Sunday, August 1, 2004


TROPICAL STORM ALEX IS A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME

The first tropical storm of the season, which formed off the coast of South Carolina, may appear to be a blip storm that really has no significance. It will probably graze the NC Outer Banks in a day or two, and then get shoved out to sea by an approaching front from the west.

And the fact that the first storm is forming in August does not mean we are in for a weak hurricane season, it means that the pattern is getting set up for a whallop later on.

FIRST, A CHECKUP ON THE TROPICAL SEASON FORECAST:

June forecast : 1 tropical storm, may make landfall along Florida coast or northern Carribean.
June actual: no named systems formed, one tropical depression along northern Gulf.

July forecast: 2 tropical storms, 1 hurricane. One of these makes landfall along the Gulf.
July actual: no named storms. One tropical depression formed on the 31st.

August original forecast: 2 tropical storms, 1 hurricane. The hurricane will be Category 2 or greater and make landfall between New Orleans, LA and Galveston, TX.

August revised forecast: Same as above. The two tropical storms I predicted will both strike the East Coast. The hurricane prediction above remains.

September forecast: 2 tropical storms, 1 hurricane. 2 storms make landfall along the East Coast, 1 in the Carolinas, 1 in New England. The hurricane will be Category 2 or greater and strike the Mid-Atlantic between Norfolk, VA and New York City, sometime between September 1 and 15.

The total (revised) score is:

Predicted storms 16 Hurricanes: 6, Tropical Storms: 10, Storms that make landfall: 7
Actual (as of 8-1-04) 1 Hurricanes: 0, Tropical Storms: 1, Storms that make landfall: 0

NEXT, REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD BE WARY OF AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER

1. The water is still hot. Because Alex formed late in the season, that means tropical waters have not gone through a usual "churning" that follows the passing of a system. Storms often decrease the surface temperature of tropical waters as they go by, thus hampering the efforts of a storm later. No churning of waters means that temperatures remain high going into the hottest part of the summer.

2. Have you had enough rain this summer? Well, there is more coming. Those flash floods of mid July were only a sign of things to come. We generally had a trough of Low pressure in the east for July, due to a strong ridge and bone-dry conditions out west. Have you noticed that each front that's moved across the East dumped huge amounts of rain in a short time. It has seemed that every time it rains, there is a deluge. This is not a coincidence folks, it is an atmospheric pattern I believe will continue into September. Read on for more...

3. The Bermuda High remains strong. This is the clockwise flow of air around the Atlantic Ocean, which funnels tropical systems towards the U.S. East Coast. The problem is that coupled with a Low pressure trough, and what you get is a "channel" that sets up along the coast. Counter-clockwise flow around the right side of the trough meets clockwise flow on the left side of the High. That creates a channel through which tropical systems move. Insert a slow-moving tropical storm, and you'll have heavy rain blanketing the coast if it nears land.

4. It takes a while for patterns to "unlock." Remember September 1999? Poor North Carolina and parts of the Mid-Atlantic were socked with rain by weak Hurricane Dennis. Then came Floyd, dumping 6-9 inches on those same areas. An identical situation happened in 2003, when the remnants of a tropical system stalled over the Mid-Atlantic in early September, saturating the ground. Then came Isabel, which caused more tidal flooding than rainfall flooding. However, both systems were locked into a pattern which caused them to visit the same geographical region within a short time period of each other. I think we are seeing the same situation setting up again this year.

SO WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN FOR US ALONG THE EAST COAST?

- August and September will be very active months for tropical systems.

- There WILL be another landfalling hurricane like Isabel between now and September 15

- The pattern of torrential tropical rains will continue in areas that have already seen a lot of rain this season and do not need any more.

- School in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia may be disrupted early in the school year by a tropical system (early September).

We shall see how it all pans out. The next update will be after Alex has dissipated in a week or so.

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