Storm surge is major threat from hurricanes

Storm Surge From Hurricane Isaac in 2012

Storm Surge From Hurricane Isaac in 2012 as captured from one of our older generation Surge Cams. Top image is before Isaac on August 28 while the bottom image is during the height of the surge along the Mississippi coast. The water rose several feet at this location along Gulfport Harbor.

This week is Hurricane Preparedness Week and as such, each day has a topic related to hurricanes and being prepared.

Today’s topic is storm surge – one of the most devastating effects from a tropical cyclone. Historically, storm surge kills more people than any other tropical cyclone hazard. We saw a period of time from 1970 through 2004 when few people lost their lives due to surge. Then, in 2005, Katrina changed all of that with scores of lives lost due to surge from the Missisisppi Sound as well as the catastrophic flooding from storm surge coupled with the failure of New Orleans’ levee system.

Sadly, the trend continued, though not to the same scale fortunately, with Sandy last October as storm surge swept in to areas along the New York and New Jersey coasts. A vast majority of the damage from Sandy was the result of storm surge and battering waves.

Most people do not understand storm surge and how it can affect them. Almost all evacauations in a hurricane are because of the threat of storm surge flooding. Studies are done to predict traffic flow, behavior patterns and response to evacuation orders. In most cases, people will wait as long as possible to determine whether or not the threat to their immediate location is substantial enough to warrant the trouble of leaving. While this is an understandble trait of human nature, it could lead to deadly consequences.

Let’s take hurricane Ike from 2008 as an example. It was an especially large hurricane that generated an enormous surge of water that was quite literally pushed towards the northwest Gulf of Mexico coastline. The NHC had forecast Ike to become an intense category three hurricane for several days before its landfall near Galveston on September 13. Yet, thousands of people remained on Galveston Island despite A) the city’s infamous history with hurricanes and B) the warning that people would face “certain death” if they remained behind.

If someone told you that if you remained in your car on a hot July day with the power off and the windows rolled up that you would face certain death, what would you do? I am guessing that 100% of you would not remain in your car under those conditions. Why? Because you know what will happen. You have felt the car get really hot before and have the A/C to fire up in order to make it tolerable. The point is, you’ve experienced the conditions that could kill you before yet you have the tool (A/C) to mitigate the worst from happening. It is that experience with a very hot car that has taught you not to remain inside of it for any length of time during warm to hot days.

The same cannot be said of storm surge. Most people who live along the coast have never experienced a storm surge from a tropical storm or hurricane. Thus, they have no idea what they’re dealing with. They have not seen it with their own eyes and do not grasp the concept of how much energy moving water has. They are shown maps on TV and the Internet and are told to evacuate. Often times, most people do not unless they sense danger.

I suppose that as Ike approached, some people did not sense any danger and chose to remain behind. The resulting storm surge as at least 20 feet high in some locations with thousands of homes either destroyed or seriously damaged by the flood waters. Lives were lost because people did not evacuate though scores of lives were indeed saved because of adequte warnings and people heeding them.

I guess since seeing is believing that we have to do something to further convince people of how bad storm surge can be.

As I announced in a blog post a few months ago, we are going to provide a publicly accessible, brand new, completely redesigned “Surge Cam” that will stream live video from the teeth of the next hurricane and its storm surge. We have been using an older technology for the past seven seasons that ended with Sandy last October. Now, we have new and more effecient technology that will allow us to place un-manned cameras anywhere we wish with almost no risk to either ourselves or to the equipment. We’ve made a decision to make one of these units available through our public Ustream channel at no cost to those who watch. The idea is to show people the effects of storm surge and convince them through live video that storm surge is a lethal, destructive force. We hope to place the Surge Cam in an area where a significant impact from storm surge is expected. The new camera systems last for at least 30 hours now, allowing us more time to place them in locations that no humans have any business being in as the hurricane and its surge sweep in. Perhaps this will help to motivate people to evacuate and take the appropriate measures to mitigate loss to property as well.

We will have three other Surge Cams dedicated to our Client Services members – after all, it’s their funding that supports this effort in the first place. We just thought it would serve the public and local officials, as well as the media, to provide one Surge Cam feed free of charge. Thanks to advances in technology, we can do that starting this season. Once we have a threat of a landfall, I’ll post the URL of the Surge Cam in a blog post and on our Twitter and Facebook pages. People are encouraged to share and embed the player as much as they wish. Anyone in the media may use the feed on-air and on their websites as they see fit. Just credit please – that’s all we ask.

It looks like a very busy season ahead. I hope that folks along the coast, especially newcomers, do their part to better understand the risk from tropical storms and hurricanes. For more info, including excellent video resources, check out the NHC’s preparedness page here: NHC Hurricane Preparedness

East Pacific hurricane season begins today as does my trip to New York and New Jersey

East Pacific invest 90-E

East Pacific invest 90-E

It’s May 15 and that means the east Pacific hurricane season is now underway. Right on cue, a tropical depression appears to be forming well off the coast of Mexico where waters are warm enough to support the deep convection noted in satellite imagery.

All of the forecast models indicate that the developing low pressure area will move westward and away from the Mexican coastline over the next several days.

The east Pacific season begins two weeks ahead of the Atlantic season though both basins see about the same amount of activity per 100 years during this time of the year – so I am not certain as to why the Atlantic season does not officially begin until June 1. In any case, we do have something to monitor on this opening day of the east Pacific season though it poses no threat to land areas at this time.

In other news – I am heading up to New York and New Jersey beginning later this morning. I have a couple of projects to follow up on in New York City tomorrow and then I am going to travel back to coastal New Jersey where I was when Sandy made landfall. I’ll re-trace my steps in Long Branch and Belmar and might get to travel to other places farther south if time permits.

The unique thing about this trip is that I am going to stream the entire journey live on our public Ustream channel. I want to demonstrate our new “everywhere cam” that we’ll be using for our subscriber site this season. We’ll still have a free live camera streaming but it will be a traditional dash-mounted video camera. This new technology is amazing. There’s no laptop needed and the cam is so small and versatile that I can take it anywhere. The audio is incredible as well. I thought it would be great to test it out while showing anyone viewing a little of the East Coast countryside.

Once I get to the Jersey coast on Friday, you’ll want to tune in and see how things have progressed since Sandy. I’ll provide narration and insight as to what the impacts were and where I was and what I was doing back on October 29 of last year. Watch our Twitter feed for updates as to when something really worthwhile is streaming and then tune in by clicking the link below or simply bookmarking our Ustream channel page:

Click here to watch our live Ustream feed


My next post will cover some exciting news about our app which is about to have a major update completed. Plus – is an Android version in the works? Check out the blog on Monday to find out.

M. Sudduth

One month to go until hurricane season and we are getting ready

Welcome to May! Hard to believe we are just a month away from the start of the Atlantic hurricane season. Before then, the east Pacific season begins on May 15, so we will be ramping up our blog posts, etc in the coming weeks.

So what’s new for us in 2013? A lot. Too much to cover in one blog post, so I’ll spread it out over the next couple of weeks.

First, you’ll be hearing a lot more from and about colleague Mike Watkins. He has been working with us since late 2004 and has been with me personally on some of the biggest field missions of my career.

Mike started a new company last year called Hurricane Analytics. It is more than just about hurricanes as Mike is very good at deciphering data, all kinds of data, and making sense of it. However, his tropical weather expertise will allow him to utilize his site for some excellent analysis projects. You may follow Mike and his site on Twitter: @hurricaneanalytics or @watkinstrack

Mike has a new Podcast series called The HurriCast which will provide listeners with a different perspective on tropical weather news and data info. You may find his Podcast linked from the HurricaneAnalytics homepage.

Look for blog posts here from time to time from Mike as well and I too will be guest-blogging for his site. This cross-collaboration will be a nice new touch for our partnership as we go forward in to our ninth year working together.

Today begins our season pass sales for our subscription service

We have had a private subscription service since 2005 and it has grown to include nearly 500 members from around the world. Our annual plan is the most popular, and costs $99.95 per year for unlimited access to all we offer on our Client Services site. However, some folks find that the use the subscription site only during hurricane season. So, since 2011, we have offered a “season pass” for $59.95 and that too has become a successful part of our funding projects each season.

Well, today marks the first day that the pass for 2013 is available for purchase.

This year we are bringing a whole new experience to our members with a brand new live streaming camera system for our field missions. We call it the “everywhere cam” and it will be just that. Using new technology, we will be able to take our members anywhere we go during our field missions. No longer will you have to “wait” in the Tahoe, watching the Tahoe dash cam while we go do something outside of the Tahoe. Whether it be that we are scoping out a place to deploy one of our remote cams or actually setting up a weather station or remote cam, you will be there with us, complete with audio! In the past, we’ve only had our dash-mounted video camera for streaming from the Tahoe. This year, we’ll utilize cutting edge technology to give you a completely immersive experience in to our field work. When we go eat and discuss what’s going on with the hurricane that we are intercepting, you’ll come with us. When we head in to a police department or emergency management office to work with the local officials, you’ll go with us. It will be as if you are truly a part of what we are doing – no longer wondering what we’re up to as you sit and watch the dash cam. This is exclusive to our members and is 100% ad free. The general public will have access to our dash cam that will have commercials playing via Ustream every 12 minutes or so. This is an exciting new feature and we are looking forward to giving you a brand new look at how we do our field missions.
For a sample of how well this cam works, check out this actual recorded stream event from Louisiana back in March just after the National Hurricane Conference which was held in New Orleans: (note this has commercials since it was recorded using our public Ustream channel)
In addition to our successful live video streaming capabilities, Client Services members will also enjoy:
  • Stormpulse maps
  • Live chat with other members and us
  • Daily LIVE hurricane outlook videos during the hurricane season (ad free)
  • 30 frame satellite and radar animations
  • Access to mobile device formatted pages, including pages that contain some of our live streaming feeds
  • Access to our three mobile weather stations that we deploy to capture live wind and pressure data
  • Access to our three private Surge Cams – 100% ad free
  • Expert analysis from Mark Sudduth and Mike Watkins throughout the season
  • Complete mission coverage from start to finish of each tropical storm and hurricane we intercept this season
All of this for just $59.95 for the season. To sign up today, use this link: Client Services Season Pass for 2013 Season
On Monday I will talk about our app. I have some much-anticipated news to share and look forward to that post. I think a lot of people will be VERY excited to hear what’s coming….
M. Sudduth

Nadine strengthening but poses no threat to land; might be a while before anything develops to be concerned about

TS Nadine Gaining Strength in the Open Atlantic

TS Nadine Gaining Strength in the Open Atlantic

Tropical storm Nadine is quickly ramping up and should be a hurricane fairly soon. It is situated in a favorable pattern with warm sea surface temps to work with and I think it will become the second category three hurricane of the season at some point.

No worries though, Nadine is never going to get much past 55W before turning north and northeast. It could eventually pose a threat to the Azores but that is probably a week away or more.

Nadine represents a continuation of the pattern that has allowed numerous hurricanes to form and turn harmlessly out in to the Atlantic. Sure a few have impacted Bermuda or the East Coast in recent years but most have not come close enough to warrant much concern. I see this pattern remaining in place for any eastern Atlantic development for perhaps the remainder of the season. It won’t be until the natural evolution of development to shift back to the western Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf in the latter half of the month that we might have something to track closer to land areas.

GFS Indicating a Possible Return to Favorable MJO Conditions in the Coming Two Weeks

GFS Indicating a Possible Return to Favorable MJO Conditions in the Coming Two Weeks

In fact, the MJO phase may come right in to those regions as indicated by some of the long range model guidance. This would time quite well with the shift in pattern that occurs this time of year. For now, however, the Atlantic Basin has nothing aimed towards land, at least not on the western side.

In the east Pacific, tropical storm Kristy formed today not too far off of Mexico and will move away from land and towards cooler water. In this region, the upper pattern has mostly favored westward moving storms and hurricanes and this pattern is likely to also continue for the next several weeks.

Be sure to read tomorrow’s blog post as I will have a very special announcement regarding a major project that we are about to undertake. I am actually announcing it to our private clients tonight at 8pm ET so if you’re a member, be sure to log in and watch the live announcement on the main Client Services homepage. Then, tomorrow morning, I’ll have a big write up on what we’re up to. I am very excited about it and think that you will be too!

Isaac prompts hurricane warnings for portions of Florida as it dumps heavy rains on Hispaniola and Cuba

TS Isaac Tracking Map

TS Isaac Tracking Map

TS Isaac is currently feeling the effects of land as it moves over eastern Cuba. The rugged terrain is no doubt taking a toll on the low level center of circulation and this has caused weakening which will continue until the center moves back out over the very warm waters of the Florida Straits. At that point, it is possible that Isaac will regain hurricane intensity and could do so rather quickly. For this reason, hurricane warnings have been posted for much of extreme south Florida, including all of the Keys.

Once Isaac emerges over the water, it will roughly parallel the Cuban coast which means a prolonged period of continued heavy rain for the island. And since the storm is still quite large in size, its effects will spread in to the Florida peninsula well ahead of the center passing through the Keys late tomorrow night or early Monday. Make no mistake, if Isaac is strengthening as it passes through the Keys, its effects will be significantly enhanced, especially the wind. As I have mentioned many times before, it has been our experience that an intensifying storm/hurricane tends to bring the wind down to the surface much more efficiently so please keep this in mind and heed the advice of your local emergency management officials. If you’re told to evacuate, do it. Don’t try to wait and see how strong Isaac gets. It will definitely be too late, especially if it rapidly intensifies over the very warm water.

The next concern will be for the Panhandle region of Florida. Isaac is forecast to make landfall perhaps late Tuesday night. Exactly where cannot be determined yet but keep in mind, the storm surge will be highest to the east of where the center makes landfall. Here too, when the time comes to evacuate, do so without hesitation. It really is better to be safe despite the aggravation of going through the evacuation process. Waiting on Isaac can be a deadly mistake. We can hope all we want but hope is NOT a planning tool.

I am packing up the Chevy Tahoe with gear to prepare to head to Florida today. I will meet up with colleague Mike Watkins and we’ll cover Isaac’s effects for the next several days. I’ll head to SW Florida first, then to the panhandle region after that, unless the track shifts west more and Isaac is forecast to pass farther away from SW Florida. We’ll see as I drive the 12 to 14 hours ahead of me to even get down there.

I will stream LIVE on our Ustream channel which will be embedded on the homepage here once I depart North Carolina. Along the way, you can watch my progress, hear and see everything that goes on. I will also post video blogs to our iPhone app, several of them per day. So if you have the app, be looking for numerous video updates throughout the next few days in the video section of the app. Remember that, unfortunately, you have to completely close the app and then restart it to refresh the video pages. This was overlooked in the initial development and the update coming out soon will have a fix for this.

Florida has not had a hurricane in seven years. I hope that people are ready for what Isaac brings. We will do our best to provide information and updates along the way via this site, Twitter, our app and our exclusive subscriber site, Client Services. A lot of what happens with Isaac will hinge upon how quickly it regains strength over the Florida Straits. Be prepared for anything, especially in the Keys. I’ll see you all from the road this afternoon.