Officials warn hurricane’s size just as important as strength

By By John Guidroz / American Press

Category 1 hurricanes like Sandy and Isaac can cause just as much widespread damage and flooding as a stronger storm, according

to Roger Erickson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles.

Erickson, Congressman Charles Boustany, R-La., and other officials spoke at a public forum Friday about the lessons learned

from last year’s hurricane season and preparing for the upcoming season that lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30.

A hurricane’s size is just as important as its strength, Erickson said. Sandy’s tropical storm force wind field measured 750

miles across, while Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 storm at landfall, measured 350 miles across.

If Sandy had hit Southwest Louisiana, he said most of Cameron Parish would be underwater.

Tim Osborn, a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s office of coast survey, said a storm’s category

“has nothing to do with the flooding threat” people could face.

Erickson agreed, saying homeowners must know their elevation to understand what kind of threat a local storm surge could pose.

“If your elevation is 7 feet, and we’re saying a 15-foot storm surge, then you know we’re talking about 8 feet of actual water

being above ground in your location,” he said.

Erickson said storm surge inundation is grater when landfall is at high tide. Hurricane Sandy made landfall during high tide,

causing more damage because surge was 14 feet above sea level, he said.

“If Sandy made landfall at low tide, we would have subtracted five more feet, and it would’ve been a 9-foot (surge),” he said.

Improved forecasting

Erickson said people will get earlier

warnings on potential storm systems because the tropical weather outlook

was expanded

from two days to five days. He said the National Hurricane Center

is working to expand its forecasts from five to seven days.

“We’ll be at least giving people that much more of a heads up before the system even develops,” Erickson said.

Erickson said the NHC will be able to map forecasted storm surge on Google Earth. He said the center is also improving its

track and intensity forecasts.

Osborn said NOAA has a platform in Calcasieu Pass called a “Sentinel” that detects water levels, wind speed and direction

during a hurricane. He said the platform can withstand Category 4 hurricane winds.

Erickson said the local National Weather Service posts updates on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter.

Erickson said the National Weather Service will issue its Atlantic storm outlook numbers May 23.