Posted by: mrpeatie | September 5, 2008

What to Expect From a Category 1-5 Hurricane

As Hanna approaches and Ike looms ominously out at sea, we will get our first taste of tropical storm conditions from the 2008 hurricane season later today and this evening. Hanna’s track has shifted closer to the Charleston area as of this morning and we could see the worst of what she has to offer. Things will be dicey for a while, but nothing too severe. If you were around in 2004 for Gaston, expect similar conditions.

Hurricane Ike could pose a bigger threat and even if it misses the east coast, the odds of another hurricane affecting us remain high through November. The National Hurricane Center has an informative page that lists the affects of a hurricane at each level of the Saffir-Simpson scale and lists recent hurricanes as a reference.

Hanna may reach category 1 strength. Here’s what you can expect from a cat 1 storm:

Winds 74-95 mph (64-82 kt or 119-153 km/hr). Storm surge generally 4-5 ft above normal. No real damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Some damage to poorly constructed signs. Also, some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage. Hurricane Lili of 2002 made landfall on the Louisiana coast as a Category One hurricane. Hurricane Gaston of 2004 was a Category One hurricane that made landfall along the central South Carolina coast.

For a region like Charleston, storm surge is as big an issue as the top sustained winds. I came across this fascinating map of how our region would be affected by a hurricane’s storm surge. It was posted on Twitter via the Charleston Weather feed (if you are on Twitter, I would highly recommend following this feed along with jaredwsmith for the latest local weather info). Turns out there is an ancient sand bar/ridge that runs up the east copper area (along Highway 17). It’s also interesting to note that pretty much all of downtown Charleston is underwater with a direct storm surge from a category 2 hurricane.

Use this information accordingly when planning for future storms. At one point Hanna was heading this way and forecasted to be a category 2. Based on these resources, I certainly would have evacuated early as “low-lying escape routes flood 2-4 hours before arrival of the hurricane center.”



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