Laura is a Formidable Hurricane

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That’s what the National Hurricane Center says.

At this moment, Laura is a Category 2 hurricane edging over the next few hours into Category 3 territory. It is possible that Laura will reach Category 4 status before making landfall, but the storm is expected to weaken a little prior to the eye coming ashore. Laura is large, so while still at maximum strength, it will be affecting the coast directly.

Laura, large, looming below the Louisiana littoral.

The most recent intensification, during which the storm grew in strength from Category 1 to Category 3 over several hours, is called “remarkable” by the NHC. Projections of Laura’s ultimate strength, days out, did not suggest that the storm would reach 3, close to 4, intensity. And, I think this is a pattern. Atlantic Hurricanes have developed this recent habit of either moving faster, forming more quickly, or getting stronger, than expected based on the usual models. It is like the models all need to have their sights adjusted a little.

Very soon, as of this writing, Laura will move in on the coast, and the eye will cross over in the wee hours of the morning Thursday AM. Some time between nightfall tonight and sun rise tomorrow, this Category 3 with gusts up to 150 mph will take a run at the Texas-Louisiana border. The best guess location for the eye to come ashore is between Beaumont Texas and Lake Charles Louisiana, with the front-right quadrant mainly in Louisiana.

Again, this is a large hurricane (and is a bit asymmetrical at least at the moment) so the storm surge flooding ie expected to cover a very large area, across the entire Louisiana coast line, even New Orleans. Much of the storm surge will be over 9 feet over the ground (not above sea level, but above where your feet are planted as you nail plywood over the front window of your house). There are complexities. Many areas along this coast have levees that will keep the storm surge completely out, until a levee is over-topped or breached. Then, it all comes in rather quickly.

You will recall that Hurricane Harvey (2017) messed up Port Arthur and Beaumont. These communities are under threat again, but the main effects will probably be to the east of there.

A typical Atlantic hurricane season has about 12 named storms, between 6 and 7 being hurricanes. Half the storms usually occur by about this time a year or a week or so later. So far this year, we have had 13 named storms, four of which have been hurricanes, and Laura, the only major one so far, is the strongest. All of the pre-season predictions said this was going to be an active year, and that has turned out to be true. This year seems to be characterized as having had an early start, with the formation of storms setting “earliest formed” records 10 times so far. This is a somewhat obscure statistic. For example, Cristobal, the third storm of the year, formed three days before the next earliest third storm (June 2 beating June 5). Laura, the 12th storm, formed 8 days earlier than the previos record holder, Luis, which formed August 29th 1995. Of note, most of the prior eariest records are from one year: 2005. You may remember that year, it included Katrina and Maria.

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