Gulf Stream aiding in comeback for Bonnie? Also, southern Gulf area to watch in coming days

Tropical depression Bonnie as seen in early morning visible satellite very near the NC Outer Banks

Tropical depression Bonnie as seen in early morning visible satellite very near the NC Outer Banks

The NHC will begin issuing advisories again on what was once TS Bonnie, now a tropical depression again very near the North Carolina Outer Banks.

It seems that the close proximity of the warm Gulf Stream has helped to refuel enough organized convection to aid in the recovery of the system. The main threat will be continued heavy rain and some gusty winds, along with locally rough seas (ocean and sound). I do believe the Hurricane Hunters will be flying a mission in to the area later today and we’ll know more about the wind field at that point. Right now, I am not seeing anything to suggest rapid strengthening though it would not be unreasonable to suggest that Bonnie could attain tropical storm intensity before all is said and done.

Unfortunately, the steering currents are still quite weak across the region and thus Bonnie will be aggravatingly slow to move out. It looks like by later tomorrow, the pesky storm system will finally move on out to sea. Until then, if you have plans to visit the Outer Banks or are there now, just keep in mind the fact that occasional bands of heavy rain will impact the area.

Meanwhile, we will soon need to turn our attention to the southern Gulf of Mexico where it looks like we may see yet another system try to develop some time next week.

Almost all of the reliable computer models are suggesting a broad area of low pressure will develop from energy piling in to the western Caribbean over the next few days. Upper level winds won’t be ideal but water temps are certainly warm enough and there is a decent chance that a tropical depression or even a tropical storm could form and head generally towards Florida.

GFS 850mb map showing energy associated with a broad area of low pressure in the Gulf of Mexico in about 5 days

GFS 850mb map showing energy associated with a broad area of low pressure in the Gulf of Mexico in about 5 days

One thing to keep in mind, the models are not indicating a very strong system, at least not yet. As an example, I have posted a pic of the overnight GFS model which shows the winds and vorticity (spin in the atmosphere) at the 5,000 foot level or what we all the 850 millibar level. This gives me an idea of how well organized or compact a given storm might be. The more round and “bundled” the energy, the stronger it is likely to be in the real world. Notice in the image, the energy is spread out over a fairly large area, not concentrated and totally symmetrical. This tells me that what ever develops could be more spread out and thus weaker than say a hurricane would be. Obviously this can change but for now, it looks like a lopsided, sheared system with plenty of heavy rain potential, which should never be underrated. From the wind and surge perspective, so far, there is not much to indicate any major issues. I will obviously continue to monitor the situation and will post regular updates here and via my daily video discussions over the coming days.

Last but not least, a tropical depression is likely to form in the east Pacific well to the southwest of Mexico over the next few days. No matter how strong it becomes, the track will be away from land with no impact what so ever for Mexico.

I’ll have more here early this evening on Bonnie and an update on the potential Gulf system as well.

M. Sudduth 8:55 AM June 2

Ida hanging around, coastal mess for NC, SC, VA plus minor Gulf system to watch for

The tropics are quite a mess this morning. That’s the best way to describe the scene across the Atlantic Basin. Here is a run down of what’s going on out there…

First up, Ida. This storm just keeps hanging on and taking a beating from various weather features that pass by and lash out. Steering currents remain weak but eventually Ida is expected to turn northeast and head further out in to the open Atlantic. It remains to be seen how strong it will become, some models indicate significant strengthening while others barely anything at all. It matters little really since Ida won’t be affecting any land areas.

Next we have a complex weather situation off the coast of the Southeast U.S. which has almost nothing tropical associated with it except for the fact that it’s over very warm water.

Basically we have a coastal trough of low pressure, or an elongated area of low pressure as opposed to a focused surface low, hanging around just offshore of the Carolinas and Virginia. The coastal trough alone is not a big problem but when we factor in these enormous areas of high pressure moving by to the north, then things get interesting.

Wind is created by the difference between areas of high and low pressure. I think we can all understand that concept pretty well. The greater the difference between high and low pressure, the stronger the wind. We call this a gradient, like going down a steep hill versus a gradual slope. Now imagine the wind blowing over a fairly long stretch of water, we call this a fetch. The more distance the wind blows from a certain direction over the water, the higher the waves become. This is important in understanding the situation along portions of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states over the next few days.

Global models indicate that the coastal trough will remain in place for the next few days with possible ripples of weak low pressure developing along the trough, moving northeast with time. This, in combination with strong Canadian high pressure in the Northeast, will help to squeeze the pressure gradient to the point where large waves will likely result and batter parts of the coastline.

We have already seen this in areas such as the NC Outer Banks where beach erosion at the times of high tide has been an ongoing issue. I think that it will only get worse as we head in to the weekend.

In addition to the rough surf and high waves, the chance for areas of heavy rain to develop is also on the table. With very warm water in the western Atlantic, there is plenty of fuel for low pressure to tap in to and dump several inches of rain across inland areas. It’s impossible to know which locations will receive the highest rain amounts but overall, it looks like a wet and unsettled weekend for portions of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Last but not least, the Gulf. The NHC has outlined an area of interest in the southern Gulf of Mexico where a broad area of low pressure is expected to develop sometime next week. Normally this would be cause for concern but this season, the incredible amount of wind shear in the atmosphere should limit any development that does take place. None of the reliable model guidance suggests anything more than a strung-out, sheared low pressure area to form. This would limit the impact from wind and surge but the chance for very heavy rain exists and we will want to monitor this region carefully as we in to early next week.

That’s it for now – I will post a video blog update later this afternoon.

M. Sudduth 1:15 PM ET Sept 23



Pre-June development more of an interesting feature than anything serious

Latest sea surface temps off the Southeast coast. The red circle indicates the area of likely development of the low pressure area this week. Note that SSTs are just warm enough, 26C, in a narrow area north of the Bahamas

Latest sea surface temps off the Southeast coast. The red circle indicates the area of likely development of the low pressure area this week. Note that SSTs are just warm enough, 26C, in a narrow area north of the Bahamas

Here we are again just a few weeks out from the Atlantic hurricane season beginning and we have something to watch in the waters off the Southeast coast.

The National Hurricane Center has outlined an area of interest associated with a remnant frontal system that has managed to park itself over fairly warm water (for this time of year). The atmosphere and ocean could work together to spawn a semi-tropical storm system later this week. Before anyone gets too worked up about it, let’s look at some facts.

First of all, it is May. We typically don’t see much tropical or sub-tropical activity during the month of May. However, of all the off-season months that we do get development, May is the most active. In fact, it is active enough, around two dozen or so developments over the past 100+ years, that I am not sure why the hurricane season doesn’t officially begin in May. That’s a story for another day perhaps.

This time of year, water temperatures are warming but are not typically warm enough to allow for the deep moisture content needed to support a tropical storm or hurricane. On the other hand, the southwest Atlantic is running a bit above normal right now with the 26C line (79.5F) extending northward out of the Bahamas just off the Southeast coast. This region of marginal water temp threshold is narrow and limited. It is surrounded by much cooler water temps, mid-70s or so. This gives us reason to believe that what ever tries to develop will have very limited conditions to work with.

The other aspect of this potential development, as noted in the NHC’s Tropical Weather Outlook (actually they issued a special version of it since it’s not officially hurricane season yet), is that the low pressure area that is forecast to develop is non-tropical in origin. This means it lacks the true deep warm-core structure that we see in say a tropical wave origin storm or hurricane. Take Gonzalo last October, its birth can be traced back to a tropical wave, full of heat and moisture, that emerged from Africa. The low pressure that is likely to spin up off the Southeast coast will come from a non-tropical environment off of an old frontal boundary. While this is often an excellent genesis point for tropical storms and hurricanes to grow from, it usually takes longer for them to acquire full tropical characteristics. This simply means that we are likely going to see a very shallow, limited convection based storm system develop by mid-week.

As far as impacts go, a storm over the ocean is always a concern for boaters and beach interests. An increase in swells, rough surf and winds along the coast from northern Florida up through the Carolinas is likely later in the week. Think of it as a kind of hybrid storm, not fully what we would look for during the height of the hurricane season. Thus, the bottom line here is that while it’s possible we’ll have something interesting to talk about this week, the effects will be confined to the coast and just inland and shouldn’t amount to more than passing rain showers, breezy conditions and rough surf.

One note about this: the North Carolina Outer Banks took quite a beating from a departing ocean storm late last week. Some beaches sustained heavy erosion and can ill-afford any additional aggravation right now. Hopefully this potential storm system will not meander far enough north to rough up the area any more than has already taken place. That being said, interests along the Outer Banks in the usual flood prone areas should pay close attention to what happens with this low pressure area. It’s been a rough few years, dating back to Irene in 2011. Since then, storm after storm has lashed the region and even weak systems add more to the problem.

I’ll have more here on this developing system throughout the week ahead. I’ll also be posting a video blog to our app, Hurricane Impact, as well as to our partner app, Hurricane Pro and HD, later today. It’s that time of year again, well, almost anyway…

M. Sudduth 9:10 AM ET May 4


Hurricane Arthur: a success story for the science

Radar screen grab showing my location as the eye of hurricane Arthur passed over me

Radar screen grab showing my location as the eye of hurricane Arthur passed over me

The hurricane Arthur field mission to the Outer Banks of North Carolina was one of the most successful in our history. We had more technology to throw at it than in any other event. The results have been fantastic! I want to share some of those with you now.

First of all, a HUGE thanks goes out to Jesse Bass, Mike Watkins, Paul Bowman and Kerry Mallory for helping to make this as stress-free as possible. I may be the guy on TV sometimes but there is a real team effort going on here and it shows in our results.

The goal was to gather data and report on conditions. We succeeded 100% with that goal.

Screen capture from our app showing the live weather data coming in from the anemometer placed on a house in Rodanthe, NC

Screen capture from our app showing the live weather data coming in from the anemometer placed on a house in Rodanthe, NC

Jesse and I arrived in Rodanthe about an hour before sunrise on Thursday, July 3. Within 45 minutes, the weather station was set up and streaming live data to our our app, Hurricane Impact.

By early afternoon, we had flown the quad copter three times in three separate places to show the area before Arthur pushed through. I felt it was important to see the region before the high water lines and debris in order to compare later and piece together the how and why of the storm surge that was sure to affect the area.

We set up a live streaming camera, with audio for the first time ever, at a home in Hatteras Village. I thought there was a chance for significant surge flooding there as we saw during Alex in 2004. It did not happen this time due to a different track than Alex took but the camera ran perfect for over 24 hours – a new record for our technology. You have to understand, these unmanned cameras are completely self-contained with their own battery supply, etc. This was a milestone for our live video capability. The Weather Channel used the shot numerous times and our other private clients tuned in from time to time to check things out. Even when the power to the village was out, it was great to be able to at least hear the wind and rain hitting the case that housed the camera system.

I did not deploy any additional live cameras due to the fact that Arthur was going to move through during the middle of the night (why do most seem to do that? Grrrrrr!). However, we did have a new device, a live surge cam that we do not anchor to anything – we call it the “Drifting Surge Cam”. I was hesitant about deploying it, again, since it was dark. Then, I thought, what the heck? I might as well test some of its capabilities like being able to track it via satellite. If we did not get any decent live or recorded video, so be it, let’s see if the concept works in a real surge event. It did!

I set the DSC out with the help of Jim Cantore right where he was reporting from in Waves, NC, on the sound side of Hwy 12. Within an hour or so, the live stream quit for unknown reasons but the GoPro inside kept going. We also noticed it was moving once the eye went past the location and the wind switched directions and pushed the Pamlico Sound over the area.

From what we hear, the water rose several feet in mere minutes. Too bad it was dark, the DSC would have captured that rise in full HD! There will be a next time and we are already working on putting LED lights on the unit to at least let us see something as opposed to nothing.

Once I knew the eye was not going to pass over Jim’s location, nor mines in Rodanthe, I drove up Highway 12 towards the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge building. I knew the parking lot was elevated enough to keep me safe from any surge that might come in later. I captured wind data on the Tahoe’s anemometer which recorded a peak gust of 81 mph at nine feet above the ground. Not bad for a fairly low height of the anemometer.

Our weather station recorded a peak gust of 70 mph at 10 meters above the ground in Rodanthe. This makes sense due to the fact that the eye wall did not pass over Rodanthe, not like it did where I was or in the Pamlico Sound itself where WeatherFlow, Inc recorded higher winds than I did via their instruments over the water.

My lowest pressure was 977.3 millibars as the eye moved over me just south of the Oregon Inlet – not even a mile. During the eye I carefully drove on to the Bonner Bridge to position myself as close to the eye’s center as possible. It was an amazing few minutes as the calm set in and precip dropped to nothing.

After the eye passed over, I went back south on Highway 12 a couple of miles and witnessed the storm surge racing in from the sound. I have never seen the water rise that fast in all my years of doing this. Some of the video I shot of that happening was thought to have been time lapse it happened so quickly. I assure, it was not! The surge literally pushed up Highway 12 from higher elevation points to lower ones, coming at me like an army. I was in virtually no danger since I had the Bonner Bridge behind me and it was easily 12 to 20 feet higher than the sound as you go up the approach. This safety net allowed me to document the surge coming in which I will use to show people who have no clue about such forces and hopefully motivate them to evacuate if ever told to do so. My experience with the area, knowing what to expect, where to go and how to be safe is a big part of the success of the mission.

Drifting Surge Cam GPS track showing its sart point and where it ended up and was found by The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore

Drifting Surge Cam GPS track showing its sart point and where it ended up and was found by The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore

Now, since the surge did some damage to Highway 12, I was not able to get back south on the 4th to Rodanthe or Hatteras to retrieve my equipment – or the Drifting Surge Cam. We tracked it via satellite until it seemingly stopped “phoning in”. We wondered if it had quit, was it found and taken by someone? What happened? It clearly moved from where we left it, in fact, by several blocks. This, in and of itself, was remarkable. The DSC worked, it drifted and we captured its GPS trail. I do not know of any other time that surge has been studied with a drifting GPS device. This will help us to understand the flow pattern and how fast the case was moved. Why does this matter? It further emphasizes the fact that you cannot wait until you know there is a danger, as in see it happening with your own eye, and then act. Evacuation saves lives and storm surge is the main reason evacuations are called for. This data will help us in pushing that message out during future events.

With me being cut off from Rodanthe and points south, I had to just head back to Wilmington where I live.

I talked to Jim Cantore and asked him to go look for the DSC. He was stuck in Waves and could not leave until Saturday afternoon. We sent him a map showing where the last signal was received and sure enough, Saturday morning, he found it right where it was supposed to be – covered in mud and gook! Success! No more losing surge cams to surge like we did in Katrina back in 2005. This is a huge breakthrough for our work and I am very happy with the results!

What did the GoPro cam capture? Nothing really, it was just too dark. That is the way it goes sometimes but the victory we take away is that the technology allows us to get closer to a hurricane’s lethal impacts than ever before without putting people in the way of it. We can see and study the effects in new ways, offering new perspectives for our audience and clients such as The Weather Channel. I have always wanted to bring live weather data to the mix for national television reporting, now it is happening – the science is being integrated in to the news.

Mirlo Beach area two days after hurricane Arthur. You can see where the surge pushed in from the Pamlico sound though with proper mitigation, the damage was minimal and the area is recovering rapidly

Mirlo Beach area two days after hurricane Arthur. You can see where the surge pushed in from the Pamlico sound though with proper mitigation, the damage was minimal and the area is recovering rapidly

I am back in Rodanthe now completing some post-Arthur work, including aerial video from the quad copter. I want to see the effects of the surge on the landscape, how the geography gets changed. Seeing it from above is the only way to do so on the scale that I need. Four years ago, this would not be possible as it was too expensive for this type of technology.

The good news is that the Outer Banks are fine. You will hardly notice anything happened out here except for a few areas where the surge was especially deep and debris is strewn about. The ocean is great, no worries there at all. Come on down and visit, take a vacation. Someone told me it was a slice of heaven out here – I agreed and even though a day of hell comes along every once in a while, those are few and far between compared to the natural beauty that lures so many people to the region year after.

The tropics are quiet, at least in the Atlantic and east Pacific. Out in the west Pacific, a powerful typhoon is raging. It’s that time of year – best to be alert and ready if the pendulum swings back in to the Atlantic before all is said and done. Thanks for following our work and we’ll see you out there the next time.

M. Sudduth 10:30 AM ET July 7

Time to head to the Outer Banks

Hurricane warnings are up and it is time for action. People along parts of the North Carolina coast will have to endure a hurricane threat, and possible direct hit, this Fourth of July. It’s a very rare event indeed and not one that people will want to remember the holiday period for. None the less, it is part of living on the coast and this too shall pass – but not without some anxious moments ahead for sure.

My best advice at this point for people in harm’s way is to listen to your local officials. Seek out local information via social media and Web sites. is a great resource with Hurricane Local Statements that give detailed information about what to expect and when. For people who know the drill, they are springing in to action now. For visitors who may think this is exciting, well, it is by the very nature of the beast but it’s a dangerous kind of excitement and this situation needs to be taken seriously. If you’re asked to evacuate, do it. I know it stinks to lose vacation time but you don’t want to get stuck on the Outer Banks for 10 days with no food or water – trust me on that.

Speaking of being stuck, hopefully that won’t happen to me. I’ll be heading out to Hatteras Island tonight. Gotta get there before 5am tomorrow or I can’t get in. I will deploy my equipment and then seek out high ground to ride it out in relative safety. I have enough supplies for 3 days so I will likely be ok – if not, my fat reserves will kick in 😉

Follow along live via Ustream as I travel to the Outer Banks. I’ll stop in Williamston for a couple of hour’s nap later tonight and then it’s on to Hatteras.

Click here for the link to the live Ustream feed. It will be active for as long as I can possibly keep it going.

You may also follow along in our app, Hurricane Impact. I will post video reports often throughout the next few days. The app is a fantastic way to keep up with what is going on and will have the live weather data and web cam image feeding in to by later tomorrow. Search Hurricane Impact in the App Store and on Google Play.

I wish my friends and other folks who follow our work the best of luck with Arthur. Hopefully it won’t be too bad but I am fearful that we are looking at a potential ugly situation for a portion of the NC Outer Banks. I will do my best to provide accurate, non-sensational information for you, thanks for following along!

Mark Sudduh 7:15 pm ET July 2