Tropical storm Adrian forecast to become hurricane in SE Pacific

TS Adrian in the east Pacific - forecast is for a slow movement over the next five days with steady strengthening

TS Adrian in the east Pacific – forecast is for a slow movement over the next five days with steady strengthening

The east Pacific hurricane season has begun with the formation of TS Adrian south of the Central American coastline. It is forecast to become a hurricane over the next few days as it moves fairly slowly off to the northwest. For the time being, Adrian poses no threat to land areas and its slow movement means that there will be plenty of time to monitor how the steering pattern shapes up and thus what the eventual track may be.

Global models are in general agreement that Adrian will eventually turn more to the north and perhaps back to the northeast sometime next week. We will just have to wait and see how this plays out since it looks like a complicated pattern developing which will mean a slow movement. Interests along the Pacific side of Central America and southeast Mexico should be monitoring the progress of Adrian, especially since it is forecast to become a solid hurricane within the next few days.

Speaking of intensity, most of the guidance suggests that the storm will in fact become a hurricane. Curiously, the HWRF model shows very little strengthening while the global models are more robust. With plenty of warm water and fairly light upper level winds, Adrian is more than likely going to intensify but again, it will remain well off the coast and should not pose a direct threat to land for now.

I’ll have continuing posts regarding the future track and intensity forecasts for Adrian over the next several days.

M. Sudduth 8:30 AM ET May 10

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East Pacific hurricane season will begin a little early this year

Latest model plot showing the likely track of invest area 90-E in the eastern Pacific

Latest model plot showing the likely track of invest area 90-E in the eastern Pacific

Officially, the east Pacific hurricane season gets going on May 15. That’s the date on a calendar – Mother Nature often strays from such notions and this year will be no exception.

The NHC is monitoring an area of low pressure, known as invest area 90-E (the “E” is for east Pacific) well off the coast of Central America and southeast Mexico. It is forecast to go on to develop in to a tropical depression and will likely become the east Pacific’s first named storm: Adrian.

Fortunately, the model guidance suggests a track that would keep much of the inclement weather offshore with only minimal impacts, if any, being felt on land. It’s something to keep an eye on for sure but nothing to be too concerned with just yet.

Let it also serve as a reminder that hurricane season is nearing – not only for the east Pacific, but also for the Atlantic Basin. That being said, it is Hurricane Preparedness Week and I encourage you to visit the updated section of the NHC’s site to learn what you can about tropical storms and hurricanes. There’s always something new, so even if you’re an avid weather geek who thinks they know a lot, might as well brush up your knowledge base and check out the latest from the NHC here.

I’ll have more on invest 90-E later this afternoon during my video discussion which will be posted to YouTube and here.

M. Sudduth 8:55 AM ET May 9

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As hurricane season nears, odds of El Nino being a factor diminishing

Will El Nino be enough to affect Atlantic hurricane season? I highly doubt it and will show why in today’s video discussion. Plus – the east Pacific hurricane season officially begins in a week but we are watching invest area 90-E for likely development as the week progresses. A lot to go over, check it out!
M. Sudduth 5pm ET May 8
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Pre-season storm forms way out in the Atlantic – but how & why?

TS Arlene

TS Arlene

We’re approaching the end of April and we have the year’s first tropical storm to track: Arlene.

First – a little history….

The Arlene of 12 years ago (wow, has it really been that long?) made landfall just west of Pensacola, FL on June 11 as a weakening but fairly well organized tropical storm. I was there along with colleague Mike Watkins (we began in Destin and made our way over to Gulf Shores, AL). The 2005 version of Arlene had plenty of warm Gulf of Mexico water to work with and had it not been for strong upper level winds, common in the early portion of the hurricane season, it would have easily become a hurricane. Check out this archive video from our 2005 documentary: TS Arlene in 2005 from our Tracking the Hurricanes: 2005 documentary

Fast forward 12 years and we have Arlene again. First of all, names get re-used unless they have a reason to be retired and replaced from the list. Think of Andrew, Camille, Matthew and Katrina as examples – major events usually mean a name will be replaced. So far, Arlene has not had such an infamous fate and this iteration of it will be no different.

However, what is fascinating is how Arlene formed and where it formed.

We know that tropical storms and especially hurricanes “like” warm water, say around 80F or so. While this is generally true it is not an absolute must-have ingredient. Warm, tropical water certainly provides more latent heat for a tropical storm or hurricane to tap in to but that is just one mechanism that we see to drive the deep convection that keeps the heat engine going. There are other ways to drive the thunderstorms around the center of circulation, even over cooler water such as what we are observing in the case of 2017’s Arlene where sea surface temps are close to 70F at best.

To better explain it, here is a quote from NWS meteorologist Tony Cristaldi:

“[to help you understand how]  a “true” TC is able to form over sub-26C (80F) water: That objective temp has a HUGE underlying assumption that temps aloft (500MB and up) are typical of those seen over the MDR during the traditional TC season. Obviously, Arlene, and other high(er) latitude systems, including “Medcanes”, feature not only colder SSTs/near surface air temps, but also much colder temps aloft. As long as the air mass lapse rates are conditionally unstable, there exists sufficient moisture, and wind shear is not prohibitive, then “tropical” type cyclone development can and does sometimes occur.”

Basically, the environment that created Arlene is unstable enough to allow the limited but persistent convection to wrap around the center and give us the true (albeit marginal) look of a tropical storm. Bottom line is that to get the powerful deep tropics hurricanes that we’re used to seeing, yes you need deep warm water, light shear and ample moisture in the mid-levels. For these out-of-season open ocean storms, not so much; Arlene being a prime example.

Does it mean a busy hurricane season ahead? I highly doubt it. The pocket of energy that became Arlene did not originate from the deep tropics but instead came from a mid-latitude source. If we were to see a true tropical wave emerge from Africa and manage to develop in to a tropical storm or especially a hurricane, then THAT would have significance. Instead, Arlene is just a novelty and something for shipping interests and weather geeks to keep watch of.

I’ll have a video discussion posted covering Arlene tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth 10:55 pm ET April 20

 

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Let’s talk about water

Storm surge from hurricane Ike

Storm surge from hurricane Ike

When most people hear the word “hurricane” they more than likely think of one thing: wind. Next, they probably ask, “what category is it?” While these aspects of a hurricane are certainly important, I believe a larger issue is being overlooked and put on the back burner until it is too late: the threat from water.

We can see the wind or, more accurately, the effects of wind, as soon as it starts blowing. The harder it blows, the more dramatic the effects are on the things around us such as trees and flags. This registers instantly in our brains and we can understand it because we can see it. Therefore, if the hurricane has 100 mph wind, while you might not necessarily grasp the concept of just how much energy that means, you do generally understand that it could damage your property.

Water, on the other hand, is seemingly tougher to conceptualize. The forecast as a hurricane approaches calls for 10-15 inches of rain. What does that mean? We can all visualize a ruler which is 12 inches but what exactly is 12 inches of rain going to do at your home or business? A lot of that depends on how fast the rain rates add up and what the drainage is like in and around your property.

The real danger comes when too much rain falls too fast and streams and creeks become swollen, flowing over the roadways and inviting disaster. There is no way to predict when and where this will occur with any degree of accuracy. As we saw again with Matthew last October in North Carolina, despite repeat events (Floyd in 1999 and the historic rains in NC/SC in 2015) people continue to drive across flowing water as if they are immune to the laws of physics. Too often, they are dead wrong. I’ll come back to this topic later.

Storm surge is about as dangerous and destructive as it gets yet few people truly understand what it actually is. Historically, storm surge has taken more lives than any other effect and it is the sole reason that evacuations are ordered for coastal areas. That’s right, we do not evacuate for wind – it’s the water. While it is true that you do not want to remain in an unsafe structure during the high winds of a hurricane, modern building codes should protect a vast majority of the people in harm’s way but water is a different story.

Moving water has an enormous amount of force behind it. Waves crashing ashore bring with them enough energy to bulldoze structures along the immediate beachfront. Those crumbled structures now become solid pieces of the surge and waves and act to batter and break up even more man-made structures. The end result is massive damage along the coast and the potential for loss of life.

Instead of yammering on and on about how bad it can get, I want to focus on a solution. There is something that can be done to completely eliminate the loss of life that we are seeing because of hurricanes (tropical storms too) and the effects of water.

The first step is understanding the risk where you live. As I said, evacuations are planned based on potential storm surge flooding and this is done well in advance of any hurricane. You need to take the personal responsibility of asking questions about where you live or work. Do not rely on someone to do it for you. Use social media and the Internet as a whole to your benefit. Go online and ask, “Do I live in an evacuation zone?” Do not stop asking until you find the answer.

Once you know your risk to storm surge, you can then make an appropriate plan. Make the decision now that if your evacuation zone is called to evacuate, you do it, no questions asked. No waiting to see what the hurricane does tomorrow or what Bob and Margaret next door decide to do. This is your one chance to get it right and not regret it later. Do not put first responders at risk during the storm by calling them begging to be saved. That is irresponsible and selfish and should never be an issue if people followed the plan and left when told to do so.

While it is true  that most people who evacuate come home to little or no damage, it is best to err on the side of caution and leave when told to do so. I realize more than you know how stressful it is and that it is not something to be taken lightly. That is why I make the case for planning now and making the choice now that you will in fact go when told to go.  It takes planning and that needs to be done before hurricane season ever begins.

Truck driving on flooded road after hurricane Matthew in eastern North Carolina

Truck driving on flooded road after hurricane Matthew in eastern North Carolina

Fresh water flooding is a killing agent that seems to never get better. Time and again people are seen and captured on video trying to cross flooded roads – often times failing and losing their lives. This is absolutely unacceptable and needs to stop. Again, it puts rescuers at great risk and drains resources that could be used elsewhere.

I am going to make it real simple. Hurricanes and tropical storms mean rain and a lot of it. When it rains, roads flood. I don’t care what kind of vehicle you own or how many times you have been down “that road”, it doesn’t matter if the water is too high or too swift; you will get swept away. Don’t do it. Stay home and avoid driving until things get better.

As the hurricane season nears, I challenge you to do more to learn about the impact of water from tropical storms and hurricanes. Wind is the big headline but often times at the cost of losing sight of how water can be both deadly and destructive. We need it to survive but it can turn against us in nightmarish ways.

Technology can only get us so far. We can see the hurricanes before they even form thanks to incredible advances in computer models. Now it is time to put our common sense to use and realize once and for all that sometimes we have to relent and do the right thing. That means evacuating when told to do so and not driving across flooded roads. It’s 2017 people, let’s act like we’ve been here before and actually learned something from the past. If not, well, you know what happens if not….

M. Sudduth 2:15 PM ET April 12

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