Tropical Storm Harvey continues to devastate much of southeastern Texas. Although the initial effects of Harvey’s winds and storm surge have diminished, it is still bringing record-setting rainfall and severe weather. Unlike previous storms, the atmospheric steering currents have been virtually non-existent. That’s allowed Harvey to sit and spin over roughly the same area, producing catastrophic rainfall totals.
Tropical systems can be deadly long after they make landfall and their winds diminish. They are like huge sponges that can produce incredible rainfall totals. Although Harvey made landfall on Friday night, August 25, and weakened below hurricane status on Saturday, it’s still producing record rainfall over much of Texas. Prior to Harvey, some of the worst flooding on record in Texas occurred during Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001. As people saw during Allison and again now with Harvey, early preparation and evacuation is essential as circumstances warrant ahead of tropical storms and hurricanes.
The flooding from Harvey will continue for much of the week, as long as the remnants of the storm linger. Federal disaster areas have been declared and the National Guard and FEMA are already helping those affected by the massive storm. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, created an informal scale in 2011 to describe conditions following natural disasters. FEMA’s “Waffle House” test has three classifications: 1) if the Waffle House in a threatened area is open and serving a full menu, then it’s “green” on the scale; 2) if it’s open but has a limited menu, then it’s “yellow”; and 3) if the Waffle House is closed entirely, then it’s “red.” FEMA uses the “Waffle House” test when responding to a variety of natural disasters.
Tornadoes and flash floods often cause catastrophic – but localized – damage, while tropical systems such as Harvey are capable of causing widespread damage. Harvey will be making headlines for much of the week as the rains associated with its remnants continue. The full scope of the damage won’t be known until the rain ends and authorities can assess the situation.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is responsible for hurricane names. When a tropical storm or hurricane is especially damaging or deadly, then the WMO retires its name. For example, there will never be another “Andrew” or “Katrina.” It’s a virtual certainty that there will never been another “Harvey.”
When Hurricane Harvey made landfall Friday night and early Saturday morning as a Category 4 hurricane, it set several benchmarks. Harvey was the first hurricane to make landfall in Texas since Ike in 2008 and the first major hurricane (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Scale) to make landfall anywhere in the United States since Wilma in October 2005. It was also the strongest hurricane to make landfall in Texas since Hurricane Carla in 1961.
It will be weeks or months before an accurate and complete picture of damage from Harvey and its remnants is known. You can rely on the WUSA9 weather team for the latest updates both on-air, online and on the free WUSA9 news app for your mobile devices.