Odile leaves trail of destruction along Baja, heavy rain poised to inundate parts of Southwest

Tropical storm Odile continues to churn away over the Baja peninsula and the Gulf of California

Tropical storm Odile continues to churn away over the Baja peninsula and the Gulf of California

Even though the Atlantic hurricane season is certainly not very busy, the impacts from tropical cyclones on people and places within the United States cannot be ignored. We are about to see once again how tropical moisture from an east Pacific system gets pulled northward in to the Desert Southwest and causes all kinds of issues.

In this case, it’s the remnant circulation of once powerful hurricane Odile. So far, we are seeing quite a bit of evidence of damage to parts of the southern Baja peninsula where Odile made landfall as a strong category three hurricane just a couple of nights ago. There are a lot of people who are without fresh water and other basic needs due to the hurricane and its unlikely path right in to Cabo San Lucas. That story will continue to play out over the coming days as rescue and recovery efforts unfold.

Meanwhile, the moisture from what is still tropical storm Odile will continue to move northward towards Arizona and New Mexico. As a result, flash flood watches have been posted for most of Arizona, parts of southeast California and southern Nevada and a good deal of southwest New Mexico. The threat of excessive rainfall across the region is high over the next few days and this could lead to major issues for areas not used to this much rain.

It looks as though the heaviest rain will come tomorrow and in to Thursday when the bulk of the moisture from Odile arrives. The possibility of seeing 3 to 5 inches of rain raises the odds that significant flooding will occur but the exact location of this is impossible to know right now. Being alert for rapidly changing conditions and being ready to move to high ground will be essential to keeping safe. Anyone traveling across the region is advised to keep a close watch on the local weather conditions and do not try to cross any flooded roads, no matter what you’re driving. Swift moving water can overpower your vehicle in a matter of seconds, we saw this during last week’s flash flood along I-15 northeast of Las Vegas. This is a serious flood threat for the region and people need to take it as such.

I am currently in Tuscon working to document and report on the situation over the next few days. My team and I will will make use of some of the same equipment we use in hurricane storm surge with the idea being that we try to capture video of a dangerous flooding situation without having to be there ourselves. There are numerous low spots, washes, dry stream beds, etc that we can place an unmanned camera close enough to capture video of a flash flood. With the amount of heavy rain forecast for the area, I don’t think we will have too much trouble and in fact, will have to make sure we are well away from those areas when the flooding begins.

I will post updates from time to time using Instagram – follow along @hurricanetrack. These posts automatically hit our Twitter feed as well. In addition, I will have longer duration video blogs posted to our app, Hurricane Impact, throughout the next few days. If you know people in the region, let them know that this is a very serious situation. We may think of rain as being a necessary element of survival, especially in the desert, but too much in too short a period of time can bring havoc. I’ll keep you updated from the ground from the Tuscon area up to Phoenix and over towards New Mexico over the next few days.

As for the Atlantic – no worries anytime soon, Edouard will continue to move on out over open water and no other developments are seen within the global models for the time being.

I’ll post more here later tonight from southern Arizona.

M. Sudduth 10:19 AM ET Sept 16

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Edouard on its way to becoming a major hurricane but the major news story is Odile

NWS news and information graphic concerning upcoming flood threat in AZ and NM

NWS news and information graphic concerning upcoming flood threat in AZ and NM

Hurricane Edouard is the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic Basin in over two years. We have to go back to Sandy in late October of 2012 to find a stronger hurricane than Edouard – that’s how slack the Atlantic has been as of late. Never the less, the NHC is forecasting Edouard to become a major hurricane with winds peaking at 120 mph. I suspect it will be stronger given the nature of intensity forecasting. This will help to boost the ACE score for the Atlantic which is now in the mid-20s and climbing. The only issue from Edouard will be swells that eventually reach Bermuda and parts of the East Coast and of course shipping interests in the open Atlantic.

The remainder of the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf are free of any areas of concern for the time being.

In the east Pacific, the mega-season continues. Hurricane Odile made landfall last night near Cabo San Lucas as a strong category three causing significant damage to the region. It will be some time before we get a full picture of what happened but rest assured, the region took a hit last night and it’s still going on as Odile tracks up the spine of the Baja peninsula today.

The NHC forecast track keeps the hurricane over the peninsula and then turns it northeast across the northern portion of the Gulf of California. With most of the circulation of Odile over water, it may not weaken as much thus the risk of hurricane conditions spreading northward over the next day or so is high.

As Odile makes its way northward, deep tropical moisture will spread in to parts of the southwest United States. This will lead to an increase in rain chances as the week progresses and may result in significant rain fall for some locations. It is impossible to know which areas will receive the most rain but it is not out of the realm of possibility that we could see 3 to 5 inches. Flooding will once again be a big concern, especially in Arizona and New Mexico where it looks like a bulk of the moisture is headed. It is important for people in the region to pay close attention to NWS watch, warning and other info this week. Tropical cyclone impacts to the Southwest are rare but when they do happen, the results are often dramatic and dangerous.

I am going to be traveling out to Arizona later today – arriving in Phoenix this evening. I will have a full crew to work with utilizing two vehicles and plenty of equipment to document this potentially extraordinary event as it unfolds.

Our goal is to capture a flash flood as it happens using some of the same unmanned camera systems that we use in deadly hurricane storm surge. We can also provide on-site reports to our followers via Twitter, Instagram and of course, our app, Hurricane Impact. In addition, I will be providing The Weather Channel with several reports and live video throughout the field work over the coming days. We will go where the weather takes us, it’s not like a hurricane landfall where we need to be where the eye crosses the coast. The Desert Southwest is vast and often harsh, I have last week as somewhat of a guide to know what to expect but each trip is different and Odile is likely to bring an entirely new set of problems to the region. I cannot stress enough how important it will be for people in the area to keep up to date on the ever-changing situation.

I will post another update here late tonight, probably past Midnight ET and then more tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth 10:25 AM ET Sept 15

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Dangerous hurricane Odile heading closer to the Baja peninsula, likely to spread more flooding rain in to Southwest U.S.

Powerful hurricane Odile off the Baja peninsula

Powerful hurricane Odile off the Baja peninsula

Hurricane Odile in the east Pacific has strengthened significantly over the past 24 hours and is now a solid category four. This is an extremely dangerous hurricane capable of inflicting serious wind damage as well as accompanying heavy rain, storm surge and enormous waves. People along the southern Baja peninsula should be ready by now, if not, time is running out quickly.

The forecast track keeps the core of the hurricane just off the extreme southern part of the Baja, sparing Cabo San Lucas the worst of the category four winds. However, hurricane force winds are likely to occur and any deviation to the east would bring the eyewall that much closer to the coast. Indeed, it will be an interesting and potentially frightening night along the southern Baja peninsula.

Further up the coast, conditions should be less intense as the hurricane begins to weaken over cooler water, partly due to being disturbed by category three hurricane Norbert just last week. Never the less, the entire southern region of the Baja is at risk from this hurricane and preparedness measures need to be taken. From what I am seeing, a category four hurricane has never passed this close to the area – it needs to be taken very seriously.

Seven day total precip for Southwest U.S. showing large area of 1-2 inches of rain

Seven day total precip for Southwest U.S. showing large area of 1-2 inches of rain

Once Odile moves northward over the coming days, its circulation will begin to push deep tropical moisture in to the Southwest U.S. setting the stage for another possible high-impact flood event next week.

After dealing with the rains from Norbert, coupled with Gulf of Mexico moisture being funneled in around a large high pressure area, this part of the country is vulnerable to serious flooding issues throughout the week ahead.

It is important for people living in or traveling to the area to monitor local National Weather Service information. If you have a Smartphone, use it to stay up to date on the latest information. It won’t be long now before flash flood watches are posted for the region. We could be looking at several days of heavy rain setting up and the problem is, it is impossible to know precisely which locations will get hit the hardest with rain.

Once again, I am heading out West to cover the event. I spent several days out there last week and learned a lot about how the desert interacts with tropical cyclone moisture. It is not something to mess around with. We saw instances where I-15 was washed out northeast of Las Vegas, almost taking the lives of several people who were caught up in the flash flood. Phoenix set its all time rain fall record during this past event with numerous flooding issues and a dust storm. Areas from southern California through southern Nevada, southwest Utah and most of Arizona could be impacted by slow moving, torrential downpours as the week progresses. Flooding is a major concern and I will be in the region to provide live coverage via our Ustream channel and for The Weather Channel. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for people to realize that tropical cyclones are not just about wind or storm surge. They have several weapons that they can hit you with and rain is most certainly one of them. Be aware and keep up to date on the very latest. I will post frequent updates to our app, Hurricane Impact, which include video blogs in the video section. I never thought I would be covering more hurricane related activity out West than I am along the East Coast or Gulf Coast but here we are – it’s that type of year.

In the Atlantic, hurricane Edouard is forecast to become the season’s first major hurricane but it will remain well out in the open Atlantic, bothering only shipping interests. One weather geek factoid about it – we’re likely to see quite a few ACE points pile up with Edouard as it looks to remain on the map for several days to come. ACE or Accumulated Cyclone Energy is the measure of how much energy a hurricane season outputs based on each individual tropical storm or hurricane. The typical ACE number for the Atlantic is around 100-103 in any given season. Right now, we are in the low 20s but are climbing now due to Edouard. We ended last season around 36 I believe and it’s possible that Edouard will allow this season to eclipse last year, especially if Edouard becomes a major hurricane and stronger than forecast. It’s just something I like to keep track of as it tells me much more about the quality of the season instead of the numbers of named storms, etc.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, nothing to be concerned with for the time being though I cannot imagine that we will go the entire month of September without something forming in the Western Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico. Long range models are sketchy at best but some do indicate activity brewing within about 10 days in the Western Caribbean or Gulf. No matter how quiet a season is, you never turn your back on it.

I’ll post more here in the morning including details about the field work coming up for the Desert Southwest this week.

M. Sudduth 2:32 PM ET Sept 14

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Round two for Southwest? Possible as Odile tracks close to Baja

NHC track of hurricane Odile in the east Pacific

NHC track of hurricane Odile in the east Pacific

First of all, the Atlantic is a non-issue right now. We are tracking TS Edouard but it will remain far out in the open Atlantic and be of issue only to shipping interests.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, only minor disturbances are scattered from the Gulf of Mexico to the tropical Atlantic. None of them are forecast to develop much at all in the coming days, keeping the very quiet Atlantic season in check.

The bigger issue appears to be hurricane Odile. Right now it is gaining strength off the coast of Mexico with winds of 85 mph. The NHC is forecasting Odile to strengthen further, perhaps rapidly in the coming days.

Interests along the Baja need to monitor the track closely which shows Odile far enough offshore to keep hurricane conditions away but that could change. The ECMWF model actually gets the hurricane quite close to the peninsula over the next few days and we could see a slight westward adjustment in the track from the NHC as a result.

Beyond the Baja, there is now a growing concern for more flooding issues in the Southwest U.S. around mid-week next week.

The pattern is eerily similar to the one that just produced record rainfall for Phoenix and the wash-out of parts of I-15 northeast of Las Vegas this past Monday afternoon.

Basically we’re looking at a squeeze play between moisture coming in from the Gulf of Mexico coupled with even deeper tropical moisture being pulled in from the Pacific due to the circulation of Odile. Unfortunately, California and Arizona are caught in the middle. Reading the NWS forecast discussion from Phoenix, it looks as though very high precip values will be present in the atmosphere once again next week. The risk of flash flooding looks to increase by Wednesday and through the end of the week ahead.

Sadly, the computer models cannot pinpoint where the heaviest rains will fall. This means people across the region, from SE California and Nevada and in to W Arizona need to be aware of this potentially disruptive and dangerous weather situation. We saw what happened this past week with numerous flood events taking place across the Desert Southwest. There is increasing potential for it to happen again this week so be alert if you live in or are planning to travel to the area.

I will be watching the situation closely and might decide to head out to the Southwest once again. I spent the better part of a week out there for the Norbert-induced flood event and saw first-hand what can happen. I think this time the focus will be more on SE CA and W AZ. We’ll see as each day unfolds and I will plan from there. Mark my words, this has the potential of being a high-impact flood event once again related to the effects of a Pacific hurricane.

I will have more here tomorrow.

M. Sudduth 3:13 PM ET Sept 13

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Weak low pressure moving across Florida worth watching, Edouard stays well out to sea

Invest area 92L moving over southern Florida this afternoon

Invest area 92L moving over southern Florida this afternoon

A weak low pressure area, easy to spot on visible satellite imagery, is crossing south Florida this afternoon. Strong upper level winds have kept it from becoming any better organized by pushing the deep convection away from the low level center.

The low has brought periods of heavy rain to portions of south Florida but so far, nothing widespread has occurred and it looks to remain that way.

Forecasts from various computer models indicate the low will move westward and in to the Gulf of Mexico by tonight. Normally this would be cause for concern since Gulf water temps are in the mid to upper 80s. However, the strong upper level wind pattern is not likely to abate anytime soon. This should keep the low from strengthening too much as it gets pushed across the Gulf towards Texas.

It is obviously worth watching since we’re in the peak of the hurricane season and water temps are so warm. However, without any significant strengthening indicated by the models, I am not too concerned just yet. The low could bring heavy rain to any land areas that it eventually interacts with but beyond that, I see little to be concerned with.

Meanwhile, TS Edouard formed yesterday in the open Atlantic well to the east of the Lesser Antilles. The NHC is forecasting Edouard to turn out in to the Atlantic with a path that takes it northward between 55 and 60 degrees west longitude. This will keep it away from Bermuda. Edouard is forecast to become the season’s fourth hurricane which will help to add to the ACE score which is a numeric method of measuring how active a hurricane season has been. Right now the ACE score is around 20, well below the long term normal of about 100 or so. Edouard should add a few points to the total but it looks like we are going to end up well below the average unless a particularly intense hurricane forms before the end of November.

In the east Pacific, TS Odile continues to move to the west-northwest. It is expected to turn more northwest with time, parallel to the Baja peninsula but well offshore. Higher surf will be felt once again up and down a good deal of the Pacific coast from the Baja up in to southern California – especially once Odile becomes a hurricane. In fact, it is forecast to become a strong hurricane peaking out at 105 mph.

The rest of the east Pacific remains active with disturbances and another depression but none of them pose any threat to land at the moment.

I’ll keep an eye on the low over Florida and will post any updates to Twitter with a full blog post here tomorrow.

M. Sudduth 1:34 PM ET Sept 12

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