Friday, August 28, 2015

The 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

A striking image of a helicopter rescue in New Orleans, one of thousands in the days following Hurricane Katrina. The storm caused unprecedented death and destruction in August 2005.
It was 10 years ago on August 29th, 2005 that Hurricane Katrina roared inland in the pre-dawn hours near Waveland, Mississippi just east of metro New Orleans. The storm and its wild aftermath would become the worst natural disaster in modern U.S. history. I have been tracking Atlantic Hurricanes since 1979, and up until that morning in 2005, a little storm named Camille from 1969 was the benchmark hurricane along the Gulf Coast. Camille was the storm weather enthusiasts and those who follow hurricanes knew very well. Camille made landfall near Pass Christian, Mississippi on August 14, 1969 with a 20 foot surge of water and winds over 150mph. The storm virtually wiped out a portion of the Mississippi Gulf Coast along with the lives of 260 people.

Hurricane Katrina would be far worse reaching Category 5 status on the Saffir-Simpson scale, the strongest level in the Atlantic Basin, before "weakening" slightly before landfall. The storm surge, the wall of water that precedes a hurricane, would reach an astonishing 28 feet almost at the same location as Camille. The surge swept away everything in its path, and put a tremendous strain on the levees that surround New Orleans. They would fail catastrophically and put 80 percent of the city under 20 feet or more of water and debris. Damage was complete in many communities and the death toll mounted rapidly with bodies floating in the streets. Officially 1800 would perish from the storm along the Gulf Coast, but unofficially over 3000 are estimated to have died or went missing in the storm and the human catastrophe that followed. It took several days for proper relief to arrive and years for the city to begin recovery. Damage estimates from Hurricane Katrina exceeded 100 billion dollars, the costliest natural disaster in US history. To this day deep scars remain in the city.

Major flooding in Dominica has resulted in at least 2 dozen deaths.

So it seems ironic that on the anniversary weekend of Katrina, we have another storm poised to impact the US coast. Tropical storm Erika is approaching the Dominican Republic this morning with 50mph winds. Heavy rain is forecast along the track today with very little change in strength. If the storm holds together in a less than friendly environment, it will approach the Florida east coast early next week. Although weak in nature as far as tropical systems go, Erika produced over 1 foot of rain on the tiny island of Dominica triggering massive floods. The island has been devastated in the last 24 hours with over 24 deaths reported.

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