It appears that as of right now Hurricane Ernesto is going to become a hurricane on Sunday. Right now, according to the National Hurricane Center and NOAA, Ernesto is a tropical storm with sustained winds of over 60 mph. Tracking shows it will go through Cuba and head into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Hurricane Center can only predict possible paths with any accuracy at 5 days out. 3 days out will show better accuracy, but one should also keep in mind that hurricanes can be very unpredictable as recent ones that have struck Florida have actually reversed direction headed back out to sea, reorganized and strengthened, then come back again. So, there are no guarantees, but it sure does look like hurricane Ernesto could take a path that would endanger New Orleans and Biloxi all over again.
Both Biloxi and New Orleans have a long and hard road ahead for rebuilding after the devastating landfall of Katrina last year which went on record as the most expensive national disaster ever for the U.S. When hurricane Katrina made landfall it had weakened from a category 5 hurricane to a category 3 with sustained winds of 111-130 mph. Even though it was only a category 3 it did more damage than any category 4 or 5 storm (sustained winds of greater than 131 mph). Katrina had more to do with the topography and economics of the affected areas.
New Orleans actually lies bordered by 3 bodies of water and is mostly below sea level. It is maintained by a series of levees that keep the water out. These levees or dams were not made for a high level hurricane storm surge. Storm surges that usually accompany hurricanes can easily range from 15 to 40 feet. New Orleans did amount a mass evacuation from New Orleans when it was determined that Katrina, then a category 5, was headed right for them. The problem was that many of the inhabitants were poor, sick, handicapped, and otherwise unable to leave the city and surrounding areas. So, when the levees did break and the city flooded there were thousands that became stranded, drowned, etc. According to recent reports on CNN by the Army corps of engineers the levees have been rebuilt but are not capable of withstanding another major hurricane.
Ernesto could become that major hurricane. Right now Ernesto is feeling the effects of sheering winds which usually take the force and can even dissipate a storm altogether. Through these sheering winds Ernesto has not lost strength or weakened in the slightest. That shows it has strength and endurance. According to the National Hurricane Center Ernesto should emerge from the shearing winds tomorrow and then quickly build into a hurricane with sustained winds greater than 74 mph. The track then takes it through warm and optimal conditions in the Gulf of Mexico similar to when Katrina went through last year. Current weather predictions also show that the weather patterns will most likely encourage the hurricane to take a northern track to the area of Louisiana and Mississippi. These same current and near future weather predictions also suggest that it is highly likely that Ernesto will become at least a category 3 or 4 hurricane before landfall in America.
Yes, it looks like Ernesto may well be the next major storm headed to New Orleans. I do not wish this on anyone and actually hope it fizzes out or goes back out to sea as any loss of life or severe hardship caused by a storm like Katrina is terrible. I have one question, though, if we spent over $70 billion on repairing that area why could not we have either built stronger levees when we just went through a terrible tragedy for the same reason that they were too weak.