POOR, POOR RICHMOND. NHC HAS BLOOD ON IT'S HANDS AS THEY TOTALLY BLOW THE GASTON FORECAST.
WARNING: this is a long rant about the Gaston forecast. If you want to skip to Frances, scroll down further.
I know that my headline is a strong statement... but tell me how difficult you think it would be to make a forecast for heavy rain from a tropical storm if you already knew that:
1. It is a very slow-moving system... this was proven by radar and satellite imagery.
2. It has a well-defined, non-decaying central circulation.
3. It is moving into a highly moist area with dewpoints 75-80 F. That is like wringing water out of the air.
4. It is maintaining tropical characteristics, such as sustained winds above 40 mph, with a gust at Cape Henry Lighthouse to 64 mph.
I think there is absolutely no excuse for not having a tropical storm warning in place for Richmond before the storm arrived. Either there are personnel issues going on in the NHC, or what I don't know, but I have NEVER seen the forecasting of a storm be handled so poorly. I have been watching and tracking and researching hurricanes for 20 years now, and I've never seen anything like this.
Don't buy any of this jibberish on the news about how it is difficult to forecast for a localized area. That is ridiculous. The NWS has super-incredibly powerful computers that can detect extremely minute changes in weather conditions anywhere in the world, from satellite, from radar, etc. And there are also very extensive hydrological forecasting centers who do all kinds of analysis on the potential effects of storms on river flooding. And Doppler radar provides instantaneous information on the amount and intensity of rainfall. Whoever called for 1-4 inches of rain what not paying attention, took their late shift break too early, or something. You can't tell me that this rain fell for 4 HOURS and it took the NWS/NHC that long to figure out there was a problem? I think any of us would be able to tell if the rain is falling hard enough to produce 10 inches in 4 hours.
The proof this was handled so badly... why did NHC upgrade the storm AFTER the damage occurred? That wasn't necessary, the damage was done. Why were Tropical Storm Warnings never posted for Richmond? Only the NHC can legally issue a tropical cyclone watch or warning. So I'll bet the the Richmond local NWS forecasters (Wakefield, VA office) were screaming into the phone to NHC about the conditions on the ground, because they are limited to a range of public warnings that do not include TS warnings. Usually when NHC raises the flags on a system, they post a full range of products for the public... which indicates they have done their research.
Last night, I observed in real time how advisories and statements were hastily written and posted.
Worst of all, it is very sad to know that 5 or more people lost their lives, because they got bad information from the start. I'll bet there will be an official government inquiry into why this forecast went so wrong. Those of you in the corporate world know... heads have to roll because someone screwed up.
SO THE LESSON LEARNED HERE... if you do not trust the official forecast, pay attention more to your local conditions and less to what is said on TV. And if you think it is "getting bad" then do something about it (other than drive into flood waters).
MY BIG FEAR IS... since we have a botched forecast on this Carolina system, is there a chance that forecasters will write off Frances too early once it makes landfall.
So enough of my rant about Gaston, and on to the ever-growing monster that is Frances.
COMPUTER MODELS CONTINUE TO FLIP-FLOP FRANCES AROUND FLORIDA.
Read the latest discussion from NHC:
And the current track projection:
By Thursday, we will come to a fork in the road. The NHC will be forced to make a decision about watches and warnings. It is safe to say hurricane watches will go up from perhaps Melbourne all the way to Savannah.
My major concerns about potential "surprise changes" in the storm:
(1) I am still concerned about a gradual turn toward the north, and an increased in forward speed, which would catch the GA/SC coast off guard in the sense that residents would think there was 36-48 hours to prepare, and then it is suddenly whittled down to 24-36 hours.
(2) The high that is forecast to weaken and nudge east is now in place over the Mid-Atlantic. But there is also a frontal boundary draped across the southeast. If this thing does not move soon, it will act as a barrier against Frances, causing her to begin turning northward. I see all the people on the news in Miami buying supplies, which is a prudent move, but I think ANYONE within 20 miles of the coast from Cape Canaveral all the way to Hilton Head should be ready to leave within 24 hours if necessary.
(3) Water vapor imagery shows the hurricane has absolutely vacuumed up all the stray tropical moisture within hundred of miles in it's wake. View the impressive pics here:
http://www.goes.noaa.gov/browsh3.html What you'll notice is two things:
(a) All those dark areas behind storm... that is dry air from which the storm has squeezed out the moisture.
(b) All the bright white and gray fuzzy areas AHEAD of the storm. What do you suppose that is? Yeah, you guessed it... MOISTURE LADEN AIR.
What this means is the water temperature is very high.. near 90 in some areas of the Bahamas. And the atmosphere is loaded with moisture due to that pesky frontal boundary. So what happens when the hurricane moves into this warm, moisture-rich environment?
It will grow much larger, and intensify further, reaching solid Category 5 status by Thursday, with winds at 160 mph or possibly even greater. It sounds sadistic, but I have to tell it like it is. The simple truth is under the right (wrong) environment, Frances could come onshore as a Category 5. The damage would be unimaginably catastrophic, beyond the scope of Andrew.
(4) The frontal boundary and the high will work in tandem to squeeze the storm, forcing it into a channel through which it cannot escape. The same was true for Isabel, Floyd, Gloria, Camille, etc. My fear is the boundary moves east as the high moves east, the storm responds by starting a slow curve to the west-northwest, then northwest, then north-northwest over the next 3 days.
Proof of my theory is in the NWS forecast map for Thursday: http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/basicwx/98fwbg.gif
And if you think about this clearly… WHY would a hurricane go charging into a front. It doesn’t happen. That is an area of HIGHER pressure. Hurricanes avoid fronts like the plague. I don’t think the models see this too clearly, because this situation has not happened in a long time.
It has been 400 YEARS since a hurricane struck the East Coast of Florida at an angle like this one is thought to do. Saint Augustine, FL has records of a storm like this striking in the 1600s.
(5) Last major concern… a repeat of the 2003 blizzard.. tropical style. Look again at that map. See how the high is parked over upstate New York? Now pretend the hurricane is a snowstorm moving north. It can’t move north because the high is blocking. Cant’ go east cause the high is pushing it back toward the coast. But it does not want to get near the front as that weakens it.
So the worst situation of all (or the best).. is that it STALLS. OMG. (that’s teenspeak for OH MY GOD.) A stalling Category 5 hurricane on the southeast coast. That’ll be one to text message home about.
SO WHERE DOES MD, VA AND PA STAND WITH THIS STORM ?
Even if the storm curves north and hits along the SC/NC border, Virginia (poor Richmond) will feel effects by Sunday morning, with a rapid deteorioration in conditions for a 24 hour period. God forbid the storm would slow down, but usually they speed up as they move north.
In that scenario, MD would begin seeing heavy rain and windy conditions by Monday morning, lasting 24 hours or more.
If the storm takes the Florida route, which I am getting more convinced it will not, the Mid-Atlantic would be spared, temporarily. But remember that frontal boundary will eventually pick up the storm and bring it north-east, along with all the moisture in it. So in that scenario, you’ll see delayed effects of rain and wind not starting until Wednesday, and lasting into Thursday.
Ultimately, from Saturday into possibly next Thursday, I think all of us from Florida to New York are in for a “long, hard slog” to quote Donald Rumsfeld.
8PM NHC advisory says it is 140 mph, moving WNW with a pressure drop to 939 mb. Only has 19 more millibars to go until it ties Isabel.
My fingers are tired. I’m going to go warmup some pizza now. A quick update Wednesday morning around 5:30 AM.
SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN DENMARK WITH THE COMPUTER MODELS
Quick post this morning to let you know that the computer modeling for Frances' track have started to flip-flop around. That is usually an indication that a change is forthcoming in what we previously thought was the case... and a direct hit on Florida into Sunday... may not be the case after all. So tell your friends and family on the Carolina coast that it's just like Hugo...again.
There are about 5 major super-powerful computer programs that run a projection about every 6 hours. Until last night, the concensus was sending Frances right into Kennedy Space Center. But now one of the programs that was leaning way left (into Florida) is now leaning way right (toward the Carolinas). Accuweather is also starting to smell something amiss with the models, and has stayed conservative with the Florida hit on Sunday.
We'll know for sure by Thursday if the high to our east will be weakening, but it appears the models may already by anticipating that. This means a landfall along the Carolina coast... and big trouble for Virginia, the Bay and Maryland.
See the current projections:
The "red line" which is the model of choice for many forecasters, is now taking aim on the SC/NC border. It is not a stretch of the imagination to see the storm curving north and northeast after landfall. Only time will tell.
Next update Tuesday night after dinner.
HURRICANE CENTER RED-FACED AND TAIL BETWEEN LEGS AS IT UPGRADES GASTON BACK TO TROPICAL STORM
I just found this out on the Weather Channel, and the NHC is probably so embarrassed about this they did not even post a discussion. It is embarrassing for them because they decided to write off the storm yesterday... when people throughout the forecast industry were screaming that this was still a tropical storm... and probably came onshore as a hurricane.
Just goes to show you... do not try to "count out" Mother Nature.
Take a peek at an interesting local radar, you can clearly see an eye and rotating bands.
What a month it has been…. Since August 1, we’ve made it from the A-storm (Alex) all the way to the H-storm (Hermine). That hasn’t happened in a very long time… I believe since 1960 as the records show. And our trusty readers out there who lived through the turbulent 60’s can tell you it was a busy time for the country and for the weather.
Well, we are returning to that pattern of storm after storm…
Let me say first that I know there are some of my friends (and family) who think I just like to see big, destructive storms come plowing up the coast and run over everything… so in turn my forecasts somehow always show the storm coming right for us. Part of that is true… I enjoy watching, analyzing and following big storms. But I DO NOT enjoy seeing big storms hit big populated areas and cause tremendous damage. So I do not intend to sound sadistic or disaster-monger… but when we look at how there was a lack of seriousness over Isabel… (until we saw the damage)…when I see what I think could be a potentially destructive situation, I am going to hound away until the storm goes away.
Philosophy lesson over now… back to the tropical situation at hand.
As of 6 PM Monday, we have the leftovers of Tropical Storm Gaston moving into the southern Chesapeake. The NHC may have downgraded this storm, but the radar and wind observations show it is still packing a big punch… It is going to drop torrentially heavy rain on the Del-Mar-Va from Dover on south and east tonight… and into New Jersey and Eastern New York State tomorrow morning. On Monday, Richmond reported 6 inches of rain in just over three hours with 50 mph winds. That certainly sounds like a "tropical storm" to me. There is the possibility that the storm soaks up additional moisture from the bay and ocean… and re-intensifies into a minimal tropical storm. The NHC really dragged their feet on this one, and I don’t know why, but the folks in southern MD will tell you that storms coming up from the south are usually bad, whether or not the storm has been "classified."
Out in the Atlantic, we also have Hermine…which will take aim for the Boston- Cape Cod area. Again the NHC was taken by surprise on this one, and they admit it in one of their forecast discussions, so Tropical Storm Warnings are now in place from Rhode Island around the Cape to Boston. We’ll probably hear reports of 50 mph + winds coming out of this one as it comes onshore. On top of that, a heavy dose of rain from New York City to Maine, with local amounts over 3” starting tomorrow and into Wednesday. Remember, we are all trapped in this muggy dome of tropical air… colleagues of mine who work in un-airconditioned schools can tell you… it was humid and sticky today. So when you throw a tropical storm into this, it is tossing a match onto a pile of gasoline-soaked rags.
And then there is Frances. You are probably getting tired of hearing that this computer says this, and that one says that… Ultimately, only God and Frances know where Frances is going. However, we can predict with reasonable accuracy the near-future location of big hurricanes, especially those that move slowly like this one. So here’s where we are with the future of Frances over the next 6-7 days.
TUESDAY: Will strengthen to a Category 4, winds around 140 mph. Maybe a nudge into Cat 5 territory, but this is really splitting hairs. Your house is still splintered whether the wind is 145 or 155. Continues on a WNW path north of Puerto Rico. Hurricane watches will go up for the southern Bahamas.
WEDNESDAY: Still a Cat 4 or low-end Cat 5 and moving WNW to near NW above the Dominican Republic. Hurricane watches will go up for the northern Bahamas
THURSDAY: It is frightening to think that if this thing is still a 140 mph + storm… what it would do if it hit near say Cape Canaveral? That means some people who are cleaning up from Charley (especially Orlando) will get a direct hit AGAIN. That is just horrifically, horrifically bad. So hurricane watches go up from Miami, FL all the way to Hilton Head Island, SC just across from the GA border. The storm is entering the Bahamas… and God help them.
FRIDAY: Assuming the storm remains on this path and intensity as projected by the computers, hurricane warnings will go up from just north of Miami to Jacksonville, and possibly farther north. For every 1 mile of coastline put under a watch or warning, it costs homeowners, municipalities and the government $1 million. So if the warning area is 200 miles, that’s $200 million in outlays before the storm even arrives.
Tropical storm warnings will extend from Jacksonville, FL to Savannah, GA.
SATURDAY: If this storm does indeed get this close to the coast, the effect of the western edge going over land will increase friction on the storm, and actually weaken it on one side. Remember how Charley did that “sudden right turn” and headed into Charlotte Bay when everyone thought it was aiming for Tampa Bay? That’s the influence of “frictional effects” as identified and explained by Accu-weather, who actually pegged that turn before anyone else. So watch my words, if Frances gets too near Florida, don’t be surprised to see a sudden jog to the left, which may catch a community off-guard again like what happened in Punta Gorda.
SUNDAY: Well, Saturday is going to be total dejahell all over again in Florida. And then we have to contend with what happens once Frances reaches the Gulf of Mexico. Waters there are still 85 F +. So watches and warnings will go up from probably Tampa Bay all the way over to New Orleans.
WHY WOULD FRANCES GO INTO FLORIDA INSTEAD OF THE CAROLINAS?
The 800 pound gorilla in the room is the Bermuda High controlling the motion of these storms. The hurricane center is concerned that if the high does not weaken by Friday and move a little farther out to sea, it will direct the hurricane on a north-westward track into Florida.
The remnants of Gaston and Hermine are another variable. We don’t know how much influence they might have on the high. Even a shift of 100 or 50 miles in the position of that high will mean the difference between 20 billion dollars in damage, or a sideswipe and a charge into the swamps of Georgia.
So one thing is for sure… if the high stays in place, Florida should definitely Fear Frances. If the high begins to weaken, you will notice the proof of this by a gradual turn to the northwest and then NNW by Thursday. The NWS national forecast map does indicate the high beginning to retreat by Friday. But is that enough time to allow Frances to turn north and away from Florida?
DOES THAT MEAN MARYLAND, VIRGINIA AND THE NORTHEAST ARE IN THE CLEAR?
At first glance, it does. Were Frances to go charging across Florida, she would hit again down the line in the Gulf, get pulled into the southern Plains, and the moisture would rain out over the Mississippi-Tennessee Valley. The east coast would be spared.
However… an approaching cold front in the Midwest could end up turning Frances sharply back toward the north and northeast. Then she might do a Charley and ride up the coast along the front… although significantly weaker. Hurricane Juan did this in 1985 after striking the northern Gulf coast of Florida, and then became a massive rain- and flood-maker all through the Appalachians. Either way, the I-95 corridor is going to experience indirect effects at the least from this monster, unless she takes a turn to the north.
Putting all the doom and gloom aside for a moment, the back-and-forth drama discussion between Weather Service Offices is interesting to see what they think will happen… here’s a snippet from the Baltimore Office: (please excuse the shorthand and caps, that’s how they write in forecast discussions)
“BY THE UPCOMING WKND THE ARIWAVES WL BE FILLED W/ MENTION OF THE NAME "FRANCES." OUT THIS FAR THOUGH...THERE CONTINUES TO BE WIDE DISCONTINUITY ON WHAT THE TRACK WL BE. YDA THOUGHTS WERE LEANING TO THE ERN FL CST....THEN THIS MRNG IT PUSHED N TO CSTL CAROLINA...AND NOW THE AVN/GFS IS REINTRODUCING THE FL OPTION. BOTH INDICATE IT WL BE PICKED UP IN AN APRCHG TROF SO THERE WL LKLY BE SOME IMPACT ON THE MID ATLC...WHETHER SMALL OR LARGE REMAINS TO BE SEEN. OBVIOUSLY THERE WL BE A FAIR AMT OF CHG IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS. FOR THE TIME BEING I'VE OPTED TO GO W/ THE RECURVATURE-CAROLINA OPTION WHICH WOULD BRING IN CHC POPS NEXT MON AFTN. BLV THERE WL BE QUITE A FEW ADJUSTMENTS TO NEXT SUN-TUE FCST DURG THE WK AHD. STAY TUNED.
And the Wilmington, NC office says:
“LARGEST QUESTION MARK REMAINS WHERE FRANCES GOES AND HOW QUICKLY IT GETS THERE. LATEST NHC TRACK/HPC 7 DAY SFC ANALYSIS PLACE LANDFALL NEAR THE SC/GA BORDER. FOR NOW FEEL CHANCE POPS SUN AND MON ARE BEST WITH THE NOTION THAT THE FORECAST WILL BE HIGHLY DEPENDANT ON WHERE THIS STORM GOES.”
View the NWS map forecast for Saturday to see what they are talking about…
THE BOTTOM LINE… A DEVASTATING CATEGORY 3 OR 4 HURRICANE WILL STRIKE THE HEAVILY-POPULATED SOUTHEAST COAST on LABOR DAY WEEKEND. It give you pause just to consider it. We have not seen anything like this since Hugo hit Charleston in 1990, and it will probably be much worse. If you have relatives in Florida, tell them to start hurricane preparations now.
Since school has begun, the next update will be Tuesday night from home as I cannot update during the day. Just keep checking the NHC and Weather Underground sites if you want the latest.
p.s. I noticed today was the 100th post for this site. Thank you to all the loyal readers out there who motivate me to keep you ahead of the storm(s).
FLOYD-LIKE FRANCES, MIMICKING ISABEL WITH A TOUCH OF HAZEL
How’s that for a meteorological poetic license?
The big concern with Gaston is that it will take a similar path as Charley, much a WHOLE LOT SLOWER. This means increased rain threat for southern Del-Mar-Va. I think the northern Bay is going to be fine with this, as you’ll be in the western quadrant of the storm’s remnants. Anywhere north of the 301 Bay Bridge..you’ll just see dark clouds moving along the horizon, and maybe a stray thunderstorm.
Southern Bay on down to Norfolk and beyond, you’ll see heavy tropical rains for a day or so, with amounts possibly up to 3 inches in some areas. The system will exit through Del-Mar-Va as a tropical depression.
If Gaston, Charley and Alex are any pattern indication, then what’s in store for us with Frances gives cause for concern. The now Category 4 Hurricane is projected to be in the central Bahamas by Friday morning. Which is where Floyd was before it’s dramatic curve to the north. I’m sure hurricane watches and possibly even warnings will be posted all along the Florida coast, but there are hints this may miss Florida (hopefully.) If the curve to the northwest begins by then, it will ride along the Florida coast, and take aim for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
See the NHC projected path as of Sunday morning:
The hurricane center is indicating that if the curve to the north starts sooner, say before it reaches the Bahamas, then I believe the likely landfall location is near Wilmington, NC. If the storm moves north from there...that path spells trouble for the Bay, for it would more closely resemble a Hazel-Isabel combination. Hazel was a Category 4, whereas Isabel was a weak Category 2, so combining them gives you an average Category 3.
Hurricane center forecasters see similarities to Isabel:
“FRANCES IS AN IMPRESSIVE LOOKING HURRICANE AND IF WE FAST-FORWARDED BACK TO LAST YEAR I WOULD THINK I WAS LOOKING AT ISABEL. INTENSITY ESTIMATES FOR FRANCES REMAIN NEAR 115 KT.” - NHC
Accuweather forecasters say:
“Frances is likely to hit the United States. The questions are becoming more where and when. Using pattern recognition, I think this should try to head for the Carolinas.” - Joe Bastardi
Starting Monday, if you live along or near the water anywhere from Myrtle Beach to Ocean City, MD including the entire Bay… you have 5-6 days to prepare. Let’s hope we are wrong about all this. The air force hurricane hunter aircraft will be investigating Frances today, so we'll have some live data to chew on by the 6 PM news.
FRANCES NOW A CATEGORY 4 HURRICANE...AND WILL BE CAT 5 BY MONDAY OR TUESDAY.
CAROLINAS AND MID-ATLANTIC STATES AT GREATEST RISK
LANDFALL IS NOW PROJECTED FOR SUNDAY, SEPT 5 IN THE LATE AFTERNOON
TWO OTHER TROPICAL SYSTEMS NEAR THE CAROLINA COAST AND WILL INFLUENCE THE PATH OF FRANCES TO DIRECT HER TOWARD THE U.S.
IF YOU LIVE NEAR WATER OR HAVE PROPERTY ON THE WATER, BEGIN PLANNING NOW....BECAUSE THIS MAY BE ISABEL ALL OVER AGAIN.
The National Hurricane Center is already resigned to the fact that this storm will reach Category 5 status by early next week, with sustained winds of 160 mph.
What complicates the matter is the is the emergence of no one, but TWO additional tropical systems... Tropical Storm (almost Hurricane) Gaston is east of Charleston, and what is a developing tropical wave may eventually become Hermine. Gaston will probably be a Hurricane by the time it reaches the Charleston area, and will drench the region from the Carolinas to the Chesapeake Bay with tropical rains in the time period from Tuesday through Friday. Not a total flood washout situation, but enough to saturate the ground in advance of Frances' arrival. This is exactly the setup that happen in 1999 with Dennis and then Floyd, followed by 2003 with a tropical depression that sat along the coast right before Isabel arrived.
Recall the headline from early August: "TROPICAL STORM ALEX A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME." All storms this seaso have continued to surprise us with erratic movement or rapid, unexpected strengthening.
The other complicating (or simplifying factor, depending on your point of view) is that due to the counter-clockwise rotation of these systems...they will be inadvertently creating a channel into which Frances will move. However the upper-level outflow at the top of the storm ends up spinning the other direction... clockwise, because it is in a high pressure environment. Things get weird when you get two or more tropical systems in close proximity to the other. In the right orientation, (where Gaston is to the west of TD # 8), the outflow from one system can actually serve to provide moisture to the other system, thereby strengthing it. The residual outflow from both systems will get entrained in the inflow of Frances, and because they are all far enough apart from each other, all three can in effect strengthen without negatively affecting the other.
The only unknown factor is what will happen if the unlikely comes true. The longer these two systems stay over open warm water, the more possible they do become hurricanes. That would change the whole equation, because then the water ahead of Frances along the coast would get disturbed enough that it would be slightly cooler when Frances arrives. That scenario would be good news for all of us on the coast... as it would cause Frances to weaken before landfall.
However, there is ample warm water between the coast and the hurricane. Were Frances to reach the Carolina coast as a Category 3, all interests from Myrtle Beach to the Jersey Shore should be prepared for potential tropical storm force winds of 40-60 mph. Land areas within 50 miles of landfall will experience winds well in excess of 75 mph.
I will keep hammering away at this point because we tend to forget.... the storm surge from Isabel in the Chesapeake Bay was observed to be 2-3 feet ABOVE the projected surge of 4-6 feet (6-8 feet in the southern bay, 4-6 feet in the northern bay). Think of what it might have been like had Isabel arrived as a Category 3... and then you know what we are up against with Frances.
The next time I update on Sunday in the afternoon, this storm will probably be a strong Cat 4. Whenever the posted "gust speed" is considerably higher than the sustained speed, it is an indication the storm is still in a strengthening phase. Winds right now are already gusting to Cat 5 strength (160 mph) and I would not be surprised if we see Max winds at 155 by Sunday night with gusts to 175.
The stronger it gets the closer to land, the longer it will take for wind speeds to decrease once it crosses land... and the higher potential for flooding and damage. That's why there is concern about strong wind speeds with a distant hurricane.
This is not a drill, this is your worst fears (and mine) coming true. The lack of an El Nino this year in the East Pacific off Mexico and Peru has allowed the westerlies that usually move across the mid-latitudes to be "calmer." Notice how it has not been too hot this summer? That's partly due to the lack of influence of those classic southwesterly winds that pump warm air across the southern states into the Northeast.
Weak steering currents (westerlies) mean that hurricanes, if they form at just the right spot, can scoot right under the Bermuda High, and get shoved into the East Coast. That is the situation setting up for Frances. Please visit this Accuweather link for a graphic to explain what I just wrote:
I say 12 days because:
- Frances has formed in approximately the same location as Isabel
- The water in her path is very warm (85 F +)
- The blocking high to the north is going to prevent Frances from "going out to sea" as we like to hear storms do.
- If Frances travels at roughly the same forward speed as Isabel (about 17 mph), then you can expect it to be knocking on the East Coast front door by, say....Sunday, September 5.
The current and projected strength
- Cat 1 at 80 mph right now but gusting to 100 mph. That means strengthening.
- Expected to be a Cat 2 or 3 by the weekend, wind speed by Sunday... at least 120 mph.
- Will probably get to Cat 4 or 5 by Tuesday (sustained winds exceeding 140 mph)
- And she's got all that nice warm water out ahead of her... which should make you shudder.
A refresher for the Hurricane Classification Scale (The Saffir-Simpson Scale you hear on the news):
Category 1 - winds 75-90 mph - damage: minor - storm surge: 2-5 feet
Category 2 - winds 91-110 mph - damage: major - storm surge: 5-8 feet
Category 3 - winds 111-130 mph - damage: extensive - storm surge: 8-12 feet
Category 4 - winds 131-154 mph - damage: widespread - storm surge: 12-15 feet
Category 5 - winds 155+ mph - damage: catastrophic - storm surge: 15+ feet
How is this storm the same or different from Isabel?
- Frances has formed two weeks earlier than Isabel did (8/25/05 vs. 9/6/03) Waters off the Carolina/Chesapeake Bay were already cooling by 9/15 when Isabel arrived. If Frances arrives in early September, waters along heavily populated areas will be near the magic number of 80 F... the warmest they will be all year.
- Waters were also disturbed by a tropical system that moved along the coast the week before Isabel. This will not be the case this year.
- We have entered a dry spell on the East Coast.. for now. That looks to continue for at least a week, which is good news because whoever gets a direct hit does not have their soil saturated and tree roots weakened from heavy rain.
- The blocking high that shoved Isabel along a dead straight beeline for Virginia... has returned and is in generally the same position this year as it was last year. Remember the key is that if the Bermuda High edges a little bit EAST... storms go out to sea. If they edge a little bit WEST...well, you know.
- Frances formed in the same latitude/longitude block that Isabel did.
- Both Frances and Isabel ballooned out of nowhere, and went from a nothing to a hurricane in 24 hours. Isabel became Category 3 storm within 3 days, and Frances is forecasted to do the same.
- Both storms took an eerie little westward jog just as they increased strength. Had Isabel not had that minor course change, it would have probably missed the coast altogether. Frances has made that little shift already, and it forecasted to do it again this weekend. I remember getting that sinking feeling way back on September 10 when I saw a Category 3 storm way out in the Atlantic suddenly turn BACK towards the coast. Right then, I knew that we were in for it.
So what does this mean for the East Coast?
The total risk area (all potential landfall sites) : Miami to the Jersey Shore
The medium risk area (the most likely areas to see direct effects) :
South Carolina to Ocean City, MD
The high risk area (where I think it will make a direct hit): Nags Head, North Carolina.
Is there a risk this storm will charge up the Chesapeake Bay as a major (Category 3) storm, or even a Cat 2?
I am willing to go out on a limb and say that it appears Frances MAY NOT directly threaten the bay as Isabel could have. Remember if that storm had shifted it's track by just 50 miles to the east at landfall, damage to the Bay would have bordered on catastrophic. If the Bermuda High does not decide to drift eastward, and remains parked farther WEST than it is normally, this will influence the direction of Frances enough to prevent her from taking aim on the Bay. However, you know that once these storms get on the backside of that high, the tend to increase speed and start the infamous "curving" that we all seem to overlook until it is actually happening.
If Frances were to start curving too early, like the day before landfall, the Bay will be at risk.
The estimated day of landfall (at current forward speed):
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 4 around midnight OR:
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 5 around noon if there is any slowing in forward speed.
The estimated wind strength at landfall (based on past storm trends):
Frances will be a major hurricane just 24 hours prior to landfall, but if she moves into cooler waters, may lose some strength and come onshore as a strong Category 2 with winds around 110 mph. If the forward motion increases, and time over cooler water is limited, Frances will be the second landfalling major hurricane in one month's time.
What should I do?
No need for panic, the storm is very far away and no threat to land for at least 10 days. Believe me, if this thing even gets to Category 3, the news will be all over it like hair on a glorilla. If the storm appears to be threatening the I-95 corridor, I will post my very own specialized safety tips to keep you "ahead of the storm." So bookmark this page, tell your friends and be prepared.
The next update on Frances will be sometime Saturday or Sunday
Tropical Cyclone number 6 is brewing in the South Atlantic. Check "The Weather Underground" link to the left for latest details. It is projected to follow a track similar to Allen in 1980 which struck the southern panhandle of Texas as a Cat 3, and...
Andrew in 1992, which we all know is now the storm by which all other storms are compared.
There is just as much of a chance that this storm will turn out to sea as it nears Puerto Rico, as it does of taking aim on Florida's East Coast. However... atmospheric dynamics are showing that "things" will be setting up to allow whatever gets near our coast in the next 5-10 days will not be facing a cold front to shove it out of the way. And the Gulf of Mexico, though quiet now, may start popping next week due to the warmth that has built up recently due to a long period of uninterrupted sunshine.
AND... I HAVE AN EARLY LOOK AT THE WINTER WEATHER FORECAST...
It goes like this:
1. Notice the summer has been relatively "cool" on the east coast. No big heat waves of 100+ fpr several days. No long stretches of 90+ days. That is bad (or good).
2. So the atmosphere has not balanced out it's quota of heat thus far this summer. That means we are due for a backlash before summer is over.
3. If we (along I-95) get more than one day of 90+ heat in September, expect snow the first week of December (or sooner). The overbudget on heat in Sep will over-correct with a cooler than normal October, which will retaliate with a wamer than normal November (last Nov 1 it was 75 F), which results in December starting out much cooler than normal (enter our first snowday back on Dec 5-6, 2003).
4. If we notice that sea surface temperatures off the western coast of Mexico and Peru are 3 or more degrees above normal by October 15 (read... El Nino), then expect a big snowstorm in late January or early February 2005. Maybe not the blizzard, but close.
Oh, I can just see the drool running off your mouth and onto your keyboard. Hope you have one of those plastic keyboard protectors. (I do, for that very reason.)
Let's let Frances do her thing for a couple days, then I'll check back on her this weekend.
Our hopes and dreams came true for Earl... as the system that we originally thought would threaten the Gulf Coast late this week has dissipated into a few thunderstorms. Praise the Lord.
Danielle is barely a tropical storm in the East Central Atlantic.
The rest of the tropics have quieted down nicely. I guess all that latent heat built up since the start of summer has also dissipated for now.
I must caution though, that the most historically active period for destructive storms occurs from now until late September. The historical peak of the season is September 10, which is the date that now infamous Isabel originally formed off the coast of Africa.
The survivors of Charley in Florida are facing a hugely daunting task of cleanup and restoring their lives. It bugs me to no end when the media says something like, "there are signs that life is slowly returning to normal." If the people who wrote these headlines and comments actually lived through a storm, they would know that life WILL NEVER return to normal for some of these people. Charley is now A PART OF their life, just like many of us are still dealing with the aftermath and consequences of Isabel. The phrase "returning to normal" implies that you can somehow rework your life so that it is just like it was before the storm.
Instead, it is more valuable to accept the lessons taught by Mother Nature in the storm, and taken those lessons to heart. Difficult as it is to say, part of trying to recover from a storm of this magnitude is to allow the storm to become a permanent part of your life. Only then, will you be better prepared the next time a major hurricane comes calling.
And unfortunately for us who live near the water, another storm will come again someday.
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.
As of 11:00 AM, the system is making landfall near Myrtle Beach, SC and projected to move north through Raleigh, to just west of Norfolk, crossing the bay near Smith Point and into Del-Mar-Va early this evening.
Hurricane Warnings are posted to the NC/VA border. Tropical Storm Warnings extend all the way up the coast, including the Bay and surrounding areas, and on the Atlantic coast to Sandy Hook, NJ.
Expect conditions to worsen as the day progresses. Heavy rain and strong winds will affect the entire DC-BAL metro areas by nightfall. The southern bay areas will experience tropical storm force winds and tidal surges of 2-4 feet.
The storm will clear the area by midnight Saturday, and Sunday should be clear though a stiff north wind will cool the air some.
DANIELLE AND FRIENDS GATHERING STRENGTH
We are watching two systems in the tropics. What will become Tropical Storm Earl will follow a path similar to Charley and be near Jamaica by Tuesday. Danielle may just spin around in the eastern Atlantic.
It may be that the boys have it out for the coast, whereas the girls are playing hard to get.
The next update will be Saturday night or Sunday morning.
CHARLEY WILL REMAIN A HURRICANE ALL THE WAY TO THE NORTH CAROLINA COAST
Latest computer model wind speed estimates show Charley re-emerging in the Florida Atlantic Coast by late Friday night with winds over 75 mph.
Then it will be able to maintain or increase before striking the border of NC/SC Saturday afternoon. It will be at the minimum a Category 1 storm with winds between 75 and 90 mph.
Saturday evening and overnight, what will be Tropical Storm Charley will move on a line from east of Raleigh-Durham, to between Richmond and Norfolk, bisecting the Chesapeake Bay around the Potomac River. Winds in these areas will range from 30-60 mph. Rainfall may be in excess of 4 inches, causing tidal and urban flooding.
Tides in the southern bay will be 3-4 feet above normal, and 2-3 feet above normal in the northern Bay. Combine this with torrential rain coming on a high tide and a new moon... well, you know. It'll be wet. Suffice to say, heavy rain and gusty winds will be the rule for the entire Bay area from 3pm Saturday until the early morning hours.
Sunday morning, Charley is expected to be a minimal tropical storm as it reaches southern New Jersey and then on to New York City by the afternoon.
Tropical Storm Watches are in effect from Smith Point on the Chesapeake Bay on south. Coastal Flood Watches remain for the rest of the Bay.
This is the latest projected track by the National Hurricane Center:
Charley is turning a little more east of north, which will send the storm more on a path into Fort Myers and the area just north of it. Tampa Bay will still receive a storm surge in excess of 10 feet. All airports in Florida are closing at 3:00 PM. All theme parks in central Florida are closed as of 1:00 PM. Rumors had it that even Mickey was cowering under palm trees beneath the big "Spaceship Earth" ball-thing in Epcot Center.
With max winds now 125 mph, and a northward motion of 20 mph, and gusts to 150 mph, that means some areas in the brunt of the storm will receive a combined total effect of 150+20= 170 mph, which is well inside Category 5 status. National Hurricane Center is about to revise their wind speed report which will place Charley as a Category 4 hurricane.
With Charley now making a more southerly landfall, this spells big trouble for the Carolinas and the Chesapeake Bay. It is unlikely to make a rapid curvature out to sea. If the storm re-emerges on the north Florida coast still as a hurricane, it will be given time to re-intensify as it heads north to the Mid-Atlantic.
Tropical Storm Watches now extend to Pamlico Sound in North Carolina
Coastal Flood Watch posted for portions of the Chesapeake Bay.
Latest computer models indicate the storm will curve more to the east, and stay closer to the coast. That means all interests along the Eastern Seaboard from Georgia to New York City should maintain a close watch on the movement of this storm.
With the increased wind speeds, T.S. Watches and Warnings will be likely be posted for the southern Chesapeake Bay by nightfall Friday, and the entire Bay area by Saturday morning. Hurricane Watches will be extended to Norfolk, VA. The storm is projected to remain at tropical storm force (sustained winds in excess of 40 mph) all the way to the PA border.
Please refer to the National Hurricane Center forecast map to see how Charley will affect your area:
By viewing this map, you will notice that Charley is forecasted to remain a tropical storm until he reaches central Virginia around 2 AM Sunday. That means sustained winds of 40 mph or more will affect the area surrounding the storm.
Tropical Storm Warnings have been extended up to the North Carolina Coast. Gale warnings in the ocean extend to just south of New York City.
AND DANIELLE IS ABOUT TO START DANCING...
That's right, the next storm is projected to develop in the next 2 days. What will be Danielle is a strong tropical wave just off the African coast. Conditions are favorable, there is lots of warm water, and a strong Bermuda/Atlantic high providing that westerly flow of wind which brought Charley to us.
Danielle is likely to follow a similar path, and will be in the neighborhood of the Caribbean by next Friday, and if it continues, knocking on the door of the east coast by the Tuesday after.
If the persistent trough along the East Coast (which has been bringing us the rain all these days) does not go away, it will provide a channel through which Danielle may target.
If the trough finally leaves, steering currents weaken, and the subtropical jet subsides, she may get pushed into the Gulf of Mexico and possibly threaten the west coast from New Orleans to Galveston.
We shall see.
That's the best way to describe what will happen in the next 84 hours. If you live anywhere from Miami, Florida to Portland, Maine, you will be directly affected by this storm.
First, a couple major concerns:
1. Charley will be a Category 3 storm when it arrives on the Florida coast, and Tampa Bay is going to be toast. The low-lying area has exploded with development, and the harbor has been designes in a way that will maximize destruction. The storm surge is going to be 10-15 feet, with waves and wind on top of that. There will be hundred of millions of dollars in property damage in the Pinellas County-Tampa Bay area alone due to the massive home values there.
2. If Charley remains a hurricane as it crosses Florida, and is able to tap Atlantic moisture on it's way to the Carolinas, then the Chesapeake Bay is under the gun for moderate tidal flooding and 4-6 inches of rain, over the next 48 hours.
3. Our Isabel lesson taught us that the news grossly underestimated the extent of storm surge throughout the Chesapeake. Predictions were for 4-6 feet in the southern bay, and 2-4 feet in the Northern Bay. Observations from flooded areas in Dundalk and Baltimore and showed an 8 foot surge. The northern bay saw at least a 5 foot surge.
4. People will begin downplaying Charley once the winds decrease, but remember folks.. IT'S NOT THE WIND, IT'S THE WATER! With flooding rains in advance of Charley, plus the fact it is coming from the south, will enhance tidal and small river flooding as the surge moving UPSTREAM meets the runoff coming DOWNSTREAM. If you live anywhere within 100 feet of tidal waters, you should look around your house and determine what you would have to do if you had to move items to higher floors without much advance notice.
NOW THE FORECAST AND RELATED EFFECTS.
Friday AM: Charley re-emerges in SE Gulf and reaches Cat 3 status by noon. I predict winds will top at 125 mph with gusts to 150.
Saturday AM: By midnight Friday, landfall occurs in or just north of Tampa Bay area. Hurricane moves NNE through upper midsection of Florida on a line from Tampa to Orlando to Jacksonville to just west of Savannah Georgia. Damage will be nearly catastrophic along the coast, and extensive to severe from Tampa northeastward to Orlando. Winds will decrease to 75 mph within 6 hours of crossing the coast, but gusts to near 100 mph will remain to Jacksonville.
Due to interaction with cold front moving east, Charley will accelerate to a forward motion of 30-40 mph. Although the storm wind strength will decay once inland, Charley may maintain tropical characteristics and thus Tropical Storm status to the border of South/North Carolina.
If sustained winds in the Chesapeake Bay exceed 30 mph, the Route 301 bridge will be closed.
Saturday night: Urban areas along I-95 from Atlanta, GA to Baltimore, MD may experience wind gusts anywhere from 30-70 mph, especially when the remnants of the storm pass overhead. Charley will be downgraded to a Tropical Depression by 8 PM as it approaches the Chesapeake Bay. However, with access to the Atlantic, and the encroaching cold front, areas from Raleigh-Durham to New York City will be under threat of tornadoes due to the 'shear' caused by the influx of tropical moisture being forced upward by the front. And due to the southwest angle of this storm, it will produce a surge in the bay ranging from 2-4 feet in the southern bay to 3-6 feet in the northern bay. The surge is higher farther north due to the channeling effect, as the fetch of the wind over open water will allow for water to build up as the storm pushes north.
Sunday: Skies will rapidly clear from PA on south once the storm passes, and hopefully it will take the cold front with it. From New York on north, there will be tremendous amounts of rain, enhanced by the storm accessing moisture from the Atlantic. Inland flooding will be significant, and NWS is projecting rainfall totals near 7 inches in upstate New York and mountainous areas of New England. Flood Warnings are already posted for much of Vermont.
A SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS YOU CAN EXPECT...
Hurricane Warnings will be posted for the northeast coast of Florida. Tropical Storm Warnings will extended on the west side all the way to near Tallahassee.
Tropical Storm Warning (winds 39-73 mph possible within 12-24 hours) will be posted from Beach, SC to Norfolk, VA.
Tropical Storm Watches (winds 39-73 mph possible within 24-36 hours) will be posted from Norfolk, VA for the entire Chesapeake Bay and up to Cape Henlopen, DE.
Tropical Storm Watches in those areas will be changed to Warnings. Flood Warnings will cover much of the NE Corridor from NYC to Philly, down the Del-Mar-Va to Richmond. Tornado Watches and Warnings will be the norm for the entire I-95 corridor from Raleigh to NYC.
This is an extremely dangerous storm that has the potential to eclipse Donna in 1960 AND Andrew in 1992 as the most destructive storm to strike Florida. The region in Florida targeted by Charley is one of the most developed and expensive in the state. Damage will be in the billions of dollars. Though Andrew was a Cat 5 at landfall, it did not strike a densely populated area. What Charley may do is the equivalent of what would have happened were Isabel to make a direct hit on Miami.
The major cities and their surrounding suburbs will experience significant flooding due to pre-storm ground saturation and strained drainage systems from prior flooding this summer. Due to the combined effects of heavy upstream rain and downstream tidal surges will create extensive mainstem river flooding.
For the DC-PHL area, this storm will not be as severe as Isabel, however it will deliver the torrential rainfall that we expected to get in that hurricane. Do not underestimate the damage that can be caused by 4-6 inches of rain in a 24-36 hour period. A saturated ground will destabilize old trees, and wind gusts approaching 50 mph could easily topple trees and branches, causing scattered power outages.
You should take some time to secure loose items in your yards and properties. Materials that are not or cannot be tied down should be taken inside, such as trash cans, grills, umbrellas, plants, etc. If you live near a small stream or tributary, or low-lying area, it would be wise to protect or waterproof any valuables in your basement if you are prone to flooding.
Above all... stay calm, be prudent, don't panic and keep checking Foot's Forecast so you can stay ahead of the storm.
The next update will be Friday morning.
LOOK OUT FOR BONNIE AND CLYDE..I MEAN...CHARLEY
Only those who know their history can recall Bonnie and Clyde. Wouldn't it be neat if that was the C-name on the hurricane list?
If you want the basic overview of these two storms, go to the "Weather Underground" link to the left. Otherwise, here's the situation...
- a tropical storm that will turn north and become a Category 1 hurricane before striking the Florida peninsula near Pensacola early Friday morning. Max winds I estimate will reach 80 mph before landfall
- located in extremely warm water and a very favorable environment for the next 36 hours.
- similar to previous storms that were small, but rapidly intensified overnight with little warning. Hurricane Opal in 1995 was an example... went from weak Cat 1 to strong Cat in 12 hours, and hit the same area that Bonnie is aiming for.
- going to move quickly over/up the East Coast, though inland. It will draw in moisture from the Atlantic, and affect the I-95 corridor with bursts of heavy rain on Friday. Then she will be gone on Saturday.
- probably going to give us more than a few surprises, such as more rain than we expected, stronger winds than we expected, a higher storm surge in Florida than we expected. I say this because I've seen little bitsy storms like this get very strong very quickly in this same area of the world.
- a moderate tropical storm, but has a very large circulation and is moving fairly quickly across the southern Caribbean.
- in a very favorable environment for development over the next week. I expect Charley to be a hurricane by late Wednesday or Thursday. He is taking aim for Cuba.
- probably going to cross the Cuba on Thursday, and then re-emerge and intensify off the western Florida coast on Friday. This storm make reach Category 3 strength before making landfall in the neck of the Florida panhandle. Poor Florida, two storms in one week.
- going to re-emerge in the Atlantic along the South Carolina coast, and possibly move UP along the East Coast, hugging it closely. This will be very bad for beach erosion.
- the storm which has the potential to cause significant tidal flooding for our area if he follows this path as explained above.
ANYONE WITH TRAVEL PLANS TO FLORIDA OR THE CAROLINAS IN THE NEXT WEEK SHOULD KEEP A CLOSE WATCH ON BOTH STORMS
Next update will be Wednesday afternoon 8/11.
Since most of the American public has tuned out politics, weather and the stock market to go on vacation, I will keep this brief.
Hurricane Alex, after grazing the outer banks with 105 mph winds (stronger than Isabel at landfall), followed the Gulf Stream out to the North Atlantic, and eventually reached a strong Category 3 status with winds at 120 mph. That surprised even the computers as well as the forecasters. It remained a hurricane to almost latitude 50 deg North. This is quite unusual since it was in sub 80 F waters for at least a day.
For now, all is quiet on the southern front. No active tropical systems are present or in development. What would have been Bonnie dissipated after crossing the Leeward Islands (Barbados).
But the clock is still ticking, the water is still heating up, and so the suspense grows for...
THE NEXT BIG STORM.
You heard it here first. This forecast site projected that the longer the hurricane season progressed without a tropical system, the more likely that one which did finally form would be strong. Look at how Alex blew up from a minor tropical depression only three days ago to a CAT 2 hurricane.
This is a lesson to all of us...never underestimate the power of the Gulf Stream. With abundant 83 degree waters near the coast, we should not be surprised that it strengthened so quickly. It is interesting to note that the computer models predicted Alex would be a hurricane, but the human forecasters downplayed that.
Now with sustained winds at 100 mph and gusts to 120mph, Alex is as strong today as Isabel was when she made landfall. It should give you pause to think that if the Bermuda High shows signs of shifting west, the next round of tropical systems will get shoved right into the East Coast.
BONNIE IS BUILDING NEAR BARBADOS
By Thursday, Tropical Storm Bonnie will have formed near the Lesser Antilles and continue on a track towards Puerto Rico. Then she is projected to turn north, and right now the computer models show this storm to start curving away from the coast earlier. Hmmm... we shall see.
Wind speed projections bring this storm to hurricane strength by Saturday. However... the water is much warmer way down there... close to 90 F. And conditions are very favorable for rapid development.
Bonnie bears watching. We'll know by Saturday is this storm will send us all running to Home Desperate for plywood, or is we can just watch video of the surfers and swells along the coast.
And there's ANOTHER system behind Bonnie... O what a month this will be.
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.