Hurricane Dean is now a Major Hurricane

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After watching Hurricane Dean all week, Hurricane Dean has strengthened significantly today. As of the 11pm advisory Dean has 145 mph winds and a 937mb central pressure. Models and the NHC forecast continued strengthening over the next 24 hours. No matter how you slice it an extremely dangerous storm.

Currently the model consensus has Dean passing directly over Jamaica. Several things should be noted. If the eye of Hurricane Dean does pass directly over Jamaica, the high elevations of Jamaica should disrupt the storm significantly. Simiarly, if the eye passes near enough to Jamaica the mountainous terrain will likewise disrupt Dean, the question is how much of an impact the mountains will have.

All that said, it will be interesting to see how accurate the models are. Given that we are still around 40 hours away from a potential Jamaica impact, much can changed based on the speed that Dean continues to move westward. Dean’s westward speed will determine how much various features (e.g. the high over the SE US right now) move Hurricane Dean around. A slowing Dean (now 18 mph speed) will probably lead to a more southerly track whereas a faster moving Dean would lead to a more northerly track the farther out you go.

Up to 72 hours models are generally pretty accurate (some exceptions such as Hurricane Erin in 1995 when bad data was entered) so take precautions now. For more than 48 hours, everyone from Florida, through the Gulf Coast down to Central America should watch this storm and be prepared to take action as directed by local authorities. As you can see (as of 11pm, August 17, 2007), the NHC has a large area still in the 5% Tropical Storm Force Wind Speed Probabilities.

Preparation is key.

My Safe Florida Home

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Florida offers a new hurricane home evaluation service – My Florida Safe Home. See It provides some good tips on protecting your home from hurricane damage and perhaps being able to reduce your insurance premiums.

While it is a good idea and we urge people to use the service, unfortunately as so much provided by the government there are significant problems:
1. The 800 number 800-342-2762 is no accessible from many areas of Florida, including the Jacksonville area – “You have dialed a number that is not available from your calling area 126 D” (126 T? 126 P?). If you are setting up a service to evaluated a home’s resistance to hurricanes and offering it to Florida residents, at least make it accessible to all of Florida. Particularly coastal counties on the east coast of Florida, not just 22 selected counties – which counties are not listed anywhere that we could find. Tom Gallagher needs to get his act together on improving the My Safe Florida Home Hurricane evaluation. (Verfied over the course of several days, last: August 17, 2006).

2. There is no list of people who are doing the inspections and recommendations. Since the options are only available to residences that are primary residences and with an insured value of under $500,000 people that do not fit those categories are out of luck. At minimum provide a list of appropriate people so that others can pay for the hurricane home inspection service.

While the program is nice in principle, Florida’s implementation still leaves much to be desired.

Christian Riley

Hurricane Katrina final report

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The Final report from the National Hurricane Center on Hurricane Katrina has been issued.

The highlights on Hurricane Katrina are as follows:

1. Hurricane Katrina was a category three (3) storm when it made its closest approach to New Orleans, although it had been a category five (5) storm previously.

2. “The strongest winds corresponding to that [Category 3] intensity were likely present only over water to the east of the eye.” This means that the category 3 winds were well east of New Orleans.

3. “The sustained winds over all of metropolitan New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain likely remained weaker than Category 3 strength.” New Orleans was experiencing a Category 2 hurricane. A majority of the damage was due to flooding, not winds. Flooding was caused by political failures in terms of 40-50 years of neglect and political games.

4. Surge was signficant and pentrated miles inland along bays and rivers. In some cases up to 12 miles inland. It was worse east of the eye, but still significant to the west of the eye – e.g. in the New Orleans area.

The facts on Katrina and Wilma should illustrate several important points that must be remembered.

a. Storm strength can change quickly. In 24 hours Hurricane Wilma went from a small tropical storm to the most powerful hurricane (measured by low central pressure) ever measured in the Atlantic Basin (to that point). Likewise Hurricane Katrina strengthened rapidly.

b. There is no such thing as “only a Category 1 or 2” hurricane – let alone “only category 3.” When both Hurricane Wilma and Hurricane Katrina made landfall neither was a Category 4 or 5 storm and New Orleans only experienced Category 2 force winds. In both cases the damage was significant. Much damage was due to neglect of flood control systems over 40 years due to political neglect and political game playing.

In short, there is no such thing as a minor hurricane. Evacuation is always your safest option – get out of the path of the storm. Following hurricane preparation guidelines – for water, food, yard etc. Too often we hear people blaming others for their own failure to prepare. Your own safety is your own responsibility first. Simple steps will help you to ensure that you do remain safe, but they do require planning.

Likewise, when the City, State, and Federal governments are assuring you that levees (or buildings or any structure) can survive a category 3 (or higher) storm do not always believe them. The National Hurricane Center will provide extremely accurate facts and information. However, politicians will use that information for their own political gain – look at the Hurricane Katrina hearings and the finger pointing in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. Politicians who are quick to assign blame to anyone they can in order to cover themselves are people to whom you should not look to for advice. They’ll take credit when they can, and deflect blame for everything else. No one who behaves that way is a leader, they are a disgrace.

Christian H F Riley

You can read the entire Hurricane Katrina report on the web. Hurricane Katrina Report

You can read the entire Hurricane Wilma report on the web.

A great satellite image of Katrina