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.
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 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?
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.