Looking at recent data gives an even more chilling report of what is starting and will continue for the next 12 to 24 hours. Storm surge heights of 20 to 25 feet are now forecast as far east as Cameron, Louisiana. Forecasts are now calling for major flooding of Port Arthur and the same kind of catastrophic inundation of coastal communities as Galveston is expecting all the way past Cameron. The same dire warning of “certain death” is now in the advisories stretching all the way from Galveston to Cameron. Incredible.
As Dr. Jeff Masters wrote this morning; Ike may just end up being the most powerful hurricane to ever hit the United States. Others were stronger, but much smaller. Ike’s size is absolutely mind boggling. The extent of the storm surge is staggering. Current forecasts of 20 foot storm surge going up Galveston Bay is catastrophic in nature. Without question, Ike will go down in the history books as the storm with the most devastating storm surge on record.
What Ike is lacking in winds it is making up for in the huge surge. I shudder to think of what the final death toll will be based on the number of people who defiantly said they did not believe this storm would pose that big of risk. There are good things and bad things with rating hurricanes on a scale of 1 to 5. Ike will be a category 2 or marginal 3 at landfall, but due to its size and power, the damage will be far greater than many smaller category 4 storms.
To keep this in perspective, Carla’s storm surge will be surpassed long before Ike actually hits even though Carla was a category 4 storm. The duration of battering hurricane force winds, incredibly high tides and hours upon hours of surge conditions are going to weaken and damage many structures and cause damage normally associated with stronger hurricanes. Ike will forever be known as the monster he has become.
Those who choose to ride out this storm better pray they are beyond the reach of surging waters and waves relentlessly crashing ashore. Many homes were flooded in Katrina by a surge that went far further inland than anyone expected. How could they expect it, for it had never happened before. I am afraid we are dealing with the same situation here with Ike. Conditions never before experienced are developing with no historical data to determine just how bad things will get.
Another overlooked facet of this storm will be the flooding produced further north and east. Estimates of 6-8 inches are forecasted as far north as here in St. Louis. This heavy rain will be falling on areas already flooded once this year and some twice. Historically, most huge hurricanes cause major flooding far from the coast. I imagine Ike will be no exception.