Open Letter to NOAA: Please act now to save lives from future hurricanes

A man tries to ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Dear Sirs & Madams at NOAA:

The use of the Saffir-Simpson scale value of Category 2 for Ike has induced many people to stay on Galveston Island who should have evacuated yesterday. The storm is absolutely enormous. It is moving more water than Katrina. Despite its lowly Category 2 rating, it will produce higher storm surge on Texas than any storm in recorded history. Yet because it was only a Category 2 storm, the mayors of Galveston and Houston did not exhort their citizenry to evacuate with anywhere near the urgency they should have. I pray it were not so, but the result is sure to be many deaths. This was easily foreseen ahead of time, and was in fact foreseen in the NOAA forecasts. Yet people do not read the forecasts, depending instead on the SS scale category of the storm. Though it is only a scale, it has a direct effect on the number of survivors after a storm, and on the number of people who will not survive.

Likewise, Hurricane Katrina hit land as only a Category 3 storm, yet it caused more deaths than any other natural disaster in a long time. It caused more deaths and damage than Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm. It caused more deaths and damage than any Category 5 storm since modern records have been kept. And yet it was only a middling strong storm by the SS scale.

I believe that Ike will be similar. I pray it will not, but fear it will produce a stunning number of deaths and economy-crippling damage. Many of the deaths could have been prevented if the danger of the storm had been communicated effectively. Much of the crippling effect on the economy could have been prevented likewise. And yet all because of that number 2 a disaster that could have been ameliorated will come as a calamity in the night to those in its path.

Clearly the SS scale does not measure the destructive potential of a storm. Clearly the destructive potential of a storm is precisely the datum that must be communicated, nay trumpeted, to everyone in its cone of effect.

I urge weather forecasters and government agencies to agree upon a new measurement for destructive potential of hurricanes. The IKE (Integrated Kinetic Energy) scale is such a scale. It measures the total kinetic energy in a storm, and is proportional to the square of the windspeed summed over the area of the storm. This is in linear proportion to water movement, storm surge, and destructive potential. By this scale, Ike is the strongest storm in recorded history in the Atlantic, Isabel (when in the middle of the Atlantic it was a Cat5 gusting to 233mph) the second, and Katrina the third. All three were massively dangerous and destructive storms. None were higher than Category 3 when they grounded. All three have surprised many people.

I urge you to act with all deliberate haste. This is not just a nice thing to do. This is a problem that has killed people already, and will kill again, until it is addressed.

Yours sincerely,

LJ Miller
Gulf Coast of MS

Related: Do Ike and IKE mean the end of the Saffir-Simpson storm intensity scale?


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3 thoughts on “Open Letter to NOAA: Please act now to save lives from future hurricanes

  1. Pingback: Rosemary's Thoughts

  2. Great points. Didn’t someone say that if stayed they would face certain death? I thought I heard that. Why would they try to undermine that? People that know too much appear STUPID.

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