Right Opinion

Like Katrina and the Non-Named Flood, Nightmare in Louisiana NOT the Worst of What Can Happen

Joe Bastardi · Aug. 23, 2016

I wrote this at The Patriot Post back on July 26:

“Sandy may have changed the course of history given the actions and reactions of the people involved as a nation. It’s one of those events in history that, years from now, people may look at like the sinking of the Spanish Armada in a storm off England. Or the weather for D-Day. History favors the bold, and I would suggest a bold response be at the ready for whatever comes out of this hurricane season. The why before the what is not in the hands of any party, but nature. Those who know how to use it to educate the public as to the reasons are the ones that could win the hearts and minds of people in this pivotal time in our nation’s history. And the weather could certainly be a player!”

A couple of things. I don’t know if Donald Trump read this, but he certainly at least reacted to the non-named disaster in a way that at least showed concern. No matter what you thought of his motive, I saw a man who dropped what he was doing and went to where the problem was.

Years before Sandy I was pointing out why it should happen. In fact, Sandy was not even the worst case, because in my scenario a Category 2 or 3 hurricane makes landfall at the mouth of the Delaware Bay, driving a storm surge up the bay as the swollen Delaware River comes down to intersect. The question is why hasn’t this happened? I did numerous talks to insurance companies on this matter. I’ll remind you again: Sandy was not the worst case scenario and certainly not the most extreme the atmosphere can produce. When looking objectively on this matter, we cannot underestimate what nature can do. Which is a big problem in the climate debate in that most people who don’t see things my way not only do not go back and look at what storms have actually done, they don’t understand why those events were not the worst case!

Now let’s go to the subject at hand: Louisiana.

Here’s Katrina, Cat. 3 at landfall (a strong 4 on my power and impact scale), passing east of New Orleans and sending a 9-13 foot storm surge back into Lake Pontchartrain.

Notice Katrina was not at her peak but intensifying while coming into Florida as the conditions in her way improved. The track up east of New Orleans spared the city the devastation that could have been caused if the 1947 track was realized.

The idea of a weaker storm improving as it approaches land and intensifying as it comes back over water as opposed to a stronger landfalling hurricane never getting back to its peak intensity is something I have promoted for many years. Why? Because a well organized storm loses its inner core (it’s like a giant seeding experiment) and the outer bands compete with it, as they don’t break down as much, so the core has a tougher time rebuilding. A weaker storm does not have the established inner core of the stronger storm and will treat at 9-12 hour passage over land as a bump in the road if coming into an area more favorable. But think about this. Suppose you had 1947 but the Katrina intensity set up, and then the kind of stalling we saw with the no named feature over Louisiana. The surge into the lake would have been 25 feet. Like Sandy, there is nothing to say something like this cannot happen. In fact, one may wonder, given the history of storms and what they are capable of doing, why hasn’t this happened?

There is a system in the Atlantic that Weatherbell.com subscribers know I have been worried about for impact on the U.S. coast since last week. It will be moving into the Bahamas this weekend, then perhaps Florida and the Gulf with conditions ripe for development the further west it gets. I am concerned about it being a big impact storm and have made no secret of it. But the sobering thought: The situation with Katrina, 1947 and this recent major problem in Louisiana, which drew on tropical processes to produce what it did — is this what happens if a blend of them occurs? The 1947 track stalling over Louisiana after hitting with Katrina intensity? When you look at the history of weather the way I have, you think of the words of George Bernard Shaw: “You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’”


Joe Bastardi is chief forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics, a meteorological consulting firm.

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