09.11.17

Hurricane Irma Batters All of Florida

Posted in Storm Track, Commentary, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Aftermath, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Footage, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Anomalies, Hurricane Intensity, Hurricane Records, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 10:10 pm by gmachos

Historic and Powerful Storm Covered Entire Sunshine State with Rough Weather

To begin my blog post this evening, I will talk about another monster storm from years past to put some perspective in what has just occurred throughout the entire state of Florida over the past 24 to 36 hours. It was around this time in September 1988, I was preparing to leave for college at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and there was another monster storm I was tracking at the time.

The storm was Hurricane GilbertCategory Five Hurricanes during the relatively inactive period from 1970 to 1992. At one point, the storm even surpassed the pressure mark by the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. However, it was re-evaluated, and it was found that its lowest pressure was 888 millibars before it made landfall in the Yucatan Peninsula.

During Gilbert’s trek through the Caribbean, which included a thrashing of the Windward Islands, and then a hammering of the island of Jamaica as a Category Four Hurricane with 140 mile per hour winds, the storm grew in size much like Hurricane Irma did. Gilbert was the first storm since 1953 to have its eye cross the entire island of Jamaica. It then proceeded to head westward toward Cozumel and the Yucatan Peninsula, where it then became the strongest storm ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere at that time.

Gilbert then crossed the elevated plateau of the Yucatan, which is about 5,000 feet above sea level. Winds at landfall were gusting to near 200 miles per hour, and the storm surge was between 20 to 25 feet above normal. After going across the Yucatan, Gilbert re-emerged in the Gulf, and was expected to become a monster as it headed toward the Texas coast. It did happen though because Gilbert just couldn’t get its act together after that despite the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The storm eventually hit just south of Brownsville, Texas near Matamoros, Mexico as a Category Three storm.

Forecasters and reporters made many comparisons about the storm just like they did with Irma. One comparison that comes to mind when thinking about Hurricane Irma’s assault on Florida during the day and night on Sunday was the fact that if Hurricane Gilbert had made landfall in Florida, the entire Sunshine State would have been completely covered in hurricane force winds. Perhaps, Gilbert finally came to Florida on Sunday in the form of Irma. The once monster Category Five Hurricane, which has obliterated the Northern Leeward Islands of Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Thomas, and St. Martin, made three landfalls across Florida, but brought devastating effects to just about every corner of the state.

Watching CNN when I came home Monday afternoon, I saw how the storm has left the Florida Keys “devastated” according to Florida Governor Rick Scott. Then, I heard a report that the Mayor of Miami indicated that 72 percent of the city is without power. As a matter of fact, over 6 million Florida residents are without power in the wake of the storm, which is approximately a quarter of the population there. The city of Naples, which received the third landfall from the hurricane, is a battered community as well. Nearby Marco Island also took the brunt of the hurricane’s Category Four fury during the second landfall.

Originally thought to be a threat to Miami, and Southeastern Florida, the track of the storm went further west, which left many that had evacuated Miami, Homestead, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Pierce, and West Palm Beach, caught by surprise as the storm headed to their new locations in Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota, Bradenton, and even more inland locations such as Orlando and Ocala. The storm not only struck further west, but then turned more eastward and eventually affected Daytona, Orlando, Ocala, and Jacksonville, where the Northeastern Florida city experienced record flooding.

Irma has broken all kinds of records, and that hasn’t stopped even though the storm has gone further inland, weakened to a minimal tropical storm, and taken on more of an extratropical storm. The tropical storm even generated the first ever Tropical Storm Warning for the City of Atlanta. Places like Charleston, South Carolina are experiencing memorable surge. At about 9 feet above normal, Irma’s surge, even in a more dilapidated state, still ranks third all-time there behind Hugo (1989) at 18.4, and Matthew (2016). Even New Jersey was seeing some of the clouds from the storm.

Looking outside after work, I could see that there were some high cirrus clouds in the late afternoon sky. When, I got home, and saw the satelllite of Irma at about 6:00 PM Monday, you could see the northern edge of the storm’s remnants were fanning out toward the Mid-Atlantic. Let’s also keep in mind that Hurricane Jose is still out in the Atlantic as well although it has been downgraded to a Category Two Hurricane with just 100 mile per hour winds as it moves into the Sargasso Sea. Many models are showing Jose reinvigorating itself before coming up the East Coast of the United States.

Hurricane Irma Batters All of Florida

Posted in Storm Track, Commentary, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Aftermath, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Footage, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Anomalies, Hurricane Intensity, Hurricane Records, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 10:10 pm by gmachos

Historic and Powerful Storm Covered Entire Sunshine State with Rough Weather

To begin my blog post this evening, I will talk about another monster storm from years past to put some perspective in what has just occurred throughout the entire state of Florida over the past 24 to 36 hours. It was around this time in September 1988, I was preparing to leave for college at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and there was another monster storm I was tracking at the time.

The storm was Hurricane GilbertCategory Five Hurricanes during the relatively inactive period from 1970 to 1992. At one point, the storm even surpassed the pressure mark by the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. However, it was re-evaluated, and it was found that its lowest pressure was 888 millibars before it made landfall in the Yucatan Peninsula.

During Gilbert’s trek through the Caribbean, which included a thrashing of the Windward Islands, and then a hammering of the island of Jamaica as a Category Four Hurricane with 140 mile per hour winds, the storm grew in size much like Hurricane Irma did. Gilbert was the first storm since 1953 to have its eye cross the entire island of Jamaica. It then proceeded to head westward toward Cozumel and the Yucatan Peninsula, where it then became the strongest storm ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere at that time.

Gilbert then crossed the elevated plateau of the Yucatan, which is about 5,000 feet above sea level. Winds at landfall were gusting to near 200 miles per hour, and the storm surge was between 20 to 25 feet above normal. After going across the Yucatan, Gilbert re-emerged in the Gulf, and was expected to become a monster as it headed toward the Texas coast. It did happen though because Gilbert just couldn’t get its act together after that despite the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The storm eventually hit just south of Brownsville, Texas near Matamoros, Mexico as a Category Three storm.

Forecasters and reporters made many comparisons about the storm just like they did with Irma. One comparison that comes to mind when thinking about Hurricane Irma’s assault on Florida during the day and night on Sunday was the fact that if Hurricane Gilbert had made landfall in Florida, the entire Sunshine State would have been completely covered in hurricane force winds. Perhaps, Gilbert finally came to Florida on Sunday in the form of Irma. The once monster Category Five Hurricane, which has obliterated the Northern Leeward Islands of Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Thomas, and St. Martin, made three landfalls across Florida, but brought devastating effects to just about every corner of the state.

Watching CNN when I came home Monday afternoon, I saw how the storm has left the Florida Keys “devastated” according to Florida Governor Rick Scott. Then, I heard a report that the Mayor of Miami indicated that 72 percent of the city is without power. As a matter of fact, over 6 million Florida residents are without power in the wake of the storm, which is approximately a quarter of the population there. The city of Naples, which received the third landfall from the hurricane, is a battered community as well. Nearby Marco Island also took the brunt of the hurricane’s Category Four fury during the second landfall.

Originally thought to be a threat to Miami, and Southeastern Florida, the track of the storm went further west, which left many that had evacuated Miami, Homestead, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Pierce, and West Palm Beach, caught by surprise as the storm headed to their new locations in Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota, Bradenton, and even more inland locations such as Orlando and Ocala. The storm not only struck further west, but then turned more eastward and eventually affected Daytona, Orlando, Ocala, and Jacksonville, where the Northeastern Florida city experienced record flooding.

Irma has broken all kinds of records, and that hasn’t stopped even though the storm has gone further inland, weakened to a minimal tropical storm, and taken on more of an extratropical storm. The tropical storm even generated the first ever Tropical Storm Warning for the City of Atlanta. Places like Charleston, South Carolina are experiencing memorable surge. At about 9 feet above normal, Irma’s surge, even in a more dilapidated state, still ranks third all-time there behind Hugo (1989) at 18.4, and Matthew (2016). Even New Jersey was seeing some of the clouds from the storm.

Looking outside after work, I could see that there were some high cirrus clouds in the late afternoon sky. When, I got home, and saw the satelllite of Irma at about 6:00 PM Monday, you could see the northern edge of the storm’s remnants were fanning out toward the Mid-Atlantic. Let’s also keep in mind that Hurricane Jose is still out in the Atlantic as well although it has been downgraded to a Category Two Hurricane with just 100 mile per hour winds as it moves into the Sargasso Sea. Many models are showing Jose reinvigorating itself before coming up the East Coast of the United States.

09.10.17

Hurricane Irma Begins Her Assault on Florida

Posted in Storm Track, Commentary, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Hurricane Records, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 11:42 am by gmachos

Category Four Storm Makes Landfall in Florida Keys

Infrared Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Irma.
Water vapor satellite imagery depicts Hurricane Irma, which is still a powerful and large Category Four storm as it makes landfall in the Florida Keys and moves north toward Tampa, Florida on Sunday morning. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

If you are in South Florida and the Florida Keys, Hurricane Irma is here. The storm made the first of what is likely to be multiple landfalls along the Florida coastline when it came ashore in Cudjoe Key in the middle Florida Keys at about 9:10 AM on Sunday morning. The storm did re-intensify a little with winds increasing to 130 miles per hour to make it a Category Four Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale prior to landfall.

The fact that Irma is only a minimal Category Four storm is of little consolation to those trying to ride it out as well as the media covering it. CNN has been providing live coverage all morning for the most part, and the conditions even on the eastern coast of the Florida Peninsula have been rough. Reporters Brian Todd, Kyung Lah, Derek Van Dam, and John Berman of CNN have been dealing with hurricane conditions with winds gusting to as high as 100 miles per hour in Miami Beach.

The Miami Herald is reporting that Key West is under water. Bill Weir, another CNN reporter has been dealing with very intense weather conditions in Key Largo. At 10:36 AM, Berman reported that there is a crane that has cracked in downtown Miami as a result of the high winds being funneled through the skyscrapers in the city. So, basically put, the entire area of South Florida from the Florida Keys eastward to Miami Beach, West Palm Beach, Fort Pierce, and Fort Lauderdale, are all feeling hurricane conditions.

Naples is forecast to see a storm surge between 10 to 15 feet above normal according to the National Hurricane Center, and residents there may be wondering why that hasn’t happened yet. It is because that surge won’t come in until the storm passes, and the surge comes in on the backside of the system later today. Tampa is in the crosshairs of this storm. Although the forecast pinpoints the storm a few miles to the west of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, that track puts the worst elements of the right front quadrant of the hurricane into this metropolitan area that hasn’t been directly impacted by a major hurricane since 1921.

Currently, as of the 11:00 AM EDT Advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Irma was located approximately 80 miles South-Southeast of Florida, or about 115 miles South-Southeast of Fort Myers, Florida. Maximum sustained winds remain at 130 miles per hour with gusts up to 160 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure is still steady at 933 millibars, or about 27.55 inches of Hg (Mercury). The eye of the storm is about 16 nautical miles wide. Hurricane force winds extend some 80 miles from the eye while tropical storm force winds reach out some 220 miles. The storm has become even larger.

Looking at the Watches and Warnings, a Storm Surge Warning is in effect for South Santee River southward to Jupiter Inlet, North Miami Beach southward around the Florida to the Ocholockonee River, Florida Keys, and Tampa Bay. A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Fernandina Beach southward around the Florida Peninsula to Indian Pass, Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee, Florida Bay, Cuban provinces of Matanzas and La Habana. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for North of Fernandina Beach to Edisto Beach. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for West of Indian Pass to the Okaloosa/Walton County Line, and North of Fernandina Beach to South Santee River. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Bimini and Grand Bahama in the Bahamas.

If it hasn’t already, Hurricane Irma will be moving out over the Florida Bay, which is a very warm body of water near the extreme Southeastern corner of the Gulf of Mexico. Irma should remain out over water for a few hours so further intensification is possible although there has been no significant drop in pressure and the satellite imagery of the storm suggests no significant strengthening for now. It should weaken slightly to a Category Three Hurricane over the next 12 hours, and only weaken to about 125 mile per hour winds. The storm will then move northward and feel the effects of the interaction with the Florida coast as well as increasing shear from the southwest.

By this time on Monday morning, Hurricane Irma is forecast to be a strong Category One Hurricane with 90 mile per hour winds. Then the storm will move inland over the Big Bend area of Florida, and head northward into Southern Georgia, where it should rapidly weaken to a tropical storm and then a depression before becoming post tropical in about three days from now. The storm is expected, however, to leave behind tremendous problems in its wake. FEMA director, Brock Long told CNN on Saturday, that the storm could leave 3 to 4 million people across Florida without power for up to several weeks. There are also concerns about U.S. Highway 1 out of the Florida Keys, which could be damaged, and leave the residents there isolated from the mainland for some time.

Recalling the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, the storm was a much smaller, but more potent storm as it came through the Keys. You could probably classify that storm as one like Hurricane Andrew or Hurricane Camille, also both powerful, but small Category Five Hurricanes to make landfall in the United States. The 1935 Hurricane, which had been the standard bearer in terms of power for many decades in the Atlantic and Western Hemisphere until the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season, brought 200 mile per hour winds that basically destroyed the Overseas Railroad built by Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway in 1912.

As mentioned earlier, there are also issues with cranes in the downtown area of Miami. There has been a lot of development there, and that has resulted in a lot of cranes being used in many of the high rise buildings being put up there. It was a huge concern for officials and residents there, and that concern has become reality with the one crane suffering a crack earlier on Sunday morning. The brunt of the hurricane is still to come for much of Florida. Also, keep in mind that we still have Jose to deal with in the Atlantic as well. Hurricane Jose is a Category Four storm as well, and could be another problem down the road. In addition, there is another formidable tropical wave in the Eastern Atlantic near the Cape Verde Islands that might develop over the next five days.

Today, September 10th, is the statistical peak of the Atlantic Hurricane Season historically. September is always a big month for hurricanes, especially the classic Cape Verde storms that are usually the ones like Harvey and Irma that make the headlines in the news. A few weeks ago, there were some that thought that this season might be a bust after all, but now nobody is thinking about that at all. Perhaps, the thought may be that this season could be at least the worst season we’ve seen in the Atlantic since the historic 2005 season.

09.09.17

Hurricane Irma Still A Cat 3 Hurricane As Outer Bands Hit South Florida

Posted in Storm Track, Commentary, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Hurricane Records, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 9:54 pm by gmachos

Infrared Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Irma.
Infrared satellite imagery depicts Hurricane Irma, which is still a powerful and large Category Three storm as it moves away from the Northern Coast of Cuba and towards the Florida Keys and Southwest Florida on Saturday evening. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

If Hurricane Irma doesn’t reinvigorate itself over the warm waters of the Florida Straits and Eastern Gulf of Mexico before making landfall by daybreak on Sunday morning, some thanks for that could be due to the rugged terrain of both Hispaniola and Cuba.

Once again the orographic lifting of the tremendous tropical air and moisture from a powerful hurricane over these Caribbean mountains took some starch out. However, Irma remains a powerful Category Three Hurricane, and that speaks a lot to the tremendous structure and resilience of this monster system.

Most importantly though, Irma is back out over water, and very warm water. And, we all know that hurricanes love very warm water, like the bath water of the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Straits, especially this year. With its core still intact, and working with favorable atmospheric conditions, Irma could make a quick turnaround and re-intensify before making landfall.

Keep in mind this thing though. If you recall, Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, the monster storm did wind down some before coming ashore in Buras, Louisiana, and then near the Louisiana and Mississippi border on August 29th. The day before, Katrina was in the Gulf as a powerful Category Five Hurricane with 180 mile per hour winds. By landfall, those winds had decreased to only 125 miles per hour.

Despite the weakening though, Katrina still managed to bring ashore a record breaking 28 foot storm surge, the highest ever recorded in North America. It surpassed that of Hurricane Camille in 1969. Much of the reason for that was because Katrina had grown tremendously in size much like Irma has. There are quite a few similarities between these two storms in terms of size and power.

One key difference though was that Irma’s weakening was due to interaction with a rugged land barrier in the mountains of Hispaniola and Cuba. For Katrina, that was not the case. Nevertheless, it is very important to emphasize that just because Irma has weakened considerably over the past couple days, by no means, is this storm not capable of producing catastrophic damage.

The fact that Irma is a very vast storm like Katrina, Rita, Irene, Sandy, and others in recent years, and that it still has a solid core that could re-energize itself in short order. As of the 8:00 PM EDT advisory, Hurricane Irma is located some 45 miles East-Northeast of Varadero, Cuba, or in other words, about 110 miles to the Southeast of Key West in the Florida Keys.

The storm is moving slowly to the West-Northwest at 7 miles per hour. Winds have decreased to 125 miles per hour, which still makes it a major hurricane of Category Three strength on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Wind gusts are still high at 155 miles per hour. Barometric pressure is still quite low at 932 millibars, or 27.52 inches. The big change is the size of the storm.

Before reaching the Northern Leeward Islands, Irma was about the size of Hurricane Harvey just before it made landfall in Rockport, Texas. Now, the storm is much larger. Hurricane force winds extend some 70 miles from the eye while tropical storm force winds reach out about 195 miles. So, for those in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, who believe they are out of danger because they are no longer in the cone of uncertainty, they need to think again.

The storm will cover all of Florida with strong tropical storm force to hurricane force winds. Also, keep in mind that the area to the east of the eye, particularly the notorious northeastern quadrant, or right front quadrant, is where the brunt of a hurricane’s power is. Let’s return to our Katrina example again. Remember, the storm first made landfall in Buras, Louisiana on the southeastern coast, and then a second landfall along the Louisiana-Mississippi border.

Katrina’s track into those areas put the Gulf coast of Mississippi in the dangerous eastern semicircle of the storm, which resulted in the historic, devastating, and deadly storm surge. True, New Orleans was hit hard, but that was due to a man made disaster, i.e., the levee system there failed. Had the storm made landfall to the west of New Orleans, things would have been much, much worse with even more deaths than the 1,800 or so that resulted.

Now, why is Irma still a very dangerous threat even though it has weakened quite significantly by losing over a third of its peak wind speed over the past couple days? Well, due to the concept of the conservation of momentum, particularly angular momentum since we are dealing with the spin of the storm as well. When Irma was a smaller storm it had higher wind speed, but now that the wind speed has gone down, the size and wind field has increased to compensate in order to conserve angular momentum.

If you are wondering what I mean by angular momentum, just think of a figure skater going through his or her routine, and they suddenly begin to spin in the middle of the ice rink. As he or she pulls his or her arms inward, he or she spins faster. When the arms go outward he or she will slow down. Think of the eye of Hurricane Irma to be like that skater. A tighter eye and smaller storm with high winds will expand as those winds decrease.

Reading the most recent forecast discussion from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida at 5:00 PM on Saturday afternoon, Irma is projected to return to Category Four strength within 12 hours, and have 140 mile per hour winds before coming ashore along the West Coast of Florida. Like I mentioned earlier, the storm still has a solid core, and is again moving out into very warm waters in the Florida Straits and extreme Southeastern Gulf of Mexico. Re-strengthening is quite possible.

Looking at the latest forecast track from the NHC, Irma is expected to turn northward, and move over the middle Florida Keys by morning. Then, the storm will hug the West Florida coast during the day on Sunday, and be near Naples and Fort Myers by mid-afternoon, and then be in the area of Tampa, Florida by early Monday morning. Irma will then move inland over Northern Florida, and still be a hurricane in Southern Georgia by mid-Monday afternoon.

Irma is then expected to continue heading to the Northwest into Alabama, Tennessee, and toward Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas by mid-Tuesday afternoon. The reasoning behind this track is due to the fact that the storm is now on the periphery of the subtropical ridge in the Atlantic that has been driving it generally to the west. Now, it is beginning to fall under the influence of another high over Eastern Texas and the Western Gulf, which is serving as a buffer for the Lone Star State.

There is another ridge to the north of Irma that will lift out, and create the opening that is the consensus forecast track from the NHC. Looking at the model runs courtesy of Tropical Tidbits, the European or ECMWF model has Irma in the area of Key West as a 948 millibar low by 8:00 AM EDT on Sunday morning. The storm will continue to track north, and be north of Tampa by 8:00 AM EDT on Monday morning. Three days out, Irma is well inland over Northeastern Alabama as a tropical depression.

Moving on to the GFS, or American model, it has Irma in the Florida Keys as a 911 millibar low by 8:00 AM EDT Sunday morning. The hurricane will then move over the area around Tampa, Florida as a 947 mb low by 2:00 AM EDT on Monday morning, and over Northern Florida as a 959 mb low by 8:00 AM on September 11th. Irma then continues to head northwest and further inland and weakens to a depression by 2:00 PM EDT on Tuesday afternoon.

The CMC, or Canadian model has Irma in the area of Key West as a 980 millibar low by 8:00 AM EDT Sunday morning. Within 36 hours, or by 8:00 PM EDT Sunday evening, Irma is a 977 millibar low between Port Charlotte and Tampa. The storm then comes ashore over Tampa into Central Florida as a 979 millibar low by 2:00 AM EDT Monday morning. The hurricane then moves further inland over Northern Florida and Southern Georgia, and then moves to the northwest into Northern Alabama and Southern Tennessee by the end of 72 hours.

The EPS ensemble model, and the HWRF model are also showing similar solutions over the next 72 hours as well. Right now, a Storm Surge Warning is in effect for the South Santee River southward around the Florida Peninsula to the Suwanee River including the Florida Keys and Tampa Bay. A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for North of the Suwanee River to the Ochlockonee River. A Hurricane Warning is in effect from Fernandina Beach southward around the Florida Peninsula to Indian Pass.

The Warning area also includes the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee, Florida Bay, and the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara, Matanzas, and Havana as well as areas in the Bahamas including Andros Island, Bimini, and Grand Bahama. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for north of Fernandina Beach to Edisto Beach. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for West of Indian Pass to the Okaloosa/Walton County Line. North of Fernandina Beach to South Santee River.

Before I forget, I would like to make note about a couple places in the warned area; Tampa Bay and Lake Okeechobee. These two areas are very vulnerable areas to hurricanes and have not been directly impacted by a storm in a while. Tampa, in particular, suffered its last direct hit from a major hurricane in 1921. Back then, Tampa’s population was only 10,000 people. Today, the area is home to approximately 3 million people according to the NHC from an article by CBS News late Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Lake Okeechobee is home to one of the deadliest hurricanes ever. The area was affected by a major hurricane in 1928. The storm, which is known as either the Lake Okeechobee Hurricane, or the San Felipe Segundo Hurricane produced winds as high as 160 miles per hour at one time, and a minimum central pressure of 929 millibars. The storm caused $100 million dollars in damage in 1928 dollars, which as of 2003 was about $20 billion in damage. The hurricane also killed over 4,100 people from the Caribbean to Florida.

This is a very serious situation. Some 6.4 million people, or about 25 percent of Florida’s residents live in the Sunshine State’s evacuation zones. As of a few hours ago, only 70,000 people were in shelters, and there were still some people on the streets in places like Miami Beach, especially since the forecast track has shifted west. This is very important, the storm may have shifted west, but again, it is a very large and vast system that has the ability to spread hurricane and tropical storm force winds over a large area. Time is running out to stay out of harm’s way.

09.07.17

Hurricane Irma Still A Very Powerful Cat 5 As It Closes in on Florida

Posted in Storm Track, Commentary, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Footage, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Hurricane Records, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 8:47 pm by gmachos

National Hurricane Center Indicates South Florida Landfall Likely

Infrared Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Irma.
Infrared satellite imagery depicts Hurricane Irma, which is still a monster Category Five storm as it stays north of the island of Hispaniola on Thursday evening. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Things continue to heat up in the Atlantic Tropics on this late Thursday afternoon and evening. We now have three hurricanes in the basin for the first time since 2010. Two of those storms are major hurricanes, and the biggest threat of them all is Hurricane Irma, a Category Five storm that is setting all kinds of marks.

The monster storm devastated the islands of the Northeastern Caribbean including Barbuda, which at first was reported to be 90 percent devastated, but then later on Wednesday night, the Prime Minister of Anguilla and Barbuda reported that the resort island in the Northern Leewards was, “rubble” as per CNN.

Nearby on St. Thomas, there was dramatic footage of Hurricane Irma’s powerful winds that was featured on the Greg’s Weather Center and Hurricaneville Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon. In St. Maarten, the historic airport is completely devastated. Over in Puerto Rico, the United States territory that has been dealing with a great deal of economic struggle, the residents there dodged a bullet as the storm stayed to the north and pulled away from the island, but still dealt with gusty winds and flooding rains.

As of this afternoon, CNN reported that 10 people were dead from the storm’s destructive path through the Northeastern Caribbean. Irma was able to maintain its very powerful intensity of 185 mile per hour winds for a record 37 hours. No other hurricane, typhoon, or cyclone on earth has ever maintained that level of ferocity for that long. It is also now third past Hurricane Ivan from the crazy 2004 Atlantic Hurricane Season in terms of duration as a Category Five Hurricane.

To understand what Hurricane Irma has done in terms of maintaining its fury, you have to look at how tough it is to maintain a level of such intensity that is Category Five. Hurricanes are vertically stacked systems since they are barotropic by nature. In other words, the clouds build vertically over the center of low pressure from near sea level to near the stratosphere. Baroclinic storms such as the nor’easters and extratropical systems we normally deal with in New Jersey, and much of the United States, have a slanted cloud structure since it is influenced by wind shear.

As a result, a hurricane, particularly a Category Five Hurricane is a very fragile structure, almost like a house of cards. A thing of beauty as long as it can stand. Once some air blows on it, it is gone. Vertical wind shear is a very hostile atmospheric foe that tears tropical storms and hurricanes apart by blowing off the high cloud tops from the powerful thunderstorms that develop, and are fueled by the warm water. Cat 5 storms follow the Goldilocks principle as Hugh Willoughby, a former long time NOAA hurricane researcher, said, “Everything needs to be just right.”

Category Five Hurricanes at most usually last 30 hours. A storm of that power to usually last that long are quite unusual. Hurricanes Isabel (2003) and Ivan (2004) managed to maintain that level of power for such a duration. Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Super Typhoon Yolanda, the most powerful tropical cyclone ever recorded that devastated portions of the Philippines, did not last at its peak intensity as long as Irma has. Hurricane Allen, the strongest storm ever in the same region that Irma has affected with 190 mile per hour winds, couldn’t stay that strong as long. Irma maintains its 185 mile per hour winds for 37 hours.

Irma has weakened since that time. Thanks to some interaction with the rugged terrain of the northern portion of the island of Hispaniola, which produced some orographic lifting of the abundant tropical moisture laden air, the maximum sustained winds have decreased to just 175 miles per hour with gusts down to 215 miles per hour while its pressure has risen some 8 millibars to 922 millibars, or approximately 27.23 inches of Hg (Mercury). The eye of the storm is decreased a bit to 20 nautical miles while its hurricane force winds extend some 70 miles from the eye and its tropical storm force winds reach out some 185 miles.

Simply put, Hurricane Irma is a beast. It is a very large system, which means even if it weakens, there is still a great threat, especially in terms of its storm surge. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane to August 28, 2005. Hurricane Katrina was lurking in the Gulf of Mexico as a Category Five Hurricane with 180 mile per hour winds. Katrina was on a course for New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Right before landfall though, Katrina weakens a good deal to be just a strong Category Three Hurricane with 125 mile per hour winds.

However, Katrina was still a vicious storm since it had been stirring up the waves in the Gulf for several days. Most importantly though, Katrina, like Irma was very vast, which made it very capable of producing a massive storm surge. Along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Katrina did with the biggest storm surge on record in North America at 28 feet, which surpassed that of Hurricane Camille in August 1969, which was 24 feet, 4 inches. Camille, a Category Five storm at landfall over Pass Christian, Mississippi, was a much smaller storm.

As a matter of fact, the storm was misconstrued as a weaker storm based on the satellite imagery at that time. Interpreting satellite imagery at that time was in its infancy, and forecasters didn’t really know how truly potent Camille was until a Hurricane Hunter aircraft flew into it. The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and Hurricane Andrew (August 1992) were also very small, but potent Category Five Hurricanes. Going back to the large storms, Hurricane Gilbert, another vast storm, was forecast to produce a storm surge of about 25 feet when it came ashore in the Yucatan with its 888 millibar pressure and 180 mile per hour winds in September 1988. Right now, Irma is capable of producing a storm surge of at least 20 feet in the Caribbean.

Looking at the latest forecast track by the National Hurricane Center in Miami, has Hurricane Irma is expected to continue on its general westward track through the Southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, be in the Southern Bahamas by Friday afternoon, and then hug the Northern Cuban coast on Saturday morning and afternoon before turning northward into the Florida Straits, and into the Florida Keys and South Florida by Sunday afternoon.

Right now, a Storm Surge Watch is in effect for Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida Peninsula to Bonita Beach and the Florida Keys. A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the Dominican Republic from Cabo Frances Viejo to the northern border with Haiti. In Haiti from the northern border with the Dominican Republic to LeMole St. Nicholas. Southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, and Villa Clara, Central Bahamas, and Northwestern Bahamas.

Meanwhile, a Hurricane Watch is in effect for Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida Peninsula to Bonita Beach, Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee, Florida Bay, Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Holguin, Las Tunas, and Matanzas. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Haiti from south o Le Mole St. Nicholas to Port-au-Prince. Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Holguin, and Las Tunas. Other portions in Cuba and Florida should monitor the progress of this dangerous storm.

Taking a look at the models courtesy of Tropical Tidbits, the GFS has Irma hugging the northern Cuban coast for the next 48 hours. By early morning Sunday, the monster storm will begin to come ashore in the Florida Keys and the Southern tip of Florida as a 901 millibar low. By mid-afternoon Sunday, the hurricane is pushing through South Florida as a 919 millibar low. The Euro also has Irma hugging the Northern Cuba coast for the next 48 hours, and then moving over Southwestern Florida and the Florida Keys by 72 hours. Irma is also expected to be in Northern Florida as a 967 millibar low by the end of four days.

The CMC, or Canadian model has the storm in the same general area, but a little bit more in the Florida Straits by 48 hours. By late Saturday night, Irma has about to make landfall in South Florida and the northern and eastern Keys. The storm then comes onshore along the Southern tip of Florida and the Northern Keys early Sunday morning as a 971 millibar low. By mid-Sunday morning, Hurricane Irma will be sitting right on top of Miami, Florida. The storm then skirts the East Florida coast for 24 hours until it moves backs out over water near Jacksonville, Florida early Monday morning. The EPS or one of the ensemble models has a similar look to the GFS.

With the EPS, the storm is just northeast of Havana, Cuba by Saturday morning. By Sunday morning, Irma comes ashore over the Florida Keys and South Florida, and moves north through the Sunshine State to be near Jacksonville, Florida by the end of four days. Finally, the hurricane weakens to a tropical depression or storm near Atlanta by the end of five days. The HWRF model has a similar solution to the CMC model except that after it skirts the East Florida Coast and gets back out over water, the storm comes ashore again near Savannah, Georgia within 90 hours.

Twenty-five years ago, Andrew, which was the costliest storm on record after plowing through Homestead and South Florida in August 1992 with $27 billion dollars, is now second behind Katrina. However, if Irma continues along at a strength bordering Category Four or Five with 150 to 160 miles per hour, it is already estimated to cause some $138 billion dollars in damage according to a leading insurance agency according to CNBC. Remember earlier this month when early damage estimates for Harvey were at $190 billion dollars according to Accu-Weather.

The airlines using some of the airports in South Florida have started to shut down operations. There have been long lines waiting for rental cars in South Florida. Up to one hour for an SUV rental even if you have a reservation. Long lines of traffic are on the road out of Miami Beach according to video footage from WeatherNation. About 90 percent of all the residents of the Florida Keys have already evacuated by taking the only way out of there on U.S. Route 1. There has been a great deal of stress and fear expressed on the internet and social media as well.

Residents along the East Coast of the United States up to the Outer Banks of North Carolina should pay close attention to the whereabouts of this storm over the next several days. People in Florida should be making preparations to protect their home, and to evacuate if necessary. Stay tuned to the National Hurricane Center, local radio, television, internet, and social media outlets for the latest updates and info on this very dangerous storm.

09.05.17

Monster Hurricane Irma Bears Down on Leeward Islands

Posted in Storm Track, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Hurricane Records, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 11:59 pm by gmachos

Storm Dramatically Intensifies to Powerful Category 5 Hurricane

Infrared Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Irma.
Infrared satellite imagery depicts Hurricane Irma, which is now a monster Category Five storm as it heads toward the Northern Leeward Island. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Last night when I last posted to my blog, Hurricane Irma had intensified into a Category 4 Hurricane with 130 mile per hour winds. Pressure had fallen to 944 millibars. Irma didn’t stop there though. This morning when I headed out to work, I received a message via twitter from a good friend of mine that the pressure with Irma had fallen to 937 millibars, and it was still falling.

While at work, I didn’t get a chance to check the NHC web site for any updates on the storm. Then, when I got home at about 1:30 PM this afternoon, I learned that the hurricane had strengthened to a monster Category Five Hurricane with 180 mile per hour winds. By far Irma had become the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic in 2017. It could actually become the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic ever.

Back during the monster hurricane season of 2005, there were five storms that reached Category Five intensity (Dennis, Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma). The last three of that wicked bunch surpassed each other for being the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. Wilma, the last major hurricane to make landfall in the United States before Hurricane Harvey came ashore near Rockport, Texas about two weeks ago, had a pressure of 882 millibars at one point.

Within a half an hour of getting home, the next advisory on Irma came out at 2:00 PM. The storm had intensified some more to have maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, and a minimum central pressure of 926 millibars, or 27.34 inches. In addition, Puerto Rico, had joined Florida in declaring a state of emergency. Residents on the island, which is a United States territory, are very scared according to reports on CNN’s Anderson Cooper this evening. Florida has been already under a State of Emergency for over 24 hours, and special needs residents were being evacuated in South Florida.

The storm is already creating financial havoc. As Harvey did to the oil and gas industry in Texas, Irma is causing chaos in the United States Orange Juice market. With Florida’s large Orange crop under threat from Irma, Orange Juice futures were up according to Bloomberg Television. In addition, there were long lines in stores all across South Florida. Residents scrambled to buy such things as propane tanks and bottled water. One person reported that they actually had to buy a pack of bottled water for about $25.00.

The latest advisory, at 11:00 PM EDT, from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, indicates that Irma is still a Category Five Hurricane with 185 mile per hour winds, but the storm is even stronger with its minimum central pressure now down to 916 millibars, or approximately 27.05 inches of Hg. Wind gusts with this storm are in upwards of 195 knots, or nearly 225 miles per hour. The eye of this intense storm is just about 25 nautical miles wide. Hurricane Irma has grown in size as well. Last night, the storm was a little larger than Harvey. Since then, it has become even larger.

Hurricane force winds in Irma are now extending some 50 miles from the eye while Tropical storm force winds reach out some 175 miles. Irma is getting very close to the Northern Leeward Islands at this time. The menacing storm is about 50 miles to the East-Northeast of Antigua or roughly 50 miles to the East-Southeast of Barbuda. Irma is now moving to the West-Northwest at 15 miles per hour. Hurricane Warnings are in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy, British Virgin Islands, United States Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, Dominican Republic from Cabo England to the northern border of Haiti, and Guadeloupe.

A Hurricane Watch is in effect from the Northern of Haiti from the border with the Dominican Republic to Le Mole St. Nicholas, Turks and Caicos Islands, Southeastern Bahamas, Cuba from Matanza Province eastward to Guantanamo Province. Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Dominica and the Dominican Republic from south of Engano westward to the Southern border of Haiti. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Haiti from south of Le Mole St. Nicholas to Port-Au Prince. Interests in Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, the Northern Bahamas, Florida, and the Florida Keys should closely monitor the progress of Hurricane Irma.

The storm has a classic structure. It has that typical buzz saw look to it with a well defined eye, solid banding, perfect symmetry, and healthy outflow. Hurricane Irma has been a Category Five Hurricane for about 12 hours now. Most hurricanes can only sustain Category Five intensity for about 30 hours at best. Some have managed to surpass that. Experts indicated that this storm could be as powerful at this stage in the Atlantic as Hurricane Allen was in August 1980. There will be likely fluctuations in intensity as the storm goes through eyewall replacement cycles, and continues to re-organize.

According to the latest forecast discussion from the NHC, Irma is expected to go through a gradual weakening phase as it pushes through the Northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba. Keep in mind that there are mountains ranging from 7,000 to 11,000 feet above sea level in Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti) and Cuba. Irma’s interaction with these rugged land features will probably take some of the starch out of the storm, and the intensity forecast has the hurricane weakening to a still quite powerful Category Four storm with 140 mile per hour winds by the end of five days on September 11th.

Right now, the NHC consensus track for Irma continues to have it on a more West-Northwest track, which puts it just to the north of the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba through Saturday evening, and then taking more of a turn toward the north like Hurricane Charley did in August 2004. The storm will be in the area of Key West by Sunday night. South and Central Florida as well as the Western end of Cuba are currently in the cone of uncertainty.

09.04.17

Hurricane Irma Intensifies to Category Four Storm

Posted in Storm Track, Commentary, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 8:14 pm by gmachos

Florida Declares State of Emergency Ahead of Potential Hit from Dangerous Storm

Infrared Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Irma.
Infrared satellite imagery depicts Hurricane Irma, which intensified into a Category Four storm as it closed in on the Northern Leeward Islands early Monday evening. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Earlier on Monday, Hurricaneville reported on the growing threat from Hurricane #Irma, which is now a few hundred miles to the east of the Leeward Islands. At the time of my last blog post, the winds with the storm were at 120 miles per hour, or a strong Category Three intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Late Monday afternoon, the ninth named storm of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season strengthened even further.

As of the 5:00 PM EDT Advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, Irma strengthened to have maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour with gusts as high as 160 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure remains at 944 millibars, or about 27.88 inches of Hg. Irma, which is pronounced ER-mah, is located approximately 490 miles east of the Leeward Islands, and now moving more to the west at 13 miles per hour.

Hurricane Irma, which is the fourth hurricane, and second major hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, is a little larger than Harvey was with hurricane force winds now extending some 40 miles from the eye while tropical storm force winds now reach out about 140 miles. The eye’s diameter is about 15 nautical miles, and is well defined. There remain numerous watches and warnings out for the Lesser Antilles.

A Hurricane Warning remains in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Saint Maarten, Saint Martin, and Saint Barthélemy. A Hurricane Watch is now in effect for Guadeloupe, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Guadeloupe. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Dominica. In addition to all of this, Florida officials have declared a State of Emergency.

The Sunshine State could see a possible landfall as early as this coming weekend according to an article posted this afternoon by CNN. Irma can still intensify even more. The NHC’s late afternoon forecast discussion indicates that Irma is expected to intensify to have 145 mile per hour winds within 12 hours, and reach its peak intensity of 150 miles per hour within 24 and 36 hours. By the time that the storm is in the area of South Florida, the Florida Keys, and Northern Cuba at the end of five days, Irma is expected to weaken, but remain a Category Four Hurricane with 130 mile per hour winds.

Taking a look at the most recent model runs from Tropical TIdbits, the GFS has Irma as a powerful 895 millibar low, or an equivalent to a powerful Category Five Hurricane in the Florida Straits between the Florida Keys, South Florida, and the Northern Coast of Cuba by the middle of Saturday afternoon. Fast forward 24 hours later, Irma is onshore in South Florida as a 920 millibar low. The storm will continue to advance northward, and be in Southern Georgia by next Monday afternoon, September 11th.

Meanwhile, the Euro has the storm a little further to the south and east, and over water off the Central Florida coast near Cape Canaveral as a 937 millibar low by the same time on Monday afternoon, September 11th. This is after the storm is forecast by the model to be situated just off the coast of Northern Cuba as a 946 millibar low by the mid-afternoon of Saturday, September 9th. The Canadian model has the storm further north and east than the Euro by the end of 7 days.

After getting close to the Florida Straits and north of the Northern Cuba coast as a 978 millibar low by the mid-afternoon of Saturday, September 9th, the CMC model has Irma as a 972 millibar low located a couple hundred miles east of Jacksonville, Florida by the afternoon of September 11th. The EPS ensemble model has the hurricane hugging the Northern Cuba coast as a 988 millibar low by mid-afternoon this coming Saturday. Then, the model’s forecast track has it moving into the Florida Straits on Sunday, and be in the vicinity of Tampa, Florida on Monday afternoon, September 11th as a 994 millibar low.

The HWRF model has the powerful storm with a 924 millibar low in the Florida Straits just to the north of the Northern Cuba coast late Saturday evening. So, over the next five days, the models are in general agreement that the storm will be in the area of the Northern Cuba coast on Saturday afternoon. Beyond that, the models vary with an array of solutions once you go six or seven days out. It all depends on if and when the trough advancing into the Eastern United States will pick up Irma.

For the residents of New Jersey, the Canadian model, CMC, does have an interesting solution for the end of eight days, or 192 hours. The model proposes that Irma will be in the vicinity of Chesapeake Bay as a 974 millibar low on Tuesday morning. I must emphasize though that the Euro and GFS have been more reliable models than the CMC although the GFS has been having a history of very low pressures with the storm’s intensity and track. It is also over a week out. In other words, a lot can change before that, and it is just something to keep in the back of your minds.

All residents in the Northern Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico including Culebra and Vieques, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Cuba, the Southern Bahamas, Florida Keys, and South Florida should continue to monitor the progress of the storm, and make the necessary preparations now. Residents further north along the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic portion of the United States should also pay attention on the progress of this system, and be ready in case the storm’s forecast track makes more of a turn to the north.

Hurricane Irma Closing in on Northern Leeward Islands

Posted in Storm Track, Commentary, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 12:07 pm by gmachos

Second Major Hurricane of 2017 Strengthens Slightly; Warnings Issued

Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Irma.
Visible satellite imagery depicts Hurricane Irma, a Category Three storm closing in on the Northern Leeward Islands on early Monday afternoon.

While there has been a tremendous amount of focus on rescue and recovery efforts in Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and the recent escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the tropics in the Atlantic Basin have continued on its whirling way. Developing in the middle of last week, Hurricane Irma became the fourth hurricane and second major hurricane of the season.

Right now, it doesn’t look likely that Irma will be going away very soon, and it is very likely that it will become a significant threat not only for islands in the Northern Leeward Islands, but also the Bahamas, and somewhere along the United States coastline from New England to the Gulf of Mexico. The track of Irma depends on how far south the storm will go before it makes a turn to the north.

The models, particularly the GFS, have perplexed forecasters not only with different landfalling points, but also very low pressures. One model run of the GFS last night at 18Z, had the minimum central pressure in Irma down to an amazing 857 millibars, and maximum sustained winds near the eye at 157 knots, or about 180 miles per hour by the early morning hours of September 9th.

The latest advisory (11:00 AM AST) has been issued by the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, and the first warnings have been issued. A Hurricane Warning is now in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Saint Maarten, Saint Martin, and Saint Barthélemy. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Guadeloupe, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Dominica.

Currently, Hurricane Irma is located some 560 miles East of the Leeward Islands, and continues to move to the West-Southwest at about 14 miles per hour. Winds have increased to 120 miles per hour to make it a Category Three Hurricane on the Samir-Simpson Scale. Pressure has fallen another three millibars since earlier this morning to 944 millibars, which is the lowest for a storm in the Atlantic since Hurricane Katia in September 2011 according to Phillip Klotzbach of Colorado State University. The size of the storm is quite similar to that of Harvey with hurricane force winds extending some 30 miles from the eye while tropical storm force winds reach out 140 miles.

Viewing the latest intensity forecast from the National Hurricane Center, Irma is expected to continue intensifying over the next 48 hours. The hurricane is expected to become a Category Four Hurricane within the next 12 hours, and peak to have winds at 125 knots, or 145 miles per hour within 48 hours. The forecast track from the NHC takes the storm further to the west over the next five days were it will be in the area of Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos islands by Friday morning, and on the north coast of Cuba by Saturday morning.

Throughout the entire five day forecast period, Hurricane Irma is expected to remain a major hurricane. The 6Z GFS model has a 930 millibar low in the area of the Turks and Caicos islands, Southeastern Bahamas, and the island of Hispaniola in 96 hours. Twenty-four hours later, a 931 millibar low is lingering off the Northern Coast of Cuba. By day six, the GFS has the storm inland over Cuba just to the South of Havana as a 945 millibar low. The Euro has the storm on a similar path, but further north, and with higher pressure.

The European model, ECMWF, has Hurricane Irma right over the Northern Cuba coastline as a 952 millibar low by late Saturday evening. Then, in the late evening of Sunday, September 10th, the Euro has Irma moving to the north, and closing in on South Florida and the Florida Keys as a 934 millibar low. So, the Euro has the storm moving back out over water, and dramatically strengthening as it approaches Southern Florida. Within another 24 hours, the Euro moves Irma further to the north along the Southeast coast in the vicinity of Georgia and South Carolina as a 932 mb low in the late evening hours of September 11th.

The CMC, or Canadian model has the storm further to the north in the Southern Bahamas by the end of four days. It also has the storm with a much higher pressure at 986 millibars, or just within minimal threshold of a Category One storm. At the end of day five, or late Friday night, the Canadian model has Irma moving into the Northwestern Bahamas, and a little stronger at 978 millibars. Then, the storm turns westward, and goes into extreme South Florida and the easternmost portion of the Florida keys as a 971 millibar low by late Saturday night.

The EPS ensemble model animation shows Irma in the area of the Turks and Caicos islands and the Southeastern Bahamas by the end of four days. It will then move the storm further west and along the northern coast of Cuba by the end of 6 days. The model then turns Irma to the north, and heading toward the Wilmington, North Carolina area by the end of 9 days, or 216 hours. The HWRF has a solution that puts Irma on the east coast of Cuba as a 950 millibar low at the end of 5 days.

Right now, Hurricane Irma is being pushed to the southwest and west-southwest thanks to a strong mid-level ridge over the Central Atlantic, and that should continue over the next few days, and then turn more westward and northwestward as it gets to the periphery of the ridge. A large mid-latitude trough is expected to become more pronounced over the next several days and it will lift out to the northeast by the end of the week or this weekend, which will allow the Atlantic ridge to reassert itself by five days.

Bottom line is that the storm is going to be steered by the Bermuda high to the north, and it looks like the ridge will steer it further west into the area of Northern Cuba, the Florida Straits, Florida Keys, and South Florida by the end of five days. All residents in the Northern Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Turks and Caicos Islands, Southern Bahamas, South Florida, and the Florida Keys should monitor the progress of Hurricane Irma, and be prepared to protect their property and evacuate if called upon.

Areas further up the Eastern Seaboard including the Central Florida Coast, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mid-Atlantic States, and New England should keep an eye on this storm as well since there are model solutions still showing that the storm could come up along the East Coast by this weekend or early next week. We are reaching the statistical peak of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which is next Sunday, September 10th, things have picked up in the basin over the last several weeks, and we now know that all it takes is one storm to change the mindset of how big a season we are having.

The Weather Channel recently posted a story on the large number of “I” named storms that have made significant impacts on the United States and the Atlantic Basin since 2001. Since that time, there have been there have been 8 such storms, or in other words about one significant “I” storm every two years. The last such “I” storm was Ingrid in 2013, so we are overdue for one, and Irma could be it. A couple of these “I” storms include Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and Hurricane Irene in 2011, which affected the Garden State.

09.03.17

New Jersey Feels Impact of Hurricane Harvey on Texas

Posted in Storm Track, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Aftermath, GWC News, Tracking the Tropics at 6:41 pm by gmachos

Storm’s Floods, Winds, and Surge in Texas Helps Raise Prices at the Pump

For much of the summer, gas prices at the stations that I go to near my home in Northwestern Middlesex County, have been around $2.35 to $2.40 per gallon. However, over the past week, those prices have risen significantly as a result of the devastating floods to Houston and Beaumont along the Texas coast.

Rainfall amounts around the Houston metropolitan area from Harvey’s deluge totaled as high as nearly 52 inches (Cedar Bayou). Meanwhile, Beaumont, which is further to the east along the Texas coast, received 26 inches in 24 hours. In addition, towns along the middle Texas coast such as Rockport are reeling from wind and storm surge related damage. The largest oil refinery in the United States was forced to shut down, and there was an explosion at chemical plant in Crosby, Texas.

As a result, gas prices across the country have jumped since the ability to get the supply out to meet the intense demand for driving during the summer months, has been hampered. Here in South Plainfield, NJ, the Shell Station on Stelton Road was $2.35 before the hurricane, rose to $2.39 per gallon on Tuesday, $2.47 a gallon on Wednesday, and was at $2.69 per gallon by Saturday. Further north, the gas prices were even higher.

At the Shell Station on Route 206 North in Bedminster in Northern Somerset County, the price for regular was the highest that I’ve seen yet at $2.99 per gallon. Up the road in Chester in Morris County, the price for regular at the Shell along 206 North there was up to $2.71 per gallon. Then, in Mount Olive, the Shell along 206 North there was up to $2.81 per gallon. Further up the road, an Exxon charged $2.89 per gallon. Passing Lake Hopatcong, the price of gas at a Shell in Byram was at $2.93 per gallon.

Before arriving in Newton and Sparta in Sussex County to see a high school football game at Pope John XXIII High school, I passed another Shell Station on Route 206 North that charged a surprisingly more inexpensive $2.75 per gallon for regular. Expect the gas prices to remain high for a while as refineries in the Houston, Port Arthur, and East Texas areas continue to recover from the aftermath of the devastation wrought by Harvey.

Some experts indicate that the gas prices will probably come down to around $2.00 per gallon again by winter, but I have my doubts about that. The damage caused by Harvey is immense. Early damage estimates range from $190 billion according to Accu-Weather to as high as $330 billion. Even on the low side, Harvey’s damage far exceeds that caused by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi back in the last week of August 2005.

The key to the fate of these gas prices will depend largely on how quickly the damaged refineries and plants in Eastern Texas can get back online. Houston and New Orleans have always been vulnerable cities to tropical storms and hurricanes partly because of the oil and gas refineries that are situated in those two cities. Houston has dealt with a similar situation before in June 2001 with Tropical Storm Allison that brought up to 35 inches of rain.

Rainfall from Harvey was much higher with the amounts at Cedar Bayou surpassing those set in 1978 by Hurricane Amelia. So, it could be a tough climb, which could be a bitter pill to swallow for New Jersey residents, who have had to deal with the institution of a 23 cent per gallon gas tax late last year.

Harvey’s Remnants Bring Some Rain to Garden State

Posted in Storm Track, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Aftermath, GWC News, Tracking the Tropics at 5:49 pm by gmachos

Rains from Saturday Evening into Sunday Nearly Total an Inch

Clouds from Harvey's remains move in on Sparta, New Jersey on Saturday afternoon.
Clouds from Harvey’s remains move in on Sparta, New Jersey on Saturday afternoon

While Eastern Texas and Louisiana are still recovering from the devastation brought by Hurricane Harvey over the past week, the remains from that same storm moved east and brought its leftover rains to the Carolinas, and the Mid-Atlantic including New Jersey starting on Saturday evening, and lingered into Sunday of Labor Day Weekend.

Here at Greg’s Weather Center in South Plainfield, New Jersey, rainfall totals were about 0.79 inches. Rain started falling here at GWC and other areas of Central Jersey during the middle afternoon between 3:00 and 4:00 PM. I had personally taken a trip up to Sparta in Sussex County to take in a high school football game. Skies were actually sunny at the start of the game, but gradually grew more overcast.

The clouds began as cirrus and cirrocumulus clouds, and then altostratus clouds to give the sky, a more milky white color made more luminescent by the sun. The skies continued to grow more overcast in Sparta as the afternoon moves on. Sussex County, located in the Northwestern corner of New Jersey, was perhaps one of the last areas to receive the clouds and rainfall from Harvey’s remnants.

Temperatures were a bit cool and below normal for this time of year. The high at GWC in South Plainfield on Saturday was 66 degrees after a low of 57 earlier in the morning. They only went up a little bit more on Sunday. By late morning, the mercury had climbed to 63 at GWC, and then went up to 70 by the early afternoon. According to Accu-Weather and NJ.com, the overcast conditions and rain across the Garden State this weekend, kept temperatures down some 10 to 15 degrees below normal for this time of year.

Prior to arriving in New Jersey this weekend, Harvey’s remaining rains doused the Carolinas with anywhere between one to two inches thanks to thunderstorms. Harvey’s remains also created enough instability to produce rotating thunderstorms and some tornadoes. Of course, the damage paled in comparison to what the storm did in Texas from Friday evening, August 25 to Wednesday, August 30th. There, the storm made three separate landfalls across the Texas and the Louisiana region.

The first landfall brought devastating winds, storm surge, and rains. With winds of 130 miles per hour, Hurricane Harvey became the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States in almost 12 years, and the first Category Four hurricane to impact the U.S. coastline since Hurricane Charley struck Punta Gorda, Florida in August 2004. Coming ashore near Rockport, Texas, the storm turned the town along the Middle Texas coast a war zone.

The storm would weaken into a tropical storm some 15 hours over land, and then dumped as much as almost 52 inches in the Houston area, making it the most rainfall from a tropical storm in the continental United States on record. Harvey’s rains are responsible for shutting down the nation’s largest oil refinery, and an explosion in a chemical plant. The last two Labor Day Weekend’s here in New Jersey have been impacted by a tropical system of some kind.

Last year, Tropical Storm Hermine approached the area and brought threatening skies to the Garden State early on in the weekend, but the threat eventually diminished, and the weekend turned out ok. This year, New Jersey got Harvey’s remains. This isn’t unusual either. The Atlantic is reaching its statistical peak in terms of tropical storm and hurricane activity. September 10th is actually the numerical peak of the season.

New Jersey has also seen its share of storms over the past 10 years. In early September 2008, heavy rains, and winds up to 60 miles per hour from Tropical Storm Hanna stirred things up across the state. Two years later, Hurricane Earl came close to the Jersey Shore, and created tremendous waves and dangerous surf at area beaches. Then, came 2011 and 2012 with Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy. Irene’s sixth anniversary took place last weekend, and Sandy’s fifth anniversary will arrive at the end of October.

After there had been a lull in activity for a good portion of the summer, the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season has come back with a vengeance. First, there was Franklin, which went into the Mexican coast as a Category One Hurricane. Gert then followed by becoming the strongest storm to date through the middle of August as it strengthened to be a Category Two Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale even though it ended up not a threat to land. Harvey then became that one storm that could define the 2017 season with its rapid intensification in the Gulf of Mexico before crashing ashore as a Category Four storm.

Now, there is a new threat in the Atlantic. As Harvey departed from the scene, and after the nuisance that was Potential Tropical Cyclone Ten along the Carolinas moved out to sea, Irma emerged in the Eastern Atlantic, and has since become the season’s second major hurricane with 115 mile per hour winds. The storm, which is currently in the Central Atlantic, is expected to strengthen, and more importantly, be a possible threat to the Eastern Seaboard later this week, or early next week.

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