"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Friday, September 12, 2008

Midwest Flooding from Ike?

This amazing prognosis is from NOAA via Jeff Masters' blog:


If this pans out the Gulf Coast may not be the only problem; the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio valleys may have serious problems as well. That's a lotta wotta.

Of course, it now seems that there will be huge problems in Galveston and possibly, depending sensitively on the last minute track, on Houston. Just thought I'd point out that this isn't entirely over when Ike leaves Texas.

It's clouding up in Austin. Better get going so I can pick up things in my backyard that might get loose. Catch you guys on the other side of this.

Update: Most of the rainfall event was 9/14; I'd call it a good prediction. Data from NOAA.

There's an article about the midwest floods at TIME. It was apparently the largest 24-hour rainfall on record at O'Hare airport in Chicago.


Paul said...

That swath also coincides with tornado alley. Hang on to your roofs!


David B. Benson said...


Anonymous said...

It's difficult for me to comprehend the size of this storm and full extent of damage it may cause. (In Britain, we get flood alerts for waterlogging events that cause enough trouble themselves, but are miniscule by comparison …) I wish you well!

Aaron said...

My mother grew up in the dust bowl. She said, "Any rain is good rain." A good rain was celibrated by sitting on the porch and wacthing it rain. For real good rains we got ice cream sodas. We were living in Florida when Camaille came by (48 inch of rain in 48 hours). Sure enough, we got ice cream sodas :)

I hear some folks need the rain.

David B. Benson said...

Did you get a 'good' rain?

John Mashey said...

Thinking ahead:

We think we can electrify cars pretty well, pure-electric for short trips (20-40 miles), PHEV for general-purpose.

By 2050:
a) With Peak Oil, world oil production is down to 50%?, and the US consumption probably lower than current.

b) I'd guess sea level up a foot.

By 2100:
a) Oil production: maybe 20% of current?
b) Sea level +3 feet (or maybe as much as six).

Watching videos of evacuations, this is not a good combination: exactly how do you get a mass of people away from the coast in a short time, with very little petroleum fuel, and then power goes out? Maybe enough biofuels by then? Hmmm.

Some people think that the world's GDP in 2100 will be 6-15X higher, and rich societies can adapt better (true). It would be interesting to see how Houston *adapts* to this combination.

[I won't ask about Galveston, since it's hard to see how it exists in 2100.]

Bottom line: our current patterns for dealing with hurricanes depend on cheap oil.

Michael Tobis said...

Good points all, John. Wondering when the changes start to have an impact on wealth figures in.

Regarding Galveston, Texas is only vulnerable to this sort of thing in two places: Galveston and South Padre. Outsiders and newcomers like me may be amazed to see the strength of conservation movements in Texas. In particular, most of the beach is protected.

The rest of the Gulf Coast and southern Atlantic Coast is infested with this bizarre hyperdeveloped relationship to beaches, though. (I find the resulting environment unappealing, but apparently there are many people who think otherwise.) The prognosis for Florida is especially bleak.

You may remember from a past article here that I am fascinated by Galveston boosterism, which completely denies the likelihood of sea level rise, and even of local subsidence which is essentially a sure thing.

I'm not sure I'll have Galveston boosterism to kick around much longer. While the seawall was not breached, the island was devastated nonetheless. Like in post-Katrina New Orleans, Galveston's recovery is sure to be partial at best, though local stakeholders will try to put a happy face on it. Unlike New Orleans, there is relatively little at stake for outsiders.

John Mashey said...

I'm not worried about Galveston as much as the rest of the area.

If I understand right, there was a 15ft storm surge, or 5 meters. Here's Houston area at 5meters in flood.firetree.net.

If one guesses +1m by 2100, and then another 5m for storm, that's +6m. Of course, just because something is below the level doesn't mean it's flooded, and I have no idea how many people live there.

Michael Tobis said...

That's a pretty crude map. Here is a better one.

Most of Houston will not foreseeably get flooded directly by storm surge. There was some worry about some of the channels but it didn't pan out this time. Turned out that it might have been worse had Ike stayed a tiny bit further west.

However, there is a fair amount of beach culture at Galveston and points east, and a huge amount of industrial infrastructure. The former took an enormous hit, the latter a big enough one to make a difference.

Might we have had the financical system limp along awhile longer but for the impact of Ike on AIG?

John Mashey said...

Thanks, nice images.
Still, I worry about Houston (I mean the area in general.) Suppose a Cat4 storm arrives. How many people need to evacuate?

Michael Tobis said...

Worry about evacuating Houston? Yes, indeed. The false positive of Rita hitting Houston killed and injured many more people than the actual storm hitting Beaumont.

This story didn't get much play in the rest of the country but nobody around Houston has forgotten, and plays into the number of people who stuck it out and shouldn't have.

Evacuating the Miami area would also be challenging.

What about Calcutta? Hong Kong? Bangkok?

bernie said...

DOes anyone have the actual rainfall numbers and distribution from IKE?

Michael Tobis said...

Bernie, thanks for the reminder. See the update above.

skanky said...

"Watching videos of evacuations, this is not a good combination: exactly how do you get a mass of people away from the coast in a short time, with very little petroleum fuel, and then power goes out? Maybe enough biofuels by then? Hmmm."

This is a genuine question, but would Cuba be a good comparison?