Wednesday, September 14, 2011

1 comment:
Benchmarking the Winter

Stopping by a woods on a snowy Parkville, Baltimore County, MD submitted by long time powerhound and Senior Ambassador Ms. Williams. See original context of image, 1/20/08 

7:15 AM EDT 9/16/2011 | THOUGH IT WAS WARM YESTERDAY... | High temperatures in the Mid-Atlantic on Wednesday ranged from 88 at Baltimore-Washington Airport and 84 at Pottstown, PA's Limerick Airport to a snow-person melting 96 at Alma, Georgia. Meanwhile the first big push of semi-Arctic air of the season is plowing across the Upper Midwest. Forecaster Robert in our Southeast Wisconsin zone (facebook) reports that "a dramatic temperature change is on tap for the rest of this week" and the cool-down is coming east. Although mid-September warmth or early season cool shots are not out of the ordinary, while all y'all have been relishing in football, field hockey and fall festival season... our team has been battening down the research hatches for could turn into a real white-knuckle winter. 

STARTING IN WINTER 2006-07, members of our forecast team have began a pre-winter process of identifying specific climate teleconnection indicators and associated trends. In September 2009, this technique produced strong indications that the multi-sphere data (trends from ocean, polar and atmospheric inputs as shown by location on the image below) was pointing to a potentially very significant winter. Read what we wrote back on August 30, 2009 ; November 11, 2009; November 29, 2009 and this historic post on December 17, 2009, which was fully 48 hours before the first flakes began flying in the Mid-Atlantic.  

WHAT'S THE POINT? Using a synthesis of these climate factors, Foot's Forecast has developed over time a data-driven, research-based model utilizing climate teleconnective inter-relationships and patterns, in conjunction with a lesser known forecasting concept called the Long Range Cycle. This technique has worked best in recent years when  implemented by high school or college students. They're not bound by the same liabilities or ratings rules of either TV broadcasters or NWS Meteorologists. We can all co-teach and co-ordinate research across state lines, dig into the data unrestricted by school bells and internet filters and generate a collaborative forecast read by tens of thousands a day. (That is, if it's ok for students at your school to investigate government climate data unsupervised... risky I know.)  

WHAT'S THE SECRET? Using an integrative and cloud-based collaboration, we are able to teach our high school and college forecasters old time forecasting techniques, some of which are no longer taught in standard Meteorology or Atmospheric Science programs at accredited four-year institutions. In fact, some of our best and most controversial forecasts were based off a single piece of paper containing data 12 hours old! In the past two years, our techniques permitted us to predict the arrival or departure of snow down to the minute, the amount of snow down to the TENTH of an inch for dozes and dozens of cities, several times in a row. It wasn't an accident, it wasn't a bunch of Baltimore kids who got lucky with a couple snowstorms... it was collaboration across county lines, passion for scientific data and innovative forecasting techniques, led by students just like those reading this page in their classroom today, right now.  

WHAT'S OUR RECORD? What did we REALLY say two years ago about the Winter of 2009-2010? Take a look for yourself at posts published as part of the Dec 19, 2009 post-storm recap, in which we said in this section on 12/23/2000:

We saw the potential for a significant winter pattern as early as August 2009, and refined those ideas in October. On 10/19/09 the following projection was made: 
"A rapid onset of persistent and disruptive winter weather is expected by December 5. If this unstable pattern continues, as was observed in October - December of 2002, areas of the Mid-Atlantic region could experience widespread school closings for 2 or more days this December. This may equal or exceed the cold and snowy period observed in the Baltimore region from December 4-11, 2002."
HOW ABOUT SOMETHING MORE SPOOKY? In that same post on 12/23/2009, we said:
"What does 2010 have in stock? Good news and bad news! If you are a powderhound, make arrangements to be safely nestled at your favorite ski resort by New Years. If you are a teacher or student, be ready to roll quickly into instruction the week of 1/4 - the atmosphere has more "plans" for us.  If you are an HSA planner in Maryland, we hypothesize conditions in mid-January will turn around and warm up - just in time to get state testing completed. After that? Let's just say the Empire Strikes Back - as in the empire of Old Man Winter. The January 20 to February 15 period might be a time that tries men's souls* (and ladies too of course!) 
*All you powderhound types out there-- did ya' catch that last little piece? 

HOW WILL WE "BENCHMARK" THIS WINTER?   Using the same techniques of synthesizing teleconnection patterns along with historical analogs and the Long Range Cycle, we can tell you the data points we'll be tracking in the coming weeks, in collaboration with students from several high schools around the country. Those data points include expected changes in a Nina, lack of upwelling in the western Atlantic, above normal Sea Surface Temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, noticeably lower Arctic Sea ice extent this year as compared to 2009, changes in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (a North Pacific version of El Nino/La Nina) and watching for how Siberian snow cover develops come October, along with the usual suspects of the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Arctic Oscillation and the Madden-Julian Oscillation (note: No relation to John Madden or the NFL. We can't have them learning these tricks.)

GREAT...WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR WINTER?  Well you had to ask, so we can give you a preview. We think the atmosphere is stuck in a repeating pattern of major events every 45- to 60-days.  It may even cycle all the way back to the February 2010 Blizzards, but for discussion purposes let's go back about one year. Remember the October 24, 2010 mega-storm over the Great Lakes? Ok good, now using the 45- to 60-day Long Range, go forward 60 days to... the December 25-27, 2010 East Coast Blizzard, then go forward about 60 more days to the President's Day Surprise of Feb 21-22, 2011

Getting weird for you? Now go forward another 60 or so days to the April 13-19, 2011-- the mega outbreak of tornadoes in the Midwest and Southeast, followed by the Joplin, MO event on May 22. If we pick a mid-point of May 1 and go forward about 60 days, we get to the start of the mega-heat wave in the Central U.S. in early July, during which Dallas last saw it's sub-100 degree day on June 19, a record that just broke this week. But wait, there's more... go forward about 45 or so days from early July and you reach the start of the Hurricane Irene/Tropical Storm Lee period, which ended last week. What's our prediction based on the proposed trend?

THE NEXT PATTERN OF MAJOR WEATHER EVENTS IN THE U.S. should follow this sequence. Please note these are generalized regional projections, which do not replace our data-centered overall winter forecast products developed by the Winter Stormcast Team.
  • The Midwest's first significant winter weather event in the period from November 5 to 10.  November 5 will be assigned as benchmark date for accumulating snow at Cleveland Airport (1" or greater) or significant rainfall (.50" or greater)  to initiate the winter pattern.
  • The Mid-Atlantic's first significant winter weather event (defined as an event with accumulations of 4" or more) may not arrive until late December into early January. Sharply lower Arctic sea ice readings as compared to 2009 are more resembling that of 2006. La Nina is currently cooling further and may head for a double-dip bottom out. In 2006-07, many Mid-Atlantic ski resorts struggled to maintain trail coverage from December into January due to lack of snow from storms. We sense a similar pattern may be setting up.
  • However, we also believe the overall Eastern U.S. winter pattern may be sprinkled with short duration, high impact events similar to the January 26, 2011 "Snow Monsoon" debacle.
OUR WINTER STORMCAST TEAM directed by Lead Forecaster Connor M. of Central Maryland and Lead Forecaster Jason M. of the Capital Region, along with  a dozen other collaborators, will be digging into the climate data and projections to generate a quantified PRELIMINARY winter forecast in the next several weeks. Check for blurbs about the forecast in our Mid-Atlantic Winter Stormcast page on facebook, and enjoy the calm weather now before the next 60-day cycle comes to a close!

Forecast Advisors Mr. Foot, Mr. Krinchinsky and Mr. Lear

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

You have got to be kidding...

TROPICAL ZONE Latest team analysis and NHC updates in facebook
MID-ATLANTIC SEVERE Watching over the remnants of T.S. Lee
WHEN WILL IT END?  NOAA projections for Fri-Sat are encouraging.

1:20 PM EDT 9/7/11 | IRENE RECOVERY, MARIA PREPARATION? As downpours from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee make for a soggy recovery in many communities this week, the recent naming of Tropical Storm Maria has heightened concerns of another "here we go again." At first glance it might appear that Maria, identified in this morning's NHC advisory with winds of 50 mph, is projected to follow the same path as Irene. While long range 5-day hurricane track forecasts can have up to a 300-mile variance, there is a difference between Maria's future and Irene's past:  The weather pattern since Irene has changed significantly along the East coast. 

A major driver of recent pattern changes was, believe it or not,  influence from a  cyclone in the Gulf of Alaska that originated as a typhoon in the far western Pacific about two weeks ago. The remnants of that Gulf of Alaska low can still be seen on the Northeast Pacific satellite imagery. The resulting upper atmospheric kick in the flow has generated a deep trough in the western, strengthened a ridge in the southern U.S. which fueled the tinder-like conditions over Texas, and has allowed a trough to take shape over the eastern U.S. NOAA's Ocean Prediction Center shows that within 96 hours (4 days) the eastern trough may retrograde (back up) over the central U.S. This trough arrangement may provide the East coast with enough downstream flow to deflect the approach of Maria late in the weekend.

Maria's projected path does not take the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico or the Bahamas out of harm's way, so our multi-state Tropical Team remains on the task to forecast for impacts in these areas. For the U.S. mainland, our Tropical and Severe Teams concur that atmospheric dynamics, and the next cold front, may help steer Maria along a similar path Katia is following. 

So this time, the best spin we have is to say Mother Nature is the one kidding us with Maria's path. We sure hope it's just a joke, for folks in the Carolinas, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast need all the dry weather they can get. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

1 comment:
If wishes were horses

3:30 PM EDT 9/6/2011 | Even though many places in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast were able to squeeze in a sunny Labor Day Weekend, there will be a lot of wishing that the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee will gallop away like a horse... and not stall along a stationary front. The bullseye of heavy rain from this system has been progged for west central Pennsylvania by NOAA's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center for several days now. Flood Watches cover most of Pennsylvania, from Harrisburg to State College to Pittsburgh, and keep plenty busy our Three Rivers and Central PA Forecast Teams. 

OUR PENNSYLVANIA TEAMS: If you are heading that way for travel in this tropical downpour Tuesday, please visit and like these forecast pages in facebook to stay better informed of what is ahead on your trip: The Three Rivers Team, led by Forecaster Greg Jackson at the California University of Pennsylvania, and the Penn State Team led by Forecasters Dakota Smith and Patrick Ritsko in State College, PA. 

BAD WEATHER GOT YOU DOWN? Head on out to the sunny shores of Southeast Wisconsin! The U.S. Team of Foot's Forecast is charged up to announce our newest forecast zone, led by Forecaster Robert P. of Sheboygan County. Robert is a summer 2011 NOAA/NCAS Weather Camp graduate of the Howard University program and joins a fine crop of grads who have already dove head first like he did with their forecast zones. Please visit and like the page or spread the word to family, friends and colleagues which reside in the Metro Milwaukee area...that Foot's Forecast has come to town!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

1 comment:
No rain on some parades...
but not so elsewhere

TROPICS: Visit the Tropical Zone for latest reports on Katia and Lee
SOUTHEAST: Forecasters in MississippiSouthern GeorgiaMetro Atlanta | Tennessee
SEVERE: Visit and like our Southeast Severe Weather page for fast updates, and our Affiliate/Regional forecasters at in Nashville, TN
MID-ATLANTIC: Team reports from Charlotte NC; Cape Fear NC, The Virginia Tidewater, West Virginia, Maryland's eastern shore, the Capital Region, Central Maryland and our Affiliate/Regional forecaster at the Maryland Weather Center.

8:00 AM EDT 9/4/2011 Our forecasters in Crisfield, Maryland reported wonderful blue skies and delightful southerly breezes (Youtube) for the 64th annual National Hard Crab Derby on Saturday. Despite a bungled up City Dock caused by Irene's unwelcome visit, and an earthquake shakin' to accompany crab cake bakin' last week, "the Derby" as locals call it bounced right back in fine Eastern shore style. Folks from this Bay-facing town on the Delmarva peninsula have many a story to tell about infamous storms of yesteryear. The raking from 1954's Hurricane Hazel and the inland flooding of 2003's Isabel "ranks up there" in the minds of many old-timers alongside the 1962 Ash Wednesday Storm and the Chesapeake-Potomac Hurricane of 1933.

Folks in this rural but dynamic part of the Maryland Eastern shore, while pickin' crabs, can tell a story like a Ken Burns PBS documentary. Those I talked with in the shade at the Crab Derby parade sounded a familiar theme: "It used to be we had a bad gale in these parts about every 5-10 years or so. Seems like lately they just keep a-comin." Disclaimer: "Lately" may refer to a 30-year interval if the interviewee talks about Roosevelt as if he was the last President. Maybe it is just perception, or perhaps they are on to something. (Inset: The long time tradition of a crab-picking contest at the Derby)

The possible interaction of Tropical Storms Lee and Katia later this week lend evidence to what the crab-pickers of Crisfield perceive. Our Severe Weather and Tropical Teams alike have significant concerns about the increasing proximity of Lee and Katia in the Wednesday-Friday time period. Moisture propagating northeastward from Lee, and driven east by an approaching cold front could collide with western streaming energy and moisture from Katia. Neither system has an effective escape route at present, and the avenues seem to be closing. The least desirable scenario may be the most plausible one: Moisture from both systems converges to deliver 6-10" of rain Wednesday to Friday in places which are still reeling from the impacts of Irene.

OUR BEST ADVICE? If you lost power or had downed trees from Irene, we cannot rule out those problem recurring from the remnants of Lee. Weakened tree root systems from recent heavy rains will be compounded by another dose of torrential rainfall Wed through Fri. If your basement or property is prone to flooding in even a thunderstorm, we urge you to take necessary precautions or expedite your cleanup by Wednesday.

Friday, September 2, 2011


"Raining on the parade"
would be an understatement

5:45 PM EDT 9/2/11 | TORNADO & FLOOD THREAT THIS WEEKEND | In addition to the high rainfall amounts expected this weekend from Tropical Storm Lee, our Southeast Team believes there is an increasing risk of a tornado outbreak to the right of where Lee makes landfall. These areas would include southern Mississippi, central/southern Alabama and central/southern Georgia. The NOAA Storm Prediction Center has posted a slight risk of tornadoes. One factor which would spawn a tornado outbreak is a possible swift instruction of dry air in the left quadrants of the storm. That would drive a large area of energy rapidly northeast and the resulting shear and instability could spawn a "short notice" outbreak of tornadoes. For details on the resurgence of Hurricane Katia, please visit the Tropical Zone on facebook for our latest reporting.

LIVE VIDEO STREAMING Storm Chaser/Forecaster Vince Webb, in classic fashion, is already en route to intercept Lee's impacts on the Gulf coast. He will be posting video as time permits in the Tropical Zone. Here is his first short video from earlier today. You can also see his reports via live video streaming at or this direct link.

11:35 PM EDT 9/1/11 | FLOOD THREAT FOR THE GULF COAST | In a surprise manuver, when most concerns were focusing on the long term potential of Tropical Storm Katia, Tropical Depression # 13 pops along the central Gulf coast. For New Orleans, a slow moving tropical storm dropping 10-20 inches of rain is almost as high impact as a fast-moving major hurricane. Although the upgraded New Orleans pumping and levee system was designed to withstand a 100-year flood... can it handle thirteen inches of rain? That is beyond unlucky, and could even be catastrophic. The Times-Picayune and the NOLA National Weather Service are already on to this possibility, as shown above in the 72-hour rainfall projection.

Our multi-state team keeps constant watch over and posts on the latest developments and statements from the National Hurricane Center, computer model guidance and Air Force Reconnaissance. Our members have even flown IN a hurricane hunter aircraft mission**, so they know what they are talking about. Visit the Tropical Zone in facebook for round-the-clock coverage from a dedicated team of 10 forecasters who stayed on the task even as Irene took out their power and evacuated their counties.

No Rain On The 64th Annual Crisfield Hard Crab Derby Parade

*The team extents its gratitude to Media Advisor and Forecaster Nick Scirico of North Carolina State University for his excellent work in developing our branded logos for Hurricane Irene and the newest banner style featured on this page.
**Meteorologist Randall Hergert is a graduate of Florida International University and has flown in NOAA/Air Force Reconnaissance aircraft. He is also the Lead Forecaster of our South Florida & The Keys zone in facebook.

(Lead Advisor Mr. Foot and the Tropical Team)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

No comments:
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.
No comments:

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. 
No comments:
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."