1 New Orleans, Friday Evening August 26, 2005
** WTNT42 EWA 270247 ***
TCDAT2 HURRICANE KATRINA DISCUSSION NUMBER 14
NWS TPC/ EARTHWEATHER ANALYTICS, NEW ORLEANS LA
7 PM EDT FRI AUG 26 2005
SATELLITE PRESENTATION CONSISTS OF PERFECT COMMA-SHAPED CLOUD PATTERN OVER WESTERN CUBA WRAPPING AROUND LARGE CLUSTER OF DEEP CONVECTION. EYE NOT CLEARLY VISIBLE ON IR IMAGES BUT RADAR DATA INDICATE EYE EMBEDDED WITHIN CIRCULAR AREA... KATRINA FORECAST TO MOVE DIRECTLY OVER WARM LOOP CURRENT OF GULF OF MEXICO...LIKE ADDING HIGH OCTANE FUEL TO FIRE... OFFICIAL FORECAST BRINGS KATRINA TO 115 KNOTS...CATEGORY FOUR ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON HURRICANE SCALE.
The Thibodeaux brothers stood side by side on the scrolled second-floor balcony of the flamingo pink house in Algiers, drinking beer and looking a lot alike. Corbin Thibodeaux was older, a little taller, and somewhat better groomed, but only because he hadn’t had time to change out of his press conference clothes. Guy was stockier, sporting the thick, ruddy neck of a biker, a full sleeve of tattoos and unruly hair that cast him as Jesus for some people and Charles Manson for others.
Guy’s grin was quicker, his easy laughter more from the belly. With a hawkish nose and straightly set mouth, Corbin came off as serious in a way that often put him at odds with the world in which he’d grown up. The Thibodeaux brothers shared their father’s square Cajun bones and doglike urge to run. They each wore a sunburned version of their mother’s fair freckled skin and studied the skyline with her exacting, hazel-eyed squint.
Corbin always thought of his mother, ached for her a little, whenever a good storm rolled up from the Gulf, but this evening, he was focused on the precise trim and trajectory of each breeze that lifted the Spanish moss and shuddered the whorled oak trees that shaded the street below. Keeping a quiet vigil between a loaded barbecue grill and solar-powered Remote Telemetry Unit, he checked the barometer on the wall, tapped a notation into his laptop and trained his spotting scope on the crooked elbow of the Mississippi.
Beyond the rolling brown water, on the east bank of the river, lay the culture clash of scattered Marigny rooftops and the glassy angles of the Central Business District. Above the high-rise lights of the CBD, beyond a faint layer of cayenne-colored smog, the first thin swish of Katrina’s dervish skirt could be seen in the evening sky over New Orleans.
Hurricanes were Corbin’s bailiwick, industrial risk assessment being the core income of his one-man-band consulting firm, EarthWeather Analytics. Companies with oil rigs and mainframes in and along the Gulf of Mexico needed to know what each storm would do, where it would go, whom it would kill and how much it would cost. Over the years, Corbin had become very good at telling them. He’d been warning his clients all week that Katrina was going to cost a lot, and he was privately laden with the statistical probabilities of whom it was going to kill.
Corbin lived for events of this magnitude, but most storms were born and spun out their life cycles over the ocean. Never touched land. Never made news. The last several computer models he’d run before leaving his office in the CBD showed Katrina sucking in a deep, warm breath over the Gulf of Mexico and shrieking directly into New Orleans as a Cat 5 in approximately thirty-nine hours.
It was like seeing everything and everyone he loved tied to a railroad track.
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