How Long Can You Maintain Perfection? That’s a valid question in the world of hurricanes – certainly a question that was asked yesterday about Hurricane Rita and answered today.
When I told some people Rita wouldn’t continue to strengthen and would most likely diminish, some seemed disappointed. I don’t think they wanted people hurt or displaced, we’re just conditioned to see superlatives become more superlative.
Everything in a hurricane has to be functioning perfectly for a storm to get to 175 mph¹, as Rita did last night. If any one or two parameters change, even in a small way, the storm reacts.
No storm stays at Category 5 for long. It is a fact of life.
Meanwhile, a Category 4 or even 3 storm can do a tremendous amount of damage. Don’t fixate on what happened in New Orleans. New Orleans is a special case. Galveston could get flooding (which would quickly recede) and wind. Think the kind of damage that happened in Mississippi and Alabama.
More of a mind boggle is what could happen in Houston. The effect of hurricanes on tall structures has been thought about, but we haven’t seen too many real world examples.
If (and this is a big if) Hurricane Rita goes inland and comes close to Houston, a brand new set of problems will arise. There are lots of tall buildings. One is 75 stories tall! The wind there will be much stronger than at ground level.
I’m not saying these tall buildings will be blown over, but there would most certainly be exterior damage and the possibility of interior damage if/when the windows are blown out and the wind is funneled between the floors.
There is also concern for the ‘wind tunnel’ effect as winds get shunted into the canyons between the buildings of a city. I just don’t know how the calculations get made – though I assume they have.
I know enough to know Houston, inland as it is, is very vulnerable.
Today’s official forecast looks farther to the right… farther north… closer to the Louisiana border for landfall.
There continues to be nothing good about this storm.
¹ – Even while saying Hurricane Rita had attained top winds of 175 mph, the Hurricane Center implied they might be higher. After saying, in very technical jargon, how they came up with the wind speed and what data they didn’t have to work with they ended with: “THE PRESSURE-WIND RELATIONSHIP FOR AN 897 MB PRESSURE IS 160 KT.” 160 knots translates to 184 mph.