River flooding continues in NC, Nicole likely to pass close to Bermuda and western Caribbean becomes area of interest soon

We are getting close to mid-October and the tropics are still very much a major topic of conversation. The aftermath of Matthew from Haiti and Cuba through the Bahamas and in to the Southeast U.S. is the top story outside of the political craziness that has dominated the news cycles for most of the year.

Right now, the clean up process has begun and unfortunately, so have the plans for saying goodbye to those killed in the hurricane. Last I heard from news sources, at least 23 people have died in the United States with hundreds more lives lost in Haiti. This saddens me but it also underscores the need for better hurricane preparedness across the Western Hemisphere. We have so much technology, so much information, yet we still lose people in ways that should not ever happen. I will re-visit this grim topic at a later date and offer some suggestions for doing better in the future.

Hydrograph for Kinstron, NC along the Neuse River showing the slow rise of the river to near record flood stage by Friday.

Hydrograph for Kinstron, NC along the Neuse River showing the slow rise of the river to near record flood stage by Friday.

In eastern North Carolina, the river flood situation continues. Parts of I-40 and I-95 remain closed as flood waters are slow to recede. In places such as Kinston, along highway 70, the flood has only just begun and will not peak until Friday. Other locations are also experiencing record to near-record flooding even as skies are clear and temps are finally fall-like.

I am going to head to Kinston on Thursday to place one or two unmanned cams to monitor the rising water in real time. I will share the link here and on social media so that residents who need to evacuate can still see what is going on in their town. I’ll have more on this tomorrow.

Meanwhile, tropical storm Nicole is slowly gathering strength south of Bermuda and is expected to become a hurricane again before passing very close to the island on Thursday. A hurricane watch and tropical storm warning has been posted for Bermuda in anticipation of this event. It looks as though Nicole could be nearing category two intensity and as such, residents in Bermuda need to be ready for yet another hurricane over the coming days.

GFS model at day-5 showing the first signs of weak vorticity or spin in the lower levels of the atmosphere over the western Caribbea Sea.

GFS model at day-5 showing the first signs of weak vorticity or spin in the lower levels of the atmosphere over the western Caribbean Sea.

Once Nicole clears the pattern later this week, we will need to begin watching the western Caribbean for one last development cycle. All of the major global models are suggesting a large, sprawling area of low pressure will develop between days five and ten. Different models have different solutions for what happens after that so it’s best to just wait and see. For now, know that the western Caribbean is favored this time of year and, perhaps more importantly, the water temps in the region are as warm is it gets right now. Upper ocean heat content is nearly off the chart warm – so any disturbance that gets going in the region will more than enough fuel to become a powerful hurricane. This is an area we will need to monitor very closely as we get in to the weekend and early next week.

I will have my daily video discussion posted later this afternoon covering the latest river flooding info for eastern NC, Nicole and the western Caribbean potential for next week.

M. Sudduth 9:10 AM ET Oct 11

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Inland flooding from Matthew continues as Nicole takes aim on Bermuda

Flooding along the Neuse River in Smithfield as seen from one of our unmanned camera units placed there yesterday afternoon. Watch the LIVE cam here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/C6kGCZ3uJCF

Flooding along the Neuse River in Smithfield as seen from one of our unmanned camera units placed there yesterday afternoon. Watch the LIVE cam here: Smithfield, NC along Neuse River

Matthew is gone, part of hurricane history now but its impacts will linger for days, weeks and even years across many locations of the Southeast. As bad as it was, I cannot emphasize enough how close the United States came to seeing catastrophic damage and likely significant loss of life. Matthew managed to keep the core of the strongest winds just offshore of the Florida and Georgia coastlines and was weakening as it did so. Just a 20-30 mile westerly change in its course would have resulted in massive wind damage, a storm surge like we have not seen since Sandy and maybe even Katrina and power outages that would have boggled the mind. To say we were lucky is putting it mildly but what did happen is bad enough and we are dealing with the effects even as skies have cleared and cooler temperatures have moved in.

The most serious threat from Matthew’s relentless rain will be continued river flooding across parts of eastern North Carolina and northeast South Carolina. Several river gauge sites are in major flood stage with more expected to reach that point in the days ahead. Visit the link below to view gauge data and learn more about the expected impacts from the various river systems that are expected to flood as the week progresses:

Southeast River Forecast Center Website

Latest track map for Nicole indicating a threat to Bermuda late week.

Latest track map for Nicole indicating a threat to Bermuda late week.

The next area of concern will be Bermuda as tropical storm Nicole gathers strength in the wake of hurricane Matthew. Upper level winds are forecast to become favorable and this will allow Nicole to become a hurricane again, probably a category two, as it approaches Bermuda late in the week. It’s still too soon to predict just how close Nicole will track to Bermuda but the models are in fairly good agreement on quite a close call, if not a direct hit, by Friday. I will be keeping a close eye on this and may be planning a trip to Bermuda to cover the impacts if in fact Nicole gets close enough to the island.

Beyond Nicole there are no other areas to worry about for the time being but a robust MJO pulse is forecast by the major global models to set up in the Atlantic Basin over the next two weeks or so. This would favor widespread upward motion and period of favorable upper level winds – mainly across the western Caribbean where climatology tells us to look this time of year. As a result, the GFS and ECMWF models both suggest development between seven and ten days out. Something to watch for but nothing appears imminent.

I am back in the office now in Wilmington, NC after quite a saga tracking down Matthew from the east-central coast of Florida and then up through the Carolinas. I covered a lot of ground and captured some useful wind and pressure data along with compelling live video from our unmanned cams. I will post some of the data soon along with video highlights of the field mission.

I’ll have a video discussion posted early this afternoon followed by a blog update this evening concerning Nicole and what the latest trends are regarding impacts for Bermuda.

M. Sudduth 8:15 AM ET Oct 10

 

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Julia sheared, Ian headed out, TD 12 struggling

TD Julia seen in this visible satellite photo showing a sheared pattern. This will keep the heavy rain bands well offshore of North and South Carolina.

TD Julia seen in this visible satellite photo showing a sheared pattern. This will keep the heavy rain bands well offshore of North and South Carolina.

The tropics are definitely busy as we reach the half-way point of September but we still have not had a hurricane form this month. Hermine became a hurricane on August 31 so that does not count towards September. As it stands, the systems we have seen since Hermine have all struggled with strong upper level winds and abundant dry air. That theme continues today.

Julia is milling around off the South Carolina coast and will do so for the next several days. Fortunately for flood-weary residents of the Palmetto state, strong upper level winds are keeping any solid convection or thunderstorms well away from the coast. This should reduce or even eliminate the threat of heavy rain for South Carolina for the time being. However, I caution you that Julia has done nothing but defy forecasts ever since the first advisory. In fact, the depression “should” be well inland over south-central Georgia today. Instead, it’s over the warm water of the Atlantic – more than 200 hundred miles from where it was forecast to be for today. As long as the shear stays strong, the heavy rain will remain off the coast but it’s something to monitor just in case.

The forecast is for Julia to basically sit and spin over the water south of Wilmington and east of Charleston with little overall change in strength. This should result in seeing Julia literally run out of energy and become a remnant low. This will act to take some of the heat out of the ocean which has been running above normal all summer – that could help later in the season if something of significance were to track over the same location.

Next up is tropical storm Ian. Not much to say here except it’s yet another Cape Verde storm that failed to become a hurricane despite warm Atlantic waters. It is forecast to continue to move out in to the far reaches of the North Atlantic as a large, strong extra-tropical storm system. Ian poses no threat to land areas and is only of concern to the shipping lanes along its track.

Then we have TD12 out in the eastern Atlantic. The overall area of energy associated with the depression is enormous – like a pre-typhoon low pressure area in the west Pacific. However, in this case, I do not think it will live up to anywhere near its potential. Once again conditions are mysteriously unfavorable throughout the MDR or main development region. Dry mid-level air and strong upper level winds, typical of a season like last year, remain dominant. This will keep TD12 from strengthening but will allow the energy to travel west for several days. It is possible that it could end up somewhere in the Caribbean or southwest Atlantic in a week but none of the global models indicate that it ever amounts to anything.

So for now, we have no major issues to be concerned with in the Atlantic, Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico.

M. Sudduth 10:45 AM ET Sept 15

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Tropical storm looking more likely now

As we begin the long holiday weekend, residents of and visitors to the coast of parts of the Southeast may have to deal with a tropical storm. This is not typical of Memorial Day weekend but this year, it looks like we will break the norm.

The latest info from the NHC tells us that the area of low pressure between Bermuda and the Bahamas continues to get better organized, with a 90% chance of further development. That being said, it is hardly doing so at a rapid pace, this is not peak hurricane season with ample warm water around. As it is, we are essentially at the very beginning of the season and the amount of energy available is somewhat limited.

Intensity guidance from the over night model runs showing what would be a tropical storm forming over the next couple of days just off the Southeast coast

Intensity guidance from the over night model runs showing what would be a tropical storm forming over the next couple of days just off the Southeast coast

As the low moves towards the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream, there is a chance for it to strengthen and it could become a tropical storm before reaching the coast. The other scenario is that the low remains loosely organized and resembles more of a subtropical storm with winds spread out away from the center. Most of the computer guidance, some of which simulates the structure of tropical systems, indicates that this will in fact become purely tropical in nature – meaning that there should be a well defined center with organized bands of showers and thunderstorms closer to that center. This is what most people are used to seeing and I think that is what will happen.

Most of the track guidance suggests a landfall somewhere in South Carolina over the weekend. This means the obvious chance of heavy rain, some gusty winds and a churned up Atlantic. Beach-goers need to be especially mindful of local conditions – rip currents are part of the over all package of hazards that tropical systems bring with them. Do not underestimate the power of rough surf conditions, heed local surf advisories and keep the little ones very close to shore.

As far as other impacts, it’s too soon to know how much rain and who gets it. Once the storm forms and models get a better handle on its structure, that info can be fine tuned. You can bet on some locations receiving a few inches of rain but this is not the set up that we saw last October when hurricane Joaquin was off shore, peeling off insane amounts of moisture. There will be potential for heavy rain, but nothing like what we saw last fall.

The NHC mentions that the Hurricane Hunters will be investigating the low later today. Once we get the info, I will post another blog update here along with a video discussion for our app, Hurricane Impact, and on our YouTube channel.

M. Sudduth 8am ET May 27

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Damaging storm forecast to rock parts of East Coast

Winter is about to make a grand appearance for people in many states east of the Mississippi River and it won’t be all fun and games – not by a long shot.

Energy coming in from the Pacific (outlined in gray) will drop south and east over the coming days and become a strong coastal storm

Energy coming in from the Pacific (outlined in gray) will drop south and east over the coming days and become a strong coastal storm

After a very warm December and tranquil start to the winter storm season, it looks as though time will run out and things will turn nasty later this week. The culprit is a low pressure area still over the Pacific just off of California and Oregon that is forecast by the major global computer models to dive south and east for a date with destiny. I know that sounds rather over the top but what happens to that piece of energy over the coming days is quite remarkable.

By Friday morning, the evolution of the pattern will be such that snow will begin to break out across parts of North Carolina and Virginia. By this point in time, the energy from the Pacific has carved out a sharp trough of low pressure over the Mississippi Valley region – indicating a lot of energy gathering in the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, a surface low will develop in eastern North Carolina by Friday afternoon that is the match that lights the fire. From there, things become very interesting and even concerning as the storm begins to fester over the warm water of the western Atlantic.

GFS depiction of the coastal storm and all of its impacts affecting many states along the East Coast and inland

GFS depiction of the coastal storm and all of its impacts affecting many states along the East Coast and inland

All of the available model guidance suggests that a fairly strong low pressure area will move up the coast from around Cape Hatteras to just offshore of southern New England. This classic Nor’easter pattern is set to bring phenomenal amounts of snow to a lot of people, especially away from the immediate coast. I am no weather winter expert so trying to decipher how much snow and where is beyond my ability. What I do know a lot about is impact and I see this storm as bringing potentially major impacts to people across more than a dozen states.

The snow will be excessive in places, again, impossible to know precisely where. Travel from many major airports will be snarled and people will be stranded. Highway travel will become a matter of taking your life in to your hands when the insane snow begins. Best to just stay put.

The storm will have a lot of energy with it, due in part to the very warm ocean temps as compared to normal. Also, the atmosphere will add plenty of energy and force the storm to intensify and crank up the wind. This will be an especially important impact since high wind coupled with feet of snow never makes for a happy ending.

Along the coast from Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and points north, the potential is there for coastal flooding not seen since Sandy in 2012. Luck is not on our side either because the moon is full this weekend and that will add to the overall storm tide that sets up. Make no mistake, this part of the storm will go vastly overlooked by major media who will focus on the blizzard conditions inland. Meanwhile, the coastlines of New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware will get pounded by coastal flooding, potentially causing significant damage in surge prone areas.

Farther north, strong winds and heavy rain in the warmer sector of the storm will mean miserable conditions for areas such as eastern Long Island and southern New England. Once the cold air mixes in enough, the snow will come, though it’s hard to say how much and for how long.

When all is said and done, this storm will likely be compared to some from the mid-1990s that battered the region with near hurricane conditions. Yes, it could be that bad.

Or, it might not be.

As the case seems to always be, enough uncertainty exists this far out ahead of the event that there is still room for something to happen that changes the outcome significantly. Remember, weather is about the probability of something happening in most cases. Right now there is a rather high probability that a major Nor’easter will develop and impact a lot of people. This is not the same as a certainty. Even when it is unfolding on top of the East Coast, timing, track and other factors will determine the final result. I am here to make sure you realize the totality of the storm. It’s not just fluffy white snow that will make for some pretty Instagram pics. Some places will be slammed with more snow than they can handle. Again, coastal areas of the Mid-Atlantic are likely to be blasted by near hurricane force winds and possible major coastal flooding. In other words, as much as we like winter storms (most people do I guess) they are a deadly part of weather not unlike hurricanes and tropical storms. Don’t let the enormous snow totals being thrown about blind you to the other hazards and prepare accordingly.

I am most likely going to head out in to the storm myself with some of the same equipment that we use during hurricane landfalls. I will wait until tomorrow to make the final call and will post more about my plans and what equipment I will be putting out. It should be one heck of a storm and I will do by very best to immerse you in to it like no one else can.

One last bit of advice. I mention the NWS a lot in my blogs when something big is about to go down. If you want straight-up info without any bias thrown in for website clicks or page likes, simply go to weather.gov and input your ZIP Code. From there scroll down to where you see “Forecast Discussion”. Click that and read it. It’s technical in nature but you can get an inside look at precisely what your LOCAL forecast office is thinking and why. No hype, no agenda, just raw analysis based on the best available data. Use it and be informed!

I’ll have more tomorrow morning.

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