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Context of '6:30 am August 26, 2005: Katrina Threatens Florida Panhandle, but ‘New Orleans Should Keep Wary Eye’ on Storm, says Weather Underground Director'

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Meteorologist Jeff Matthews, Director of the Weather Underground, a popular web-based weather service, reports that several models indicate that Katrina will enter the Gulf of Mexico by Sunday, “where it has an excellent chance of intensifying into a hurricane. Since the GFS is the only model calling for this stall, it is more believable to assume that Katrina will push into the Gulf of Mexico and threaten the US Gulf coast early next week.” [Masters, 8/24/2005]

Entity Tags: Jeff Matthews, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

In its sixth advisory, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) issues a hurricane warning for Southeast Florida Coast from Vero Beach to Florida City. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected in the warning area within the next 24 hours. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion. A tropical storm watch remains in effect for the East-Central Florida coast. The NHC expects Katrina to become a hurricane on Thursday before reaching the Southeast Florida coastt. In its discussion, The NHC indicates that Katrina has turned west in the past few hours and is expected to continue to move slowly on a westward track for the next 24 to 48 hours. The models continue to diverge significantly on where Katrina will head after entering the Gulf of Mexico. Tracks cover the coast from Mississippi eastward. The official forecast turns Katrina northward over the eastern Gulf of Mexico. One model indicates that Katrina will barely touch the east coast of Florida before moving north, while another model indicates Katrina will travel south of due west across South Florida and the Keys as a very intense hurricane. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: Near 26.0 N, 78.0 W., moving west at 8 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: Near 50 mph, with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 1001 mb
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet West Palm Beach, FL: 40 percent
bullet Panama City, FL: 9 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 4 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 3 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/24/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/24/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/24/2005]

Entity Tags: National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Tropical Storm Katrina becomes Hurricane Katrina, according to the latest advisory issued by the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Hurricane Katrina now has maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, making it a Category 1 hurricane. The NHC expects that Katrina could strengthen before making landfall, and then weaken as it moves inland across South Florida through Friday. Models indicate that Katrina will move slight south of due west for next 12 hours, before moving northwest than north after 48 hours. NHC models agree on westward motion for next 36 hours, but continue to diverge significantly after that. One model takes Katrina northeast after 72 hours across the Florida panhandle, while three other models take Katrina significantly westward, indicating Katrina landfall between Mobile, Alabama and Grand Isle, Louisiana. However, the NHC gives two of the three models indicating a westward turn “less weight” because they have not been accurate over past 24 hours. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 26.1 N, 79.9 W
bullet Direction and Speed: West at near 6 mph
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 985 mb
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet West Palm Beach, FL: 99 percent
bullet Panama City, FL: 14 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 8 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 7 percent [National Hurricane Center, 8/25/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/25/2005; National Hurricane Center, 8/25/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, National Hurricane Center

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Meteorologist Jeff Matthews, Director of the Weather Underground, reports on the latest modeling: “Although Katrina is currently moving just south of due west, the computer track models unanimously agree that a trough moving across the central US this weekend will ‘pick up’ Katrina and force it on a northward path towards the Florida Panhandle.… While New Orleans [certainly] needs to keep a wary eye on Katrina, it seems that the Florida Panhandle has its usual hurricane magnet in place, and the same piece of coast punished by Ivan and Dennis is destined for another strike by a major hurricane.” [Masters, 8/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Jeff Matthews

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Meteorologist Jeff Matthews, Director of the Weather Underground, reports that the latest computer models indicate, “the threat of a strike on New Orleans by Katrina as a major hurricane has grown. The official NHC forecast is now 170 miles west of where it was at 11am, and still is to the east of the consensus model guidance. It would be no surprise if later advisories shift the forecast track even further west and put Katrina over New Orleans. Until Katrina makes its northward turn, I would cast a very doubtful eye on the model predictions of Katrina’s track.” [Masters, 8/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Jeff Matthews, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Meteorologist Jeff Matthews, Director of the Weather Underground, urges New Orleans residents to leave: “Emergency management officials in New Orleans are no doubt waiting to see where Katrina makes her turn before ordering evacuations. However, if I lived in the city, I would eva[cu]ate NOW! The risks are too great from this storm, and a weekend away from the city would be nice anyway, right? GO! New Orleans needs a full 72 hours to evacuate, and landfall is already less than 72 hours away, so I would get out now and beat the rush. If an evacuation is ordered, not everyone who wants to get out may be able to do so.” Matthews also speculates that Katrina could be the costliest hurricane ever: “Insurers estimate that Katrina already did about $1 to $4 billion in damage.… This is a shocking number for a Category 1 hurricane, and bodes ill for the residents of New Orleans and the US insurance industry if Katrina makes a direct hit on New Orleans as a Category 4 storm, which would likely cost $100 billion. But, New Orleans’ amazing run of luck could well continue at the expense of Mississippi or Alabama or Florida. Like Camille in 1969, Katrina may come ashore far enough east of New Orleans to largely spare it.” [Masters, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Jeff Matthews

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Meteorologist Jeff Matthews, Director of the Weather Underground, reports that, “Katrina has increased markedly in size the past 12 hours, and will deliver a widespread damaging blow wherever she comes ashore.… I’d hate to be an Emergency Management official in New Orleans right now. Katrina is pretty much following the NHC forecast, and appears likely to pass VERY close to New Orleans. I’m surprised they haven’t ordered an evacuation of the city yet. While the odds of a catastrop[h]ic hit that would completely flood the City of New Orleans are probably 10 percent, that is way too high in my opinion to justify leaving the people in the city. If I lived in the city, I would eva[cu]ate NOW! There is a very good reason that the Coroner’s office in New Orleans keeps 10,000 body bags on hand. The risks are too great from this storm, and a weekend away from the city would be nice anyway, right? GO! New Orleans needs a full 72 hours to evacuate, and landfall is already less than 72 hours away. Get out now and beat the rush. You’re not going to have to go to work or school on Monday anyway. If an evacuation is ordered, not everyone who wants to get out may be able to do so—particularly the 60,000 poor people with no cars.” [Masters, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Jeff Matthews

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Meteorologist Jeff Matthews, Director of the Weather Underground, a popular web-based weather service, reports: “We may be on the verge of a rapid deepening phase, and Katrina is growing from a medium sized hurricane to a large hurricane. Where the pressure will bottom out after this deepening phase is anyone’s guess, and I believe something in the 915—925 mb range is most likely, which would make Katrina a strong Category 4 or weak Category 5 hurricane by tomorrow afternoon.” He then laments: “New Orleans finally got serious and ordered an evacuation, but far too late. There is no way everyone will be able to get out of the city in time, and they may be forced to take shelter in the Superdome, which is above sea level. If Katrina makes a direct hit on New Orleans as a Category 4 hurricane, the levees protecting the city will be breached, and New Orleans, which is 6—10 feet below sea level, will fill with water. On top of this 6 feet of water will come a 15 foot storm surge, and on top of that will be 20 foot waves, so the potential for high loss of life is great. Given the current track and intensity forecast, I’d put the odds of this at about 20 percent” [Masters, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Jeff Matthews, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Superdome

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

“Katrina is in the midst of a truly historic rapid deepening phase… [and] is now the sixth strongest hurricane ever measured in the Atlantic,” states Jeff Matthews, meteorologist with the Weather Underground. “At the rate Katrina is deepening, she could easily be the third or fourth most intense hurricane ever, later today.” Katrina’s “winds are likely to increase to ‘catch up’ to the rapidly falling pressure, and could approach the all-time record of 190 mph set in Camille and Allen. Winds of this level will create maximum storm surge heights over 25 feet, and this storm surge will affect an area at least double the area wiped clean by Camille, which was roughly half the size of Katrina. Katrina has continued to expand in size, and is now a huge hurricane like Ivan. Damage will be very widespread and extreme if Katrina can maintain Category 5 strength at landfall.” Masters warns that, “Given that the storm is so large and is already pushing up a huge storm surge wave in front of it, even a weakened Category 3 Katrina hitting at low tide will cause an incredible amount of damage. A stretch of coast 170 miles long will experience hurricane force winds, given the current radius of hurricane force winds around the storm. A direct hit on New Orleans in this best-case scenario may still be enough to flood the city, resulting in heavy loss of life and $30 billion or more in damage.” [Masters, 8/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Camille, Jeff Matthews, Hurricane Allen, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

“The area from New Orleans to the Mississippi-Louisiana border is going to get a catastrophic blow. I put the odds of New Orleans getting its levees breached and the city submerged at about 70 percent This scenario, which has been discussed extensively in literature I have read, could result in a death toll in the thousands, since many people will be unable or unwilling to get out of the city. I recommend that if you are trapped in New Orleans tomorrow, that you wear a life jacket and a helmet if you have them,” states Jeff Matthews, meteorologist with the Weather Underground, a popular web-based weather service. Masters notes: “Katrina [is] the fourth strongest hurricane ever, and the strongest hurricane ever observed in the Gulf of Mexico, surpassing Camille.… Katrina has continued to expand in size, and now rivals Hurricane Gilbert and Hurricane Allen as the largest hurricanes in size. When hurricanes reach such enormous sizes, they tend to create their own upper-air environment, making them highly resistant to external wind shear.… Katrina is so huge and powerful that she will still do incredible damage even at this level.” Recognizing that he has focused primarily on New Orleans, Masters states, “Katrina will do tens of billions in damage all along the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Mobile Bay could well see a 10-foot storm surge. And inland areas will take heavy damage as well; Katrina will still be a hurricane 180 miles inland, and cause widespread flooding throughout the Tennessee Valley.” Masters ends by urging readers to pray for those in Katrina’s path. [Masters, 8/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Gilbert, Hurricane Allen, Jeff Matthews

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Jeff Matthews, meteorologist with the Weather Underground, a popular web-based weather service, reports that it appears New Orleans will be spared a catastrophic hit. “As the eye passes east of the city later this morning, north winds of about 100 mph will push waters from Lake Pontchartrain up to the top of the levee protecting the city, and possibly breach the levee and flood the city. This flooding will not cause the kind of catastrophe that a direct hit by the right (east) eyewall would have, with its 140 mph winds and 15-20 foot storm surge. New Orleans will not suffer large loss of life from Katrina.… [A]lthough the damage will be incredible, it could have been much, much worse.” [Masters, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Jeff Matthews

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

“Although the damage will be incredible, it could have been much, much worse,” states Jeff Matthews, meteorologist with the Weather Underground. Masters notes, however, that the National Weather Service “is reporting that the levees in Orleans and St Bernard parishes have been overtopped by the storm surge, and there are reports of life-threatening flooding, roof damage, and building collapses in the city.” Masters warns that “Bay Saint Louis, Biloxi, and Gulfport Mississippi will take the full force of Katrina’s right eyewall, and a storm surge of 15-20 feet is likely along the west and central Mississippi coast.” Masters closes his post with a personal note: “A special thanks need to be given to the Air Force Hurricane Hunters based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, who have flown Katrina around the clock while their families remained on the ground in Biloxi. Biloxi will suffer Katrina’s harshest blow, and many of the Hurricane Hunters will see their homes destroyed or heavily damaged.” [Masters, 8/29/2005] Tomorrow morning, Masters will recall the initial relief after Hurricane Andrew: “As news reports begin to filter in from the hardest hit areas, the scope of Katrina’s destruction is slowly being realized. Remember in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, how there was a lot of relief about how much worse it could have been, and how well Miami fared? This cheerfulness faded once the search teams penetrated to Homestead and found the near-total devastation there [W]ith a two block long breach in the Lake Pontchartrain levee allowing the entire City of New Orleans to flood today, we are witnessing a natural disaster of the scope unseen in America since the great 1938 Hurricane devastated New England, killing 600. Damage from Katrina will probably top $50 billion, and the death toll will be in the hundreds.” [Masters, 8/30/2005]

Entity Tags: National Weather Service, Jeff Matthews, Hurricane Andrew, Keesler Air Force Base, Air Force Hurricane Hunters

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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