This could be my last post for a while, if the power goes out tonight or early tomorrow, as it may. The wind is picking up. No rain yet. But we have an upgrade in the weather forecast and there is an abundance of trees around power lines in Austin.
Weather service is now looking at 50 percent chance of thunderstorms tonight and wind gusts to 45 mph. Then, early Saturday, 100 percent change of rain, heavy at times, with gusts to 50 mph. Still looks like a normal fall thunderstorm, even with the wind gusts, so long as they’re not sustained for long periods. Fortunately for us, Ike’s core is forecast to stay well to our east. If you want to follow events in Houston and Galveston, where the worst is certain to occur, go to KHOU television for their video reports as long as they have at least generator power to stay on the web. Also this Houston area blogger, and this one. Both have local blog rolls for more. And Houston Chronicle’s blog.
Lots of folks at the grocery this morning buying up bottled water, batteries and canned goods, in anticipation of possible lengthy power outages if Ike’s core comes close to Austin after crossing the coast early Saturday. Mom, visiting friends in Maryland, is scheduled to come back Saturday but now may have to wait until Sunday, if Austin’s airport is closed. Texas Longhorns home game Saturday with Arkansas has already been postponed.
Local forecast sounded dire yesterday: Not just torrential rain all-day and all-night Saturday, but sustained winds of 50 to 70 mph. Meaning trees downed and flying limbs and other debris. Today’s forecast is milder, with winds only gusting to 45 mph and less rain. Evacuees from the coast still may be sorry they came. All depends on how close the core comes to us. Fifty miles east would be good. Ten miles west would be a true disaster. Meanwhile Ike is already bigger than Katrina in ’05. It’s pussyfooting through a patch of cool water in mid-Gulf this morning, but is expected to strengthen. Lots of uncertainy yet, but Houston looks now to bare the brunt of the winds and rain, and the storm surge is expected to be a killer on the coast, sweeping miles inland. Possibly overtopping Galveston’s seventeen-foot seawall.
Accuweather meteorologist Joe Bastardi (a Texas A&M grad) believes Ike could come ashore in Tejas early Saturday as a Category 4 (winds 131-155 mph; storm surge 13 to 18 feet above normal) and be reminiscent of the 1886 hurricane that finally wiped Indianola–once a major port–from the map, after an 1875 storm began its demise. Them’s scary words, especially if you own one of the many pastel beach houses and condos on, say, Mustang Island.
He’s also comparing Ike to Carla, a Category 5, which did extensive damage to the Texas coast, and inland as far as Dallas, in 1961. She spawned twenty-six tornadoes which did even more damage. Think I prefer the Indianola example, if I have to choose. More worrisome for us is what Ike’s core might do, as it is expected to be sucked north by a trough of low pressure dropping south out of the Rockies, either right before landfall, in which case it might go to Galveston, or after, which could bring what’s left of it up to Austin.
Fortunately, Bob Rose is only calling for Ike to be a Category 3 (bad enough with 111 to 130 mph winds and storm surge of 9 to 12 feet above normal)–still big, powerful and very destructive, with a possible 4 to 6 inches of rain for us by Sunday morning. But there’s always Gustav to consider. He was going to the final slayer of New Orleans until he turned into a pussycat in the last few hours before he struck. Atmospheric conditions don’t look to be the same for Ike, but we’ve still got three days to keep our fingers crossed that they will change. Otherwise, it’s time to give thanks that we don’t live on the coast and get the leaves out of the gutters!
MORE: The state’s already ordering mandatory evactuation for people all along the coast. Yipes.
Too soon to be sure but Lower Colorado River Authority meteorologist Bob Rose says we could be in for heavy rain and strong winds if, after going ashore near Corpus Christi Saturday morning, the remnants of Ike decide to head north to Austin. It’s more likely now, as the new track has it coming to us as still a tropical storm. So we’ll plan on battening the hatches.