hurricane ike: countdown to landfall

45 PM EDT Courtesy NOAA GOES

Hurricane Ike 10:45 PM EDT Courtesy NOAA GOES

Oh the catchy title is just that but the warning is not.  Galveston and the Houston metro area look to take a direct hit.  This is the 100 year storm and the ghostly reincarnation of the great storm of 1900.  Current weather data predicts that Ike will increase in strength to a CAT 3 (Winds 111-130 mph) and possibly a CAT 4 (Winds 131-155 mph) by landfall.

Why is this different than Gustav?  Gustav was also a big storm but it was also moving at a pretty good clip as a result of an Atlantic high nudging it to landfall.  Again, keep in mind that the real devastation comes from storm surge (not unlike a tsunami in many respects) and deluge and with a slow moving storm like Ike, the effect could be catastrophic.  Ike is 700 miles wide with sustained winds at 100 mph with higher gusts.

The storm wall in Galveston is 17 feet high.  The expected storm surge from this monster is 22 feet.  The National Weather Service in Galveston issued the warning that anyone left on the island at landfall will be in danger of losing their life.  Galveston will be inundated.  Indeed the geography of the Galveston- Houston Metro area include the shipping channel that should a storm of a CAT4 or 5 hit, the loss of life could exceed 1.5 million souls.  Governor Perry, in his press conference today was matter of fact in his tone that there will be substantial damage with Ike and that infrastructure will be compromised.  That’s a nice was of saying, no water, no power and no emergency services.

Cruise Cam – Live Web Cam with view of Galveston Bay

Strand Cam – Live Web Cam with view of the Strand on Galveston Island

SurfSide Cam – Web Cam from Texas Department of Public Safety

According to Accuweather, the circulation of Ike is causing water levels to rise 1-3 feet across the entire Gulf Coast from South Florida to Texas. Parts of southern Louisiana will have a 3- to 5-foot water rise with tropical storm conditions through tonight and tomorrow. From 2-4 inches of rain is expected along the immediate coastline of Louisiana overnight. Seas in the central Gulf of Mexico are around 20 to 30 feet, while seas in the western Gulf of Mexico are 10-15 feet.

Ike is still being steered by a strong upper-level high that extends across the northern Gulf of Mexico and the Deep South. This ridge should remain in place into Friday and keep Ike on a west-northwesterly course through tonight. Conditions will be somewhat favorable for intensification over the next 24 hours as water temperatures along Ike’s projected track are at least 82 degrees and wind shear remains relatively weak. Ike is a large hurricane with a small central core, and strong winds extend far away from the eye. Ike’s pressure remains very low for a Category 2 hurricane. This is due to the fact Ike is a very large storm with energy spread out over a huge distance. If these winds can contract, Ike may increase to Category 3 strength tomorrow. The latest results from the intensity forecast models on Ike do not have Ike reaching category 3 strength before landfall. Since intensity forecasting is very difficult, Accuweather says it will continue to monitor the pressure and wind within this big hurricane. Because Ike is such a large storm, tropical storm and hurricane conditions will occur well away from the actual center upon landfall. This will be especially true north and east of where the center comes ashore.

The best estimate right now is for landfall somewhere between Matagorda Bay and Galveston, Texas. Nonetheless, a devastating storm surge is expected for more than 100 miles east of landfall. East of the landfall a storm surge up to 12 to 20 feet can occur with some of the back bays perhaps having a higher storm surge. One should not focus on an exact landfall location at this time, and all interests along the western Gulf Coast should monitor the progress of Ike closely.

After landfall, Ike will begin to move more north and then northeast as it gets caught up in the westerlies. A rather rapid increase in forward speed likely. By Sunday morning the remnant tropical rainstorm center should be over northwest Arkansas and move quickly northeast through the middle Mississippi Valley during the day Sunday.

Damage Potential - Courtesy IMAP Weather.com

Damage Potential - Courtesy IMAP Weather.com


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