(ANTIMEDIA) Houston, TX — Preparations and evacuations are currently taking place along the Gulf of Mexico as Hurricane Harvey — now a Category 3 storm — readies to slam into the Texas coast. The United States has been mostly spared from any major hurricane damage in recent years considering the last time a major (Category 3 or higher) hurricane made landfall in the continental U.S. was in 2005 when Wilma wreaked havoc on Florida shortly after Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans over 4,000 days ago.
Due to this lengthy major hurricane drought, recent storms have attracted overly sensational media coverage (see: Hurricane Irene), which has often led to misplaced panic. However, also due to the major hurricane drought, experts are worried that people in vulnerable areas have grown complacent in recent years.
But this time around, the sensational claims from meteorologists and media outlets alike may have more credibility. If you are in the path of Hurricane Harvey, it may actually be time to start making preparations to evacuate or hunker down and weather the storm. Here are five reasons why (the first four are provided by Bloomberg):
1. Warm Water
“Warm water is the fuel for hurricanes. It’s where storms get their energy. Water needs to be about 79 degrees (26 Celsius) or higher to sustain a hurricane, McNoldy said. Harvey is over part of the Gulf of Mexico where the water is about 87 degrees or 2 degrees above normal for this time of year, said Jeff Masters, a former hurricane hunter meteorologist and meteorology director of Weather Underground.
“A crucial factor is something called ocean heat content. It’s not just how warm the surface water is but how deep it goes. And Harvey is over an area where warm enough water goes about 330 feet (100 meters) deep, which is a very large amount of heat content, McNoldy said.
“‘It can sit there and spin and have plenty of warm water to work with,’ McNoldy said.”
2. Weak Winds
“If winds at 40,000 feet high are strong in the wrong direction it can decapitate a hurricane. Strong winds high up remove the heat and moisture that hurricanes need near their center and also distort the shape.
“But the wind up there is weak so Harvey ‘is free to go nuts basically,’ McNoldy said.”
3. Hurricane Harvey’s Path
“Before it hits the Texas coast, Harvey is projected to go over an even deeper and warmer eddy to supercharge it a bit more, just like what happened to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but not quite as bad, Masters said.
“If that’s not bad enough, there’s a good chance that after Harvey hits it will follow a track so close to the coast and not so much inland that it will essentially keep a toe in the water. The storm could be big enough that not all of it is over land. Because of that, the National Hurricane Center forecasts that it will remain at least tropical storm strength — and 40 mph winds — through Tuesday, maybe into Wednesday.”
4. Harvey’s Speed
“Because it looks like Harvey will be meandering at around 10 mph and then will likely stall out over the coast or just a bit inland, that means it will stay over one place and keep raining, Masters said. Day in, day out until the middle of next week.
‘We’re talking feet of rain, not inches,’ Masters said.
“And the storm’s heavy rains can last not just a few hours but ‘over a two-, three-, four-day period’ from Texas to Louisiana, Uccellini said.”
5. FEMA and the NOAA
FEMA earned itself a poor reputation over its failed relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but the agency may actually be worse off now. The Trump administration has failed to fill key leadership positions within FEMA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal agency tasked with monitoring weather. This could potentially lead to confusion and conflicting efforts should Hurricane Harvey’s damage warrant federal assistance. If you’re in the path of the storm, your preparations should not include counting on FEMA to show up to save you.
Here’s a final word of advice: Prepare rather than panic. With mother nature in a state of distress, weather patterns around the world have grown erratic and extreme. Coupled with the growing civil strife and unrest in the U.S. as of late, it only makes sense to have at least a week’s worth of food and fresh water ready in your home to weather these storms — and a means to defend yourself and your supplies.