Tropical wave in cental Atlantic a sign of what’s ahead

Tropical Weather Outlook map from the NHC showing area of interest in the central Atlantic

Tropical Weather Outlook map from the NHC showing area of interest in the central Atlantic

Not much going on in the tropics since Arthur earlier this month. This is typical for July which is usually a very quiet month in the Atlantic Basin.

In fact, we did not have any tropical waves to flare up worth mentioning until yesterday when the NHC issued an outlook for one in the central Atlantic. It rolled off of Africa a few days ago and has a low pressure area associated with it at the surface. Water temps are warm and overall, environmental conditions are generally favorable for development right now. However, this is likely only temporary as it looks as though conditions will not be so great for development as the week wears on. It’s just too early in the season yet for robust Cape Verde tropical waves to get going this far east. We’re still looking at another month or so before that happens.

The presence of this system does remind us of what could lie ahead. As I mentioned, July is usually not very active, especially in the deep tropics. Once we get in to mid to late August, conditions change and we begin to see more and more active tropical waves moving west from Africa. At that point, it will come down to upper level winds and, perhaps more importantly, instability in the atmosphere. If the mid-levels of the atmosphere are too dry with lower humidity value than usual, then the tropical waves will struggle to develop deep convection and will remain weak. On the other hand, if moisture levels are where they should be or are above average, then we would likely see a very busy August and September.

I believe that much will depend on the situation with the El Nino which was forecast to be coming on quite strong by August. As it turns out, there is barely any El Nino to talk about, especially in the central regions of the tropical Pacific. It just never made it and what warming there was has all but vanished. However, the water just west of South America, extending westward for several hundred miles, is still quite warm compared to normal. This could have just enough negative influence on the Atlantic side to help keep the peak months of August-October quieter than normal.

One thing I will be watching for is how much, if any, cooling takes place in this region of the Pacific. There are indications that we could see a considerable drop off in the surface temperatures of this area and if this happens, I suppose it could remove at least a portion of the negative influence for the Atlantic Basin. It’s just so complicated and hard to tell if one puzzle piece really makes that big of a difference considering how the other pieces fit together and interact with each other.

For me, the tropical wave that the NHC is talking about this morning is a sign that we are approaching the peak months of August-October. Thus it is a good time to remind you to be aware and prepared. Arthur was an interesting event in that it was so early in the season and it did not fall apart at landfall – instead, it continued to strengthen despite its close proximity to the North Carolina coast. If that is the way things will go this season, it won’t matter much if tropical waves develop far out in the Atlantic. What matters are the ones that would do so close to land, leaving little time to react. We’ll see how things shape up over the coming weeks but August is just around the corner and from there on, at least from a climatological perspective, the season should become more active. Time will tell just how active, that is the only certainty at this point.

I’ll have another blog post here tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth 10:24 AM ET July 21

Hurricane Arthur: a success story for the science

Radar screen grab showing my location as the eye of hurricane Arthur passed over me

Radar screen grab showing my location as the eye of hurricane Arthur passed over me

The hurricane Arthur field mission to the Outer Banks of North Carolina was one of the most successful in our history. We had more technology to throw at it than in any other event. The results have been fantastic! I want to share some of those with you now.

First of all, a HUGE thanks goes out to Jesse Bass, Mike Watkins, Paul Bowman and Kerry Mallory for helping to make this as stress-free as possible. I may be the guy on TV sometimes but there is a real team effort going on here and it shows in our results.

The goal was to gather data and report on conditions. We succeeded 100% with that goal.

Screen capture from our app showing the live weather data coming in from the anemometer placed on a house in Rodanthe, NC

Screen capture from our app showing the live weather data coming in from the anemometer placed on a house in Rodanthe, NC

Jesse and I arrived in Rodanthe about an hour before sunrise on Thursday, July 3. Within 45 minutes, the weather station was set up and streaming live data to our our app, Hurricane Impact.

By early afternoon, we had flown the quad copter three times in three separate places to show the area before Arthur pushed through. I felt it was important to see the region before the high water lines and debris in order to compare later and piece together the how and why of the storm surge that was sure to affect the area.

We set up a live streaming camera, with audio for the first time ever, at a home in Hatteras Village. I thought there was a chance for significant surge flooding there as we saw during Alex in 2004. It did not happen this time due to a different track than Alex took but the camera ran perfect for over 24 hours – a new record for our technology. You have to understand, these unmanned cameras are completely self-contained with their own battery supply, etc. This was a milestone for our live video capability. The Weather Channel used the shot numerous times and our other private clients tuned in from time to time to check things out. Even when the power to the village was out, it was great to be able to at least hear the wind and rain hitting the case that housed the camera system.

I did not deploy any additional live cameras due to the fact that Arthur was going to move through during the middle of the night (why do most seem to do that? Grrrrrr!). However, we did have a new device, a live surge cam that we do not anchor to anything – we call it the “Drifting Surge Cam”. I was hesitant about deploying it, again, since it was dark. Then, I thought, what the heck? I might as well test some of its capabilities like being able to track it via satellite. If we did not get any decent live or recorded video, so be it, let’s see if the concept works in a real surge event. It did!

I set the DSC out with the help of Jim Cantore right where he was reporting from in Waves, NC, on the sound side of Hwy 12. Within an hour or so, the live stream quit for unknown reasons but the GoPro inside kept going. We also noticed it was moving once the eye went past the location and the wind switched directions and pushed the Pamlico Sound over the area.

From what we hear, the water rose several feet in mere minutes. Too bad it was dark, the DSC would have captured that rise in full HD! There will be a next time and we are already working on putting LED lights on the unit to at least let us see something as opposed to nothing.

Once I knew the eye was not going to pass over Jim’s location, nor mines in Rodanthe, I drove up Highway 12 towards the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge building. I knew the parking lot was elevated enough to keep me safe from any surge that might come in later. I captured wind data on the Tahoe’s anemometer which recorded a peak gust of 81 mph at nine feet above the ground. Not bad for a fairly low height of the anemometer.

Our weather station recorded a peak gust of 70 mph at 10 meters above the ground in Rodanthe. This makes sense due to the fact that the eye wall did not pass over Rodanthe, not like it did where I was or in the Pamlico Sound itself where WeatherFlow, Inc recorded higher winds than I did via their instruments over the water.

My lowest pressure was 977.3 millibars as the eye moved over me just south of the Oregon Inlet – not even a mile. During the eye I carefully drove on to the Bonner Bridge to position myself as close to the eye’s center as possible. It was an amazing few minutes as the calm set in and precip dropped to nothing.

After the eye passed over, I went back south on Highway 12 a couple of miles and witnessed the storm surge racing in from the sound. I have never seen the water rise that fast in all my years of doing this. Some of the video I shot of that happening was thought to have been time lapse it happened so quickly. I assure, it was not! The surge literally pushed up Highway 12 from higher elevation points to lower ones, coming at me like an army. I was in virtually no danger since I had the Bonner Bridge behind me and it was easily 12 to 20 feet higher than the sound as you go up the approach. This safety net allowed me to document the surge coming in which I will use to show people who have no clue about such forces and hopefully motivate them to evacuate if ever told to do so. My experience with the area, knowing what to expect, where to go and how to be safe is a big part of the success of the mission.

Drifting Surge Cam GPS track showing its sart point and where it ended up and was found by The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore

Drifting Surge Cam GPS track showing its sart point and where it ended up and was found by The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore

Now, since the surge did some damage to Highway 12, I was not able to get back south on the 4th to Rodanthe or Hatteras to retrieve my equipment – or the Drifting Surge Cam. We tracked it via satellite until it seemingly stopped “phoning in”. We wondered if it had quit, was it found and taken by someone? What happened? It clearly moved from where we left it, in fact, by several blocks. This, in and of itself, was remarkable. The DSC worked, it drifted and we captured its GPS trail. I do not know of any other time that surge has been studied with a drifting GPS device. This will help us to understand the flow pattern and how fast the case was moved. Why does this matter? It further emphasizes the fact that you cannot wait until you know there is a danger, as in see it happening with your own eye, and then act. Evacuation saves lives and storm surge is the main reason evacuations are called for. This data will help us in pushing that message out during future events.

With me being cut off from Rodanthe and points south, I had to just head back to Wilmington where I live.

I talked to Jim Cantore and asked him to go look for the DSC. He was stuck in Waves and could not leave until Saturday afternoon. We sent him a map showing where the last signal was received and sure enough, Saturday morning, he found it right where it was supposed to be – covered in mud and gook! Success! No more losing surge cams to surge like we did in Katrina back in 2005. This is a huge breakthrough for our work and I am very happy with the results!

What did the GoPro cam capture? Nothing really, it was just too dark. That is the way it goes sometimes but the victory we take away is that the technology allows us to get closer to a hurricane’s lethal impacts than ever before without putting people in the way of it. We can see and study the effects in new ways, offering new perspectives for our audience and clients such as The Weather Channel. I have always wanted to bring live weather data to the mix for national television reporting, now it is happening – the science is being integrated in to the news.

Mirlo Beach area two days after hurricane Arthur. You can see where the surge pushed in from the Pamlico sound though with proper mitigation, the damage was minimal and the area is recovering rapidly

Mirlo Beach area two days after hurricane Arthur. You can see where the surge pushed in from the Pamlico sound though with proper mitigation, the damage was minimal and the area is recovering rapidly

I am back in Rodanthe now completing some post-Arthur work, including aerial video from the quad copter. I want to see the effects of the surge on the landscape, how the geography gets changed. Seeing it from above is the only way to do so on the scale that I need. Four years ago, this would not be possible as it was too expensive for this type of technology.

The good news is that the Outer Banks are fine. You will hardly notice anything happened out here except for a few areas where the surge was especially deep and debris is strewn about. The ocean is great, no worries there at all. Come on down and visit, take a vacation. Someone told me it was a slice of heaven out here – I agreed and even though a day of hell comes along every once in a while, those are few and far between compared to the natural beauty that lures so many people to the region year after.

The tropics are quiet, at least in the Atlantic and east Pacific. Out in the west Pacific, a powerful typhoon is raging. It’s that time of year – best to be alert and ready if the pendulum swings back in to the Atlantic before all is said and done. Thanks for following our work and we’ll see you out there the next time.

M. Sudduth 10:30 AM ET July 7

Time to head to the Outer Banks

Hurricane warnings are up and it is time for action. People along parts of the North Carolina coast will have to endure a hurricane threat, and possible direct hit, this Fourth of July. It’s a very rare event indeed and not one that people will want to remember the holiday period for. None the less, it is part of living on the coast and this too shall pass – but not without some anxious moments ahead for sure.

My best advice at this point for people in harm’s way is to listen to your local officials. Seek out local information via social media and Web sites. Weather.gov is a great resource with Hurricane Local Statements that give detailed information about what to expect and when. For people who know the drill, they are springing in to action now. For visitors who may think this is exciting, well, it is by the very nature of the beast but it’s a dangerous kind of excitement and this situation needs to be taken seriously. If you’re asked to evacuate, do it. I know it stinks to lose vacation time but you don’t want to get stuck on the Outer Banks for 10 days with no food or water – trust me on that.

Speaking of being stuck, hopefully that won’t happen to me. I’ll be heading out to Hatteras Island tonight. Gotta get there before 5am tomorrow or I can’t get in. I will deploy my equipment and then seek out high ground to ride it out in relative safety. I have enough supplies for 3 days so I will likely be ok – if not, my fat reserves will kick in 😉

Follow along live via Ustream as I travel to the Outer Banks. I’ll stop in Williamston for a couple of hour’s nap later tonight and then it’s on to Hatteras.

Click here for the link to the live Ustream feed. It will be active for as long as I can possibly keep it going.

You may also follow along in our app, Hurricane Impact. I will post video reports often throughout the next few days. The app is a fantastic way to keep up with what is going on and will have the live weather data and web cam image feeding in to by later tomorrow. Search Hurricane Impact in the App Store and on Google Play.

I wish my friends and other folks who follow our work the best of luck with Arthur. Hopefully it won’t be too bad but I am fearful that we are looking at a potential ugly situation for a portion of the NC Outer Banks. I will do my best to provide accurate, non-sensational information for you, thanks for following along!

Mark Sudduh 7:15 pm ET July 2

Every mile counts now

Zoomed in track map showing just how close the center of Arthur may track to the Outer Banks of NC

Zoomed in track map showing just how close the center of Arthur may track to the Outer Banks of NC

Arthur is poised to become a hurricane and a fairly significant one at that. The NHC is forecasting winds to reach at least 90 mph before the cyclone transitions in to a more mid-latitude type storm. This has prompted the issuance of a hurricane watch for portions of the North Carolina coast – specifically from Bogue Inlet to Oregon Inlet. This encompasses all of the Crystal Coast and Outer Banks region. The time to prepare is at hand.

The hurricane watch is flanked on its north and south sides by a tropical storm watch as conditions look to deteriorate over the next day or so moving from south to north.

The storm strengthened overnight and now has winds of 60 mph as the pressure has dropped to 996 millibars. This represents a substantial reduction in air pressure over the last few days considering that the weak low pressure area emerged in to about a 1016 millibar environment. This tells me that the storm has potential to keep on strengthening once it rids itself of the pesky dry air and develops deep convection around its center. Warm water and light winds aloft could allow Arthur to become strong, possibly stronger than the forecast indicates. I always caution people who are dealing with hurricanes to prepare for one category higher – might as well be ready, right?

Right now, the storm is moving northward but the key time is when it makes the turn more to the east.

Even though the effects extend out well away from the center, it is going to be extremely important for the residents and visitors of the Outer Banks, especially Ocracoke and Hatteras, just how close the eye tracks to them. The reason is the storm surge from Pamlico Sound. If the radius of maximum winds moves over the sound then a storm surge exceeding 5 feet is possible on the north side of Hatteras and Ocracoke. This is where every mile will count. The closer the core of Arthur tracks to land, the more wind will push the sound southward, piling up the water against the land. It could mean the difference between “wow, that was close” and “wow, there’s a lot of damage here!”

Since there is no way to know even this close to the event happening, it is best to assume the worst. People in the area who have hurricane experience will know what to do. Visitors and newcomers may think this is a novelty and somewhat exciting. It is but that comes with a price. Storm surge is nothing to mess with. It can obviously be lethal but it also causes damage to automobiles and structures alike. Sound side flooding sneaks in – pours down Highway 12 and fills up Hatteras like a shallow basin. Don’t believe me? This is what hurricane Alex did in 2004.

I know because I shot this video. That is 105 mph wind coming across the sound pushing the water on to Hatteras. While no loss of life occurred, damage was extensive, especially to cars and trucks. Take this seriously folks, no two hurricanes are ever the same and comparing Arthur to Alex could be a big mistake. Take Arthur at face value and prepare accordingly.

For interests north and south of the hurricane watch area, the impacts will be less severe but they too should be taken seriously. It’s all about common sense which seems to be lacking more and more these days. The ocean will turn rough, stay out unless you’re an expert swimmer or surfer. Be careful driving in the torrential rains that are certain to fall along a wide swath as Arthur moves by. In short, don’t do anything dumb. Tropical storm conditions can bring trees down and knock power out. Take it easy, respect the storm and you’ll do fine. Take some pictures, share your experience on social media but do so with safety in mind.

Hurricane Impact for iOS and Android - get it today on the App Store or Google Play

Hurricane Impact for iOS and Android – get it today on the App Store or Google Play

I am preparing to head to the Outer Banks later today and plan to meet up with long time friend and colleague, Jesse Bass. We will be setting up one of our high-end weather stations which will feed wind and pressure data to our app, Hurricane Impact. The station also has a camera that sends an image from the site location every 60 seconds. You’ll be able to literally watch the impact of Arthur (that’s why we call it Hurricane Impact).

We will also post video reports to the app on a regular basis. So if you cannot watch our live Tahoe cam feed, you can at least stay up to date via the video reports which get posted minutes after we shoot them.

We will also deploy, if conditions warrant, four storm surge cameras. These are our unmanned camera systems that capture and stream live video from places that we have no business being in. These will feed to our private clients who support our work with their subscriptions to our suite of hurricane information and live video feeds. We will always have the Tahoe cam, also known as the “everywhere cam”, available on our Ustream channel free of charge. We’ll literally take you in to the worst conditions that Arthur brings to the area. Along the way, you’ll learn a lot about how tropical cyclones work, their impacts, history and so much more. It’s like a live science show during a hurricane – nothing else like it anywhere. I hope you can watch the free stream and consider signing up to catch our Surge Cam feeds as well. The mission is to gather data and document the impact. We are as ready as we have ever been in our 15 year history.

I’ll post another update later tonight on this page with continuing shorter posts on Twitter and Facebook.

To follow us on the go on your iOS or Android device – search Hurricane Impact and you’ll be good to go. It’s the only hurricane app that actually takes you in to the storm you’ve been tracking.

M. Sudduth 5:30 AM ET July 2

 

Christina becomes a hurricane plus we are adding new feature to Hurricane Impact

Hurricane Christina track map from the NHC

Hurricane Christina track map from the NHC

The east Pacific is off to quite a busy season with the second hurricane forming overnight. Fortunately, Christina will remain well off the Mexican coastline and will have very little impact on the region’s weather.

Top winds are 75 mph with more intensification forecast by the NHC. Water temps in the area are running a little bit above the long term average but will eventually cool along Christina’s path, causing it to weaken in a couple of days.

There are no other areas of concern in the east Pacific or in the Atlantic.

New Feature Coming to Hurricane Impact

Today I am introducing a new feature for our iOS and Android app, Hurricane Impact. It came about as a result of my work during winter storms this past season – we kind of stumbled on to it by accident and I believe it will add a valuable layer to our unique app.

I call it “Share Your Impact”. Quite simply, it is a way for users of the app, or anyone else really, to share video with us that we, in turn, post to the app and share with its users. This makes the app more interactive between us and you and allows our users to become contributors to the content of the app.

It was during a powerful winter storm in late January that I was covering in the northeast part of North Carolina – near Elizabeth City. The snow was coming down big time and I posted several video blogs to the app, keeping a chronological log of the winter storm. I was in touch with my colleague in southeast Virginia, Jesse Bass, about conditions there. He told me the snow was beginning to increase in Portsmouth too. I asked him to shoot some video with his iPhone and send it to me via text message. He did just that and within a few minutes, I was able to watch what he was experiencing nearly 50 miles away. Anyone with an iPhone or other Smartphone can do this, it was nothing new. But then it dawned on me, why not save the video to my camera roll and then post it to our app just like it was video I shot myself? This would allow anyone who has our app to see Jesse’s video. I did just that and it worked perfectly.

I was so excited about the prospects that I jumped on my laptop and began interacting with several subscribers to our Client Services site. We have a live chat that our members use to post back and forth between each other and us in real time. I told them about the discovery and asked anyone who had the app to check. Low and behold, they were watching Jesse’s video from Portsmouth – only minutes after I had initially received it myself. We were on to something.

I asked one of our members, who also lives in southeast Virginia, if he wouldn’t mind sending me a video clip of his own to add to the app. Again, within a matter of minutes, I had another 45 second clip, shot by a user this time, added to the app. I put the word out to other subscribers and asked them to do the same – text me a short video clip of their conditions and I would add them to the app’s video section. Within an hour, I had several user generated video clips from over four locations around North Carolina and Virginia. This meant that the app was no longer one way. Now our user base could contribute their experience, their impact. It was obvious, we had to take this mainstream and open it to anyone, anywhere.

Fast forward to the Nor’easter that blasted Cape Cod and Nova Scotia in late March. I was in Chatham working the storm, posting my own video clips to the tune of 3 or 4 per hour. I got in touch with another one of our subscribers who lives in Nova Scotia. I knew he had an iPad and asked him to take a longer video clip, about 90 seconds, and email it to me as an attachment. The storm was pounding Nova Scotia with hurricane-force winds and blinding snow. In less than a half an hour, I had exclusive video, shot by someone who was being affected by the storm, posted to the app. I knew we had something special in the making and what it could mean for hurricane season.

Hurricane Impact Video Page

Hurricane Impact Video Page

The idea is to share your impact with us and we will share it with users of our app. You don’t even have to own Hurricane Impact yourself, though it would probably be more fun if you did. The plan is simple enough. Starting June 15, we will have a special Gmail account set up for anyone to send a short video clip to that gives us a look at how a hurricane or tropical storm is impacting them. Now I realize that user-generated content is nothing new. However, we’re not talking about the Web, we’re talking about exclusive content for our mobile application and it’s all hurricane related. I think it will be a big hit with our user base – especially as it continues to grow.

Here’s how it will work:

Anyone with the ability to record a short video clip, using pretty much any device, can record about a minute of video and send it to us. Tell us what you’re doing to prepare for a hurricane that is coming your way. Ask questions that we can answer in a video post of our own. Show us how your are getting ready for the storm. Keep it short and to the point, and no funny business. No video will be posted without it being vetted by one of our staff. So forget about sending something that you wouldn’t show your mother or grade school teacher – it won’t make it to the app. Tell us where you are, what is going on and how you feel about the situation. And always, always, always shoot in 16:9 landscape mode, do not hold your iPhone or other device vertical – hold it horizontal so it looks like a Hollywood movie or TV show playing on your computer. Once you have shot the clip, email it to us, give a brief description of what we’re looking at and where you are located and we’ll add it to the app for anyone else who has our app to view.

Think about this for a moment. Hurricane Impact now becomes a portal for sharing your experience. It is a window in to your world and how the hurricane or storm is impacting you. That’s the bottom line, right? How is the situation impacting you? This takes it right down to your location, your home, business or where ever you may be. Having a hard time evacuating due to traffic? Send us a video clip showing that. Hunkered down with the family all set and ready to safely ride out the storm? Share that! Once it’s all over, take us outside and show the aftermath when safe to do so. Yes, cell service may be spotty afterwards but we will take what ever we can get and share it with our user base. It is a great way to add utility to Hurricane Impact that brings the experience full circle. You’ve tracked the hurricane all the way to your doorstep – now share the impact with the rest of us. I believe this will catch on and be a big hit.

So, if you don’t already have our app, get it. You won’t be disappointed. The app is focused on the impact and has features that no other weather or hurricane app does. We have a daily video blog called the Hurricane Outlook and Discussion, live weather data coming from our own meteorological equipment set up just for the storm or hurricane, live web cam images coming from our own cameras, video posts from the field, tracking maps and links to live video during our field missions. And now, the ability for you to share your experiences with us and other app users.

It is available for iOS devices as well as Android. Your support of the app helps to make it better. If you own it now and have enjoyed the content it provides, leave a review so others can have a guidepost of what to expect. It is easy to remember the name too: Hurricane Impact. Search in the App Store or Google Play and then share your impact, questions, etc. with us starting June 15!

I will have a special blog post on June 15 with the Gmail address that we will use. I want to test the feature at that point too by inviting users, or anyone who can record video, to send us a quick clip with a question about hurricane season or anything you ever wanted to ask us. I’ll post them to the app along with a video response to follow. You’ll see quickly how this will be a very unique feature and one that will add value to what is already an innovative hurricane app.

M. Sudduth 8:52 AM ET June 11