Reminds Me of an Old Movie

You know the one, WWII, where someone’s standing in a street, shooting at a strafing plane and the bullets from either wing-mounted gun go right to either side of him? I think Patton did that? Well, that’s Houston right now, between the rain-band guns of Harvey’s strafe.

Bang! Pow! Zowiee!

(as always, click to enlarge).

The strong/weak banding is saving our butts; it’s giving the ground time to recover. Frankly, I napped through the last bit of rain shown here, but the Harris County Flood Control District says I didn’t miss much. On the other hand, most of Corpus Christi would liked to have taken it as easy as I have (other than some stupid running around in it this morning).

And that's just the rain...

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What A Difference Six Hours Makes (Updated)

Well, technically, within seconds of my shutting the computer off last night, the first tornado warning was sounded for far southwest Harris County. I got up almost two hours ago to do some last-minute “should-have-been-done-yesterday” stuff, and took this snapshot of the 12 hour rainfall then:

several inches in SW Houston, but within minutes...

Areas just off the map to the west and south had 6-8″ overnight, but within minutes, a squall line arrived, and it started here. Unfortunately, when I started this post about 7:40 this morning, I was concentrating on the southwest, and clipped this picture too small.

Clearing... and one of the two working red lights we found.

Not particularly impressive, but then I was kind of busy driving. I literally had to dodge two downed trees and drive through several places with curb-high water. The pictures I managed to take were after the squall line passed through, and I could, you know, see to drive. But here’s the reality… look at the rainfall totals around BW8 and I-10 East (my neck of the woods), compared to two hours ago… and bear in mind that it really happened in thirty minutes.

Fortunately, the bayous are handling it for now.

What came through here, and why the rainfall in a hurricane is always a crapshoot:

Notice the big gap? It will move....

They’re talking about up to 40″ of rain in isolated areas, because no one knows where these gaps will be, nor the squall lines, nor where the storm is going to go after the next two days. For comparison, Houston normally averages 50 inches in a year.

Storm totals so far, from NOAA:

So far, not all it's cracked up to be, but not a yawner either. Still hurricane force winds, and it's stalling.

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No, Seriously.

I’m told there’s a hurricane out there somewhere. Not even an inch of rain in the last 3 hours, in Harris County. Scratch that, not even a half-inch. Much ado about nothing in Houston so far.

On the other hand, I’m sure they feel entirely different about it in Corpus.

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Oh, My.

Category 4.

Meanwhile, it’s a little breezy, with light showers at times, here on the Bridge. Some portions of extreme southeast Harris County are reporting almost an inch of rain in the last three hours. Zzzzzzz. Don’t expect exciting, breathless blogging over that level. I may not update until late tonight or even tomorrow at this rate.

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Seriously, it’s been a quiet (and dry) afternoon. I picked up some batteries just to be safe, but the rain bands have mostly been staying south of the City. But one person’s fortune is another persons… um, something.

Looks like the eye is still pretty ragged. That may be the only thing saving us from further strengthening.

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Running Away!

Well, our office isn’t in direct customer (read: public) service, and we’re all Tier 3 employees (no emergency duties, nor standby), so our boss just told us to bail. Not uncommon, since that gets us out of the way of the idiots, last-minute evac-ers, preppers, and actual emergency personnel. Plus some employees may have to deal with kids from schools deciding to close late.

I will be spending a couple of hours making the last minute preparations before my next post. For now, I’ve got another half-hour of work to get done before I run off.

Clarification: I meant from work; I’m not leaving Houston. Sorry I confused you Brickmuppet.

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A Few Resources and Thoughts

First, I’m not a meteorologist. I’m a bureaucrat for the City of Houston. (Just ask Foghat!) I write to entertain and and inform (whether you or me is a question I can’t answer), and my opinions should not be taken as anything but that; do not treat my words as sources of wisdom on which to risk or save your life. But one of those car-window-shattering tools could be a really good investment right now if you live in Texas.

The one thing I don’t rely on for information is any TV station or cable channel. Let’s face it, they want to sensationalize and keep you hanging, so they dribble out the information in tiny bits and fill in with things you don’t need to know, but they assume you will find interesting. When I want to know something, I want information, not “human interest angles” and some pretty/handsome talking face breathlessly expounding someone’s latest “worst possible outcome.” Let’s not even mention the incredible amount of bullshit and fakery coming out of Fakebook and Twit-talk. This nonsense is dangerous and misleading; it promotes attitudes like mine, only worse. But….the stupidest thing you can do is assume that because the media (and lying liers) are always hyping is that it is nothing but hype, every time. It isn’t. And this is one of those times that it is likely to not be hype.

As a resident of Houston since 1985 and having survived several hurricanes (plus drawing on my brother’s experiences in 1983′s Alicia), I can say this: Harvey is a once-in-a-generation occurrence. Hurricanes might slow down, but loops and stalling like we’re seeing develop here normally do not happen over land. When they do happen (which is rare) it’s usually in mid-ocean, and nobody but a few ships are inconvenienced. Back in 2001, Allison dumped 12-36 inches of rain in 24 hours, and as it happened, I was in one of the areas getting 36″. The crazy thing was that the three meso-cyclones (basically, circular eddies) that spun off from Allison after it was no longer a named storm, were all located over the Greens Bayou and Carpenter’s Bayou watersheds. They stretched over the White Oak, Buffalo, and Braes Bayou watersheds as well, which is what inundated downtown and the Medical Center. Then the storm moved off, giving us a day and a half of respite before moving back on Monday for an encore performance of 5″-11″.

Lots of streams in Houston

But Harvey, while it won’t match the one-day performance of Allison, will hit a MUCH more widespread area, and add a not-negligible storm surge with it. If, as some tracks predict, it hovers on the edge of the shore, or parallels it (on or off) while slowly moving towards Houston, the winds on the right side of the hurricane will continue to drive a storm surge onshore. Think “localized global warming sea level rise of 5 feet” and you’ll start to get the picture. Now add four days of heavy rain, adding one to three feet, completely saturating the ground. How much the soil can absorb is dependent on the soil type, elevation, water table, rate of rainfall, and prior absorption. A very rough rule of thumb is that the maximum the ground can take (hereabouts, YMMV) is about 1″ an hour for about two hours. Then the street flooding starts. After that, assume absorption of a 1/4″ an hour. Of course, the amount of asphalt and concrete make a difference…and we’ve added a lot in some critical places over the last 15 years.

Because of the “hype” tendency and fragmented information presented by TV reports, when I want to know how much rain we’re getting and what the current state of affairs is in the bayous, I go to the source — the Harris County Flood Control District Flood Warning System. For the effects of traffic, I use the Inrix iPhone traffic app, or check the direct feed from online.

More later, I need to stop being a bad employee and go do some work.

Update: Bad for another moment — meant to point out that I usually try to find some other blogger with more expertise to check with; Brenden Loy seems to have gone on to a real job, so this time it’s Levi at His is the only place I’ve been able to find the actual model tracks from the earlier post.

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