Colin product of favorable time period, likely not sign of hyper-active season

This map shows the favorable upward motion or MJO pulse (green areas) that helped to support the development of TS Colin

This map shows the favorable upward motion or MJO pulse (green areas) that helped to support the development of TS Colin

Tropical storm Colin, or what ever it is right now, is moving quickly northeast just south of the North Carolina coast near Cape Fear. It will continue this track and may strengthen some over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream but it won’t matter much since the effects will be well offshore.

Many references were made of the fact that Colin was the earliest we had reached the 3rd named storm in a season. Some may even point to this as evidence that the 2016 hurricane season will be quite a bit busier than thought. Here is why that makes little sense.

First, Colin was the product of a very favorable upward motion pattern in the Western Hemisphere. This is also known as a favorable MJO period or Madden-Julian Oscillation. Essentially, it is a period of time during which tropical convection or upward motion is enhanced for a certain region of the globe. It just so happens that during the past several days, our part of the world was favored. The result is tropical convection that often leads to the development of tropical cyclones. In this case, it did and did so in the climatologically favored areas of the Atlantic Basin. In other words, the pattern supported the development of Bonnie and Colin, nothing more, nothing less.

For the sake of argument, had Colin originated from a tropical wave in the deep tropics, then we would have some concern that the season will be busier than current conditions indicate. Tropical waves usually don’t develop that far east until much later in the season. In this case, Colin had its genesis in the western Caribbean, right where it should be for this part of the hurricane season. So far, there is nothing to make me think that this is a sign of things to come. Yes, it will probably be a busy season, considering we have had very little to track since 2012. Even an average year will seem busy at this point.

Also note that we had an anomaly back in January with what turned out to be hurricane Alex. Again, this was just a random event where by the pattern allowed a very rare January hurricane to develop but it did so outside of the deep tropics and under very different circumstances than we would look for during the normal part of the season of June-November.

While it may seem like we are off to a record-setting pace, I think things will calm down after Colin. We might see something try to develop in the western Gulf of Mexico, almost in to the Bay of Campeche, during the next 10 days, but after that, the season will likely go in to a lull until the main event in August, September and October.

Meanwhile, TD One-E (for East Pacific) is meandering around just off the coast of Mexico nearing the Gulf of Tehuantepec where it should die out due to unfavorable conditions. However, the threat of heavy rains still exists for parts of the region and this could result in flash floods and mudslides, a common hazard from all tropical cyclones regardless of intensity.

I will say this: I find it interesting that the Atlantic Basin has produced two tropical cyclones during the season (Bonnie was technically just before the start) while the east Pacific is lacking somewhat. This is usually not the case as the east Pacific tends to be more active early on. In fact, last year, the east Pacific had record activity while the Atlantic was virtually shut down except for powerful hurricane Joaquin in early October. This might be a sign that at least the balance of energy is shifting from the Pacific and in to the Atlantic. We’ll see….time will tell.

M. Sudduth 8:40 AM June 7


Disorganized Colin headed for Florida with additional impacts for Georgia and the Carolinas

Posted a video discussion of TS Colin to explain what to expect in the coming hours as the storm, disorganized as it may be, heads for a landfall in Florida. Overall, the impact idea has not changed: the biggest threat will be heavy rain with some coastal surge issues in the Big Bend area of Florida.

After landfall, Colin should emerge in the Atlantic off the Georgia coast and then track fairly close to the Carolinas, potentially dumping heavy rain along the immediate coast later tomorrow.

I will have another blog post concerning Colin this evening.


NHC upgrades TD 3 to tropical storm Colin – rain and some coastal flooding biggest issues

Crooped image of NHC track map showing TS Clolin forecast points and the TS warning area along the west coast of FL

Cropped image of NHC track map showing TS Colin forecast points and the TS warning area along the west coast of FL

The 2016 hurricane season is seemingly off to quite a start with the 3rd named storm of the year (Alex back in January of all months and Bonnie last week) forming in the Gulf of Mexico this afternoon. I will talk more about what this may or may not mean for the rest of the season in a future blog post later this week. For now, let’s focus on Colin and what Floridians can expect.

First off, this is not going to be a big wind event, so get that notion out of your head now. Do not focus on “oh, it’s just a tropical storm”. We have to move away from that. No one EVER says, “oh, it’s just a small rattle snake that bit me”. Well maybe they do, but you get the point. Any poisonous snake is likely to be treated with respect and even fear. While we don”t have to fear tropical storms, they need to be understood (like snakes) and respected. That being said, let’s look at the current situation.

The latest info from the NHC tells us that top winds are 40 mph according to report from the Hurricane Hunter crew that flew recon earlier today. The forecast calls for only modest strengthening before Colin reaches Florida later tomorrow night or early Tuesday, most likely near the Big Bend area of Florida.

Let me be very clear. This forecast is for the CENTER of the storm, not for the entire storm and all its bad weather. The advisories give us information on the center forecast in latitude and longitude, with additional information throughout the rest of the package. So even though the center is moving onshore well north of Tampa, for example, heavy rain, squalls, storm surge flooding and tropical storm force winds are likely for Tampa and vicinity. Obviously, no one knows precisely where the worst weather will be, we can only rely on coastal radar when the storm gets closer to help with that. For now, if you are within the tropical storm warning area (Indian Pass to Enlgewood along the FL west coast) then you need to be ready for bad weather, it’s that simple. This is not a hurricane with a defined eyewall which is typically where the worst conditions are felt. In this case, the impact will be spread out over a good chunk of Florida from parts of the panhandle on down the peninsula, including perhaps a bit of south Florida proper.

Weather prediction center rainfall map showing impact from Colin on Southeast U.S.

Weather prediction center rainfall map showing impact from Colin on Southeast U.S.

I have included the WPC rain forecast for the next 72 hours and you can clearly see the threat here. Torrential rain, possibly wind driven at times, will make travel tough and even dangerous at times. For the love of Pete, slow down on the highways and biways out there! I am serious, traffic deaths and injuries because of rain soaked roads are 100% preventable. Colin is headed your way with plenty of rain, take notice and slow down if you’re driving through the region.

After Florida, the storm is forecast to emerge in to the Atlantic somewhere off the Georgia coast. This means heavy rain, some wind and minor coastal impacts for GA, SC and extreme southeast coastal NC. I will address these areas more tomorrow once we get a better idea of how well Colin will hold together as it crosses Florida.

So that’s it for now. We have plenty to keep up with in the coming days. I will not be traveling to Florida for the storm, it’s not quite the classic structure and impact that would warrant our specialized equipment – which is better suited for possible hurricane events later in the season. So I will watch from my office in Wilmington, NC where things could get interesting depending on how close Colin tracks to the NC coast. I’ll have more tomorrow morning bright and early.

M. Sudduth 7:20 PM ET June 5


Florida in line for impacts from tropical system

NHC indicating a high chance of development in the red area, meaning impacts for Florida early this coming week

NHC indicating a high chance of development in the red area, meaning impacts for Florida early this coming week

It looks like we are on our way to having another tropical system develop and it’s only June 5th. This time, we are looking at the southern Gulf of Mexico where a broad area of low pressure is taking shape, trying to organize enough to become a tropical depression or maybe even a tropical storm by later today.

The NHC indicates a 90% chance of this happening and the Hurricane Hunters will be flying out in to the system this afternoon for a close up look. At that point we’ll know for sure what is going on in the region just north of the Yucatan peninsula, extending in to the southern Gulf and northern Caribbean Sea.

Water temps in the area are plenty warm and it will not surprise me at all to see this get named – if so, it would be “Colin”.

Now, as I said yesterday, before folks in Florida get too nervous about all of this, let’s take a look at something very important: upper level winds. I think this is what keeps the system from becoming very strong. Looking at the latest 200mb wind forecast from the GFS computer model, we can clearly see very strong winds blowing across the top of the would-be storm at the 36 hour mark. This will likely keep the system from being very symmetrical in shape and with that, it should be rather lopsided with most of the wind and rain on the east side of the low pressure center.

GFS 200mb chart from the 6Z run showing the low pressure area at 36 hours. Notice the strong southerly to southwest winds blowing across the storm. This "shear" is not favorable for strengthening but could aid in severe weather for Florida

GFS 200mb chart from the 6Z run showing the low pressure area at 36 hours. Notice the strong southerly to southwest winds blowing across the storm. This “shear” is not favorable for strengthening but could aid in severe weather for Florida (click to enlarge)

On the other hand, there will be substantial impacts for portions of the Florida peninsula. Exactly where and to what extent remains to be seen.

Winds to tropical storm force, maybe reaching 50 mph in some locations, could be expected but it’s tough to know where right now.

Very heavy rain coming from the warm Gulf of Mexico will move in as early as tomorrow afternoon. This is the biggest impact that I see for now and could cause localized flooding. It will be important to monitor your local NWS information and news sources as this will be a dynamic, constantly evolving part of the storm. In other words, it will come down to where the heavy rain bands or squall line(s) set up. Your area could get several inches of rain, along with strong gusty winds, or very little at all. We won’t know until the system is within radar range of NWS sites along the Florida west coast.

Coastal flooding will be a concern in typical onshore, surge prone areas of the west coast. I’ll know more about this once the NHC issues advisories and releases their storm surge and coastal flooding forecasts. I can highlight this better in my video discussion, especially tomorrow.

Severe weather as a whole could be a problem as well. With the very strong upper level wind pattern, it won’t take much to produce isolated tornadic thunderstorms along with possible strong down burst winds during the passage of the storm system. Again, there is no way to know where this might occur until we can see the storms on radar. The severe weather threat is high enough to warrant considerable concern, it’s just impossible to know precisely where and when.

Once the low moves across Florida on Tuesday, it will quickly move in to the Atlantic and could become stronger as it moves out to sea. The impacts along the Atlantic side won’t be as pronounced but even up the coast from Georgia to North Carolina could see heavy rain from the storm – it all depends on the angle of its track once it emerges in to the Atlantic.

I will post a video discussion shortly to follow up on the blog post for today. As new information comes in throughout the day, I will post updates on Twitter and our Facebook page – so be sure to follow along if you’re not already. We also have an app that consolidates all of our info in to one nice package. Search Hurricane Impact in the app store or Google Play.

M. Sudduth 10:25 AM ET June 5


High chance of seeing another tropical system develop and head towards Florida

Track forecasts from the various computer models showing the potential for a Fllorida landfall from what ever develops in the Gulf of Mexico early next week

Track forecasts from the various computer models showing the potential for a Fllorida landfall from what ever develops in the Gulf of Mexico early next week

The tropics continue to be busy during this young hurricane season with another system developing in the northwest Caribbean Sea this weekend. This time, it will track towards Florida and bring with it copious amounts of rain and the possibility of severe weather.

Overnight, shower and thunderstorm activity has increased quite substantially over portions of the northwest Caribbean Sea. The latest outlook from the National Hurricane Center gives an 80% chance of the system developing in to at least a tropical depression over the next few days. As it slowly organizes, the disturbance will bring heavy rain and occasional gusty winds to portions of the Yucatan peninsula this weekend. After that time, what should eventually become perhaps a tropical storm will move northward in to the Gulf of Mexico and then turn northeast towards Florida.

So far, the computer models only show modest strengthening due to strong upper level winds that will be present over the top of the system as it moves towards Florida. This should keep the wind from being too strong and I do not see any evidence right now to suggest a hurricane threat. On the other hand, I think we all know by now that one does not need a hurricane to have big problems, especially when considering the very heavy rain that is likely headed for Florida.

It is difficult to know this far in advance which areas will receive the heaviest rain. Right now, it looks as though south Florida will be spared the worst of the weather while points farther north, especially along the west coast, could be in for a rough start to the week. The possibility of severe weather exists too as strong upper level winds tearing across the tropical system will help to aid in severe thunderstorms which could bring their own locally intense down burst winds and the chance for tornadoes. This is something that people in the region will need to monitor closely over the next few days.

Once the system develops further, assuming that it does, we will know more about specific impacts to Florida. I think the bottom line is that we will be looking at a large, low-end tropical storm from a wind perspective, with plenty of heavy rain and possible severe weather. While not a hurricane threat, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of understanding all of the hazards associated with even “weak” tropical storms.

I will have another update on this system tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth 9:00 AM June 4