93L likely to become a tropical depression or tropical storm soon

2pm ET Friday, October 27

5 Day Tropical Weather Outlook map from the NHC showing the high chance of development for invest area 93L

5 Day Tropical Weather Outlook map from the NHC showing the high chance of development for invest area 93L. Click or tap for full size.

The NHC has upped the chances of development for 93L to 80% now. Upper level winds are just favorable enough for it to organize more and with the system over very warm Caribbean waters, it won’t take much for it to become a depression or storm later today.

A Hurricane Hunter crew is en route to investigate the system and we will know more by 5pm ET about what is happening and whether or not a depression or storm has in fact formed. Interests from the Caymans, to Cuba and the Florida Keys should be prepared for squally weather with heavy rain and gusty winds at times as the system passes by. Later tomorrow it looks as though what ever this becomes will cross through portions of the Bahamas on its way out in to the open Atlantic.

Also, part of the heat and moisture from the Caribbean connection to 93L will get pulled in to an approaching strong trough of low pressure – the one I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post – and is likely to bring a potent storm to parts of New England later this weekend.

I take a look at this and more in my latest video discussion posted below:

M. Sudduth


Is Florida’s hurricane drought about to come to an end?

One look at the upper ocean heat content for the western Atlantic Basin and you can see why I am concerned for the Bahamas and Florida over the coming days.

One look at the upper ocean heat content for the western Atlantic Basin and you can see why I am concerned for the Bahamas and Florida over the coming days.

The past few days have been very tedious in terms of tracking invest area 99L and what it may or may not do over the coming days. Unfortunately, tedious may be traded in for anxious and stressful from here on out as it looks like we could be facing a potential hurricane threat for late in the weekend.

Before any concern arises for Florida, the system is first impacting portions of the northeast Caribbean islands with heavy rain and gusty winds. All of this mess will spread westward towards Puerto Rico and eastern Hispaniola later today through tomorrow. The potential for very heavy rain which could induce flooding is certainly there and needs to be considered as a serious threat.

As I type this blog post, the Hurricane Hunters are about to head out in to the broad area of low pressure to determine what its status is. There is a chance we will have a tropical depression by later today but overall, I think the organizational process will continue to be slow and steady.

The dry air we have heard so much about is likely going to be mixed out and the convective process will take over – meaning we will see sustained thunderstorm activity develop along with more curved banding. This indicates strengthening but also better internal structure which leads to even more strengthening. It is only a matter of time until we have a tropical storm to track and it looks to be headed towards the Bahamas as the week comes to an end.

This brings me to the possible impacts to the Bahamas and Florida there after. Assuming the system goes on to develop as most of the modeling now indicates, it will be a matter of how strong it becomes as it moves west-northwest and then bends back to the west. This is VERY important as history shows us that when tropical cyclones (tropical storms and hurricanes) bend westward, south of a strong ridge of high pressure in the atmosphere, that they strengthen, usually quickly. It all has to do with lining everything up under almost ideal conditions. Many hurricanes have done this in the past and in the general vicinity that this system would be in over the weekend. As such, the potential is there for south Florida to experience a hurricane before all is said and done. How strong and exactly where is hard to say right now. Water temps are plenty warm and the models are suggesting a favorable environment for intensification. We need to watch this very closely – it’s been more than a decade since the last hurricane affected the state directly. Preparedness will be critical, especially if we see a period of rapid strengthening. I am putting the region on notice, you had best be ready! We have a few days to go still before we know enough to say for sure what will happen but by then, it could be too late to react properly and no one needs to be in panic mode. Use this time to make sure you have a plan in place and be able to enact it should the need arise this weekend.

Unfortunately, the overnight models, namely the ECMWF or Euro, have come around to suggesting a track towards the west in to the southeast Gulf of Mexico early next week. This would give the would-be hurricane ample fuel and time to strengthen further. This is beyond the 5 day time frame so speculating on where it might end up is pointless right now. I know people want answers as soon as they can get them but it’s just too tough to make any definitive call at the moment. Needless to say, residents along the Gulf Coast from Texas to the Florida panhandle should stay on top of this and be ready in case it comes their way. We will have time to dissect the possibilities later on as more data comes in and the track and intensity becomes clearer.

To give you an idea of how seriously I am taking this situation, I am making plans now to pack up my gear and head to south Florida as early as Friday morning. With the potential for a hurricane crossing the region, it warrants a field mission to the area. I will talk more about my plans for Florida and a potential Gulf Coast landfall in future blog posts. It’s been a while since a full-throttle hurricane took aim at the United States. While the jury is still out on just how strong 99L could become, I am not leaving anything to chance. The technological firepower that I have in my possession is stunning. So much has changed since a decade ago and even the past five years. I’ll keep you posted on my plans and what kind of information to expect as I travel south for what could be a break in the streak of no hurricanes for Florida. As they say, stay tuned but let me add, be ready! Even if this does not pan out, it’s still very much hurricane season and we have a long way to go. Luck favors the prepared – always.

M. Sudduth 10:15 AM ET Aug 24

TS Kate forms but will have little overall impact

Visible satellite picture showing TS Kate in the central Bahamas

Visible satellite picture showing TS Kate in the central Bahamas

The 2015 hurricane season now has its 11th named storm, Kate. The NHC made the upgrade this morning citing 40 mph winds with a pressure of 1008 mb. Kate is moving towards the northwest but will eventually turn out in to the open Atlantic head of an approaching trough.

Right now, the storm is impacting portions of the Bahamas where tropical storm warnings are in effect. However, much of the inclement weather associated with the storm is located to the east of the low level center, leaving much of the Bahamas free of any significant impacts.

Water temps along the track can still support a hurricane but the upper level winds should prevent that from happening. The official NHC forecast calls for some additional strengthening and Kate could reach 50 mph before being absorbed by a larger storm system emerging from the East Coast later this week.

There might be a period of increased swell activity for parts of the Southeast and East coasts which could lead to additional beach erosion issues during times of high tide as the week wears on. Outside of that, I see no reason to worry about Kate along the United States coast.

I’ll post a video discussion covering the latest on Kate this afternoon.

M. Sudduth 8:50 AM ET Nov 9

Erika forecast to become a hurricane, head towards southeast Bahamas

Latest tracking map showing Erika moving in the general direction of the southeast Bahamas over the next five days

Latest tracking map showing Erika moving in the general direction of the southeast Bahamas over the next five days

The NHC began issuing advisories on TS Erika late last night. At first, it looked as though the 5th named storm of the season would not intensify to hurricane strength – that changed over night.

Warm sea surface temps, higher upper ocean heat content and a fairly favorable environment are now part of the new forecast which calls for the storm to reach category one strength by day four. It is worth noting that the NHC mentions having “lower confidence than usual” in the four and five day forecast for both intensity and track. This is due to quite a spread in the models. Some are showing a strong hurricane, others nothing at all really, just an open wave of low pressure. I tend to think that once clear of the deep tropics and the shear zone that destroyed Danny, that Erika will have a clear shot at becoming a hurricane near the Bahamas.

The track forecast is fairly straight forward for the time being. A strong ridge of high pressure to the north of the storm will continue to force it on a fast-paced westerly to west-northwesterly course. This could place the northeast Caribbean at risk for some impacts as Erika moves closer. As such, tropical storms watches are up for a portion of the region. Perhaps we can at least get some rain from the outer bands and still have Erika pass comfortably north of the islands. We shall see, they certainly need the rain down that way.

A lot will be made in the coming days of the track aiming at the Southeast United States and Florida in particular. It has been a long time since Florida had a hurricane threat of any kind, much less a landfall. Remember that five day track forecast errors can be large, sometimes hundreds of miles. There will be plenty of time to monitor the progress of Erika and rest assured, NOAA and other government agencies will be conducting a plethora of field recon in and around the storm over the next several days to provide state-of-the-art intel on what’s going on with the storm. This data will help to initialize the computer models each day, providing even better guidance. Just don’t let the cone of uncertainty become the cone of unnecessary anxiety.

I will have a full in-depth video blog posted by later this afternoon once the morning model runs are complete. I’ll post it here as well as on our social media feeds and in our app, Hurricane Impact. I think you’ll find the discussion to be very helpful as I break down the major factors that are likely to be in play as we track Erika over the next several days.

I’ll also have a separate blog post later today or this evening as I look back 10 years in to the past and our hurricane Katrina story, part of my “Seven days in August” blog series.

M. Sudduth 8:30 AM ET August 25

Watch 96L closely this weekend

Current radar from San Juan, Puerto Rico

Current radar from San Juan, Puerto Rico

As of this writing, the convection associated with 96L is beginning to burst and is likely bringing heavy rain and gusty winds to portions of the northeast Caribbean Sea. Areas such as Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic could see quite a bit of rain as the tropical wave and its weak low pressure area move through today.

So far, 96L has not become all that better organized but this has been expected per most of the reliable intensity models. Even the NHC makes mention of this in their outlook and we shouldn’t expect to see much strengthening until later in the weekend.

Once the system passes Hispaniola and vicinity today and tonight, it will begin affecting the southeast Bahamas with periods of heavy rain and general squally weather. It’s this point in time that we could see it begin to organize more and eventually become a tropical depression followed by a tropical storm. In fact, the NHC says this scenario is “likely” over the weekend.

Beyond the next couple of days, the forecast is very complicated for both track and intensity.

Right now, 96L is still a loosely organized, weak tropical low. Some of the intensity forecasts do increase the winds to hurricane force over the next few days. Other models do not see it that way. Water temps are plenty warm and vertical instability should become more favorable in the coming days. This means that we should see a steady increase in strength over time. Also, going by what we’ve seen so far this season, I would expect an increase in strength once the system gets north of about 24 degrees of latitude. It seems that we’re seeing tropical cyclones in the Atlantic (both of them this season anyway) reaching their peak intensity once clear of the dry, sinking air of the deep tropics. Do not be surprised if 96L eventually becomes the 3rd hurricane of the Atlantic season.

The track forecast is about as muddled as I’ve seen in quite some time. There’s been a lot of talk about this system reaching the Gulf of Mexico – at least earlier this week. Now, we have a lot of chatter about it simply turning out to sea, possibly impacting Bermuda. What people fail to realize is that the pattern is always changing and computer models are not as reliable as we would like to think. And in this situation, it’s even more complex due to the pattern that we happen to be in.

Basically it’s like trying to catch a bus. Let’s say for the sake of this discussion that 96L becomes a named storm which it is likely to do – the name will be Cristobal. It wants to catch the bus by virtue of finding a weakness in the Bermuda High or western Atlantic ridge, which ever term you like to use. That escape route is there now but seems likely to close and block the exit, forcing Cristobal to wait for another bus. This is becoming more and more plausible with each passing model cycle. Case in point – the ECMWF, highly regarded as the top global model on the planet, now gets the would-be storm much closer to the North Carolina coast than any other run of that model. And just this morning, the GFDL, for what it’s worth, looks eerily similar to the track of Sandy in 2012, bending what ever 96L does in fact strengthen in to back towards the Mid-Atlantic coast.

Yes, there are plenty of other model solutions that send the system off to the northeast, passing by or close to Bermuda and out to sea. My point is that we are starting to see more and more evidence that a possible threat to the Carolinas and points north from this system is not out of the question as we get in to next week.

It’s all a matter of timing – seems like it’s always that way, doesn’t it? Sometimes the forecast is fairly cut and dry and it’s a matter of who gets the impacts instead of if they get the impacts. In this case, we know that the Caribbean islands and eventually the Bahamas will feel some effects as the low moves through. After that – no one knows for sure but I’m here to tell you, I’ve seen it enough in the past to know not to write off something that is only a few days away from the U.S. coastline. School is starting back for many kids along the East Coast and families will be very busy with that (I know I will starting Monday morning). It is important, in my professional opinion, that people along the Southeast coast up to the Mid-Atlantic watch this system very closely. As I have said before, we can hope it heads out to sea but rest assured, hope is not a planning tool.

I’ll post more here tonight.

M. Sudduth 9:36 AM ET Aug 22