Isaac slamming Gulf Coast with damaging floods, tornadoes

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:44 PM GMT on August 30, 2012

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Slow-moving Tropical Storm Isaac continues to hammer coastal Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida's Panhandle with tornadoes, torrential rains, high winds, and a damaging storm surge. Over the past 24 hours, destructive tornadoes have touched down in Biloxi and Pascagoula, Mississippi, and one person was killed by a tree falling on a car in Pearl River County, Mississippi. A major flood event is occurring in Slidell, Louisiana, where Isaac's storm surge filled Bayou Bonfouca and the W-14 Canal, inundating portions of the city with 1 - 5 feet of water. While Isaac is now a weakening minimal-strength tropical storm, it is still a potent rainmaker, and will cause damaging floods all along its path for the next three days. Major river flooding is occurring or is about to occur on a number of rivers in the landfall area. In north central Tangipahoa Parish in southeast Louisiana and southwestern Pike County in southern Mississippi, a mandatory evacuation has been ordered for all low-lying areas and along the Tangipahoa River, due to the potential failure of the Lake Tangipahoa dam. Audubon Park in New Orleans, recorded 11.19" of rain as of 7 pm Wednesday night. An earlier amount of 19" was found to be erroneous, and this is not a 24-hour precipitation record for the city. According to wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, New Orleans' greatest 24-hour rainfall on record is 14.01" on July 24 - 25, 1933. The Louisiana official state 24-hour record is 22.00" on Aug. 29, 1962 at Hakberry, although U.S. Army Corps of Engineers `Storm Studies' mentions a 23.80" falling in a 24-hour period at Millers Island during a TS on Aug 7-8, 1940. Storm total was 37.50" over a 60-hour period there during that event.

A few other rainfall totals from Isaac, through 11 am EDT on Thursday:

15.02" Marion, MS
10.09" Hattiesburg, MS
10.15" Gulfport, MS
9.80" Slidell, LA
9.74" Biloxi, MS
8.52" Mobile, AL
5.57" Baton Rouge, LA


Figure 1. Isaac's winds and storm surge overcomes the seawall and floods South Beach Boulevard in Waveland, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis). Waveland experienced a storm surge in excess of 5' for 36 hours.

Isaac's storm surge winds down
Storm surge levels along the coast of Mississippi and surrounding areas are gradually receding, and the surge has finally fallen below 5' at Waveland, which experienced a storm surge in excess of 5' for 36 hours. Isaac's storm surge levels were characteristic of a Category 2 hurricane, and lasted for an exceptionally long period of time. Waveland, Mississippi experienced a peak surge of 8' and peak storm tide of 9' (surge plus the natural high tide), which beat the levels that occurred during Category 2 Hurricane Gustav of 2008 (7' of storm tide.) The peak 11.06' storm surge at Shell Beach, which is in Lake Borgne, 30 miles southeast of New Orleans, exceeded the 9.5' surge recorded there during Gustav. According to an article in nola.com, Isaac pushed a storm surge of 13.6' into Lake Borgne, on the east side of New Orleans. This is not far from the 15.5' storm surge Hurricane Katrina brought to the location. It is quite possible that Isaac's storm surge might have breached levees of the east side of New Orleans, flooding areas inhabited by tens of thousands of people, had the Army Corps of Engineers not completed their $14.5 billion upgrade to the New Orleans flood defenses this year. I estimate that storm surge damage from Isaac will exceed $2 billion. Isaac has likely caused $2.5 billion in insured damage not related to flooding, insurance firm Eqecat estimated yesterday. Here were some of the peak storm surge values that were recorded at NOAA tide gauges during Isaac:

11.1' Shell Beach, LA
8.0' Waveland, MS
3.5' Pensacola, FL
4.6' Pascagoula, MS
3.8' Mobile, AL


Figure 2. A TRMM satellite 3-D view of rainfall on Aug. 28 showed a few very powerful thunderstorms near Isaac's eye were reaching heights of almost 17 km (10.6 miles.) Intense bands of rain around Isaac were occasionally dropping rain at a rate of over 2.75 inches per hour. Image credit: SSAI/NASA, Hal Pierce.

Isaac's storm surge on the Mississippi River
A storm surge estimated at 12' moved up the Mississippi in Plaquemines Parish near Port Sulphur, LA, near 8:30 pm EDT Tuesday, causing overtopping of the levees and flooding of homes in the mandatory evacuation areas behind the levees. These levees were not part of the $14.5 billion levee upgrade New Orleans got after Hurricane Katrina, and were not rated to Category 3 hurricane strength, like the levees protecting New Orleans are. Since salt water is more dense than fresh water, the surge travelled along the bottom of the river, with the fresh water flow of the river lying on top. The surge continued upriver, and before reaching New Orleans, encountered an underwater barrier in Plaquemines Parish. This barrier was constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers beginning on August 15, in order to keep salt water from moving upstream and contaminating drinking water for Plaquemines Parish and New Orleans. Salt water had made it 90 miles upriver to the outskirts of New Orleans, due to the low flow rate of the river (which had dropped 7' below average in height due to the drought of 2012.) According to a spokesperson for the National Weather Service River Forecast Office, this barrier was probably able to completely block the flow of salt water upriver due to Isaac's storm surge, and no salt water made it as far as New Orleans. However, the massive intrusion of ocean water into the river channel caused the mighty Mississippi's fresh water flow to back up for hundreds of miles. Water levels were elevated by 10' in New Orleans (103 miles upstream from the mouth of the Mississippi), 8' in Baton Rouge (228 miles upstream), and 1.4' at Knox Landing, an amazing 314 miles upstream.

Hurricane Kirk in the Central Atlantic
Hurricane Kirk intensified into a 75 mph Category 1 hurricane this morning, becoming the busy 2012 Atlantic hurricane season's fifth hurricane. With the season's mid-point of September 10 still almost 2 weeks away, we've already had 12 named storms and 5 hurricanes, which is close to what an entire season experiences in an average year (11 named storms and 6 hurricanes.) Kirk should stay well out to sea and not trouble any land areas.


Figure 3. Morning satellite image of Hurricane Kirk.

Tropical Storm Leslie forms in the Central Atlantic
Tropical Storm Leslie has formed in the Central Atlantic. Leslie's formation on August 30 puts 2012 in 2nd place for earliest formation date of the season's 12th storm. Only 1995 had an earlier formation date of the season's 12th storm. With records dating back to 1851, this year is only the second time 8 total storms have formed in August. The other year was 2004, when the first storm of the season formed on August 1 (Alex), and the 8th storm (Hermine)
formed on August 29th. Leslie is organizing quickly, and appears destined to become a hurricane before the week is out. Fortunately, Hurricane Kirk is weakening the ridge of high pressure to the north of Leslie, and Leslie is expected to turn to the northwest and miss the Lesser Antilles Islands. In the long term, it remains unclear if Leslie will follow Kirk and fully recurve out to sea. The latest 2 runs of the GFS model have predicted that Leslie will recurve out to sea and not threaten any land areas, but the latest 2 runs of the ECMWF model have predicted that the trough of low pressure pulling Kirk to the northeast will not be strong enough to recurve Leslie out to sea. Instead, the ECMWF predicts that a ridge of high pressure will build in early next week, forcing Leslie more to the northwest, making the storm a potential threat to Bermuda, then to the Northeast U.S. and Canada in 8 - 11 days.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane Isaac Louisiana (apphotos)
Two men walk in the storm surge from Isaac, on Lakeshore Drive along Lake Pontchartrain, as the storm approaches landfall, in New Orleans, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Hurricane Isaac Louisiana
west palm beach flood isaac (alishu)
West Palm Beach flood from Isaac
west palm beach flood isaac
Hurricane Isaac Impacts Navarre Beach & Pier10 (jennjeff1)
Hurricane Isaac versus Navarre Beach Pier, the longest concrete pier on the Gulf of Mexico
Hurricane Isaac Impacts Navarre Beach & Pier10

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Quoting jeffs713:

Yep. This is very well known in geological circles, as the Mississippi River changes course every few hundred years due to silt. For example, right now, the river REALLY wants to change course to the Atchafalaya River basin, as that is the shortest route to the sea right now.

Here are a couple of illustrations to my point:




As long as we divert the river into its current course, we will continue to have these problems. But if we stop diverting the river, one of our most vibrant cultural cities, and also a HUGE section of infrastructure (the oil refineries at Reserve and Norco) go completely to waste and cease to become viable... with far-reaching impacts. There simply is not a good option.


I wonder if there is some sort of Middle Option. Like Inverting the relationship of the Atachfalaya and the Current Delta. Or, just allowing the areas south of New Orleans to sink, and moving the Port to Lake Pontchartrain. The Lake is something of a natural harbor. Try and reorganize part of New Orleans East and turn it into a Port.
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IMO Concern re potential dam failure at 50/50 is an understatement.....still looking at additional 4-8 inches....
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We have Leslie?
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Quoting DrMickey:

I have been fortunate to photograph the Magnificent Frigatebird only once, as it was in flight over the Dunedin Causeway (Dunedin/Palm Harbor, FL).




Not a very good picture but taken from across the street. They are a common sight here and are sitting waiting for the fishermen to come in so they can get some scraps.
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134. hercj
Quoting E46Pilot:


KMIA
I thought i recognized the ramp. I fly for BA out of the other side.
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Anybody got the 12z euro run
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132. MTWX
Quoting LurkyMcLurkerson:


Agreed. My personal faith in the basic competence of MS emergency management is dropping with every minute they don't give a full official update on the situation.


Well their website is completely useless.... Link
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Quoting kmanislander:
I just saw a news item on CNN in which it was claimed that the diversion of the Mississippi river is the reason the river delta has been disappearing and that in turn this is what is allowing the storm surge and salt water to ingress deeper and deeper into NOLA and other nearby areas each year.

The statistics given said that an acre of the delta disappears every hour because the silt etc from the river is no longer flowing to replenish the wetlands.

If this is correct then long term there are very serious issues facing this region from every hurricane season.

Yep. This is very well known in geological circles, as the Mississippi River changes course every few hundred years due to silt. For example, right now, the river REALLY wants to change course to the Atchafalaya River basin, as that is the shortest route to the sea right now.

Here are a couple of illustrations to my point:




As long as we divert the river into its current course, we will continue to have these problems. But if we stop diverting the river, one of our most vibrant cultural cities, and also a HUGE section of infrastructure (the oil refineries at Reserve and Norco) go completely to waste and cease to become viable... with far-reaching impacts. There simply is not a good option.
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Quoting HrDelta:


I can't judge FEMA yet, because the damn storm hasn't moved out enough to start helping. They need winds to be below 30 mph.

At this rate, they will only be able to get in after Labor Day.


God, yeah. Gonna take a long time in a lot of places to even be able to get in to do the recovery work. A lot of areas are finally calming down, but some of those bands just keep coming.
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GFDL was ran on 12L now Leslie:

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There is supposed to be a news conference in about 30 minutes (2:00pm CDT) concerning the dam situation. Hopefully we will have a better idea about what is going on at that time.
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kirk is not really weakening the STR as is anticipated,as well as the trough which is weak and to far north to really pull LEslie north. as a result Leslie will continue to track west for a while. At that fast clip Leslie should reach 50 W by tomorrow morning. this will be quite interesting ,should it continue on a west track
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After seeing the Frances original track, I'd be curious what it looked like for Ike
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125. Skyepony (Mod)
Most my family there is holed up just east of that evacuation over the Tangipahoa Dam near McComb (they are just sw of Tylertown). They lost power yesterday & was on generators. Can't get a hold of them today. Land-line seems out. Cell-phones are down. Hope communication is better 10 miles to their west..
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 170 Comments: 38093
Quoting LurkyMcLurkerson:


Agreed. My personal faith in the basic competence of MS emergency management is dropping with every minute they don't give a full official update on the situation.


I can't judge FEMA yet, because the damn storm hasn't moved out enough to start helping. They need winds to be below 30 mph.

At this rate, they will only be able to get in after Labor Day.
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Quoting HrDelta:
Why in the world is Mississippi's government being so incompetent regarding the dam? Some News Department really needs to send out a News Helicopter to the area to see what is going on.


Agreed. My personal faith in the basic competence of MS emergency management is dropping with every minute they don't give a full official update on the situation.
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Quoting hercj:
E46 where was this pic taken?


KMIA
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Quoting Neapolitan:
AL, 11, 2012083018, , BEST, 0, 277N, 500W, 75, 984, HU, 64, NEQ, 15, 10, 10, 15, 1017, 130, 10, 0, 0, L, 0, , 0, 0, KIRK, D,
Kirk appears to be rapidly strengthening, as well as Leslie.
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ATCF says Kirk is up to 75 knots:

AL, 11, 2012083018, , BEST, 0, 277N, 500W, 75, 984, HU, 64, NEQ, 15, 10, 10, 15, 1017, 130, 10, 0, 0, L, 0, , 0, 0, KIRK, D,
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Isaac, Kirk, and Leslie:

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Quoting Wiebel:


Can you post a link to that video if it is available?

If its an earthen dam this sounds like over-saturation of the dam. Internal cohesion is to low due to saturation -> fail. Either bad luck, damaged prior to event or or the dam is too steep.


I don't have one, alas. It was a piece of video being described by another reporter, but not shown, apparently the only footage anybody got of it before the media were kicked out. I think the guy said it was a CBS affiliate out of Tennessee, but I'm not sure now.

It's all really unclear, but I agree -- if there's any significant seepage or erosion at an earthen dam, that's not a good sign for the structural integrity of the thing. There's next to no solid information out there that I can find, though, on just what is actually going on with the structure itself.
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Quoting reedzone:
Alot of people thought Isaac, as an invest where Leslie is at, was going to recurve...

The EURO model shows a possible scenario. If the models are right on that trough, it will be very weak and too far north to recurve Leslie.


Much will depend on the strength of leslie as a weaker system will tend to trend west like isaac and a deeper system will head more poleward.. ..
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


was 1995 faster than 2005 in storm formation? not all the way obviously
It slowed down a bit around late September, however we got up to the T storm that year. 2005 also sped up around then, as well.
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I think Isaac should be called "Isaac the Inundator"
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Famous Middendorf's resturaunt off I-55 at Manchac exit. :(
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Quoting reedzone:
Alot of people thought Isaac, as an invest where Leslie is at, was going to recurve...

The EURO model shows a possible scenario. If the models are right on that trough, it will be very weak and too far north to recurve Leslie.


Euro deterministic tracks to the NW; Euro ensemble mean recurves the system along 60W and safely out to sea. So the approach to the US east coast is a minority solution...although given the ECWMF's history with Isaac, a low probability but still plausible one...
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Quoting SLU:
12-5-0

2012 ahead of 2005? WOW. Thought we'd never see that not for another 50+ years.
Climate change.
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Why in the world is Mississippi's government being so incompetent regarding the dam? Some News Department really needs to send out a News Helicopter to the area to see what is going on.
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110. hercj
Quoting E46Pilot:
I've really got to hand it to TWC, great job on the coverage. I was really worried when they switched formats with more programs and less weather, that their reporting would be really bad, but they pulled through. So if anyone from TWC is reading this, big ups to you!!!
E46 where was this pic taken?
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Quoting LurkyMcLurkerson:
says an earlier video from an affiliate (from before they kicked out the media) made it look like there is a "soft spot" in the dam, which is basically earthen, like a levee -- a chunk of erosion.


Can you post a link to that video if it is available?

If its an earthen dam this sounds like over-saturation of the dam given the amount of precipitation and high water levels. Internal cohesion is to low due to saturation -> fail. It might also be piping, need images to verify that. Either bad luck, damaged prior to event or or the dam is too steep.
Member Since: August 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 34
I've really got to hand it to TWC, great job on the coverage. I was really worried when they switched formats with more programs and less weather, that their reporting would be really bad, but they pulled through. So if anyone from TWC is reading this, big ups to you!!!
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Quoting kmanislander:
I just saw a news item on CNN in which it was claimed that the diversion of the Mississippi river is the reason the river delta has been disappearing and that in turn this is what is allowing the storm surge and salt water to ingress deeper and deeper into NOLA and other nearby areas each year.

The statistics given said that an acre of the delta disappears every hour because the silt etc from the river is no longer flowing to replenish the wetlands.

If this is correct then long term there are very serious issues facing this region from every hurricane season.


Yes, and no. The issues are far more complex than that. Here's a good post that gives a bit of an overview, with an emphasis on canals and inland drilling.

You might also be interested in the website of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.
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Quoting SLU:
12-5-0

2012 ahead of 2005? WOW. Thought we'd never see that not for another 50+ years.


was 1995 faster than 2005 in storm formation? not all the way obviously
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Quoting CloudGatherer:
Audubon Park in New Orleans, recorded 19.30" of rain as of 7 pm Wednesday night, and 18.7" of rain in a 24-hour period. This is the greatest 24-hour rainfall event at any official New Orleans site, with weather records extending back to 1871, according to wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt.
The NWS has now thrown out the Audubon Park readings as likely erroneous, and updated its totals:

IN REGARDS TO THE EARLIER REPORTED RAINFALL AMOUNTS FROM AUDUBON
PARK...THERE SEEMED TO BE AT LEAST TWO ERRONEOUS REPORTS FROM THE
SYSTEM THAT SHOWED EXCESSIVE AMOUNTS OF RAINFALL IN A ONE HOUR ...VERY ERRATIC INFORMATION FROM ASOS


There is a wonderground station in NOLA near Audubon that did show 20 in+:

http://www.wunderground.com/weatherstation/WXDail yHistory.asp?ID=KLANEWOR33&day=30&year=2012&month= 8&graphspan=week

Perhaps a coincidence of malfunctions?
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Alot of people thought Isaac, as an invest where Leslie is at, was going to recurve...

The EURO model shows a possible scenario. If the models are right on that trough, it will be very weak and too far north to recurve Leslie.
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Quoting oracle28:




Half gone by the looks of it and probably accelerating especially with storms and hurricanes battering what remains of the delta.
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Quoting kwgirl:
The magnificient Frigate bird tends to spend it's life gliding on air. The only time I have seen them lite is when they are nesting. And then only the females with the mails soaring on thermals over the nesting area to show their magnificence. So they got blown your way with the storm. They do steal other birds food and I know you have gulls up there so they will be fed. Probably need the winds to die down so they can meander back south. They don't do a lot of flapping.

I have been fortunate to photograph the Magnificent Frigatebird only once, as it was in flight over the Dunedin Causeway (Dunedin/Palm Harbor, FL).
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101. VR46L
Quoting MAweatherboy1:

It's a pretty good bet. Bermuda should keep an eye on it but it's not coming to the US.






Maybe you should check the discussion

WHICH WILL PROBABLY TURN THE
CYCLONE TO THE NORTHWEST AND NORTH. THERE IS A LOT OF UNCERTAINTY
IN THE LONG RANGE
RELATED TO WHETHER THE SYSTEM RECURVES AHEAD OF
THE TROUGH OR GETS TRAPPED BENEATH A REBUILDING RIDGE.
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Quoting CJ5:


Sorry, there isn't no "there you go". This is a dam, one that has broken before. Err on the side of caution is always the best. It is not like there is much warning when a dam breaks. It sounds like the guy may have been wrong but he did the right thing.


He was wrong because he was acting as a one man show and not letting the EMA handle the situation. He didn't do the right thing. The EMA knew the real threat, he didn't. If you actually listened to his phone call, it was clear he had no idea what the real situation was with the dam. Doing the right thing means letting trained personnel handle emergencies, not local politicians. It's now more than three hours since the "90 minute" evacuation thing and the dam is still intact. Evacuations are taking place in an orderly manner. If you think scaring people to death and having a disorderly evacuation is the right thing, so be it. I sure don't.
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Quoting oracle28:


Interesting fact about Frances

Due to a request by France in the 2003 WMO Meeting, the name Frances was to be removed from the rotating cyclone lists after the 2004 hurricane season, even if Frances wasn't as destructive, but the destruction caused by Frances in the United States was enough to warrant retirement on its own merit.

ha! never knew that. Weird
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"Hurricane Kirk in the Central Atlantic
Hurricane Kirk intensified into a 75 mph Category 1 hurricane this morning, becoming the busy 2012 Atlantic hurricane season's fifth hurricane. With the season's mid-point of September 10 still almost 2 weeks away, we've already had 12 named storms and 5 hurricanes, which is close to what an entire season experiences in an average year (11 named storms and 6 hurricanes.) Kirk should stay well out to sea and not trouble any land areas."

Did I miss something? I think he meant 11, unless he knew something we didn't! Leslie?! :P
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Quoting kmanislander:
I just saw a news item on CNN in which it was claimed that the diversion of the Mississippi river is the reason the river delta has been disappearing and that in turn this is what is allowing the storm surge and salt water to ingress deeper and deeper into NOLA and other nearby areas each year.

The statistics given said that an acre of the delta disappears every hour because the silt etc from the river is no longer flowing to replenish the wetlands.

If this is correct then long term there are very serious issues facing this region from every hurricane season.


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Quoting AllStar17:


Original track for Frances in 2004:




Interesting fact about Frances

Due to a request by France in the 2003 WMO Meeting, the name Frances was to be removed from the rotating cyclone lists after the 2004 hurricane season, even if Frances wasn't as destructive, but the destruction caused by Frances in the United States was enough to warrant retirement on its own merit.
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Quoting HrDelta:


Looking at him, I wonder if he could somehow pull out a Major status.


Its possible he is the best looking storm this year in the Atlantic ..funny enough the good looking storms all headed North East this year ...

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I just saw a news item on CNN in which it was claimed that the diversion of the Mississippi river is the reason the river delta has been disappearing and that in turn this is what is allowing the storm surge and salt water to ingress deeper and deeper into NOLA and other nearby areas each year.

The statistics given said that an acre of the delta disappears every hour because the silt etc from the river is no longer flowing to replenish the wetlands.

If this is correct then long term there are very serious issues facing this region from every hurricane season.
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looks like i will have to watch 98L here in canada...
For anyone who didn't see this late last night, I wrote my first blog on my top ten countdown of crazy tropical cyclone tracks! hope you enjoy!

Link
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No power at my house. Several trees down all around my neighborhood. I will never wichcast a storm for any reason for anybody. Trust me, just a cat1 and it sucked. I would not want to face a direct hit 3,4 or 5.
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91. SLU
Quoting SLU:
12-5-0

2012 ahead of 2005? WOW. Thought we'd never see that not for another 50+ years.



... at least in terms of named storms.
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90. SLU
12-5-0

2012 ahead of 2005? WOW. Thought we'd never see that not for another 50+ years.
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TROPICAL STORM LESLIE TROPICAL CYCLONE UPDATE
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL122012
200 PM EDT THU AUG 30 2012

...TROPICAL STORM LESLIE FORMS...

DATA FROM NOAA BUOY 41041 AND SATELLITE IMAGES SHOW THAT TROPICAL
DEPRESSION TWELVE HAS BECOME A TROPICAL STORM. MAXIMUM SUSTAINED
WINDS ARE NOW 40 MPH...65 KM/H...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. NO CHANGE TO
THE TRACK OR INTENSITY FORECAST IS REQUIRED AT THIS TIME.

THIS IS THE SECOND-EARLIEST FORMATION OF THE 12TH NAMED STORM ON
RECORD IN THE ATLANTIC BASIN...ECLIPSED ONLY BY LUIS OF 1995.



SUMMARY OF 0200 PM...1800 UTC...INFORMATION
------------------------------------------------- -
LOCATION...14.3N 44.3W
ABOUT 1125 MI...1810 KM E OF THE WINDWARD ISLANDS
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...40 MPH...65 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...W OR 275 DEGREES AT 20 MPH...32 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...1005 MB...29.68 INCHES


so much for an el nino coming up....they are really taking advantage.
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Kirk is a nice cute looking hurricane. Small but strong, his eye is coming back out. Dare I say pinhole:)
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7946

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.