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Meteorologists: We Hope We’re Wrong

August 25, 2017 - Tropical Weather

When  Hurricane Harvey – a category four storm – bore down on South Central Texas, the mayor pro-tem of Rockport, a Texas town near where the epicenter made landfall, went so far as to advise people intent on sheltering in place to take a Sharpie pen and write their social security number on their arm, presumably so the bodies can be more easily identified in the aftermath of the storm.

Three are reported dead so far, with roofs torn off and extensive damage reported in several towns, including Rockport and Port Aransas. Meteorologists had predicted a massive path of destruction – with the possibility of winds up to 156 miles per hour – just shy of the wind speeds in an F-3 tornado.  As of Saturday night, Harvey weakened into a very slow-moving tropical storm. However,  widespread flooding is now the biggest danger, says meteorologist Joshua Jans, Chief Operating Officer of AnythingWeather.com.  Harvey is predicted to  stall over a large area, dumping multiple feet of rain over thousands of square miles affecting  Corpus Christi and parts of Louisiana, extending north west past Houston and San Antonio, reaching all the way up to the capital, in Travis County.  Jans said, “Some models are suggesting potentially 20 inches of rain in the Austin area, with higher amounts toward the coast. That’s a major concern right now. You just need to get to higher ground.”

Almost six million people live in the path of the storm. And gas prices are already rising as Harvey is expected to cause significant destruction near dozens of large oil refineries, which have already shut down as a precaution.

Weather models are predicting an ocean surge of up to 13 feet in some places. And low-lying areas that flood in normal storms are likely to be overwhelmed and uninhabitable. So Jans recommends people heed those evacuation orders. “This is not the storm to ride out. This is not your traditional hurricane where you have strong winds for several hours and it’s over.  This event could last several weeks depending on how severe the flooding is. Any areas that get flooded with 30-40 inches of rain may not be able to go back for several days or weeks.”

FEMA has deployed a massive force, and Texas Urban Search and Rescue Teams are on the job, as is the Red Cross.

By this time families who aren’t under evacuation should be stocked up with food, fresh water, and a source of light in case the power goes out.  But if your town is prone to flooding – it’s best to just get to higher ground. Said Jans, “There are certain parts of central Texas that people just know are going to flood so they need to plan ahead of time. Otherwise a lot of the roads close down and you aren’t going anywhere.”

He adds that the best case scenario is that the storm hits land and moves east as fast as possible. That would require some kind of frontal system, perhaps a cold front to push it east. Unfortunately, he says, nothing like that is on the horizon at this point, adding, “We’re holding our breath and hoping the models are wrong.”


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