Sunday, August 31, 2008
Gustav Looms Just Over The Horizon
Hurricane Gustav's winds are down considerably after Gustav crossed Cuba and wreaked serious damage and rainfall on the island. The top winds might be only 120 mph as a strong category 3 storm, which is still strong enough to relocate homes, roofs, and trees with considerable ease. Tremendous devastation would occur if Gustav made landfall at this level. Yet, there's still a strong concern that Gustav will strengthen back to a category 4 storm in the warm open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Right now, there's an upper level trough that is sapping some of the strength of the storm since it is cutting off the airflow into the system aloft. That may be only temporary as the storm lingers in the Gulf. The problem becomes the speed at which the storm advances, in addition to the winds.
If the storm slows to a crawl, that increases the probability that the storm will drop huge amounts of rain in a short period of time causing widespread flooding. It also increases the likelihood of storm surges along the coast as water builds up due to the persistent winds flowing through the same area.
The computer models are generally in agreement that the hit will come somewhere along the central Louisiana coastline, which means that New Orleans would take a tremendous amount of rainfall and possible storm surge on the backside by Lake Pontchartrain. That scenario was what doomed New Orleans' levees, as the water flowed into the drainage canals and found weak spots throughout the system of levees. It's also expected that hurricane force winds will hit New Orleans.
Some of the problems have been addressed, but I don't think it's a good idea to rely fully on the levees. That's why New Orleans Mayor Whiplash Nagin and Gov. Jindal have ordered evacuations and mandatory evacuations throughout New Orleans and the surrounding parishes. It's common sense, and people are taking heed in New Orleans, though in nearby Morgan City, they think that the flood walls will protect them. Louisiana authorities have also instituted contra-flow travel on I-10, which means that all lanes are dedicated to outbound traffic only. It's the first time in the history of the state that such a plan has been carried out.
That could be a real serious miscalculation on their part.
Hospitals are evacuating patients, but are remaining open.
For the moment, since the storm track appears to be moving closer to a direct hit on New Orleans, all the preparations and evacuations look like they're more than warranted - they were absolutely essential. My concern is that people will have evacuated and then think that the storm passed by their areas and that they left for no reason. Or, the same people who evacuated inland find themselves caught in the damaging flooding by the storm as it slows and dumps huge amounts of rain. These people may then not take heed of future warnings and evacuations, leaving them in a precarious situation.
Meanwhile, the GOP, which is looking to open its convention next week is considering making changes to take Gustav into account. Sen. McCain is suggesting that the convention planners are looking at altering how the convention is carried out - to make it service and volunteer related to gather supplies and donations for storm victims.