While in Louisiana we can hardly say that we dodged a bullet from Hurricane Sally, as potentially damaging rains remain very possible, it’s certain that the move of the latest storm to threaten our coast was welcome here, if unwelcome to our neighbors to the east.
And we’re not done yet.
This is a hurricane season with dangerous implications for Louisiana, not least because the state is still dealing with the devastation of Hurricane Laura late last month. From the coast at Cameron to the Arkansas line, that storm caused massive property damage in Louisiana, although fortunately a relatively small loss of life.
More than 10,000 people from southwestern Louisiana are still evacuated in New Orleans, once in Sally’s crosshairs. They are put up mostly in hotels, a response to the COVID-19 threat; hotels everywhere have vacant rooms as a result of the pandemic.
Only God knows how much more is ahead this year.
Monday marked only the second time on record that five tropical cyclones swirled simultaneously in the Atlantic basin. The last time that happened was in 1971, forecasters said. Happily, none of the others were expected to threaten U.S. shores, and one was downgraded to a low-pressure trough on Monday evening.
It’s still a warning sign that no one in Louisiana can afford to ignore: Our state remains in the midst of heavy tropical activity, and we can ill-afford another hurricane in the midst of the manifold difficulties of 2020.
The good news of this week is that Louisiana and the nation were diligent about Sally’s approach. State authorities mobilized early and President Donald Trump granted quickly a request for emergency preparation by the U.S. government. Flood control authorities remained on guard, closing the gates along canals that could overflow their banks from storm surge.
Now, much of that risk is expected to head inland along the eastern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. We pray for our neighbors’ safety, as flooding remains a serious concern from Sally.
But few are missing the significance of the confluence of major storm events and the droughts and wildfires in California and other West Coast states. Changing climate conditions must be addressed: A warming of the globe’s oceans is making the strongest of hurricanes, those with wind speeds of 110 mph or more, even stronger, scientists believe.
Warmer air holds more moisture, making storms rainier, and rising seas — combined with soil subsidence along Louisiana’s delta shores — make storm surges more damaging.
If Sally was not for us a major event, Laura was, and remains. We still have much to do to recover in a busy hurricane season only half over.