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12 September 2008 @ 06:56 pm
here we go again, just 3 years later  
Just like with Katrina, the national media is completely underestimating how deadly another hurricane is about to become. Again, they will not begin understanding until days from now, after it is all over.

This time, they are slumbering because it's just a category 2. But as the article below from the Houston Chronicle's weather expert's blog explains, that does not matter.

When you combine what he said, with the fact that the track is now aiming right at Galveston island (as of 6:15 PM Ohio time), and with the fact that the mayor of Galveston just announced she was only able to persuade 40 percent of the 57,000 people there to evacuate, you realize there could be more drownings a few hours from now than happened in the 9th Ward and the rest of New Orleans!

Another way to portray the significance of what is about to happen in a few hours is this...

The deadliest disaster in US history was the 1900 Galveston hurricane, which killed at least 6000 people.

The storm surge then was believed to be about 15 feet. Unless a miracle happens causing some kind of veer in the path, the storm surge there will be at least that high this time. Of course, this time everyone won't be washed away by the waves because of the wall, but the water will be high enough to cause lots of drownings.

Once again, I know all this up in Ohio, because I am able to listen to the local radio stations in the path of the storm.
(This time KTRH in Houston.)

Once again, just like with Katrina, why are none of the thousands of reporters in the US monitoring the local media down there so they know the urgency NOW?

-Mike

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http://blogs.chron.com/sciguy/archives/2008/09/live_chat_on_ik_4.html

Friday September 12, 2008, 01:43 PM CDT
September 12, 2008
Houston Chrionicle -Live Chat on Ike: 09.12 :

The inland winds will be bad. But the surge will be far worse.
Good afternoon.

Hurricane Ike remains a 105-mph storm this afternoon as it has drawn nearer to the upper Texas coast. Although some strengthening is possible, Ike's central pressure has actually risen today. And it's now approaching waters that have a low tropical cyclone heat potential. Significant strengthening therefore appears unlikely.

And indeed, the computer intensity models are nearly unanimous in bringing a category 2 hurricane to the coast.

Where to? The computer track guidance this afternoon continues to indicate a landfall somewhere along Galveston Island. A substantial northward shift now appears less likely.

As a result, the primary issue remains the fate of Galveston Island and the upper Texas coast, all of which faces a substantial storm surge. The following story, which I wrote in 2005, characterizes the vulnerability of Galveston. Although the island doesn't face a category 4 hurricane, the surge Ike should produce will be nearly that strong.

Consider this quote from the city's mayor, who apparently didn't recall these remarks as she only called for a mandatory evacuation yesterday:

By the reckoning of public officials who safeguard the island, Galveston residents would have only one defense from a storm like Katrina: evacuation. Such a storm, said Eliot Jennings, Galveston County's emergency management coordinator, would do a "whole lot of damage."

The island city's mayor, Lyda Ann Thomas, went further.

"I think the island would be destroyed, wiped out," she said. "There wouldn't be anything left. I do think Galvestonians are paying attention to what happened, and people who thought they might not evacuate will now think twice before they decide whether to leave the island."

While New Orleans counted on its levee system, Galveston's sense of security comes from a 15-foot wall. After the great storm of 1900, which killed 8,000, Galveston's leaders constructed a seawall along much of the island's eastern end. They also raised the city directly behind it from a peak of 8 feet above sea level to about 15 feet.

The island now reaches its highest point at the seawall, gently sloping back to sea level at bayside.

A Katrina-size storm would not destroy the seawall, and indeed the wall would absorb much energy from the biggest, crashing waves. But Katrina's storm surge crested at 22 feet, enough height to easily clear the seawall. And the city has no protection from bayside waters.

"The island would be completely underwater," said Donald Van Nieuwenhuise, director of petroleum geoscience programs at UH. "And it's less protected from winds than New Orleans. The only good thing is that, once the rain and winds went away, water would begin to recede."

Such a surge would likely occur if Ike comes in on Galveston's west end. However, if the storm's center comes in just east of the island, the area behind the seawall could escape catastrophic damage.

galvestonseawall.jpg

Soon to be put to the test...