By AMY WOLD
Advocate staff writer
September 04, 2012
“For the length of time we had high winds, it was amazing we didn’t have more trees down. We just had a stouter stand of trees around the parish.” Barry Keim, state climatologist
Hurricane Isaac lived up to some expectations, but to the delight of many who live in Baton Rouge, failed to live up to others.
Although the storm delivered significant winds to Baton Rouge on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, damage around the city was nowhere near what the city experienced during Hurricane Gustav in 2008.
“We lucked out in some respects because of what we went through in Hurricane Gustav,” said Barry Keim, state climatologist.
Gustav took down trees and power lines all over the city and many areas were left without power for a week or more. This time, life for most returned to normal within a day or two after the storm.
“For the length of time we had high winds, it was amazing we didn’t have more trees down,” Keim said. “We just had a stouter stand of trees around the parish.”
Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Isaac were also very different storms.
Hurricane Gustav had tropical force winds of more than 39 miles per hour for at least four hours and tropical storm force gusts for at least 10 hours.
While shorter-lived in the area than Isaac, Gustav had a maximum sustained wind of 61 miles per hour and a maximum gust of 91 miles per hour.
Hurricane Isaac winds were not as strong, but there were significant winds that stayed around for much longer.
For Hurricane Isaac, hourly observations at the Baton Rouge airport show a maximum sustained wind of 45 mph around 7 a.m. Wednesday with a maximum gust of 58 mph around 8 a.m. Wednesday.
There was a measured maximum gust of 63 mph at the Ben Hur Research Farm, Keim said.
However, sustained winds in the 20- to 30-mph range and gusts of about 40 mph persisted throughout the day. Even into Thursday, sustained wind speeds of about 20 mph continued into the evening.
“We weren’t at tropical force for very long,” Keim said. However, “the winds were substantial for a three-day period.”
Hurricane Katrina measured maximum sustained winds of 34 mph in Baton Rouge with maximum gusts of 50 mph.
“The biggest problem with the storm (Hurricane Isaac) was it was so slow-moving. It was big and slow-moving,” Keim said.
The size and speed of Hurricane Isaac helped push a sizeable storm surge toward Louisiana’s coastline and resulted in flooding in many areas, including neighborhoods in LaPlace and in the Plaquemines Parish community of Braithwaite.
At Shell Beach in St. Bernard Parish, there was an 11-foot storm surge measured with some reports that it could be as high as 13 feet, Keim said.
“That’s a pretty large storm surge for a Category 1 (hurricane),” he said.
As far as rainfall, Baton Rouge got about 5 to 6 inches of rain, but there were some areas that received more. In Sherwood Forest, for example, a gauge measured just over 9 inches of rain.
Some of the higher rain totals around the state included Livingston in Livingston Parish, which had 16.5 inches of rain, as well as communities closer to the coast such as Boothville or Galliano, which got between 9 and 10 inches of rain, Keim said.