What if Laura, or a similar storm, struck Baton Rouge?
In a season where 30 storms were named and 12 made landfall, it says a lot to be the “signature” storm. However, Hurricane Laura left an everlasting impression on Louisiana breaking records, laying a long road to recovery and providing a stark reminder to the rest of the state.
“It’s the highest storm surge that we know of, in Louisiana. Our records go back to about 1880,” said Dr. Barry Keim, Louisiana State Climatologist.
The water reached 20.9 feet in Creole, Cameron Parish. That ousted an 18.7 foot surge measured in St. Bernard Parish from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Though the coast was scoured and destroyed, the more visually stunning damage was 30 miles inland, in Lake Charles.
“We had powerlines all over the place, huge trees, laying across the street, facades pulled off of buildings. It was a different kind of damage, but it was very reminiscent of what I saw with Katrina. Everywhere you turned was just total devastation,” said Keim.
“I don’t think there are very many people that have worked inside the eye wall of a major hurricane,” said Roger Erickson of the National Weather Service in Lake Charles.
Erickson described the worst of the storm. “The building is feeling like it is going to fall apart. There are a lot of creaking sounds in terms of the building shifting on its foundation. There’s also a lot of debris hitting the building so you’re hearing a lot of loud clunking sounds.”
NWS has a safe room inside of their building—a last resort as outside infrastructure such as Doppler Radar is shredded by debris.
“It (Laura) was moving at a very rapid forward velocity. So, we had hellacious winds all across the city of Lake Charles, just annihilated Lake Charles. We were still a category three north of Lake Charles into Beauregard Parish and it still maintained its hurricane integrity all the way to I-20,” said Keim.
As we stay vigilant in the Capital City, know Lake Charles fate could easily be replicated in the red stick. In 2008, Hurricane Gustav produced sustained winds of 60mph and gusts over 90mph. Keim estimates that at just 50 miles farther inland than Lake Charles, Baton Rouge could have experienced 110mph winds with gusts over 130mph.
“As you increase wind linearly, the damage goes up exponentially,” said Keim.
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