A decade has passed since the single most destructive season in history, have we learned from it?

Hurricane Rita in the Gulf of Mexico during the historic 2005 season

Hurricane Rita in the Gulf of Mexico during the historic 2005 season

Here we are on June 1, the official start to the Atlantic hurricane season. Much has already been said about how “slow” it is likely to be so I am not going to delve in to that. We all know, kind of like John Calipari at Kentucky basketball, that it only takes one to ruin your  perfect season. Be ready for anything or be prepared to lose everything. It’s that simple.

Ten years ago we were about to embark on a perilous journey that no one was ready for, not even close. The 2005 hurricane season was the most destructive and one of the deadliest in American history. Hard to believe that a decade has already passed.

What have we learned since the likes of Katrina, Rita, Wilma? Those were the big three that stood out during the historic ’05 season, all of them becoming category five hurricanes at some point in their infamous lives.

I am going to be a pessimist here and say that we have learned very little. The evidence? Massive rebuilding along the same coastline that was all but wiped out 10 years ago. In many cases, more expensive property has gone up in the wake of the hurricanes, inviting an even larger price tag to replace yet again after the next one. And so it goes.

Now, more than a quarter of a generation later, more people than ever are living in harm’s way. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, the hurricanes have become more legend than year-to-year threat. This has almost certainly created a silent but very real problem for emergency managers and those who would respond to even a singular major hurricane event. Look at Sandy just three years ago come late October. The Mid-Atlantic region was devastated and Sandy was nowhere close to the intensity of Katrina, Rita or Wilma at landfall. The system was overwhelmed and far too many people lost their lives. Lack of experience more than likely played a key role. We react on what we know, not what we are told. People were told to evacuate but they didn’t know the cost of staying. For those who survived, they do now.

We have to look at each hurricane season as an opportunity, an opportunity to finally get it right. It is time to put the lessons learned from a season like 2005 to good use. Learn what you can about your local hurricane history. Read books, find videos online (I know of a few hint hint) and educate your self and your family. Hurricanes are not scary. Being woefully unprepared is scary. Take the fear and anxiety out by knowing the enemy. Once you do that, you can better formulate a plan to combat that enemy. The goal is not to win but to persevere and survive. Protect what you can of your property and live to tell the story of how you dealt with hurricane-X with minimal problems. Even if another Katrina comes your way and you are faced with losing your entire home, there are ways to mitigate the loss and make it far easier to bounce back, probably stronger than before.

Or, you can do nothing. Sit back and hope, hope that nothing with a name on it comes your way. If it does, you can hope that it won’t be too bad. If it is, you can hope that you have enough food and water to last for maybe 10 days or more. If you don’t, you can hope that FEMA or other relief organization swoops in to save you. While you’re at it, hope for a good hair day so that when TIME Magazine takes your picture as you stand in line waiting for one serving of food and a drink of water, that you at least don’t look like a victim.

Hope is not a planning tool. Be hurricane prepared.

M. Sudduth 9:00 AM ET June 1


Favorable MJO pattern to set off east Pacific hurricane season

National Hurricane Center 5-day Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook map for the east Pacific indicating two areas of interest over the coming days.

National Hurricane Center 5-day Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook map for the east Pacific indicating two areas of interest over the coming days.

The east Pacific hurricane season officially began on May 15. So far, we have not had a named storm in that region but it’s still early. I am seeing signs that point to a change in the pattern which should allow for some activity to begin flaring up in the coming days.

As for the Atlantic, the season begins on June 1 but we’ve already had one tropical storm: Ana. Right now, there are no indications of anything trying to organize on the Atlantic side so I will focus on the east Pacific.

As of this morning, the NHC was outlining two areas of disturbed weather, both well to the southwest of Mexico, that have potential for additional development. The eastern most disturbance seems to have the best chance right now as it moves generally westward over the open waters of the Pacific.

The Pacific is now in an El Niño state which means that water temps along the Equator and then several degrees of latitude north (not so much south) are quite a bit warmer than normal.

GFS MJO status and forecast

GFS MJO status and forecast

Add to the El Niño the fact that a more favorable MJO or upward motion pattern is setting up and we have the makings of a busy time coming up for the eastern Pacific. The MJO can be thought of as a period of enhanced upward motion in the atmosphere, mainly in the tropics. Since tropical storms and hurricanes need vertical motion to thrive, a favorable upward motion pattern helps this process and leads to more convection (thunderstorms) over the tropics. Both the GFS and the ECMWF global models agree that a favorable MJO pattern is setting up shop across the region. This should act to enhance the probability for tropical storm formation in the region.

Fortunately, what ever does manage to get going is likely to remain far away from land areas due to a steering pattern that will keep any storms or hurricanes moving generally westward.

We are likely going to see quite a busy east Pacific hurricane season, similar perhaps to last year. It won’t be long before we see development closer to Mexico but for now, the action is taking root much farther to the southwest and is of no concern. It does mean, however, that the hurricane season is about to commence beyond just a point on the calendar. Pacific Mexico residents and tourists alike will need to be ready this season as El Niño years can feature powerful hurricanes due to the warmer water temperatures.

I will have more on the east Pacific activity throughout the weekend.

M. Sudduth 8:40 AM ET May 22


Ana now dumping heavy rain on portions of the Carolinas

Latest radar image from NWS Wilmington showing well defined spiral structure to TS Ana - along with very heavy rain at times under the bands

Latest radar image from NWS Wilmington showing well defined spiral structure to TS Ana – along with very heavy rain at times under the bands

The first tropical storm of the soon-to-be-official 2015 Atlantic hurricane season made landfall in South Carolina early this morning. Top winds were only about 45 mph though most places likely only saw 25 to 30 mph winds with spotty higher gusts.

The main issue with this storm has been rain and a lot of it. Some locations in southeast North Carolina have picked up over 3 inches of rain and more is expected as the day wears on.

Ana is still moving slowly, only about 5 miles per hour but should begin to increase its forward speed tonight and tomorrow. However, this is still not going to alleviate the threat of continued torrential rain as strong bands move around the circulation.

Fortunately, the wind has diminished so there should be little if any issues related to strong wind. This is good since the soil is loose now due to the excessive rainfall as of late.

Once Ana moves out of the region, it will begin to lose its tropical characteristics and transition back in to a more typical mid-latitude storm system. The remnant circulation will move out over the Atlantic by early this coming week and that will be end of the “A” storm for this season.

I’ll have more here tomorrow.

M. Sudduth 1:40 PM ET May 10


Ana now purely tropical but will not amount to much for Carolinas

Recent radar shot showing limited bands of showers moving onshore of the Carolina coastline

Recent radar shot showing limited bands of showers moving onshore of the Carolina coastline

The National Hurricane Center designated Ana as becoming purely tropical overnight. This means that the wind field has contracted more and overall resembles a tropical storm rather than the hybrid mix subtropical storm previously.

None of this will affect the outcome really. Bands of showers and occasional heavy rain will rotate onshore from the Atlantic across parts of the Carolina coastline. These bands will have periods of brief gusty winds, especially right along the immediate coast. Other than that, Ana is not expected to cause any significant issues for the region.

The official forecast track takes the storm inland over North Carolina early tomorrow morning. As the weakening system moves over cooler water beginning today, the coverage of heavy rain will decrease. However, for anyone traveling along I-95 and I-40 through the eastern Carolinas, be mindful of possible reduced visibilities within these scattered rain bands. Slow down, take it easy and don’t let the season’s first storm ruin your Mother’s Day weekend.

If you have plans to visit the beach, keep in mind that the surf is a little roughed up and the risk of rip currents is high right now. Avoid going in the water but enjoy the incredible beaches of the area.

Once Ana moves inland, it will weaken to a remnant low and move northeast and out to sea as nothing more than an interesting beginning to the Atlantic hurricane season. Does this mean we will have a busier than forecast season ahead? Not likely. In fact, storms that form from old cold fronts as Ana did, are common during El Nino years which we are in now. Ana will contribute a few ACE points to the overall score for the season. This is the measure of energy output from tropical cyclones. We typically expect to see anywhere from 95 to 105 ACE points in any given season. This year, some forecasts are calling for the total to be as low as 40. Ana will start things off with single digits and we’ll have to wait and see when and if we get another named storm or hurricane somewhere in the Atlantic to add more to the seasonal score. Right now, there is nothing to indicate any development chances coming up over the next week to 10 days.

I’ll have more here tomorrow.

M. Sudduth 8:55 AM ET May 9


Meandering Ana to bring heavy rain to the Carolinas this weekend

Subtropical storm Ana as seen in this early morning satellite picture

Subtropical storm Ana as seen in this early morning satellite picture

Ana became official late last night as the season’s first named (subtropical) storm. It is being classified as subtropical for now due to a rather large wind field, typical of a non-tropical origin storm system, especially this early in the soon-to-be-season.

The latest from the NHC tells us that Ana is moving quite slowly. Steering currents are generally weak but a slow northwest drift is likely today. This will bring the storm system on shore somewhere in South Carolina, north of Charleston, this weekend.

The effects will be minimal overall but periods of heavy rain are possible with some areas expected to receive upwards of 3 inches between now and Monday.  As a result, a flood watch is in effect for parts of the Carolinas this weekend.

Along the beach, an increase in surf, along with dangerous rip currents is likely. Water temps are still pretty cool, low 70s at best, so any swimmers/surfers who venture out will need to be mindful of the hazards. Don’t think that a weak storm like Ana can’t produce overwhelming surf conditions, play it safe.

Wind should not be too much of a problem, perhaps some gusts reaching 40 mph or so. I wouldn’t be shocked  to see scattered power outages, especially considering the ice storm we had here this past winter. Weakened or dead limbs that haven’t been trimmed back may pop loose and cause brief outages. Outside of that, the effects will be little more than something novel to discuss over the weekend.

I am going to head out to the beach, probably in South Carolina, some time tomorrow. A lot will depend on how well organized (or not) Ana becomes. It would be great to test some equipment, make sure it’s all working now as we approach the official start of the hurricane season. I also have a new camera system that was tested twice this past winter in New England for a pair of powerful Nor’easters. Here too, I think it would be a fantastic opportunity to test things in a much warmer environment. If I do venture out, I will stream live on our public Ustream channel. I’ll also post a few video clips to our app, Hurricane Impact. Figure I might as well take advantage of the situation and get a rehearsal in, so to speak, in case we have something much bigger somewhere else this coming season.

I’ll post another update on Ana early this evening.

M. Sudduth 8:55 AM ET May 8