Hurricane Laura’s 17.2 feet high storm surge took everything from Louisiana resident by Chaffin Mitchell•After Hurricane Laura unleashed catastrophic storm surge on the coast of Louisiana, residents who stayed put say they will never again stay during a hurricane.”Something that you experience one time and don’t do it again,” explained Kim Eagleson, a Grand Lake Resident.Never before has a Category 4 hurricane made landfall in southwestern Louisiana, making it the strongest storm on record by wind intensity for that part of the state, according to Colorado State University Meteorologist Phil Klotzbach. The monstrous storm packed maximum sustained winds of 150 mph and something most residents tend to underestimate – storm surge.
|A house destroyed by Hurricane Laura in Grand Chenier, Louisiana. (AccuWeather/Jonathan Petramala)|
The storm surge rose to an astonishing 17.2 feet above ground level in Rutherford Beach, Louisiana, the National Weather Service in Lake Charles found.To put that into perspective, that is almost as tall as an adult giraffe, or two times the official height to a basketball rim.The level was acquired from the structures left standing in the background.Accuweather National Reporter Jonathan Petramala revealed the damage left behind by the astounding storm surge and interviewed residents picking up the pieces after Laura’s rampage.”Laura took everything except just a little cement slab. Crumbled the fireplace, ain’t nothing left. There’s people in East Louisiana don’t realize how bad we have it here,” Grand Chenier Resident Chris Theriot told Petramala.Petramala reported people living in this area may not have running water or electricity until Thanksgiving or Christmas.The National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned residents of the looming threat the surge posed ahead of the storm.”Unsurvivable storm surge with large and destructive waves will cause catastrophic damage from Sea Rim State Park, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, including Calcasieu and Sabine Lakes,” the NHC warned in a tweet before the storm made landfall, adding that the surge could extend up to 40 miles inland from the coastline.
|The sun rising over Laura on Thursday morning as the center of the storm swirls over Louisiana. (NOAA/GOES-East)|
AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski also forewarned Louisianans.”A storm surge of that magnitude, combined with wave action, would be high enough to fully devastate the second story of structures located along the coast,” Sosnowski said.Along the coast, storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane, according to the NHC.”Storm surge is the result of the water „piling” up as the storm center nears the coastline. It is predominantly caused by the force of the winds, cyclonically moving around the center of circulation, but is also contributed slightly due to falling pressure,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rossio said.
„Storm surge is often the most dangerous and life-threatening occurrence caused by tropical cyclones, because people near the coast are often taken off guard with how quickly water can rise,” Rossio said. Storm surge strength and reach compares more to a river than a tide.Rossio explained the surge can cause significant damage in its wake as well, leading to homes being either flooded or pulled into the sea as water recedes.”It isn’t certain if this is a record for this area given lack of water measurement observations in this area, but it was likely very similar to what was seen with Hurricane Rita when it made landfall 15 years ago,” Rossio said.According to Rossio, Rita’s storm surge was estimated to be between 12 to 18 feet.Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.
AccuWeather meteorologists warn that another round of tropical activity is likely to return in October, despite the current and brief break in tropical systems across the Atlantic Ocean Basin.
„After what has been a very busy stretch of tropical activity in the Atlantic, things have seemed to quiet down for the time being,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller.
There were no tropical cyclones spinning across the Atlantic on Thursday for the first time since Sept. 6, or the first time in 18 days. Additionally, the National Hurricane Center did not identify any areas that they were monitoring on Thursday for the first time since late August.
Miller explained further that a shift in the jet stream, which is normal at end of summer and start of autumn, is partially to thank for the current lull in activity across the basin.
„When the jet stream starts to shift, it changes the weather pattern across the globe. In this case, high pressure over the central Atlantic has become stronger, helping to limit if not outright suppress thunderstorm activity across the tropical Atlantic for now,” Miller added.
This high pressure is helping to hold an elongated area of stronger wind shear in place across the middle of the Atlantic Ocean through next week. Wind shear, which is the change in direction and wind speed at increasing heights in the atmosphere. As a result, this is a major factor in suppressing tropical activity through the end of September.
Tropical waves and disturbances, although typically less robust this time of year, will continue to push off the coast of Africa. But, the wind shear in place will squash most chances for those waves to become more organized.
There will still be some small pockets of low wind shear and moisture scattered about the Atlantic basin, which could be just enough to allow pop-up tropical systems to take shape. However, no area in particular looks concerning at this time.
The current pause in tropical activity across the entire Atlantic Basin won’t last long, forecasters warn.
„We are not done with tropical season, and there are some indications that the Atlantic Basin could come back to life in the western Caribbean or the Gulf of Mexico the first week or two of October,” said Miller.
Warm waters east of the Yucatan Peninsula to Jamaica combined with ample moisture could make this a breeding ground for tropical activity in October.
The absence of that strong wind shear across the Caribbean Sea is also part of the reason that tropical development will be possible.
The Caribbean, from the Leeward and Windward Islands to Central America and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, climatologically speaking, is a favorable zone for tropical development in early autumn.
Should a gyre form in this zone, it will increase the chances for development in early October.
A gyre is a slow-spinning wind pattern that rotates counterclockwise. The spin from the gyre tends to create an area of low pressure. Sometimes the low pressure area can become more organized and grow into a tropical system, especially if a tropical disturbance from Africa is injected into it, or a non-tropical weather system happens to stall nearby.
Whether an organized tropical system develops in this zone or not, the tropical waves are likely to deliver rounds of heavy rainfall.
Moisture will come from two sources, one being a stalled front from the Yucatan Peninsula to southern Florida, and the other from incoming tropical waves from the eastern Caribbean.
These two factors combing over the western Caribbean Sea is expected to result in rounds of tropical downpours for Jamaica and Cuba all the way to eastern Mexico, Belize and northern Honduras.
With more than one wave of heavy rain expected during the first week of October, enough rain could fall in some areas to prompt flash flooding and even mudslides in the higher elevations into the second week of October.
Interests, especially from Central America, northward to the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. and Atlantic Canada, should not let their guard down. Forecasters urge those who live in hurricane-prone locations to have a plan in place and remain prepared should a system develop, especially during these uncertain times amid the pandemic, which has added challenges to storm preparations.
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has already been one for the record books, including the number of storms that have formed so early in the season and the number of landfalls that have occurred in the United States. Forecasters say even more records may soon be broken, despite a brief lull in tropical systems churning across the basin.
Storms have been forming at a record pace this year, with Tropical Storm Cristobal as well as every named storm from Edouard through Beta beating previous early formation records in the Atlantic. Most of the records that have been knocked off the list had been set during the historic 2005 hurricane season, which generated a record-setting 28 named storms in one year. The 2005 season was the only other year in which Greek letters had to be used, with storms Alpha to Zeta being named.
This season is on pace to tie or perhaps break the record number of storms to achieve tropical storm status or greater. Thus far, there have been 23 such storms this year. AccuWeather meteorologists predicted that 2020 will tie the previous seasonal record set with a total of 28 named storms now projected. More storms are likely to be given Greek letters for names in the coming weeks and perhaps even into December, beyond the official end of the Atlantic hurricane season on Nov. 30.
There is another troublesome record that the 2020 season has broken. The U.S. has already experienced nine landfalls from tropical systems so far this year, which ties 1916 for the most in one season.
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