It's been getting more widely accepted that Katrina was NOT a Category 4 storm, especially by the time it hit New Orleans. Now we get more data that is just chilling.
New data suggest Katrina was a less intense, Category 3 storm
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - (KRT) - Hurricane Katrina might have battered New Orleans and the Gulf Coast as a considerably weaker system than the Category 4 tempest initially reported.
New, preliminary information, compiled by hurricane researchers, suggests the system struck southeast Louisiana on Aug. 29 with peak-sustained winds of 115 mph. That would have made it a Category 3 storm, still a major hurricane but a step down from the enormous destructive force of a Category 4.
Katrina might have further downgraded to a strong Category 1 system with 95-mph winds, when it punched water through New Orleans' levees, severely flooding most of the city and killing hundreds. The levees were designed to withstand a Category 3 storm.
If verified, the wind information, compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hurricane Research Division, could have chilling ramifications. ...
That information, derived mainly from hurricane hunter aircraft, still might stand after the hurricane center in Miami-Dade County conducts a thorough reanalysis.
Hurricane specialist Richard Knabb said the new wind measures conflict with the initial reports, but noted, "that's almost always the case." He said the hurricane center has to pore through much more technical data before deciding what wind speeds will be included in Katrina's final report, likely not to be completed for months.
"We're still in the midst of doing that analysis," he said.
Powell said the new data show that Katrina packed 95-mph winds over the east end of Lake Pontchartrain and about 65 mph over the west end, enough to cause the levees to fail.
I spent a full day in the West End area looking at damage. I find it hard to fathom (at first) that much damage was caused by 65mph winds. A good winter storm will give us 65mph winds but of course there is a difference between a few gusts of 65 and several hours of sustained winds.
A few months ago Tropical Storm Cindy hit New Orleans as a direct hit and people in town were amazed how much damage we got from a tropical storm. I made the point that it was all about geography. A direct hit from a TS is much worse than a hurricane 100 miles away. I've heard it claimed that my half of town never saw hurricane force winds from Katrina. ... Although driving thru town, you'd have a very, very hard time believing that.
Having said all of the above, continuing from a previous post. If the stormwalls failed in Cat 1 winds, somebody has some explaining to do.