No, New Orleans Is Not Getting Another Katrina This Weekend

New Orleans really doesn't need to worry about a hurricane barreling into them right now, even if you see a Facebook post proclaiming, "SHARE THIS IMMEDIATELY!" You can stop calling the National Weather Office in a panic now.

Illustration for article titled No, New Orleans Is Not Getting Another Katrina This Weekend

Like most viral misinformation, a tiny glimmer of truth hides within the fear-mongering. In this case, it's the existence of a storm forming in the Atlantic basin. Eric Holthaus on Slate sums up the not-threatening facts of what we know about the storm so far:

There is, in fact, a tropical system in the formation stages just east of the Caribbean, but at the time the above post was made forecast models showed an eventual path ranging from Texas to Bermuda. That's a lot of real estate. As of Thursday morning, the National Hurricane Center raised its five-day formation odds to 70 percent and most models had all but ruled out a threat to the Gulf Coast.


If anything, the storm is currently on a path to upset Bermuda and Florida, if it even manages to strengthen to intimidating intensity. Read a detailed rebuttal of this particular misleading forecast in the rest of Holthaus' article here, which has predictably elicited threats by the hoax's perpetuator.

The source of this particular myth, Kevin Martin, has been an unreliable source before, and was the topic of a thorough (and creative) evisceration on The Vane. Undeterred by a winter of failed blizzard predications that local meteorologists had to constantly discredit, he's forcing the National Hurricane Center to play a game of wack-a-mole in constantly debunking each week's overwrought claims. In an effort to head off the next hoax before it happens, the National Hurricane Center to make a statement cautioning people over giving too much credence to long-outlook forecasts to specific locations:

Now that we have entered the heart of the hurricane season, there is an increase in the Internet hype around disturbances that NHC is monitoring. Given the long lead times involved, the wide range of possible outcomes, and the historically poor and erratic performance of guidance models with weak disturbances, there is no reliable science to forecast potential impacts to specific locations that would be more than a week away.

Nearly every disturbance poses some potential to become a dangerous hurricane. Folks in hurricane-prone areas should always be keeping an eye on the tropics and be prepared to respond when a true threat develops, but also remember the limitations in the science. NHC's forecasts of tropical cyclone formation and track extend out only to 5 days - because the science hasn't advanced enough to reliably forecast beyond that time frame. (We're working on internal forecasts out to 7 days, but we're a ways away from feeling comfortable making them public because the errors can be quite large.)

The bottom line really is: be alert, be prepared, but also be wary of long-range projections that go beyond what the science can offer. And make the NOAA National Hurricane Center your calm, clear, and trusted source for official forecast and warning information on tropical cyclones.

As always, if you're concerned about impending doom that you heard about, check with the responsible government organization responsible for monitoring and warnings. Just like you can check Yellowstone monitoring website to debunk hysteria about a looming eruption, you can check the NOAA website for information about incoming storms.

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Dennis Mersereau

Great post Mika! Thanks for this (and for the shout-out! :) ). Kevin is a continuous pain in our rear flank downdrafts, but we can't ignore him because he manages to sweep up tens of thousands of people every time he pulls his crap. He does it for non-existent blizzards, non-existent tornado outbreaks, and often non-existent hurricanes. When you call him out, he says it's "bullying." He recently sent some high-profile people some very direct death threats, so I don't expect him to be on this side of federal prison for too long.

As I said the other day over on The Vane:

Do some research into the person posting the doomsday forecast. Do they have experience in meteorology? What's their track record? Do other professionals vouch for their validity by linking to them or voicing their approval? Doing some research beyond what's in a headline and the first few sentences is hard work, I know!, but it's necessary in order to not look like a fool and potentially harm other people with bad information.