A quick glance at the forecast for Harvey appears to show something potentially disastrous: a second landfall near Houston on Wednesday morning. That’s the exact opposite of what the flooded city needs this week.
But a second landfall is not the emergency it sounds like, despite news headlines that indicate otherwise.
“That is not the headline I would write,” said Jack Beven, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center. Beven is in charge of Harvey on Monday.
“It’s a somewhat disorganized tropical storm,” Beven told The Washington Post. “Yes, the center will probably emerge over water and eventually move to the northeast, but it will probably make landfall east of Houston.”
Where the center of the storm makes landfall is important, because the storm surge and tidal effects are the worst to the right (in this case, the northeast) of the center. If landfall happens northeast of Houston, the “worst” effects will be well displaced from the city.
Even if the storm makes a second landfall south of Houston, the city isn’t going to experience anything close to Friday night’s Category-4 landfall.
“While the center may move offshore for a day or two,” the meteorologists at Space City Weather write, “the fact remains that Harvey no longer has an inner core, and what remains of it will deteriorate further while it is over land Sunday and at least part of Monday.”
Over the gulf, winds could pick up, but they slow down when they reach land, because of the friction of things like trees and buildings.
“The winds would not be very much of a big deal,” Beven said. “They’re going to get rain no matter what. The question is how much.”
That’s something forecasters will be focused on over the coming days, as Harvey lingers in Southeast Texas. Although the heaviest rain bands have dissipated for now, persistent rain and occasional heavy downpours will continue in the region through at least Wednesday.
Even though the prospect of Harvey making a second landfall sounds scary, meteorologists at Space City Weather are not losing any sleep over it. They go even further, saying that Harvey’s track back out into the gulf could be seen as a “positive development, because the storm is getting closer to being picked up by lower pressure in the Midwestern United States, which should lift it north.”
The faster this storm moves north, the sooner Houston will be out of the rain.