Monday, September 01, 2008

Hurricane Gustav: another non-event

Hurricane Gustav has landed, about 100 kilometers Southwest from New Orleans, as a Category 2 hurricane. It occurred almost exactly 3 years after Katrina. The Gustav bubble has burst and oil price dropped from USD 118 below USD 110 per barrel (and it will drop at least to USD 105.46 tomorrow). See a recent video of the hurricane from Houma, LA. An unpleasant wind and rain that could break your umbrella! Four hours later, at 9 p.m. Prague Summer Time, Gustav dropped to a Category 1 hurricane.

But before this "happy end", that will only be followed by a rainy week, two million people have been evacuated, GOP has cancelled their festivities, and 50,000 articles or so found by Google News have been written so far (twice as many as the global-warming articles in one month).

I think that the storm has become a new example of overreaction. Yesterday, NOAA was predicting the hurricane to land exactly in New Orleans. By a comparison with the trajectories of many previous hurricanes, I decided that they heavily underestimated the effect of Cuba. When a hurricane flies above such islands, it is typically turning to the left rather significantly, see e.g. Flora 1963.

At the end, Gustav indeed ended on the Western side from New Orleans, as I expected, even though it was closer to The Big Easy than I predicted. In Cuba, where the hurricane was very strong, there were no casualties at all.

In the U.S., several people died when they tried to flee (e.g. in a car crash) - which is more than the people who died because they didn't flee (so far). So I think it proves that it was an overreaction. While Gustav may have been very similar to Katrina, the context was different. People were ready and so were the levees, more or less (except for a few liters here which are not dangerous). The hurricane was weaker when it landed and most importantly, it wasn't another direct hit of New Orleans.

While almost nothing is happening in North America that is so obsessively covered by journalists, thousands are dying in Indian floods.

I believe that a similar hurricane visits central Louisiana once a decade or so while only one hurricane per century can match Katrina's impact on New Orleans. People will have to be wiser and more accurate and avoid frequent and megalomaniac evacuations in very similar cases in the future.

So far, the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season is comparable to 2006 and 2007, much weaker than in 2005, the year that made it so tempting to abuse tropical storms for dirty left-wing politics by emitting foggy hypotheses about SUV-hurricane links.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. Somebody needed to say this! A half dozen or so hurricanes happen each year and we cannot react so ridiculously each time. It's a waste of time, money, and energy.