At this point we are likely less than 24 hours from Harvey becoming a hurricane and making a track toward landfall somewhere in South Texas. There will be much debate and fine tuning of forecasts to pin point where the eye will cross land.
This is important for the people in the path, but this storm is a different animal and millions will have to deal with the impacts of the storm some thousands of miles away.
Here are my 5 biggest concerns for Harvey in the days and week ahead.
1. This is your worst case scenario storm for far-reaching impacts. This storm is a slow mover, spreading out the time people will be in the path. This is likely going to hug the coast and while usually a landfalling storm loses energy over land this storm will still be able to pull moisture off the gulf and pump rain into the areas for days. Instead of a small area massive destruction strong hurricane where the eyewall is the core of damage, this storm will be a meat-grinder of pain spreading damage out for hundreds of miles. It's big, slow, wet, and will maintain it's buzzsaw business-end of flooding rain for days.
2. Had this storm been a strong hurricane a few days ago it would have made the news and people would be making plans then. That is not the case, and many are learning about Harvey today and it's a mad scramble to get supplies and either leave or hunker down. There is a lot to be said about "hyping" a storm especially when it was basically nothing yesterday but meteorologists have been keeping an eye on this one for a long time and when it finally spins up, the public may not be ready. This is a late warning-high impact storm and many are simply not prepared at all.
3. Inland areas have no idea what is coming. Texas to your imagination would appear flat and featureless but it is far from that. There are a number of rolling hills and high spots like the hill country outside of San Antonio and Austin. Rain will funnel down the creeks and streams here and flash flooding from the Hill Country to the coast is a major concern. Most weather deaths are related to flooding and many are from people trapped in cars trying to cross waterways. This scenario is coming for so many people and people must remember that a hurricane is not just a coastal event and major and flash flooding is coming far inland with this storm. We also need to add that tornadoes are often in the bands of an approaching storm and the setup could extend this threat for days as well.
4. Oil refineries are in the path of this storm. Let's just say the refineries are fine in Beaumont, Port Arthur and other spots but you need crews of people, power, roads, pipelines to make it work and all of that could be damaged or impacted for days or weeks. This could be a bottleneck for oil deliveries and prices could go up. We saw this with Rita in the same area years ago.
5. Everything has changed over the last 10 years so many will be experiencing their first major storm since moving to the area. Hurricane Rita made landfall in the area in 2005 and Katrina was in 2005 as well. Katrina grabbed the headlines, as it should have that year but Rita was massive in so many ways. Rita caused $12B in damages and prompted one of the biggest evacuations in history. Since those storms Houston and many cities of Texas have exploded in size and development. This will be the first real test for drains, canals, law enforcement, city planning...you name it. This will also be a test for a new government still filling positions. We currently have no director of NOAA. They oversee the National Weather Service and vital source of information in the coming days. There may be gaps in decision making during this huge event many lives hang in the balance.
This storm is quite simply a big one, and the biggest in a very long time for that part of the USA. Millions of people will be dealing with flooding rain, potential tornadoes, flash flooding, power outages, washed out roads, dangerous road crossings, far inland flooding, storm surge, wind damage, and long term impacts like rebuilding with many without flood insurance. Harvey has all the signs of becoming a historic storm.
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