New Orleans to Pensacola at high risk from Katrina

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:05 PM GMT on August 27, 2005

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The Hurricane Hunters measured a central pressure of 949 mb at 11:14am EDT, up from the cental pressure of 941 mb measured at 7:07am EDT. Concentric eyewalls with diameters of 13 and 40 nm were reported, satellite images show that the eye has filled in with clouds and the cloud top temperatures have warmed. These observations indicate that an eyewall replacement cycle has begun. This was expected, since the 7:07am Hurricane Huneter report indicated that the eye diameter had shrunk to 9 nm, about the smallest diameter one gets before an eyewall replacement cycle begins.

The maximum winds may fall below 115 mph while Katrina undergoes this eyewall replacement cycle, as the inner eyewall collapses and a new outer eyewall forms. This would make Katrina a strong Category 2 storm, and indeed the maximum winds seen so far by the Hurricane Hunters were only 87 knots (100 mph) at 10,000 feet. This is a temporary affliction, since Katrina is in nearly ideal conditions for strengthening, and is expected to reach Category 4 status by Sunday. The convection and outflow are starting to look better on the north side of the hurricane, and Katrina should have a more symmetrical shape typical of Category 4 hurricanes by Sunday. As seen in the cumulative wind image below, Katrina has increased markedly in size the past 12 hours, and will deliver a widespread damaging blow wherever she comes ashore.



The favorable intensification conditions for Katrina are expected to last up until landfall, when some increase in shear may occur. Intensification forecasts are highly unreliable, though, and it would be no surprise if Katrina were a Category 2, 3, or 4 landfall. The track forecast is getting more believable, as Katrina's westerly motion shows that it has begun it recurvature, pretty much where NHC and the models were predicting. A landfall between New Orleans and Pensacola is on track for Monday morning or afternoon. I expect a Category 3 storm at landfall.

I'd hate to be an Emergency Management official in New Orleans right now. Katrina is pretty much following the NHC forecast, and appears likely to pass VERY close to New Orleans. I'm surprised they haven't ordered an evacuation of the city yet. While the odds of a catastrophic hit that would completely flood the city of New Orleans are probably 10%, that is way too high in my opinion to justify leaving the people in the city. If I lived in the city, I would evacuate NOW! There is a very good reason that the Coroner's office in New Orleans keeps 10,000 body bags on hand. The risks are too great from this storm, and a weekend away from the city would be nice anyway, right? GO! New Orleans needs a full 72 hours to evacuate, and landfall is already less than 72 hours away. Get out now and beat the rush. You're not going to have to go to work or school on Monday anyway. If an evacuation is ordered, not everyone who wants to get out may be able to do so--particularly the 60,000 poor people with no cars.

Dr. Jeff Masters

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931. TybeeIslandGA
11:00 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Lefty...I had to leave for a few hours. So What is the lastest "in a nut shell". Stronger, weaker, track, forcasted strength? THEN i will try to catch up on all the "details" above. Thanks Man!!
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930. linesider
8:57 PM GST on August 27, 2005
IKE- Fox New guy on the spot also said he hasnt seen anyone "put tape on the windows yet" : )
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928. Weather456
7:01 PM AST on August 27, 2005
Dear New Orleans 77,
If Katrina hits New Orleans what kind of damge are talkin about.
-Dennis
-Ivan
or Worst.
New Orleans is below sea level.
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927. SouthernLady
10:55 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Stormtop NAILED this thing SO far....Lefty cares about peoples wellfare....I remember Camille and I was living 3 hours (driving time) north of there...It was HORRIBLE...If this thing hits NO it will be catastrophic for this country. Of course not for the psychos out there because they only care if it affects them directly...
I remember 911, I was at work at the time and was horrified. I remember the Dr. I was working for at the time saying, "well this doesn't affect me!" The comment made me sick...
Thanks to all of you who care for the people instead of the tourist dollars...
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926. HurricaneSurvivor
11:01 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Weather456,

Try going to www.nova.com and search for orleans hurricane. Watch the video that talks about if Ivan would have hit NOLA directly. I think in terms of surge this storm will be smaller than Ivan, but wind will definitely be higher.
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 16
925. newinfl
10:56 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
That would turn the city and the east bank of Jefferson Parish into a lake as much as 30 feet deep, fouled with chemicals and waste from ruined septic systems, businesses and homes. Such a flood could trap hundreds of thousands of people in buildings and in vehicles. At the same time, high winds and tornadoes would tear at everything left standing. Between 25,000 and 100,000 people would die, said John Clizbe, national vice president for disaster services with the American Red Cross.

"A catastrophic hurricane represents 10 or 15 atomic bombs in terms of the energy it releases," said Joseph Suhayda, a Louisiana State University engineer who is studying ways to limit hurricane damage in the New Orleans area. "Think about it. New York lost two big buildings. Multiply that by 10 or 20 or 30 in the area impacted and the people lost, and we know what could happen."

Hundreds of thousands would be left homeless, and it would take months to dry out the area and begin to make it livable. But there wouldn't be much for residents to come home to. The local economy would be in ruins.

The scene has been played out for years in computer models and emergency-operations simulations. Officials at the local, state and national level are convinced the risk is genuine and are devising plans for alleviating the aftermath of a disaster that could leave the city uninhabitable for six months or more. The Army Corps of Engineers has begun a study to see whether the levees should be raised to counter the threat. But officials say that right now, nothing can stop "the big one."

Like coastal Bangladesh, where typhoons killed 100,000 and 300,000 villagers, respectively, in two horrific storms in 1970 and 1991, the New Orleans area lies in a low, flat coastal area. Unlike Bangladesh, New Orleans has hurricane levees that create a bowl with the bottom dipping lower than the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain. Though providing protection from weaker storms, the levees also would trap any water that gets inside -- by breach, overtopping or torrential downpour -- in a catastrophic storm.

"Filling the bowl" is the worst potential scenario for a natural disaster in the United States, emergency officials say. The Red Cross' projected death toll dwarfs estimates of 14,000 dead from a major earthquake along the New Madrid, Mo., fault, and 4,500 dead from a similar catastrophic earthquake hitting San Francisco, the next two deadliest disasters on the agency's list.

The projected death and destruction eclipse almost any other natural disaster that people paid to think about catastrophes can dream up. And the risks are significant, especially over the long term. In a given year, for example, the corps says the risk of the lakefront levees being topped is less than 1 in 300. But over the life of a 30-year mortgage, statistically that risk approaches 9 percent.

In the past year, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials have begun working with state and local agencies to devise plans on what to do if a Category 5 hurricane strikes New Orleans.

Shortly after he took office, FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh ordered aides to examine the nation's potential major catastrophes, including the New Orleans scenario.

"Catastrophic disasters are best defined in that they totally outstrip local and state resources, which is why the federal government needs to play a role," Allbaugh said. "There are a half-dozen or so contingencies around the nation that cause me great concern, and one of them is right there in your back yard."

In concert with state and local officials, FEMA is studying evacuation procedures, postdisaster rescue strategies, temporary housing and technical issues such as how to pump out water trapped inside the levees, said Michael Lowder, chief of policy and planning in FEMA's Readiness, Response and Recovery directorate. A preliminary report should be completed in the next few months.

Louisiana emergency management officials say they lobbied the agency for years to study how to respond to New Orleans' vulnerability, finally getting attention last year.

With computer modeling of hurricanes and storm surges, disaster experts have developed a detailed picture of how a storm could push Lake Pontchartrain over the levees and into the city.

"The worst case is a hurricane moving in from due south of the city," said Suhayda, who has developed a computer simulation of the flooding from such a storm. On that track, winds on the outer edges of a huge storm system would be pushing water in Breton Sound and west of the Chandeleur Islands into the St. Bernard marshes and then Lake Pontchartrain for two days before landfall.

"Water is literally pumped into Lake Pontchartrain," Suhayda said. "It will try to flow through any gaps, and that means the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (which is connected to Breton Sound by the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet) and the Chef Menteur and the Rigolets passes.

"So now the lake is 5 to 8 feet higher than normal, and we're talking about a lake that's only 15 or 20 feet deep, so you're adding a third to a half as much water to the lake," Suhayda said. As the eye of the hurricane moves north, next to New Orleans but just to the east, the winds over the lake switch around to come from the north.

"As the eye impacts the Mississippi coastline, the winds are now blowing south across the lake, maybe at 50, 80, 100 mph, and all that water starts to move south," he said. "It's moving like a big army advancing toward the lake's hurricane-protection system. And then the winds themselves are generating waves, 5 to 10 feet high, on top of all that water. They'll be breaking and crashing along the sea wall."

Soon waves will start breaking over the levee.

"All of a sudden you'll start seeing flowing water. It'll look like a weir, water just pouring over the top," Suhayda said. The water will flood the lakefront, filling up low-lying areas first, and continue its march south toward the river. There would be no stopping or slowing it; pumping systems would be overwhelmed and submerged in a matter of hours.

"Another scenario is that some part of the levee would fail," Suhayda said. "It's not something that's expected. But erosion occurs, and as levees broke, the break will get wider and wider. The water will flow through the city and stop only when it reaches the next higher thing. The most continuous barrier is the south levee, along the river. That's 25 feet high, so you'll see the water pile up on the river levee."

As the floodwaters invade and submerge neighborhoods, the wind will be blowing at speeds of at least 155 mph, accompanied by shorter gusts of as much as 200 mph, meteorologists say, enough to overturn cars, uproot trees and toss people around like dollhouse toys.

The wind will blow out windows and explode many homes, even those built to the existing 110-mph building-code standards. People seeking refuge from the floodwaters in high-rise buildings won't be very safe, recent research indicates, because wind speed in a hurricane gets greater with height. If the winds are 155 mph at ground level, scientists say, they may be 50 mph stronger 100 feet above street level.

Buildings also will have to withstand pummeling by debris picked up by water surging from the lakefront toward downtown, with larger pieces acting like battering rams.

Ninety percent of the structures in the city are likely to be destroyed by the combination of water and wind accompanying a Category 5 storm, said Robert Eichorn, former director of the New Orleans Office of Emergency Preparedness. The LSU Hurricane Center surveyed numerous large public buildings in Jefferson Parish in hopes of identifying those that might withstand such catastrophic winds. They found none.

Amid this maelstrom, the estimated 200,000 or more people left behind in an evacuation will be struggling to survive. Some will be housed at the Superdome, the designated shelter in New Orleans for people too sick or infirm to leave the city. Others will end up in last-minute emergency refuges that will offer minimal safety. But many will simply be on their own, in homes or looking for high ground.

Thousands will drown while trapped in homes or cars by rising water. Others will be washed away or crushed by debris. Survivors will end up trapped on roofs, in buildings or on high ground surrounded by water, with no means of escape and little food or fresh water, perhaps for several days.

"If you look at the World Trade Center collapsing, it'll be like that, but add water," Eichorn said. "There will be debris flying around, and you're going to be in the water with snakes, rodents, nutria and fish from the lake. It's not going to be nice."

Mobilized by FEMA, search and rescue teams from across the nation will converge on the city. Volunteer teams of doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians that were pre-positioned in Monroe or Shreveport before the storm will move to the area, said Henry Delgado, regional emergency coordinator for the U.S. Public Health Service.

But just getting into the city will be a problem for rescuers. Approaches by road may be washed out.

"Whether or not the Airline Highway bridge across the Bonnet Carre Spillway survives, we don't know," said Jay Combe, a coastal hydraulic engineer with the corps. "The I-10 bridge (west of Kenner) is designed to withstand a surge from a Category 3 storm, but it may be that water gets under the spans, and we don't know if it will survive." Other bridges over waterways and canals throughout the city may also be washed away or made unsafe, he said. In a place where cars may be useless, small boats and helicopters will be used to move survivors to central pickup areas, where they can be moved out of the city. Teams of disaster mortuary volunteers, meanwhile, will start collecting bodies. Other teams will bring in temporary equipment and goods, including sanitation facilities, water, ice and generators. Food, water and medical supplies will be airdropped to some areas and delivered to others.

Stranded survivors will have a dangerous wait even after the storm passes. Emergency officials worry that energized electrical wires could pose a threat of electrocution and that the floodwater could become contaminated with sewage and with toxic chemicals from industrial plants and backyard sheds. Gasoline, diesel fuel and oil leaking from underground storage tanks at service stations may also become a problem, corps officials say.

A variety of creatures -- rats, mice and nutria, poisonous snakes and alligators, fire ants, mosquitoes and abandoned cats and dogs -- will be searching for the same dry accommodations that people are using.

Contaminated food or water used for bathing, drinking and cooking could cause illnesses including salmonella, botulism, typhoid and hepatitis. Outbreaks of mosquito-borne dengue fever and encephalitis are likely, said Dr. James Diaz, director of the department of public health and preventive medicine at LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans.

"History will repeat itself," Diaz said. "My office overlooks one of the St. Louis cemeteries, where there are many graves of victims of yellow fever. Standing water in the subtropics is the breeding ground for mosquitoes."



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923. JaxAdjuster
11:00 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Man, this storm is twice as big as it was yesterday! It will have wide path when it hits.
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922. wxfan
10:59 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Good question, HurricaneSurvivor!

I recommend that you read "The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America". That book shows the flood that started up North and went all the way to NOLA. It shows the levee system being built and why it is fatally flawed from the very beginning. Furthermore, it makes an excellent political point - most people think modern welfare was the invention of FDR - but it wasn't. Republicans, who now hate welfare, invented it out of necessity during the 1927 flood. GREAT book. I hear it is pretty much required reading if you want to graduate from Tulane.
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921. LoneGunman
10:59 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Don't worry about it Lefty, hit the "obscene" button like the mod said to do last night if people are being disruptive.
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920. Orleans77
11:00 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
any thoughts on how LSU will fare?
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918. TampaSteve
6:58 PM EDT on August 27, 2005
Where's Jim Cantore??? Just stay far away from him and you'll be fine...
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917. Orleans77
11:00 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
I can see whatb you mean Lefty..damn looke at the size of this beast!
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916. JaxAdjuster
10:59 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
I know. I thought it was funny when they suggested it. Now, you can take credit for StormTops call on Katrina.
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915. HurricaneSurvivor
10:59 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
I think the NFL used the hurricane Generator to get rid of the Aints' ;)
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 16
914. Weather456
6:57 PM AST on August 27, 2005
If Katrina hits New Orleans what kind of damge are talkin about.
-Dennis
-Ivan
or Worst.
New Orleans is below sea level.
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913. IKE
10:57 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
EZMonster....it could be a reorganization of the eyewall...but I think this trough could be effecting Katrina's movement...
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912. HurricaneSurvivor
10:56 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Ok, Hurricane Georges was a Cat 2 hurricane that scraped NOLA. It pushed the water to within 1 foot of going over the levee...

Now the real question...

WHY HAVEN"T THEY TRIED TO BUILD THAT LEVEE HIGHER?!?!?
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 16
911. leftyy420
10:57 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
we are not the same person. but its funny how people try to bring u down with nonsense like that
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
910. Orleans77
10:57 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Was supposed to return there for school tomorrow...obviously im staying put (tot the relief of my parents)..will I have a school to return to?
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908. leftyy420
10:55 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
no its clouse covefed now. there was a burst of convection on the southside and that has covered over the eye again. it was starting to clear in a vis sat img . i will give u that link. you have to zoom in to see it


Link
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
907. IKE
10:55 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Fox News....anchorman a couple of hours ago....called Grand Isle....Grand Island>>>real pro there
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906. Orleans77
10:56 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Any thoughts on how LSU will fare??
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905. JaxAdjuster
10:55 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Lefty pointed out the concentric eyewalls earlier.
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904. JaxAdjuster
10:53 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
lefty and stormtop are the same person. Interesting. :)
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903. Orleans77
10:54 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Thanks wxfan...thats the info I had too...
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902. Weather456
6:53 PM AST on August 27, 2005
The Air Force Reserve Reconnaissance Hurricane Hunters made some interesting observations Saturday morning. Just before 5 a.m., small hail was observed in the southeast quadrant at a height of roughly 8000-9000 feet. Around 11 a.m. EDT, concentric eyewalls (meaning two of them, one inside another) were witnessed.-The Weather Channel
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901. wxfan
10:51 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
No, Cat. 60k is the fema number. There's a reason CNN and Fox News are obsessed with this thing - they know there is a 17% chance (according to the NHC) that a direct hit gets NOLA and causes thousands of deaths. FEMA ordered thousands of body bags to prepare and there are 10,000+ in the region already.

Read the doomsday stuff posted here further down in the thread. It explains how the gov't came to their figures. It is probably ironic (or perhaps no coincidence at all) that 60k poor people don't have cars to leave the city.
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900. EZMonster
10:48 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
IKE,

I see the same general direction shift you're seeing on vis and also can be seen on IR. I can't tell if it's a real change or just a movement reflecting the eyewall reorganization. I agree with you though that if it is true movement, it seems to be NORTH/EAST of the current model predictions (which might be good news for NOLA). I do think this argues against it going any further west like some people were worrying earlier (Beaumont, Lake Charles, etc.)
899. JaxAdjuster
10:51 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Left, I still don't see the eye. Still looks clouded over to me. Are you looking at the NASA satelite photo that you posted a link to last night?
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898. IKE
10:49 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
The reality is..unless you're within probably 50 miles of the eye...you should be spared Hurricane force winds...assuming the storm doesn't grow anymore...which it could. But if your near the eye...it COULD be a living hell. With a pressure this low..someone is gonna get hit and hit hard by Katrina. Hopefully she'll weaken. Maybe Opal days were better than today. No blogs with morons on them to clutter OUR MINDS!
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897. Orleans77
10:51 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
I sincerely hope and pray you are right Cat
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895. Orleans77
10:50 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
TampaSteve ...im jus saying that everybody other calm down and not talk about doomsday scenarios..but deal with real facts!
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894. ansaman
10:37 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
I went through Jeanne and Frances here in West Palm Beach and drove through the height of Irene in 1999 (my store was too dumb to close). I also went through Celia in Corpus Christi in 1970. I would do nearly anything to get out if I was in New Orleans. Perhaps best is to pick a good solid reinforced building in one of the higher places in the city. Go to a police station...a fire house..a school that is surrounded by other buildings. Pick something with interior rooms. I work in a grocery and the refrigerators are little building in the buildings and might help. I have one strange suggestion...take a large bedsheet with you and mark it with something so if you are cut off, you can hang it from a window after the storm. Take drinking water...some food a battery radio...that kept me from going insane overnight alone in the dark.
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892. BigDaddy1978
10:49 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
fortlauderdalegirl: You should watch Channel 10 in Ft. Lauderdale. Forget CBS. ;-)

My cousin works on the on-air team there. I'll leave you to figure out who he is.

I just ate dinner. I miss anything?
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891. Orleans77
10:48 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
local NO television just announced that Superdome will opne at 8am but only for people requiring medical assistance..and that all other people who cant leave the city should stay at least on the 3rd floor of any building
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889. TampaSteve
6:47 PM EDT on August 27, 2005
"however that said..it is good advice to take a deep breath and relax...the chances of a direct hit on NO even now are no more than 30%"

Let's put that in perspective...if someone pointed to a big red button and said that if you pressed it, there is a 30% chance you would die instantly...would you press it??? I thought not...
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888. fortlauderdalegirl
10:42 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Look -- let's get on with the very serious job of real storm info sharing. My immediate family is in the path of this storm - from NO, Biloxi, Mobile and Pensacola (both sets of my grandparents, my in-laws, my brother & his family, my dad, and my great aunt/cousin. I'm just sick at a CAT 4/5 hitting any of them. PLEASE stop the ridiculous posts and let's get serious. IF we have someone who is not credible, SO WHAT??? We'll give them some help and go on. I need real info. to help my family. I know many of you do too. Thanks to all of you. I've learned SO much over the past days.
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887. Orleans77
10:47 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Ur right Lefty420...we ought to worry about the current situation and stop beating people up
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886. HurryCane
5:44 PM CDT on August 27, 2005
New Orleans always keeps 10,000 on hand just in case...
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885. Orleans77
10:46 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
however that said..it is good advice to take a deep breath and relax...the chances of a direct hit on NO even now are no more than 30%
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884. TampaSteve
6:44 PM EDT on August 27, 2005
ROTFL, HS...well said...
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883. leftyy420
10:45 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
this placde was so peacefull till certain people got on and changed the whole focus of the thread.
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
882. weatherguy03
10:44 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Couldnt have said it better myself Cosmic..i hope you all pay attention to what Cosmic said for your own safety. I will go back and hide again. Goodluck all in Katrinas path and stay safe. God Bless.
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881. Orleans77
10:44 PM GMT on August 27, 2005
Not DR Masters...FEMA predicts 60K dead for a direct NO hit of CAT 4 or higher
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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.