Wednesday, July 20, 2005

AN EMILY POST

Emily at Mexico Coast


6:35 am, Emily makes landfall and appears to be slowing or stalling near the coast. Although storms like this can have two landfalls, I think it is ironic that Mexico was struck by the same major hurricane....twice. First a Category 4 at Cozumel, then a Category 3 along the north Mexico coast. Near catastrophic flooding will occur in the areas surrounding Monterrey, Mexico as the mountainous terrain is going to enhance rainfall and runoff. This storm has continued exhibited a diverse personality over it's lifespan...with a sharp rise to Cat 4 early on, then faded back to 2, then back to 4, then a slow lessening to 3 before reaching Cozumel. Once in the Gulf, it took the usual 36 or so hours to reorganize, and re-established major hurricane status in the day prior to landfall. Coming right on the heels of Dennis, this storm snagged the claim Dennis just had... that of the strongest July hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin. Kind of makes you wonder what August and September hold?


The futures market is weighing in on this, as MSNBC reports that college professors in Miami have developed a program that allows futures trading on where a hurricane is most likely to strike. If a trader is correct in their prediction, I suppose it is possible to have financial gain from a hurricane landfall. That just makes me uncomfortable thinking about it. This also inserts an element of market forces into evacuation decisions, where people living in an area the futures program has pegged as a "winner" now have more than just the local government saying they should leave. As you would expect, the National Hurricane Center is none-too-amused at this "game" as they see it. Read the full article linked above for a good overview of this latest controversy with the weather.

Emily 2

A view of Mexico bounded by two tropical systems, T.S. Eugene on the left, Emily on the right. Isn't that odd the Eastern Pacific and Atlantic spawned storms on the same alphabet sequence? This is shaping up to be quite the tropical summer for many, from multiple U.S. and Mexico landfalls so early, to a stalled hurricane remnant that's dumped monsoon like rains fro the Midwest to New England. I'm sure many are looking forward to a much needed quiet person in the tropics, which I expect to last for another 2 weeks. Once August gets underway, it is going to get very very busy again. The previous post outlines my forecast for the second half of summer.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

OIL PRICES THIS WEEK
WILL BE NO DAY AT THE BEACH

Dennis 6

As feared, Dennis intensified to Category 4 shortly before landfall along the Florida/Alabama coastline. The devastation and heartache will far exceed anything we've seen in a hurricane since Andrew. Oil markets this week will react with extreme volatility, sending prices past $70 a barrel. The impacts from this storm will be wide-reaching, affecting everything from the home heating oil market to gas prices surging another 10-15 cents as we approach Labor Day, to a sharp rise in the price of plywood, to an increase in homeowner's insurance premiums next year. A new chapter in history will have been written on July hurricanes. We are likely to see a serious re-examination by insurers on the feasibility of rebuilding in areas twice ravaged by a major hurricane. Some coastal areas will take 5 years or more to recover. The debris will take 2 or more years to remove, and life for some will never get back to normal.

This is my last report on Hurricane Dennis possibly until next Saturday, as I will away with family. I pray that all the families in this storm will be safe, make the right decisions and seek comfort in the everlasting arms.

AN EYEFULL

Dennis 5
This is the final update of the evening. After seeing this picture on Steve Gregory's blog at wunderground.com, I had to post it. By the time we wake up on this soon-to-be fateful Sunday July 10, we may be looking at a Category 5 or nearly so. The destruction and havoc to be wreaked on this date will give new meaning to the numbers "7-11" for the people of Pensacola and the surrounding areas, including Mobile and it's bay. When they wake up on Monday, July 11, it will look and feel to them they just went through their own 9/11.

BRACE FOR IMPACT

Brace for Impact

A MENACE TO ALL...MERCY FOR NONE

Dennis 3

POST FROM 3:35 pm: The end of innocence has arrived, and words just cannot express how dire the situation is and will be in the north Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Pensacola, over the next 24 hours and in the days and months beyond. With waters running at or above 85 F, and a low shear environment, it seems all but certain this storm will come onshore at least a Category 3 if not a baseline 4. Remember that in the eywall, winds are stronger at higher elevations, so buildings in excess of 50 feet will experience more damage than those at ground level, even if the storm is a weak 2 at landfall. If you look at the satellite image above, you can see the western eyewall has closed in. This indicates there is a favorable environment for strengthening, as the storm is not currently entraining drier air from landmasses to the north. As the Weather Channel has been reporting well, a sign a storm will weaken is when the pressure rises, the false-color image cloud tops lighten, and the western eyewall begins to decay. Landfall may in fact be almost exactly where Ivan came on shore.

Some notable north Gulf coast storm tracks: Compare Dennis thus far to Betsy 1965, Camille in August 1969, Frederick 1979, Elena 1985, Opal 1995, and Georges 1998.

Our storm with the already overused "menace" moniker is gathering steam as you read this. View the current radar loop and current satellite loop. The latest tracking information is available at wunderground.com or at the National Hurricane Center. The Pensacola News Journal, again in the bullseye, is providing up-to-the minute reports on local preparations. The NHC will continue to post updates every 2-3 hours, and their analysis is available in the discussion link.

Tomorrow morning, I will attempt to complete and post my "Similarities and Differences" overview between Dennis and Ivan. This much I am sure: The damage, heartache and recovery will be worse, because of the existing unfinished repairs. Now we just wait uneasily for the clock to tick down.

Friday, July 8, 2005

ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT, IT'S BAD

Dennis 2


I go away from the TV for 2 hours this morning, and Dennis goes from low Category 3 to nearly a Category 5! Absolutely unbelievable. This storm continues to bewilder forecasters with it's abilty to surprise at every turn. Concern is now directed at Havana, because it would appear the storm will make a direct hit from southwest to northeast later tonight. On Tuesday, the NHC predicted that by day 5, the winds would be perhaps 80 mph, but they did indicate this was likely a conservative estimate and long range intensity forecasts are notoriously problematic. But did anyone ever imagine that this thing would knock on the door of Cat 5? In fact, 155 mph+ winds HAVE been observed in the northeast quadrant, but the TPC did not accept the wind speed as valid because the pressure would suggest a slightly lower wind. Now that is it nearly certain a U.S. landfall will occur, some questions remain:


1. How will interaction with the mountains of Cuba weaken the storm? Will frictional effects cause Dennis to meander along the coastline, as Isidore did along the Yucatan in September 2002, weakening it from a 3 to a 1. Will we luck out and have a Cat 4 reemerge as a Cat 1?


2. If Dennis reemerges as a Cat 4 in the Gulf, would it be able to maintain that strength as it approaches the coast? In all of meteorological records, a Category 4 storm HAS NEVER struck the U.S. in July. And there's no evidence of Global Warming? As if.


3. How serious will the population of New Orleans take an evacuation order? Will memories of Cindy be enough to make most people leave? Or will the grazing they received from Ivan be a cause for overconfidence because it is so unlikely for New Orleans to get a southeast direct hit? It would seem city officials are crossing their fingers that luck is on their side again. Escambia County in the Florida panhandle is not counting luck on their side, and has issued an evacuation order to take effect starting at 5:45 PM today, the earliest they say this has been done. If any of these cities were to wait for the TPC for a Hurricane Watch, it would be too late.


4. How will the aftermath of this storm and those the rest of this season affect homeowner policies for those owning waterfront in hurricane alley? Can you imagine the angst and heartache of people in Pensacola who have not even returned to their homes. What about all the debris not still picked up from Ivan?


5. Will the tropical wave that may become Emily follow a similar path? Take a look at the East Atlantic satellite loop and see that this wave is holding together and may develop once reaching the Caribbean by Monday or Tuesday.


Regarding the website format, for some reason the site will only allow one post to view at a time. Otherwise the links get dumped to the bottom of the posts, and it is very annoying to have to scroll down and find a link when it should be right up top. This means if you want to view previous posts, you'll have to go to the July archives.


On a planning note, the family and I are leaving for vacation Sunday, and won't be back until probably Saturday the 16th. I cannot guarantee I will be able to post during this time. Hopefully it will be a quiet period in the tropics, and Lord knows it will be the start of a long road of recovery for those who have or will have faced Dennis by then.

I will continue posting on Saturday, and do a pre-landfall overview of estimated damage, and a final post Sunday morning. Feel free to continue commenting throughout the period I'm away. It will make for interesting reading of everyone's thoughts when this is all over. I know the folks in Pensacola wished all this mess had never started in the first place

Thursday, July 7, 2005

VERY, VERY BIG TROUBLE

Very Big Trouble

In no way do I mean to ignore the terrible disaster in London. It is horrific and truly barbaric as Tony Blair has said. Our prayers go out to the families of the victims and the people of England, who has withstood many trials and will overcome this one. It somehow makes natural disasters a little easier to deal with, because at least something like a hurricane you have time to prepare. No one could have prepared themselves for what London commuters faced this morning, and I hope the many workers will confidently go about their business tomorrow as best they can, to show the terrorists that the battle may have been lost, but the war will be won.

In regards to my predictions for Dennis, I do not intend to come across as alarmist. If you have read the planner's reports about what a major hurricane strike can do to New Orleans, then you would know that my estimates are conservative. Anyone living in SE Louisiana, southern Alabama, southern Mississippi or the Florida panhandle should have already begun their preparations. If you have family in New Orleans or the surrounding areas, I highly recommend contacting them and making sure they are planning to leave immediately. The botched evacuation of Ivan and Georges in 1998 should remind many that because of the limit escape routes, and the proximity of Lake Ponchatrain, flooding from surge and rain will occur hours if not 12 or more hours before the storm arrives. The concern is that thousands trapped in traffic jams will drown in their cars, and thousands more who decided to stay in the city will be cut off from rescue for several days. These are not my imaginations, these are real scenarios examined and discussed by city planners. Now the nightmare scenario may be coming true, as I said in last week's post: "The End of Innocence Is Upon Us."
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES

I just heard that Dennis has crossed the Category 2 boundary, with winds of 105 mph. View the the menacing-looking satellite loop. This is a significant development for several reasons:

1. The hurricane appears to be strengthening faster than TPC projections. We will see in the morning discussion an increase in max wind estimates, currently at 105 knots (roughly 115-120 mph). I think it is becoming evident that Dennis has Category 4 potential given this 15 mph jump in speed.


2. A turn to the NW has occurred, and this may indicate the storm will jog around Jamaica to the north, not to the south as originally believed. This could be due to frictional effects of the northeast quadrant interacting with Haiti. As a result, the counter-clockwise wind flow coming around from the southwest and southeast quadrants is stronger. This in turn puts directional imbalance in the movement, with the northern portion slightly weaker and the southern portion stronger. The storm responds by turning more NW. Further evidence of this is a TPC comment from yesterday indicating the western portion of outflow was unusually consistent. Western fringes of westward moving storms can be more ragged and uneven.


3. The most important observation is that slight changes in the track now have major implications 3 and 4 days from now. If Dennis jogs around Jamaica to the north, then could frictional effects temporarily weaken the southern quadrants and allow a more westward track? This small change in movement now could mean the difference between an apocalyptic landfall in New Orleans, or an equally devastating impact on the weary Florida panhandle and surrounding states.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

IT'S OFFICIAL... A MENACE IS BORN

Dennis 1


As of 6:00 PM, the TPC has upgraded Dennis to a hurricane with max sustained winds of 80 mph. It is now just a matter of time before it reaches Category 3 status and the press begins jumping all over itself. If you live in the southeast, we would be expecting you to jump all over yourself as the strength and direction of this storm means that many, many lives are going to be forever altered by this time next week.

Continue monitoring news reports from the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Pensacola News Journal, arguably the two newspapers who will get a front row seat to this monster. It is just now beginning to dawn on many watching this unfold that the Cindy-Dennis one-two punch will be catastrophic for some areas of the northern Gulf Coast. While damage was relatively minor in Cindy, there were considerable power outages in SE Louisiana, tornadoes on going in Miss, Alabama and Georgia, and the heavy rain that caused extensive flooding. For some, it is possible that power will have just been restored before Dennis arrives to take it away again.

It is going to be a bad, bad situation, but a great opportunity for prayer. Start praying tonight.

Our next culprit lurking in the East Atlantic seems to be showing signs it wants to stick around. Take a look at the latest infrared loop on what could become Emily.
UNTHINKABLE
Could this be "The One" for New Orleans ?
As for the Florida Panhandle...
talk about hitting a guy when he's down.


UNTHINKABLE


"The One" refers to an unofficial moniker assigned to certain types of storms that spell certain disaster for specific areas. My family, with our 100 year old cottage on the northern Chesapeake, saw Isabel as a Category 5 making the dreaded turn northwest. They collectively gulped, said to each other, "this could be the one" and began putting furniture waaayy up in the attic 5 days before the storm arrived. That move turned out to be the right one, and though life for us will be better in the long run, it sure has been painful in the short run for many people still recovering from Isabel, Ivan, Charley, Francis and Jeanne. Can you just imagine how someone living in Pensacola must feel looking at this forecast? The Pensacola News Journal is already on the story.


"The One" for New Orleans is known simply as "The Hurricane." This has been long feared to be the storm to end all storms, and could end the city as we know it. That sounds very alarmist if you have not read the Army Corps of Engineers study on what a Category 3, 4 or 5 storm would do to the Big Easy if it approached from the worst possible angle..the southeast. Let's hope and pray Dennis gets menaced by Fidel's stogies and loses his mojo over Cuba before reaching the Gulf. The TPC (Tropical Prediction Center) is resigned to the likelihood that
Dennis will be the first major hurricane of the season. The New Orleans Times-Picayune has been temporarily disrupted from Cindy, but did post this brief article today.


As for Cindy, she has plans to become a major rainmaker in the Southeast, southern Appalachians, Mid-Atlantic and all the way into New England. Friday and Saturday will be dominated by tropical downpours and very muggy conditions that will remind you of, well, the tropics. Dennis will start making bigger news once he reaches hurricane strength, expected later today.

Until then, here's some big news. I thought I'd just take a glimpse at what the East Atlantic is up to. And what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a giant tropical wave with an apparent outflow, dear. TPC is not saying much about this yet, in fact the image shown is only the last frame in an 8 frame satellite loop, so this wave could easily fade in the next few hours. That aside, this is the most impressive looking tropical wave I've seen emerge off the African coast since Gloria. It is awfully symmetrical for being a wave that just left the coast. I'm sure there have been other waves that looked just as ominous, but for early July, this one sure does look interesting. The next update on all this at 5 PM following the TPC advisory.

Atlantic 7-6-05



Tuesday, July 5, 2005

AS FOR DENNIS, BEARS WATCHING

Bears Watching 1
Tropical Storm Cindy will be nearly onshore by the time you read this, but not before pumping up the volume to near hurricane force. Since official records have been kept about Atlantic Basin, this is the earliest known occurance of 4 NAMED tropical cyclones this early in the season. Excluding the storms of colonial times, this is the first time in recorded history we have had so many storms so early. It could mean nothing, or it could mean everything. If this season follows the pattern of last season, then the next 40 days will keep forecasters and bloggers very busy.

I came up with the graphic idea above this weekend while vacationing with family on the Chesapeake Bay. We own waterfront property that was severely damaged in Hurricane Isabel, and though rebuilding will take place this fall, we are always a-tune to the slightest hiccups of the tropical Atlantic, even in July. The phrase "bears watching" is often used by Weather Channel meteorologists when they are indicating there is going to be more to the story than they have time or need to explain on the air. Where to get the final word on that story? Here of course. Dennis indeed does bear watching over the next 10 days, as warm Caribbean waters, a low shear environment and the effects Cindy will have on the Atlantic ridge all will dictate where Dennis heads next.

The season is so far following what I expected... a THREE ACT pattern. I outlined this in a post back in May, but here is a recap with an update. I have added "ACT IV" to the list.

ACT I: I originally predicted that the first round of tropical systems would first make landfall in the central Gulf and southern Caribbean. I believe we are currently in ACT I which should last another 1-2 weeks. The outcome of Dennis will be the end point for this phase of the season, followed by a quiet period of perhaps 2 weeks.

ACT 2: By late July/early August, landfall focus would shift away from the central Gulf to Florida and the Southeast US Coast for a 3 week period, followed by another lull in activity lasting until the end of August. I expect 2 major hurricanes to occur during this time frame.


ACT 3: Starting in mid September, landfalls would shift to the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and New England. This phase will last until mid October, with at least one Cat 2 or 3 hurricane making landfall.


ACT 4: (NEW) Following climatological norms, landfalls will shift back to the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, where the season ends the way it started...with low-latitude storms starting west then turning sharply north.


SO WHAT WILL CINDY DO, AND WHERE IS DENNIS HEADED?

CINDY: Will continue to drench the parishes of SE Louisiana for another 12-18 hours, and put the pumps in New Orleans to test. Remnant rainfall will streak up the Eastern seaboard and energize an already juiced up atmosphere, resulting in widespread and frequent downpours of rain. As we saw with Arlene, Cindy could hold together longer than anticipated once making landfall, and still be an extratropical little swirl of rain that will race up the east coast, grabbing Atlantic moisture as it goes merrily along. This will no doubt enhance local rainfall totals, and make for a rainy end of the week for places from Virginia north to New York.


DENNIS: Okay, fine, call it The Menace. You know the press will anyway. This little chip off the block has a lot of warm water yet to soak up, and if you've see the SST map recently, you know that water water everywhere is 2 deg C or warmer throughout the central/western Atlantic, Gulf and Caribbean. TPC has said their windspeed esimates for late in the forecast period are conservative. At Day 5 they predict a Category 1 storm with winds at 75 knots. I think we will be surprised at how quickly this storm will develop, reaching Category 3 by the time TPC says it will be a 1. I also wonder out loud if the influence of Cindy on the Atlantic ridge will cause a piece of it to cut under the coastal surface Low and reemerge west of Bermuda. This could put weak easterlies in place to guide Dennis along a more west by north track, missing Cuba as Ivan did. This was also part of the prediction I made in May about the scope and behavior of Caribbean systems this season.


WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE GULF COAST

1. COASTAL AND INLAND INTERESTS FROM GALVESTON TO TAMPA need to closely monitor the path of Dennis. (Like I needed to remind them of something they already know?) A weakening Atlantic ridge would put higher odds for a landfall between New Orleans and Tampa than Texas. A re-strengthening ridge would put areas from New Orleans west to Galveston at higher risk.


2. DENNIS WILL BE THE FIRST MAJOR HURRICANE OF THE SEASON. Remember that Camille (1969) and Opal (1995) exploded in wind speed in the final 12 hours before landfall. The trend from last summer is that monster storms either maintained or weakened right before landfall, but had made their intentions clear early on they were not to be ignored. With painful memories of the 2004 storms fresh, residents are not likely to disregard Dennis once it reaches Category 3 even if still in the Caribbean.

3. THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT AFTER CINDY, DENNIS WILL BE THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN for a while. Dennis will dominate low and mid-levels of the atmosphere throughout the Caribbean and the Gulf will be quiet prior to and following his arrival. The next area for caution will be to start watching the west African coast for tropical waves. This is why I think Dennis will be followed by a 10 day to 2 week lull before anything can develop again.

Saturday, July 2, 2005

THE END OF INNOCENCE IS UPON US

End of Innocence

Two systems of note are churning through different parts of the Atlantic. The first is located south of Cuba today, and has been undergoing some southwest shear for a couple days. However, the system appears to have been holding together well, and is expected to enter the southern Gulf by late in the weekend.

The second system is a series of waves departing the west African coast. It would be unusual to have a Cape Verde system develop in early July. Rather computer models show this system or a reorganized version of it reaching the lower Caribbean by the middle of next week, and developing into a "nameable" tropical cyclone by Thursday.


Either system has the potential to become the next named storm. This could be the beginning of the second phase of the season.. with landfall in the Gulf Coast or SE Atlantic Coast, and the end of an mostly innocent summer so far. Interestingly enough, the last time TWO named storms formed in June (Adrian, Bret) in the Atlantic basin was 1986. So already the 2005 season has made a name for itself.