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As if Louisiana, much less the country, has not had enough of severe weather supercharged by climate change this year, more is on the way. Evacuations have begun as Tropical Storm Sally is picking up strength and heading straight for southeastern Louisiana. Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expect it to make landfall as a Category 2 hurricane sometime early on Tuesday, according to CNN. The Mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell, issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents outside of the city’s levee protection system starting at 6 pm last night. Along the coast, several parishes have mandatory evacuation declarations. And there will be widespread flooding — 6-12″ of rain are expected to fall from New Orleans all the way to Tampa, Floria — due to Sally.
Why This Matters:Trump voters in Florida are less likely to heed severe weather warnings — they believe conservative media outlets that claim that weather forecasts are exaggerated because the liberal media is hyping climate change. And now, the government’s messages about the severity of climate risks might be undermined because NOAA, which oversees the National Weather Service, has hired a climate skeptic to oversee the Weather Service and its hurricane and climate forecasts. Here’s my (Monica’s) prediction — there’s a good chance he will try to politicize weather forecasts.
Sally Earliest Ever “S” Storm
The previous record for the earliest 19th named storm was October 4, 2005. Sally is bringing a trifecta of problems to the Gulf Coast — wind, storm surge, and flooding with as much as 2 feet of rain to some areas. Late last night, the National Hurricane Center ramped up its warnings as the storm slowed over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico where it will gain intensity. Another storm has formed in the Atlantic — the 20th of the year — it is Tropical Storm Teddy and forecasters believe it too will become a hurricane by tomorrow.
NOAA’s Climate Denying New Leader
The Hill reported yesterday that NOAA has hired David Legates, a professor of climatology at the University of Delaware, who reportedly told NPR that will serve as the deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction. This position has direct oversight authority for the National Weather Service, the National Hurricane Center, the National Weather Service’s Climate offices, and the National Climate Data Center. Legates writes for the Heartland Institute, which The Hill reports is “a right-wing think tank that is known to promote climate change denial. The organization often posts rebuttals to climate information released by government agencies, including NOAA.” Legates has helped authoran academic paper that refuted previous findings about the role climate change plays in destroying the habitat of polar bears. In addition, he has “pushed a discredited theory that the sun is responsible for climate change and disputed findings by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that found that human activity is responsible for global warming,” according to The Hill.
This year has seen many bad records broken when it comes to climate-driven severe weather. We are now several letters into the Greek alphabet for storm names having reached this point (23 so far) for only the second time since storm names began.
Why This Matters: The number of storms is not just a fun fact — it is devastating for tens of thousands of people.
Hurricane Sally, now a category 2 storm (winds at 110 mph) has slowed and intensified in the last 24 hours, with landfall now shifting to the east (fortunately away from New Orleans), but crawling toward the Eastern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida Panhandle coastline with its high winds whipping the shore, the storm surge and huge rainfall amounts are expected to last for the next 36 hours.
Why This Matters: As President Trump denies the science, which he literally did today in California, the Gulf Coast gets ready for rainfall totals measured in feet not inches.
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