Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It Isn't 'Just' a Category One Storm!

Several times, this blog cautioned that Isaac was going to be a big deal where it came aground and that I was seeing too much false bravado by people in its path (via tweets and web postings). Some were out-and-out accusing meteorologists of "hyping" the storm.

New Orleans "Times-Picayune" photo
If you are in one of the (now) more than 500,000 690,000 homes/businesses (updated 7pm) without power and looking at a week or more without electricity -- or you are in one of the neighborhoods completely flooded by the storm surge or to be flooded by the major river flooding still to come -- you may be thinking that meteorologists' cautions were well founded.
Photo of flooded downtown Biloxi via "USA Today" Twitter.
Friend and meteorologist Nate Johnson has a good essay on underestimating hurricanes here.

In a few weeks, when all the damage is totaled, I believe we will find that Isaac's toll will be surprisingly high for "only" a Category 1.

Addition: Southeast of New Orleans entire neighborhoods are under water. Photo from second floor window toward completely submerged homes. Literally hundreds of rescues today; many by taking axes to the roofs of homes because people moved into attics because of the rising water. First responders are risking their lives because people did not evacuate.
Photo by Suzy Dinger via Facebook


  1. I would make two suggestions, either or both of which might alleviate the problem of which Mr. Johnson speaks:

    -- Start rating hurricanes the same way tornadoes are rated: AFTER the fact, based on damage surveys or studies, not while they are in progress. When hurricanes are in progress simply emphasize the greatest hazards (peak winds, storm surge) and leave the "rating" out of it.

    -- Implement an "Enhanced" Saffir-Simpson Scale that would factor in other aspects of a storm besides sustained winds -- wind gusts, storm surge, size of hurricane-force or TS-force wind fields, damage swath, type of damage, etc. On this scale, perhaps, a storm like Isaac would be bumped up, say, to Category E2 or even E3 based on other factors besides its (minimal for a hurricane) sustained winds.


  2. Elaine,
    You make a number of good points. I think the shortcomings of the S-S scale became painfully apparent in Isaac. I'll have a posting about it tomorrow or Friday.


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