27 August 2012

Monday Infographics: Hurricanes in Southern Louisiana

At the time of this posting (~1:30 am CDT), Tropical Storm Isaac is located near Key West FL and is projected to strengthen to hurricane status by the time it makes landfall on the coast of Louisiana just south of New Orleans. A number of tropical storms other than Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita (both in 2005) have threatened southern Louisiana, one of the most vulnerable locations on the Gulf Coast. These are in addition to the 2011 Mississippi River floods, among others previously, that have threatened the Delta region. Much work and money goes into the levee system that protects the Delta and many cities along the rivers, bayous, lakes and coastline. New Orleans itself is protected to some extent by a blend of federal, municipal, and local efforts to maintain levees along the Mississippi River and the shores of Lake Ponchartrain, as well as numerous canals and ship channels, to ward off river floods and coastal storm surges. Much of the federal work in southern Louisiana to protect against flooding from tropical storms came in response to Hurricane Betsy, which struck the region in 1965.

Until this latest report from the National Hurricane Center (advisory #24), TS Isaac had been forecast to make landfall east of the New Orleans area, most recently on the coast of Mississippi. The forecast track has been moving progressively westward, but at this time has TS Isaac making a direct hit on the city early Wednesday morning. In 2002, prior to the civil engineering disaster, extensive finger-pointing, costly levee rebuilding, and still-unfunded coastal restoration initiatives that emerged from Katrina and Rita in 2005, reporters for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans assembled an impressive series titled "Washing Away" on the vulnerabilities of that city to such an occurrence. The city had, at that time, just recently been threatened by the near-approach of Hurricane Georges in 1998. That storm had been forecast to strike New Orleans directly, but then turned northeast and eventually passed east of the Mississippi Delta. The forecast tracks of Hurricane Georges in 1998 and TS Isaac this week, from Key West to New Orleans across the warm Gulf of Mexico, are remarkably similar. This infographic on the effects of Hurricane Georges was published as part of that series on 24 June 2002 and has been archived by Nola.com.

This graphic via Nola.com, originally published on 24 June 2002 in The [New Orleans] Times-Picayune.

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