(Fri Sept 23 10:15am) Well, despite my complaining about anthropomorphising the storm, I've chosen to do just that with the title of this post -- which is where I'll continue to post about Hurricane Rita and its aftermath.
(Fri 10:20am): CNN is reporting The Army Corps of Engineeers is reporting that the levee at the Industrial Canal is being overtopped, causing some flooding in the 9th Ward of New Orleans. The structure is still intact, but flooding this early is unexepected. ... And now (10:40) there's a breach in another levee, in the Chantilly area. A CNN photographer said the water overtopping the Industrial Canal levee came in very quickly, 5 - 10 inches in the course of a minute. He's also reporting that it's definitely a breach and not an overtopping -- the water is gushing in.
The Lower 9th Ward was, of course, one of the first areas to flood during Katrina, when a loose barge battered down a flood wall containing the canal.
(Fri 11:00am): CNN has conflicting reports: is it a breach or an overtopping? Seems to depend on who you ask.
On the Weather Channel, they're reporting that in Port Arthur, at this point the city most likely to get the worst of the storm, they're putting people with special needs in buses, and driving those buses onto C-130 cargo planes, then flying them to their destinatons, avoiding completely any traffic snarls on the ground.
Great idea, but I wonder where they got the cargo planes from? Port Arthur is a big oil refining center, do they use them regularly, or did they borrow them from the military via someone with a lot of pull?
Meanwhile, the NHC says that Rita's intensity has gone down a little -- it's now barely a Category 4 (135 mph), and will probably come ashore as a Category 3, weaker than Katrina. They haven't change the forecast track, and still expect it to land between Galveston and the Louisiana border -- and they're still calling for it to stall and dump large amounts of rain wherever it stops.
(Fri 11:20am): It's a breach -- Weather Channel had footage, CNN still doesn't know what it is. MSNBC is saying there's three breaches, but it still referring to overtopping. Fox is calling it "seeping", but the pictures they're showing is clearly a breach. Everyone agrees that the water is rising quickly in the Lower 9th Ward.
(Fri 5:15pm): Breach, overtopping, no one's sure -- but there's a lot of water in New Orleans again.
Rita is now a Category 3, and it looks as if that's how it will make landfall -- but look at the current NHC 5-day tracking forecast. Although Rita comes onshore late Frday night or early Saturday, they've got it sticking around Northeastern Texas, as a tropical storm and then a tropical depression, until Wednesday! That's 4 or 5 days of major storm rain levels. Dallas better watch out, and everyone along the path of the rivers which drain into the Gulf. The flooding of Texas due to a stalled storm -- just like Tropical Storm Allison of 2001 -- may be the major story that comes out of Rita.
(Fri 9:26pm): Just waiting for the storm to land. Beaumont, Texas, in the direct path of the storm, is no stranger to hurricanes:
Hurricanes have left their mark on Beaumont as well. In 1957 Hurricane Audrey, a strong category 4 hurricane (borderline category 5 at times) came onshore straight up the Texas/Louisiana border causing massive flooding and wind damage. Sadly, 390 people lost their lives (other estimates show over 500), most in Louisiana due to drowning.
In 1961 Hurricane Carla, the largest storm in terms of size, affected the entire Texas coast line from Jefferson County down to Brownsville. Carla caused millions of dollars in damage and still remains the strongest storm to strike the Texas coast. Beaumont suffered massive flooding due to poor drainage at the time and tornadoes. Some portions of the Golden Triangle never recovered but most parts grew back and prospered fully.
Beaumont lived without a strong hurricane until one fateful day on June 23, 1986. On that day Hurricane Bonnie roared through the region with maximum winds at 90 miles per hour (gusts to 125 mph) creating a havoc on local roadways because of the massive amounts of rain dumped on the area. Some regions received upwards of 10-15 inches in some places, flooding homes and businesses. Many mobile home parks were destroyed, people were displaced and some businesses in the area never recovered. 3 people lost their lives in Bonnie. Beaumont showed the hometown spirit and quickly recovered and got back on the track.
The region had some hits and misses but none more so than in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew threatened the area. Beaumont was under a hurricane warning and evacuation procedures took place. It was rough going for the evacs. But when all was said and done, the evacuation was the largest peacetime evacuation in the United States since Hurricane Carla in 1961. Andrew would totally miss the Beaumont area, but it was a scare that still haunts the area today.
More recently Beaumonters dealt with Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. Although Beaumont and the vicinity did not get the damage and destruction that Houston got, marks were still left and some are still being felt today. Homes are still abandoned due to massive flooding that took place because of the non stop 5 day rainfall. Total rainfall amounts associated with Allison reached the 20 inch mark in most towns and cities in Southeast Texas.
Hurricane Lili threatened the area in 2002 as a category 4 hurricane, and prompted another "Andrew-Style" evacuation. Though large, it went relatively smoothly and didn't mirror the 1992 evacuation. Beaumont and the surrounding cities were left as a ghost town, only to return to the same thing. Lili veered north into central Louisiana and did not affect the region significantly. Hurricane Rita threatened the city in 2005. [Edited for formatting -- Ed]
(Fri 10:30pm): The National Hurricane Center hasn't changed its forecast tracking appreciably, but looking at the current satellite radar loop, it looks very much like Rita might hit slightly to the right (east) of Port Arthur and Beaumont, which is good news (if true) because it would put them on the less severe side of the storm. My visual inspection of the radar image makes me think it's going to come onshore right on the Texas/Lousiana border.
(CNN is now also saying that the bad side of the eye is going to avoid both Port Arthus and Beaumont: the eye is going to pass almost directly over Port Arthur, with the right front of the eye going through the western edge of Louisiana.)
(Sun Sept 25 3:30am): Unless I'm reading this data wrong, the Mississippi River at New Orleans received 43.06 inches of rain in the 72 hours before 11pm Saturday night. Since other rain gauges in the area don't seem to record nearly as much rain, could this be the result of this one being inundated by flood water from New Orleans?
(Sun Sept 25 2:30pm): Looking at the river gages of the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, it doesn't look so far as if Rita's aftereffects is going to include a lot of river flooding.
I'm surprised that Rita lost its coherence as a storm so quickly -- Katrina hung in quite a bit longer. Snce it was headed (according to some of the forecasts, anyway) into territory that got hit, if not smashed, by Katrina, that's a good thing.
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