Potential Hurricane Impacts on Metro BR - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Potential Hurricane Impacts on Metro BR

Question:

What is considered the worst-case senario for a hurricane for Baton Rouge (path, winds, forward speed, etc.)?  What is the worst-case senario for a hurricane that would cripple both BR and N.O. at the same time?  If BR were hit with a worst-case senario wouldn't it be difficult, if not impossible, for BR to offer the suppot to the rest of the state that it did after Katrina?

Answer:

My opinion ... this is really an open-ended question with no SINGLE answer .. even the forward speed of a storm complicates the issue before we start talking about storm size, direction, speed, rain rates, tornadic-generation potential ... on and on.

Let's just talk about forward speed: a faster forward speed means the landfalling storm has less time to weaken before hitting BR ... meaning higher peak winds.  However, a slower storm, although having lower peak winds on arrival, would stay in the area longer.  And many times the duration of high winds is MORE important than the absolute peak values.

Think about 1992's Andrew:  Peak gusts reached the 60s, but sustained winds were typically only in the 30s to low 40s.  However, after nearly 6 hours of 30-40 mph winds, remember all the down trees in the area? Much of the wind damage was NOT the highest winds, but the persistence of the winds once they arrived.

Still worst-case scenario would probably be something like a 'major' storm (Cat 3-5), making landfall in St. Mary Parish, then tracking up into the Metro area, with the center over or just east of the downtown area as it passes to our north.

I could write paragraphs on each of the storm characteristics that I mentioned above ... you can imagine how complex the answer quickly becomes!

As far as a worst-case scenario:  1965's Betsy serves as my "benchmark" storm for such a scenario ... the 1965 monster flooded many N.O. neighborhoods and produced winds with peak gusts in the 100s over many Southeast parishes ... then 'she' held together as 'she' tracked Northwest over the BR metro area, delivering high tropical-storm force winds with gusts in the 70s-80s across metro Baton Rouge. Estimates from the State Climatologist at that time note gusts in the 70s right through Pointe Coupee Parish!

In my opinion only, sure, if the Red Stick were hammered, wouldn't you expect resources to be directed locally before sending them to other parts of the state?  If B.R. were struck so hard as to interrupt our local infrastructure, you've got to assume it would have an impact on our area's ability to support other parts of the state.  That said, I do believe that state-based emergency functions (State Police, OEP, etc.) would still be in operation, because they have included plans for response even if the heart of a 'major' storm were to strike metro B.R.

Hope this helps!

Jay Grymes
Chief Meteorologist
WAFB Storm Team

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