09.02.19

Tracking the Tropics—September 2, 2019

Posted in Commentary, GWC News, Hurricane Intensit, Hurricane Records, Storm Facts, Storm History, Tracking the Tropi at 9:28 pm by gmachos

Labor Day 2019 is a day that history repeated itself in the Atlantic Tropics. Actually it was on Sunday, but again, another Labor Day was overshadowed by the impact and the threat for more impacts from Hurricane Dorian. It was on this date some 84 years ago, another monster storm was devastating the Florida Keys, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.

THIS DAY IN HURRICANEVILLE HISTORY

The storm had winds of 185 mph and gusts well over 200 mph. It was a small yet powerful storm that went through the Florida Straits and into the Keys. The monster hurricane destroyed the Overseas Railroad, a brainchild of Florida businessman, Henry Flagler, and left many World War I Veterans that were working on the railroad. The railroad, which linked the Florida Keys with mainland Florida, was then replaced by the U.S. 1 highway, now the only route out of the Keys.

It was the first Category Five Hurricane to make landfall in the continental United States. Only three other storms: Camille (1969), Andrew (1992), and Michael (2018) have ever done that, and Andrew and Michael were re-evaluated and re-categorized as Cat 5 storms in 2002 and 2019. For a very long time, the storm held the mark for the lowest pressure ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere for 53 years until Hurricane Gilbert surpassed it in September 1988.

Wilma would then surpass the mark made by Gilbert in the wild hurricane season of 2005. In almost the same location as Gilbert near the Yucatan Peninsula, Wilma’s pressure ended up at 882 millibars as it became the fifth Category Five Hurricane that season. Andrew followed a similar path as the Labor Day Hurricane did, but was just a bit further to the north as it made landfall in Homestead in Southern Dade County, Florida.

A LOOK AROUND IN THE ATLANTIC

Dorian is dominating the scene in the Atlantic. However, believe it or not, there are four disturbances being watched throughout the basin from the coast of Africa to the South Central Gulf. The most immediate concern outside of Dorian is located in the South Central Gulf of Mexico. A tropical depression could emerge from this over the next several days. Currently, the chance for development within the next 48 hours is 60 percent, and that probability will increase to 70 percent in five days.

The next feature that needs the most attention, although it is still a long ways out is in the Eastern Atlantic. What the NHC calls an elongated area of low pressure is located several hundred miles west of the Cape Verde Islands. This system is in the prime area of development during the peak of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, and has an 80 percent potential of becoming a tropical cyclone of some kind over the next 48 hours, and a 90 percent chance over the next 5 days.

Further to the east in Western Africa, another wave is about to depart into the Eastern Atlantic, and there is already a 50 percent chance of development into a depression over the next five days. So, the tropical pipeline appears to be firing up just in time for the statistical peak of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, which occurs on September 10th. Finally, there is another area of disturbed weather several hundred miles to the south-southeast of Bermuda, which has about a 30 percent chance of formation from 48 hours to 5 days out.

I plan to have another update to the blog on Hurricane Dorian sometime during the day on Tuesday. I also may discuss the severe weather and heavy surf that dominated my Labor Day Weekend trip to Long Beach Island.

Hurricane Dorian—More Thoughts

Posted in Commentary, GWC News, Hurricane Intensit, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, Storm Safety, Storm Track, Storm Warning, Tracking the Tropi at 3:14 pm by gmachos

On this early Tuesday afternoon, Dorian has basically grinded to a halt in its forward motion while its winds have decreased some 35 miles per hour from its peak on Sunday afternoon. The storm is still a high end Category Four Hurricane with 150 mph winds and a minimum central pressure of 938 millibars, or 27.70 inches of Hg.

The Northwestern Bahamas have been absolutely pounded as the storm as slowed and its eye crawls across the backbone of Grand Bahama Island towards Freeport. There are outer rain bands currently affecting Eastern Florida. All 67 counties in the Sunshine State are under a State of Emergency while portions of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina are under a State of Emergency as well.

Some 10 million people are under some form of tropical advisory at this time. At this point, the storm is still forecasted to eventually turn north, but Florida is still not out of the woods yet since that turn has not yet started to happen, and it is very possible that Dorian will be much closer to Florida’s East Coast before it does turn northward. It is located about 83 miles from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and about 108 miles from Fort Lauderdale.

Hurricane Dorian is currently going through an eyewall replacement cycle, which is when an outer eyewall forms and replaces the current inner eyewall. This phase is mostly responsible for the storm’s weakening along with the long interaction with Grand Bahama Island as well as some upwelling of colder water. The eyewall replacement cycle usually results with a larger wind field as a result of the conservation of angular momentum.

While the storm is some 500 miles away from the Jersey Shore, the surf has picked up considerably in the past 12 to 18 hours at places like Ship Bottom on Long Beach Island. The surf is much rougher, and more stirred up while the wave frequency and height has increased. There is video proof of this on the GWCHurricaneville Facebook page and twitter feed. Rip tide or rip current advisories are currently in effect for the Jersey Shore through Monday night. Expect the surf and wave action to continue picking up as the storm moves further north and makes its closest approach to the Garden State.

Right now, Southern Jersey is not in the forecast track, but had been in the cone of uncertainty as of Sunday night. Places such as Long Beach Island, Atlantic City, and Cape May could still feel some impacts from Dorian as it heads further north later this week, but areas that are in more immediate danger are along the Southeast Coast from the East Coast of Florida to Southeastern Virginia. Now, let’s discuss some of the things that have been discussed over the last couple of days.

First, there was the talk about the discrepancy regarding the storm when recon detected Category 5 Hurricane winds on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, but was still listed as a Category Four. Here’s the thing: If you have an 18 wheel tractor trailer coming at you, does it really matter how fast it is going at this point? It could be going 50, 65, 70, or 100 mph, it is not really going to matter because if you get in the way of it, it is likely not going to end up well. Then, there is the heavy surf and waves here in Ocean County from Dorian.

Many will say, how is that possible? Simple. It is a ripple effect from the storm. Much like when you drop a stone in a pond. Ripples of water propagate out from where the stone is dropped. So, if you dropped a 200 pound boulder into the middle of a lake, you pretty much have what’s going on in the Atlantic as the result of Hurricane Dorian’s strength, size, and power. I will try to post another blog entry on Tuesday or so. Unfortunately, I am not able to do as much work on the blog and site due to personal commitments such as my work schedule, and other obligations.

09.01.19

Some Thoughts on Hurricane Dorian

Posted in Commentary, Model Forecasts, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, Storm Safety, Storm Track, Storm Warning, Tracking the Tropi at 10:40 pm by gmachos

Monster Storm Slamming the Northwest Bahamas

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been monitoring Facebook and Twitter posts, and one of the things I saw not only then, but for much of the season, was the fact that many people were again already giving up on the season as if the statistical peak of September 10th had already passed.

This mindset was similar not too long ago. In about August 2017, I had seen a post from someone on Facebook that indicated that the Atlantic Hurricane Season was a bust, and there were no signs of anything significant occurring. Within about a month, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria became Category Five Storms in the Caribbean, and eventually pounded Florida and Puerto Rico.

The same thing happened a year later in the Summer of 2018, and then there was Michael, the most powerful storm to hit the Florida Panhandle, and the fourth Category Five Hurricane to make landfall in the Continental United States. The thing that amazes me is that people just don’t seem to realize how the hurricane season does not end in June and July. Rather, it is only the beginning.

Now, there are some years such as 2005 when you have storms in June and July. In that historic season, there were two Category Five Storms in just the month of July alone, Dennis and Emily. Of course, there would be several more to go in Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. But 2005 was a record shattering season. Not every big year is going to end up like that, but it also doesn’t mean that it won’t be a big season.

More importantly though, many get too caught up with the number of storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes that are projected in the various seasonal forecasts issued by the likes of Colorado State, NOAA, The Weather Channel, etc. Remember, it only takes one. I always say how Hurricane Andrew in 1992 is a classic example of that. Andrew was the first storm of that season, and it did not really come along until the middle of August that season.

Yet, Andrew defied many odds to become the 2nd Category Five Hurricane to make landfall in the Continental United States although originally it was classified as a Category Four Hurricane when it hit Homestead, Florida. The 1992 season ended up being a below average year in terms of activity although it would later contribute to The Perfect Storm in October that year when Hurricane Grace, a Category One storm unlike the Category Five featured in the movie based on the Sebastian Junger book that came out in 2000.

Another example is the storm that Dorian is now being compared to in terms of wind power, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. Again this storm occurred in a season that was below average according to the data collected as of this time. Yet, the storm devastated the Florida Keys and the Overseas Railroad that linked mainland Florida with the Keys. It also left many World War I Veterans that were working on the railroad, dead. Several years later, another powerful storm came along in a below average season.

The Long Island Express of 1938 came along during another year of below average activity, but is perhaps the most powerful storm to strike Long Island and New England. It left some 600 people dead. Dorian has generated more tropical activity than the entire 1983 Atlantic Hurricane Season, but there still was Hurricane Alicia, a major hurricane that threatened the Houston and Galveston area that year. A few years earlier, there was Hurricane Allen, which had 190 mile per hour winds in the Caribbean before coming ashore in South Texas in August 1980.

The moral of all of the stories and examples of past hurricanes, is again, my important credo, “It only takes one storm to make a season regardless of how many storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes are predicted.” There are some years, when there are a number of tropical storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes, but not many of them make an impact in the United States. There are others such as 2004 and 2005 with numerous storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes that do come ashore. Some of those big years like 1969, 1998, and 2004 start off very slow, and then come on very strong.

A couple weeks ago, many commemorated the 50th Anniversary of Hurricane Camille. This storm was only the third named storm of the season, and it impacted the Gulf Coast of Mississippi near Pass Christian with 180 mph winds and a 24 foot storm surge. The 1969 season would then end up with 18 named storms and 12 hurricanes. The only seasons that had more storms were 1933 and 1995, and the only season with more hurricanes was 2005.

Speaking of Camille, there is another thing that I find troubling about some of the discussions I see on social media. Many critique the forecasting of Dorian not only in terms of track, but also in terms of intensity as well. For example, there was a criticism that Dorian was named a hurricane too soon when it was about to make impacts in the Virgin Islands. Even if it was not a hurricane, it was still capable of producing torrential rains resulting in flash flooding and mudslides in the mountainous terrain of these islands.

Going back to Camille, the storm was one of the first systems that was observed with a new tool for forecasters called satellite. Forecasters such as John Hope, who later worked at the Weather Channel, Neil Frank, a future director at the National Hurricane Center, and Bob Sheets, another future director as well as Robert Simpson, the NHC director at the time, did not think Camille was that strong according to the satellite imagery that they had of it at the time. When Hurricane Hunter aircraft got into the storm, they realized that the storm was much worse than thought.

The moral of this story? Is that forecasters can only do the best they can with the tools they have available. True forecasters today have tons of tools, data, and computer power at their disposal. Never in the brief history of meteorology, which has only been around for about a little more than 100 years, have forecasters had such an abundance of information and technology available to them. Yet, there are still issues. Some models don’t work as well as others. Social media is a great way of sharing information, but it can also lead to confusion and misinformation. The public is also more informed as well due to the computer, mobile phone, and internet, and can be prone to second guess the forecaster.

Forecasting the track has improved, but only gradually on a linear scale while population growth, especially in places such as Florida, has grown exponentially. The result, a lot of people in the Sunshine State that have perhaps never really experienced a hurricane before. There was a sense of panic that I observed in Florida this week courtesy of Jim Williams live broadcast at Hurricane City on Friday night that was reminiscent of the chaos that ensued when Hurricane Floyd was off the East Coast of Florida, and lashing the Bahamas with 150 mile per hour winds in September 1999.

There was also the debate over the fact that Dorian had winds measured at Category Five intensity from reconnaissance aircraft measurements late Saturday night, and yet the advisories up and until 8:00 AM on Sunday still had the storm at a Category Four. A Category Five storm is rarified air for a tropical system, and it is also very difficult for such a system to maintain that intensity for a long period of time. Most Cat Five storms stay at that intensity for 24 hours or so, but some have lasted as long as 30 to 36 hours, or even longer. What does that mean? Perhaps the forecasters were trying to see whether the Cat Five intensity would persist. A key factor with tropical systems is their persistence.

So the forecasters might have delayed to make sure that this was a trend, and not something that just happened for a few hours, and then stopped. The NHC waited roughly about 12 hours before upgrading Dorian to a Category Five Hurricane. Then, there is the debate over the forecast track. Originally, Florida was expected to get some sort of impact from this system, especially after the system reorganized north of Puerto Rico, and did not go through the Mona Passage as originally predicted. Then, Friday into Saturday the official forecast appeared to put Florida in the clear as Dorian headed more north toward the Northwestern Bahamas.

Again, Dorian has defied many odds against it to this point. In a way, the storm is somewhat similar to Andrew in terms of surviving many obstacles only to rapidly intensify into this Category Five monster. While some did indicate that Dorian had a good chance to be a Category Four or Five storm, nobody imagined that the hurricane would become this powerful, and the strongest storm to affect the Northwestern Bahamas. It also had a minimum central pressure of 909 millibars, which was just a bit stronger than Hurricane Ivan in 2004 (910 millibars). Storms like these can make an environment of their own, and sometimes go where they want to instead of being pushed by other environmental forces. Forecasters can not always predict that.

Obviously, there is a lot of angst and concern all along the East Coast of Florida, but the Northwestern Bahamas have never seen a storm of this intensity and fury before ever on record. According to sources familiar with the Bahamas, approximately 70 percent of Abaco Islands have homes either destroyed or damaged. Grand Bahama Island including Freeport has never been hit by a Category Five Hurricane. Both of these islands have highest elevations that are only 10 to 15 feet above mean sea level, and the forecasted storm surge for those areas was supposed to be between 18 and 23 feet above normal. In addition, there are also damaging waves on top of the surge.

On top of this, the steering currents around Hurricane Dorian have broken down, or cancelled each other out, which has caused the storm to slow down. The slow motion has prolonged the devastating and catastrophic effects of the hurricane over the Northwestern Bahamas. At the same time, it does give residents along Florida’s East Coast time to prepare if the hurricane pushes further westward, and threatens to make landfall there. Dorian is expected to make a turn to the north by Tuesday, and could then threaten Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina as well as Florida.

States of Emergency have been declared for portions of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The storm is expected to head north and then northeast eventually. South Jersey could feel the effects of the storm by Thursday and Friday. Forecasts for places like Ship Bottom on Long Beach Island are calling for temperatures in the low 70s with rain and wind on both of those days. Residents along Florida’s East Coast need to finalize preparations, and perhaps move westward and even south towards Miami and Dade County to stay out of the western eyewall. Dorian appears to have begun an eyewall replacement cycle, which will cause it to weaken, but also increase its wind field to conserve angular momentum.

Residents in Georgia and Carolinas need to closely monitor this dangerous situation, and get prepared if they haven’t already. Again, the slow forward speed of the storm due to breakdown in upper level steering currents does provide additional time to prepare, and get things in order in the event that evacuation orders are given. Further up the East Coast in the Mid-Atlantic and New England should periodically monitor the progress of the situation.

09.21.17

Well Above Average Temperatures in New Jersey for Next 5 Days

Posted in Commentary, GWC News, Storm Aftermath, Storm Facts, Storm Track, Storm Warning, Tracking the Tropi at 12:40 pm by gmachos

Warm, Humid Weather Resulting from Tropical Storm Jose

Checking the temperatures this morning for the next five days here in Central Jersey, I discovered that they will be almost summer like. Over these next five days, the mercury is forecast to climb into the low to mid 80s for highs and low to mid 60s for lows. The average high temperature in Newark, New Jersey for this first day of fall, or September 21st, is 77 degrees while the average low is about 60.

So what is the cause for this? Simple. The reason for this August like weather is because of what was Hurricane, and now is Tropical Storm Jose, which is still churning in the Atlantic and bringing gusty winds and rains to Southeastern New England while still providing rough surf and rip currents to much of the East Coast. You may is how does a hurricane cause temperatures and humidity levels to go up, especially this time of year?

The reason hurricanes can produce this kind of change is that despite the destructive, deadly, and devastating powers of these storms, they actually serve a beneficial purpose to our planet. Like all storms, hurricanes and tropical storms come about to bring balance to the earth’s atmosphere in some way. In the case of tropical systems, they are responsible for the transfer of heat and moisture from the tropics to the poles. This is why temperatures will be about 5 to 10 degrees above normal here in New Jersey over the next five days. Jose’s trip up here made the dog days of summer like weather return to our area despite the calendar saying it was the first day of fall.

Jose still hasn’t left the scene yet either. As of the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center, which was at 11:00 AM on Thursday morning, the tropical storm was located some 145 miles to the Southeast of Nantucket Massachusetts. The storm is also stationary meaning there is no air mass or front that can kick it out at the present time. Maximum sustained winds are still at 60 miles per hour with gusts up to 70 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure with Jose is up to 984 millibars, or 29.06 inches, which is still equivalent to a Category One Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

A Tropical Storm Warning remains in effect for the Massachusetts coast from Woods Hole to Sagamore Beach including Cape Cod, Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. The Jersey Shore will still feel the effects from the system. As of this morning, places like Manasquan Inlet in the southern portion of Monmouth County, were still dealing with rough surf and rip currents from the storm. With the storm not moving much and still spinning away, it is very likely that the Jersey Shore as well as the rest of the Mid-Atlantic will continue to see rough surf and rip currents for the next several days.

The National Weather Service still has Tropical Storm Warnings out for the West Central North Atlantic continental shelf and slope waters beyond 20 nautical miles to 250 nautical miles offshore. Meanwhile, the rest of New Jersey will see great weather for this time of year with temperatures at places like GWC in South Plainfield, NJ, between 81 and 87 degrees over the next five days under mostly sunny skies. Winds will be out of the north at about 6 to 11 miles per hour during the period.

09.11.17

Hurricane Irma Batters All of Florida

Posted in Commentary, GWC News, Hurricane Anomalie, Hurricane Intensit, Hurricane Records, Model Forecasts, Storm Aftermath, Storm Facts, Storm Footage, Storm History, Storm Preparation, Storm Safety, Storm Track, Storm Warning, Tracking the Tropi 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 Commentary, GWC News, Hurricane Anomalie, Hurricane Intensit, Hurricane Records, Model Forecasts, Storm Aftermath, Storm Facts, Storm Footage, Storm History, Storm Preparation, Storm Safety, Storm Track, Storm Warning, Tracking the Tropi 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 Commentary, GWC News, Hurricane Intensit, Hurricane Records, Model Forecasts, Storm Facts, Storm History, Storm Preparation, Storm Safety, Storm Track, Storm Warning, Tracking the Tropi 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 Commentary, GWC News, Hurricane Intensit, Hurricane Records, Model Forecasts, Storm Facts, Storm History, Storm Preparation, Storm Safety, Storm Track, Storm Warning, Tracking the Tropi 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 Commentary, GWC News, Hurricane Intensit, Hurricane Records, Model Forecasts, Storm Facts, Storm Footage, Storm History, Storm Preparation, Storm Safety, Storm Track, Storm Warning, Tracking the Tropi 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.

09.04.17

Hurricane Irma Intensifies to Category Four Storm

Posted in Commentary, GWC News, Hurricane Intensit, Model Forecasts, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, Storm Safety, Storm Track, Storm Warning, Tracking the Tropi 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.

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