Good Thursday morning! It was this day 8 years ago, when one of the worst US Natural Disasters would occur. At 6:10am, the eye of hurricane Katrina had made it’s first northern Gulf Coast landfall along the southeastern tip of Louisiana. It would then make a second landfall along the Mississippi Gulf Coast a few hours later, as it tracked north. There were actually 3 landfalls in the US with Katrina, with the first happening in southeast Florida, as the storm was just starting to get organized. Hurricane Katrina was a monster as it tracked across the gulf. The setup was perfect for this wild storm, due to extremely warm gulf water temperatures, no wind shear, no nearby dry air and general rising motion in the tropics.
The storm tracked around a ridge of high pressure, located from Bermuda to Georgia. There was a weakness in the ridge over the northern Gulf Coast, which caused the storm to turn north and impact our area, as well as the surrounding states.
What made Katrina such a mess for so many was her size. Katrina was an enormous storm… Small hurricanes typically die out quickly at landfall and the core of the strong winds and surge only affect a small area. With Katrina’s enormous size, the storm took a long time to weaken over land and the damaging winds and surge extended well out from the center. There was a storm surge in Gulf Shores similar to the one with Hurricane Ivan. Katrina made landfall over 100 miles away from Gulf Shores! The damaging winds extended hundreds of miles inland, which caused major issues, even across Alabama.
Below is a great article from the National Weather Service in Birmingham, which includes the local impacts from Katrina in west and central Alabama. Check it out!
Hurricane Katrina formed near Long Island in the Bahamas on the afternoon of August 23rd, 2005. Katrina reached hurricane strength just before making landfall north of Miami, Florida on the evening on August 25th, 2005. Katrina produced 10 to 20 inches of rain, flooding, tornadoes, and injuries across far southern Florida.
Katrina moved southwestward across the extreme southern tip of Florida and into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. Katrina reached category five in the central Gulf of Mexico with sustained winds around 175 mph. This occurred on Sunday August 28th, 2005. Katrina then turned on a northward path.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the Gulf Coast early Monday morning August 29th, 2005 as a large category four hurricane. Sustained winds were around 145 mph in Southeast Louisiana. Katrina continued northward, affecting areas from near New Orleans, Louisiana to near Mobile, Alabama. Devastating damage occurred along the Gulf Coast. Katrina will most likely go down as one of the worst natural disasters in United States history.
Katrina weakened to a tropical storm Monday evening August 29th, 2005 northwest of Meridian, Mississippi. Katrina continued to move northward across far eastern Mississippi overnight, then into Tennessee Tuesday morning. Katrina finally lost its tropical characteristics as it merged with a cold front over northern Pennsylvania on August 31st, 2005.
Katrina produced local effects that were widespread across Central Alabama. Numerous trees and power lines were downed, minor to major structural damage occurred, and power outages were widespread. Many locations remained without power for a week or more. Storm damage effects across parts of West Central Alabama were worse than what was sustained during Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Four tornadoes occurred across Central Alabama, two F0s and two F1s. Here is the information on those tornadoes.
Storm total rain amounts of 1 inch or less were measured in the northeast and east central portions of Central Alabama. This was due to dry air wrapping into the circulation Katrina and diminishing the rain area. Rain totals of 1 to 2 inches were common over the southeast sections. Rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches occurred over much of West Alabama, west of interstate 65. Some locations received 5 to 6 inch amounts in the northwest sections, specifically in Lamar and Marion Counties.
The highest sustained winds from Katrina ranged from 25 mph along the Georgia state line to around 65 mph along the Mississippi state line. Peak wind gusts generally ranged from around 35 mph to near 80 mph, with the highest gusts occurring across West Central Alabama and in the highest elevations.
Here are some peak wind gusts and storm total rainfall amounts associated with Hurricane Katrina.
WVUA Chief Meteorologist Richard Scott