Another Triumph of Weather Science

The Damage From Hurricane Ida Was What we Feared. 
But, That Isn't the Big Story.
Hurricane Ida was everything we feared. NBC News has a well-done summary of the known, and extensive, damage, here. One local official this morning described the damage left by Ida as "epic." It will take months or even years to fully recover.

Once you have viewed the video, ask yourself: how many people would you have expected to die in this storm?

In 1957, Hurricane Audrey struck southwest Louisiana, largely without warning, with 125 mph winds. It killed more than 400 people. 

Yesterday's Hurricane Ida, which was stronger than Audrey with 140 mph winds and struck a densely populated, highly vulnerable area, so far has killed just one person. While that death is a tragedy for the friends and family of that person, it is fair to speculate that more than a thousand people would have been killed (given the much greater population of New Orleans and southeast Louisiana as compared with the area Audrey affected) had Ida struck without warning.  

Downstream of the weather forecast is the work of emergency management, local governments and the citizens who paid attention and acted upon the forecasts and advice from local officials. People got out. Others moved to shelters. They were out of harm's way and stayed safe.

New Orleans Times-Picayune

Meteorologists, whether from the National Weather Service, broadcast, or private sector, are heroes! Seeing some of the tweets from my colleagues made during the storm expressing concern for the safety of their fellow citizens almost made me tear up. Weather scientists comprise an extremely public-spirited profession. That showed again in the run-up to and during Ida as many of us stuck our necks out forecasting a "rapid intensification" storm -- something which is very difficult to forecast. Yet, we knew it was necessary to do so in order to have sufficient time to get people out of the way of the wind gusts of more than 150 mph and what could have been a killer storm surge of more than ten feet in depth.

Ask yourself: If we had been wrong, do you have any doubt the "false alarm" would have been the lead story of the national news today?

The above is not to say that everything went perfectly with the forecasts or the planning. And, the National Weather Service currently has serious issues with inadequate infrastructure among other challenges. There will be time to look at those aspects once the remains of Ida are off the coast and the heavy rains have stopped falling.

But, today, weather science: the forecasters, the broadcasters, the modelers, the social scientists and the entire team that makes up America's weather enterprise deserves a victory lap. 

If you know a meteorologist, drop her or him a note telling them how much you appreciate their work. It will be appreciated.

© 2021 Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC


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