Wednesday, August 31, 2011

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Where do we go from here?

8:25 AM EDT 8/31/2011 | Gotta love high pressure. We know many are dealing with flooding in the Northeast, power outages in the Mid-Atlantic or are tired of plain ole' "95 and sunny" in West Texas. For all of us, at least a high pressure system over the eastern and central U.S. allows everyone to sit on the porch in Midland, Texas or the front marble steps in Baltimore, Maryland and say to each other, "Where do we go from here?"  

THE GOOD NEWS: Labor Day Weekend looks generally calm and free of tropical cyclones, at least along the U.S. east coast. Even the central and western states look good weather-wise for part of the weekend coming up. Our Tropical Team is closely watching soon-to-be Hurricane Katia* in the central Atlantic for hints on her next move. The primary threat the next 5 days will be to shipping lanes, and eventually swells will affect the Eastern Caribbean. If you are heading out on a cruise from the east coast, it might get a bit woozy by end of the weekend.  *Katia was a 65-mph Tropical Storm as of the 5:00 AM AST advisory. 

THE "HMMM" NEWS: Our Long Range Team has concerns about potential tropical development in the Gulf of Mexico in the 10-day period ahead. The National Hurricane Center is monitoring an area of disturbed weather in the western Caribbean. Given high sea surface temperatures in the northern Gulf of 88-92 F, interests along the Gulf coast need to check in every now and then with the NHC and our Tropical Zone on facebook for analyses on what these systems may do. The Long Range Team will soon be posting their look ahead to mid- and late-September.

Until then, our heart and prayers go out to all those dealing with power outages, flooded roads and all that which accompanied the unwelcome visitor in recent days known as Irene.   We hope the sunshine at least helps take the edge off your recovery.
(The Advisory Team of Foot's Forecast) 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Last Week: Earthquake, Hurricane, Tornado
This Week: Sunshine, blue sky, Tylenol

Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene as she made a third landfall in New York City

8:00 AM EDT 8/29/11: On this sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall in New Orleans, tens of millions are still dealing with major to catastrophic impacts from the first Hurricane to strike the U.S. since Ike along the Texas coast in 2008. 

It goes without saying Irene clocked the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic, before nailing the Northeast a historic blast of tropical storm- to hurricane-force winds and torrential rain. Eight+ inch rainfalls have been reported by CoCoRaHS members in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York. New England won't be reporting until Monday AM, and many stations in North Carolina have not yet reported storm totals for reasons most certainly related to Irene. Catastrophic flooding continues in Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, portions of Upstate New York and across Vermont/New Hampshire. 

Check your local National Weather Service forecast offices for the latest flood statements and heed evacuation orders from local emergency management. 

TEAM STATUS: Our student forecast teams are continuing to operate despite power outages due to multi-state coverage from different locations. Their latest forecasts are easily accessible via our Facebook pages. 

TROPICAL UPDATES: The multi-state Tropical Team continues on the lookout for what the Atlantic may churn up next. Unfortunately, they found something... and details are available via facebook at present in our Tropical Zone. 

INTERESTED IN JOINING? Irene was a harsh reminder that summer can be fun but can also turn dangerous when all the right factors come together. Our team was created to provide students and weather enthusiasts the opportunity to marshal their knowledge, training and life experience together into a collaborative effort. We do this to keep our readers well-informed of threats to life and property, in support of the mission of the National Weather Service. If you are interested in submitting an application, review the details in this link(Advisors Foot and Lear)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Isabel (2003): Dress Rehearsal 
Irene (2011): New Benchmark 

National Hurricane Center: 
4-8 foot surge expected from the Mid-Atlantic coast of VA/NC to the Delmarva, New Jersey and  New York City to Cape Cod.


3:30 PM EDT 8/27/11 | IMPORTANT MID-ATLANTIC TEAM STATEMENT ON HURRICANE IRENE |The Advisors of Foot's Forecast have significant concern that Hurricane Irene, currently in eastern North Carolina, may emerge in the southern Chesapeake Bay and travel more northward than is currently forecasted. This could result in the core of the storm’s energy and circulation along or just west of the Virginia peninsula in the next 12 hours. One of several resources we have used to present our hypothesis to you, our readers, is the current NOAA satellite imagery. As shown in this image capture below. 

This would concentrate a significant area of higher water, surge and wind in the Chesapeake Bay than is currently expected. Please visit our Tropical Zone in facebook or by scrolling below

8:00 AM EDT 8/27/2011: As of the 8:00 AM advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Irene has made landfall along the North Carolina coast as an 85-mph Category 1 hurricane, as seen in this radar loop from the Newport/Morehead City NWS. The latest updates from the National Hurricane Center are also posted with expanded team analysis in The Tropical Zone on facebook, and we have forecasters reporting on the Outer Banks and the Cape Fear area. The U.S. Team of Foot's Forecast is in position to keep you informed of the latest National Weather Service watches, warnings and public safety information statements from local and state governments. 

Since members of our team were flooded out of their homes in eight years ago in Hurricane Isabel, we have been preparing and rehearsing for just this type of event. So have many local and state governments, and a statement from Baltimore County, Maryland Executive Kevin Kamenetz summarized the potential threat this way: 
"If you experienced flooding with Isabel, you should be prepared to experience flooding with this as well."
Director Bill Read of the National Hurricane Center said yesterday on network news broadcasts that "there is no such thing as 'only a hurricane.' " With waves of 25-35 feet set to pound much of the Mid-Atlantic coastline, we have forecasters reporting on the storm in numerous locations, the links for which are directly to our facebook forecast pages. You do not have to be a member of facebook to access our forecasts, just click on the links to see the latest reports, or visit our U.S. Team page for access to all the zones covering this storm.

From our Tropical Team: For easy access to our team reports, we have enclosed an embedded feed to the Tropical Zone as shown below. Detailed storm analyses will also be posted in our Tropical Forecasts page. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

If the winds go down, 
the problems may go up

8:30 PM 8/26/2011 | Hurricane Warnings are now in effect as of the 5:00 PM EDT advisory from the National Hurricane Center for the following areas shown in red from the North Carolina/South Carolina border to Sandy Hook, NJ, including:
  • The Albemarle, Curritick and Pamlico Sounds;
  • Virginia Beach and Norfolk to Smith Point in the southern Chesapeake Bay;
  • Ocean City, Maryland, the state of Delaware;
  • Maryland counties of Carolina, Talbot, Dorchester, Wicomico, Somerset, Worcester
  • Southern and Central New Jersey 
  • The City of Philadelphia and Delaware County, PA;  
  • The entire Atlantic coast of New York State, including New York City; 
  • Rhode Island and coastal Connecticut and the entire Massachusetts coastline. 
Areas of the coast shown in blue above indicate Tropical Storm or Inland Tropical Storm Warnings, including:
  • The northern Chesapeake Bay from Smith Point and including Cecil County, MD;
  • The entire Baltimore, Washington and Richmond Metro areas;
  • All counties in Eastern Maryland on the Del-Mar-Va peninsula from 
  • Portions of the South Carolina coast.
Our science advisors and professional meteorologists on the team wish to point out that in a large and powerful storm such as this, any decrease in sustained winds actually permits the wind field to expand significantly. Irene's current Tropical Storm-force winds extend outward almost 300 miles.  A rapidly intensifying storm would pull energy toward the center of circulation and create the "buzz saw" effect seen in 1992's Andrew and 1989's Hugo. We don't need the current wind field to get any larger than it's current extent. If the core of strongest winds decrease, the dynamics holding the hurricane and tropical storm force winds begin to unravel. The result is a larger area of the coastline to experience tropical storm force or hurricane force winds even if a hurricane's maximum winds begin to decrease. 

Think of it this way: On the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland, will emergency managers be able to tell the difference between 85 mph sustained and 90 mph sustained? They won't and neither would we.  Until we all see a demonstrable easterly component to the track of Irene, it still a bad, bad situation for tens of millions of people. (Advisors Foot, Winstead, Lear, Krichinsky)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hurricane watches to New York City
Hurricane Warnings for SC, NC, VA

5:00 PM EDT 8/24/2011: Hurricane Watches have been extended from the North Carolina coast to New York City, with Hurricane Warnings from the South Carolina coast to extreme southeastern Virginia. Official details in the 5:00 PM NHC Public Advisory and the current NHC track map.

Major Hurricane Irene poses a high impact threat from North Carolina to the Northeast

25 August 11:55 AM | Team statement Expecting landfall between Wilmington and Cape Lookout by 1800 EDT Saturday 27 AUG. After landfall, Irene turns toward north and not curving northeast as much as currently expected due to frictional effects of interaction with land.

Strong easterly component and weaker westerly component will create a new path driving the bulk of the storm farther inland. This results in a path western Pamlico Sound, between Norfolk and Virginia Beach, emerging in the southern Chesapeake Bay. The storm should make a second landfall on the Virginia peninsula or the lower Eastern shore of MD as a low end Cat 2. (approximately 100 mph sustained)

Foot, Salter, Winstead, Palmer, Mitchell, Lear

7:15 AM EDT 8/25/2011 | A Hurricane Watch is in effect for eastern North Carolina, the Outer Banks and Albemarle, Pamlic and Currituck Sounds. Effects from Hurricane Irene are expected to impact this area as early as Friday morning. Text of the current NHC public advisory.

6:15 AM EDT 8/25/2011 | For rapid updates on our latest analyses, please visit the Tropical Zone on facebook. For educators and others unable to view facebook at work or school, we will repost the information in the Tropical Forecasts page.

Major Hurricane Irene poses a significant threat to life and property from eastern North Carolina to New England. If current scenarios continue to play out, Irene may initially appear to be heading out to sea later this evening or Friday morning. If the storm begins interacting with an expected warm front along the Mid-Atlantic coast, the front may draw Irene back toward the coast, increasing frictional effects with land. The result would be a Category 2 hurricane with winds of approximately 100 mph making a second landfall along the southern Delmarva on Sunday morning.

Several well-known computer models across the scientific community have shown Irene bisecting the Delmarva peninsula, or crossing into the Delaware Bay or even drifting into the Chesapeake Bay and slowing down. The impact and property damage potential of that outcome would exceed Katrina.

The Ocean City, MD example Sustained hurricane force winds of 90 mph in downtown Ocean City, MD would breach the dune line. Waves of 20-25 feet would reach the first floors of many high end resort buildings. Surge exceeding 6 feet would inundate most of the city, with most wooden structures in downtown Ocean City destroyed. Surge traveling up the back bay would in turn be forced back onto the western side of the island once wind flow switches to the northwest, driving the water into homes and inlets. We have high confidence in this scenario, extrapolated from the HPC's map issued at 2:00 AM this morning.

For all those along and east of I-95, we urge local public safety officials, emergency managers, school superintendents and operations departments to advance procedures forward today. For the Mid-Atlantic, less than 60 hours remain to complete preparations for this storm. The only concern we have about the NHC's "cone of uncertainty" is to ask if those inside the cone are certain they have enough time to adequately prepare for the storm in the time remaining. (The Mid-Atlantic Team: Forecasters/Advisors Foot, Jackson, Mitchell, Krichinsky, Lear, Owens, Meehan, Natoil)

9:30 PM EDT 8/24/11: Earlier versions of computer model tracks are beginning to shift noticeably farther west in the medium range period of Irene's track for Friday into Sunday. This new guidance, coupled with projections of a warm front along the Delmarva to New Jersey area, suggest that Irene could become an extremely high impact event for much of eastern North Carolina, Southeast Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay, all of Delmarva, New Jersey and Southeast Pennsylvania.

Our team is taking a wide angle view to the situation and investigating the latest data at present. We have significant concerns that were a warm front/stationary boundary to set up north of Irene, it would have the effect of pulling the hurricane back in toward the coast. With warm ocean temperatures along the Mid-Atlantic around 80 F and significant moisture from the Atlantic, we are also concerned this warm front will provide a conduit to enhance moisture transport in addition to the hurricane.

The Hydrometeorological Prediction Center Day 4 map above already depicts a high impact to extreme outcome with Irene placed nearly on top of Ocean City Maryland as possible Category 2 hurricane on Sunday morning.

Lastly, the worse case scenario would be if Irene and the warm front merge, stalling the hurricane somewhere between the Delmarva and New Jersey. Additional details on our confidence level for this scenario will be posted following a team collaboration.
Forecaster Foot and the Mid-Atlantic Team.

5:30 PM EDT 8/24/11: Most computer models project Hurricane Irene to pass just off the Outerbanks and head northeastward at least 75-100 miles off the Mid Atlantic coast. However, one reliable model, the European (or ECMWF) as of its latest run issued earlier this afternoon, shows Irene passing much closer to the Mid-Atlantic coast than in previous versions. This scenario, while not a guarantee, would have major effects on Ocean City, MD the Delmarva and bring high impacts to the New York City metro area and remainder of the Northeast corridor. In addition, more significant impacts than are currently being expected would spread farther inland towards Baltimore and Washington, D.C. However, this is just one computer model and it is not yet clear if other models will begin trending westward. Additional details posted in our Tropical Forecast page.
(Tropical Team Coordinator Jason M. and Advisor Mr. Foot)

Tweets on the tropics: Get rapid fire updates from us on Twitter:
@fftropicalzone | #fftz |!/fftropicalzone |

Wave forecasts: is a high quality website many in our team follow in high impact situations, such as last year's Hurricane Earl. At last report by the NOAA Ocean Prediction Center, Irene was producing waves up to 38 feet with swells of 30 or more feet extending over 25 miles from the center. Visit swellinfo for animations and graphics showing the potential extend of Irene's wave impacts on the coast. For the image below, click the right arrow in the right corner to go forward in time and see projected wave heights from Irene.

Go to for free local Surf Forecasts, Surf Reports, Surf / Swell timelines, and more.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cape Lookout is our benchmark

6:15 AM EDT 8/24/11: The current advisory from the National Hurricane Center shows Hurricane Irene has maximum sustained winds of 110 mph and is moving WNW at 9 MPH. Tropical Storm force winds of 40 mph or greater extend 205 miles from the center and hurricane force winds of 73 mph or greater extend 40 miles from the center. Irene is expected to reach major hurricane status later today and begin turning toward the northwest by nightfall. 

At last report by the Ocean Prediction Center, waves under the storm's center were 30 feet and building with waves of 15 or more extending 100 miles. Areas of highest impacts this weekend include the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic coastal areas, including the southern Chesapeake Bay and lower Eastern shore of Maryland. Strongest effects from Irene in these areas are likely to include waves of 10-20 feet, tropical storm force to hurricane force winds, torrential rain and isolated tornadoes, as well as 12+ hours of tidal flooding. 

Our team has identified  Cape Lookout, NC as our benchmark for the storm's path. In order for the effects described above to increase no further to areas west of the Chesapeake Bay, we will be looking for Irene to have a north-northeasterly component prior to reaching  the longitude of Cape Lookout.   

The next NHC update is at 8:00 AM with our team report to follow shortly thereafter. (Forecaster Foot)

Prepare instead of panic

4:00 PM EDT 8/23/2011 |  In early September 2003, high school students in southeast Baltimore County, Maryland began tracking a far-off hurricane in the Eastern Atlantic. After a few days, they became more curious, and more nervous. One of them said to their teacher: "Is this going to hit us?"  The class studied and tracked the storm, and developed a set of worksheets for what to do "Before, During and After." 

The storm was Hurricane Isabel. Five days later, at 2:00 o'clock in the morning, a third of those students in that classroom were scrambling for their lives. Water was pouring in the first floor windows of their homes in Dundalk, Maryland. It was storm surge from then-Tropical Storm Isabel, the center of which was a full 100 miles southwest of them at that time. Needless to say, Isabel became a life lesson.

The point? We took the National Hurricane Center's 2 PM advisory map and removed the dot and left the hashed area. There will be a lot of talk about landfall for Hurricane Irene. Landfall is important, but awareness of the effects a large hurricane can produce is knowledge that can save your life. In a down economy, careful preparation now for those effects could potentially save lives during the storm, and after.  Hurricane Irene may go out to sea, or she may not. But not before producing waves of up to 40 feet in the Bahamas, possibly up 20 feet along the Carolina coast, and a wind field of tropical storm force conditions extending 300 miles from the center. 

Where the center of circulation is located, or whether Irene is a Category 2, 3 or 4, matters less than your acceptance this is a life-threatening storm that should be taken seriously if you are inside the "cone of effects." If emergency officials ask for an evacuation, guess what? Your tax dollars pay them to help keep you safe, so if it was us being asked to evacuate... we would, because we are not emergency specialists. They are.  

Eight years later, some of those same high school students who were flooded out of their homes are adults on our Forecast Team right now, working help keep you better informed. We'd prefer you to be prepared, collaborate not confront your family about this storm, and make the decision so you can avoid the life lesson some of us had to endure. (Mr. Foot and Diandre Williams*, Director of Strategic Media)

*Diandre was 14 years old when the storm surge from Hurricane Isabel flooded his home and many of his 9th grade classmates in Dundalk, MD. He and his grandmother lost most of their possessions. Tough lesson to learn at 14 years old.
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A life lesson in Earth Systems science

2:55 PM EDT 8/23/2011 A magnitude 5.9 Earthquake was registered in about 10 miles west of Richmond in Virginia at 1:51 PM. Link to the USGS website for details, in case following Hurricane Irene was not enough excitement for you. Our team reports on the storm continue, as both events are a valuable life lesson in the value of understanding Earth Systems science. (Advisor Mr. Foot)  

Worse than Isabel?

11:00 AM EDT 8/23/2011 | The latest report on Hurricane Irene shows winds remain at 100 mph,  with little change in central pressure since the 8:00 AM advisory. The last Air Force Reconnaissance report showed 980 mb. The storm's satellite presentation has improved and despite some interaction with Hispaniola, Irene will pull away from the island later today, and undergo explosive intensification later today. it is not outside the realm of possibility for the storm to reach Category 4 strength within 24 hours.   

9:30 AM EDT 8/23/2011 | Prior to the 11 AM Hurricane Center update, we invite all readers and organizations which were impacted by Hurricane Isabel in 2003 to review this lessons learned" page for Isabel prepared with content from the Sterling VA NWS and NOAA. We ask this simple question of everyone in the Mid-Atlantic and the Carolinas: Knowing what happened in Isabel, what would you do differently this time? 

7:30 AM EDT 8/23/2011 | Hurricane Irene has the potential to achieve Category 4 status by tomorrow and all indications are the storm should reach the North Carolina coast as a mid-range Category 3 with winds of 125 mph (NHC) or greater. This scenario would produce impacts more widespread and significant than Hurricane Isabel in 2003. We urge school officials, emergency managers, event coordinators, Port Authority directors, transportation managers and health service organizations to begin implementing procedures now while weather is calm in the Eastern U.S. 

What we think Our multi-state Tropical Team conducted an extensive analysis and  collaboration last night with participants from 12 states. The consensus is for a North Carolina strike with hurricane-force impacts expected in eastern North Carolina, eastern Virginia and the southern Chesapeake Bay. A majority of the Delmarva Peninsula and the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan area may see tropical-storm force windsrainfall and coastal surge reaching or exceeding that of Isabel in 2003. Unless the current NHC track changes considerably, it suggests impacts to the Mid-Atlantic will be similar in scope to Hurricane Floyd in 1999 (NOAA), Fran in 1996 (USGS) and Hazel in 1954 (NGS)

Be Storm Ready While changes in the storm track are expected even until landfall, it is reasonable to suggest that preparations commence in the event the storm track does not change favorably for these areas. NOAA, the National Hurricane Center and others have extensive online resources to guide your preparations for your family, property or organization. 

We will post additional storm risk assessment details later this morning, and will offer a specialized 1-page briefing document available by email for Operations departments. 
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Hurricane Isabel: 
What are the lessons learned?

Image from Bowley's Quarters in Baltimore County. 

Text of this report from the Sterling VA NWS Hurricane History pageIsabel was one of the most significant tropical cyclones to affect the Chesapeake Bay region since Hurricane Hazel in 1954 and the Chesapeake - Potomac Hurricane of 1933. Isabel made landfall near Drum Point on the NC Outer Banks on the 18th as a strong category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. Isabel then traveled north northwestward losing its tropical characteristics on the 19th over western Pennsylvania. 

2. Impacts Isabel will be remembered for the very large field of tropical storm force winds which caused a great deal of tree damage, the extensive flash flooding  in the Shenandoah Valley, and the unusually high storm surge in the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River Basin. Fallen trees and limbs were the overwhelming reason for widespread power failures and damage and destruction to nearly 8,000 homes, which will likely made Isabel as one of the most expensive storms. At the peak of the storm, well over 2 million people were without power.  Isabel is a reminder that if the impacts of a Category 2 hurricane can be so extensive, the impact of Category 3 or higher could be devastating. 

3. Rainfall Rainfall totals were generally in the 6 to 12 inches in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, 2 to 6 inches across western Maryland and eastern West Virginia, and 1 to 3 inches across Baltimore and Washington metro areas. Upper Sherando (Augusta County) reported a storm total of 20.20 inches. Moderate to Major River flooding occurred in the Potomac, Shenandoah, Rapidan and Rappahannock rivers. In the city of Waynesboro, 300 people were evacuated and about $250,000 damage was caused to public property.  Flood caused 2 to 3 feet of water in downtown Waynesboro. Four people lost their lives mainly  due to drowning. See rainfall map for Isabel.

4. Storm Surge Isabel also caused an unusually high storm surge (6-8 feet above normal) in the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River Basin. Storm surge in the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River reached the highest levels since the Chesapeake/Potomac Hurricane of 1933. Substantial flooding from storm surge was experienced by residents and businesses in Baltimore, Annapolis, northern Virginia and Washington DC. In Annapolis, the peak water level reached 6.44 feet above mean sea level and caused extensive damage at the Naval Academy. In Baltimore, the peak water level reached 7.35 feet mean sea level.  Link to the animation graphic

The most extensive flooding occurred at Fell's Point and at the Inner Harbor, near downtown. Several feet of water inundated streets and alleys there. Significant also occurred in low-lying areas of Old Town Alexandria. Portions of King Street were under as much as 5 to 6 feet of water. In Washington, DC (Georgetown at the foot of Wisconsin Ave.), the water level reached 8.72 feet. The headquarters of the police and fire harbor patrol at Water Street were also flooded.

A question from Foot's Forecast to state and county officials, school superintendents and parents alike: Have we learned our lessons from Isabel? As stated in the 1993 National Geographic Special about a simulated hurricane impact on New Orleans: "Mother Nature has given us fair warning."

Monday, August 22, 2011

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The Long Range Zone: August 2011

10:00 AM EDT Monday 8/22/2011 This specialty forecast page is our headquarters of collaborative team analysis of atmospheric, oceanic and current climate patterns in the Northern Hemisphere which may influence U.S. weather in the 1-2 week period ahead. This week's report by Long Range Forecast Coordinator Nic Robeson of North Carolina, prepared on 8/19/2011.

Overview As we head into next week, a strong upper Low is forecast to form above the Great Lakes into the Northeastern U.S. Effects will be felt as far south as the Southeast US. Into late this week all eyes will be on the tropics, as the main forecast models have for sometime now been shown a tropical system (what is now Hurricane Irene) developing and heading toward the Southeast Coast. This is also supported by the European weekly forecast model, which last week showed this system making a bee line for the GA, SC coast then sharply curving north-northeaster along eastern NC and up the eastern seaboard. A cutoff low in the North Atlantic would also influence path of this tropical system, due in part to blocking over Greenland. 

Early September As we head into the first days of September, persistent troughing will hold back any big warm up for the eastern US. Around the 7th or 8th of September, the European model weekly trend shows a classic Southeast U.S. late summer heat ridge setting up. heat ridge may also develop in the western US, bringing places like the Pacific Northwest their first real taste of Summer in many weeks. These ridges will flex their its muscles well into middle of the month, meaning late summer heat and humidity for the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. 

Mid-SeptemberAfter a possible breakdown of the ridge by mid month, the eastern US is forecast to stay in a southwest flow aloft. At the surface, besides a possible tropical landfall in the eastern U.S., the pattern may stabilize regarding significant outbreaks of severe weather. With a strong ridge forecast by this time, any front attempting to drive south  will likely stall and lead to a more fall-like pattern of showers and occasional thunderstorms in the Mid Atlantic.

Temperature trends Temperatures  will likely be held down by a possible tropical storm along the Southeast coast from GA to NC. Following this event, conditions will heat up again, with a long stretch of little rain and dry conditions. Some forecast models are insistent on highs running in the mid 90s to near 100 in the Deep South, specifically from the Ozark region east to the Carolinas see some late summer heat. Other regions from the Great Lakes to the Northeast should stay mostly cool with temps in the mid 70s to mid 80s in this same period of early to mid September. (Forecaster Nic R. and the Long Range Team ) 

Latest team reports on Hurricane Irene:

TROPICAL  Visit the Tropical Zone for latest computer model guidance and team forecasts across 7 states. Tweets from the Tropics: @fftropicalzone and #fftz.
SOUTHEAST  Our on-site forecast teams are reporting in facebook from South Florida, Central Florida, Southern Georgia, Cape Fear & The Carolina Coast. 
LONG RANGE  (NEW!) Forecaster Nic Robeson of High Point, NC and our Long Range Team with a look ahead at temperature and storm trends into next month.  

"So you're saying there's a chance?"
- Jim Carrey to Lauren Holly in Dumb and Dumber

4:35 PM EDT 8/22/2011 | Hurricane Irene means business plain and simple, and is likely to become the first landfalling major hurricane in the U.S. since Hurricane Ike in 2008. Three landfall scenarios and impact statements are posted in the Tropical Forecast page. For those who will be in ocean waters prior to the storm this week, we have an important message about Rip Current Safety.  We would like to report that despite uncertainty about the path and intensity of Irene, there is a chance the situation could get worse... and we don't mean the storm. We mean YOU, your choices and your family this weekend.

There is a chance that... someone will not listen to their parents, and go into ocean waters where Rip Current Warnings are posted. There is a chance someone will try to go boating in the storm for fun, and be added to Irene's statistics. There is a chance a family will decide the beach vacation is more important than just waiting this one out. We are concerned about the chance that some may look into a blue sky and say, "Hurricane Watch? Whatever.."  What are the chances that someone thinks, "It'll go out to sea, they always do" and drive to the shore low on gas? Is there a chance someone you know believes storm warnings are just for TV  ratings, saying "they never hit hear anyway" ? We hope it is more than just chance YOU will make the right choices this weekend...not for your wallet, ego or reputation, but for your family, livelihood and future. Simply put, a hurricane is not a game of chance. We hope you won't be taking any with this one.
- The Tropical Team of Foot's Forecast

"More than a feeling..."
- Boston in the 1976 debut single of the same title (Youtube music video)

1:15 PM EDT 8/22/2011 | The 11:00 AM NHC advisory confirms earlier discussions that probability remains high Irene makes landfall as a Category 3 major hurricane this weekend along the U.S. southeast coast. Areas of highest concern are the Carolinas, specifically from Charleston, SC up to and including the Outer Banks. Weak steering currents, a lack of atmospheric interference, low shear and tropical waters at or above 26 C for hundreds of miles, suggests all the ingredients are in place for Irene to become a large and powerful hurricane in the next several days. Our impact statements and landfall scenarios will be issued in the Tropical Forecasts page by 5:00 PM EDT this afternoon.

9:00 AM EDT 8/22/2011 | Latest NHC information on Hurricane Irene shows the storm has gained strength since 5 AM and is now at 80 mph. Our Tropical Team team believes Irene could still miss Florida and make a direct hit in the Carolinas. The team acknowledges this hurricane has the potential to reach a major hurricane status, especially if it misses Cuba all together and allows the storm to strengthen upwards to a possible Category 3 hurricane. 

6:00 AM EDT 8/22/2011 | Our Tropical Team spent 2 hours collaborating last night on the complexities and possibilities behind Hurricane Irene's next move, but reached an important conclusion: Landfall along the Southeast U.S. coast as a hurricane is now more than a feeling. Our team provides round-the-clock monitoring of the latest statements and observations from National Hurricane Center reconnaissance, and post our collaborative reports on facebook in The Tropical Zone and on the Tropical Forecasts section. You can also get the latest Tweets about the Tropics by following @fftropicalzone and #fftz. 

SITUATION Model guidance and observed trends in atmospheric data related to the location and path of Tropical Storm Irene suggest a U.S. landfall as a Category 2/3 hurricane is increasingly likely. Were Irene to reach the Georgia coast as currently projected, it would be the first time since the early 1900's the Peach Tree state has had a direct hit. An article in the Augusta Chronicle spells out why. 

COMPARISON Previous storm tracks we see for comparison to Irene  now include Hugo (1989), Hazel (1954) were the storm to make a curve toward the Carolinas and some similarities to the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. At this time it appears less likely that scenarios such as the 1933 Chesapeake Bay Hurricane or Isabel (2003) scenario would occur given Irene’s location and direction.

INTENSITY If interaction with Hispaniola is reduced or eliminated, Irene is likely to retain hurricane strength, and could pass just east of Florida as a Category 2 on Thursday. Remaining in  tropical waters of 26 C or warmer throughout the projected path, with reduced upper level shear and a weakness in the Atlantic ridge could allow Irene to reach major hurricane strength by Friday.    

TRACK Forecasted changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation and other climate teleconnections will interact with a weakness in the western Atlantic ridge by Thursday. A negatively trending NAO will exert "downward" pressure on the atmospheric balance of air masses in the western Atlantic. This may have the effect of keeping Irene closer to the coast and preventing a curve out to sea. If the NAO begins to rise slightly late week as expected, we may see model guidance pick up on this and as such the official NHC tracks will begin showing a curve to the Carolinas. 

Under this scenario, the coastal Mid-Atlantic would experience direct effects of the storm. The time frame would be Saturday into Sunday. If Irene were to curve toward the Carolinas by late week, we cannot rule out the unfortunately possibility that school schedules will be adversely affected, particularly those systems set to begin class on Monday, August 29.  Our team has prepared three scenarios for possible outcome of this storm and we will post in the Tropical Forecasts section of this site later this morning.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

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"I won't back down..."
- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in the 1989 single (Youtube)

TROPICAL ZONE Our rapid update portal for Natl Hurricane Center reports 
SOUTH FLORIDA ZONE on facebook with Forecasters Randall and Amanda
LONG RANGE ZONE Analysis of the pattern heading into September (TBA)

8:45 AM EDT 8/21/2011 | Mother Nature gave us plenty of time off, and now she's back on the task. Severe weather is expected along the East coast today, while   Hurricane Watches and Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect for Puerto Rico and portions of Hispaniola. Monitor your local NWS office for the latest watches and warnings, and keep our facebook forecast page buttons hotlinked on your Smartphone menu screen for the latest on-site forecasts from a trusted team in 17 states. Our 10-member Tropical Team is all over this storm and will have up close observations and reports today from our contributors in Puerto Rico.  

10:45 PM EDT 8/20/2011 | Tropical Storm Irene has formed in the Eastern Caribbean. With 50 mph maximum sustained winds in the first NHC advisory, this shows she won't be backing down anytime soon. Our multi-state Tropical Team of meteorologists, college students in Atmospheric Science and high school forecasters collaborated on the scientific data presently available. The team's estimate of the situation points to Irene reaching hurricane strength within 48 hours and affect all of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, the US/British Virgin Islands, Hispaniola, eastern Cuba and Jamaica. (Photo by R. Foot from Manzanillo, Costa Rica. Angry skies in the Caribbean ahead of a tropical wave) 

Impacts: By Monday afternoon, it is likely that Puerto Rico and the US/British Virgin Islands will bear the brunt of Irene which could reach hurricane strength or greater by that time. Tropical Storm Warnings are posted for a large portion of the Eastern Caribbean islands, and the San Juan National Weather Service has posted Emergency Preparedness statements as part of the warning for the entire island. Seas are already building to 17 feet in just the past 12 hours as Irene has been rapidly developing prior to reaching any island areas. 

Analysis Given that Irene is forming during a climatologically favored time period of late August to early September, and in an area known for producing strong hurricanes, the possibility cannot be ruled out this storm will have the necessary ingredients to become a strong hurricane within 5 days as it approaches the U.S. mainland. Tropical Team Coordinator Jason Mitchell from Calvert County Maryland said "I think (strong hurricane intensity) isn't out of the question, as it seems that aside from land interaction all other factors are in its favor for steady strengthening." Tropical Team Meteorologist Randall Hergert from St. Petersburg, Florida said, "This storm has good outflow, there is not much to hinder in front of the storm, and sea surface temperatures are warm. I could see a strong hurricane by the time it reaches Haiti."

Research: Reason for worry In the 1970's a National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center meteorologist named Paul Hebert (pronounced AY-bert) discovered a pattern of hurricane tracks and intensity in the eastern Caribbean. His research showed that  strength and track of past hurricanes  passing through a defined region of latitude and longitude was affected by how far north in the box the storm passed. These "Hebert Boxes" as shown in the enclosed graphic, have been used by some meteorologists as a predictor of if a strong to major hurricane could affect South Florida, depending on where the storm "passes through the box." Mr. Hebert's investigations may have uncovered a disturbing trend: The majority of hurricanes which struck South Florida passed through Hebert Box # 1. It is interesting to note that Irene, as of 10:30 PM EDT 8/20/2011, is currently at 14.9 N and 58.5 W which puts the storm just on the southeast corner of the box. 

Clearly, Irene is going to pass through the box.  Mr. Hebert's research gives reason for worry. 

(Forecaster Foot and the Tropical Team)