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August 28, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Approaches Mainland

Topics: Natural Disasters

gulf_hur.jpgThe PhogBlog (via Michelle Malkin) lays it out:

As I write this, Hurricane Katrina is approaching New Orleans. New Orleans is about 12 feet below sea level and has always lived under a death sentence of a nightmare scenario which may very well unfold in the next 12-18 hours. Basically, if Katrina's storm surge causes Lake Ponchartrain to flood the levees surrounding the city, New Orleans will be under 30 feet of water.

Experts say that such a scenario could lead to a death toll in the tens of thousands. Some place the toll as high as 50,000-100,000. The city has no natural drainage and some estimate that it could take up to 10 months for the lake of the dead to drain.

In short, tomorrow could be one of the deadliest days in American History.


Dr. Jeff Masters' Wunderblog reports that the "6:30pm EDT NOAA Hurricane Hunter mission found a central pressure of 904 mb, up from the 902 measured at 3:30pm. These pressures make Katrina the fourth strongest hurricane ever, and the strongest hurricane ever observed in the Gulf of Mexico, surpassing Camille [see the before and after photo gallery]. However, the winds of Katrina are 165 mph, far from Camille's 190 mph winds at landfall."

In there a glimmer of hope? If so, it is through the prayers of Americans and the discussion that the hurricane is weakening:

THERE HAVE BEEN SOME MODEST CHANGES IN THE STRUCTURE OF KATRINA OVER THE LAST SEVERAL HOURS. RECENT MICROWAVE PASSES SHOW THAT AN OUTER EYEWALL IS IN THE FORMATIVE STAGES...AND THE LATEST IR IMAGES SHOW A LESS WELL-DEFINED EYEWALL WITH MORE EVIDENCE OF OUTER BANDING. THE NOAA HURRICANE HUNTERS ALSO REPORTED AN EROSION OF THE EYEWALL IN THE SOUTHWEST QUADRANT. THESE OBSERVATIONS SUGGEST THAT THERE COULD BE SOME WEAKENING OF KATRINA PRIOR TO LANDFALL. ALL THIS IS RELATIVE...HOWEVER...AND KATRINA IS STILL EXPECTED TO BE OF AT LEAST CATEGORY FOUR INTENSITY WHEN IT REACHES THE COAST. AN EYEWALL REPLACEMENT AT THIS POINT IS NOT ALL GOOD NEWS...AS THEY ARE GENERALLY ACCOMPANIED BY A BROADENING OF THE WIND FIELD...SO THAT EVEN AS KATRINA WEAKENS THERE COULD BE AN INCREASE IN THE AREA THAT EXPERIENCES MAJOR HURRICANE FORCE WINDS.
The IR images are ominously impressive - take a look at the time series image loop here.

However, it is highly unlikely that Katrina will weaken before making landfall early tomorrow morning. Hurricanes feed on warm waters and are strengthened by them. There is nothing but warm water - water temps up to 91 degrees F. - between Katrina and land. [Donald Sensing]

Meanwhile, the price of oil futures are skyrocketing as those in the industry recognize the potential damage to the region were 25% of U.S. is processed.

The message to our friends in New Orleans are to get out - FAST - and if you're trapped, Dr. Jeff suggests the following:

I recommend that if you are trapped in New Orleans tomorrow, that you wear a life jacket and a helmet if you have them. High rise buildings may offer good refuge, but Katrina has the potential to knock down a high-rise building. A 25 foot storm surge and 30 - 40 foot high battering waves on top of that may be able to bring down a steel-reinforced high rise building. I don't believe a high rise building taller than six stories has ever been brought down by a hurricane, so this may not happen Monday, either. We are definitely in unknown waters with Katrina.
Of course, our thoughts and prayers remain with our friends in New Orleans and those who will be affected in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

Update: Just read Paul's bleak outlook for Superdome refugees ... "in rough terms, 40,000+ people will be trapped in a building with no plumbing, little light and no air conditioning. The temps after the storm rolls thru will probably be in the low 90s. Considerably hotter in the building. " Rescue of 40k people is a huge problem, if the worst happens.

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Posted by tim at August 28, 2005 10:00 PM



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