How Hurricane Ida stunned meteorologists

As Hurricane Ida approached the Louisiana coast on Sunday morning, meteorologists were stunned to see the storm strengthening so quickly...


As Hurricane Ida approached the Louisiana coast on Sunday morning, meteorologists were stunned to see the storm strengthening so quickly.

When Dale Eck, head of forecast operations for the Americas at IBM, went to bed on Saturday night, he said, Ida’s winds were blowing at 105 miles per hour, which equates to a speed of Category 2 wind. The next morning he saw that the winds had increased to 150 mph, strong enough for a Category 4 classification.

“I had a feeling of grief in my stomach,” he said. “It was one of the worst case scenarios.”

The storm had rapidly evolved from a disturbing disturbance in the Atlantic Ocean to perhaps the most devastating to hit Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Before Ida became a named storm on Thursday, forecasters detected what they believed to be just another group of thunderstorms, or disturbance, moving westward over the Atlantic, Ben said. Gelber, meteorologist at WCMH-TV in Columbus, Ohio.

It quickly became clear that this disturbance was unique, as it was hovering in an area where the wind was not fast enough to push ocean heat away from the system, Mr Eck said. This allowed the heat to stay inside the system, creating the perfect humid environment for the disturbance to escalate into a tropical storm.

“It would have been difficult to concoct a path more conducive to this rapid build-up than Ida’s,” said Robert Henson, independent meteorologist and reporter for Yale Climate Connections.

Ida reached Cuba on Friday as a Category 1 hurricane, the lowest of the five hurricane classification. From there, forecasters knew the storm would be intense and the only question was how severe it would become.

From Saturday to Sunday, a cauldron of weather conditions turned Ida into a devastating Category 4 storm: its winds quickly accelerated to 150 mph; a ridge of high pressure air off the southeastern United States guided the storm toward Louisiana; and the waters of the Gulf of Mexico were unusually warm and very deep, which meant that Ida could produce a lot of water to keep herself going.

The fact that the water was still warm was a reason to fear the storm could continue to strengthen to a low Category 5, said Benjamin Schott, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service in New Orleans.

On Twitter, meteorologists across the country expressed alarm at how quickly Ida has become a colossal threat.

“I desperately wish the forecast hadn’t come true,” said Rick knabb, a Weather Channel hurricane expert, adding that the rapid build-up before landing is “the hurricane scenario we’ve always dreaded.”

Eric Blake, a senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center, said, “I feel sick to my stomach watching this hurricane. It’s a very dark morning.



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