Saturday, August 27, 2005

Beach Evacuation (updated/corrected)

See late update/correction, below

According to a notice on the web site of the Pensacola News Journal "Evacuations: Mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas, beaches and mobile homes is to begin at 6 a.m. Sunday. Decisions about possible evacuations and other actions will be made in the afternoon."

Typically, on Pensacola Beach a mandatory evacuation is enforced when law enforcement agencies do not allow beach residents, business owners or employees, or visitors to enter the beach. Once you leave, you can't come back until county officials say so.

During a mandatory evacuation, Sheriff substation vehicles patrol the streets with loud speaker announcements. At a later stage, those who remain may be personally approached by deputy sheriffs and even more strongly urged to leave. On occasion, they may ask a truly recalcitrant lingerer to sign a statement acknowledging the risks of staying behind. Whatever its legal efficacy, one supposes it is hoped such a request will have the desired psychological effect of scaring the crap out of you.

NHC storm projections remain rather uncertain. Katrina seemed almost to stall out for a time Saturday afternoon as it underwent changes in the eyewall and quite probably encountered new upper atmospheric conditions which -- so it has been surmised for some days, now -- will steer it in a more northerly or northwesterly direction. Much depends on the storm's forward speed once it begins a more northerly path.

By 4 pm Saturday, the National Hurricane Center was broadening even more the official 'Hurricane Watch' zone. Now, it is defined "westward to intercoastal City Louisiana and eastward to the Florida-Alabama Border."

The eastern edge of the zone is less than 25 miles from Pensacola as the evacuation vehicle travels and just a short swim from the tip of Santa Rosa Island.

The public advisory reads in part:
Reports from NOAA and Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate maximum sustained winds are near 115 mph...with higher gusts. Katrina is a category three hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours...and Katrina could become a category four hurricane later tonight or Sunday.

Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 45 miles... 75 km...From the center...and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 160 miles.
The NHC Discussion Section adds this:
Katrina should strengthen as it comes out of the concentric eyewall cycle. The GFDL [model forecast] is now calling for a peak intensity of 131 kt {about 141 mph] while the Ships model is calling for 130 kt and the FSU Superensemble 128 kt. The intensity forecast will call for strengthening to 125 kt at landfall...and there remains a chance that Katrina could become a category five hurricane before landfall.
That would put it in a class with Hurricane Andrew or even Hurricane Camille, still the only 'official' Category 5 storm to hit the continental United States.


A reader from the beach sends this correction/update:
This morning's (Sat.'s) hard copy News Journal had a blurb on Page One just like what you're quoting, and then said "Story, 4A". When you went to the story, it said that SANTA ROSA COUNTY was evacuating low lying areas Sun., but, in a completely separate paragraph, that ESCAMBIA COUNTY decisions would be made in the afternoon. (In fact, this jibes with what I [was told in a]...noon telcon with Escambia Emergency Management's hot line.)

Since then, as you can see by the note on the current PNJ web page, the Santa Rosa County evacs have been put on hold. There also has still been no evacuation ordered in Escambia County, and when I called their Emergency Mgmnt. hot line late this afternoon I was told that following Escambia's telcon with the NHC nothing had changed, still no evacs ordered, and that, in fact, the entire hot line staff was being sent home. When I asked if that were standard procedure, the hot line staffer replied, "Not when a storm is expected here, no." I commented, "WELL, then, that sounds like very good news indeed," and she agreed wholeheartedly.

Since then the only other thing I've heard was on the 10 p.m. WEAR newscast... in which they stated there'd be another meeting of Escambia officials tomorrow (Sun.) a.m. at 10 a.m. re any possible evacuations. I would only read that as being cautionary in case there is any substantial change to the track, which, of course, so far there isn't.

* * * With all the mixed signals coming from the media vs. the county, it's hard to know for sure what to do.

So I really hope the NHC knows whereof it speaks, though I realize these storms can have a mind of their own, especially near landfall.


kate said...

Positive thoughts to all my peeps in Pensacola.

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