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Reflecting on Hurricane Ida: Meteorologist John Morales Helps Make Sense of the Storm

Updated: Jan 2

By Amanda Gonzalez Garcia

Photo Credit to Wikimedia Commons

Hurricane Ida ripped across 1,500 miles of the U.S. on Aug. 29. The category 4 hurricane made landfall in New Orleans with sustained winds of over 150 MPH. These winds were seen and felt for over six hours, while an extreme amount of rainfall occurred, resulting in flooding issues for many residents.

According to The Weather Channel, between ten and 14 inches of rain were measured in New Orleans early on Aug. 29.

Ida impacted over 22 states, including New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. New York issued its first-ever flash flood emergency, according to The Washington Post.

Additionally, according to the Washington Post, this historic flooding killed at least 44 people across New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Photo Credit to Wikimedia Commons

Reports on The Weather Channel reveal that Ida will be a retired name by the end of the year. Hurricane names are only retired when they sustain substantial amounts of damage and destruction.

According to CBS News, as of Sept. 5, the death toll in New Orleans from Ida is currently at 68. Many remain without any power as they try to recover as best as possible from this devastation.

Students in Louisiana were severely impacted as well. A publication called "Insight into Diversity," stated that Nicholls State University evacuated over 43 students.

Senior at the University of Southern Mississippi Jennifer Shields expressed her anxiousness while preparing for the storm with television station WDAM 7.

“Normally, in the past, I would at least be with my family and have some type of comfort,” said Shields. “So being here by myself, I’m more nervous because it’s just me, and now I have to figure out what should I do to be more prepared by myself, instead of letting my mom or grandma take charge.”

A type of tropical storm, hurricanes form over warm ocean water and with enough of this warm water, the tropical storm cycle will begin to form into a hurricane.

Hurricane season in 2021 was predicted to be an above-average season, meaning that more storms were projected to be named. Seasoned meteorologist John Morales told The Buccaneer that some of the named storms have not been “all that strong.”

Being a meteorologist for over thirty years, Morales has covered hurricanes Irene, Katrina, Irma, and more.

He proposes that one way storms can be viewed is by looking at the number of tropical storms in a given season. Another is determining how much cyclone energy has been active in the Atlantic.

In the case of Ida, other factors like climate change and global warming may have affected the severity of the storm.

“Climate change helped Ida rapidly gain strength right before it made landfall,” according to NPR. “In about 24 hours, it jumped from a Category 1 to a Category 4 storm as it moved over abnormally hot water in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Global warming is defined as a gradual increase in the Earth's temperature. As a result, warmer sea surface temperatures could intensify tropical storm wind speeds, causing more damage as it reaches landfall.

Morales notes that climate change plays a “definite role” in category 3, 4, and 5 hurricanes.

“There is peer reviewed science indicating that in every tropical area around the world, there is a greater proportion of tropical systems reaching category 3, 4, and 5 intensities,” said Morales. “Those are the storms that cause the catastrophes. Ida being one of them.”

From Morales’ perspective, climate change is making these storms worse. However, he also notes that there is not a direct link in the number of named storms to the cause of climate change.

Photo Credit to Wikimedia Commons

Regardless of the cause, meteorologists are working hard to catch hurricanes before they hit land. Tools, such as satellites and planes, are starting to be used to detect hurricanes in an easy and more reliable way.

“Fifty years ago, we might have not detected as many,” Morales said.

These tools are timely, as Florida’s hurricane season began in June, and Floridians everywhere are preparing for more storms to come.

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