Meteorologists get a lot of flak for getting the weather wrong, but 10 years ago, one meteorologist made a forecast that was eerily prescient. As Hurricane Katrina brewed in the Gulf of Mexico, National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Ricks of Slidell, Louisiana, predicted that it would be "a most powerful hurricane with unprecedented strength...rivaling the intensity of Hurricane Camille of 1969."
Unfortunately, Ricks' prediction was largely ignored in the run-up to the hurricane. As he told NBC News years later, "I would much rather have been wrong in this one. I would much rather be talking to you and taking the heat and crying wolf. But our local expertise said otherwise."
It wasn't just the strength of the hurricane that Ricks predicted either — he also forecasted the breadth of damage the monstrous storm eventually wreaked. Ricks wrote:
"Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks...perhaps longer. At least one half of well constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail...leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed.
The majority of industrial buildings will become non functional. Partial to complete wall and roof failure is expected. All wood framed low rising apartment buildings will be destroyed. Concrete block low rise apartments will sustain major damage...including some wall and roof failure.
High rise office and apartment buildings will sway dangerously...A few to the point of a total collapse. All windows will blow out." [Twitter]
Ricks went on to detail the spread of airborne debris and its devastating effects: a power outage that "will last for weeks," and water shortages that "will make human suffering incredible by modern standards." For once, it would've been nice if the weatherman had been wrong. Becca Stanek