Today marks 12 years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, and Texans are facing a similar situation now with Harvey. State climatologist Barry Keim says both made landfall as a major hurricane, but Katrina reached Category 5 strength in the Gulf and weakened, while Harvey continued to strengthen until landfall. He says that worsened Katrina’s storm surge.
“So even though Harvey was stronger at landfall, its surge was much smaller because it was a big major storm out over the Gulf to build up that surge before it came on shore,” Keim said.
Keim says the biggest surge from Harvey so far is 6.8 feet, while Katrina caused the biggest surge ever measured in the western hemisphere at 28 feet. He says it’s the opposite for rainfall as Katrina only dumped upwards of 15 inches.
“Katrina was moving at about 15 miles per hour, and it got in and out of the region pretty quickly. Harvey’s maximum rainfall is currently topping over 40 inches at Dayton, Texas, and this is only going to increase as time goes on,” Keim said.
Keim says Harvey has been meandering around at about 2 miles per hour. He notes the storm has only moved about 100 miles since last Friday. He says these are two highly contrasting storms with similar major impacts in two of the country’s biggest cities.
“One was a surge event, and the other is a rainfall event. But I think we can see the impacts are not all that different when we’re going to probably end up with over 100,000 homes flooded in each of these two events,” Keim said.