Since my last update on Friday, Katrina has done the unimaginable, and rapidly intensified to a monstrous Category 5 hurricane right off the US coast. To make matters more dire, it is headed for one of the most vulnerable cities in the US: New Orleans. The storm experienced a phenomenal period of rapid intensification, with pressure drops of 27 mb/3hr and 36 mb/12hr. As of this writing, the storm is STILL strengthening, currently holding the 4th lowest pressure ever recorded in the Atlantic. As of 21Z today, aircraft recon found maximum sustained winds of 145kts and a minimum central pressure of 902mb. It is located at 26.9N 89.0W and tracking NW at 10kts. This puts it 225 miles south of New Orleans. It is forecast to gradually turn more to the north and maintain CAT 4/5 intensity, with fluctuations primarily due to concentric eyewall cycles. The best estimate for time of landfall is around 5am CDT on Monday. As an aside, this makes the first time there have been 3 CAT5s in 3 consecutive years (Isabel '03, Ivan '04, and Katrina '05). A mandatory evacuation has been ordered for all of New Orleans, as well as some other coastal cities in LA and MS. The storm surge from this hurricane could reach 25-30 feet, with wind gusts to 200mph or even higher. I wanted to share an excerpt from the forecast discussion out of the New Orleans NWS office:
"MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS...PERHAPS LONGER.
AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL
FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL...LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY
DAMAGED OR DESTROYED. POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS...AS MOST
POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES
WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS."
The President has already declared Lousiana and Mississippi federal disaster areas to expedite funding and recovery efforts once the storm passes. A Hurricane Warning is in effect from western LA to the FL panhandle. Aside from the devastating eyewall, areas to the east of landfall can expect
VERY large waves, perhaps upwards of 40 feet, along with 1-2 feet of rain. Elsewhere, TD13 has formed from the area of disturbed weather in the deep tropics between the Lesser Antilles and Africa. It is located at 15.4N 46.8W. Initial intensity is estimated to be 25kts and 1007mb. This is from a wave that exited Africa on August 25. The longer range forecast for this is to head northwest (north of the Leeward Islands) and gradually strengthen to hurricane intensity by later this week. This should be upgraded to TS Lee sometime tomorrow.
Please visit my tropical Atlantic headquarters.