A Devastating Storm

Hurricane Laura

Gautam Kumar Das

It's scary, Mother Nature is amazing. Hurricane Laura's vicious eye is noticed by the meteorologists by 12 noon on 26 August 2020 and they have seen numerous lightning flashes in the eye wall, over the last hour. At 1 pm they said that radar finding winds of 131kt and 116kt Hurricane Laura is likely a category 4 hurricane now. Only 4 hurricanes have struck in East Texas/Southwest Louisiana in recorded history. The strongest was Rita in 2005 with 115mph winds. Laura's winds are 140mph. While wind speeds of 140 mph are no joke, the vast majority of deaths from tropical systems occur from storm surge and flooding. Hurricane Laurahas plenty of immediate effects, from immensely damaging winds to unsurvivable storm surge. However, long-term effects like power outages will continue to impact many, even after the storm has passed. Storm surge is beginning and storm surge is already rapidly rising at Holly Beach, Louisiana and adjacent areas of the United States. The State administration alerts—Folks under mandatory evacuation need to leave now. Once water levels rise, will be a sharp increase. By then it will be too late. More than 420,000 Texas residents have been ordered to leave, while an additional 200,000 were told to evacuate Calcasieu Parish in south-western Louisiana. Further, The National Weather Service has also issued a tornado watch for parts of Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.

Hurricane Laura and another storm, Hurricane Marco, earlier hit the Caribbean, killing 24- reports BBC News. Marco has already struck Louisiana, bringing strong winds and heavy rain on Monday. Initially it was feared that both storms would hit Louisiana as hurricanes within 48 hours of each other—an unprecedented event—but Marco was downgraded to a tropical storm. Hurricane Laura may be an unprecedented storm for this area. National Hurricane Centre Director Ken Graham alerts people—The water is already coming up. If you're told to leave, you need to do it now because what happens is the water comes in early and residents must start cutting off their evacuation routes stating water levels beginning to rise along the coast of Louisiana. Hurricane Laura's maximum winds have increased by 65 mph in 24 hours (from 75 mph to 140 mph). That's the fastest 24-hr wind intensification for an Atlantic tropical cyclone since Hurricane Maria in 2017. It's so wild how rapid this storm has developed. It was only a tropical storm less than 48 hours ago and now it's very likely that it will reach a Category 5, as the pressure continues to drop at the moment. Hurricane Laura is in very rare on 27 August, 2020. This will be the strongest hurricane to strike Louisiana since 1856 i.e. the strongest in Louisiana in 164 years. The Weather Channel reported that 9 Hurricanes on record (since 1851) made landfall in continental US with 150mph+ max wind intensity (Laura's current intensity-150mph): Last Island (1856), Indianola (1886), FL Keys (1919), Freeport (1932), Labor Day (1935), Camille (1969), Andrew (1992), Charley (2004), Michael (2018).

The graphic cone, designed by the meteorologists, no longer tells the full forecast story for Hurricane Laura. Laura is a large hurricane that extends far beyond the confines of the cone. Impacts will be felt over a 100 miles from the centre. National Hurricane Centre warns in their bulletin: Hurricane Laura Strengthens into a Major Hurricane. Potentially catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds, and flash flooding are expected along the Northwest Gulf Coast tonight. Hurricane Laura is forecast to bring a life-threatening storm surge. This shows the heights the surge could reach above ground and it could penetrate up to 30 miles inland (at lesser heights) from the coastline in SW Louisiana and far SE Texas. At 4 pm, Laura has strengthened, and is now forecast to have sustained wind speeds of 150 mph at landfall. This will make it just 7 mph shy of being a Category 5.

Striking before the Louisiana of the United States, Marco and Laura brought high winds and rough seas to the Caribbean, leaving at least 24 people dead, including a baby and an eight-year-old child in Haiti. Heavy rains have also battered parts of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the US territory of Puerto Rico. President Trump declared a state of disaster in the territory on Saturday. In Cuba, authorities have evacuated at least 160,000 people from several coastal regions, while thousands have been evacuated in the Dominican Republic. In Jamaica, there were reports of landslides and flooded roads. Cyclones, Hurricane and Typhoon, whatever it might be, all types of storms are typically devastating in nature. There is no difference between hurricane and cyclones, they are all basically the same thing, but are given different names depending on where they appear. Hurricanes are tropical storms that form over the North Atlantic Ocean and Northeast Pacific. Cyclones are formed over the South Pacific and Indian Ocean. Typhoons are formed over the Northwest Pacific Ocean. Like these severe storms, Hurricane Laura is going to be a typical type of cyclone as noticed by some meteorologists. They have noticed that several mesovorticies can be seen on satellite imagery of Laura in the afternoon of 26 August. Hints of vortex Rossby waves are seen cyclonically rotating around the eye of the storm. In tropical cyclones, Rossby waves propagate azimuthally radial gradient of relative potential vortices of cyclone circulation. Ultimately Hurricane Laura makes landfall at 1.37 am on 27 August, 2020 in Lake Charles of Latitude 30.21N and Longitude 93.20W near Cameron, Louisiana with 150 mph winds and pressure 938 mb having winds 102 mph gust to 137 mph are occurring in Laura's eye wall as it moves northward through south-western Louisiana. Unfortunately there are three deaths reported so far in the Lake Charles area under Cameron district of the Louisiana state, United States despite repeated warnings by the government authorities well before the hurricane occurred. Surprisingly, trees are not seen uprooted, only lost their foliage, perhaps there is a lot of chances for their revival. Majority of houses have been destroyed partially or completely including other essential structures, even the weather forecasting radar too, which are simply blown away in the wind action by the Hurricane Laura.

Amid such occurrences of devastating Hurricane Laura, scientists of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are engaged in broad survey in the Atlantic Ocean for the collection of more accurate data for better forecast of the hurricanes and cyclones in ensuing days and for that reason, they have deployed both aircraft and submerging robots into the Hurricane Laura. Such aircrafts and submerging robots start surveying entire areas of occurrence of the Hurricane Laura and are collecting data such as new recon aircraft is measuring surface winds of 150-155 mph in the north-eastern eye wall of Hurricane Laura, very close to Category 5 intensity. Aircraft reports pressure has fallen to 948 mb. NOAA made five passes into Hurricane Laura on 26 August 2020. They have indicated that the central pressure dropped and wind speeds increased with each pass stating Laura is now Category 4. Aircraft crew launched 32 dropsondes and spent seven hours and some change in the air gathering and processing as much data as they could.

Further, for more data collection, NOAA deployed underwater robots that will monitor temperatures and ocean conditions to help they solve key climate questions & make more accurate forecasts. A deep sea mission is underway to fine-tune hurricane forecasts. NOAA sent 30 ocean gliders off the coasts of Puerto Rico, the Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern U.S. what these gliders collect is information on currents and sea surface temperatures. According to a spokesperson of NOAA, the gliders will gather and transmit 50% more data than previous years. So, the hope is by having these increased data sets, scientists can, in turn, turn that into improved hurricane forecasts which could reduce the economic impacts on coastal communities. The ocean gliders dive about a half-mile below the surface. The gliders document temperatures and salinity levels, then surface and transmit the data to a satellite. Each glider continues to dive, collect, and send back data until it reaches a final destination. The gliders operate in hurricane conditions and have survived shark attacks. The information collected by them will help NOAA scientists see where current forecast models are accurate and where they could be better. Improving forecasts of hurricane intensity is crucial. Communities along the coast make evacuation decisions based on the predicted strength of an approaching hurricane.

When two states in the east coast of the United States is facing the Cat 4 Hurricane, another state in the west coast is burning due to historic heat wave which was 54.40C on 22 August 2020. Wildfires are raging across Northern California, which were sparked by dry lightning during a historic heat wave. Wildfire in California burn area is larger than Grand Canyon. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and 1.5million acres of land have been burnt. Two major wildfires are being tackled by 14,000 fire-fighters, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It's really surprising that a country is facing both the fire and storms simultaneously. This is, undoubtedly, the impact of climate change and global warming in the planet earth.

Vol. 53, No. 15, Oct 11 - 17, 2020