(*Chip Merlin’s Note–Rocco Calaci has been a noted meteorology expert witness in the Katrina Legal Wars. After meeting him at a recent FAPIA Convention, I invited him to write a series of guest blogs. Click here to read Part 1 of this guest blog)

Is a hurricane only wind and water? (Part 2)
(Rocco Calaci)

Besides mesocyclones, there were numerous microbursts during Hurricane Ike. A microburst can best be described as strong downward (vertical) winds that result from a strong thunderstorm cell collapsing. The outflowing wind pattern is omni-directional, creating an elongated horizontal vortice along the leading edge of the winds.

This diagram obtained from the Internet (generated by the 45th Weather Squadron, USAF) depicts the wind pattern of a microburst as it hits the ground.

Microburst Schematic 

Please note how the outflowing winds create what appears to be a horizontal tornado-like vortex. This phenomena is extremely dangerous and destructive. Microbursts are a major cause of airplane accidents every year.

It is not the responsibility of the National Weather Service (NWS) or National Hurricane Center (NHC) to pinpoint every small scale feature hidden within a hurricane. The NWS and NHC do their job extremely well, but if individuals want to know what occurred at their specific address, then it is the responsibility of the property owner to acquire the expertise of a professional meteorologist. You have the responsibility to hire a meteorologist that can make a detailed analysis of the meteorological situation and determine what weather elements (if any) were present on your property. It’s your property and your responsibility.

Based on my experience as a forensic meteorologist, a homeowner needs three experts on the team in order to reach an honest and factual determination of what occurred at a specific address during a hurricane. These experts are:

  1. A meteorologist – this person should be able to give you a detailed and site specific report on meteorological elements that affected your property. Be advised that this also means a meteorologist can reach a conclusion that you don’t want to hear, but facts are facts.
  2. An engineer – if it is determined that high wind speeds affected your property, an engineer can calculate if the weather elements at your location were strong enough to cause the damage you experienced.
  3. An experienced lawyer – if you need legal counsel, make sure you have someone that knows and understands this specific area of law. I have seen too many examples where inexperienced lawyers (inexperienced in handling weather-related cases) have moved too slowly or in the wrong direction because they are learning as they try to handle your case.

In summary, there were numerous mesocyclones, microbursts and other meteorological phenomena that occurred within Hurricane Ike with many areas widely affected by these elements. These weather events are capable of causing damage levels from minor to total destruction. Just because high wind speeds may not have been present in your area, it doesn’t mean other destructive forms of weather were not there.

Please understand that the people in the NWS and NHC are doing a great job. If you want to know what happened at your specific address, that is your responsibility.

In order to determine what caused damages which may be covered at your location, you need a team of experts; a meteorologist, an engineer and an experienced hurricane lawyer.

As a note, I am not affiliated with either the NWS or NHC in any way. My opinion is formed after being an operational meteorologist for 20 years in the military and 19 years in the commercial industry and watching these organizations perform over this span of time.

– Rocco Calaci