Fay “could” end up more of a headache than Katrina was

There is little, if any historical data to compare what Tropical Storm Fay is doing to. Thus, logic dictates there is even less data to look at as to what it COULD do. This little storm has managed to cause even the most skilled forecasters to scratch their heads in utter bewilderment. If the scenario should happen to play out over the next few days this storm would make history.

Weather events do not happen by luck, chance or coincidence. There are meteorological reasons for why a storm does what it does. Storms do not have a mind of their own which enables them to deliberately do things to aggravate forecasters. Storms end up doing what the various aspects of weather governing it tell it to do.

One of the most distressing possible ways the whole Fay saga could end is if the storm makes history by hitting near Jacksonville, Florida as category 1 hurricane and moves west back across Florida and emerges in the Gulf of Mexico intact. If, and the probabilities of this taking place are very slim, this were to happen the end results from Fay could be worse than Katrina three years ago.

Winds blow counterclockwise around a hurricane. Katrina came up from the south and because of this, the storm surge ended up being over twenty feet along the Mississippi coast. The initial damage in New Orleans from Katrina was minimal because it sat on the western side of the hurricane moving north. The New Orleans catastrophe came about when Katrina moved ashore and the winds switched to the north and blew the waters from Lake Pontchartrain into the city which sits below sea level.

If Fay were to move west from Florida towards New Orleans, the potential disaster would dwarf Katrina. Why? Because the westward movement of the storm would produce a prolonged period of NORTH winds ahead of the approaching storm. Instead of a storm surge preceding the hurricane like Katrina, the storm surge would follow the storm and be minimal. The greater danger would be the north winds over a prolonged time blowing the waters of Lake Pontchartrain into the city of New Orleans.

Due to the lay of the land and where the city of New Orleans sits, there is actually very little danger of a storm surge inundating the city. The potential problems have always laid in the scenario of a storm moving in from the southeast or east and generating a prolonged period of hurricane force winds over Lake Pontchartrain. Unless a person has been to the area it is difficult to picture how a lake could cause more problems than an ocean; but such is the case in New Orleans.

No one knows at this time what Fay will end up doing. It may come ashore again and more or less just fizzle out. It may come ashore and move to the northwest into Georgia and help break the longstanding drought there. It may emerge on the west side of Florida, move south and make a loop following the same path it just took. It may emerge into the warm waters of the Gulf, become a hurricane and move west directly toward New Orleans.

This storm has a history of NOT doing what the computer models think it should do. Because of this, it would be highly advantageous for anyone from the panhandle of Florida to New Orleans to be acutely aware of the movements of Fay over the next few days. Some models and some hurricane experts think the greatest danger is that Fay emerges off the west coast of Florida, immediately intensifies and follows Ivan’s 1994 path which would put Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida at high risk.

Needless to say, the next three to seven days could end up being at the very least, interesting and at the worst, a disaster which would equal or exceed Katrina in some respects. And as if this were not enough to be concerned about, out in the Atlantic is the next storm which is slowly taking shape and could be buffeting some portion of the United States coastline by this time next week.

I would highly recommend anyone with interests on the Gulf Coast to monitor what Fay is doing very closely along with the next storm. The remainder of this hurricane season could end up being very active and one that presents forecasters with storms such as Fay which are nearly impossible to forecast. As in any hurricane season, the next 2 months are the most dangerous and especially so this year. Vigilance is the key word for the day and for the days to come.


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