Flooding on the I-10 freeway outside Winnie Texas, just west of Beaumont, caued by Hurricane Harvey on 29 August 2017. Photo: Diana Christensen Thornton‎ / The Weather Channel

By Jonathan Erdman
23 August 2018

(The Weather Channel) – A year ago Hurricane Harvey rewrote the U.S. rainfall record books after a catastrophic strike and then an agonizing crawl for days along the Gulf Coast.

"Harvey was the most significant tropical cyclone rainfall event in United States history, both in scope and peak rainfall amounts, since reliable rainfall records began around the 1880s," meteorologists Eric Blake and David Zelinsky wrote in the National Hurricane Center's final report on Harvey.

Coupled with the pummeling from the Category 4 landfall along the Texas coast, Harvey was reponsible for $125 billion damage in the U.S., according to an estimate from NOAA, making it second only to Katrina in the list of costliest U.S. hurricanes, when adjusting for inflation.

The forecast in the days leading up to Harvey challenged even the most experienced meteorologists to communicate the magnitude of the danger and put into context.

As the events unfolded, some meteorologists felt sick to their stomachs, even helpless, as feet of rain produced record flooding.

What follows is a daily diary of reactions from meteorologists before Harvey had redeveloped in the Gulf of Mexico through the end of the heaviest rain in Texas and Louisiana.

21 August 2017: First signs

Harvey's remnants were still in the western Caribbean Sea, but it was becoming apparent Harvey would have a second life in the western Gulf of Mexico, after shearing out as a tropical wave two days earlier.

The first sign of a potentially major rainfall event showed up in forecast models.

22 August 2017: Heavy rain concern grows

As the remnants of Harvey's first life soaked Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, the National Hurricane Center scheduled reconnaissance missions for the following day.

Model rainfall forecasts showed an increasingly large heavy rain footprint, with higher amounts, and meteorologists became worried.

Matt Lanza, a meteorologist based in Houston and managing editor for Space City Weather, made a disconcerting analogy of the Harvey forecast to a destructive flood the previous summer. [more]

'We've Never Forecast This Much Before': Hurricane Harvey's Ominous Forecast and How Meteorologists Reacted a Year Ago

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