Field mission to Florida about to begin

I am prepping to leave for Florida and the Big Bend region in anticipation of TD9 strengthening to near hurricane intensity as it moves towards the NE Gulf later tomorrow.

There is so much to cover that I figure a video discussion is a good way to get it done. I will post video updates throughout the mission, especially later today and tomorrow. Follow along in our app, Hurricane Impact

I will be setting out two live unmanned camera systems along the Gulf Coast late tonight or early tomorrow morning to show the storm surge as it comes in to the area. I plan to have one in Cedar Key and one in Suwannee and will post the links to view them once they are up and running.

I will not be taking the mobile weather stations with me since I will need to turn around and get back to North Carolina in short order to perhaps set one up along the Outer Banks Friday. It’s going to be a long and grueling few days but the reporting I can do from the ground will be worth it. I hope you will follow along.

M. Sudduth 8:50 AM ET Aug 31

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More going on in the tropics than we’ve seen in quite some time

It’s the end of August and the tropics are busy. We have a pair of hurricanes that are headed towards Hawaii, one in the Atlantic that poses no threat to land, two disorganized depressions and one significant tropical wave that has just emerged off of Africa. Did I miss anything? I think that’s it. So let’s look at each area beginning in the central Pacific…

Hurricane Madeline

Hurricane Madeline track forecast from the Central Pacific Hurricane Center

Hurricane Madeline track forecast from the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. Click for full size.

Just a couple of days ago the forecast for Madeline did not indicate it would even reach hurricane strength. My how that changed – it is now a category four with winds of 130 mph. It is currently moving west but is expected to track a little south of west over the next day or so and this just might keep the core of the worst weather south of Hawaii where a hurricane watch is currently in effect for the Big Island.

The official forecast brings the center fairly close and the Big Island would be within the right-front quadrant of the hurricane as it passes by. This is usually the stronger side of a hurricane relative to its forward movement and as such, it is possible that hurricane conditions could be experienced throughout portions the region. In addition, dangerously high waves along with very heavy rain could cause localized damage. Hawaii is a unique geographic location for hurricanes to impact and so pinpointing the effects is hard to do; so much depends on the eventual track and intensity. Needless to say, residents and visitors on the Big Island need to be preparing for a hurricane today and tomorrow in anticipation of Madeline’s arrival or close passage sometime on Thursday.

Hurricane Lester

Meanwhile, off to the east of Madeline is hurricane Lester with winds of 125 mph, down from a peak of 140 yesterday.

The good news here is that Lester is currently forecast to track to the north of the islands over the next few days and should also weaken considerably while doing so. As such, I am not nearly as concerned about impacts from Lester as I am about Madeline for Hawaii.

There will be another increase in the swells and local high surf due to the intensity of Lester in recent days. While the surfers in Hawaii can take advantage of this, novice swimmers should avoid tangling with the big waves headed to the area.

Satellite photo showing hurricane Gaston, TD8 and TD9

Satellite photo showing hurricane Gaston, TD8 and TD9

Hurricane Gaston

Moving along in to the Atlantic where hurricane Gaston has weakened some overnight. Top winds here are 100 mph but there is a large eye apparent on satellite imagery. It is possible that the hurricane could strengthen again over the fairly warm waters of the subtropical Atlantic. Gaston is only an issue for shipping lanes as it will likely turn northeast out over the open water with an increase in forward speed.

TD8

Tropical depression 8, just off the North Carolina coast, is trying to wrap deep thunderstorms around its well defined center of circulation this morning. It won’t take much for it to strengthen over the very warm water and become a tropical storm. If it does so before TD9 does, it would be named Hermine.

The effects overall will be minimal with a few passing rain bands and locally gusty winds at times for the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Even the waves will not be too much of an issue since the wind is not very strong right now but locally higher surf is possible within any squalls that happen to make it to the coast.

The forecast is for the depression to possibly become a tropical storm and then turn north and eventually northeast and away from land.

TD9

The forecast for TD9 remains very complex which seems to have been the case ever since it was just an area of interest or tropical wave several days ago.

During the overnight hours, deep thunderstorms have managed to expand and possibly cover the low level center. If this is the case, it might be that we finally have a tropical storm out of this system. The Hurricane Hunters will be investigating the depression off and on today and we’ll know more later if it’s not obvious based on satellite that it has in fact strengthened.

Overall the idea of a Florida Big Bend area landfall on Thursday seems intact. The question is really more about how strong it manages to get before that time. Upper level winds are not particularly favorable but could be just enough so that the depression makes it to tropical storm intensity plus perhaps a little more strengthening after that.

I see two main impacts from this system that concern me. First, storm surge flooding along the immediate coast. The area of Florida that the system is forecast to move in to is very vulnerable to storm surge from tropical storms and hurricanes. The onshore flow, combined with the fact that the would-be storm will be pushing water in the direction that it is moving means several feet of inundation is possible. We won’t know how much is being predicted until later on and especially so when and if it becomes a tropical storm. Areas in the Big Bend region down to the Nature Coast should be prepared for some coastal storm surge issues on Thursday – this includes an increase in wave action as well along what is normally a very placid Gulf of Mexico.

Rainfall forecast over the next few days highlighting the chance for excessive rain totals in parts of Florida.

Rainfall forecast over the next few days highlighting the chance for excessive rain totals in parts of Florida.

The other significant impact will be the heavy rain. Several inches is likely to fall across portions of Florida and this will lead to areas of localized flooding. It’s impossible to pinpoint which areas will receive the most rain and when but it’s a good bet that north-central Florida will see rainfall totals exceeding 5 inches with isolated higher amounts.

I am not as concerned about the wind since the model guidance does not suggest a very high chance of this becoming a hurricane. However, the official forecast calls for 65 mph near landfall which is enough to knock down some trees and cause minor damage to property. Scattered power outages will also occur but it all depends on the final intensity near the time of landfall.

Once inland, the threat of heavy rain will spread in to southeast Georgia and northern Florida as the storm system moves towards the Atlantic. From there, things get very interesting. It is possible that we will see quite a ramping up of intensity once it gets out over the very warm water and begins moving off to the north and east. It is possible at that point that it could become a hurricane.

We will have to watch closely how the pattern evolves over the coming days as there is some hint in the models that the system could track fairly close to the coast as high pressure tries to build in across the western Atlantic again. If it gets blocked enough, it is not out of the question that another landfall or very close approach to the coast could take place farther north. This is something we can worry about later on but it is beginning to show up in some of the models so keep that in mind along the Mid-Atlantic states and points north. I’m not too concerned just yet but the trend has my attention.

I am planning to head down to Florida tomorrow to set up a couple of our unmanned cameras along the immediate coast. I will also have the ability to provide live wind and pressure data from the on-board weather station atop my Chevy Tahoe. I will not set out any additional weather stations for this event but will have a live stream coming from the vehicle so that I can relay instant wind readings as I record them on the anemometer.

I will outline not only the goings on in the tropics but also my plans for setting up the cameras along the Gulf Coast of Florida in anticipation of the landfall on Thursday during my video discussion which I will post early this afternoon. This will be followed by another blog post early this evening.

M. Sudduth 8:30 AM ET Aug 30

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Mixed signals mean low confidence forecast for TD9

I am going to address TD9 in this blog post and will cover the other activity around the Atlantic and what is going on in the Pacific in my video discussion to be posted early this afternoon. With all of the interest in what happens with TD9 and its potential impact to Florida, I figure I would tackle that first.

Some deep convection has developed with TD9 in the region around wetern Cuba and just south of the island. Whether or not this is the start of a strengthening trend remains to be seen. Click for full size image.

Some deep convection has developed with TD9 in the region around wetern Cuba and just south of the island. Whether or not this is the start of a strengthening trend remains to be seen. Click for full size image.

During the overnight hours, deep thunderstorms began to develop in association with the depression in the vicinity of western Cuba and even to the south of the island. It is not clear just yet if this convection is near the low level circulation center or if perhaps that center has reformed closer to the thunderstorm activity. We will know more as morning visible satellite images come in and recon flies in to the system later today.

For now, the NHC is classifying it as a tropical depression with winds of 35 mph. The forecast is very uncertain due to a variety of mixed signals in the overall pattern for the days ahead.

Normally, a tropical depression over the Gulf of Mexico this time of year would be concerning. While it is somewhat concerning this time around, the limiting factors are fairly substantial.

First of all, strong winds blowing across the top of the depression from north to south are likely keeping the convection removed from the low level center. This is extremely important to the health of the depression and until the shear relaxes, assuming it ever does, we won’t see much strengthening.

Most of the models that do develop the depression in to a tropical storm or a hurricane do so in a couple of days – not in the immediate future. So we have some time to watch and see how the upper level pattern evolves over the eastern Gulf of Mexico. With water temps in the upper 80s in most areas of the Gulf, it won’t take much to allow the system to ramp up quickly.

The other issue is dry mid level air that would need to be mixed out in order for more efficient convection to take place. Dry air is a stable environment and tends to limit the amount of thunderstorms a tropical cyclone can produce. It is not clear whether or not the dry air will remain a limiting factor. Here too, if it abates and the low can generate deep thunderstorms, it’s only a matter of time before it starts intensifying.

Track forecast model plots showing a fairly tight clustering of the models in the Big Bend area of Florida. This could change over the next few days.

Track forecast model plots showing a fairly tight clustering of the models in the Big Bend area of Florida. This could change over the next few days. Click for full size image.

The track forecast is also tricky since we are talking about several days out for one and secondly, Florida’s western coastline is shaped that changes in the course of the would-be storm will have potentially huge impacts on who feels what effects.

For now, the official forecast calls for the center to pass in to the Big Bend area of Florida, in the northeast Gulf of Mexico. This is concerning to me because the region is very prone to storm surge, even from “weak storms”. Obviously a hurricane would be worse but even moderate tropical storm winds can push several feet of water onshore within portions of the Big Bend region.

The next area of concern is Tampa Bay. While most of the model guidance suggests a track farther north, we need to watch this closely since this area is also very susceptible to storm surge from even minor tropical storms.

It appears that it will all come down to the mid level trough that is forecast to come in and erode the strong high pressure area that steered the depression in to the Gulf in the first place. At some point, it will round the western edge of the high and begin turning more north then northeast. When and where this happens will determine what part of Florida receives the most substantial impacts. Obviously the intensity will come in to play at that point as well. It’s still just too soon to know with any degree of confidence – something we have grown accustom to dealing with concerning this system.

For now, I think that the biggest impact will be heavy rain and the possibility of storm surge flooding along the coast. It goes without saying that if the depression becomes a hurricane, those impacts are elevated quite a bit. We’re going to have to wait it out and see what happens with the upper environment over the next few days. The NHC makes it very clear in their forecast that the intensity portion especially is of low confidence. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

As I said, I will have a full video discussion posted here by early this afternoon. I will go over the very latest on TD9 plus what to expect as we watch TD8 off the North Carolina coast. Meanwhile, Hawaii is watching TS Madeline and hurricane Lester very closely as both could bring impacts to the region later this week. I will also discuss the coming week to 10 days and what to look for as we head in to September.

M. Sudduth 8:20 AM ET Aug 29

 

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Stormy in Seattle?

Intensity plot of TD 9 showing very little strengthening over the coming days

Intensity plot of TD 9 showing very little strengthening over the coming days

While we do have a tropical depression to keep track of in the extreme southeastern Bay of Campeche, it is what’s possible in the Pacific Northwest that has me intrigued.

First up, TD9.

So far this has been only a nuisance event with periods of squalls for portions of the Yucatan and southeast Mexico. I do not see the depression strengthening much before it reaches the coast later tonight though it does have at least a small chance of becoming a tropical storm. The biggest impact will be rain and even that is not likely to be too widespread nor very intense.

Long range computer guidance suggests that the depression will move in to the western Caribbean Sea where it is more than likely to be absorbed in to a frontal boundary and stretched out over the southwest Atlantic. There is an outside chance that a piece of energy hangs back and tries to develop further in the coming days. However, a lot of dry air is funneling down from the north across the Gulf of Mexico and this is likely to shut things off, perhaps for the rest of the season. It is wise to keep monitoring the system but I see very little to be concerned with at this point in time.

Of bigger interest to me now is Ana in the central Pacific. Yes, a tropical storm way out past the atolls of the open Pacific.

TS Ana forecast track showing it heading towards the Pacific Northwest in several days

TS Ana forecast track showing it heading towards the Pacific Northwest in several days

I took a look at the track map, embedded here in the blog, and thought, hmmm, what if it were to get back all the way to the west coast of the United States as an ex-tropical cyclone? I took at look at the GFS and sure enough, it shows that scenario happening! It’s six days out in time but the storm transitions in to a potent non-tropical storm system over the north Pacific and slams in to Washington and Oregon next week. The implications are that we could see very heavy precip, strong winds and a coastal wave event that could lead to issues along the immediate shoreline.

This is going to be something to watch in the coming days. It’s far enough out in time to know that things could change quite a bit but the chance is at least there that an ex-Pacific hurricane could lead to serious weather issues for a big population area of the northwest U.S. down the road. I’ll have more on this each day over the next several days.

Otherwise, the tropics are of little concern as fall weather really takes hold over the Lower 48. We have likely escaped this hurricane season without a major hurricane making landfall – an extraordinary record to be sure. I don’t want to jinx things but the pattern right now suggests that it’s going to be quiet from here on out. We’ll see, it’s not over until it’s over, I saw that first hand in Bermuda not quite a week ago now with Gonzalo.

I’ll have more here tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth 3:35 PM ET Oct 22

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Tropical depression 9 forms, forecast to become strong hurricane in the Caribbean Sea

Tropical Depression Nine

Tropical Depression Nine

Well it took a bit of time but the tropical wave that we have been watching for the last several days has strengthened to TD #9. It is currently situated well east of the Leeward Islands but will close in rather quickly, bringing tropical storm conditions to the region within 36 hours.

The depression is currently winning the battle against the unusually dry air that has been in place all hurricane season across the deep tropics. Now that it is moving across ocean heat content that is considerably higher than in recent days, the amount of energy needed to fuel the deep convection is in place. Keep in mind that sea surface temperatures and heat content only increase ahead of the soon-to-be storm (which will be Isaac).

Interests in the Leewards need to be ready for a strengthening tropical storm and a large one at that. This means squally weather, heavy rains and winds gusting to near hurricane force in less than 48 hours.

Once past the Lesser Antilles, what would presumably be Isaac is forecast by the NHC to pass south of Puerto Rico and just clip portions of Hispaniola as it heads to a position just south of Cuba in five days. Now this part is extremely important. If the cyclone remains far enough south of these land masses, it could strengthen quite a bit. On the other hand, if the delicate circulation gets tangled up within the mountains of the Greater Antilles, it would almost certainly result in a weaker, disrupted storm/hurricane. The next few days will be critical in terms of what happens next.

I know it is natural to want to know what happens after the five day forecast period. There are certainly plenty of sites that have long range models available. Let’s just say that interests in Florida and indeed the Southeast U.S. as a whole need to watch the progress of this developing system very closely. There are some indications in the long range guidance that it could end up in the eastern Gulf of Mexico while other models suggest a path east of Florida. So there is the problem. It’s just too far out to even worry about right now. My best advice is to monitor and be ready to act. You should already have a hurricane plan in place for just such an event. If not, you better be ready, if not for this one, then for the rest of the season ahead.

We will have a lot more information in the coming days as recon planes from NOAA and the Air Force will be checking the system out thoroughly. This information will help to make the forecasts even better and will give us all the detail we need to prepare accordingly.

I would also like to remind our readers that we do have an app in the App Store that is available for purchase. It is a great way to keep up with the latest from HurricaneTrack.com on your iPhone, iPod Touch or even iPad. The app features this blog, our Twitter posts, Facebook updates, live weather data during landfall missions (might we have one coming up soon?), live web cam images from our own instrumented wind towers, video blogs EXCLUSIVE to our app and even a GPS tracking map to show our location while we are out in the field! To get it now click here. If what is a shoe-in to become Isaac makes landfall in the U.S., our app will literally take you there like nothing you have ever seen in a mobile app! It’s a great way to support our work while getting something innovative and informative in return.

I’ll post another update here later this afternoon. Keep in mind that our private clients who have not logged in this season that we do have our LIVE video briefing at 2pm ET on the Client Services site.

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