Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Katrina 14

6:25 AM 8/31/2005: If you would like to comment on this story and offer your thoughts, please post in the comments feature.

The reason why we're seeing the "Worse Case" coming true is based on observations now on the news as compared to what was discussed in the scientific community prior to the storm. This disaster appears to be unfolding slowly over a period of days, not all in one day as the dire predictions were. This is why I said in an earlier post that it would not really matter whether the storm was a 3, 4 or 5. In the final analysis, it was the path of the storm which mattered. It did not hit N.O. directly, but it didn’t have to in order to produce the unimaginable disaster and suffering we are seeing. 

The news media seemed to gloat the first night, saying that New Orleans had “dodged a bullet” when now we are realizing that instead it was hit by a Mac truck. While we can say that it “could have been worse” the only “worse” I can imagine is that if New Orleans had the flooding AND the catastrophic damage of Gulfport and Biloxi. Category 5 or not, this hurricane will have produced a scale of human suffering and damage so widespread that will eclipse anything we have seen in our lifetime in this country. While this is actually microscopic in comparison to the Tsunami, as the mayor of Biloxi put it, “This is our tsunami.”

I have been reading online news reports for most of the past two days when I can, during lunch, after school. I have also been reviewing many of the national news media reports. My aim has been to try and sift through the mountain of information and misinformation coming from the devastated areas. I am trying to get a sense of what is really going on, what the media is not reporting on, and what are the major short and long term impacts. I can tell you that there is a lot more going on that is a lot worse than you are seeing on the national news, and some of the reports are very, very disturbing.

This is a disaster of an apocalyptic nature, and will become the new benchmark for measuring all future hurricane landfalls. Ivan in Pensacola was very devastating, and still is today for many. While I do not minimize the suffering they have endured, this storm affected an area so much larger than the Florida panhandle that it is difficult to describe in accurate terms how large the area really is. Please note that I am not ignoring Mississippi and Alabama out of lack of concern, the destruction there is also horrific. From a meteorological perspective, I am focusing on New Orleans for now because of the studies and posts done on this website in the past year explaining and warning of what could happen.

This is a map from a post on the Eastern US Weather Forums.

New Orleans 6
To back up the statement that this has become the worse case scenario, are the following facts I have gleaned from a variety of sources that I have done my best to verify their accuracy. This may be different from what you have heard or seen on the national news because there is just so much going on to report. I will also be including some graphics I have collected around the internet to aid in understanding the geography.

From an article on, recommended by a website reader.

New Orleans 7

- Remember that New Orleans is one of the top 5 largest ports in the world. A massive amount of goods and energy travel to and from this port, serving the eastern two-thirds of the nation.

- CNBC reports that 10% of the gas refinery capacity for the U.S. has been damaged and shut down for an indetermined amount of time. September wholesale gasoline prices have risen 40% since Monday.

- At least one oil rig has broken loose and crashed into a major bridge in Alabama.

- The I-10 twin span bridge connecting the East New Orleans area across to Slidell has been almost completely destroyed, the amount of sections lost on this bridge far, far exceeds that of the I-10 washout in Pensacola last year.

- CNN reports as of 9:45 PM that efforts to repair the levee breach at the 17th street canal have failed, and a report from the Army Corps of Engineers said that in all likelihood, the best option for salvaging the city is to allow the water level in Lake Ponchartrain and to equalize in the city. Once that happens, the Engineer said that other levees would be intentionally breached to allow the water a path to flow out. If the water level in throughout New Orleans can be lowered to approximately “2+ feet” then the pumps in different parishes would be accessible and able to be serviced and restarted. Only then could the remaining water be effectively pumped out. That would also be when recovery personnel could get access to homes and buildings and assess the damage from home to home.

- Now if you think about that summary… and the amount of time it will take, and how many thousands of homes there are, this process will take months. A similar report I read stated that once this process gets underway, New Orleans will effectively become a “non-functioning city” for at least several months while the government and recovery operations conduct their work.

- At present, in New Orleans, there is no drinking water, the daytime temperatures are in the 90’s, no electricity in the city, some or many of the pumps are not functioning, there is no food delivery of any kind, many cell phone towers are inoperable, some police radios do not work, both airports are closed, underwater, have no power or fuel for aircraft, there are virtually no medical services except for extreme emergencies, but even places like the Tulane University hospital itself had to be evacuated due to rising water. Two or more levees are breached, the water won't stop rising, there are tens of thousands of homes flooded with an untold number of people trapped in those homes. In that water is leaking gas, antifreeze, heavy chemicals (even from kitchen cleaning supplies!), sewage, decomposing animals, bodies, snakes, alligators, oil, debris, electrical lines...the list is endless. Compounding the problem is that so many roads are flooded and bridges destroyed that supplies will have to be flown in by helicopter, however many helicopters are currently involved in search and rescue of people from their roofs. According to a local TV reporter commenting on CNN, one army helicopter was supposed to deliver sand bags to help fill a levee breach, and was apparently diverted away for rescue. The sand bags never arrived and the water continues to leak.
In what national disaster have you see people become walking refugees in their own city?


If you think about the magnitude of this tragedy and what happened in South Florida, I think you’ll agree this is on a scale that far exceeds that disaster. The first Bush government was criticized for a slow response, and it may have been one of the factors which cost him the election. As the public begins to the the scope of this disaster, they will begin asking the question, “What is our government doing to help.” I know that the FEMA Director Mike Brown, an accomplished and hard-working man, would step right in and give you a list of what is being done. But I contend that it is no where near enough, and it may require an unprecedented nation-wide response that at this time we may not know how to coordinate because the needs are so great.

Sam Champion, an ABC meteorologists best stated the recovery operations this evening on CNN by saying … “We need to be as creative as we can and bring in as many resources as we can marshal to this disaster.” This was after a caller to Larry King’s show had suggested bringing in cruise ships to get people out.

I couldn’t agree more. My feeling about the whole situation, in reading the reports and channel surfing between the news channels, is that this disaster is so large it may exceed the capacity of our normal governmental system to handle. While I am not critical in anyway of anyone on the ground helping, it feels to me that this is more than FEMA by itself can coordinate. If New Orleans alone (not counting the unspeakable damage in Miss., and Alabama) is closed, that means 1,000,000 or more people will be homeless for several weeks to a month or several months. Is FEMA prepared to set up shelter for a million people? Where will that be? How will people get there? How long will it take to set this up?

I have seen the reports that the entire city of New Orleans is going to be evacuated (again), including the Superdome. However, for that to happen, the government will have to go house by house, apartment by apartment, round up the people and somehow, in some way, get them out. With rising waters and people trapped or huddled inside an untold number of hotels and apartment downtown, how will anyone get to them? If a rescue team was able to reach people, then you have to ask….”Now where they do go, how they get there? This is not to say the officials on the ground are not working on the problem, I’m sure they are. My observation is simply that I think that Mother Nature has dealt us humans a problem that is larger than our current line of thinking about how to handle these problems can handle.

It is going to take months, not weeks to drain and assess the damage. The devastated areas of Mississippi and Alabama face an equally huge task of removing debris and starting over. This will be a tragedy to affect all of us for a very long time to come.

Monday, August 29, 2005


Katrina 13
Although Katrina did not make the direct hit on New Orleans proper as many feared, this will be recorded as the most costly natural disaster and have the most long term effects of any storm in modern times. The extent of human suffering and logistical coordination may eclipse anything we have seen in our lifetime.


Katrina 12
This is a small collection of pictures from Katrina damage on Monday, August 29. As more news reports come in and a full day of daylight permits fly-overs, it will become more clear that the scope of damage from New Orleans to Biloxi to Gulfport and other areas is going to far exceed initial estimates we've heard on the news.


Katrina 11
This picture of the Red Cross truck says it all. You know, I'm overwhelmed, and I'm not even in the storm. There is so much damage, so many situations, destruction and continued danger to so many people that I think I've gone numb from media saturation. I have been reading many news reports, message boards, blogs and other sites today to sift through the clutter and try to present a straight-forward summary of what is going on. I will post that Tuesday morning.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


9:30 PM Sunday 8/28/2005: This link shows changes in the cloud top temperatures within the central dense overcast and surrounding the eyewall. The colder the temperatures are (-60 C or lower) indicate the storm is maintaining strength. If the tops begin to cool to less than -80 C, this is a clear signal the storm is about to undergo some strengthening, and will be revealed by a white colorization on this particular satellite loop. 

As of this writing, the winds were 160 mph, with gusts to 190 mph. A strengthening cycle, similar to what happened with Camille, could push winds back toward 175 mph or higher. This will be evidenced by a tightening in the diameter of the eye, and if you are staying up tonight you'll be able to observe this.

7:00 PM Sunday: updates at end of this post. Please also view the "Latest satellite loop" link below the next two pictures.

1:00 PM Sunday: By now you know Katrina is a Category 5 monster, and there is no need to belabor the imminent horror that awaits this beautiful city and it's residents. In the time I was out this morning, the storm went from 160 mph to 175 mph. At this point, it does not matter how strong the winds will be, above 150 mph the damage will be unprecedented and catastrophic, what city planners and engineers have been fearing for years. Now that the storm has easily breached the Cat 5 barrier, rivaling Camille's 190 mph winds is not impossible, once it completes it's current and final eyewall replacement cycle. In remembering Camille, let's also not ignore all the other hundred of communities in the storm's path, those in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and elsewhere who face equally an horrible next 24-48 hours.

On this Sunday and every day for the next long while, I recommend you pray for all those in the path of this storm, and hope that by some miracle of grace, the city is spared what now seems to be a near certain doom. For the latest details on the ground, visit the Times-Picayune newspaper website. Early this afternoon I will conduct a roundup of the impacts and final meteorological analysis, as well as update the links for more ready access to the situation. If you have not already considered making a donation to an organization like the Red Cross, or by giving blood, your efforts will help save a life even while the storm is raging. Whatever was front page yesterday will seem trivial when the true nature of this society-altering event is brought to bear.

The following is text from a statement issued by the New Orleans National Weather Service. It is difficult to believe something of this magnitude is upon us, or that someone wrote this and posted it on a government website, so I offer the link in case you don't believe me. For those who think I am hype-mongering or doomsday forecasting, all I can say is that I am glad you are not in the path of this storm. If this thing misses, it will be the most collossal sigh of relief in a century. If it does not, we face a tragedy of unparalleled porportions in the history of the country.

1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005


Again: if don't believe me, or think I wrote this, think again, it's from the National Weather Service.

Because a mandatory evacuation has been issued, the city initiates a procedure called "Contraflow" as shown here by a map from the Times-Picayune. It's the only way to get 1.3 million people out of a city with few escape routes.

How bad will the flooding be? Unprecedented in modern times, eclipsing the Johnstown Flood. The casualty count may eclipse Galveston, and that is a conservative estimate.

Computer models have already clustered on the nightmare scenario. Let's hope a last minute change occurs, causing the storm to weaken or miss the city. This computer model was posted by another weather blogger, Steve Gregory, on his site. As this is the first week of school for students in many areas, I recommend you read his updates for a good overview of the meteorology behind the storm. I may not have the time I would like in the next 24 hours to post on this storm, but Steve does.


I will provide sources and background for these estimates of the "downstream effects" of Katrina over the next few weeks and months,and will be adding to this list as I convert my notes from earlier today to this site. Please note that I am extremely concerned for the safety of all in the path of this storm, and in no way are these comments meant to project the image that I am "whining" about what the storm will do to me personally.

1. GAS PRICES: I have seen several reputable sources online and in the media state that this storm has the potential to temporarily add 20 to 30 cents per gallon nationwide. That means a national average of $3.00 in most communities. Home heating oil and natural gas will see further spikes of 40% to 50% between now and the start of winter delivery times this fall.

2. HOMEOWNER'S INSURANCE: I would be surprised if there is not a filter down effect of increase premiums nationwide to absorb what could be a $100 billion catastrophe.

3. COASTAL CITY RE-EVALUATION: In light of what is happening with the Superdome, many cities will be taking a closer look at their emergency evacuation procedures, especially for those less mobile and less able to quickly evacuate, such as the elderly, hospitals, special needs institutions, women's shelters, orphanages and nursing homes.
I have a long list of "analyses" regarding this storm, but with school starting tomorrow, just don't have time to write it all now. 

Please use the comments feature if you have a particular thought or angle on this storm that you can add to this discussion.

Saturday, August 27, 2005




WILL KATRINA BE "THE ONE" FOR NEW ORLEANS? This is a special Saturday morning emergency edition of Foot's Forecast as I will be away from internet access until late tonight. Since many of you reading are either tropical enthusiasts or Gulf coast residents extremely worried about this storm, I have efforted to provide as comprehensive an overview of the situation as I can. If Katrina follows the projected path shown below, it may very well go down as the costliest storm in history, far eclipsing Andrew's $25 billion price tag. The path also takes this storm across the dense oil drilling regions of the Louisiana coast, which means millions will be affected far from the storm due to the expected spike in crude oil and gas prices. Trading on Friday ended before the major westward shift in the forecast track with occured at 5 PM, putting New Orleans in the cross-hairs, where the governor has already issued a state of emergency.

Katrina NHC map

This will be updated Sunday morning as we see what the storm is doing then. A "Final Word Summary" is my bottom line analysis of what we face with an approaching storm.

1. WHERE SHE'S NOT GOING. I will say that Katrina is not likely to affect the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast as dramatically as I once anticipated. With landfall and deterioration through the Mississippi Valley, when remnants of the storm arrive in western PA, WV, VA and MD, the biggest impact will be "Ivanesque" rains. However, that also means those rains could spawn damaging floods. If something bad happened to you in Ivan or Jeanne (especially Philly and New Jersey) think now about what you would have done differently then. As for central Maryland, the risk of impact is lessened considerably, which is a relief for students, teachers administrators and parents concerned about disruption to the first week of school.

2. WHERE SHE'S PROBABLY GOING. As everyone who follows big storms already knows, the concern is now shifted to a landfall in and around Southeast Louisiana to the Mississippi Coast as a Category 3, 4 or 5. I do not mean to say this non-chalantly, but for my loyal readers who teasingly accuse me of "Armaggedon Weather forecasting" this is as scary as it gets. Many others, including the unique and always insightful perspective of Fresh Bilge have alluded to the potential catastrophic impacts on metropolitan New Orleans.

3. WHY SHE'S GOING THERE AND NOT ELSEWHERE. The storm is traveling around the periphery of the ever-present Atlantic high pressure ridge. As with any strong tropical cyclone, there also develops an upper level anticyclone above the storm which serves to "ventilate" it and provide an outflow for the moisture rising through the eyewall columns. Depending on the direction of travel, local jet streaks also develop on one side or the other, adding to the ventilation. You can see from satellite imagery that a northeast quadrant jet is helping to ventilate the storm to the south and southwest, which is why you see more convection and cloudiness toward Cuba than toward the north or northwest. An upper level anticyclone over Louisiana is expected to move away as a short-wave trough slides southeast from the Rockies. The combined effect of these two systems is expected to gradually turn Katrina from her currently westerly path to northwest, then north. That is, if all goes as planned. The computer models have had a hard time pinning down this storm's movement until yesterday. The North Atlantic Oscillation provides evidence of this gradual northward turn. Remember that a positive NAO signals landfalls in the Gulf region, whereas a negative or neutral NAO signals Atlantic coastal landfalls. Since Katrina is obviously not going to reach the Atlantic coast as a hurricane again, if you were to superimpose the storm's present position to a longitude parallel with the East Coast, you would see that the theoretical projected path would have easily taken it toward the Carolinas. That's not going to happen, so the only other likely option is a turn north now that the NAO is forecasted to head neutral and even dip negative in the next 72 hours.


It takes more than 72 hours to completely evacuate New Orleans, even with contraflow in full force. There are now less than 72 hours before the storm reaches the Louisiana coast. Wind, swells, waves and surge will begin affecting the coast and flood inland waterways 12 hours or more in advance of the storm's arrival. In actuality, there is less than 60 hours of "quality evacuation time" remaining. If you live in the New Orleans area, you should not be reading this now, you should be packing up and leaving. If I were there, I would. My family's safety is more important than my house, pride or occupation. Many oil rig companies in the storm's path are not waiting for the National Hurricane Center to issue a statement, they are leaving as you read this.

Erratic movements of this storm have proven deadly for some. If the strike cone appears to shift AWAY from New Orleans, it could easily shift back. Anyone living in the I-10 corridor from Lafayette to Pensacola should be READY to leave at a moment's notice.

For a detailed description of the problems facing evacuees to wait until it is too late, review my statements regarding what would have happened IF September 2004's Ivan made the destructive turn we now think Katrina will. Scroll down to find the post dated September 15 with the headline "A Nightmare Journey into the Mouth of Madness." I describe a day by day scenario of how the conditions will change given a mouth of Mississippi landfall by a Category 3 or above.


Scan down to view previous posts where you can see the dramatic westward shift in the projected path, from mostly inside the Florida panhandle on Thursday, to now 200-300 miles west, encompassing all of Louisiana today. Below is a visible satellite image of the storm from Friday, as it was undergoing a round of intensification...going from 75-80 mph in the early morning hours to 100 mph by 1130 AM.

Katrina satellite 1

This computer model map is what has made everyone so nervous, from forecasters to emergency planners to coastal and inland residents. The "clustering" of the model guidance shows that confidence is increasing on a Mississippi Delta/Southeastern Louisiana landfall. As hundreds of others have already said, it is now not unreasonable to say that given the favorable environment over the next 2-3 days, Katrina could very well be knocking on the door of Category 5 by the time it reaches land. Just considering the "SHIPS" wind speed projections for Sunday night-Monday should give you pause. (SHIPS stands for Statistical Hurricane Intensity Prediction Scheme). Perhaps it is also time for a refresher on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, so that readers in the Gulf Coast threatened by this storm know the differences between Category 3, 4 and 5.

Katrina computer models

Above is a historical comparison of where previous storms with Katrina's current intensity have traveled. As you can see, the paths are clustered around two areas... half the storms headed for Texas, the other half for Louisiana. So it would seem that historical odds are better than average for Katrina to make her mark alongside of Betsy, Camille and Andrew.

Katrina historical map

In just one day, you can see how the computer models have upped the ante for this storm. However, there is a catch! You've read in the news about all the people in south Florida who were unprepared for Katrina's first visit...because they thought the storm would go inland much farther north, as indicated on NHC maps posted earlier this week. So looking back on what happened, 24 hours out, the computers were off by more than 100 miles on the actual landfall location. In a sense, it reminded me of the Charley surprise, when that storm took a sudden right turn shortly after intensifying. So the real lesson here what is right for the safety of your family. If you find yourself ANYWHERE inside the "cone of possible landfall" especially within 24 hours, any emergency management official would tell you it is wise to be ready to evacuate if that is possible, or at the very least, be ready to ride out the storm if you cannot safely leave.

Katrina models 1

Again, note the dramatic differences in the forecast path from less than 24 hours ago. If you live in or around New Orleans, this should give you more than enough reason to start your preparations to leave as soon as possible.

Katrina 8

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Katrina to come a'knockin

Katrina 4

5:00 PM 8/24/2005: Newly minted Hurricane Katrina will make two landfalls in Florida before heading northeast through the Carolinas and into the coastal Mid-Atlantic. Concern is that the system will regenerate back to tropical storm or even hurricane status due to very warm waters in the Chesapeake Bay and off the Del-Mar-Va. Bottom line for Florida to Maryland will be prolonged heavy rains along a 200-300 mile swath on either side of the storm's track as it heads northeast. The general idea among some Accuweather forecasters is that Katrina follows a path similar to Hurricane Donna in 1960..which dropped a foot of rain in New York City. A recurving into the Atlantic is unlikely due to the influence of a high pressure ridge settling across the Northeast. This high will probably keep the storm over land or just along the coast until it reaches the New England area. Overall, it poses a difficult forecasting challenge for anyone following this storm, professional or otherwise!

Notice the differences in the projected path from Friday to Sunday as compared from the original forecast on Wednesday.

Katrina 5

At 5PM Thursday, the storm was moving west, but had begun turning SW, which will lengthen the time it has over the 88-90 F eastern Gulf waters. Category 3 is not out of the question.

Katrina 3
NHC position and path as of Wednesday morning

Katrina 2

TUE 4:00 PM 8/23/2005: FRESH OUT OF THE GATE IS OUR NEWEST TROPICAL STORM KATRINA, which you can see is projected to reach hurricane status by landfall along the south Florida coast. There is BIG concern this system could rapidly deepen once in the Gulf, and as you can see, it's projected path takes it along the dangerous northwestern track toward New Orleans. 

Similar tracks were in September 1947 (although it lost strength in the Gulf) and Betsy in August-Sept 1965 which did intensify once in the Gulf. There is ALSO the possibility Katrina intensifies, and gets redirected northeast in the Gulf BACK TOWARD FLORIDA, or even toward the area where Dennis struck, before recurving north-northeast and exiting the coast near DelMarVa. Suffice to say that with very warm Gulf / western Atlantic waters and a low shear environment, Katrina has every opportunity to make her mark on Florida and the Gulf Coast.

Previous projected paths will be posted below for comparison to where computers thought this storm would go...will be interesting to see where she finally ends up.

Katrina 1


TC Danger Zone 8-22
The National Hurricane Center foresees two regions ripe for tropical development. It will be race to see which gets the naming prize first. Below is the area of concern near the Dominican Republic/Haiti (at the bottom center of the screen). A low level circulation is forming, and convection has been firing up in this area for several days. Some computers project this becomes a tropical storm within 48 hours and takes it toward Florida, then into the Gulf Coast. The heat and humidity plaguing the east for days has been pushed to the Southeast where you can see the tropical thunderstorms exploding all across the area.

Atlantic 8-22-05

The next region of development may be in the central or eastern Atlantic, and this is the time of year where we would expect to see storms that roll off the African coast begin to light up the map. You can even see a swirl of circulation with the western-most wave, although the second one would seem to show more promise. Many forecasters find that if these kind of more northly waves develops too quickly off the coast, they recurve. A more southerly emerging wave, such as the one which spawned Isabel below 15 degrees north, did not recurve. So the waiting and watching begins to see whch of these will make it past the recurve zone and start the Atlantic march westward.

Atlantic 8-22A

Friday, August 12, 2005


Irene 3

Starting Sunday, computer models take Irene on the high road away from the coast and cast her off to the westerlies for a quick journey to the North Atlantic's graveyard of hurricanes. Or so it would seem. The storm is quickly intensifying, and may even cross the Category 2 boundary before all this happens. Looks like an open-and-shut case... hurricane misses east coast, all breathe a sigh of relief and return to their incessant building boom on coastal waters. That is, if you believe everything the computer tells you. These were the same computer models trying to recurve Irene way out to sea before nearing Bermuda, and were also the same models that had Irene developing into a hurricane over a week ago in the deep tropical Atlantic near Africa. So I am skeptical that this storm will not obey expectations exactly the way deer only cross the road where those "deer crossing" signs are posted.

Irene 4

The Hurricane center is also alluding in it's discussion of the storm slowing down, and some forecasters at Accuweather have indicated it may even stall due to "height rises" northeast of the storm. This is increases in atmosphere pressure in the upper levels, at what is called the 500 millibar level. The point is that tropical storms cannot normally punch through an expanding area of high pressure at 500 mb, just like the blizzard of 2003 could not force it's way through a sprawling high pressure over the Northeast U.S. The compromise is that the two systems have to work against each other for a while until one gives way or the other weakens. While the eastward moving cold front in the Midwest will temporarily nudge Irene northeast, the expanding high waiting for it near Labrador may halt any significant movement. What results is a slowing and stalling system, which can send day after day of swells to the shores of Long Island, Jersey, Delmarva and VA/NC. This is bad for beachgoers on vacation as rip currents will increase, beaches will close, and the risk of drowning in rip currents will also increase. My evidence of this is the recent change in the North Atlantic Oscillation, and the fact the NWS is projecting that Irene really won't be going that far out even by next Wednesday.

So what does Irene do? Three scenarios...

1. MAKES LIKE A TREE AND GETS OUT OF HERE. That's a quote from Back to the Future for all you 80's fans. Off to the westerlies like most other storms as shown by climatology.

2. ESTHER REDUX. Hurricane Esther was a storm in September 1961 that got looped around by a similar setup, and made two landfalls in New England. Problem this time is the water is much warmer so the storm could be stronger second time around. Felix in 1995 did a similar dipsy-doodle near the Chesapeake Bay.
3. JEANNE IN REVERSE. Remember Mean Jeanne the dancing wind and rain machine? Irene could do a similar jig and loop around but head out to sea instead of inland.

The reasoning behind options 2 and 3 is that the Bermuda High / North Atlantic ridge is forecasted to expand in the North Atlantic. This will serve to eventually block northward / northeastward motion of future storms in the next 30 days, and send them merrily or not-so-merrily on their way directly at the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. The final word for now is that Irene has plenty of ocean left to pull many more tricks, so I would not bank on one computer model or the other until we see the atmosphere readjusting to the new pattern, and then Irene will show us the way.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

May surpass Isabel's landfall winds of 105 mph
A major hurricane strike looming for Mid Atlantic?

Irene 1
As the US Navy forecast graphic indicates, Irene is expected to reach hurricane strength by Sunday, and that could be the beginning of a rapid intensification all the way to Category 3. If this happens, it will be the hurricane that came out of nowhere for many people. For most coastal dwellers, it would seem the tropics are quiet, and they are. But Irene may prove to be the ultimate wolf in sheep's skin. Only a depression now, it is off the radar screen for now. Once it couples with an upper level anticyclone off the Southeast Coast this weekend, and the storm will be in 86 F water, we could see explosive intensification that could mean a Category 1 when you went to bed turned into a Cat 3 monster by dawn. With water temperatures at mouth of the Chesapeake Bay at or above 80 F, there is every potential of this storm as a Cat 3 causing similar or greater damage than Isabel IF it follows the same path. The difference between this storm and that one is that nervous property owners and beachgoers alike had a week or more to prepare, hearing about the monstrous Cat 5 Isabel way out in the Atlantic. This time, preparation time will be much shorter. The real rude awakening will come Monday morning, when NHC issues hurricane watches for parts of the Carolinas and southern Chesapeake. And everyone will say, "where did THIS come from."

Monday, August 8, 2005


Atlantic 8-8-05

Looking at the tropics in these dog days of summer, you can say it is both active and quiet. We have 2 weak tropical storms, and 2 areas of disturbed weather. Despite no hurricanes at present makes us think all is quiet on the eastern front. But considering the buildup of convective activity across the Atlantic in recent days, odds are more likely another system will pop out and start the march westward. The important observation to make with Harvey and Irene is they indicate the prevailing winds...Harvey is caught in the westerlies as you would expect of a storm in that part of the Atlantic. Irene is negotiating a high pressure ridge and trying to either cut under it or get reestablished underneath it. This along with varying intensity of shear on the west side has been limiting development...without a strong upper level high pressure above the storm, Irene does not have adequate ventilation to allow moisture rising through the eye wall to exhaust out. Even with relatively warm SST's in the area, absence of the upper level high the difference between a notable hurricane and a forgettable tropical storm. I'm sure coastal populations prefer the latter. The concern is that a weak western Atlantic ridge now will eventually re-strengthen in a few days to a week, and then serve to guide storms toward the East Coast once it does.

SST 8-8-05

The absence of significant storms right now also means the key areas of the Atlantic Basin continue to warm to record levels. This runaway warming, attributed by some scientists more to a decadal cycle than to global warming, is part of the reason behind NOAA's upward revision of storm strength and frequency for second half of the season.


“TO END OF JULY: One perhaps two minor systems. Landfall unlikely to be in the Gulf coast, more likely to be along Eastern Florida, the Carolina coast or even Bermuda.”

RESULT: Two tropical storms…Franklin (70 mph) Atlantic, no landfall. Gert (45 mph) Mexico.

“AUG 1-15: Landfalls shift to the Carolinas. Five named storms, two hurricanes, three tropical storms.”

RESULT: 2 tropical storms so far. (Harvey 60 mph) and Irene (40 mph) No landfalls. To verify, another 3 storms would need to develop between now and Aug 15, which seems possible but not likely. There is concern of a tropical wave that may intensify off the Virginia coast in mid week, and a stalled front in the northern Gulf could become a depression.

I still maintain that the period from AUG 15 to SEP 15, and possibly extending beyond that, will be a very busy time, with landfalls from Carolinas to Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Five or six named storms, two major hurricanes. We may have a period when there are 3 or 4 storms going on at once, covering the gamut of possibilities... a major hurricane, minor hurricane, tropical storm and depression all in tandem at different parts of the Atlantic concurrently.

Now that my family and I are safely back in the US, we will be focusing on school preparations. I hope the tropics remain quiet the next 2 weeks, it would be a blessing. Thanks to everyone who posted comments during my overseas trip. The next update will probably not be until we have a more clear picture of what Irene is going to do, so no update before Wednesday 8/10.

Friday, August 5, 2005


Irene Map 1

Greetings from Armenia! It is Friday and we are preparing for our long trip home on Saturday. As I write this, it is midnight along the East Coast, and you are all asleep…unaware that we have our newest tropical depression. I believe this signals the major shift we have been looking for to indicate the next phase of the hurricane season. The name will be Irene, and it is forecast to reach hurricane strength within 5 days or less.

Internet access here is very slow, and makes for updating this site quite time consuming, so I will keep this brief and get to the point. I have posted a series of graphics to illustrate where this storm fits in context with other storms which have formed in the “Hurricane Alley” of the tropical Atlantic. The first is an Infrared East Atlantic Satellite view of TD # 9 (soon to be Irene). Cloud pattern is somewhat disorganized, but as TPC notes in today's discussion this system will be moving into warmer waters of near 28 C, and a low shear environment. For fahrenheit reference, 30 C is 86 F, so this water is like "jet fuel for hurricanes" as described by ABC news. With no clouds of African dust to impede development, ( as was the case with other systems over the last two weeks), Irene should have no trouble reaching hurricane status within the time frame expected.

Irene 1

What concerns me about this system are similarities between it's current/forecasted track, and those of storms which are ingrained in our consciousness, such as Isabel 2003, Hugo 1989, and Gloria 1985. For my Armaggedon Weather fans out, this is not to say that Irene will become a catastrophic Hurricane X to pummel the entire east coast. The point to be made is that the formation of Irene in this area of the Atlantic at this stage of the summer may very well indicate that the hurricane season is on fast forward. What we would expect to see in mid September would seem to be occuring in August. While Cape Verde type systems can and have developed in this region this early, historical records as shown below indicate few have followed the traditional paths of classic late August to mid September storms. If Irene follows an atypical path toward the east coast this year, this will be the indicator we are headed into a very busy and destructive phase of the season to last well into September.

Irene Map 2

NOAA's forecast for remainder of the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane season was recently updated. Ominous and sobering, it includes a straight-forward analysis of why they expect another 11-14 storms, with another 7-9 hurricanes inside that range, and 3-5 more MAJOR hurricanes inside that range. Consider that in 2003, we reached the letter I with Isabel in mid September. Now in 2005 we have reached Irene over a month before the historical mid point of September 10, which is the date tropical cyclone climatology show is when the tropics are most active from year to year. ANOTHER 11-14 storms means that 2005 could go down as one of the three most busy seasons on record, challenging the 19 named storms in 1995, and 21 named storms in 1933.

NOAA 2005 forecast update

Gloria in September 1985 formed a few degrees north of where Irene developed, and this storm went on to just below Category 5 before throttling back to a 2 while coming onshore in Long Island. Compare Gloria's track with computer model projected paths of Irene.

Irene Map 3

Then compare Gloria and Hugo to Irene. Although these storms were September classics, the theory being presented here is that this year, the September pattern will be observed in August. Irene's projected path in the first 5 days looks to resemble Gloria

Irene Map 4


1. This will be a busy month coming up. Over the next 2 weeks, the NAO is forecasted to drift slightly positive and then remain netural, which has been an indicator in the past of East Coast landfalls being more likely. A positive NAO means the Azores High and the Labrador Low are in somewhat of a retreat, moving away from North America, leaving the coast more exposed to wandering tropical systems. A negative NAO can act as a shield, tightening the jet stream across the western Atlantic and redirecting storms out to sea, as we saw with Franklin and Harvey. Both storms occured during a negative phase of the NAO.

2. A major hurricane making landfall this month along the East Coast is highly probable, and concern is focused on the Carolinas. If the Bermuda High / Western Atlantic ridge slackens and drifts east, it will open a channel toward the Carolina coast.

3. Sea surface temperatures continue their upward climb into the record books. A glance at the current SST anomaly map reveals that most of the tropical and western Atlantic right to the East Coast population centers is primed to deliver optimal water conditions for an approaching storm. El Nino continues to be an El Nono as the area of below normal equatorial water temperatures off Peru continues to expand west ward. In the coming month, this will serve to negate any strong regional shear that is usually observed in the westerlies during moderate El Nino events.

THE FINAL WORD(s)? I believe the period August 15-September 15 will play out like last year, with focus on the East Coast instead of Florida. Who would have predicted 4 landfalls in Florida within 6 weeks? Considering that, 4 landfalls on the east coast, with 2 major hurricanes in 1 month appears to be just as possible.

THE NEXT UPDATE will be on Sunday, August 7 once my family and I have safely returned home from Armenia.


Atlantic Basin 7-23-05

This is my last post for 2 weeks as the family and I are heading out to Eastern Europe...Armenia to be exact, until August 6. "WHY ARE YOU GOING THERE?" You might ask? Simple, really. I'm gettin' out of Dodge now before the big storms hit. Actually my wife's parents are working on a U.S. government consulting project with the Department of Agriculture in Yerevan, Armenia. Naturally they've been chomping at the bit to see their grand-daugher, so off we will go. This trip comes at a good time, as it would seem the Atlantic is quieting down for a few hours. Franklin APPEARS to be getting caught up in the frontal boundary, and will be wisked out to sea, I hope. The large disturbance over the Yucatan APPEARS to have lost it's MoJo heading into Campeche. Yes I see the waves coming off Africa and each has the potential to develop. As predicted, I believe we are heading into a 10 day to 2 week quiet period as the Atlantic readjusts to a negative NAO and a weak ENSO signal. Typhoons striking in the Far East will also have fallout in our part of the atmosphere, as Accuweather and Government forecasters have identified teleconnective trends like this in the past. When something major halfway around world happens, like a typhoon, it usually means we will see a mirror image of that occur on this side of the globe. That means 10 days or so from now the tropics will be switching into what may well become the most active period on record... yet to come. I trust you all will watch everything closely and keep the comments alive and kicking. See you next month. Sincerely, Mr. Foot.


Franklin 1

Franklin 1

Jeanne map 1

AFTERNOON UPDATE: Looks like we're in for some rough weather coming up. What are the chances that Franklin flips back around and heads along the same path as Jeanne... or maybe will recurve along the coast like Alex in 2004. Another TPC update at 8PM. I am interested in seeing their discussion on this. With the NAO tanking, Franklin has three choices...spin around then head for Florida, hang out in the Atlantic for a while, or head up the East Coast.
Post from earlier today:

Where's the break

Or maybe the headline should be.. "Where's the BREAK?" modeled after the 1980's Wendy's commercial, "Where's the BEEF?" Concern is growing over this area of disturbed weather near the Bahamas, and the conventional wisdom is that it should develop soon, get named as Franklin, and then either stall, drift slowly toward northwest Florida, or simply north. The North Atlantic Oscillation has turned sharply negative, which may portends a return to cooler weather for the Northeast, and this is playing right into the forecast posted earlier this week. I explain at the bottom of this post that a negative NAO will act as a deflector, protecting the Mid Altantic and points north from landfall. It also means the timing of this is such that when if the NAO stays negative a while, it may flip back to positive by mid August, just in time for a recurving Altantic storm feeding on the above normal waters to take aim for the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic.

2005 Hurricane Map
If you want to know the basis behind this forecast, read on through the analysis section below. Better get some coffee or a soda first though, it might take a while to read all of it.

TO END OF JULY: Tropics quiet down, one perhaps two minor systems, any landfall is unlikely to be in the Gulf coast, and more likely to be along Eastern Florida, the Carolina coast or even Bermuda.

AUG 1-15: Landfalls shift from the Gulf and Caribbean to the Carolinas. Five named storms, two hurricanes, three tropical storms.

AUG 15-SEP 15: Landfalls shift from Carolinas to Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Five or six named storms, two major hurricanes. Then a brief quiet period to October 1.


The first Act of the hurricane season is drawing to a close. I am relieved that Dennis did not strike New Orleans as once feared. It is too early to say if the north Gulf is in the clear, but in a tongue-in-cheek way of looking at it, recent odds would suggest they've had their "2-3 direct hits for this year." The dry humor intended here is that 2004 standards, that part of Florida SHOULD be done with storms, right?

I had originally expected Dennis to be the final chapter in the "Early Summer Gulf" stage, but it appears the Atlantic ridge is persisting farther west, stronger and for longer than I thought. This is enabling Emily to stay on it's no-holds-barred west-north-west train to the Yucatan. Looking back, it is obvious to see why this is happening. The interaction of Dennis leftovers in the central U.S. in conjunction with the Atlantic ridge is what has drenched the Southeast, Midwest and Northeast with the monsoon-like rains recently. Anybody with a radar image can plainly see how the remnant Low of Dennis and the ridge are working to feed a constant flow of tropical moisture up the Eastern Seaboard. With El Nino essentially a La Nada, the westerlies which would have sent Dennis and Emily curving out to sea are not there. Nature abhors a vacuum, so the more powerful Atlantic easterlies have taken over the pattern, driving Emily into Mexico.

My concern comes for the next two Acts in this play...the early-mid August stage and the early -mid September stage. Looking at the current SST indicates we have a big hot tub out there in the Atlantic, waiting to be tapped. As you can plainly see, there is this tropical train of warm water extending from west Africa all the way to the U.S. East Coast. As ABC News reported last week, that's the "jet fuel" for hurricanes that is giving rise to multiple Category 3's and above so early this year.

SST 7-18-05

"BIG DEAL", you say. "It's summer dude. Hello Foot? Ocean water is W-A-R-M." Well thank you Captain Obvious. That's just the thing, beevis. If the ocean is tres warm NOW, just think about what it will be LATER. If that water goes undisturbed during our upcoming 2-3 week lull, is 3-5 degrees above normal possible by September? I'm not a climate expert, but I would say it is not out of the realm of possibility. For all my diehard End Times Forecasting Fans out there, the really interesting (and disturbing) thing to consider is a comparison of today's Atlantic SST's to July 2003. Here's how temperature anomalies were reported 2 months before Isabel. Do you see the differences?

SST 7-17-03

I hear your coffee cup clattering on the table now. What are you, nervous or something? You mean you're concerned that Atlantic sea surface temperatures along the East Coast then were a lot COOLER then they are now? Why would that be a problem? It only means that what's happening in the Gulf and Caribbean could shift to the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. by Labor Day, and then to New England by late summer. A couple more Category 3 landfalls and we're done, then off to winter storm season. Simple enough, don't you think?

2003 Hurricane Map
Oops, didn't mean to let that cat out of the bag just yet. But, my Armaggedon Weather fans would have it no other way, so let's just take the gloves off and show you what is possible in Acts 2 and 3 later this summer. The map above is the 2003 landfalling major hurricanes, tracks were kind of disorganized and not that memorable, expect for Isabel and Juan, which pummeled Hailfax, Nova Scotia in October with surprising intensity. My family and I really thought that Isabel was going to be "the one." I'm sure many in Nova Scotia feel Juan was "the one" for them. This implies a Cat 3 landfalling right up the Chesapeake or into a heavily populated metropolitan area. For people in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, even a basic Cat 2 with winds of 105 mph were enough to disrupt the lives of millions and many have not finished recovering. It was not catastrophic, but it was definitely a very very bad storm. And for the doomsday analysts out there, I believe Isabel was actually a rehearsal.

2004 Hurricane Map

Then there was the historic and catastrophic 2004 season. See how the landfalls are concentrated over the southeast U.S.? As if you forgot that soon, which I doubt you did. Only Danielle, Lisa, Karl and Otto hung out in the Atlantic. Everyone else took aim for land, or at least formed near it and went for it when possible. Looking at that map would suggest a fairly strong Atlantic ridge was in place most of the summer, directing most storms toward the southeast U.S. Now let's compare to the historic 1995 season, which then led into the notable 95/96 winter storm season with the kickoff Blizzard of January 96.

1995 Hurricane Map

You can probably already see the pattern. The Atlantic ridge mostly lost out over influence of the westerlies because of a strong El Nino in the equatorial eastern Pacific. Although every single depression that formed was eventually named, the westerlies were strong enough to deflect most of the damaging storms out to sea. A couple minor systems struck Florida, but nothing of significance. The importance of this season was that it had the warmest Atlantic ocean water temperatures on record, and thus 19 named storms.

So what's the connection and the End Times Forecast? What I see happening is a combination of the 1995 and 2004 seasons. Imagine how we would deal if we get the kind of landfalls in 05 we saw with 04, but with a frequency like that of 95...and shifted farther north. Who would have thought 2,3, 4 major hurricanes could strike Florida in such a short span of time. Suppose that same ferocity is shifted to the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic?

7-17-05 NAO

How do I know this? It's the North Atlantic Oscillation. When a weak (meaning neutral or negative NAO) is observed in the North Atlantic, landfalls along the Gulf coast are more likely. When the NAO shifts into a strong, or positive phase, pressure systems move in such a fashion to allow hurricanes to recurve along the east coast and intensify as they do so. Throw in abnormally high water temperatures, the climatologically favored high time for hurricanes (mid August to mid September), and you have the makings of another 3-4 hurricanes making landfall from South Carolina to New England, with 1-2 of those being Category 3 or higher.

(Posted on 7/18) The NAO is forecasted to dip negative for the next 2-3 weeks, which is the smoking gun for my anticipated quiet period in the tropics. The recent heat we've had throughout the U.S. may not subside a whole lot, but it should ease back to normal somewhat. The danger would be if the atmosphere reverses course, and the second half of July is much cooler than normal. That would set the stage for an above normal August, right when the NAO would flip back to positive, just in time for the tropics to get going again.

So that's the forecast. I will be going back through to add some links in the text to my sources of the background. For the powderhounds laying lazily by the fan dreaming about snow, I can tell you there is a correlation between frequency and location of landfalling hurricanes and the outcome of the winter storm season. But we'll get to that in August.

EMILY WRAP-UP: Many were concerned Emily would strike southern Texas. Hurricane warnings were posted for the southern Texas coast in anticipation of strong winds, which did materialize. But the Atlantic ridge and interaction with the northern Mexico mountains proved enough frictional force to slow Emily and direct her west once nearing the coast. This is not much consolation for those in Mexcio facing torrential rains and catastrophic flooding, but at least we did not have to face a 1980 Hurricane Allen type situation. Due to their experience with 1988's Hurricane Gilbert Cancun and Cozumel were well prepared this time and that limited loss of life.

If you want to read previous posts, please visit the archives section. I am presently unable to have the site display more than one post or the formatting becomes unstable. If you are a blogger or html guru and have a suggestion on how to fix this, please post a note in the comments.