Lee and Katia – storms in full.

The September 1 post addressed tropical cyclones as rainmakers, using Irene as a focus, but calling attention to tropical cyclone Katia, approaching the United States from far out in the Atlantic, and a then-unnamed tropical depression forming in the Gulf of Mexico.

Both storms have intensified since then. Katia is now at hurricane strength. Current forecasts suggest that it should soon begin to veer away from its current heading toward the U.S. Atlantic coast, and remain offshore. We can only hope that track forecast verifies.

Meanwhile, that tropical depression in the Gulf earned a name – Lee. As it has organized and slowly and erratically meandered inland, Lee has dumped a foot of rain on New Orleans over the past few days. The big national media have picked up the story but given it scant attention. For more detailed coverage you might try the New Orleans-based Times-Picayune. Mark Schleifstein and others have been tracking events.  

This is the same Mark Schleifstein who won Pulitzer prizes in 2006 for Public Service and Breaking News Reporting for his reporting on the Hurricane Katrina story, even as his newspaper and his own home had been severely damaged by the storm…the same Mark Schleifstein who co-authored a five-part series with John McQuaid in 2002 for the Times-Picayune entitled Washing Away: How south Lousiana is growing more vulnerable to a catastrophic hurricane. Chillingly prescient…and after all these years still very much worth the read.

But back to the present. Lee’s rains, winds and storm surge have indeed stressed New Orleans and environs. Some flooding has occurred. But so far, the damage and disruption have been contained.

Over the next few days, Lee is forecast to head northeast. In and ahead of the storm, the forecast is for more rain, as much as several inches over the next few days up through the Appalachias extending into the northern tier of Atlantic-coast states hit hard by Irene.

The National Hurricane Center also has its eye on a vigorous tropical wave currently southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. For more on any of these storms, click here.

Half a world away, typhoons and their associated rainfall have been wreaking similar death and destruction. Rains and the resulting landslides from Typhoon Talas have killed some two dozen people in western Japan. Another 50-60 people are missing. Talas’ winds have not been that strong. But it too has been a rainmaker. Flooding is widespread. A million people were forced to evacuate. Thousands remain stranded.  The worst typhoon to hit Japan in seven years, Talas’ impact has been especially severe, coming as it has on the heels of this year’s devastating tsunami.

A small sidenote showing the interconnectedness of things: Talas’ timing happened to interfere with the controversial annual Taiji dolphin hunt. Taiji, a traditional whaling town, was forced to scrub the kickoff of its annual hunt for marine mammals…a hunt that in recent years has provoked demonstrations, sharp criticism, and a range of forms of negative publicity, including the 2009 documentary film nominated for an Academy Award, The Cove.

Meanwhile, several strong earthquakes have hit the southern Pacific: a magnitude 6.4 earthquake near Tonga and American Samoa, and two earthquakes – a magnitude 7.0 followed by a magnitude 6.1 – near Vanuatu, in a region where earthquakes of magnitude measuring 7.1 and 7.4 occurred just two weeks earlier.

Just another active few days in the life of the Real World, doing its business through extreme events. Living on this Real World is not for the fainthearted or the unprepared.

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