Storms Brewing in the Caribbean, Hurricane Season Ramps Up, and New Orleans Prepares


Two weather systems are brewing in the Atlantic and the Caribbean, just in time for the most active part of the hurricane season, which runs from Mid-August to October. FEMA is prepping for hurricane season as Tropical Storm Erin is moving away from the Cape Verde Islands in the far eastern Atlantic—and it’s expected to strengthen over the next two days. The National Hurricane Center in Miami said afternoon that the storm’s maximum sustained winds are near 40 mph.

In New Orleans, the Army Corps of Engineers is also making preparations for “the potential of a Caribbean disturbance turning into a tropical system;” they closed the barge gate at the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which is the first precaution when there is the potential for tropical weather.

The 150-ft. wide barge gate is part of the massive Inner Harbor Navigation Canal-Lake Borgne Surge Barrier that, along with the rest of the upgraded flood protection system, is designed to protect the New Orleans area from flooding in the event of a hurricane or storm. The gate takes about an hour to close, plus more time to prepare as divers make sure everything is secure, said Ricky Boyett, a spokesman for the Corps of Engineers.

With a low-pressure disturbance scheduled to pass over the Yucatan Peninsula [. . .], the National Hurricane Center gives it a 60 percent chance of becoming a tropical system once it heads out into the Gulf over the next 48 hours. Out in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Erin is moving west. But closing the gate doesn’t mean the Corps knows something the public doesn’t about the weather forecast, Boyett said. “The barge gate is closed when there’s the possibility of a storm,” Boyett said.

In addition to its role in the surge barrier, the gate is designed to regulate the flow of shipping, and provide safer navigation for vessels through the surge barrier. A second closure, known as the sector gate, sits next to the barge gate. The sector gate remains open until water rises to a trigger level that would close it when a storm approaches. As Hurricane Isaac moved into the area, the sector gates were closed on August 28, 2012, just before the storm was over New Orleans. [. . .] A third gate at Bayou Bienvenue also remains open until water rises to a certain level, Boyett said. [. . .]

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