Gulf of Mexico disturbance; New Orleans levee plan released
The main area of concern today is a tropical wave off of the west coast of Florida that is kicking off some heavy thunderstorms over the waters surrounding Key West. Wind shear is low enough to permit some slow development of this disturbance over the next day or two as it moves westward or west-northwestward across the Gulf of Mexico at 10 mph. However, the area of thunderstorms is of limited size, surface pressures are not falling, and there are no signs that this area may be a future threat.
Figure 1. Latest satellite image of the Gulf of Mexico.
An upper level low pressure system is spinning over the western Gulf of Mexico. This low is expected to move ashore over Mexico by Friday without any tropical development occurring.
A tropical wave that moved through the Lesser Antilles Wednesday is in the eastern Caribbean. The wave has limited thunderstorm activty, and there is high wind shear and plenty of dry air in the eastern Caribbean. Development of this wave is unlikely.
The three computer models best at forecasting tropical storm formation (GFS, UKMET, NOGAPS) are all predicting no tropical storm formation in the Atlantic for the next six days. Wind shear is forecast to remain high during this period, then begin a slow decrease through the end of July.
New Orleans flood protection on hold
A long awaited Army Corps of Engineers report on Louisiana coastal protection and restoration came out this week. The report had no specific recommendations on immediate actions to take to protect New Orleans from the next hurricane, saying another 18 months was needed to study the problem. Politicians and scientists immediately criticized the plan, saying that action is needed now. In particular, Governor Blanco of Louisiana and Louisiana's Senators were upset that five specific recommendations that they had agreed on with the Corps in May were stripped out of the proposal:
-- Beginning design work on a barrier and gate plan to protect the New Orleans area from major hurricanes.
-- Closing the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MR-GO) to major ship traffic and beginning environmental restoration of the wetlands adjacent to it.
-- Design work on a plan for rebuilding eroded barrier islands and headlands and building new ones in the Barataria basin, which includes parts of Jefferson, Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes.
-- Authorizing the Morganza-to-Gulf hurricane levee project that stretches along much of the same area and has been awaiting congressional approval for several years.
-- Approval and financing for a variety of smaller restoration projects in southwestern Louisiana.
"These critical projects cannot wait another 18 months to be considered for action by Congress," Blanco said in a statement released Monday.
In the report, the Corps say they have completed emergency repairs to 169 miles of New Orleans levees, which are now as strong or stronger than before Hurricane Katrina. I can't tell from news reports what levee work--if any--is currently going on, I'd be interested to see if any of you know. In particular, is the $3 billion plan to move the pumping stations on the 17th Street Canal and London Avenue Canal to Lake Pontchartrain being worked on? It seems to me that this work is the most critical flood protection measure that needs to be undertaken.
I'll be back with an update this afternoon on the Gulf of Mexico system.