Hurricane Harvey Slams into Texas
We are now in the second week of September and already have seen the wrath of two hurricanes this month with a third that is not far behind. It looks like this current hurricane named Irma is going to be much deadlier than the last one that had the friendly name of Harvey. Unfortunately, Harvey was anything but friendly, with a death toll of at least 71 people who were killed by the ensuing floods, blowing debris, and subsequent power outages. Experts suggest that the death toll from Harvey could have been considerably more given the strength of the storm which saw wind speeds of 215 km/h (130 mph) and rainfall in excess of 1300 mm (51 inches) which made landfall in the United States in the eastern Texas area.
Hurricane Harvey was the eighth named storm, third hurricane, and first major hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. The storm developed from a tropical wave to the Lesser Antilles, reaching tropical storm status on August 17th. The storm then weakened somewhat as it crossed through the Windward Islands and then south of Barbados and later near Saint Vincent. Once it passed through the Caribbean Sea it weakened to a tropical wave as it reached north of Columbia on August 19th. However, it regenerated to a stronger storm as it continued its path west-northwestward across the Caribbean Sea and the Yucatan Peninsula. On August 24th, Harvey had intensified and once again reached tropical storm status and then hurricane status later that day. During the overnight period of August 24th – 25th, Harvey reached Category 4 status and a few hours later made landfall near Rockport, Texas.
The costs of Harvey are still being calculated and it's too early to make any accurate estimates, but some of the numbers being seen suggest this storm could come in at a cost of $70 – $200 billion, with most of those costs being absorbed by uninsured homeowners. FEMA has suggested that Harvey is the worst storm in the history of Texas and beyond the enormous costs to those affected, this storm may take years to recover from in terms of replacing damaged homes and other infrastructure. I can't imagine losing everything to a storm such as this. One must think that it is only property and that many items can be replaced. Unfortunately, there are those who lost family and pets during the storm and that is something that many will remember for years to come.
For those of us who live in Canada, we cannot fathom the impact such a storm could have on people within a region that has been decimated by such a fierce and violent storm. Most recently, another hurricane came across the Atlantic and was even stronger than Harvey. Early on those tracking the newly developed hurricane named Irma cited wind speeds in excess of those in a Category 5 hurricane at more than 250 km. Hurricane Irma hit the U.S. Virgin Islands before slamming into the north coast of Cuba. Irma was then expected to track northwards from Cuba to Florida and then continue along the east coast of the state. Using information provided by severe weather forecasters, Florida state officials were telling residents to evacuate as the massive storm was expected to hit the state as a Category 5 storm capable of causing catastrophic damage and storm surges more than 3 metres. Many residents living on the eastern side of the state went west, as did Irma when it shifted direction after hitting the state and going up the west side of the state. This shift in direction and the fact that many people had gone west to weather out the storm caused more problems with people now being caught in the storm and very little time for authorities to setup emergency shelters.
The damage Irma left in its wake is horrific and it will be some time before we have a better sense of the economic impact this storm will have on the areas hit. We still do not have a final number on the amount of deaths that were caused by this massive storm. Current estimates indicate that there are over 12 million people in Florida who do not have electricity and estimates are that it may take several weeks before all power is restored. The storm also destroyed or damaged many cell phone towers which are now causing strains in communications. There have also been many complaints that gas for vehicles and generators is now in short supply with many gas stations running out. It is certainly going to be a hard go for many residents of Florida over the coming weeks.
As good as forecasting has gotten, accurate tracking of these monster hurricanes is still hit and miss. Such storms can shift directions at any given moment. One thing we do know is that these storms seem to be more massive with stronger sustained wind speeds year after year. Certainly, the frequency and strength of these hurricanes can be attributed to global warming. I can see that in the future these storms are going to require different categorization. We will probably need to add Category 6 and 7 to the current tables with higher wind speeds added.
There is now Hurricane Jose making its way across the Atlantic. Where it hits and how hard has yet to be seen. Let's hope it doesn't follow the same trajectory as Irma and weakens quickly if it does make landfall.
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