Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hurricane Humberto!!! What Hurricane Humberto?

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Autos avoid downed power lines on Texas 87 in Sabine Pass on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007. Hurricane Humberto made landfall near Sea Rim Park early this morning.

Hurricane Humberto Photo Gallery
By the staff of The Beaumont Enterprise

Wednesday started with heavy showers -- a way of life in Southeast Texas. After I returned home from work, I received a phone call from my manager and then my workplace automated emergency system. The employees were advised not to report to work on Thursday in anticipation of Tropical Storm Humberto. Humberto? When did this tropical storm develop? It developed a few hours earlier in the Gulf Coast.

The water is usually warm in Gulf of Mexico during this time of the year. So, it didn't surprise us that Humberto developed from a tropical depression to a category 1 hurricane. What surprised us is how it developed into a hurricane within few hours. Humberto was a tropical storm when I went to bed. It developed into a hurricane by the time it made a landfall east of High Island after 2 a.m CDT. The MSNBC News Service puts it this way:

BEAUMONT, Texas - Call it the instant hurricane. Humberto grew from a tropical depression with 35 mph winds to a full-scale hurricane in 18 hours, surprising the Texas-Louisiana coast Thursday with 80 mph winds and heavy rain.

“To put this development in perspective, no tropical cyclone in the historical record has ever reached this intensity at a faster rate near landfall,[Franklin: It would be nice to know, someday, why this happened]” said senior hurricane specialist James Franklin at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Meteorologists dismissed the idea that Humberto's rapid growth was the result of global warming. They also noted one positive: The storm's short genesis didn't give Humberto time to build into more than just a minimal hurricane.

Luckily my neighborhood didn't lose electricity, water, phone service or Cable TV. I slept last night until the eye of the hurricane was over Beaumont around 4 a.m. CDT. It was useless to try to sleep with the wind and rain drama taking place outside. Mark was already awake waiting on the eye of the hurricane to pass so he can hit the road to photograph the damage caused by the storm. So, I chatted with him until it was safe for him to leave home. Then, I took another nap.

More than 100,000 homes lost power due to the storm. The Entergy crews are working on restoring the electricity to those homes [Update Sept. 14, 2007: Entergy Texas expects to restore power to most of Beaumont, Mid-County, Port Arthur and Orange through today and Saturday]. Orange County is probably hit the worst with the most homes left without electricity in the city of Orange. Some 700 AT&T customers lost their phone service. AT&T crew are working on restoring phone service for those customers.

The three major refineries in Port Arthur were shut due to power failure. So, expect a rise in the price of fuel this weekend through next week. [Update Sept. 14, 2007: Power has been restored at all three Port Arthur refineries]

Governor Rick Perry declared Galveston, Jefferson (my county) and Orange Counties as disaster areas. I'm confident of the ability of the local and state leadership as we experienced during Hurricane Rita. The residents affected by Humberto's damage are already working to restore their neighborhoods. Hurricane Rita taught us the storm that doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger.

© Fayrouz Hancock

A roseate spoonbill lands on a branch at the Smith Oaks bird sanctuary in High Island on May 20, 2007.

High Island, where Hurricane Humberto made a landfall, is world famous for the number and variety of bird species that migrate through it each year.

Smith Oak bird sanctuary slideshow

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