Why Hurricane Laura’s storm surge will be devastating

Bolivar after IKE courtesy weather.gov
Bolivar after IKE courtesy weather.gov

I flew over Bolivar two days after Hurricane Ike scraped the peninsula clean and the picture above is what I saw from the helicopter. My heart broke. Southwestern Louisiana went through Hurricane Rita in 2005 with similar results and now, in what looks to be almost the same spot, they will suffer through Hurricane Laura tonight.

There are many reasons this will be so devastating, but the surge is poised to be some of the most decimating. Here’s why:


Winds drive surge and right now winds are being reported (7 am) as 115 mph. The more wind, the more water is pushed toward the coast. The new 0Z European model below shows a landfalling hurricane with 136 mph winds! A strong Category 4 hurricane AT LANDFALL. UPDATE: NHC is calling for 145 mph winds at landfall! This will be crushing. I highlighted the estimated knots per hour below:

European Model showing an estimated 136mph wind at landfall

So the wind alone will buzz-saw the strike zone.


Now, look at the coast, an area that is concave. When water hits a concave coast, it has nowhere to go but up:

SW Louisiana Coast

The National Weather Service in Lake Charles is already issuing warnings for a 15-foot storm surge and keep in mind that Cameron is 8 feet above sea level and Lake Charles is 15 feet above sea level.

LCH Surge Warning

So the wind is going to be fierce and the coastal zone is unfavorable. There is one more unfortunate element...

High tide

The tide chart below of Cameron, Louisiana, shows that the high tide runs 2 feet and occurs tonight just after midnight. Just when Laura is expected to begin making its landfall.

High Tide in Cameron

Prayers for Louisiana. This will wipe out so many who have rebuilt in the past fifteen years. There is a whole suite of Ike pictures from Bolivar right here to get an idea and you can learn much more about storm surge at this NWS website right here.

As for our surge, look for flooded low-lying waterways at the coast and throughout Chambers and Liberty County. We could certainly experience 50-mph winds at the coast with power outages in our eastern viewing area. We’ll be with you throughout the day on KPRC 2. Stay safe.


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About the Author:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.