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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Texas and Louisiana - States of pre-emergency

Yesterday Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency in preparation for the potential of Hurricane Dean making landfall in her state.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco took the precautionary step of declaring a state of emergency at 6 p.m. Friday, and also asked federal officials for a Presidential Emergency Declaration to ensure federal assets are available to Louisiana in advance of a possible landfall.

"These declarations are a necessary step that allows the state to move quickly if need be," Blanco said. "I urge all citizens to be personally prepared, listen to your local officials and monitor your local media as this storm progresses. Please make sure your plans to get to safety should evacuation be in order. Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best." (NOLA.com)

Today Governor Rick Perry of Texas requested a federal disaster declaration for Texas which President Bush approved.
U.S. President George W. Bush on Saturday approved a pre-landfall emergency declaration for Texas to provide federal help if the state is hit by Hurricane Dean, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

The emergency declaration, which was requested by the governor of Texas, allows the federal government to move in emergency personnel, equipment and supplies now in the event the state is struck by the storm, he said. (Reuters)

Statement on Federal Disaster Assistance for Texas (Whitehouse.gov)

At first glance these early disaster declarations may seem excessive and a bit premature. After all, Louisiana isn't even in the cone of uncertainty in the storms forecast. The risk to Texas could seem minimal since the models continue to converge on northern Mexico. At least they should wait until Dean enters the Gulf of Mexico before making such a major decision, right?....Not necessarily.

Let's look at the facts to date regarding Hurricane Dean.
  • Dean's forward speed of 18 - 20 MPH is fast. This storm has a lot of forward momentum and is moving quite rapidly.
  • Yesterday afternoon, Dean was a Category 2 storm with 105 MPH sustained winds. In a four hour period last night Dean increased to a Category 4 storm with 140 MPH winds.
  • Dean now has 150 MPH winds and is likely to intensify further. Earlier today "DRSPEIGEL14" read on a US Navy site that Dean had 157 PH winds for a short while that then dropped below the Cat 5 threshold. DRSPEIGEL's video from You Tube is embedded below.
  • While most of the computer models are converging on landfall in northern Mexico, two models consistently show curvature more to the north with one indicating a storm track that comes close to Houston and another showing a Louisiana landfall or even further east. In a discussion with KPRC (Houston) meteorologist Frank Billingsly, hurricane expert Max Mayfield commented that the model that curves up to the north is the one that has a very high record of success and cannot be ruled out.
  • A low pressure system is moving west out of Florida towards Texas. If Dean continues at its current forward speed and catches up with this low, Dean could be pulled north and the entire Texas coast and possibly the Louisiana coast comes into the target range.
With all of this information coupled with the uncertainty that accompanies a storm that enters the Gulf of Mexico, the wisest action is to be "prepared for the worst and hope for the best."

Dr. Max Mayfield discusses Hurricane Dean with Dr. Frank Billingsly (KPRC Channel 2 Houston)

Lives, personal safety and the economic heath of our communities are at stake with the decisions of these executives. As readers of this blog know, I was very critical of Governor Blanco for her handling of the response after Hurricane Katrina. As this dangerous hurricane approaches, IMO these two governors are taking the best actions possible at this time. Proper preparation now is smart. These declarations get the paperwork out of the way and get the proper departments mobilized to minimize the reaction time once the storm passes.

Maybe we actually did learn something after all.




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