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Hurricane Katrina downgraded to Cat 3 at landfall

As I first told you back in early October, Hurricane Katrina was probably much weaker than first thought when it made landfall over the Gulf Coast. In October I mentioned in October, Katrina was probably only a Category 3 hurricane at landfall. Today the National Hurricane Center officialy downgraded Katrina's status at landfall, indicating that New Orleans only suffered Category 1 winds.This has huge implications for all of you who thought that Katrina was a worst-case storm. In fact it gets worse than Katrina, much much worse. Imagine what a full Category 5 hurricane would have done...

From NHC's final report:

Katrina turned northward, toward the northern Gulf coast, around the ridge over Florida early on 29 August. The hurricane then made landfall, at the upper end of Category 3 intensity with estimated maximum sustained winds of 110 kt, near Buras, Louisiana at 1110 UTC 29 August. Katrina continued northward and made its final landfall near the mouth of the Pearl River at the Louisiana/Mississippi border, still as a Category 3 hurricane with an estimated intensity of 105 kt. The rapid weakening of Katrina, from its peak intensity of 150 kt to 110 kt during the last 18 h or so leading up to the first Gulf landfall, appears to have been primarily due to internal structural changes, specifically the deterioration of the inner eyewall without the complete formation of a new outer eyewall. However, Katrina remained very large as it weakened, and the extent of tropical storm-force and hurricane-force winds was nearly the same at final landfall on 29 August as it had been late on 28 August. The weakening could have been aided by entrainment of dry air that was seen eroding the deep convection over the western semicircle while Katrina approached the coast. Gradually increasing wind shear, slightly lower ocean temperatures, and (following the first Gulf landfall) interaction with land each could also have played a role. Without extensive investigation, however, it is not possible to assess the relative roles played by these various factors. The weakening of major hurricanes as they approach the northern Gulf coast has occurred on several occasions in the past when one or more of these factors have been in place. Indeed, an unpublished study by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reveals that, during the past 20 years, all 11 hurricanes having a central pressure less than 973 mb 12 h before landfall in the northern Gulf of Mexico weakened during these last 12 h.

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Posted by Bryan Woods | Permalink