Another Powerful October Storm to Worry About
Over the last week, I have been watching developments in the Tropical Atlantic with interest as Matthew grew into a threat for the East Coast of the United States although I hadn’t blogged about it until now.
For the second year in a row, and for the third time in five years, we have a hurricane that is menacing the Caribbean, Bahamas, and the East Coast of the United States. Once again, a hurricane spins up amidst a fall like circulation pattern in the Western Atlantic.
Four years ago, it was Hurricane Sandy, which many in New Jersey are still trying to recover from today. Last year, it was Hurricane Joaquin, which combined with another area of low pressure to produce gusty winds and heavy rains as far north as New Jersey.
This year, it is Hurricane Matthew. At one time, Matthew was a Category Five Hurricane with winds near 160 mph. Matthew was the first Category Five Hurricane in the Atlantic in 9 years. The last one was Hurricane Dean, which made landfall in the Mayan Riviera section of Mexico in August 2007. Dean was ranked as a Top Ten Atlantic storm in terms of intensity at the time.
Matthew’s path has so far been a bit eerily similar to Hurricane Sandy. However, Matthew has been much stronger with Sandy only being a Category Three storm with 125 mph winds at peak strength. The hurricane developed much earlier in the season than Sandy did. Matthew also was the first hurricane to make landfall in Haiti since 1963. Nevertheless, both storms impacted portions of Cuba.
Ok. Enough of the history and comparisons. Matthew had been interacting with the rugged mountains of Cuba and Hispaniola, which go as high as 7,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level. The interaction tore up Matthew significantly despite the fact that it also produced torrential rains on those islands. Wind speeds dropped from 145 to 115 miles per hour in about 24 hours. Now, the storm is back over water near the Bahamas, where sea surface temperatures run about 86 degrees, and Matthew has already responded to that with some strengthening.
As of 11:00 AM on Wednesday morning, sustained winds with Matthew increased to 120 miles per hour, and it may not be done yet. Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground indicated earlier that the storm is getting better organized. The NHC’s official intensity forecast indicates that Matthew could become a Category Four Hurricane again with 130 mph winds. So, the storm is likely skirt the East Coast of Florida on Friday at major hurricane strength.
The storm will then continue to hug the coast along Georgia and South Carolina, and weaken to a Category Two storm with between 100 and 110 mph winds due to a hostile upper level wind environment. Then, things get crazy. The major forecast models: GFS, European, and UKMET are all indicating that Matthew will turn to the east into the Atlantic, and then turn south and towards the Bahamas and Florida again early next week.
Why is that you ask? First, the trough that was much hyped earlier this week, didn’t pan out since it wasn’t as strong or digged as deep as expected. So, there is nothing to pick up the storm. Hence, Matthew is in a situation much like the cutoff low that affected New Jersey and the Mid-Atlantic over the past week. It has nothing to kick it out. There is also a new player in this game: Tropical Storm Nicole.
Nicole is a newly formed tropical system that became a tropical cyclone over the past 24 to 36 hours. The storm is close by in the Western Atlantic, and its circulation is also influencing Matthew’s movement. The combination with the trough that wasn’t and Nicole’s development now brings a bizarre scenario that shows Matthew possibly entering the Florida Straits next week.
This is all good news for now in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, which are now looking at great weather through this weekend. Tropical storms and hurricanes are very fickle though, and things can change so all New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic residents reading this should continue to monitor the progress of this storm.
Models Having Tough Time With Storm Now That It Is Non-Tropical
Greg’s Weather Center and Hurricaneville continue to watch what is now Non-Tropical Cyclone Hermine as it meanders off the Mid-Atlantic coast less than 250 miles from Atlantic City, New Jersey. All of the coastal counties in New Jersey remain under a Tropical Storm Warning and could still see significant coastal flooding from this storm.
Currently, Post-Tropical Storm Hermine is located some 240 miles to the East-Southeast of Ocean City, Maryland, or about 275 miles East of Norfolk, Virginia so the center of circulation is still to the south of New Jersey. The storm is still moving pretty good to the East-Northeast at 13 miles per hour, but expect that motion to slow down during the day on Sunday as it begins to loop back toward the coast. Maximum sustained winds have decreased slightly to 65 miles per hour with gusts over hurricane force. Pressure is at 998 millibars or 29.47 inches of Hg.
A Tropical Storm Warning remains in effect for the East Coast of the United States from Watch Hill, Rhode Island to Ocracoke Inlet in North Carolina including Chesapeake Bay from Drum Point southward and also Delaware Bay. A Tropical Storm Watch also remains in effect from east of Watch Hill, Rhode Island to Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts including Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Middlesex County, New Jersey, the home of GWC and Hurricaneville is under a Tropical Storm Warning.
There has been a lot of variability or differences in the forecast model tracks for Hermine. Much of that can be attributed to the fact that Hermine is now a non-tropical system. You may wonder what does that mean. Well, what it means is that the storm is now a cold core system with cold air at the center of the low. Cold core lows are basically what we all see during the fall and winter months, i.e. Coastal lows or Nor’easters.
If you recall earlier last weekend and earlier this week, the models struggled with the track and intensity of what eventually became Hermine because they tend to have problems with developing systems. They also have similar issues with storms that transition from tropical to non-tropical systems. So, in a nutshell, the models are all over the place when it comes to Hermine’s track , and what type of storm it will be over the next few days.
One good thing that has happened with Hermine during the late afternoon and evening hours is that the storm went a little further to the east than expected, and that is good news for those further inland. Hermine is expected to loop back to the west, but because it jogged a bit more to the east, it is unlikely at this point that the storm will come ashore along the Jersey coast. However, let’s not let our guard down, and be prepared for anything since again the models are struggling with this system.
According to Meteorologist Joe Cioffi, the coastal areas are still going to receive the brunt of the impacts from the storm. Most significant impact will be coastal flooding. The National Weather Service Office in Mount Holly indicates that anywhere in New Jersey east of the Garden State Parkway will see significant coastal flooding from a storm surge anywhere from 3 to 5 feet above normal. In addition, as the storm makes its closest approach to New Jersey on Sunday evening into Labor Day morning there will be an increase in rain and wind.
Rainfall amounts along the coast will be anywhere between one to two inches east of the I-95 corridor with winds increasing to tropical storm force by Sunday afternoon. Some isolated areas could see as much as 2 to 3 inches according to the NWS. The greatest threat for all of this seems to be more confined to the further south that you go along the Jersey Shore toward Atlantic City and Cape May into Delaware. However, we could see tropical storm force winds as far north as coastal areas in Middlesex County such as South Amboy and Old Bridge.
On Saturday, I was out at South Amboy’s Waterfront Park along Raritan Bay, and there was a very good easterly to northeasterly fetch off the ocean. Water levels were higher than usual, and it wasn’t even high tide yet. Winds were much stronger too. Here at GWC in South Plainfield, there was more of a breeze, but not as significant as it was near the water in South Amboy. Again all of this is due to the fact that Hermine is a good ways from the coast right now.
Remember, Hermine is still a very large and vast system with tropical storm force winds extending some 205 miles from the center. The storm’s size is more along the lines of Hurricane Irene (2011) as supposed to Hurricane Sandy (2012). Like Irene and Sandy, the large circulation of Hermine will push a good deal of water toward the coast and bring significant wind and rain to areas far away from the center.
All residents along the coast from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to Cape Cod, Massachusetts need to pay close attention to the whereabouts of this system since the models are giving different possibilities with this system. Do not let your guard down. The most recent forecast discussion from the National Hurricane Center did indicate that Hermine could re-intensify to have hurricane force winds sustained over the next 24 to 48 hours.
Upper Level Conditions Will Make Things Difficult For Now
On this early Sunday morning, our primary focus is on Post-Tropical Cyclone Hermine, which is expected to meander off the Mid-Atlantic coast through Labor Day, and perhaps into the middle of next week. However, we do have another tropical entity, Invest 92L, that may be a threat in the coming days.
Presently, the disturbance is located about 250 miles to the east of the Lesser Antilles, and it has a good deal of shower and thunderstorm activity associated with it along with winds up to tropical storm force. However, upper level atmospheric conditions are going to make things difficult for the disturbance to develop any further for at least the next five days.
The disturbance is also moving at a pretty fast pace between 15 and 20 miles per hour. Currently, the forecast track models have Invest 92L going through the Windward islands into the Central Caribbean, but the actual forecast track is a bit to the north of that and curving more northward with time toward Puerto RIco, Florida, and the East Coast of the United States.
Chances for development with this disturbance within the next 48 hours are currently low at 20 percent, and only at 30 percent over the next five days. There is plenty of time to worry about this feature. However, we need to keep in mind that we are in the heart of hurricane season with the statistical peak taking place on September 10th. So, we will need to eventually keep an eye on this.
Anywhere from North Carolina to Virginia Border to Bridgeport, Connecticut Under Threat from Possible Surge
The story of now Tropical Storm Hermine is beginning to take another twist, and that twist could affect people in the Mid-Atlantic States including New Jersey, New York, Long Island, and Connecticut. The latest forecast track for Hermine shows that the storm could linger off the Mid-Atlantic coast from the Delmarva Peninsula to the Central Jersey coast through Wednesday morning.
During that time of extended presence, Hermine will be in the Gulf Stream, and could have hurricane force winds as late as Monday morning. The bottom line is that it is very important that all coastal residents from the Outer Banks of North Carolina up to Long Island and Connecticut should be getting ready to make the necessary preparations for a prolonged surf and surge event that could in the very least cause a good deal of beach erosion.
As of the 2:00 PM EDT Advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Hermine was located approximately 30 miles North-Northwest of Savannah, Georgia or 80 miles to the West-Southwest of Charleston, South Carolina. The storm is moving to the Northeast at 18 miles per hour. Maximum sustained winds are currently at 50 miles per hour with gusts up to 65 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure is up to 993 millibars or 29.32 inches of Hg (Mercury).
Looking at the satellite imagery of Hermine, you can see that the storm covers a fairly vast area. Right now tropical storm force winds extend some 175 miles from the center of circulation. An example of the size and coverage of the storm is the fact that locations such as Hilton Head Island in South Carolina and St. Simon’s Island in Georgia are feeling winds of minimal tropical storm force with gusts in upwards up 55 to 60 miles per hour.
Besides the possibility of prolonged surge, another major concern will be the rainfall. With the storm slowing down over the next several days, rainfall amounts will be on the increase. The reason for that is because the slower the storm moves, the longer the tropical moisture from it will stay in the same general locations. The result will be rainfall amounts between 5 to 10 inches with isolated amounts of 15 inches in Southeastern states such as Georgia and South Carolina into the Mid-Atlantic states such as Virginia.
Reading the most recent forecast discussion from the National Hurricane Center, the reason for the forecast track having Hermine slowing down is because the storm is expected to interact with a potent upper level shortwave feature off the Mid-Atlantic coast. Not only will this cause the storm to slow down to a near stop, but it will invigorate the system, which will cause it to re-intensify somewhat to have winds of hurricane force by Monday morning.
At this moment, there are Tropical Storm Warnings in effect from Nassau Sound to Fenwick Island, Pamlico and Albermarle Sound, Chesapeake Bay from Drum Point southward, Tidal Potomac to Cobb Island eastward. A Tropical Storm Watch is now in effect for Fenwick Island west of Watch Hill and Southern Delaware Bay. Interests in the Mid-Atlantic from the Delmarva Penninsula into New Jersey, New York, Long Island, and Connecticut should pay close attention to developments with this storm.
First Hurricane to Make Landfall in Sunshine State in 11 Years; New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic Under Tropical Storm Watch
After much struggle over the course of the past 10 days or so, what had been Invest 99L finally got itself going and not only became a depression, but eventually emerged as the eighth named storm of the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season, and the season’s fourth hurricane. Hermine came ashore early this morning in Florida near St. Mark’s in the Big Bend region of the Sunshine State.
Hermine, which has since weakened to a tropical storm, became the first hurricane since Hurricane Wilma in October 2005 to make landfall in the Sunshine State. The storm broke a period of incredible luck for a state that is often affected by tropical storms and hurricanes. The storm isn’t done yet either. While it has taken a hit, Hermine again is still a tropical storm, and is expected to move out over water again soon.
The threat from the tropical storm has now extended northward with even the home state of Greg’s Weather Center under a Tropical Storm Watch. New Jersey as well as the rest of the Mid-Atlantic could feel the effects from the storm as early as late Saturday night, and they could linger into Labor Day. So, if you have any plans to head to the beach, you might want to keep your eyes peeled to various weather media outlets or any weather app on your smartphone to keep you apprised of the situation.
Currently, Tropical Storm Hermine is located some 35 miles Northeast of Valdosta, Georgia. The system is moving at a somewhat brisk pace to the North-Northeast at 14 miles per hour. Again the storm has weakened with maximum sustained winds decreasing to 60 miles per hour and wind gusts dropping to only 85 miles per hour, but these winds can still pack a punch. Minimum central pressure with the storm has risen to 987 millibars, or 29.21 inches of Hg (Mercury).
The storm has grown to a decent size with tropical storm force winds extending some 175 miles from the center. As of 8:00 AM, a wind gust from Hermine of 46 miles per hour was reported as far away as Brunswick, Georgia and St. Augustine, Florida a good deal away from the center. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Englewood, Florida to the Ochlockonee River, Flagler/Volusia County line on the Florida/Georgia border to Duck in North Carolina including Pamlico and Albermarle Sounds.
A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for North of Duck in North Carolina to Sandy Hook here in New Jersey, Chesapeake Bay from Smith Point southward, and Southern Delaware Bay. Interests in the Northeast should closely monitor developments with Tropical Storm Hermine. The storm’s intensity forecast indicates that Hermine will continue to weaken with time since it will be over land. Hermine will remain tropical over the next 48 hours before transitioning to a post-tropical storm on Sunday.
The forecast track of Hermine shows that the storm will be hugging the coast from Georgia into South Carolina and North Carolina before emerging over the water again near the North Carolina/Virginia border on Saturday evening. The storm will be several hundred miles southeast of the Jersey Shore on Monday morning, and could actually linger offshore for much of Sunday and Monday.
System Still Expected to Drop Significant Rainfall in Cuba and Florida
Nothing much has changed with Tropical Depression Nine since our last blog entry on it on Sunday. Pressure has fallen slightly, but the maximum sustained winds remain at 35 miles per hour, and the system overall remains poorly organized. The one thing that is going for the depression right now is that it is moving into the Gulf of Mexico.
As of the 5:00 AM EDT Advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, Tropical Depression Nine was situated some 155 miles to the West-Southwest of Key West in the Florida Keys, or about 95 miles to the West-Northwest of Havana, Cuba. Maximum sustained winds remain at 35 miles per hour with gusts up to 45 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure is at 1007 millibars, or 29.74 inches of Hg (Mercury).
The depression is moving very slowly to the West at 9 miles per hour. There are no watches or warnings in effect since the system is no threat to land at this time. Now that TD #9 is moving into the very friendly confines of the Gulf of Mexico, where sea surface temperatures can run between 85 and 87 degrees Fahrenheit, it is possible that the depression could become better organized and strengthen. The NHC believes strengthening could occur over the next 48 hours.
Rainfall is the big concern with the depression at this time. With all the tropical moisture that TD #9 possesses, anywhere from 4 to 8 inches of rain could fall in Cuba with isolated areas there seeing as much as a foot of rain. South Florida and the Keys could see anywhere between 3 to 5 inches with isolated areas seeing as much as 7 inches. The intensity forecast has changed with this system.
Last night, the NHC was a little conservative with its initial intensity forecasts for Tropical Depression Nine because there was great disparity between the Euro and the GFS solutions. In addition, neither model had performed well with the system up and to this point. This morning, however, the NHC is a little more optimistic although still cautious. Upper level winds are currently hostile towards development, but are expected to slacken making conditions more favorable.
In addition, the depression is moving away from land masses and into the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where the sea surface temperatures this time of year are very hospitable to tropical systems. However, the global models are beginning to indicate that there will be dry air inserting itself into the area of the storm, and that is a weather factor not favorable for development. So, for the next 48 to 72 hours, the storm may strengthen some, but not a whole lot. Nevertheless, TD #9 should still become a tropical storm sometime within the next 24 to 36 hours.
Looking at the forecast track of Tropical Depression Nine, the system will continue to move westward over the next 18 to 24 hours before curving more to the right, and heading in a more northwestward direction. By Wednesday, the depression will begin to turn more to the northeast and pick up in forward speed. The northeastward motion and increase in forward speed will continue for the next several days as the system is expected to come ashore somewhere in the Big Bend area of Florida as a tropical storm by Friday morning.
All residents along the Gulf Coast, especially from the Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida area to Tampa, Florida should pay close attention to the latest whereabouts and developments with this system since a lot can change in a very short amount of time. Be prepared to take action if necessary.
Winds Increase to 115 MPH
After battling shear for a day or two, Gaston re-energized into a Hurricane on Saturday, and deepened some more during the overnight hours. Now, the storm has become the first major hurricane of the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season with 115 mile per hour winds as it churns away to the east of Bermuda in the Central Atlantic.
As of the 5:00 PM Advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, Gaston was located some 580 miles to the East of Bermuda. The storm is moving slowly to the Northwest at 5 miles per hour. Maximum sustained winds have grown to 115 miles per hour with gusts topping 140 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure has dropped to 962 millibars or 28.41 inches of Hg.
The latest forecast discussion from the NHC indicates that Gaston possesses a 15 mile wide eye, which can be clearly depicted on satellite. In addition to a clearly visible eye, the storm’s cloud tops are cooling according to infrared satellite imagery, and the combination of a clearly visible eye and cooling cloud tops are indicative of strengthening.
Gaston may have reached its peak. Despite good upper level outflow, a well defined eye, and colder cloud tops, the model forecasts indicate that Gaston is not expected to strengthen further. The intensity forecast from the NHC shows Gaston remaining a major hurricane for the next 24 hours, but beginning to gradually weaken at 36 hours and downgraded to a tropical storm in five days as it moves into higher latitudes and encounters cooler waters and the westerlies.
Taking a look at the forecast track, the NHC guidance shows the storm turning to the east, and picking up forward speed on Tuesday afternoon. Gaston will turn more easterly with time, and be several hundred miles to the southwest of the Azores by Friday afternoon.
Disturbance Finally Reaches Elusive Tropical Depression Strength
Over the last 24 hours, things have begun to pick up with what had been a beleaguered Invest 99L. On Saturday afternoon, shower and thunderstorm activity associated with the disturbance began to blossom as it hugged the north coast of Cuba. On Sunday, a weak circulation began to develop, and Hurricane Hunter aircraft declared it as a depression as of 5:00 PM EDT.
Currently, Tropical Depression Nine is located in the Florida Straits some 55 miles to the Northeast of Havana, Cuba, or approximately 60 miles to the south of Key West, Florida. Maximum sustained winds are at 35 miles per hour with gusts up to 45 mph. Minimum central pressure is at 1009 millibars or 29.80 inches of Hg (Mercury). TD #9 is moving to the West at 9 mph.
There are no watches or warnings for any coastal areas. However, the depression is producing tremendous rainfall along the northern coast of Cuba, and is expected to generate anywhere between one and four inches of rainfall in South Florida and the Florida Keys through Wednesday. Residents along the Gulf Coast need to monitor the progress of this system, especially now that it is moving away from the rugged mountains of Cuba and into the high octane waters of the Gulf.
Looking at the forecast track of TD #9 from the National Hurricane Center, the depression will continue moving away from Cuba and the Florida Keys on Monday, and then gradually make more of a turn to the north on Tuesday. By Wednesday, the system will be heading a little more to the North-Northeast in the Central Gulf of Mexico. The intensity forecast is murky, which is understandable due to not only the the current state of the depression, and the performance history of both the GFS and Euro on this system.
Right now, the European model (ECMWF) indicates that the depression will dissipate in the Gulf while the GFS is showing development over by days four and five. Keep in mind, experts have bee critical of the performance of these two models with this system, and the depression is still a fledgling system. So, the NHC remains cautious with a bit of a conservative forecast calling for TD #9 reaching 50 mile per hour winds within 72 hours and staying at that intensity through five days.
Winds Now up to 85 MPH; No Threat to Land
Unlike Invest 99L, which has been a little more difficult to figure out since it has been a fledgling tropical system, Gaston has been well behaved. The storm has pretty much lived up to expectations as it traverses the waters of the Central Atlantic. As forecasted, Gaston has become a hurricane again.
Located some 655 miles to the East-Southeast of Bermuda as of 11:00 PM EDT, Gaston was moving slowly to the Northwest at 8 miles per hour. Maximum sustained winds in Gaston have increased to 85 miles per hour with gusts up to 105 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure has decreased to 980 millibars or 28.94 inches of Hg (Mercury).
The storm is growing in size as well. Hurricane force winds extend some 15 miles from the eye while tropical storm force winds reach out about 140 miles from the center. Gaston is expected to continue strengthening. The most recent discussion by the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, indicates that the hurricane could come very close to being the first major hurricane of 2016.
The NHC indicates that Gaston could grow into a strong Category Two Hurricane with 110 mile per hour winds within 24 to 36 hours. Upper level conditions are expected to remain favorable for development. The only hinderance to intensification over time would be the slow motion of the storm, which could lead to the upwelling of cooler waters to the surface.
Some models have indicated that Gaston could become a major hurricane, and the NHC has ratcheted up the winds a bit in its intensity forecast. Nevertheless, Gaston poses no threat to land, and there are no watches or warnings out presently. The storm is not forecast to affect any land masses in the coming days. It is expected to remain to the east of Bermuda, and then head northeast as it falls under the influence of the westerlies.
Disturbance Takes a Turn for the Worse; Still Expected to Bring Heavy Rains and Gusty Winds to Hispaniola, Cuba, and South Florida
There was not only some good news for residents along the Gulf Coast and South Florida on Thursday, but also a lesson to all of us about trusting the computer models when it comes to forecasting the intensity and track of a developing system. Invest 99L lost a good deal of its punch as it neared the Bahamas on Thursday.
Thunderstorm activity associated with the disturbance that has been attracting a lot of attention during the week decreased significantly. As of 8:00 AM EDT on Friday morning, the weak area of low pressure that extends from Eastern Cuba northward into the Central Bahamas continues to have disorganized shower and thunderstorm activity according to the National Hurricane Center.
In addition to the weak convection, the disturbance also has to deal with unfavorable atmospheric conditions, particularly hostile upper level winds. The upper level wind shear is expected to persist for the next couple of days. Hurricane Hunter aircraft was supposed to fly into the area of disturbed weather on Friday morning, but the mission has been cancelled. The disturbance is moving to the West-Northwest at 10 miles per hour.
As of Friday morning, the chances of formation with the disturbance, Invest 99L, is at 10 percent over the next 48 hours, and over the next five days. So, the damage done to Invest 99L on Thursday has crippled it significantly for the time being. However, conditions could become more favorable for development at the start of next week when Invest 99L enters the Eastern Gulf of Mexico where sea surface temperature usually run high, and upper level winds are more accommodating.
Regardless of what happens with Invest 99L, residents in Eastern and Central Cuba, Hispaniola, the Bahamas, and South Florida and the Florida Keys should expect heavy rains and gusty winds starting with Eastern and Central Cuba and Hispaniola on Friday and spreading into the Bahamas, South Florida, and the Florida Keys during the course of the weekend. Heavy rains are a significant concern in Cuba and Hispaniola where the terrain is more mountainous and can produce flash floods and mudslides.
Looking at the model performance to date with Invest 99L, Bryan Norcross of The Weather Channel said it best when he said that both the Euro and GFS “suck” when it comes to forecasting developing or fledgling systems such as Invest 99L. They are much better at predicting storms that are more mature such as a major hurricane. This could be due to the fact that developing storms are more fragile when it comes to dealing with environmental conditions such as wind shear, dry air, and mountainous terrain. The models don’t quite grasp that concept.
We still need to keep an eye on Invest 99L. In the past, there have been storms such as Hurricane Frederick in 1979 or Hurricane Andrew in 1992 that were basically given up for dead, and experienced a dramatic resurgence to become a memorable, destructive, and even deadly storm. Residents along the Gulf Coast should continue to monitor the progress of this still developing situation.
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