Clean up from hurricane Irene is barely underway and there are more systems brewing. Of course, it is tropical storm season.
The current event of note is a system brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, as AccuWeather.com forecasters report it has the potential to be the next billion-dollar disaster for the United States. This time, however, the bulk of the concern is related to flooding.
One of the storms, Katia, looks as though it could turn out to sea. Another, still under development remains unclear. Most AccuWeather.com meteorologists think this system will become a named storm (tropical storm or hurricane), and there is great potential for torrential rainfall and flooding somewhere along the north-central Gulf Coast.
The consensus among AccuWeather’s nearly 100 meteorologists is that it will be an extensive, slow-moving system, with downpours, stormy seas and rough surf conditions. Rough seas alone have potential to shut down rigs in the Gulf for an extended period.
From 10 to 20 inches of rain may fall on part of the north-central Gulf Coast beginning late this week and continuing into next week, which result in serious flooding, the forecasters say.
Areas from the western Florida Panhandle to the Texas coast are at risk. However, the AccuWeather.com consensus is that little or no rain from the system will reach into the neediest areas of Texas and Oklahoma. But the system will likely pull cooler air down into the two states over the Labor Day weekend, ending the extensive heat wave.
The developing tropical system in the Gulf can move just about anywhere. That movement includes zigzags, loops, a 180-degree change in direction, a stall, and perhaps a slow, steady straight path inland.
Meteorologist Mark Mancuso can see how New Orleans, with its levee system in question, could be hit with over a foot of rain. "It's not just the rainfall, but perhaps days of pressure on levees, as storm surge water could be driven into Lake Pontchartrain if a tropical storm or hurricane hangs out over the north-central Gulf of Mexico," Mancuso notes.
Considering potential for damage, impact to the petroleum industry and commerce in the Gulf Coast region, the system could be the next costly disaster in year challenging the United States and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s budget, which is already in trouble.
As for hurricane Irene, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack toured East Coast agriculture to assess the impact. North Carolina’s corn, cotton, soybean and tobacco crops were on pace to perform well this year, but have been hit hard. For the most part, the state’s hog farms have faced little direct impact.
Various vegetable crops have been impacted, such as Virginia’s tomato crop. New Jersey’s Agriculture Department reports sporadic damage to sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, potatoes and squash.
According to the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau corn crops in central and eastern sections of the state has been flattened, as well as substantial damage to the apple crop.
Dairy farmers in upstate New York and Vermont are dealing with power outages and some are forced to dump milk as trucks are unable to reach the farms to haul it out.
Of course, many farm families are dealing with flooded homes and businesses.
There have been no agricultural-specific cost estimates regarding damage. General estimates for the overall impact of Irene are in the $20 billion area.