Sunday, September 14, 2008

Now Depressed Ike Soaks US Midwest On Way to Canada

Sunday, September 15, 10:00 a.m. - The NHC issued its last update on Ike at 4 a.m. At that time, Ike had been downgraded to a Tropical Depression centered on the Arkansas/Missouri line. The storm had quite a run over land, swamping low-lying areas from Freeport, TX to Terrebonne Parish in Louisiana, blowing out windows in downtown Houston skyscrapers (actually many of windows were broken by pea gravel blown off of neighboring rooftops), and perhaps most critically, stranding an unknown number of non-evacuees, who await search and rescue efforts by local and state officials and the Coast Guard. While hundreds of rescues have been made, officials call the total to date "a drop in a bucket", as tens of thousands of people in coastal areas of Texas failed to comply with the evacuation order.

Saturday, September 13, 4 a.m. - Ike made landfall a couple hours ago in Galveston, TX. Winds are still reported at 110 mph as the storm drives through Houston, making it a strong Category Two storm, liable to cause 5-10 times the relative damage that Gustav wreaked upon Baton Rouge. I worked in the chemical industry in Baton Rouge for more than 20 years and got to know many people in the Houston area, both within my company, and with supplying companies. My thoughts and prayers are with them tonight. Here's a link to a CNN story on the situation in Galveston and Houston.

One piece of good news is that a freighter carrying 22 crew members that was marooned in the storm is now safely behind it. The Coast Guard and CNN report that the Cyprus-flagged Antalina is now awaiting a motorized tugboat to take it back to port.

Baton Rouge continues with a sultry, breezy summer night - temperature hovering the low 80s even at 4 a.m. with winds gusting to 30 mph, but relatively calm at the moment. The IR satellite map shown below indicates that we should get some additional rain later today as the storm continues to circulate, but without any dramatic weather, unless a tornado pops up.

Friday, September 12 - As of 11:00 a.m, Ike's outer band has produced a little rain and winds of maybe 15-20 mph with slightly higher gusts. All nothing we can't handle, though we are a little frazzled in the Gustav aftermath. My 2 p.m. medical appointment got moved up to 12:45 p.m. so that both patients and staff can go home early. Eyeballing the above map makes me think that Ike will make landfall at Galveston at about 1 or 2 a.m. on Saturday. I'm hoping that the storm continues its WNW track over the Gulf, leaving Baton Rouge affected only by the outermost band. Tornadoes remain a threat in the very unsettled air covering the entire storm circulation.

Thursday, 11 p.m. - Above is the latest NOAA forecast track for Ike. The storm is focusing on Galveston Bay and the Houston, TX area. A mandatory evacuation has been called for Galveston Island and perhaps for other low-lying areas of the Texas Gulf Coast. Landfall for the eye appears to be coming about 24 hours from now, but the storm is already affecting land with squalls in Louisiana and sea with storm surge in Louisiana and Texas, as seen in the satellite image below. Even though the storm has held at 100 mph sustained winds, the IR satellite image is disturbing in that it shows four very dark areas, the northernmost two of which will probably hit the southwest Louisiana coast. With the general track of the storm after landfall being to the north and east, and given the size of the storm, even Baton Rouge, Louisiana could be in for a very wet and windy weekend. The National Weather Service forecat for Baton Rouge calls for sustained winds up to 30 mph on Friday and 20-25 mph on Saturday with a ongoing 50% chance of rain and thunderstorms on both days. Predicted winds drop off to about 15 mph on Sunday and the rain chance to 30%.

Thursday, 8 a.m. - A very soggy and windy weekend appears in store for the greater Houston area as made a slight shift to the WNW overnight and speeded its approach toward land from 7 mph to 10 mph. Landfall of the eye is now projected at about Lake Jackson, TX (south of Houston) at 2 a.m. on Saturday. The storm is big, so heavy winds and waves should extend over most of the Texas coast and into southwestern Louisiana, both of which were hit hard by Hurricane Rita in September 2005. What passes for good news for Texas is that the storm may have stabilized at 100 mph (Category 2) rather than strengthen further into a Category 3 or even 4 storm. Still, Ike has another 42 hours over warm water to built its power. Without a significant change in Ike's path, Baton Rouge and eastern Louisiana should experience little more than a rainy weekend on the fringe of a tropical storm. One last thought is a wish for good luck and much learning from their Rita experience to the Houston environs, where as many as a million people will try to evacuate. Evacuation to the north appears problematic, as Ike should head north as well. San Antonio about 200 miles to the west may become a very crowded place.

September 10, 10 p.m. - The day has seen Ike move slowly to the NW toward the Texas coast. It has also strengthened back to Category 2, with maximum sustained winds at 100 mph. Other weather forces should push the storm north after it makes landfall near Victoria, TX, but if the storm continues to track NW instead of WNW and moves at 7-8 mph instead of 10-12 mph, the northward push could create landfall in Louisiana. Already the southwest corner of Louisiana has crept back to into the probability cone. The easternmost edge of the landfall probability cone has moved almost 200 miles to the east since 4 p.m. yesterday, a disturbing development for Louisianans after Tuesday's forecasts kept pushing the storm further to the south and west.

September 10, 9 a.m. - Ike's forecasted track has changed little in the last 15 hours, which is good news for Louisianans and bad news for Texans. I'd be happier if the storm would take a more clear westerly track and move a little faster. The last directional observation was NW at 8 mph. The eye of the storm is clear of Cuba. Nothing but warm Gulf water stands between Ike and the western Gulf coast, wherever it may strike. Landfall as at least a Category 2, and possibly higher seems likely.

September 9, 4 p.m. - Another 12 hours has put western Louisiana back in Ike's predicted 5-day cone, albeit not in the projected path of landfall early on Saturday morning. The storm is leaving Cuba with winds still at minimal hurricane strength of 75 mph. Gustav showed us what havoc that can wreak in Baton Rouge. Right now it looks as though LSU and North Texas should plan to play Saturday's game in Baton Rouge, as the storm could be plowing through north Texas just about in time for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

September 9, 5 a.m. - The forecast track for Hurricane Ike moved steadily south and west over the last 21 hours. As you can see from the map above, this is good news for Louisiana (and bad news for south Texas and northern Mexico). Louisiana is now completely outside the 5-day cone (no sure thing, as storms go outside this cone 1/3 of the time). Landfall is now projected near Corpus Christi, TX on Saturday morning. Prayers go out to the unfortunate people of western Cuba, who have experienced two hurricanes in less than two weeks. At long last, the rest of the Atlantic Basin in quiet--no other named storms or even tropical depressions or areas of interest at this time. Still, storms can form quickly. The end of September and October are historically busy months.

September 8, 9 a.m. - With Hurricane Gustav now in our past (except for the pile of brush in the front yard, the broken tree limb over the pond yet to be pulled down, and the outdoor potted plants still in the living room), life could be expected to get back to normal, except for the looming presence of Hurricane Ike, now a Category Two storm making its way across Cuba. The NOAA forecast map shows Ike traversing Cuba and emerging into the Gulf of Mexico late Tuesday night. Though the projected 5-day path points Ike's eye toward Port Arthur, Texas (about where Hurricane Rita hit in 2005), all of Louisiana is in the cone of possibility. Any northward movement of the storm would set up the Louisiana coast for another direct hit. We enjoyed our weekend and newly-restored power (watching lots of tennis, football (go Saints!) and baseball on Sunday), but now our task is similar to that of Tina Turner during her marriage to her performing partner--watch out for Ike!

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