Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Little Storm That Could

It was only last Wednesday that a tropical depression over the eastern Caribbean intensified enough to become Tropical Storm Katrina. Forecasters predicted it might strengthen enough to briefly become a hurricane before striking southern Florida. But then it would quickly weaken into a soggy rainstorm and make its way up the east coast.

Mother Nature, however, apparently neglected to check the weather forecast.

Katrina did, indeed, hit the Miami area as a puny category one storm with 80 mph, then quickly lost strength. Damage was fairly minimal when compared to some of the storms that struck the Sunshine State last year.

But then the weak storm reemerged into the Gulf of Mexico. Finding itself over water as warm as 90 degrees, Katrina re-formed into a hurricane. But rather than make a quick beeline towards the Florida panhandle, the storm headed further west, giving itself more time to feed off the warm ocean surface. And like a fat woman gorging on a truckload of Twinkies, Katrina kept growing and growing.

At this point, it is important to note that only three category five storms--with winds of 156 mph or greater have hit the US mainland since record keeping began in the 1800's.

At two o'clock this afternoon, a hurricane hunter aircraft flew through the storm and clocked winds at 175 mph. The barometric pressure, which has an inverse relationship to the wind speed and is considered the true measure of a hurricane's strength, was 906 millibars--the second lowest on record for a hurricane.

It is expected to make landfall tomorrow along the Louisiana coast. Even if the center of the storm misses New Orleans, Katrina is large enough that the city is expected to suffer substantial damage. As a result, the mayor has ordered a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. The city has also set up emergency shelters for those unable to get out, including the 77,000 seat Superdome.

Granted, I'm no expert on these things, but this seems to be a helluva time to have a football game.

0 thoughtful ramblings: