesses and cities, but also many oil rigs, platforms and critical gas refineries. Striking in such a populated area such as the Galveston/Houston metro area could result in economic losses of at least $100 billion, with several hundred thousand homes flooded or damaged by wind. Inland areas up to 100 miles away from the landfall zone will experience hurricane force gusts up to 80 mph. This storm is also targeting many large oil refineries in the region, and also at risk are also hundreds of underwater pipelines and the resulting supply disruptions could send gas prices skyrocketing to nearly $4 a gallon in many metro markets. The only good piece of news is that if the track has shifted toward Galveston Bay, perhaps this indicates the southern boundary of the high pressure ridge is decaying faster than expected. If this trend continues, Houston could end up on the left side of the eyewall, while still very damaging is a better place to be than squarely in the right front quadrant.

It would appear this storm has undergone a strengthening cycle not seen in recent memory. From my observations, in the 24 hour period starting at 10 PM Monday, Rita intensified from a middle Category 2 to a strong Category 5, and now has a central pressure lower than Camille and ranking as the third strongest storm ever in the Atlantic basin. I would have to do some checking of the facts, but I am not sure what storm other than the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane (which went from a 1 to a 5 in a short time), has demonstrated this level of intensification in such a short time period. While Katrina did have winds of 175 mph, it's lowest recorded pressure was 902, whereas Rita was at 897 millibars Wednesday night.

Rita 9

While residents of the Gulf coast are understandably not spending their time in meteorological wonderment over all this, the most stunning fact to consider is that in less than one month, we have witnessed with our own eyes TWO of the FOUR strongest hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, and Rita has tied with Katrina for wind speed, at 175 mph. With projected landfall winds of 155 mph, combined with a forward motion of 10-15 mph, this would essentially be a Category 5. Just like the New Orleans discussion of several weeks ago, I stated that it would not matter whether the storm is a 4 or a 5, we are talking absolute total devastation of all structures within a 40 mile radius of where this makes landfall extending inland for 20-30 miles or more. If this happens, it will far outstrip Katrina's damage path, and costs could exceed $200 billion. So for Alan Greenspan to think that the damage caused by Katrina would only have a "temporary" effect on the economy, I wonder what he will say when we have a combined economic toll of two hurricanes, including insured and uninsured losses plus rebuilding costs of over $500 billion? Maybe that would be just a "moderate problem." Or maybe Mr. Greenspan would consider me to be "irrationally exuberant" about the impacts of this storm.

Houston 7

Click on the image to get the latest map from the NHC
Rita 10

Considering the perpendicular approach of the storm to the cosat, some well-known private forecasters have pointed out that this track is especially problematic, as a slight change of a few degrees even hours before landfall could have disastrous and deadly consequences. We observed this in Punta Gorda, Florida when Hurricane Charley made a suddent right turn and charged up Charlotte Bay, catching many by surprise who thought the storm would go inland farther north of them.

Texas 1

Central and western gulf sea surface temps, as well as the "ocean heat potential" will be significant factors the strengthening of Rita over the next 2 days. (First graphic is current SST, second is Ocean Heat on the image for their source.)

Rita 4

Note in the graphic below that the subsurface ocean heat potential is higher on the east side of the Gulf, where cooler SST's are, in contrast to western gulf, which has higher SST's but a lower heat potential. This may be why we have see Rita reach her maximum intensity earlier than anticipated, but we can only hope that it does not interact with the warmer patch of water farther west in the Gulf.

Rita 3

If current forecast paths holds week from now the federal government will be faced with an unimaginable challenge: How to assist well over 1,000,000 residents from two different major metropolitan areas in reclaiming their heavily damaged cities. For those who believe I am simply hype-mongering, I have found a variety of sources in my research today that underline the reasons for extreme concern with a major hurricane strike in a place like Houston, starting with a major piece in the Houston Chronicle. Another telling article written in February 2005 outlines for Houston residents some of the same concerns that many had about New Orleans before Katrina came ashore. This report states that many residents in southeast Texas have never seen a major hurricane if they were not around for Alicia in 1983 or Carla in 1961, which came onshore near Corpus Christi.

I will break down the possibilities into four scenarios, but only one will become reality. Note that I have written this section as more of a "docu-drama" to accentuate the differences of each scenario, not to hype it. As for the meteorology behind the predictions, I am working on that and you will observe more maps being posted with time. The question becomes…which scenario is most likely to come true? (scenarios originally posted on Sunday 9/18)

image below is compiled from an interactive article posted at the Houston Chronicle. Click on the "storm surge" selection and follow the animation through to see the computer modeling impacts of a Category 4 surge of 19 feet in Galveston Bay and surrounding areas.

Houston 2

Click on the image to get a larger easier to read version

This rapidly developing storm defies all predictions… and becomes a Category 3 sweeping near the Keys, causing extensive damage, emerges in the Gulf as a strong 3, and churns toward Texas over 29 – 30 deg C waters. By Thursday the cloud field has grown to encompass most of the Gulf of Mexico, and tropical storm force winds extend out over 200 miles. Taking seemingly direct aim on Houston, nothing seems to be able to stop the maelstrom from growing into a Category 5 catastrophe producing monster, interacting with very warm water left mostly undisturbed for the summer. This sudden and overnight intensification spurns officials in the Houston and surrounding areas to "recommend" evacuations for most of the region south of Route I-10/90A… nearly 1 million people. Some residents flee knowing the fate of those who remained in New Orleans, but evacuation routes quickly get clogged. As with Katrina, the 5 day forecast error was off by less than 50 miles, and overnight Friday into Saturday morning, Rita roars ashore as the worst nightmare of Texas.. a 140 mph Category 4, sending a wall of water 20 feet high around the Galveston seawall at it’s northern inlet. High rise buildings in downtown Houston suffer incredible damage as 120 mph winds with gusts to 150 mph blow out thousands of windows, parts of Harris County are flooded by storm surge and throughout the metropolitan area, over 100,000 homes are severely damaged or destroyed. Several of the nation’s largest gasoline refineries are shut down and experience damage, disrupting pipelines to critical markets in the eastern and central U.S. Hundred of oil rigs are damaged and destroyed, as are major facilities in the port of Houston. Energy traders sensing new disruptions in the gasoline supply send wholesale prices soaring past $3 once again, and consumers begin to see overnight price spikes back towards $4 once again. The most horrible part of this scenario is a probable repeat of how the elderly and infirm will be left behind as they were in New Orleans, as Galveston and Houston city planners estimate up to 25,000 people have no transporation or ability to leave the area in an evacuation. First the Superdome, now the Astrodome? (actually the Astrodome is not built to withstand a strong storm, so it is being cleared out and closed as a shelter.)

Houston 5

With many Houston residents having little or no experience in a major hurricane, there could be a significant evacuation bottle neck and Houston-Galveston city officials and county emergency management offices throughout the metropolitan area were meeting at 4-4:30 PM Tuesday and probably got the word while in those meetings of the Category 4 forecast. No doubt one of their topics was how to prevent evacuation delays as shown below.

Houston 1


While crossing the Florida straits, Rita undergoes rapid intensification to Category 3 due to influence of nearly 90 F water temperatures and favorable upper-air environment with low shear. The Keys are hit hard and a million people are without power in southern Florida. However, with the storm intensifying so rapidly, it begins one of several “eyewall replacement cycles” which produces fluctuations in strength as it moves west. While the timing and length of these cycles causes Rita to briefly touch Category 4, the final cycle begins 24 hours before landfall. As it does, the storm begins to “ingest” dry continental air from the southern Plains, producing a slow weakening trend with brings the tempest down from it’s destructive 4 status to a still dangerous but more manageable Category 2 as it makes landfall. The Galveston sea wall deflects most of the surge, and it does not travel around the end side. Winds in downtown Houston reach hurricane force, but buildings constructed to new codes after 1983’s Alicia are able to withstand the wind, and experience minor damages. While electricity is out for many thousands of people, it is a temporary disruption as transportation routes are open, including bridges. Pre-positioned stockpiles of food and supplies are delivered rapidly to residents. Damage to oil rigs and refineries are slight, and within a week most facilities are operating again. There is moderate urban flooding from the 6 inches of rain that fell during the storm, but utilities are able to restore services quickly. The state and federal government proclaim within a day that, “this time, we can say with certainty that we really did dodge the bullet.”


While Rita strengthens into a hurricane overnight into Tuesday, it also makes an unexpected turn south toward Cuba. Frictional effects of the southern eyewall interacting with the mountainous terrain of this part of Cuba weaken the storm, and cause it to pull even farther south, making landfall near Havana as a 60 mph tropical storm. Getting “hung up” over Cuba, the storm parallels the coast for 12 hours, sparing the Keys from a direct hit, and then reemerges in the southern Gulf as TS/weak 1. The projected path and strength are considerably revised, and the storm takes 48 hours or more to reorganize, eventually reaching Category 2. With it’s northwestern route disrupted, Rita travels more westerly along the southern Gulf, grazing the Yucatan, and making landfall south of Brownsville, where Bret and Emily did earlier this season, dumping unneeded heavy rains on areas already strained by flooding.


(I highly doubt this scenario at all, but the press seems to want to create uncertainty when it is clear to most forecasters and enthusiasts following this storm that New Orleans is not going to be hit by Rita)

The computer model which accurately predicted a southeastern Louisiana landfall, the GFDL, once again takes the prize and shows Rita aiming for the central La. Coast as a major hurricane. Crossing the Florida straits as the expected Category 2, the storm begins a slow west-northwest, then northwest turn under a decaying high pressure ridge blanketing the region. Surprisingly, as the week progresses, computers begin an even farther turn to the east, bringing the storm in on a southwest to northeast angle, passing New Orleans to the west instead of the east. This westward path warrants the concerns about damage to the weakened New Orleans levee system, and even though the storm is a weakening Category 2, the combination of 6-10 inches of rain with a 10 foot surge is once again, destructive. Several different levees that did not breach in Katrina but were unknowingly weakened end up breaking. Water from Lake Ponchartrain floods parts of the city anew. The Army Corps of Engineers states that this new damage may require a “total reevaluation on the future feasibility of the New Orleans levee system.”


Atlantic 9-20

Thursday, September 22, 2005

1 comment:

The preparation stage is coming to an end, and the survival stage is about to begin. From this point on, the storyline changes from a meteorological one to an unfolding massive human drama of unbelieveable porportions. A traffic backup for a hundred miles or more in stifling heat. People from Texas heading north or east thinking they are moving out of the storms path are encountering heavy traffic coming west from Louisiana as those residents flee the same storm since the path appears to be shifted. These drivers may be running out of gas, slowing down efforts to get out in time. So what we thought might be a heroic to save lives by getting people we hope will not turn into a deathtrap. Instead of people trapped in homes with rising water, will we instead see motorists stuck on roads in the storm's path with no fuel and nowhere to hide facing the exactly the fury they were trying to avoid.

I have other points to make in tonight's discussion, including:
1. How a weakening trend will lead to an expansion of the wind field, affecting a larger area.
2. How the inland flooding risk may be greater for areas not in the Hurricane Warning.
3. Will there be another eyewall replacement cycle before landfall?
4. A summary of damage expected by NWS statements posted today

Please check back later this evening.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

or triple...if we get a TD 19 in the far eastern Atlantic soon

Double Trouble 1

All eyes are turning toward two or three developing systems spread across the Atlantic, Computer models are projecting a general west or northwest track in the near-term for these storms, but it is entirely possible that by early next week, we could have Phillipe and Rita. It is also possible that one or both of them will impact either Florida, the East Coast or the Gulf within a 10 day period. The only sticky point is whether or not an upper level trough in the central Atlantic will pickup these systems and recurve them. Some forecasters, including Accuweather, believe the southern system has a low enough latitude that it may avoid interaction with this trough, and allow it to continue on a west-northwest track into the Caribbean this week, and possibly into the Gulf after that. The other possibility is that either system develops, heads north, and is later driven back toward the east coast as the ridge moving in behind Ophelia becomes the dominant air mass over the northeast U.S.

The more interesting issue of the day is that given we will cross the P and R names before September is out, it looks likely the 2005 storm list may run out of names before the season expires. I just learned this is the earliest ever that we will use the R-name, as the last known occurance since 1953 was in October 1995 with Roxanne. Then what? CNN reports that since 1953, when storm naming began, there has not been a situation in the Atlantic basin where the name list was exhausted. The plan is that once we cross the W name (Wilma), the hurricane center will begin using Greek letters, starting with Alpha, then Beta, and so on.


With light shear and very warm SST's ahead, Phillipe is expected to reach major hurricane status within a 5-7 day period. The northerly trend shown here is plausible due to influence of the upper-level trough in the central Atlantic left in the wake of Ophelia. However, there is concern that the high pressure ridge building in the northeast may cause Phillipe to turn back toward the U.S. at the end of this forecast period... in the 120+ hour time frame. The other possibility, that is equally plausible, is the cold front in the Midwest moving east eventually nudges Phillipe a bit more to the east, sending it merrily into the Atlantic, missing even Bermuda. It sounds like a copout to say this, but either scenario has an equal chance until we see which region of the atmosphere begins to exert an influence on steering currents for this storm.

Phillipe 3


Let me be the first to say that within 5 days I believe we will see TWO Category 3 hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin occuring at the same time... Phillipe heading north to northwest, and Rita heading west into the Gulf, both as major hurricanes. There is considerable concern at the hurricane center regarding the track and intensity of this storm, according to a NHC conference call report on Sunday morning. Apparently hurricane watches may soon be posted for parts of southern Florida and the Keys. You can see the reasons for concern below, as the cyclone is soon to cross into waters near 90 F, and in a relatively low shear environment. The GFDL, which is sometimes right on (as it was for most of Katrina's projected path) and sometimes way off (as it was for Ophelia) has a Cat 4 or 5 heading west-northwest towards the Texas coast. Wouldn't it be a crying shame if those who evacuated to Houston have to evacuate AGAIN? Given the warm Gulf, and no major weather systems to influence Rita's path or strength, I see this storm easily reaching Cat 3 and by the end of the week, may be churning toward the Texas/Mexico coast as a Cat 5.

Rita 1

More on this developing tropical forecasting overload once we get TD named as Rita.


Ophelia 5

My apologies to our friends in southeast New England and the Canadian maritime provinces for not posting earlier on the fact that you were going to be sharing in Ophelia's dance. While the tropical storm warnings were a good idea and put the public on alert, it is encouraging to see that at least ONE geographical area of the U.S. was spared from a direct hit. However this is not the case for eastern coastal Canada, as Nova Scotia is now in the cross hairs, and will feel the full brunt of this expiring storm. While this will not be nearly as bad as Hurricane Juan in 2003, it will be a very stormy day. The conventional thinking would be that a tropical storm does not produce as damaging of a surge, but this time I beg to differ. The accelerating forward motion combined with 50-60 mph winds and the northeast angle will impact the entire coast of eastern Nova Scotia, including Halifax. The Atlantic will be pushed and piled up ahead of this storm, and I believe will result in a surge of 4-6 feet or possibly higher within small inlets. Though a tropical storm, this will look, feel and sound like a hurricane. Damage from downed trees will be considerable as Ophelia makes it’s first official landfall this weekend. Thanks to James, a reader from the Nova Scotia area, for reminding us that tropical cyclones often have a reach that goes well north of the U.S. and Ophelia will be no exception.

SUNDAY update: Nova Scotia did not see the strong winds and surge as predicted above, because the core of wind stayed offshore, much to the relief of residents I'm sure.

When I checked Ophelia's projected path this morning, I was stunned to see this map above. Can you believe this storm is going to maintain an impressive intensity all the way across the Atlantic... and possibly impact Scotland and Iceland? That is just "off the charts" as my students would say. The only other storm I can recall which had such a northerly track was Hurricane Gloria in 1985, which hammered Long Island and central New England, remained a tropical storm into the far North Atlantic, had after-effects in northern Europe into October. Read this well-done article that looks back on that fateful September storm.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Ophelia 5

I'm certain many people in North Carolina and Southeast Virginia do not consider this a "miss" as landfall is technically considered to be when the more than half the eye crosses over land. This Category 1 storm will turn out to cause as much damage as a Cat 2 or 3, because of the slow movement, long duration of onshore winds accompanied by heavy rain. The big problem for Eastern North Carolina is that all that water is being shoved up the sounds and rivers, and it will have no choice but to cause significant upstream flooding as it has nowhere to go. Couple that with 6 to 12 inches of rain on top of the surging water, and you have another significant flood event on the heels of the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. The NC governor was right to jump all over this storm early on, as the potential for inland flooding damage is just as great as storm surge damage along the coast. I don't recall a situation in recent times where a slow moving storm affected the Carolinas quite like this, unless you count flooding from Tropical Storm Dennis shortly before Floyd arrived in September 1999. Of course nothing in our time will compare to the ultimate slow moving catastrophic rainmaker that was Hurricane Mitch in October 1998 that devastated parts of central America under 3 feet of rain. More on the effects of Ophelia shortly.

Ophelia 4
Maybe, just maybe... according to the NHC, Ophelia will simply MISS the Carolinas altogether. I have reviewed the NWS local forecasts for SE Virginia, the I-95 corridor and New England. Given the track of this storm and placement of the high pressure ridge, I have my doubts that areas north and west of Richmond will see much in the way of heavy rain as is currently alluded to in NWS forecasts. I think the greater risk will be strong northeast and north winds as the hurricane passes to our east, and some brief squalls along Del-Mar-Va. Extreme SE Virginia, especially Norfolk, will see tropical storm force winds, along with southern Chesapeake, but Washington-Baltimore-Philly and Delaware... all in the clear. Expect little in the way of rain from this. My earlier prediction below:

Ophelia 3

The first Carolina hit of the season is now inevitable and expectations are somewhere along the SC/NC border. Some computer models are taking a more northerly track targeting only the NC coast. Landfall intensity would seem stay well within the Category 1 range, maxing out at 85 mph, according to the NHC. But if you look at SST charts for the region this storm will soon be crossing, it will enter a warmer environment of perhaps 82-83 F surface water. (Charts courtesy of a post from the Eastern US Weather Forum). With low shear, minimal dry air entrainment and adequate outflow and a discernible eye developing, I think it is not at all unreasonable this storm reaches Category 2 strength just prior to landfall. The NHC projected path takes Ophelia through eastern SC, eastern NC and into southern Virginia. It is reasonable to expect some tidal impact in the Chesapeake Bay from a southeasterly fetch as the depression approaches on Thursday. It would SEEM unlikely SE Virginia will see a repeat of the flooding rains that accompanied TD/TS Gaston, but we'll see how this depression plays itself out once inland before calling OFF the calvary. Keep tabs on the latest reconnaissance observations, and pay particular attention to letter "D" as it is the best indicator of maximum surface wind gusts, and letter "H" indicates current minimum surface air pressure.

If you live in the coastal zone likely to be impacted, remember the lessons of Katrina in southern Florida when she was a "minimal" hurricane: 11 people died and areas saw 10-20 inches of rain. So much for minimal. Winds in excess of 80 mph can damage roofs and windows, allowing storm rains to get inside homes. A surge of 4-6 feet can arrive within minutes. Heavy rains in advance of the system will also weaken tree root systems, allowing for toppling of trees and braches more quickly than in a fast moving system. The risk of electrocution to people who stay behind is greater, because damage will not be hugely extensive, but standing water and downed power lines sometimes create hidden electrical hazards. Bottom line: A "minimal hurricane" does not mean the effects are minimal, it just means the technical classification of the wind speed is at the low end of the chart. The only thing that should be minimal about this storm is the risks to your family if you are in it's path, because you will have taken appropriate steps NOW to minimize those risks by preparing and getting out of harm's way.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

No comments:


And now we have another hurricane. What else is new? Ophelia has intensified rather quickly today, possibly because as Nate slowly departs, the environment has improved allowing our newest storm to hit her stride. This latest tropical trouble may be aiming for Category 3 status, and an eventual landfall along...yep, you guessed it, the Florida, Georgia or South Carolina coast. Some forecasters believe this storm may also make it into the Gulf, which would be a worse case scenario...a Cat 3 striking Florida from the east, weakening and then regenerating and striking in the Gulf as a 2 or 3. It is not an impossible outcome, and all interests in Florida and in the Katrina-ravaged areas should keep a close eye. There is also the possibility this gets too close to the coast, and makes a run UP the Eastern Seaboard. Either way, this storm will be with us for at least the next week.

Ophelia 1

Model mayhem is ruling the day, and no one really know for sure where Ophelia will go, how long it will take to get there, and how strong she will be once that happens. The trend has obviously been the northern Gulf this season, and given this storm is stuck on the underside of the big Northeast high, it's mostly likely final destination is the Gulf of Mexico. It will probably loop around east of Florida, then suddenly charge westward, crossing the state as a Category 1 or 2 hurricane. Once in the Gulf, waters are warm enough to sustain a Category 2, and even 3 is not out of the realm of possibility. Why? if it traverses the northern Gulf where waters were not as disturbed from Katrina and have warmed since Dennis in July, and it does this slowly, areas ravaged and raw from the big K could be sideswiped by her wicked step-sister. This will be a long duration storm, hanging with us for at least another week, which by that time there could easily be the start of a Cape Verde storm heading west from Africa. It is going to be a long and toilsome month.

Ophelia 2

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

No comments:

I am a willing participant in the blame game because it is a necessary part of this national discussion we need to have on the accountability of the government.
Read this article for a thorough assessment of why the blame will go far and deep.

I ask you to consider the following:

1. An estimate by the Corps of Engineers on a system-wide overhaul of the New Orleans levee system would have cost $2.5 billion dollars. However it would have taken 20 to 25 years to complete this. National Geographic reports that a feasibility study started in 2000 was still underway on upgrading the levees to withstand a Category 4. The work never started because the study is not complete.

2. Risk Management Solutions issued a preliminary economic loss assessment, and estimated a $100 billion cost, which includes insured and uninsured losses.

3. The Senate Minority Leader, Harvey Reid, estimated that total government outlays in the short term would total $150 billion.

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN A $2.5 BILLION PRICE TAG OVER 20 YEARS MAY BE $250 BILLION INSTEAD. And that's assuming "The Big One" does not hit California anytime in the next 10 years, or another major hurricane does not come calling in a metropolitan area along the coast.

Monday, September 5, 2005


Katrina II

I am just flabbergasted at the possibility that the GFDL projects a tropical disturbance east of Florida to grow into a Category 3 or 4 hurricane and once again, threaten Southeast Louisiana. I am not making this up for the sake of ratings, I was shocked and stunned at this animation of the GFDL model for the next 120 hours. I hope this is model mayhem and not the real thing. Compare how the GFDL did on Katrina's projected path with this animation. I am starting to read that other models are beginning to show some kind of hurricane in the northern Gulf by late this upcoming week. Below is the current model projections, and granted there is huge variance this far out, but if you think about it, this is not all that far away since a week ago today the Gulf Coast was still under Katrina's wrath. Gulf sea surface temperatures weren't disrupted much by Katrina's path, as indicated on this recent temp map. I'll post more on this developing storm as information becomes available. For now, keep an eye on it with this IR satellite loop.

Katrina IIA


Tragedy 2

Pictures from FOX News on Katrina's aftermath

Tragedy 1

NOAA satellite image of public school buses flooded in the storm that could have been used for evacuation of residents less able to do so on their own. This is just one of many examples of the inexcusable and collosal failure at all levels of government to properly coordinate this disaster. The full text of the article accompanying this photo is found on

In the coming week, there is concern for tropical development both near the U.S. coast and far out to sea in the Cape Verde Islands off the African coast. These two trouble spots will have to be watched closely as we cannot take another major hurricane strike on the U.S. mainland this season. If we do, I believe the economic stability we’ve enjoyed since the mid 1980’s will be in jeopardy. I will continue with hurricane forecasting shortly.

Atlantic 9-4-05

Image from a weather blog published by Steve Gregory on It encapsules the current thinking on Atlantic activity: some concerns but no major threats right now.

I am temporarily redirecting the scope of this website to focus squarely on the fallout of Hurricane Katrina. This discussion is central to why I have created this site in the first place, and that was to provide viewers with a different perspective on storm analysis and preparation that is not being presented by mainstream weather or media sources. The other catalyst that spawned this site was the poor lack of planning by local and state officials in dealing with Hurricane Isabel in September 2003. While that situation is microscopic in comparison to this, the same themes have been repeated. The government and media did not heed their own warnings about storm surge and evacuation logistics.

I have been gathering notes and observations all week regarding the overall Katrina Catastrophe of 2005. Some of my commentary is based on my own observations, some of it is from other blogs, internet media, written reports and the TV. As you know there is so much information out there to process, so I am trying to get a grasp like many peope of what really happened and why. My aim is to analyze the reasons this catastrophe was so huge, the problems behind the relief efforts, the enormous post-storm consequences for the country and the areas dealing with refugees, as well as the long term implications for New Orleans, the Gulf Coast and the nation as a whole. I also have blame to issue for the major of the city, the governor, and the federal government. I am not simply jumping on the blame bandwagon like everyone else, I believe there are sound and scientifically verifiable reasons why failure at all levels of government are responsible for the horrific tragedy that is still unfolding before our eyes. Dr. Jeff Masters offers a poignant essay on his weather blog from a meteorologist's perspective.

You will have to forgive some of my discussions that follow, because I believe that especially in New Orleans itself, the blood of those people is on the hands of the mayor, the governor, Congress and the President. I personally have studied and followed the “New Orleans Nightmare scenario” for years, and have conducted a number of lessons in my Earth Science classes on the same. That the President said, “No one could have anticipated the levees would break.” Is the worst-possible one sentence excuse for this disaster when it is clear the Army Corps of Engineers, and anyone else involved in hurricane planning with N.O. knew those levees were designed for Category 3 storms and no more. In actuality, it is a miracle that more levees did not break, but that even one of them did was catastrophic enough.


How amazing it is that in less than in less than a week, a world-reknown international city has descended into total chaos, anarchy and pseudo-tribalism and the government seems incapable of restoring order. This sounds more like Liberia, or Haiti or Baghdad than the United States. We now have American citizens who are refugees in their own country. We have mothers who lost their babies from heat exhaustion because American bureaucracy got in the way of getting the help to those who need it most. We have seen a hurricane expose deep and disturbing problems in how our society conducts itself, as discussed in a thought-provoking lead article in the UK's Independent.


Evidence that the federal government did not take the possibility of a major hurricane strike on New Orlean that seriously, although they knew it could happen any year:

- The White House continually cut funding for further New Orleans levee improvements in the past 4 years, and some of that money was diverted to Iraq this year. Previous requests for New Orleans levee projects were rejected or scaled-down, and New Orleans officials were very worried that further cuts would endanger the city's future.

- In July 2004, FEMA hosted it's very own hurricane conference at the Louisiana State Emergency Operations center. Dubbed the “Hurricane Pam” Exercise, there were a chorus of findings that all pointed to the need for a large-scale over-powering response system needed were this storm to ever strike. However the follow-up study which might have implemented some of those findings was never completed, according to CNN. Plenty of people at all levels of government knew this disaster was predicted years in advance.

- Numerous press articles and reports have been written about the "New Orleans Nightmare Scenario" over the past 10 years, starting with a National Geographic Video special titled, "Cyclone" which I have shown in my Earth Science classes for the past 6 years. More recently, Nat'l Geo did an October 2004 Cover Story that spells out in eerie detail what would happen with a major storm strike, as did also the Times-Picayune in a June 2002 special report titled "Washing Away" and the Scientific American in October 2001. Ironically enough, Popular Mechanics also published a short article on this, but it was lost in the more important news of the day, for the issue date was September 11, 2001.

- Considering that billions of dollors have been pumped into the levee system over past 40 years, it was assumed that the levees and pumps were adequate for a Category 3, and that the probability of a Category 4 making a direct hit was low enough to warrant less funding in present day. Or so the government assumed.

- Government statisticians may have believed that given the frequency of hits in and around N.O within the past 3-4 years (Georges 1998, Isidore in 2002, Ivan 2004, Dennis a miss, Bret and Cindy in 2005) that it was now stastically less likely for a Category 5 storm to make a direct or even near direct hit, especially this season.) The Corps believed that on any given year, the chance of a Cat 5 strike on the city was low, possibly 300 to 1. So the recommendation would be that it is not as necessary to have a full-scale plan in place ready to activate when the probability of needing such a plan in the near future is low. The cost of implementing this plan, which I recently learned was still in draft form by August 2005, would be prohibitive if preparation for other disasters were deemed more important, such as planning for another terrorist attack. This concept of "more dollars for terrorism, less dollars for everything else" was probably lurking below the surface, it just took a major event like Katrina to bring it to light, as discussed in an article by MSNBC.

- MSNBC uncovered a Homeland Security disaster planning document, similar to the "National Response Plan" which listed the most likely disaster scenarios requiring a national response. There were apparently over 100 different kind of disasters described, but it was reported that only 2 situations involved the federal response to a hurricane strike, and even those were in the context of if a terrorist attack was followed by or preceded by a hurricane.

- Apparently, the U.S. government knew of the flooding risks in New Orleans over many years, but had no problem appropriating $10 billion dollars over a period of many years on the “Big Dig” in Boston which did alleviate traffic but did not ‘cost’ any lives. By the same token, the government could not "find enough money" to fund a $2.5 billion levee improvement system in New Orleans that could have saved hundreds or possibly thousands of lives. I do not fault taxpayers for this in the sense that it is not their fault money was not spent on levee improvement. But I ask this: If a flood killed thousands in Boston, or New York, or Chicago...and thousands of Caucasians were among the dead, would there be a nationwide riot against the government and demands for accountability?


Plain and simple: There was an across-the-board failure to do any large-scale contingency planning, or to take seriously the importance of doing so. I can cite a variety of sources for this I uncovered today. I'm sure FEMA officials probably did do a lot of planning and preparation, but by what we see on the ground, it obviously was not enough. The New Orleans Times-Picayune summed up their solution in once sentence: "Fire everyone at FEMA." My contentions are based on partly on what I have observed, on my gut feeling, and what I've known about natural disaster planning over the years. If you have found a more credible source that refutes or supports what I am saying, please post your source in the comments. A link from CNN has a transcript of the "Big Disconnect" between statements of government managers and reality on the ground.

In the fall of 2004, I recall hearing the FEMA director explain how they already had supplies in place ready to assist victims once the storm passed. Many of you know that I watch the storm and preparations for it like a hawk… from a week before it happens, right through every minute of the storm, to the end. The following statements are fictional, because during all the cable network around-the-clock coverage, I did not hear the following spoken:

I did not hear FEMA discuss in depth the usual pre-storm arrangements being made, such aswe have stockpile of food and water already in place outside where we think the storm will hit.” OR "Since the hurricane center has given us a general idea where this storm is going to make landfall, hundreds of FEMA officials are already in place ready to respond outside the storm's path."

I did not hear FEMA say,Once the storm began affecting the coast, and it was clear that New Orleans, the Mississippi and Alabama coasts were going to be devastated, we directed our staff to begin loading onto trucks massive amounts of supplies, including food, water, medicine, baby formula and more." Note: While the pre-landfall disaster declaration by the President did enable FEMA to pre-position supplies, it is still unfathomable why all those supplies took so long to reach those who need them most.

I did not hear FEMA say,
It is ironic this storm is occuring when it is, because last year at about this time, we conducted a very in-depth training exercise on what to do if a major storm were to strike New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana. We have implemented many of the recommendations from that study in preparing for this storm. I can tell you that as soon as the storm passes, you will see a large convoy of relief trucks heading toward the affected areas. In advance of those trucks are going to be heavy equipment vehicles loaded with bulldozers, and other heavy machinery to clear roads of debris so we can get through.”

I did not hear FEMA or Louisiana officials say, Given the damage inflicted by Hurricane Ivan last year on bridges such as I-10 in the Pensacola area, we have already made contigency plans in the event that similar type bridges fail during the storm surge. Since Ivan was also a Category 4 at landfall, it is quite possible that the twin-span going across toward Mississippi could be heavily damaged. To prevent this from interfering with relief efforts we have enlisted the help of the Navy and have already dispatched 4 large ships to the region which will arrive shortly after the storm clears the area."



Whether we are willing to acknowledge now or later, this storm will be a defining moment in American History as much as 9/11 was. More attention will be paid to how storms can disrupt our national infrastructure, and deeper than that, that this one storm may reshape American society forever, opening a discussion on the future of race, class, oil, politics, the environment and the role of government. Our life has changed dramatically, though it may be a while before the changes catch up to everyone, eventually you'll know this one storm was, "The One" for all of us, and not just in the price at the pump.

- Though minor to the public, a major event in the forecasting industry will be a total re-evaluation within the Commerce Department, NOAA and NWS as to the effectiveness of the public warning system, and what changes need to be made. Obviously a "hurricane warning" with dire predictions from the NWS were enough to get people out of harm's way.

- Will the NWS be willing to modify it’s 24 hour rule on hurricane warnings, given than 72 hours was not enough. Storm preparation and evacuation costs state and local governments $1 million for every mile of coastline included in a hurricane warning. The weather service would contend they don’t want to issue a warning that covers too large an area for fear that if it did not strike inside that zone, people would not take the next warning seriously. So the question is, looking back, was that policy effective in saving lives? Apparently not. While 1 million people did leave, hundreds of thousands did not, and now tens of thousands may be dead. That does not seem like an effective warning system.

- The government and FEMA will re-evaluate how to adjust airport closures and flight cancellations in the 24-48 hour period before a storm’s landfall. Some airlines, including Delta, stopped outbound flights from Armstrong Airport at least 36 hours before landfall, and had there been better contingency planning and wider coordination with the airlines, more people would have been able to leave the city safely, especially the old and infirm.


(Please note I mean no disrespect to those who may have resided in N.O. I am merely stating my scientific observations and theories about the recovery.)

- The actual "New Orleans" will become a much smaller city, shrinking to a fifth of it’s original size...the "Old Orleans" we knew on August 28.

- with the French Quarter, part of Garden District and some historical areas intact, in perhaps 5 years , the city will become more of a novelty tourist destination and more of an industrial port city than the major residential city it once was. The mind-blogging challenges facing the rebuilding of this city will dominate the nation for years to come.

- will become an EPA Superfund site, as chemicals, sewage, petroleum products, decomposition of plants, animals and bodies have created the "toxic cesspool" talked about extensively before the storm.

- Whether there is 2 feet or 20 feet of water in the city and surrounding area, the “toxic cesspool” the media and other agencies explained before the storm has now happened. The depth of standing water does not matter, it is the fact that any heavy chemicals in that water are going to settle to the ground and seep in, becoming intertwined in the subsurface. Under normal EPA guidelines in a situation like this, when there is a potential long term health hazard, the top 3 to 6 feet of topsoil has to be removed and disposed.

- Instead of being bulldozed, the EPA will have to constructed several remediation sites in the city, and remediate all the soil and water through specially designed incinerators, evaporation ponds and fume stacks that you see at Superfund sites.

- The Army Corps of Engineers will have to overhaul their process of determining how to best manage large infrastructure projects like the Louisiana Levee system. A 50 year effort resulted in thousands dead. A spokesperson for the Corps said he felt the levee system was a “success” because it did not fail initially at the height of the storm.


I contend we are now more vulnerable than at any other time in our history, including in the days following 9/11. Why?

- We have massive military resources tied up in Afghanistan and Iraq.

- We have hundreds of thousands of other military personnel scattered at bases around the world, and for good reasons, but the fact remains it takes resources on the U.S. mainland to support those troops elsewhere.

- FEMA is already mitigating dozens of other on-going regional and local disasters, including the continuing cleanup from Dennis, Ivan, Frances, Jeanne and Charley. There are still thousands of families in Florida living in temporary housing, and thousands of homes with blue tarps for roofs. Another hurricane strike would make rapid response much more difficult because resources are stretch so thin, despite what the President says about both running a war and helping those at home.

- Heart of the hurricane season is arriving now. September and October are climatologically the most active months. Among the worst U.S. landfalling storms in September include the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, The Great New England Hurricane of 1938, and more recenty Hurricanes Gloria in 1985, Floyd in 1999 and Isabel in 2003). If we have another hurricane strike anywhere in the country, even in a sparsely populated area, it will outstrip the government’s ability to respond.

- I think back to 1989, when we had Hurricane Hugo devastate Charleston and South Carolina, then it was followed by the San Francisco Earthquake. Then just 3 years later was Hurricane Andrew in 1992. I think you’d agreed from what you’ve seen on the news about our current state of affairs, that there had better not be ANY incidents of any kind anywhere in the world.

- God forbid there is a major earthquake in California, another hurricane, unrest in some part of the world that supplies oil, a terrorist attack, North Korea tests a tactical nuclear weapon. Any major event of this kind would put a long term surcharge on the world economy, and put a crippling influence on the U.S. economy.

This report is incomplete, and I will be adding more material as I refine it and add sources for some of the discussion. If you come across analysis that supports OR refutes my findings, please post in the comments. Do not be scared off by's request for you to create a blogsite, that is just a formality. Just create a "fake site" but giving it a bogus name using your initials or some other innocuous title, you do not have to actually "create a site" in any way shape or form. Many readers would be encouraged to hear the thoughts of those who read this site from the Gulf Coast and elsewhere across the country. And every day since this nightmare began, out family continues to pray several times a day that God will give the people in this storm the strength and resources to go on.

Friday, September 2, 2005


Next Storm
This model is the GFDL, which nailed Katrina's path and intensity fairly well all last week. If you can interpret the wind chart, it indicates max winds of 160 mph.


Next Storm 2


Next Storm 3

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Katrina 14

6:25 AM 8/31/2005: If you would like to comment on this story and offer your thoughts, please post in the comments feature.

The reason why we're seeing the "Worse Case" coming true is based on observations now on the news as compared to what was discussed in the scientific community prior to the storm. This disaster appears to be unfolding slowly over a period of days, not all in one day as the dire predictions were. This is why I said in an earlier post that it would not really matter whether the storm was a 3, 4 or 5. In the final analysis, it was the path of the storm which mattered. It did not hit N.O. directly, but it didn’t have to in order to produce the unimaginable disaster and suffering we are seeing. 

The news media seemed to gloat the first night, saying that New Orleans had “dodged a bullet” when now we are realizing that instead it was hit by a Mac truck. While we can say that it “could have been worse” the only “worse” I can imagine is that if New Orleans had the flooding AND the catastrophic damage of Gulfport and Biloxi. Category 5 or not, this hurricane will have produced a scale of human suffering and damage so widespread that will eclipse anything we have seen in our lifetime in this country. While this is actually microscopic in comparison to the Tsunami, as the mayor of Biloxi put it, “This is our tsunami.”

I have been reading online news reports for most of the past two days when I can, during lunch, after school. I have also been reviewing many of the national news media reports. My aim has been to try and sift through the mountain of information and misinformation coming from the devastated areas. I am trying to get a sense of what is really going on, what the media is not reporting on, and what are the major short and long term impacts. I can tell you that there is a lot more going on that is a lot worse than you are seeing on the national news, and some of the reports are very, very disturbing.

This is a disaster of an apocalyptic nature, and will become the new benchmark for measuring all future hurricane landfalls. Ivan in Pensacola was very devastating, and still is today for many. While I do not minimize the suffering they have endured, this storm affected an area so much larger than the Florida panhandle that it is difficult to describe in accurate terms how large the area really is. Please note that I am not ignoring Mississippi and Alabama out of lack of concern, the destruction there is also horrific. From a meteorological perspective, I am focusing on New Orleans for now because of the studies and posts done on this website in the past year explaining and warning of what could happen.

This is a map from a post on the Eastern US Weather Forums.

New Orleans 6
To back up the statement that this has become the worse case scenario, are the following facts I have gleaned from a variety of sources that I have done my best to verify their accuracy. This may be different from what you have heard or seen on the national news because there is just so much going on to report. I will also be including some graphics I have collected around the internet to aid in understanding the geography.

From an article on, recommended by a website reader.

New Orleans 7

- Remember that New Orleans is one of the top 5 largest ports in the world. A massive amount of goods and energy travel to and from this port, serving the eastern two-thirds of the nation.

- CNBC reports that 10% of the gas refinery capacity for the U.S. has been damaged and shut down for an indetermined amount of time. September wholesale gasoline prices have risen 40% since Monday.

- At least one oil rig has broken loose and crashed into a major bridge in Alabama.

- The I-10 twin span bridge connecting the East New Orleans area across to Slidell has been almost completely destroyed, the amount of sections lost on this bridge far, far exceeds that of the I-10 washout in Pensacola last year.

- CNN reports as of 9:45 PM that efforts to repair the levee breach at the 17th street canal have failed, and a report from the Army Corps of Engineers said that in all likelihood, the best option for salvaging the city is to allow the water level in Lake Ponchartrain and to equalize in the city. Once that happens, the Engineer said that other levees would be intentionally breached to allow the water a path to flow out. If the water level in throughout New Orleans can be lowered to approximately “2+ feet” then the pumps in different parishes would be accessible and able to be serviced and restarted. Only then could the remaining water be effectively pumped out. That would also be when recovery personnel could get access to homes and buildings and assess the damage from home to home.

- Now if you think about that summary… and the amount of time it will take, and how many thousands of homes there are, this process will take months. A similar report I read stated that once this process gets underway, New Orleans will effectively become a “non-functioning city” for at least several months while the government and recovery operations conduct their work.

- At present, in New Orleans, there is no drinking water, the daytime temperatures are in the 90’s, no electricity in the city, some or many of the pumps are not functioning, there is no food delivery of any kind, many cell phone towers are inoperable, some police radios do not work, both airports are closed, underwater, have no power or fuel for aircraft, there are virtually no medical services except for extreme emergencies, but even places like the Tulane University hospital itself had to be evacuated due to rising water. Two or more levees are breached, the water won't stop rising, there are tens of thousands of homes flooded with an untold number of people trapped in those homes. In that water is leaking gas, antifreeze, heavy chemicals (even from kitchen cleaning supplies!), sewage, decomposing animals, bodies, snakes, alligators, oil, debris, electrical lines...the list is endless. Compounding the problem is that so many roads are flooded and bridges destroyed that supplies will have to be flown in by helicopter, however many helicopters are currently involved in search and rescue of people from their roofs. According to a local TV reporter commenting on CNN, one army helicopter was supposed to deliver sand bags to help fill a levee breach, and was apparently diverted away for rescue. The sand bags never arrived and the water continues to leak.
In what national disaster have you see people become walking refugees in their own city?


If you think about the magnitude of this tragedy and what happened in South Florida, I think you’ll agree this is on a scale that far exceeds that disaster. The first Bush government was criticized for a slow response, and it may have been one of the factors which cost him the election. As the public begins to the the scope of this disaster, they will begin asking the question, “What is our government doing to help.” I know that the FEMA Director Mike Brown, an accomplished and hard-working man, would step right in and give you a list of what is being done. But I contend that it is no where near enough, and it may require an unprecedented nation-wide response that at this time we may not know how to coordinate because the needs are so great.

Sam Champion, an ABC meteorologists best stated the recovery operations this evening on CNN by saying … “We need to be as creative as we can and bring in as many resources as we can marshal to this disaster.” This was after a caller to Larry King’s show had suggested bringing in cruise ships to get people out.

I couldn’t agree more. My feeling about the whole situation, in reading the reports and channel surfing between the news channels, is that this disaster is so large it may exceed the capacity of our normal governmental system to handle. While I am not critical in anyway of anyone on the ground helping, it feels to me that this is more than FEMA by itself can coordinate. If New Orleans alone (not counting the unspeakable damage in Miss., and Alabama) is closed, that means 1,000,000 or more people will be homeless for several weeks to a month or several months. Is FEMA prepared to set up shelter for a million people? Where will that be? How will people get there? How long will it take to set this up?

I have seen the reports that the entire city of New Orleans is going to be evacuated (again), including the Superdome. However, for that to happen, the government will have to go house by house, apartment by apartment, round up the people and somehow, in some way, get them out. With rising waters and people trapped or huddled inside an untold number of hotels and apartment downtown, how will anyone get to them? If a rescue team was able to reach people, then you have to ask….”Now where they do go, how they get there? This is not to say the officials on the ground are not working on the problem, I’m sure they are. My observation is simply that I think that Mother Nature has dealt us humans a problem that is larger than our current line of thinking about how to handle these problems can handle.

It is going to take months, not weeks to drain and assess the damage. The devastated areas of Mississippi and Alabama face an equally huge task of removing debris and starting over. This will be a tragedy to affect all of us for a very long time to come.

Monday, August 29, 2005


Katrina 13
Although Katrina did not make the direct hit on New Orleans proper as many feared, this will be recorded as the most costly natural disaster and have the most long term effects of any storm in modern times. The extent of human suffering and logistical coordination may eclipse anything we have seen in our lifetime.


Katrina 12
This is a small collection of pictures from Katrina damage on Monday, August 29. As more news reports come in and a full day of daylight permits fly-overs, it will become more clear that the scope of damage from New Orleans to Biloxi to Gulfport and other areas is going to far exceed initial estimates we've heard on the news.


Katrina 11
This picture of the Red Cross truck says it all. You know, I'm overwhelmed, and I'm not even in the storm. There is so much damage, so many situations, destruction and continued danger to so many people that I think I've gone numb from media saturation. I have been reading many news reports, message boards, blogs and other sites today to sift through the clutter and try to present a straight-forward summary of what is going on. I will post that Tuesday morning.