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View Diary: Approaching New Orleans, Hurricane Isaac overtops Plaquemines Parish levee (61 comments)

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  •  Points to a need for updating the categories, (13+ / 0-)

    or using a different scale.  In other threads, commenters said that people might have decided to stay and ride out the storm since it was "only" a Cat 1.  But there's much more to a storm than just windspeed.  Maybe there should be a different scale, called something like "Damage Potential", that takes into account how fast the storm is moving, how heavy the rain could be, storm surge, how its arrival coincides with high tides, etc.  If Isaac moved through quickly, the decision to stay put would have looked more reasonable.  It may still be the best decision for most of the people, but it could have been a better informed decision.

    •  This is so true (5+ / 0-)

      Listening to people pooh-poohing anything less than a "Cat 3" storm is chilling because most of the devastation, and certainly, nearly all the loss of human life, comes from water not wind.  You can hunker down in your basement while the wind shears the roof off your house -- but you can't just stay in place and wait out a storm surge.  I had also thought about revising the categories to better reflect damage potential, and not just maximum wind velocity.  

    •  The NWS was issuing stern warnings (6+ / 0-)

      about surge prior to the storm coming in. Using the "People not heeding evacuation orders in single family one or two story homes in the storm surge zone could face certain death" warnings.

      They've also been warning about the potential for a stall and epic rainfall and wind damage for at least 2 days.

      Not to mention there are mandatory evacuations in place.

      People were informed, ordered to leave, and still chose to stay. Dealing with storms is part of living on the coast and most of these people had a general idea of what they were getting into.

      •  Yes, I realize this (4+ / 0-)

        I just wonder whether a "general idea" is enough of an understanding.  Maybe if the warning had been cast in terms of "mini tsunamis" the response would have been more robust.  Not blaming anyone at all, and certainly not NWS, I just hate to think of people deciding based on what they think is a "precise" measurement (Categorization of  hurricanes) over certainly dire but less precise warnings.  

        •  If Camille and Katrina (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bear83

          weren't enough to teach the locals the power of surge then they're unteachable and unreachable.

          •  Not all the people living there now lived there (3+ / 0-)

            then.  I understand what you're saying, but I still think it would be valuable to have a storm rating that accounts for things beyond windspeed.

          •  Every storm is different (4+ / 0-)

            And of course you are right, but I do think people focus more on storm category than the sheer potential of major volumes of water.  Camille, for instance, is remembered as probably one of the few category 5 storms to make landfall, not so much that many of the people who died did so because of flooding and the incredible amounts of rain it dumped.  

            And even Katrina is rememberd for being a category three, which hardly mattered, because the harm resulted from the levee failure, not the wind speed of the hurricane.  

            It's like a trick the human brain plays, to seize on superficially objective data as being far more revelatory than it actually is.  

            •  At the same time you have to keep in mind (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              CuriousBoston, lineatus, indie17

              That all the data in the world isn't going to make some people budge. Fear of losing property to looters, not being able to take pets to shelters, not being able to convince elderly relatives to leave, financial issues, and just plain stubbornness overrides common sense.

              While I agree that the rating system needs to be overhauled to account for the power of surge with these big sprawled out storms the news has been beating the storm drum for days and presented a realistic idea of what was coming. Speaking from Ike experience they made it very clear that the surge was going to be at least a category above the rating.

              It's also hard to convince some to listen to NHC and their local NWS office when they've had it beaten into their brains that they're a bunch of climate change propagandists who don't know their butts from a hole in the ground.

              •  Pets, disabled relatives, transportation (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                entrelac, belinda ridgewood, bear83

                It all matters.  All of these factored into decisions not to leave New Orleans during Katrina and when you read individual stories, their decisions made sense.  I read about one man who tried for three days prior to Katrina to find a way to transport his wife and newborn baby, her sister and their disabled mother and just gave up.  

    •  very true (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lineatus

      judging by wind strength misses stuff like the size of the storm, etc.

      An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

      by mightymouse on Wed Aug 29, 2012 at 07:21:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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