TD #2 develops – headed for landfall in SC – then meandering around

Tracking map showing the forecast for TD #2, expected to become TS Bonnie as it approaches the SC coast this weekend

Tracking map showing the forecast for TD #2, expected to become TS Bonnie as it approaches the SC coast this weekend

The NHC upgraded the area of low pressure off the Southeast coast to TD #2 just a little while ago. Top winds are 35 mph with the pressure being 1009 mb. The forecast calls for only modest strengthening to tropical storm intensity before what would be “Bonnie” makes it to the South Carolina coast this weekend.

Obviously this will be a big news story just because it’s there and it’s Memorial Day weekend. The message from most outlets, and I agree with them, is that this will not be a big problem – unless you choose for it to be. If it’s raining hard, slow down or don’t be on the road at all if you can avoid it. Stay put and let the squalls pass. If you’re at the beach, be extra careful in the surf zone – rip currents will be on the increase and this is a killer hazard from “weak” tropical storms. I am very serious about this. Let’s go one season without someone drowning in the surf from a storm that otherwise has little impact on the region.

The forecast shows a fairly slow movement of the remnants of the storm somewhere off the coast of North Carolina in to early next week. While there is potential for heavy rain, I do not see anything in the computer models to suggest a major flood set up. Again, my worry is for traffic issues on I-95, US 17 and I-40 for example. Slow it down and you can avoid being one of those ding-bats who ends up in the heavy chain fence (or worse) along the median of the highway. Common sense – that’s all I’m asking. Otherwise this will not be a major impact except to possibly rain out what would normally be a very nice weekend as we unofficially begin summer.

I might head down to the South Carolina coast tomorrow for live coverage, social media posts and posting video clips to our app. I see it as a good opportunity to test a few things and get the updates rolling like I would if a powerful hurricane were coming. Once I see how things are going in the morning, I’ll decide on what to do and where to go.

I’ll have more here tomorrow.

M. Sudduth 6:45 PM ET May 27

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Tropical storm looking more likely now

As we begin the long holiday weekend, residents of and visitors to the coast of parts of the Southeast may have to deal with a tropical storm. This is not typical of Memorial Day weekend but this year, it looks like we will break the norm.

The latest info from the NHC tells us that the area of low pressure between Bermuda and the Bahamas continues to get better organized, with a 90% chance of further development. That being said, it is hardly doing so at a rapid pace, this is not peak hurricane season with ample warm water around. As it is, we are essentially at the very beginning of the season and the amount of energy available is somewhat limited.

Intensity guidance from the over night model runs showing what would be a tropical storm forming over the next couple of days just off the Southeast coast

Intensity guidance from the over night model runs showing what would be a tropical storm forming over the next couple of days just off the Southeast coast

As the low moves towards the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream, there is a chance for it to strengthen and it could become a tropical storm before reaching the coast. The other scenario is that the low remains loosely organized and resembles more of a subtropical storm with winds spread out away from the center. Most of the computer guidance, some of which simulates the structure of tropical systems, indicates that this will in fact become purely tropical in nature – meaning that there should be a well defined center with organized bands of showers and thunderstorms closer to that center. This is what most people are used to seeing and I think that is what will happen.

Most of the track guidance suggests a landfall somewhere in South Carolina over the weekend. This means the obvious chance of heavy rain, some gusty winds and a churned up Atlantic. Beach-goers need to be especially mindful of local conditions – rip currents are part of the over all package of hazards that tropical systems bring with them. Do not underestimate the power of rough surf conditions, heed local surf advisories and keep the little ones very close to shore.

As far as other impacts, it’s too soon to know how much rain and who gets it. Once the storm forms and models get a better handle on its structure, that info can be fine tuned. You can bet on some locations receiving a few inches of rain but this is not the set up that we saw last October when hurricane Joaquin was off shore, peeling off insane amounts of moisture. There will be potential for heavy rain, but nothing like what we saw last fall.

The NHC mentions that the Hurricane Hunters will be investigating the low later today. Once we get the info, I will post another blog update here along with a video discussion for our app, Hurricane Impact, and on our YouTube channel.

M. Sudduth 8am ET May 27

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NHC showing likely development of “something” as we head in to the weekend

NHC 5-day outlook map showing the high chance of development for invest area 91L off the Southeast coast

NHC 5-day outlook map showing the high chance of development for invest area 91L off the Southeast coast

The area of interest off the Southeast coast, now known as “invest 91L”, is slowly getting better organized. The NHC has increased the chances of development in to the high category as we head in to the big holiday weekend.  But development in to what, exactly? That remains to be seen.

According to the latest statement put out this morning, a tropical or subtropical storm could form from the system as it approaches the coast this weekend. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two possible scenarios:

A tropical storm is what we are most used to hearing about. Winds are more or less concentrated around a well defined area of convection or thunderstorm activity close to the center.

A subtropical storm is more like a hybrid storm that has some tropical characteristics while also displaying some non-tropical signs as well – such as having winds and energy spread out over a larger area and more loosely defined convection. In other words, a subtropical storm hasn’t quite bundled all of its energy around a distinct, warm-core center like we are used to seeing with purely tropical systems, especially hurricanes. Subtropical storms usually transition completely in to classical tropical storms if they remain over warm water long enough.

In the case of 91L, right now, it remains spread out and not very concentrated, therefore, development has been slow. As long as this continues, we won’t see much more than a nuisance rain maker for the Carolina coast this weekend. However, water temps in the Gulf Stream, which is still to the west of the developing storm, are quite warm and it is possible that we will see a pure tropical storm form which would mean more wind, rain and rough surf conditions for the coastal areas that it impacts.

The good news is that none of the model guidance suggests anything too strong coming from this. After all, it is only late May, not September. That being said, we should never ignore a festering tropical feature that is so close to land. If you have plans along the beaches from Georgia to Cape Hatteras, keep them, but be aware of this feature and the potential for heavy rain and some gusty winds. The other hazard that would concern me is rough surf. Water temps along the beaches are still sub-80F but this will not keep people out of the water this weekend. Watch for local conditions to change including the chance of increased rip currents. Remember, tropical storms have the potential to be deadly if people don’t understand the local impacts. Keep an eye on the kids if they plan on heading in to the ocean in the affected area during the long holiday weekend.

I will post a video discussion concerning 91L later this afternoon followed by a blog post update here this evening.

M. Sudduth 9:50 AM ET May 26

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Pattern, time of year, suggest potential for development off SE coast

Water vapor satellite image showing area of disturbed weather well off the Southeast coast

Water vapor satellite image showing area of disturbed weather well off the Southeast coast

As we approach the start of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, we already have something to talk about. Let me say from the start: it does not look like a big deal, so there’s that. However, the overall pattern favors development off the Southeast coast and since it is getting closer to June 1, why not?

The NHC has outlined an area of interest between Bermuda and the Bahamas that is primarily the result of an old frontal boundary tangling up with an upper level piece of energy or trough. While this is not the classic way to get tropical development, it is still one of the ways we see it happen and as such, the computer models have been showing some development of this system for several days now. Development in to what exactly? That remains to be seen but so far, none of the models, nor does the overall look to things, suggest much more than a rain maker for where ever this ends up – likely the Southeast coast later this weekend.

Water temps in the region are only marginal for development though they do get warmer in the Gulf Stream closer to the coast. If this were August, I would be more concerned, it’s May so my level of concern is about a 1 out of 10 – mainly due to the potential for heavy rain and possible rough surf conditions along some of the beaches along the Southeast coast. Keep this in mind and just monitor the situation while you’re out and about over the long holiday weekend.

Beyond that, things are quiet elsewhere in the Atlantic and the same holds true for the east Pacific. I’ll post another update here tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth 8:40 AM ET May 25

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The consequence of luck

The last hurricane to make landfall in Florida - hurricane Wilma, October 24, 2005. Not a single hurricane anywhere in Florida since...

The last hurricane to make landfall in Florida – hurricane Wilma, October 24, 2005. Not a single hurricane anywhere in Florida since…

October 24, 2005 – hurricane Wilma makes landfall in southwest Florida as a category three, weakening to a two before exiting the coast near Jupiter.

Wilma caused the single largest power outage in the history of Florida. Despite the rash of previous violent hurricanes such as Katrina and Rita just months before, scores of people went unprepared to deal with Wilma and lined up to receive ice and basic needs for weeks after.

That was the last time that a hurricane, any hurricane of any intensity, made landfall in Florida. It was also the last time that a category three (major) hurricane struck the United States.

Since that time, 66 hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic Basin and none have managed to make it to Florida. Yet, over 2 million people have moved to the Sunshine State since that fateful day in late October, 2005. (These stats from Dr. Phil Klotzbach via his recent Twitter posts – thanks Phil)

I think it is safe to say that Florida in particular and the United States as whole has been remarkably lucky considering what many believed to be the new normal post 2004-2005.

Those who said that could not have been more wrong if they tried.

The hurricane landfall drought for Florida is stunning. The major hurricane landfall drought for the United States just makes it even more so, almost to the point of absurdity. While it may be novel to discuss and remark over the fact that so many people have now gone a quarter of a generation with a grand total of ZERO hurricane experience, it comes with a price. I call it simply “the consequence of luck”.

I liken this theory to a bad driver who constantly speeds and drives aggressively without any consequences – no bad luck as it were. He never gets caught and keeps doing it until one day it all catches up and the worst happens. That driver suffered from stupidity combined with a learned behavior that taught him this equation: good luck while doing bad things = more bad things being done until the good luck ends. The analogy can be applied to anything really that has a negative outcome where luck is involved. Someone who embezzles money keeps doing it until they get caught which is another way of saying that their good luck of not getting caught helped to ensure that one day, they would in fact face the music. It goes on and on and I think the principle applies very well to our hurricane problem.

For ten years coastal residents (inland too) have enjoyed mostly hurricane-free living. Now I realize more than most that yes we have had hurricanes such as Ike, Gustav, Sandy, Isaac and so on. All of those matter for the people they affected. But on the grand scale, we have seen nothing like Katrina for 10 years. That is a good thing, no doubt about it. However, I ask this question: when does the string of good luck become a problem in terms of getting people to act and do their part to be hurricane prepared? During this time of no cat-3+ hurricane landfalls, millions of people have moved to the coast. Have hurricane plans been updated to take this in to account? How many coastal counties have new emergency management directors who have never experienced what a hurricane, let alone a cat-3+, can do? The list of questions could be lengthy if I had the time to think about all the possible bad outcomes to our string of good luck.

If we somehow knew with 100% certainty that hurricanes were a thing of the past, then this would be my farewell blog. Instead, it is my wake up call to remind you of how bad things can get. It’s not hype nor fear mongering – it’s a warning from someone who knows first-hand how miserable life is during and especially after a hurricane, particularly an intense one.

The NHC and local NWS offices are putting forth a tremendous effort to promote hurricane preparedness. Social media with the #hurricanestrong theme is abuzz with tips, ideas, risk assessment links and so on. Does anyone care anymore? I know some do but is it enough? How many people have become so relaxed or worse yet, know nothing about their risk, to pay attention?

I worry about this as we approach yet another hurricane season. The distractions in our daily lives are more than most of us can process. There is so much noise out there that the voice of reason is often muted and lost.

I fear that too many people are apathetic to the hurricane risk and have forgotten what it looks like (and feels like) when people stand in 95 degree heat waiting for ice and water. Forgotten? Heck, it hasn’t happened in so long that I believe it will come as a major shock to our collective souls once it happens again. It will seem worse than it actually is. Why? Because we’ve been lured by Lady Luck in to believing that every hurricane is going to miss or won’t turn out as bad as “they” say.

I am only going to say this one time: you have no idea what you’re dealing with if you think you know hurricanes.

It’s great to be lucky; it’s rewarded many people over the ages. Like time, luck runs out sooner or later and the two are more closely connected than you think.

Do yourself and the rest of us a favor if you live in a hurricane prone region of the United States or anywhere that tropical cyclones can impact: know the risks, know your vulnerability to those risks, make a plan and carry it out when time comes. Or, just flip a coin and hope for the best. My vote is on being armed with knowledge then utilizing that knowledge to minimize the impact.

Hurricane season for the Atlantic begins on June 1. The season lasts for six months. HurricaneTrack.com will be on top of it every step of the way. It is my sincere hope that my 20 years of studying the impacts of tropical storms and hurricanes when they affect land will help you to not suffer and become a front page story for Time or your local newspaper. If ever you have a question, no matter how lame you think it is, please ask via email or social media. I take it as a my responsibility to educate others considering that I have had the privilege of doing what I am most passionate about for my career. Be safe this season and don’t worry, most of my blog entries won’t be so full of angst. Sometimes you gotta hit people with a sledge hammer to get their attention :-)

M. Sudduth

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