Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Hurricane Laura: UPDATE 10:15am Tuesday

Hurricane Warning for the coastal area highlighted in red. 

At 10am, Hurricane Laura has 75 mph winds. The barometric pressure is 990 millibars. The National Hurricane Center's path forecast is now closer what I have outlined below.
The "M" at 7pm Wednesday = "Major Hurricane." They are forecasting wind gusts to 140 mph. Those will cause serious structural damage. With regard to storm surge, they say,

There is the danger of life-threatening storm surge accompanied by large and dangerous waves from San Luis Pass, Texas, to the Mouth of the Mississippi River, including areas inside the Port Arthur Hurricane Flood Protection System. A storm surge warning is in effect and residents should follow any advice given by local officials. Actions to protect life and property should be rush to completion today -- as water levels will begin to rise Wednesday. 

Updated storm surge forecast map.


 -- Original posting from 8:15am below. The information is still valid. --

Laura is now a hurricane with 75 mph winds and pressure of 990 millibars. The storm should continue to strengthen from now until landfall.
Hurricane Laura at 8:00am
Laura will be a major storm when it makes landfall. My forecast is for the eye to come ashore along the upper Texas coast. Houston/Galveston to Grand Chenier (including Lake Charles) should prepare for a major hurricane. 

“Residents in the Houston/Galveston area must be preparing for the impact of a hurricane by Wednesday evening," tweeted Jeff Lindner, meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District. “Follow all recommendations from local officials...if told to evacuate do so.”

Headlines:
  • It is my opinion that Laura will be at least a hurricane with Cat 3 winds when it makes landfall. Cat. 4, or even 5, is not off the table at this point. While small, there will be structural damage and extensive power failures along the path of maximum winds. 
  • Storm surge will be life-threatening. Get away from the coast. Peak surge will be 10'+. 
  • Tornadoes will occur along and to the east of the path of the eye well inland.
  • Winds of sufficient strength to cause at least scattered power failures will occur as far north at Interstate 20. The power failures may last for days or weeks. 
My best estimate of the path of maximum winds looks like the European global model's (below):
Of course, the path could still shift a bit to the east or west. Note there is a very strong gradient in the forecast wind speeds on the west side. The practical impact is that, as an example only, eastern Harris Co. might have strong hurricane force winds while western Harris Co. experiences winds that are much lighter. It is too soon to know the exact path so I urge you to follow evacuation orders. 

The times below are the earliest reasonable time of arrival of 40 mph or stronger winds.

10a update: Here is the latest storm surge watch and warnings.
click to enlarge
What can you expect if Laura reaches Cat 4 wind intensity? The photo below is from 2017's Hurricane Florence. The combination of flooding rains and winds undermined roads and structures.

And, Ike was a 4 at maximum intensity. Photo from Texas' Bolivar Peninsula are below. Most of the damage was from storm surge. Again, these photos are for illustration purposes only.
Photo from excellent blog, Space City Weather

Here is the NWS' 5-day rainfall amount forecast. Flooding is likely in the red areas.


Here are my safety recommendations. This is what I would do were I living in or near the danger zone.
  • Make a hotel/motel reservation well inland. There is no point to getting on the road and finding everything already sold out. Be sure and cancel if you do not need the room.
  • Make provisions for infirm friends/relatives well in advance. 
  • Get prescriptions filled before you evacuate. 
  • Visit the ATM to make sure you have adequate cash for a week on the road. 
  • Put an app like AccuWeather's on your smartphone. It will keep track of your location and automatically provide the latest emergency warnings as you are on the go. 
  • Your "Go-Kit" should include at least two masks per person, soap, hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and, if available, disinfectant spray. Have clothes for at least a week. No one cares how stylish you are. If you are at a pharmacy, pick up some surgical gloves and, if you don't have them, work gloves. 
  • Fill your car with fuel. I still recommend a road atlas or map in addition to whatever navigation system you might have. 
  • Power failures are likely. If you have a generator, fill it with fuel. If you wish to purchase a portable generator, do not put it in the garage, indoors, or anywhere near an air intake. Carbon monoxide is a danger. 
  • Consider taking your passport or putting it in your safe deposit box. If the worst happens, you'll need it to prove identity for disaster documents. It will be difficult to recover in a ruined home.
  • Take at least two large bottles of water for each family member along with protein bars or other easy-to-carry food. 
  • If you decide to stay home, make sure you have a working fire extinguisher, non-electric can opener, and a first aid kit. 
  • Put your insurance documents in your safe deposit box or take them with you. This will facilitate filing a claim if you have serious property damage. 
You can get more information from me on Twitter @usweatherexpert.

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