Experts predict active hurricane season

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 12, 2002


The National Weather Service estimates 2002 will see eight Atlantic hurricanes, the average is 5.9; 13 named storms, the average is 9.6; 70 named storm days, the average is 49; 35 hurricane days, the average is 24.5; four intense hurricanes, of category 3-5, with the average being 2.3; seven intense hurricane days, the average is five; and a Hurricane Destruction Potential of 90, with the average being 71.

United States major hurricane landfall probability is forecast to be 30 percent above the long period average owing to the effects of an ongoing strong Atlantic Ocean thermohaline circulations, during August-October 2002, according to NWS officials.

There is an 86 percent chance a major hurricane will reach landfall somewhere on the U.S. coastline, the average for the last century being 52 percent; a 58 percent average for the Atlantic Coast, including east Florida, with the average for the last century being 31 percent; a 43 percent change on the Gulf Coast (the average for the last century being 30 percent), NWS officials said.

On the other hand, noted hurricane forecaster Dr. William Gray, an atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University, predicts a busier-than-average season, with 12 named storms, seven of which will develop into hurricanes, three of them major.

Usually, during the average hurricane season, there are 10 named storms, with six hurricanes and two major. A major hurricane has sustained winds of 111 mph or more.

Gray also told the 2002 National Hurricane Conference that the season may be quieter than he expected because of a possible strengthening of the El Nino system in the eastern Pacific.

He added, there is a 75 percent chance a major hurricane will make hit the U.S. Coast this season, which began June 1.

The period of 1995 through 2001 was the most active seven consecutive years on record, with 94 named storms, 58 hurricanes and 27 major hurricanes. However, only three of the 27 major hurricanes crossed the U.S. coastline. Names for the 2002 storms are as follows: Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gustav, Hanna, Isidore, Josephine, Kyle, Lili, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paloma, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred.

Notable Hurricanes

September 9-10, 1965 (Betsy): Moving unusually fast through the Gulf of Mexico at forward speeds of 22 mph, Betsy came ashore Grand Isle as a major hurricane. Winds gusted to 125 mph and the barometric pressure fell to 28.75 inches at New Orleans.

The sea level pressure there dropped to 28.00 inches at Grand Isle and Houma. Port Eads gauged winds to 136 mph. A 10-foot storm surge was produced causing New Orleans its worst flooding in decades, but the Cresent City was lucky compared to Grand Isle, which saw a 15.7-foot surge on its northern coast and wind gusts to 160 mph.

Wind gusting to 100 mph covered southeast Louisiana. Winds of hurricane force spread as far west as Lafayette and as far inland as St. Landry Parish. Even Alexandria and Monroe saw winds in excess of 60 mph.

Storm surges were seen as far east as Mobile, Ala. Hundreds of ships, tugs, and barges were sunk or driven aground from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Following the storm, the Mississippi River levee was elevated to 12 feet by the Orleans Parish Levee Board. Offshore and coastal oil installations, along with public utilities, reported unprecedented damage. Fall crops were in ruins and many livestock drowned. Damage throughout southeast Louisiana totalled $1.4 billion and 81 lives were lost, 58 of which were in Louisiana.

Aug. 26, 1992 (Andrew): Andrew, a major hurricane that slammed into south Florida on Aug. 24 before striking the Louisiana coastline. Seven people died and 94 were injured across southern Louisiana during Andrew. Winds reached hurricane force from Lafayette eastward to the Atchafalaya Basin. The highest gusts reported were: 39 mph at Lake Charles Regional Airport, 66 mph at Moisant International Airport in New Orleans, 71 mph at Lafayette Regional Airport, 83 mph at Salt Point in St. Mary Parish, 104 mph at the Lafayette Parish courthouse, 153 mph at the New Iberia Emergency Operating Center, and 173 mph at the Drilling Barge on Bayou Teche in St. Mary Parish.

Rainfall totals from Andrew exceeded five inches over a four-day period from Aug. 24-28 in many locations, with Robert receiving 11.02 inches and Hammond receiving 11.92 inches. The storm surge moved inland from Lake Borgne westward to the Vermilion Bay, the highest surge reported was at 6.48 feet at Bayou Dupre. An F3 tornado struck LaPlace and stayed on the ground until reaching Reserve in St. John the Baptist Parish which caused two deaths. Around 1.5 million people evacuated across southern Louisiana with damages estimated near $1 billion in the state.

September 27-28th, 1998 (Georges): In mid-September, a tropical storm formed in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. It moved west-northwest and became a major hurricane as it approached the Lesser Antilles. Georges left a trail of destruction as it raked the Virgin Islands and most of the islands of the Greater Antilles. More than $2 billion in damages occurred as Georges terrorized the West Indies.

The hurricane struck the Mississippi coast at Category 2 intensity. Winds gusted to 55 mph at New Orleans Lakefront Airport, the pressure fell to 29.37inches.

Storm surges above seven feet overflowed some of the land surrounding Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne, a storm surge of 8.9 feet was noted at Northeast Gardene Bay, east of Pointe a la Hache. A large number of camps were destroyed along Lake Pontchartrain. Two people died as a result of Georges.

West Indian storm left indelible mark

LAPLACE – The “West Indian” hurricane of 1915 left perhaps the most devastation in the area, certainly killing more people in the River Parishes, than any other storm of the 20th Century.

On the night of Sept. 29, 1915, three tiny lakefront villages in St. John the Baptist Parish literally ceased to exist and more than 2,000 people were lost.

Ruddock, Frenier and Wagram are memories lost to the living, since the last known survivor of that storm died in 1990. The towns were sustained by truck farming, railroad work and some lumber work. There also was Holy Cross Church and school, several small businesses and a post office in Frenier.

There was talk of a highway along the lakefront to connect Hammond and New Orleans. There had already been talk of a road to connect Frenier and LaPlace. Life looked good for the hard-working families who settled there.

The morning of that fatal day dawned bright and clear. By noon, storm clouds had gathered and winds picked up speed. By evening, it began to rain.

This was before the time of emergency radio networks to enable anyone to get notice to the isolated communities. The “West Indian” steamrolled out of the southwest, across Barataria Bay, and the winds topped 100 mph. The storm surge swept to 15 feet.

Fifty people gathered in the well-built, two-story train station at Ruddock. As the storm struck, they fell to their knees and prayed for deliverance.

Winds smashed the station.

George Schlosser and his 12-year-old daughter were last seen alive, clinging to a doghouse. Both were later found dead.

Seventy-five people were located alive in a boxcar by a rescue mission sent from Hammond. Three members of one family were found alive, clinging to a log, one mile inland from Lake Pontchartrain.

Milton Brown, a railroad tie-maker by trade, survived by clinging to an uprooted cypress tree, and watched helplessly as his co-workers perished. Brown later told rescuers of fighting off water moccasins who shared his tree.

Ethelny Woodson and her 2-year-old brother sought shelter in a boxcar. The boxcar was later found 3,000 feet from the railroad. She clung to the car with one hand, the other clinging to her brother. He was dead. George Becker, a railroad supervisor, was snatched by a wave and smashed into a tree. He survived with broken ribs and a crushed hand.

Station foreman Peter Elardo rescued a number of people from a house before it was smashed by the waves. After they all reached safety, another wave took Elardo.

Another railroad supervisor, R.L. Hazelgrove, tried to save a child trapped in a house. He was last seen clutching the child when both were lost to the waves.

After the storm, Train No. 99 arrived and pulled survivors from the water. In the morning, only the tracks survived.

The Holy Cross church, built in 1894, was gone, as well as the 1914 schoolhouse. Twelve miles of track were gone. Only a few scattered headstones from the cemetery could be located. Two months after the storm, the remains of a little girl were found in a tree, where the waves had deposited her.

New Orleans only had a 10-foot high levee to protect the city. After the 1915 storm, this levee began to be questioned as not being high enough. New Orleans saw as high as 98 mph, and saw more than eight inches of rain. More than 50 percent of U.S. Highway 90 along the Mississippi coast was destroyed.

Storm surges up to 12 feet ran ashore the northern coast of Grand Isle. The New Canal lighthouse was heavily damaged as winds of 130 mph raged, and the pressure fell to 28.11″ which at the time set a record for the lowest pressure measured on land in the United States.

Ninety-nine out of 100 buildings were destroyed in the town of Leeville. Thirteen million dollars of damage, $5 million in New Orleans alone, were caused and 275 people died.

In February 1990, Mrs. Helen Schlosser Burg, born in 1901 in Wagram, granted an interview about the storm which struck when she was a teen-ager.

“People just walked around in a daze,” she recalled. “Some hoping to find their homes, some looking for their loved ones. There was a graveyard near the railroad track in Wagram, but it was too far to carry the dead. The men made rafts and boxes and the dead were floated in the shallow watered of Lake Pontchartrain to the graveyard. We lost a lot of our family, friends and neighbors.”

Nicholas Frenier, Louisiana Attorney General under Spanish rule, now only has a road to memorialize him. Ruddock, named for the president of the Ruddock-Orleans Cypress Co., is recalled only by an interstate exit.

Nothing else remains.