Round two for Southwest? Possible as Odile tracks close to Baja

NHC track of hurricane Odile in the east Pacific

NHC track of hurricane Odile in the east Pacific

First of all, the Atlantic is a non-issue right now. We are tracking TS Edouard but it will remain far out in the open Atlantic and be of issue only to shipping interests.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, only minor disturbances are scattered from the Gulf of Mexico to the tropical Atlantic. None of them are forecast to develop much at all in the coming days, keeping the very quiet Atlantic season in check.

The bigger issue appears to be hurricane Odile. Right now it is gaining strength off the coast of Mexico with winds of 85 mph. The NHC is forecasting Odile to strengthen further, perhaps rapidly in the coming days.

Interests along the Baja need to monitor the track closely which shows Odile far enough offshore to keep hurricane conditions away but that could change. The ECMWF model actually gets the hurricane quite close to the peninsula over the next few days and we could see a slight westward adjustment in the track from the NHC as a result.

Beyond the Baja, there is now a growing concern for more flooding issues in the Southwest U.S. around mid-week next week.

The pattern is eerily similar to the one that just produced record rainfall for Phoenix and the wash-out of parts of I-15 northeast of Las Vegas this past Monday afternoon.

Basically we’re looking at a squeeze play between moisture coming in from the Gulf of Mexico coupled with even deeper tropical moisture being pulled in from the Pacific due to the circulation of Odile. Unfortunately, California and Arizona are caught in the middle. Reading the NWS forecast discussion from Phoenix, it looks as though very high precip values will be present in the atmosphere once again next week. The risk of flash flooding looks to increase by Wednesday and through the end of the week ahead.

Sadly, the computer models cannot pinpoint where the heaviest rains will fall. This means people across the region, from SE California and Nevada and in to W Arizona need to be aware of this potentially disruptive and dangerous weather situation. We saw what happened this past week with numerous flood events taking place across the Desert Southwest. There is increasing potential for it to happen again this week so be alert if you live in or are planning to travel to the area.

I will be watching the situation closely and might decide to head out to the Southwest once again. I spent the better part of a week out there for the Norbert-induced flood event and saw first-hand what can happen. I think this time the focus will be more on SE CA and W AZ. We’ll see as each day unfolds and I will plan from there. Mark my words, this has the potential of being a high-impact flood event once again related to the effects of a Pacific hurricane.

I will have more here tomorrow.

M. Sudduth 3:13 PM ET Sept 13

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Weak low pressure moving across Florida worth watching, Edouard stays well out to sea

Invest area 92L moving over southern Florida this afternoon

Invest area 92L moving over southern Florida this afternoon

A weak low pressure area, easy to spot on visible satellite imagery, is crossing south Florida this afternoon. Strong upper level winds have kept it from becoming any better organized by pushing the deep convection away from the low level center.

The low has brought periods of heavy rain to portions of south Florida but so far, nothing widespread has occurred and it looks to remain that way.

Forecasts from various computer models indicate the low will move westward and in to the Gulf of Mexico by tonight. Normally this would be cause for concern since Gulf water temps are in the mid to upper 80s. However, the strong upper level wind pattern is not likely to abate anytime soon. This should keep the low from strengthening too much as it gets pushed across the Gulf towards Texas.

It is obviously worth watching since we’re in the peak of the hurricane season and water temps are so warm. However, without any significant strengthening indicated by the models, I am not too concerned just yet. The low could bring heavy rain to any land areas that it eventually interacts with but beyond that, I see little to be concerned with.

Meanwhile, TS Edouard formed yesterday in the open Atlantic well to the east of the Lesser Antilles. The NHC is forecasting Edouard to turn out in to the Atlantic with a path that takes it northward between 55 and 60 degrees west longitude. This will keep it away from Bermuda. Edouard is forecast to become the season’s fourth hurricane which will help to add to the ACE score which is a numeric method of measuring how active a hurricane season has been. Right now the ACE score is around 20, well below the long term normal of about 100 or so. Edouard should add a few points to the total but it looks like we are going to end up well below the average unless a particularly intense hurricane forms before the end of November.

In the east Pacific, TS Odile continues to move to the west-northwest. It is expected to turn more northwest with time, parallel to the Baja peninsula but well offshore. Higher surf will be felt once again up and down a good deal of the Pacific coast from the Baja up in to southern California – especially once Odile becomes a hurricane. In fact, it is forecast to become a strong hurricane peaking out at 105 mph.

The rest of the east Pacific remains active with disturbances and another depression but none of them pose any threat to land at the moment.

I’ll keep an eye on the low over Florida and will post any updates to Twitter with a full blog post here tomorrow.

M. Sudduth 1:34 PM ET Sept 12

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Peak of season will pass with little to worry about, at least in the Atlantic

Yet another tropical cyclone has formed off the coast of Mexico. This one is forecast to directly impact the Baja region in a few days.

Yet another tropical cyclone has formed off the coast of Mexico. This one is forecast to directly impact the Baja region in a few days.

The Atlantic Basin, as expected, is very quiet during the peak period this season. There is one area that is likely to develop far out in the east Atlantic but even if it does, it’s likely to remain far away from any land areas.

Closer to the U.S. coast, an area of very loosely organized showers and thunderstorms persists in the vicinity of the Bahamas. There is virtually no major computer model support for this area to develop though it needs to be watched for the simple fact that it is sitting over very warm water at a time of year when things can change quickly. However, even the NHC outlook mention that “devlopment, if any, is expected to be very slow to occur”. I rarely ever see them use the word “very” when describing anything, so it is likely that nothing will come from this system other than added rain chances for Florida.

Meanwhile, the east Pacific keeps churning out the cyclones. TD 15-E has formed and is expected to become a hurricane as it moves along the Mexican coastline towards the southern Baja. This could pose a great risk to the region with hurricane conditions and related issues spreading in to the region over the coming days. Once the depression gets a name, it will be Odile.

We will have to keep a close eye on where it tracks next week. After the recent flood events in the Southwest due to Norbert’s moisture plume, any additional heavy rain for the region would not be good news.

Speaking of the flooding that took place, I was out there from New Mexico up through Arizona, Nevada and in to Utah these past few days documenting the event. I will have a special blog posted on Friday covering what I learned and how I think we can do better in getting information out to the public about tropical cyclone hazards.

I’m currently heading back from the Southwest and will be back in North Carolina by late tonight. Will post an update here tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth 6:30 AM ET Sept 10

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Norbert’s influence on Southwest U.S. to be felt over large area

Very high moisture content for the Desert Southwest over the next three days

Very high moisture content for the Desert Southwest over the next three days

It is rare for a tropical storm or hurricane to impact the weather for the Southwest U.S. but it does happen. Going back to 1939 and then again in 1976 and 1997, there have been infamous storm events that brought flooding rains to areas that are not used to such high precip events. It looks as though Norbert will be added to that list.

First of all, let me say that I am in Phoenix, AZ this morning after having traveled here from Houston where I flew in on Friday.

I am working with Amateur Radio operator and friend to HurricaneTrack.com, Kerry Mallory. He has been my wheels, so to speak and we have covered some serious ground since Friday afternoon.

We are out here because of the serious threat of flooding as a result of monsoonal flow and the influx of moisture from what was once category three hurricane Norbert. This situation is unique and is quite different for us than any other hurricane related field mission we have undertaken.

Tropical cyclones have the ability to drop a tremendous amount of rain. Inland flooding from excessive rain fall is often overlooked by the public as being a potential threat. Wind and storm surge grab the headlines until the rains begin to fall and add up – by then, it’s usually too late to react.

In the case of the Desert Southwest, it’s not a matter of seeing ten to twenty inches of rain. In this case, just a few inches is all it will take to cause incredible flash floods to occur which puts property and lives at risk.

The main culprit will be the flow of moisture from Norbert as we get later in to today and through the next few days. Areas from southern California to Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and in to Utah are under the threat of flooding rains and serious flooding.

One of the more difficult tasks of the NWS out here is to know which areas could be most impacted. The geography of the region makes it tough to predict precisely where heavy rains could fall. Heating of the day, mountain ranges and other factors make it a challenge to convey to the public who is most at risk. As such, the NWS has done a great job in putting out public information statements and even YouTube videos explaining the threat from this flood event.

As I have read the area forecast discussions, it is remarkable to note how much water is available in the atmosphere compared to normal. In some cases, as much as 300% the normal water available in the air column is forecast to be present – giving ample fuel for potentially very heavy rain.

The most vulnerable areas appear to be the mountains and hill sides that have what are called burn scars on them. These are left over scar areas from recent (or not so recent) forest fires. The soil is like pavement with ash and other debris compacted in with little to no vegetation left behind. It only takes moderate rain for a little while to send water down these burn scars, filled with debris as it flows in to streams and otherwise dry washes. The result can be deadly and people caught unaware can be buried by these debris flows.

As I mentioned, Kerry and I are in Phoenix today. We will be on the lookout for developing thunderstorms throughout the day and will try to get to areas where heavy rain is likely to fall. Our goal is to document the event using some of the same technology we utilize during storm surge along the coast. We don’t want to be caught in a flash flood ourselves, so using remote, unmanned cameras will help to keep us safe while we capture video of flooding.

We can also post information to social media to help people in the region keep up with what’s going on in near real time. Video clips can be posted to our Instagram feed in no time at all, it’s amazing what we can do these days, even in the middle of the desert! We’ll also post pics and information on conditions as we encounter the storms later today and tonight.

Believe it or not, the rain threat extends up in to Utah and that is where we plan to be by later tonight. Reading the discussions for the southwest part of the state, it looks serious. We’re talking about widespread flooding a distinct possibility in parts of Utah tonight and tomorrow. This presents us with a unique situation to both try and observe and research the event while remaining safe. I am no stranger to rain but flash floods in canyon lands is totally alien to me. Again, the use of unmanned cameras will be paramount to documenting the effects from incredible viewpoints.

We plan to stream our field work live on our Ustream channel throughout the day today. Follow along at ustream.tv/hurricanetrack

If you live in the region that is forecast to be affected by this unusual event, keep aware of rapidly changing weather. It’s going to be an interesting and potentially dangerous few days out here and we hope to document it and learn from it for future preparedness when the inevitable happens again.

Oh yeah, the Atlantic Basin is of no concern right now, so at least there’s that.

I’ll post another blog tonight from St. George, Utah.

M. Sudduth 11:51 AM ET Sept 7

 

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Heading in to uncharted territory

Computer model plots for Norbert show a distinct turn towards the Southwest United States

Computer model plots for Norbert show a distinct turn towards the Southwest United States

I have been in hurricanes from Texas to New Jersey and most states in between. I even traveled to Maine in 2008 for the off-chance one would venture in to that area. It didn’t pan out. The quest, however, is always the same: to get up close and then document the effects of tropical cyclones on us mere humans and the landscape we dwell upon.

One big problem that I see when dealing with tropical cyclones is the fact that people generally don’t understand their true nature. The news headlines are usually about the wind and the storm surge. However, other hazards often cause problems but are rarely talked about until they show up as being a problem. Case in point: hurricane Marie recently in the east Pacific. The swells it generated caused damage along portions of the southern California coastline. While it was a well documented and talked about event by the local National Weather Services, The Weather Channel and local news outlets, how many people truly knew it was coming? My guess, not many, save for a few die-hard surfers who are in tune with the sea like few people are.

Let’s take another example. Fay in 2008 in Florida. The tropical storm never made it to hurricane intensity but it dumped copious amounts of rain on the Melbourne area, inundating homes and businesses. There are others such as Allison in 2001 which drowned a good deal of Houston in relentless rain.

My point is that tropical cyclones have effects that are often overlooked by the public until those effects become a painful reality and something bad happens.

Norbert could be one of those situations for parts of the Southwest U.S.

As such, I am going to be working with The Weather Channel to document the effects, even if indirectly related to the hurricane, of Norbert over the coming days. I am also a weather geek at heart and have always wanted to venture out of my comfort zone of East Coast or Gulf Coast action. Now is my chance.

The plan is complex. I am heading to Houston in the morning to meet up with a good friend, supporter and technical adviser of our work, Kerry Mallory. He happens to live in Houston and has been an integral part of our HURRB research balloon project and, as of late, the new Drifting Surge Cam project. Kerry will be my wheels. I will airline out with me some of the equipment we use to capture storm surge effects along the coast. It’s so small now that I can easily check it as baggage and bring several items with me.

The idea is to head west on I-10 in to New Mexico. Moisture streaming in from Norbert is expected to result in heavy rains for parts of the region. I want to use time lapse to capture the thunderstorm development as well as be ready in case we encounter flash flooding from the tropical downpours that are forecast to affect the area. Using our unmanned cameras, we can monitor these effects safely, providing live video to The Weather Channel in the process.

Some reports I read from NWS discussion suggest upwards of 5 inches of rain for some areas, especially in the mountains. Imagine being able to capture a dry or low water level stream suddenly roaring to life with a surge of water! We can do that using unmanned cameras, just like we do for storm surge. We can also fly above the torrents of water with our quadcopter to capture the view from the air. The technology keeps us a safe distance away while being able to document the effects in a unique way.

We will spend Saturday in New Mexico and Arizona, looking for possible flash flood situations. It appears that the southern regions of those states will be most at risk but this can change so we’ll be on top of it with constant info coming in to us.

To help out if needed, our good friend and technical adviser from Nevada, Paul Bowman, will be available to meet us in southern Arizona so that Kerry and I can continue west to our final destination.

Hurricane Marie sent substantial swells in to parts of southern California last week, resulting in damage and even injuries to people who were not prepared. It was amazing to see the pictures and video coming out of the region. A similar but less dramatic swell event unfolded along a good deal of the East Coast at the same time as a result of hurricane Cristobal. I got out and documented that as did our colleague Jesse Bass from Portsmouth, Virginia. It wasn’t too much of a coastal erosion or flooding event but it served as a reminder of how passing tropical cyclones can have an impact on the coast.

Our final goal will be to document and study the swells from Norbert in southern California. Using the new Drifting Surge Cam, itself armed with plenty of GPS tracking technology, Kerry and I hope to deploy it a mile or so out in the Pacific and let the swells bring it in. We can track it in real time using satellite tracking plus we’ll have a data logger inside for precise GPS information on how the waves progressed.

Oh, and it will be streamed LIVE from the unit itself – from the Pacific, within the swells! The DSC is equipped with a GoPro which will record up to 13 hours of HD video. Its other “eye” is a live streaming cam, with audio, that will give us a look at the swells from within the swells. I have always had a fascination with the big waves that a hurricane generates and sends out hundreds of miles from its core. Now we can study it like never before and show people what it looks and sounds like. All we need is a little luck and for Norbert to continue on as forecast. We’ll likely set up in the Long Beach area but will narrow it down more tomorrow and in to the weekend.

All of our video will be shown exclusively on The Weather Channel. We may be able to document quite a bit or it may turn out to be nothing more than a long ride in the truck! Chances are, we come away with some new data, exciting video perspectives and a chance to show people that tropical cyclones are much more than wind speed and categories.

I begin the quest tomorrow in Wilmington, NC where I board a plane at 7:30 AM. From there, it’s new and uncharted territory but the reward is that my team and I capture this rare event, a tropical cyclone affecting the Southwest, in a unique and safe manner. I’ll post updates on Twitter and our new Instagram account (@hurricanetrack) and of course, to our app, Hurricane Impact.

It’s going to be a long and interesting several days ahead. Wish us luck, we may need it!

M. Sudduth 11:15 PM ET Sept 4

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