Hurricane Ike and Coastal Louisiana

I’m not sure if you, my friends and readers, have access to cable TV, or satellite TV, or the weather channel, but I’m sure you have access to weather websites.  This image comes from Weather Underground, where you can visit and click on a box to see anything about this storm you’d like to see.  This is the “satellite” box.

STORM SURGE 101

As you can see, it is a HUGE storm.  If you look at the coast of Louisiana, you will see blue bands already covering the area.  My bayou was evacuated yesterday, once again a ghost town.  The officials also closed the flood gate at the lower end of the bayou, which keeps the water from coming up in the bayou on the front side of this storm.

However, our greatest threat comes on the back side of the storm, from those strong winds that continue to circulate in a counter-clockwise direction after the eye has crossed land.  Those hurricane-strength winds literally push a wall of water toward the coast, which is called a storm surge.  The flood gate will stop some of that as well; BUT the saltwater surge that rushes over the marsh is supposed to be reduced by the marsh, but that is no longer the case.

MARSH 101

The most important fact to remember when talking about marshland/wetland and storm surge is this:

For every 2.7 miles of healthy marsh, storm surge is reduced by one foot.  Did you get that?  If not, let me round that up to 3 miles and ask you some questions.

First, let me define marsh:  Vegetative area lying between water and land.  Simple.  Key word is “vegetative”, meaning lots of marsh grass and shrubs.

As a storm surge reaches shore, it is “knocked down” by the marshland/wetland, and some scientists use the word absorbed, like a sponge.

So picture this:  Your house is about 21 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico and sits four feet off the ground.  A storm surge is coming your way, and by the time it reaches the marshland, it is 9 feet high.

Now remember, for every 3 miles of healthy marsh, this surge will be reduced by one foot as it passes over said marsh.  With me?

So, as it passes over the 21 miles of marshland between your house and the Gulf of Mexico, you can expect it to be reduced down to what height?

And your answer is?  The surge will be reduced by 7 feet down to a 2-foot wave.

Next question:  If your home is 4 feet above the ground, should you have water in your house?

And your answer is?  A resounding NO, but you may have 2 feet of water under your house.

But you get home, and you find that you had 1 foot of water in your house. What does that tell you?

Answer:  It tells you that there are no longer 21 miles of healthy marsh between your house and the Gulf of Mexico.  Your house flooded from a 9-foot surge, and in the past, it did not flood for taller surges than that.

This scenario, my dear friends, is exactly what happened to thousands of homes like ours during Hurricane Rita, buildings that had never flooded for any other previous hurricanes.

And now, here we sit, with Ike bearing down on Galveston, knowing that it is a huge storm, knowing that the storm surge is coming after it makes landfall, hoping by some miracle there will be enough marsh to knock that surge down to a height that will not flood our homes.  Here we sit, begging God again, for a miracle.

Because Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused a combined wetland loss of 217 square miles–a loss we could not afford–there is now LESS MARSH to protect us from Ike than there was to protect us from those two storms in 2005.  No substantial restoration has been done in the interim.

These facts especially hold true in Southeastern Louisiana, from the Atchafalaya River to the Mississippi Coast, the most rapidly disappearing wetland in the world.  This has not always been a flood zone, but with each storm surge coming further inland, more much-needed intermediate and freshwater marsh is destroyed, leaving us more vulnerable each time.

I’m not asking for pity.  I’m asking for understanding.  I’m asking my intelligent readership to see the dilemma.  Coastal Louisiana has served this nation tirelessly, but yet her wounds are left untended.

There is a campaign to save the Louisiana coast called “America’s WETLAND”.  I suggest to you that until America recognizes our plight and shows concern, followed by prompt restoration, then coastal Louisiana remains “Louisiana’s WETLAND”.

Louisiana’s wetlands support the coastal people.  Forget the petroleum that is produced here.  Forget the foreign oil that flows the pipelines below the wetland.  Forget the major ports located here.  Forget the seafood grown and harvested here.  Forget the migratory birds that depend on the wetlands each spring–

These wetlands are vital to the way of life and culture of about a million people.

And that is why coastal Louisianians always go home.

That is why we leave boats tied to the mailbox or the porch–so we can paddle through the high water to the road.

That is why we go home and grab our hoses to wash out the mud, and bring mops and gallons of bleach to clean the floors.

That is why we will eat lunch from the Salvation Army truck and be thankful to have it.

And this storm season I coined a slogan for these wetlanders:

TENACITY OVER TEARS

As I type this, the meager levees in my parish are now being over topped ahead of the storm.  That is not a good sign.

I appreciate every one of you more than I can ever show you.  Your prayers mean the world to me.  When you pray for me, you are praying for thousands of bayou people, and from them I offer you a big “down the bayou” thanks.  How can we ever repay you?

BW

BULLETIN:  I forgot to tell you that the local TV station is streaming live on the net as long as they are able.  Here is the link: http://www.kfolkjun.com/htv/WatchNow/tabid/54/Default.aspx

However, please don’t be confused by all the talk about “levees”, which are entirely different from the “barrier islands” and “barrier marsh” I spoke of above.  I hope some of you will visit HTV10 and get the full affect.  If you see images of Bayou Dularge, that is where I live.  Thanks.  BW.

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Comments

Hurricane Ike and Coastal Louisiana — 13 Comments

  1. There’s no need of repayment. Caring people will always reach out to others and hope that they in turn will reach out to someone else in need.
    (((Hugs))) sending thoughts of strength and faith.

  2. It’s difficult to sit back and wait for what you know is going to be a bad thing–and you can do nothing to change it. Prayers are with you, long-distance friend. I hope your lovely bayou home rides out the storm. you can handle a little water–let’s hope that’s all the damage that is sustained.

  3. Ohhhhhhh….. (expletives deleted). Sending thoughts, prayers, telepathic images of japanese ink fish prints, and anything else I got to Baby Jesus, Johnny Cash, and an old riverboat Capt. in Mississippi among others.

    Hoping these are the tests and not the quizzes.

    Going fishing I ain’t watching no more, TW.

  4. I surfed on over to check on you as I have heard parts of hwy 98 in the florida panhandle has been closed because of the surge (my MIL has a home a few blocks from the beach in that area). I figured if they were getting your area would be even more effected. Thank you for explaining the marsh/wetlands. Until your website and posts I had no knowledge of all this.

    You and your area will remain in my prayers. Stay Dry!

  5. I am praying for all of you. As a fellow Louisiana resident I know the devastation you can have. I wish more was being done for our wetlands and the rich culture in your area.

  6. I sit here praying, wishing and hoping. Concerned for all of you and our relatives in Houston, too. The Lovely Lady got 6 feet of water from Gustav….she will have more than that from Ike. Did Bayou Fabio get the repairs done on his place and boat?

  7. Louisiana’s wetlands are our first defense from tidal surge. Our second line of defense, are man made levees, which of course can fail (N.O. -Hurricane Katrina) . As I write this the levees in lower Terrebone Parish are being “topped” from Ike’s tidal surge. B.W., I’m praying y’all are far enough up the bayou that y’all won’t experience any flooding.

  8. Hello everyone. I am back from making hurricane preparations for us here at LilSis’s house–batteries, water, etc. One of my sons went down this afternoon and the water is already crossing the road from the terrible navigation channel that runs from the Gulf of Mexico up to the city north of us. We are not flooding from the bayou—but from that deep channel that acts like a funnel–funneling water straight up; and it’s rushing so fast that it floods through the marsh and into our yards.

    Our best case scenario for our homes not to flood is that the storm surge would diminish after the eye makes landfall, and there would be more tidal surge on the back side of the storm. What we are experiencing now is “ahead” of the eye making landfall.

    Your thoughts and prayers, and even Blu’s mode of help are ALL greatly appreciated.

    And by the way, Blu, what is TW????????

    From north Louisiana (and wishing I was down the bayou),
    BW

  9. LilSis here:

    As indicated in the last line of Imerie’s comment above, I’m sure many of you had no idea the predicament that the south Louisianians are in.

    Therefore, I beg each of you who read this post to send it to everyone (and I mean everyone) in your address book. Sure, not everyone who gets it will read it, but many will, and if you encourage them to forward it…. Well, you see where I’m going with this.

    The nation needs to be educated about the problem before they can even care about the people affected by the problem.

    Please take the few minutes needed to forward the URL of this post to all your friends and urge them to read it, then do the same.

    Thanks,
    HeatherHere

  10. It’s sickening how fast the marsh is disappearing! I’m praying that the storm surge is reduced by the time it gets to your bayou. This storm is crazy big and even those of us hundreds of miles inland are under a “Tropical Storm Warning”. I know there are LOTS of prayers going out for the Louisiana and Texas coastal people tonight.

  11. That Woman. Universally semi acceptable terminology.
    Guess I never hit submit on last post or gremlins deleted it.
    Gonna be plenty wet up here too I think. Hoping and praying my little towns of Watseka and Pontiac Illinois do not flood again.

    I too hope they don’t flood. Oh, how could I forget “that woman”?!!!

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