Hurricane Patricia a record setting event

It’s been quite a year for tropical cyclones globally. After several years in a row with few intense hurricanes and typhoons, 2015 has seen a remarkable turnaround. The latest is Patricia, now poised to strike Mexico near Manzanillo later today, and it is about as intense as they come.

There is not much I can say in terms of preparedness actions. Simply put, people in the path of this hurricane need to leave, period. If they haven’t done so already, they need to get moving. That being said, there’s actually some good news.

Patricia is NOT a 100 mile wide or 60 mile wide EF-5 tornado. I’ve seen people saying this on social media and it’s just wrong. Let me explain…

A hurricane like Patricia is very rare, obviously. One thing we do know because of the recon flights that have provided incredible in-situ data is that the radius of maximum winds (RMW) is very narrow. In fact, the ENTIRE extent of hurricane force winds, 74 mph to 200 mph in this case, is ONLY 30 miles from the eye. This is extremely important because it limits the amount of real estate that will have to deal with those winds. In other words, if you live just 40 miles from the eye, you would hardly notice as the core passed by. Move 20 miles closer to the eye and it’s a terrifying siege of flying debris and flesh-stripping wind. So while it will be awful for those who have to endure the core, it’s not like we’re talking about 100 miles of coastline laid to waste.

Another aspect of the small RMW is the storm surge. Katrina had a storm surge of 28+ feet in some locations due to its enormous RMW – more than 90 miles at one point. The result was a surge of water pushed onshore from Louisiana to Florida. In the case of Patricia, it will be a small area, maybe 10 to 20 miles, that receives a possible catastrophic storm surge. Wind drives the surge and the wind is only 200 mph very close to the eye.

I bring this up because it is important to keep the facts straight and not let the historic moment become clouded with information that is simply incorrect. Patricia is bad enough on its own and for those who remain in its path, today will be one not soon forgotten.

Texas to receive Patricia remnants

What happens after Patricia makes landfall? First, it will weaken extremely fast over the higher terrain of interior Mexico. Sadly, there will be potential for loss of life due to the flash flooding and mudslides as the torrents of rain impact those same mountains.

Info-graphic concerning the threat to parts of Texas from the remnants of hurricane Patricia

Info-graphic concerning the threat to parts of Texas from the remnants of hurricane Patricia

Interestingly, it looks as though the low level center will be stripped away but the mid and upper level energy will remain fairly intact. This means that there is a slim chance that once the remnants reach the warm Gulf of Mexico, some regeneration could take place. While this is NOT being forecast by the NHC right now, it would not surprise me to see it happen over the weekend or on Monday. What is more likely to happen is that Patricia’s energy leads to more of a non-tropical low pressure area to develop and bring gale force winds and extremely heavy rains to a large part of Texas. All of this will combine with a frontal boundary draped across the region and will help to focus the moisture feed, dumping excessive rain over a large swath of Texas.

In addition to the rain, coastal flooding is a real possibility with the strong onshore flow that is forecast to develop. Water levels could rise several feet in typical flood-prone areas away from the Galveston Seawall. In short, Patricia will leave a mark, even if only indirectly, long after its historic landfall in Mexico.

I will have a video discussion posted this afternoon that will highlight the landfall of Patricia and what to expect after tonight for Texas and vicinity.

M. Sudduth 9:40 AM ET Oct 23

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New storm developing in southeast Pacific, Atlantic remains quiet

A new tropical storm is likely developing in the southeast Pacific not too far off the Mexican coastline. The National Hurricane Center will almost certainly begin advisories on the system later today (right now it is designated at invest area 97-E). The development of this soon-to-be-storm is important for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, it will have a direct impact on the weather across portions of Pacific Mexico over the next few days. Heavy rain with the usual threat of mudslides and flash flooding will an issue due to the fairly close proximity to the coast.

Model plots for 97-E in the southeast Pacific

Model plots for 97-E in the southeast Pacific

Computer models indicate that a track to the west with a gradual bend back to the northwest and eventually northeast is probable over the coming days. This means that there is the threat of a hurricane making landfall in Mexico as the system is forecast to intensify significantly over the very warm waters of the southeast Pacific. Interests along the coast of Mexico should pay close attention to this developing storm. It would not surprise me at all to see a hurricane watch posted for a portion of the Mexican coastline by sometime tomorrow.

The other interesting aspect of this system is where it developed. Right now it is situated just south of the Gulf of Tehuantepec which is itself not far from the Bay of Campeche in the extreme southern Gulf of Mexico. If you remember your geography, the strip of land that separates the two bodies of water is called an isthmus. The developing storm is on the Pacific side of the isthmus and likely precluded any development from taking place in the southern Gulf of Mexico. It is rare to have two tropical cyclones going at the same time so close together – and as such, the Pacific disturbance took over and is now on its way to becoming yet another hurricane for the region.

However, something very interesting may happen down the road. Tropical cyclones are incredible heat engines, driving their convective bursts with warm water. The transport of this energy in to the subtropics can often times lead to larger storms that have part hurricane, part mid-latitude cyclone characteristics. There is a chance that we see that happen with the Pacific system after it makes landfall in Mexico.

WPC precip forecast over the next 5 to 7 days indicating a lot of rain possible for parts of Texas and New Mexico

WPC precip forecast over the next 5 to 7 days indicating a lot of rain possible for parts of Texas and New Mexico

Some of the global models are indicating that at least some of the remnant energy will survive the trek across Mexico and combine with an upper level low coming out of the Southwest to produce a potentially heavy rain event for Texas and New Mexico. While the rain is needed, we could be faced with another instance of too much, too soon. The latest forecast from the WPC (Weather Prediction Center, formally known as the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center) suggests that a wide swath of Texas and part of eastern New Mexico could receive several inches of rain beginning later in the week. The timing of when and where is tough to call this far out but your local NWS office will have the best info concerning local impacts from this rain event.

Remember back in April and in to May, parts of Texas were inundated by very heavy rain as wave after wave of energy moved across the region dumping incredible amounts of water, resulting in widespread flooding issues. While this storm will not be nearly as prolonged, there is potential for more flooding so please pay close attention as the week wears on.

As I mentioned in the headline, the Atlantic Basin remains very quiet right now. I do not see any solid evidence of development happening anytime soon. It appears that a slow moving MJO pulse will eventually make its way in to the region as we get in to early November and it’s possible that we could see more activity flare up at that point, probably in the western Caribbean Sea. We’ll deal with that when and if the time comes.

I’ll have more in the developing storm in the southeast Pacific on my video discussion later today.

M. Sudduth 8:45 AM ET Oct 20

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Remnants of Bill still alive and well, tropics as a whole quiet for now

Tropical depression Bill as seen via visible satellite photo on June 20, 2015

Tropical depression Bill as seen via visible satellite photo on June 20, 2015

Tropical storm Bill made landfall early Tuesday morning along the central Texas coast and has since left a tremendous amount of rain in its wake. Fortunately, the flooding situation in Texas was not as severe as it could have been but in parts of Oklahoma, it’s a different story.

Bill once again underscores the importance of the public having a grasp on the total package, so to speak, that tropical cyclones bring. It’s not just categories of hurricanes or the amount of storm surge, rain and the resulting freshwater flooding has a way of sneaking in and seemingly catching people off guard.

Today, the remnant low pressure area of Bill is currently moving through parts of Arkansas and Missouri. Heavy rain is falling in areas such as St. Louis and will spread up the I-70 corridor in to Indiana over the weekend. The satellite presentation is still rather impressive for a depression that has been over land for several days. The low is forecast to track through Kentucky and eventually off the Mid-Atlantic states within the next few days, spreading more heavy rain along its path.

As for the tropics going in to the weekend – nothing to worry about at all. We are currently within a period of time that is not likely to allow for much development in either the east Pacific or the Atlantic. This should last for about 10 to 15 days, maybe more, we’ll see. In addition, dry, dusty air from Africa is traversing the Atlantic right now, keeping a literal lid on any development chances out that way. So enjoy the weekend along the shores, tropical storms and hurricanes won’t be an issue anywhere. I’ll have more here on Monday.

M. Sudduth 1pm ET June 20

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Tropical storm Bill headed for Texas and beyond

The NHC upgraded 91L to tropical storm Bill and immediately posted a tropical storm warning for parts of the Texas coastline. This is the first significant tropical cyclone to threaten Texas since 2008 when hurricane Ike devastated the region and on in to southwest Louisiana. In 2011, TS Don pretty much died on arrival due to the extreme drought gripping the state.

Bill is likely going to try to intensify through the night and in to Tuesday as it approaches the coast. Water temps are plenty warm and upper level winds are gradually becoming more and more favorable. Fortunately, Bill will run out of real-estate before becoming a hurricane, but it may try to get close. I’ve seen it with these smaller short-fuse storms, so don’t be surprised to see Bill end up as a 65 to 70 mph storm before landfall.

Once inland, the structure will likely remain intact even over land. While the low level center may well dissipate, the NHC mentions that the mid and upper level portions of the storm could remain and this will result in a lot of rain for parts of east Texas and up through Oklahoma and beyond.

WPC 5-day precipitation forecast showing the extent of TS Bill's rain swath around the strong high pressure area over the Southeast

WPC 5-day precipitation forecast showing the extent of TS Bill’s rain swath around the strong high pressure area over the Southeast

Take a look at the Weather Prediction Center’s five day precipitation forecast map. That incredible arc of rain literally rounds the western edge of the heat-ridge sitting over the Southeast right now, resulting in 100+ degree temps in many locations. Bill and its remnants will move up and over the top of this ridge and will likely bring periods of very heavy rain for thousands of miles after landfall. From a meteorological perspective, this will be fascinating to watch.

HurricaneTrack.com has a live feed from Bolivar Peninsula courtesy of one of our good friends and colleague, Kerry Mallory. He has the exact same set up as our “Tahoe Cam” in his Ford truck. We are streaming using our public Ustream feed and encourage you to tune in and monitor conditions from time to time along the vulnerable peninsula. This region was slammed by hurricane Ike in 2008 and the flat coastline, coupled with the shallow offshore water will result in some coastal flooding in this area. Once the center moves ashore later Tuesday, Kerry will continue the stream live as he heads back in to his hometown of Houston. While it looks as though the metro area will escape the worst of the rain, there seems to be plenty of it on the way regardless. We’ll keep the stream up for as long as Kerry is out and about and appreciate his efforts to show us what is going on there locally.

I’ll post more on Bill later in the day on Tuesday.

Link to live video (also showing over on the right hand column of this page): HurricaneTrack Live Video via Ustream

M. Sudduth 2:15 AM ET June 16

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