July begins with an area to monitor in the tropical Atlantic and eastern Pacific

NHC monitoring tropical wave in the eastern Atlantic for possible development next week.

NHC monitoring tropical wave in the eastern Atlantic for possible development next week.

June is now behind us and we had two named storms form that month: Bret and Cindy. Both had significant impacts despite the overall lack of wind energy (both systems were low-end tropical storms wind-wise) and showed us that, once again, it is the rain that we need to focus more attention on, not the wind.

Now that we are entering the second month of the Atlantic hurricane season, what can we expect? Typically July is a quiet month with little overall threat from hurricanes, especially in the early part of the month. Saharan dust outbreaks and high pressure over the Atlantic tends to keep a lid on things – in most years. Will 2017 follow “most years?” Perhaps not.

The NHC is monitoring a tropical wave way out in the eastern Atlantic that has potential for additional development over the next 5 days. In fact, the odds are at 40% in the longer term which is quite unusual for the early part of July this far east.

Take a look at my latest video blog for a detailed discussion concerning this system plus a look at what the first 10 days of July typically looks like from a climatological perspective.

M. Sudduth 2:10pm ET July 1

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Chances for storm to form off Southeast coast going up

Satellite photo of invest area 90L off the coast of Florida

Satellite photo of invest area 90L off the coast of Florida

It looks like we may have a preseason named storm before too long. The NHC has increased the chances of development for what is now invest area 90L, just off the east coast of Florida. As of this morning, the odds were placed at 60% for either a subtropical or purely tropical storm to form over the next 48 hours or so.

As you can see from the satellite picture, the low pressure area is beginning to organize but it still has that spread out, subtropical look to it. This is common when seeing systems develop from non-tropical origins, especially this early in the (almost) season.

It is interesting to note that some of the computer models do suggest a quick transition in to a purely warm-core, tropical storm before it impacts the coast Friday or Saturday. Water temps are only just warm enough to support such a scenario but we have seen instances when storms have ramped up despite having less-than-ideal conditions to work with.

All that being said, it’s not the heart of the hurricane season and as such, we do not need to be concerned with a high-impact event. However, that is not saying that we need to downplay the impacts and ignore what ever forms off the coast.

At the beach, an increase in surf and associated rip-currents will be an issue from parts of Florida up through the mid-Atlantic. Check your local NWS site for more information specific to your area.

Breezy conditions are likely (winds are already picking up now here in Wilmington, NC where my office is) as the low takes shape and moves slowly northward. I suppose that there is at least a chance for tropical storm conditions in parts of the Carolinas along the immediate coast as we end the week. A lot will depend, obviously, on how well organized the storm becomes while over the warm water of the Gulf Stream.

The other impact will be rain, sometimes heavy as bands move onshore. This is likely to be more of a nuisance than a true flood threat. Any outdoor plans Friday and Saturday should take this in to consideration. We’re looking at a few inches of rain at the most since the system is likely to be rather shallow in terms of deep thunderstorm activity. This should help to keep the rain from being too heavy over a wide area.

The Hurricane Hunters will eventually investigate the area and we will know more about its structure and intensity at that point. This probably won’t be until tomorrow. Kind of ironic that they are touring in Myrtle Beach right now as part of the NHC’s East Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour. Timing could not be better, eh?

I’ll have more here tonight with a brief update. I’ll also post a video blog to our app, Hurricane Impact. If you haven’t opened it in a while, now is a good time. Check the video section later today, I will have the discussion posted by 1pm ET.

M. Sudduth 11:35 AM ET May 6

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Storm surge is major threat from hurricanes

Storm Surge From Hurricane Isaac in 2012

Storm Surge From Hurricane Isaac in 2012 as captured from one of our older generation Surge Cams. Top image is before Isaac on August 28 while the bottom image is during the height of the surge along the Mississippi coast. The water rose several feet at this location along Gulfport Harbor.

This week is Hurricane Preparedness Week and as such, each day has a topic related to hurricanes and being prepared.

Today’s topic is storm surge – one of the most devastating effects from a tropical cyclone. Historically, storm surge kills more people than any other tropical cyclone hazard. We saw a period of time from 1970 through 2004 when few people lost their lives due to surge. Then, in 2005, Katrina changed all of that with scores of lives lost due to surge from the Missisisppi Sound as well as the catastrophic flooding from storm surge coupled with the failure of New Orleans’ levee system.

Sadly, the trend continued, though not to the same scale fortunately, with Sandy last October as storm surge swept in to areas along the New York and New Jersey coasts. A vast majority of the damage from Sandy was the result of storm surge and battering waves.

Most people do not understand storm surge and how it can affect them. Almost all evacauations in a hurricane are because of the threat of storm surge flooding. Studies are done to predict traffic flow, behavior patterns and response to evacuation orders. In most cases, people will wait as long as possible to determine whether or not the threat to their immediate location is substantial enough to warrant the trouble of leaving. While this is an understandble trait of human nature, it could lead to deadly consequences.

Let’s take hurricane Ike from 2008 as an example. It was an especially large hurricane that generated an enormous surge of water that was quite literally pushed towards the northwest Gulf of Mexico coastline. The NHC had forecast Ike to become an intense category three hurricane for several days before its landfall near Galveston on September 13. Yet, thousands of people remained on Galveston Island despite A) the city’s infamous history with hurricanes and B) the warning that people would face “certain death” if they remained behind.

If someone told you that if you remained in your car on a hot July day with the power off and the windows rolled up that you would face certain death, what would you do? I am guessing that 100% of you would not remain in your car under those conditions. Why? Because you know what will happen. You have felt the car get really hot before and have the A/C to fire up in order to make it tolerable. The point is, you’ve experienced the conditions that could kill you before yet you have the tool (A/C) to mitigate the worst from happening. It is that experience with a very hot car that has taught you not to remain inside of it for any length of time during warm to hot days.

The same cannot be said of storm surge. Most people who live along the coast have never experienced a storm surge from a tropical storm or hurricane. Thus, they have no idea what they’re dealing with. They have not seen it with their own eyes and do not grasp the concept of how much energy moving water has. They are shown maps on TV and the Internet and are told to evacuate. Often times, most people do not unless they sense danger.

I suppose that as Ike approached, some people did not sense any danger and chose to remain behind. The resulting storm surge as at least 20 feet high in some locations with thousands of homes either destroyed or seriously damaged by the flood waters. Lives were lost because people did not evacuate though scores of lives were indeed saved because of adequte warnings and people heeding them.

I guess since seeing is believing that we have to do something to further convince people of how bad storm surge can be.

As I announced in a blog post a few months ago, we are going to provide a publicly accessible, brand new, completely redesigned “Surge Cam” that will stream live video from the teeth of the next hurricane and its storm surge. We have been using an older technology for the past seven seasons that ended with Sandy last October. Now, we have new and more effecient technology that will allow us to place un-manned cameras anywhere we wish with almost no risk to either ourselves or to the equipment. We’ve made a decision to make one of these units available through our public Ustream channel at no cost to those who watch. The idea is to show people the effects of storm surge and convince them through live video that storm surge is a lethal, destructive force. We hope to place the Surge Cam in an area where a significant impact from storm surge is expected. The new camera systems last for at least 30 hours now, allowing us more time to place them in locations that no humans have any business being in as the hurricane and its surge sweep in. Perhaps this will help to motivate people to evacuate and take the appropriate measures to mitigate loss to property as well.

We will have three other Surge Cams dedicated to our Client Services members – after all, it’s their funding that supports this effort in the first place. We just thought it would serve the public and local officials, as well as the media, to provide one Surge Cam feed free of charge. Thanks to advances in technology, we can do that starting this season. Once we have a threat of a landfall, I’ll post the URL of the Surge Cam in a blog post and on our Twitter and Facebook pages. People are encouraged to share and embed the player as much as they wish. Anyone in the media may use the feed on-air and on their websites as they see fit. Just credit HurricaneTrack.com please – that’s all we ask.

It looks like a very busy season ahead. I hope that folks along the coast, especially newcomers, do their part to better understand the risk from tropical storms and hurricanes. For more info, including excellent video resources, check out the NHC’s preparedness page here: NHC Hurricane Preparedness

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98L bringing squally weather to the Lesser Antilles but not quite “Rafael” yet

The Hurricane Hunters have been investigating 98L this afternoon and the NHC subsequently issued a lengthy bulletin a little while ago. The info from the NHC tells us that there is not quite a well defined low level center associated with 98L just yet. However, it may be only a matter of hours now until that happens and the system is upgraded directly to tropical storm status (Rafael).

Regardless of the naming, the bottom line is that the region around the Lesser Antilles is experiencing squalls with some winds gusting over tropical storm force. These conditions will persist over the next day or so as the low pressure area moves northwestward.

There really isn’t much change in the overall track or intensity model guidance this evening. I think once we get a true center to form and the computer models can take this information and run with it, that we’ll get a clearer picture of the impacts for the Leeward Islands and possibly Bermuda.

I’ll post another update here around 11pm ET tonight with the latest on 98L.

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Debby going to be a forecast challenge

The latest computer model guidance regarding tropical storm Debby has not helped to paint a clearer picture of where the storm, forecast to be a hurricane, will eventually make landfall. In fact, this could be one of the more complicated storms to deal with in quite some time.

Currently, Debby is experiencing some shear which means the upper level winds are blowing across the top of the storm from a certain direction rather than fanning out in all directions. The shear is keeping the storm from being able to align itself vertically and the deepest convection is displaced well away from the center of circulation. This shear is forecast to relax but as mentioned in the latest NHC discussion, it is not a guarantee, so Debby may have some intensity issues over the next few days. It is important to note that intensity forecasting is where the least amount of skill lies and significant changes up or down are possible. The latest forecast maintains the notion that Debby will become a hurricane as it turns west across the warm Gulf of Mexico.

The track forecast is turning out to be quite difficult. What was once a fairly straight forward forecast that Debby would turn west under a developing ridge of high pressure has turned in to a potential huge change coming up. The NHC mentions the ECMWF model which has shown Debby moving west and even south of west towards Texas for the last several days now has the storm making landfall in Louisiana in about three days. As I mentioned, this is a big change from previous runs and we’ll have to see what happens with each subsequent run. In other words, is this the beginning of a trend of just a temporary “goof” by the model and it will get back on its “west” idea soon. We’ll have to wait and see. Track forecasting is sometimes quite easy, this time, it looks to be just opposite.

HPC 3 Day Precip Forecast

HPC 3 Day Precip Forecast

Let’s talk about rain fall. Taking a look at the HPC’s precip forecast for the next three days, we can plainly see that Debby has a tremendous amount of moisture to dump along its path. The Florida peninsula through the central Gulf Coast could receive several inches of rain as Debby moves quite slowly, allowing the rain fall totals to pile up. This is not to be taken lightly. Fresh water flooding from excessive rains generated by tropical cyclones is a leading killer. Often times flooded roads are accessed by people who think that they can navigate the waters. This is a dangerous idea and I urge people to be mindful of the potential flooding impact from the rain. I would like to point out that you can use weather.gov for a wealth of information regarding your local conditions. Just type in your ZIP Code and the landing page will likely contain all sorts of locally based watch/warning info, hurricane local statements and more. This info is for your area, not a national broad brush forecast. Remember: weather.gov

I am currently in Georgia after wrapping up a project I had with CNN to launch a weather balloon and its payload to high altitude yesterday morning. The prep and launch were spectacular, I cannot wait to show you the video of that. The ascent went very well and we were able to track the payload using APRS. I will post a separate blog about this project later tomorrow, complete with some video of the launch. I’ll also talk about what went wrong and why we were not able to recover a majority of the payload after the balloon burst.

Once I return home from GA later today, I’ll begin preparing equipment for a trip to the Gulf Coast to provide on-scene coverage and info as Debby passes by or perhaps makes a direct impact on the region. I’ll lay out my plans tomorrow as a lot will hinge on what the forecast track is and how strong Debby gets. Meanwhile, everyone along the Gulf Coast should keep close tabs on the latest forecast info from the NHC and your local NWS. I’ll have another post here tonight with frequent updates on Twitter.

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