Sunday, August 15, 2004


GOODBYE CHARLEY, FORGET DANIELLE, HELLO EARL

First, lessons learned from Charley:

1. Don't mess with Mother Nature. When Hurricane Warnings are issued for a given area, that means Hurricane force winds of 75 mph or greater can be expected. Everyone was surprised by the rapid increase in strength (Cat 2 to Cat 4 in a few hours), and the sharp right turn that sent the storm into Port Charlotte. But remember... all these areas were in the Hurricane Warning as posted by the NHC on Wednesday. I am very sorry and hurt very much for the people of Punta Gorda who did not heed the warnings, or could not get out in time. I hope that all those reading this site will take heed of this lesson.

2. Forecasters and the public always discount the effect of forward motion... and I don't know why. In some areas, Charley was essentially a Cat 5 storm as it came onshore, because winds were 145 plus a 20 mph motion. This is why you saw catastrophic damage on the TV. Winds of 155+ will cause that kind of damage. Imagine two cars moving at 30 mph, not too fast, right? But if they hit head-on at that speed, the combined force is 60 mph. Same thing with a landfalling hurricane.

3. We always seem to expect more rain than actually falls. Everyone from this site, to local weather to Accuweather to the Weather Channel to the NHC itself was calling for 3-6 inches of rain in the Mid-Atlantic. It never happened. Why? Again, forward motion of the storm increases when it is moving along a front. This tends to cut down on rainfall. We should ALWAYS expect a storm to move quicker when it interacts with a front like this.

4. These east coast hurricanes seem to move just a little farther to the east or west than we think they will. I hope I remember this for the next storm. All the dire forecasts were based on a slower moving storm, and that it would affect more metropolitan areas. What actually happened was the center and associated rain bands continued a gentle curving toward the east as it moved north. Thus, Baltimore only got a little bit of rain and wind, Philly probably saw next to nothing. Isabel, on the other hand, moved a little farther west than we thought it would. So next time I (or you) see a forecast track, and you suspect it might nudge a little to one direction, it probably will.

DANIELLE... GLAD WE WON'T KNOW YA. This storm will just spin out it's life in the East Central Atlantic, thankfully.

HOWEVER, THERE IS EARL TO CONTEND WITH NEXT WEEKEND

This storm is following a similar path to Charley's, and will either hit the Yucatan Peninsula or emerge in the southern Gulf by late Thursday as a Hurricane with winds near 100 mph (Cat 2).

A front moving south from the Rockies to the Southern Plains states is expected to interact with this storm, and may serve to block it from heading westward into Texas. However, the storm may be angled north. So unfortunately, the area of greatest risk is from New Orleans on east to the Keys. On that track, the NHC would have to issue watches by early morning Friday or Thursday night. Let's hope this thing just runs into land before it gets to the Gulf.

It would be horrible if Earl took a similar path as Charley, but it seems not as likely for that to happen at this point. So the East Coast and Chesapeake Bay do not appear to be in a high risk zone for now.

Keep an eye on it, as I will too. Next update on Tuesday.

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