Sunday, September 5, 2004



You've no dobut seen the news reports of Frances now having made final landfall. The areas from West Palm Beach north to Cape Canaveral have been pummeled by tropical storm to hurricane force winds for over 12 hours now. We haven't heard from those areas as much probably because of power outages.

Some sites for you to peruse this morning for your latest Frances fix:
Ryan Towell's Stormchaser blog will not doubt provide hourly updates from the Kissimmee areas as the right front quadrant and heavy rain bands spiral toward Orange County.

Intellicast's radar loop of the Florida peninsula and Accuweather's graphics suite is updated every couple hours. The hurricane center usually posts updates every 2 hours when a storm like this is onshore, so check out the latest discussion, public advisory and tracking map.

MSNBC does a very thorough job of providing detailed news reports, graphics and video. You can also review CNN's storm site, and the Orlando Sentinel's online newspaper site.

So what will happen with this storm now that it is onshore?
Frances will continue pushing west to northwest over the next 12-18 hours. Sadly, computer models show the high pressure giving the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast such nice weather today is drifting westward again. That means Frances is projected to slow down some more on it's destructive march to the Gulf. Rainfall will easily exceed 12 inches in many places, and someone will probably top 24 inches. Hurricane force winds may not reach Orlando, but sustained tropical storm force winds combined with the heavy rain will down many more trees and produce even more power outages.

As was projected, the eye did tighten up as it moved onshore, although there was no official report of wind speed increase to Category 3. It has taken 6 hours for the winds to step down from 100 mph at 1 am to 95 mph at 7 am, so many inland and coastal areas will continue to experience hurricane force winds over a wide area for hours to come.

Will it re-strengthen a hurricane in the Gulf?
That depends on the track and forward speed. If it spends less time over land and gets back to the Gulf, there is a good chance it can re-intensify somewhat to a minimal Category 1. Those waters are just as warm on the west side as the east side. The entire panhandle will experience direct effects of this storm up to an including Atlanta on the northside and over to the LA/MS border on the west side, and strong onshore winds and continued beach erosion in eastern GA and SC/NC.

But if I follow the NHC's previous track record, they seem reluctant to acknowledge storms have re-strengthened until really after the fact. So probably they will keep it at tropical storm strength right around 70 mph.

What about the Tennessee Valley and Northeast?
Expect heavy rains from Tuesday through Thursday from Tennessee on northward. The storm's configuration is going to allow it to continue drawing in moisture from the Atlantic and the Gulf. The upward enhancing effect of the low-pressure center moving over mountains will exacerbate rainfall, creating flash floods and power outages. The northeast will begin to see rain on Thursday into Friday. Another factor is the recurving moisture from what's left of Howard in the east Pacific off Mexico's Baja peninsula. That moisture is projected to feed into the remnants of Frances. All this will be moved along by a frontal boundary now in the northern Rockies, but the influence of the Bermuda high will serve as a wall against which all of this is moving towards.

What's the word on that potential surprise tropical storm off the Mid-Atlantic?
Check out this satellite loop to see that thunderstorms continue to flare up in generally the same location over the past 6 hours or more. Usually when you see high cloud tops continuing to re-generate in the same area over warm water, that indicates something is brewing. The hurricane center is busy focusing on Frances and Ivan, so they are probably not paying much attention to this... but Accuweather is and we shall see who gets to score the first coup on this.

And then there's Ivan. Will it ever stop?
No, it appears this pattern is on track for the next several weeks to continue delivering tropical systems to North America. The weather underground has the easiest online format for following action in the tropics. I think there is a bullseye on the western Gulf for Ivan. There are two possible tracks... one that takes it into Hispanola around Wednesday, which disrupts the storm but it re-emerges south of Florida and skirts the keys. The other track would stay south of the big islands, and if it does not get hung up over the Yucatan, then Ivan will truly be terrible as it can easily reach Category 3 or 4 status by Friday heading into the western Gulf.

Me, my wife and the baby are going to go visit family on the Chesapeake today, so I may not be able to update until Monday afternoon. All our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Florida. It will be a laborious Labor Day and well beyond that for a long time to come.

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