Time to get HURRB ready for incredible journey and you can be a part of it

HURRB the Hurricane Balloon

HURRB the Hurricane Balloon

Last year I announced that we were working on a project to launch a weather balloon and accompanying payload in to the eye of a hurricane when it makes landfall along the U.S. coast. The goal was to capture never-before-seen video as well as log GPS data to learn what the air flow is like inside, and above, the center of a hurricane after it makes landfall. We call it the HURRB Project.

We had a successful test in May of 2012 in Texas and were ready for a potential launch during last year’s hurricane season but the opportunity was never there.

The idea is to have the balloon lift a payload consisting of four GoPro cameras, a GPS data logger, a satellite tracking beacon and an APRS transmitter in to the eye of a hurricane. The payload was ascend up through the eye and if it clears without any mishaps, it would rise to 100,000 feet or more before the balloon burst due to the extreme low pressure. Then, the payload would fall back to the ground via parachute and we would retrieve it by locating it via the satellite tracker or the APRS unit. People do this all the time as a hobby all around the world. We want to do it in one of the most unique environments on the planet. If it works, we could have some of the most incredible video of the inside of a hurricane ever taken. As the payload rises above the eye, assuming we can get it to clear the swirling, turbulent tempest, we should be able to see the hurricane come in to view as the balloon goes on up to the edge of space. The view from 100,000 feet is incredible. We’ve seen it with our test launch. Looking down on the hurricane with our HD GoPro cams should be absolutely stunning. The only way we’ll know is if we try.

Prepping of HURRB for test launch in May, 2012

Prepping of HURRB for test launch in May, 2012

In addition to potentially once-in-a-lifetime video, we hope to gather valuable GPS data every 5 seconds that the payload is aloft. This will tell us a lot about the air flow in the eye and above the hurricane. We have no idea where the balloon will go once launched. We’ve asked scientists from NOAA and at various universities what their thoughts are and no one has a clear cut answer. That is what makes this so exciting: discovery. We will know once we try and that is an incredible motivator to get this done.

Obviously we have to have a hurricane to launch in. It would be best if it were in the middle of the day but even a night landfall will afford us the opportunity to gather the GPS data at the expense of getting any decent video. Who knows? We may get lucky and launch just as the sun is rising in the east. Can you imagine how that would look? Believe me, I have many times.

The project has been funded through private contributions from the general public and a few businesses who follow our work. We still have a need for about $1200 in order to purchase a balloon or two for this season and add the very latest GoPro cameras to the payload (ours are second generation HERO2 cams).

This is the HURRB tile available for purchase to help support the project

This is the HURRB tile available for purchase to help support the project

To help facilitate the fund raising process, we offered a unique opportunity for the public to get involved. We created a special light-weight plastic “tile” that can accomodate a signature or a message. We sell the tiles for $100 each and will include them with the payload to be sent in to the eye. We still have 18 tiles left over from last year’s efforts. We hope to raise the funds we need by selling these last 18 tiles. I’ll send it to you, you sign it, put a message, what ever you like (one person actually painted theirs – a true work of art!) and then send it back to us. We’ll then put it in a container to be sent up with the payload. When it’s all said and done, we’ll send the tile, a piece of the payload, back to you on a specially made frame to hang in your home or office. Talk about a truly rewarding experience in exchange for your support of this project. You may give it as a gift to someone or have the whole family sign it, what ever works for you. As you can see in the photo, people are creative with their tiles.

If you’re interested in helping out with funding, please visit the HURRB page for information on how to purchase a tile. I have 18 left and once they are gone, that’s it, there are no more. We will have them on hand until we finally launch HURRB – whether it be this year or in five years, those tiles go with HURRB on an incredible journey.

HURRB has its own Twitter account too: follow @HURRB and when we wake him up later this month, you’ll see that he has some interesting things to say.

I will have more about this project later in the season once we get closer to the more active portion in August.

M. Sudduth

TD2 a rainmaker for Central America

The NHC saw enough evidence of a low level center with well organized convection associated with the tropical wave in the Gulf of Honduras this morning to upgrade it to TD2. For several hours, right up until landfall anyway, the depression seemed poised to become a tropical storm with well defined banding and decent outflow aloft. Now that it’s over land, it has been cut off from the warm water supply that was fueling the deep convection and weakening should commence.

The official track shows the circulation making it out over the extreme southern Bay of Campeche by mid-week. If this happens, then there is a very narrow window of opportunity for the depression to reach tropical storm intensity before making landfall for a final time well south of Tampico.

The threat of heavy rain will continue for portions of Central America with as much as half a foot possible in isolated areas.

Thanks to a nice bubble of high pressure over the southern U.S. there is no chance for the depression to get pulled north and in to the Gulf of Mexico. This is common during June and July as large “heat ridges” set up shop over the southern U.S. – usually keeping Caribbean development buried well to the south.

I’ll have more here tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth


No worries from the tropics this weekend

Here we are in mid-June and the tropics are nice and quiet. The NHC is not monitoring any organized areas of convection in either the Atlantic or the east Pacific. Also, none of the global computer models that we watch for tropical development show anything taking place over the next several days. Typically, June is pretty quiet – Andrea was an exception this year.

We are likely headed towards a period of favorable upper level winds associated with the MJO towards the end of the month. I am not confident about it just yet though as the GFS shows a much more pronounced signal than does the ECMWF MJO forecast. There’s no need to worry about which one will be correct right now, we’ve got a nice weekend ahead and should enjoy that. I’ll examine the MJO forecast more closely on Monday. Until then, have a great weekend, stay safe if traveling and I’ll have more here on Monday.

Thoughts on Andrea plus the tropical Atlantic

This is a fairly active Tropical Weather Outlook Map for early June

This is a fairly active Tropical Weather Outlook Map for early June

Andrea made landfall early this evening along the Big Bend area of Florida as a solid tropical storm. Heavy rain bands produced some flooding as well as tornadoes across portions of the Florida peninsula today. Now that the center is over land, a steady weakening will take place though the threat of additional impacts from Andrea is not over.

Bands of heavy rain will rotate onshore across coastal Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina throughout the remainder of the night. These spiral bands are capable of dropping a quick inch or two of rain if they train over an area for an extended period of time. There is also a slight risk of tornadoes tonight though without daytime heating to help elevate those thunderstorms within the rainbands, this risk is quite low.

The main issue will be tomorrow as the storm moves up the I-95 corridor and continues to dump excessive rain fall over a large area. This will make travel difficult and I know that people, despite the storm, will be headed to the area beaches as school is now out for a lot of families. Please, take my advice and slow down, leave extra time to get to your destination. I have driven in many a hurricane and know the dangerous of not just the roads but OTHER DRIVERS who could not care any less about others. I want you back reading the blog Monday, so drive safe!

I know this will be a rainy and generally nasty start to the weekend for the region but, no worries, by Noon Saturday, skies will clear and places such as Tybee Island, Hilton Head, Wrightsville Beach and the Outer Banks will be fine and dandy – so do not cancel plans if you’re headed there this weekend.

Elsewhere in the tropics, we have 92L which went mostly un-noticed by most until late this afternoon when it became a little better organized over the deep tropics. I believe this is a sign of things to come as the atmoshphere is more unstable across the deep tropics this season and it will not surprise me to see an active July out that way considering the distinctly different set up than we’ve seen in recent years. For now, 92L is fighting against one heck of a shear machine which is common for June. If this were late August, we’d be looking at our next named storm already with this system. It’s just something to monitor and will not have a negative impact on any land areas anytime soon, if at all.

I’ll post more here in the morning and plan to add a few video clips to our iPhone app, Hurricane Impact, throughout the day tomorrrow from the Wilmington, NC area.

M. Sudduth

Andrea lopsided but going to bring adverse conditions to the Southeast

Tropical storm Andrea to affect a lot of people from FL to VA

Tropical storm Andrea to affect a lot of people from FL to VA

Tropical storm Andrea has intensified over night with top winds now reaching 60 mph. The surface pressure has also dropped to 997 mb. This is fairly impressive for a lopsided storm like Andrea where most of the more intense convection is located to the north and east of center rather than wrapping completely around it.

The storm is already bringing bands of heavy rain and gusty winds to a good deal of Florida, mainly from the central panhandle across much of the peninsula. Embedded within these rain bands are isolated tornadoes that spring up with little warning. Fortunately, they are not the same type of tornadoes that are seen on the Great Plains but they can still cause significant damage where ever they touch down. This severe weather threat will continue for parts of Florida and will spread in to Georgia and the Carolinas throughout today and tomorrow. Keep that NOAA Weather Radio handy – rapidly changing weather can affect you with little advance warning.

The strength of the storm will limit its storm surge potential but as much as four feet of water could inundate otherwise dry areas from Tampa Bay north and west to Apalachicola. My best advice to know if your area will be impacted by surge is to visit weather.gov and input your ZIP Code on the homepage. From there you will have a page specific to your location. There will be red headlines in the top area of that page outlining hazards associated with Andrea. Read these discussions and you’ll know what to expect for your local area. It’s a great tool to help you better understand the impacts from this tropical storm.

Winds will continue to increase and may approach tropical storm force across a wide swath of the west coast of Florida. These windy conditions will then move up along the Southeast coast, also pushing a small storm surge onshore from Florida to Virginia. Rough seas will make boating a no-no over the next couple of days.

The track forecast keeps Andrea well inland over the Southeast but the NHC indicates it will be remain a tropical storm for quite some time. This will result in a rather unpleasant 24 to 36 hours for many folks from Florida to Virginia. Do not underestimate the impacts from “just a tropical storm”. The severe weather elements alone are enough to warrant quite a bit of concern due to the nature of this particular storm. Add to that the heavy rain, storm surge and windy conditions and you can see why this needs to be taken seriously. It’s not about the category, it’s about the impact and Andrea will bring quite a few negative impacts to the Southeast today and tomorrow.

I’ll post more on Andrea here later today. I’ll also have a video blog posted to our app, Hurricane Impact, early this afternoon and plan on posting video blogs from around SE North Carolina during this event later today and throughout tomorrow.

M. Sudduth