MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS […] POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS.
(See U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, service assessment: hurricane katrina, August 23-31, 2005 18 (2006) (available at: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/assessments/index.shtml)
Katrina weakened to a Category 3 and though it still had the highest storm surge on record, it was the failure of the federally built levees in New Orleans that resulted in the 1300 deaths here, not the direct effects of the storm.
So last week for Hurricane Ike, the NWS had to up the ante in their warnings. Many news stories mention the "certain death warning" given for Galveston:
ALL NEIGHBOURHOODS AND POSSIBLY ENTIRE COASTAL COMMUNITIES WILL BE INUNDATED DURING THE PERIOD OF THE PEAK STORM TIDE. PERSONS NOT HEEDING EVACUATION ORDERS IN SINGLE FAMILY ONE- OR TWO-STOREY HOMES WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH.(See, for example, 'Certain death' warning over Ike, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7612106.stm)
I haven't found the actual warning that contains that language on the NOAA/NWS web site, but though there have been a few dozen confirmed casualties, it looks again like the warning was again over-the-top. As it should be, I guess, though this didn't convince everyone to leave Galveston.
But then what will the NWS do next time? Nothing is much more dire than "certain death", so expect the next big hurricane to inspire warnings such as:
HURRICANE ARMAGEDDON IS PREDICTED TO RIP THE TIME-SPACE CONTINUUM AND UNLEASH THE DEMON HORDES OF CTHULU TO RAIN DOWN DEATH AND DEVASTATION UPON ALL SURVIVORS IN THE REGION; ANY RESIDENTS NOT KILLED IMMEDIATELY BY THE STORM OR UPON THE RAZOR CLAWS OF THE OLD ONES' SPAWN SHALL HAVE THEIR LIMBS RENT ASUNDER AND THEIR ENTRAILS STREWN UPON THE BARREN WASTELAND THAT USED TO BE THEIR HOMES.Maybe that will get people's attention.