Recommended hurricane reading
Fri September 12, 2008 11:48 pm

A reader suggested this web site in a comment on Thursday, and I have been following it ever since.

Some interesting current information (11:44 p.m.)

WATER LEVEL IN GALVESTON.

The water level stopped rising at 2 pm because the tide began going out. When high tide comes back in at 2 am, there will be a sharp rise in the water level. There is a 2 foot difference between high tide and low tide.

STORM SURGE
According to the NOAA tide gauges, storm tides are running 6-8 feet above normal along the central Louisiana coast this afternoon. The nola.com web site is reporting that a 9 foot storm surge affected the Industrial Canal in New Orleans. Extensive flooding of low lying towns outside the New Orleans levee system is occurring. Surge overtopped a St. Mary Parish levee near the town of Gordy, and a six-foot-wide breach was reported in a non-federal parish levee near the towns of Caernarvon, Scarsdale, White Ditch and Braithwaite.

The fact that Ike's storm surge has reached such high levels 200-300 miles north of the storm is a very bad omen for the upper Texas and western Louisiana coasts. The latest forecast surge values from NOAA:

Shoreline of Galveston Bay... 15 to 22 feet
Bolivar Peninsula... 17 to 20 feet
Galveston Island... 14 to 17 feet
Gulf-facing coastline from Sargent to San Luis Pass... 8 to 14 feet

I've [the author of the blog is Dr. Jeff Masters] given the mistaken impression that the Galveston sea wall will save the city from inundation. That is not the case. The wall merely protects the city from a frontal assault by the storm surge and the 20 foot waves likely to be on top of the surge. Ike will flood the city of Galveston. However, the predicted level of surge will be just beneath the sea wall. If the surge exceeds the 17 foot forecast, it will overtop the sea wall and act like a battering ram against the buildings in Galveston. It is also possible that the sea wall will be destroyed along some sections, allowing the ocean direct access to Galveston.

The situation is also grim for Port Arthur, Texas, on the Louisiana border. The expected storm surge of 15-20 feet will overtop the city's seawall by six feet, resulting in flooding of the city and a number of major oil refineries. Expect a significant tightening of gas supplies in coming months, due to extensive damage to the oil refineries in the Houston and Port Arthur area.

* * *

The most important piece of information here is that Ike will be making landfall at the same time as high tide. The tide will add two feet to the water level.

The 14 to 17 foot storm surge predicted for Galveston means that there is a chance that the surge will not top the seawall (although the waves will). The author's belief that the seawall could itself be damaged is very disturbing. I suppose this could take place at the west end of the seawall, where traffic is redirected inland. I have also heard some Galvestonians (including Babe Schwartz, who carried the ball for hurricane concerns when he was in the Senate) speculate that the storm could cut the island in two at the same location.

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