2.5 The Great Louisiana Flood of August 2016 (Invited Presentation)

Tuesday, 24 January 2017: 11:30 AM
Ballroom 6E (Washington State Convention Center )
Robert Henson, Weather Underground, Boulder, CO

One of the most catastrophic inland U.S. flood events in recent years struck a large part of southeast Louisiana and adjacent south Mississippi in mid-August 2016. Extremely heavy rain developed and persisted across the area ahead of an upper-level low that moved very slowly westward along the Gulf Coast. The air mass over southeast Louisiana contained near-record amounts of atmospheric moisture, which fueled the excessive rainfall. The heaviest rains, with widespread multi-day totals of 250-500 mm (10-20”) and localized amounts topping 750 mm (30”), fell in a broad swath from Baton Rouge to Lafayette on August 10-13. The worst flooding occurred from the Baton Rouge area south and east toward Lake Pontchartrain. An estimated 146,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, with insured damages topping $10 billion. At least 13 people were killed, and at least 30,000 were rescued from high water in homes and vehicles. The flooding got little attention in U.S. media until several days after it began, prompting questions about how weather events are identified and prioritized for coverage. The system never met the National Hurricane Center’s formal criteria for being classified as a tropical cyclone, although it had warm-core features and behaved much like a tropical depression. The lack of a “name” may have influenced public and media perception of the dire hazards this system posed.
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