Jesse Ferrell

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Anniversary of Katrina, This Blog

August 24, 2006; 5:26 PM ET

UPDATE: See my newer blog entry for additional graphics, photos and facts about Hurricane Katrina.


Today, August 24th, is the 1-year anniversary of the first entry of this blog. Of course, I have pretty much been "blogging" (reporting online about weather) for about 11 years, they just didn't call it blogging in the old days when we posted the information and URL's to Usenet newsgroups, later moving to email lists like "WeatherMatrix StormReports." My first "blog" covered a thunderstorm in Asheville, NC on May 14th, 1995 (screencap here) and was still available online until recently.

Bloggin' Katrina

I was "lucky" enough (if you can call it that) to be coincidentally starting up my blog just as a major hurricane was headed to the United States. Make sure to check out the special web feature Katrina: One Year Later that other folks in the company have worked on. It contains links to work from some of the other bloggers here, including today's column by Dr. Joe Sobel explaining how AccuWeather is still helping home owners with their insurance claim, one year after the storm.

I usually don't rehash old blog entries, but in this case, I think Katrina deserves it. Below is a review of each blog entry that I made, along with the accompanying picture. A list of all the blogs I did is available here (navigate to Aug. 25, 2005 and click on "newer entries" to see more). Click on the pictures to see the blog entries below.

My third blog entry ever on Thursday August 25th, 2005 talks about Katrina's eyewall lightning as she approaches Florida...

Later that day I post about tornadic signatures in the storm as it moved onshore in Florida.

Friday August 26th, I talk about the Dry Tortugas station and why it was important to the approaching storm.

Later Friday, I post an image from our Professional site which showed key computer models moving west from their older tracks, all but one targeting an area from New Orleans to Mobile, Alabama. I also show a wind/pressure graph from the Dry Tortugas station, which was taking the brunt of the storm.

After Katrina moved into the Gulf Saturday night, I post a series of beautiful cloud shots which had been snapped by Steve and Vern, our video team, on their way to cover Katrina's Florida hit.

Flip to Sunday morning, August 28th. Katrina strengthens rapidly to a scary Category Five storm heading for the Gulf coast. The satellite images are simply astounding, as are the weather reports -- of 35 foot waves and steady winds of 175 mph, causing gusts above that. Warnings of a 28-foot rise in the height of the sea (not counting waves) go out.

Sunday evening and the National Weather Service, thinking that the storm may make a direct hit on New Orleans, issues a desperate attempt to get people to evacuate the city of New Orleans in a chilling memo which predicts "MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS... PERHAPS LONGER... WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS... " They end up to be correct, of course, not because the city takes a direct hit of a Category 5 storm, but because the levees break under the weight of the storm surge of a strong Category 3 Katrina.

6:00 Monday morning (8/29) and an offshore buoy reports nearly 50 foot waves and a land station tags the pressure plummeting at nearly an inch per hour (graphs provided). Power has already failed at the Superdome, where those who evacuated wait for days of brutality they can't imagine.

Late morning Monday and unconfirmed reports of levee breaks and rooftop rescues start coming in. 16 inches of rain has fallen east of the storm's center. Wind gusts of over 100 mph are common.

Monday evening damage reports are extensive, including oil rigs adrift and over a million without power. Some areas have been so badly damaged they are not reporting at all. Records have been established at pressure readings that most humans on earth will never see.

Tuesday 8/30. It's morning and the death toll climbs past 50 and it is predicted that electricity might not be restored to the city of New Orleans for a month. Both news items will be much worse in the end.

The bad news has hit the markets and gas prices as far away as Pennsylvania have spiked half a dollar overnight. Before it's said and done, they'll go up another dollar.

Tuesday afternoon. The first reports of the I-10 bridge being destroyed come in. Calls for help and donations peak.

Tuesday Night: 80% of the state of Mississippi has lost power; 80% of New Orleans is under water. Katrina brings thunderstorms to AccuWeather HQ in Pennsylvania as she passes by.

It's Wednesday 8/31 afternoon when the New Orleans mayor throws up his hands: "We are looking at 12 to 16 weeks before people can come [back] in [to New Orleans]." He couldn't imagine at the time that prediction would be correct, if not optimistic. The death toll has passed 100 in Mississippi alone.

Aerial photos are released on the Internet of the destruction, including the I-10 bridge. The pictures show the incredible brutal nature of the storm.

Thursday September 1st. Gas prices spike again as 20 oil rigs are reported missing, a pipeline is on fire and 90% of Gulf production is still offline. A rumor of gas shortages causes prices to spike to over $6.00 per gallon in Atlanta. DigitalGlobe released incredible before-and-after photographs of New Orleans.

Thursday night, gas prices peak in State College, PA, home of AccuWeather HQ.

On Friday 9/2, satellite photos are released showing the cooling of the Gulf of Mexico after Katrina's passage, caused by cooling clouds and upwelling of cool water.

Friday afternoon. Help has still not reached evacuees in the Superdome and the city of New Orleans is in chaos. Television reporters on-air shed tears and issue desperate calls for supplies.

On Sunday September 4th, media estimates of the total death toll from Katrina are expressed as "thousands" for the first time, meaning it would be the deadliest U.S. storm in nearly 80 years. The media asks who is to blame and the answer ranges from the top (President Bush) to the bottom (New Orleans Levee Board). Google releases satellite maps of the flooding in their online mapping application.

Sunday evening, I post a list of extremes from the storm, including graphs of winds of 134 mph, pressure readings of 27.58", storm surges of 26 feet and waves of 47.6 feet (before the sensor failed).

On Monday 9/5/05, I use online mapping tools to track a casino photographed before Katrina by AccuWeather photographers, which floated nearly a mile away.

Based on media research, I compile a list of the (non-meteorological) extreme numbers encountered during the storm. It's going to take 80 days to drain New Orleans and losses are estimated at $100 billion.

Friday, September 9th and Katrina news still pours in. Damage estimates are now up to $185 billion; NASA declared $1 billion in damage in Florida alone. More than half of the nation is declared a disaster area due to storm damage and the pouring in of evacuees. The next storm, Ophelia, threatens the Southeast U.S. coast.

9/11/05: I issue all the photos taken by AccuWeather crews on-site during Hurricane Katrina in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

9/16/05: I issue my Closing Thoughts on Katrina.

10/12/05: I pontificate on articles and shows about the failed levees.

12/02/05: NOAA releases incredible photos from their staff who flew into the eye of Hurricane Katrina.

12/24/05: On Christmas Eve, I post some sad AP photos of Christmas in New Orleans and remind people that help is still needed.

5/31/06: A report is issued saying the flood prediction model in New Orleans was antiquated and too conservative.

6/15/06: News is issued that FEMA was swindled for $1 billion by Katrina evacuees.

That concludes my review of blog entries during Hurricane Katrina. Here's hoping we don't have to live through all of this again this hurricane season.


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Jesse Ferrell
Jesse Ferrell's WeatherMatrix blog covers extreme weather worldwide with a concentration on weather photos and Social Media.