Tropical Storm Lee Approaches

animehurr.gif I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Classes have started, and summer is coming to a close. We know what that means: it is hurricane season down in the Bayou. Talk about needing to be prepared and having a plan for potential dangerous situations.

What is a Hurricane?
“Hurricanes are powerful storms that can create severe flooding, dangerous storm surges, high winds, and tornadoes. The effects of these storms can be devastating to entire communities and can have long-lasting consequences, including loss of life and property.”Presidential Proclamation, National Hurricane Preparedness Week


A tropical cyclone is a storm system with a low-pressure warm ‘core’ demonstrating cyclonic surface wind circulation (note-1). A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, with higher sustained wind speeds (greater than 74 mph) than a tropical storm. The category of a hurricane indicates the strength of its winds, with placement according to the 1-5 Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

lee_tmo_2011245.jpg We are only in our second week of classes at LSU, and the storms are already rolling in. Less than a week after this season’s first hurricane Irene traveled from the Caribbean up the U.S. east coast, leaving behind flooding, gale-force wind damages, and at least 44 human fatalities, tropical storm Lee threatens southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi and Alabama.

According to a public advisory issued as I’ve been writing, at 1am tonight (Saturday) by the National Hurricane Center, the center of tropical storm Lee is expected to make landfall on the coast of southern Louisiana late Saturday, bringing along sustained winds near 50mph (80 kilometers/hour) with higher gusts, and dumping up to 20 inches of rain over the areas affected. This amount of rain could lead to extensive flooding… It’s a good thing our house in Baton Rouge (along with many other homes built in southern Louisiana) is built up off the ground. But even still, water damage is a serious threat.

Hurricane Preparedness – The Hazards:
Storm Surge – abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides (National Hurricane Center)
Extreme winds – up to 73mph even for a tropical storm, and greater than 74mph for a Category 1 hurricane. Catastrophic category 5 hurricanes can produce winds greater than 150mph.
Inland Flooding – heavy rainfall, which can be pronounced even (sometimes especially) in weaker and slower moving storms, can pose a major threat to home and safety in communities hundreds of miles for storm surges at the coast. This is an especial concern for tropical storm Lee.
Tornadoes – can be produced by hurricane weather


My significant other and I had plans to travel to New Orleans this weekend to visit a friend, but cautiously cancelled our plans as the storm we have been watching simmer in the gulf boiled up into a full-grown and named tropical storm today.

While tonight (Friday) the rain is only drizzling down on our house in downtown Baton Rouge, and although we even got out to take a jog in the damp cool air (a beautiful break from the sweltering heat of late!), we could not ignore family and friends’ warnings to prepare for the coming storm.

I went to the store Friday evening and stocked up on batteries, camping lanterns, matches, and non-perishable foods. We bought plenty of bottled water, and two tanks of propane to fuel or camping stove (I will still need my morning coffee if the electricity goes out!) We have picked up any items off our ground-level unfinished ‘basement’ floor that would be prone to water damage. I have extra medications for my allergies and asthma, plenty of hygiene supplies, and a car full of gas.

We aren’t the only ones preparing. For some parishes of southern Louisiana, evacuation warnings have been issued. Oil and gas operation facilities in the gulf had already begun to be evacuated and partially shut-down this morning. Many railroad gates and floodgates have been closed, while energy workers are preparing for power outages. Said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in a public address today, “I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for our people to stay updated… prep now, make sure you’ve got an evacuation plan in place, make sure you’ve got plenty of drinkable water, make sure you’ve got non-perishable food items, hygiene supplies, sufficient clothing prescription medications you or your family may need in the event of a storm.”


Image credits:
1) NASA image courtesy MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center
2) NASA Saffir Simpson Hurricane Scale, Port Of South Louisiana
3) Wind and Pressure Components of Hurricane Storm Surge
4) WAFB Satellite Update

Holland, G.J. (1993). “Ready Reckoner” Chapter 9, Global Guide to Tropical Cyclone Forecasting WMO/TC-No. 560, Report No. TCP-31, World Meteorological Organization