A rainy, thundering day

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Main Threats

Today and Saturday: Isolated strong storms. Be careful out driving, as some storms could produce torrential rainfall that could make driving difficult.

Summary

We’ll see numerous showers and storms today, some of which could be strong or even severe. The Storm Prediction Center has placed all of our region in the marginal risk for severe storms today. I don’t expect widespread severe weather, by any means, but we need to stay abreast of any storm that develops and moves into our neck of the woods.

Any storm that develops will be capable of producing very heavy rainfall that could lead to flash flooding. Be aware of this, especially if you have to be out and about today driving.

Rain and storms continue on Saturday and Sunday, though coverage and intensity should be lower on Sunday, especially north of I-40.

Rain and storm chances increase again for Monday and especially on Tuesday, as a very strong cold front makes its way through here. High temps may fall into the 70s for the end of next week, with very low humidity. A taster of fall, perhaps?

Records

The deadliest hurricane in American history hit Galveston, Texas the first week of September in 1900. In fact, to this day this is the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. At least 8,000 people were killed, but some estimates have the number of dead as high as 12,000. In the wake of this hurricane, an incredible engineering endeavor raised Galveston island 17 feet and a 10 mile-long seawall was built.

That wall would be tested 15 years later on August 17, 1915.

A hurricane on this day roared ashore Galveston Island with 120 mph winds and a 12-foot storm surge. The death toll this time was 275. That’s a far cry from 8-12,000 deaths in the 1900 storm. After the 1900 hurricane, 250 homes were built outside the protection of the flood wall. Of those, only 10% were left standing in the wake of this 1915 hurricane.

But none of this compares with what happened on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi on this day in 1969. America had just gone to the Moon that summer. Both space history and weather history would be forever changed by the end of that summer. The former for the better, the latter for the worse.

It was on this date that the second category 5 in U.S. history roared onshore the Mississippi coast. Although the Galveston hurricane of 1900 was our deadliest natural disaster, the storm was a category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Even Katrina in 2005 was only a category 3. Can you imagine what a cat 5 must be like?

Camille came ashore with maximum sustained winds of around 190 mph. For perspective, an EF-5 tornado has winds of 200+ mph that last for a few seconds/minutes, obliterating everything in its path. The sustained winds of a hurricane can last hours. Wind gusts in the hurricane were estimated at 220 mph. The coast of Mississippi was forever changed and many of us would argue that it never fully recovered. Few places ever do after a cat 5 hurricane. To make matters worse, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in this same area in 2005 with a storm surge that was deeper than Camille’s.

During the ’69 storm, several ships that had been out over the open ocean waters of the Gulf were carried as much as seven miles inland! A storm surge of 24.6 feet was measured. A nearly 25-foot wall of water in 200+ mph winds. I’m surprised anyone survived. In the end, 256 lives were lost. Were it not for evacuation efforts this storm’s death toll could have surpassed that of the 1900 Galveston hurricane.

Complete destruction of every structure was noted where Camille made landfall. Every…single…structure. Folks, that is a rare damage claim!

To this day, this is the most intense hurricane to ever strike the U.S. coast. Camille joins the ranks of only two other category 5 storms to hit the U.S. The other two are the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992, affecting the Florida Keys and South Florida, respectively.

What you may find surprising about Camille is that 153 of the 256 lives lost were in West Virginia. That’s because the storm interacting with the mountains of West Virginia and was able to produce catastrophic flooding in Nelson County. In that county, 5,662 homes were completely destroyed and another 13, 915 were severe damaged. Most of the 153 deaths were from homes that were washed away with residents who refused to follow evacuation orders. They were more than likely unable to imagine a flood as severe as the one forecasters could see coming.

Below is the path of Camille. The storm rapidly intensified in the warm waters of the Gulf. In fact, the storm went from a tropical storm to a cat 5 hurricane in only two days. Two days. Now you see why we worry about storms that can explode in the Gulf and quickly move onshore.

Camille_1969_track

The storm looked quite impressive on satellite. Notice that tight, intense eye. Satellites had only been in use for weather for about nine years at this point, making Camille the first landfalling cat 5 to be captured on satellite. This increased warning times and allowed coastal residents to see what they needed to evacuate for. Incidentally, this is an almost identical picture of what Katrina looked like when she was out in this part of the Gulf. The BIG difference is that Katrina weakened as she moved closer to shore, while Camille strengthened.

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It really is sad to know what the coast of Mississippi was like before Camille. Pass Christian, Mississippi is a beautiful town with miles of beach front property….and lots of empty concrete slabs that were once foundations to million dollar homes. Today, insurance won’t cover many of the properties there. It’s just not worth the risk.

What are the chances the same town, Pass Christian, would be leveled by two of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the Gulf Coast within 36 years of each other?

You all have a great day and keep an eye out of those storms.

 

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