09.21.17

Well Above Average Temperatures in New Jersey for Next 5 Days

Posted in Storm Track, Commentary, Storm Facts, Storm Aftermath, GWC News, Storm Warning, Tracking the Tropics 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.

09.20.17

Hurricane Maria Slams Puerto Rico After Becoming Strongest Storm of 2017

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

While Jose meandered its way up the Eastern Seaboard this week, and created rough surf and dangerous rip currents along the Jersey Shore, Maria exploded from being a tropical depression to a monster Category Five Hurricane within a span of just 56 hours. During that time, the pressure in the tropical system dropped some 83 millibars, or approximately 2.49 inches of Hg (Mercury).

Maria was not only a classic case of a Cape Verde storm, but also a perfect study in the phenomenon known as rapid intensification. This kind of development in tropical systems is usually where a fledging tropical cyclone such as a depression, or a weak tropical storm gets into an area very favorable for development with an abundance of warm water, and very little in the way of wind shear, which stifles thunderstorm formation that is essential for intensification.

What Maria did was essentially “bomb out”. The storm dropped approximately 1.5 millibars per hour. This is the kind of scenario that many people following weather closely in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut usually see during the winter with a major snowstorm, blizzard, or nor’easter. For example, the powerful storm that paralyzed the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast on March 14th of this year. It ultimately had a barometric pressure of 29.15 inches, or 987 millibars, or equivalent to a Category One Hurricane.

This particular winter storm bombed out. The pressure drop with the powerful March 14th snowstorm was approximately 38 millibars in about 18 hours, which was classic bombogenesis. Maria as well as Irma and Jose did much of the same thing in the Central and Western Atlantic before they all moved into the Northeastern Caribbean. Harvey also did much of the same thing in the Gulf of Mexico before it made landfall as a Category Four Hurricane over Rockport, Texas. Katrina, Rita, and Wilma did much of the same thing in 2005.

Many of the classic powerful Cape Verde storms that reach Category Four and Category Five strength on the Saffir-Simpson Scale experience this explosive development. The hurricane has the classic buzzsaw look with the well defined outflow and banding along with a well defined eye. With Maria, the eye feature was very small. While Irma’s eye ranged from 23 to 25 nautical miles wide in diameter, Maria’s was only about half of that at 11 nautical miles. Storms with smaller eyes, usually are much more powerful.

Like I had mentioned in a previous post to the blog, the eye of a hurricane and the actual storm itself is like a figure skater, conserving angular momentum. The tighter the eye, the faster the air is rotating counterclockwise around it. Hurricanes and even extratropical systems have two kinds of motion, rotational and translational. As a result of the rotation, or spin, these storms develop angular momentum, which like kinetic momentum, needs to be conserved. Smaller storms such as Hurricane Andrew (1992), Hurricane Camille (1969), and the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, were classic cases of small, but potent storms. All of them would end up being the only landfalling Category Five storms in the United States.

Maria devastated the island of Dominica as a Category Five storm with 160 mph winds. Then, as the storm headed toward the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, Maria intensified more to become the most powerful hurricane yet in 2017 in terms of pressure by dropping to 909 millibars, which was four millibars lower than Irma was at her peak (913 millibars). Winds grew to 175 miles per hour, but never increased to the point where they were as high as Irma’s were. The hurricane crushed the island of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, and then became the most powerful storm to strike Puerto Rico since 1932 even though it had weakened to just below the Category Five threshold on Wednesday.

The mountains of Puerto Rico, which go up to about 4,000 feet in places, and are not as high as those in Hispaniola (7,000 feet) and Cuba (10,000 feet), still managed to weaken Maria with orographic lifting to 140 miles per hour, and then 110 miles per hour. Hurricane Maria now is taking aim at the Dominican Republic, and threatens the beaches such as Punta Cana on its Northern Coast. Both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic did take some hits from Irma, but not a direct hit like Puerto Rico did with Maria earlier on Wednesday. The storm completely knocked out power on Puerto Rico.

Looking at the model ensembles earlier today, there is agreement that the storm will move north and near the Outer Banks of North Carolina within the next five days. By next Thursday, the storm is projected by both the GFS and Euro to be in the area of New York City although these two solutions slightly differ. Keep in mind that the model projections for Maria to be in the area of New York City by this time next week is premature, but it is something for residents of the Mid-Atlantic to keep in the back of their minds. Even the NHC’s five day forecast is off an average by about 160 miles, which is about the difference between a storm coming ashore in Cape May, New Jersey, or in New York City. Residents along the East Coast of the United States should closely monitor the progress of this still dangerous storm.

As of the 8:00 PM Advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, Hurricane Maria was located some 55 miles to the East-Northeast of Punta Cana on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Maria is moving steadily to the Northwest at 12 miles per hour. Maximum sustained winds remain at 110 miles per hour, which is just below Category Three or major hurricane status. Wind gusts continue to be at 130 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure has risen to 958 millibars, or 28.29 inches. Hurricane force winds extend some 60 miles from the center while tropical storm force winds reach out some 150 miles. The eye’s diameter expanded to 36 nautical miles.

Reading the most recent NHC forecast discussion from about 5:00 PM EDT indicates that Maria will re-strengthen to a major hurricane within 24 hours, and should remain at Category Three strength through 72 hours. From there, Hurricane Maria is anticipated to wind down to a Category One Hurricane by the end of five days. Hurricaneville will continue to monitor this storm, and post updates to both its Facebook and twitter feeds, and try to provide a daily update to the blog.

09.11.17

Hurricane Irma Batters All of Florida

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

Historic and Powerful Storm Covered Entire Sunshine State with Rough Weather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hurricane Irma Batters All of Florida

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

Historic and Powerful Storm Covered Entire Sunshine State with Rough Weather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

09.04.17

Long Drought Between Major Hurricanes Contribute to Texas Disaster?

Posted in Commentary, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Aftermath, Hurricane Intensity, Tracking the Tropics at 3:53 pm by gmachos

Did 12 Year Gap Between Major Storms Cause Complacency?

Earlier this year, I read an article that talked about the State of Florida relaxing its strict building codes, which had been in effect since the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in August 1992. It was quite surprising to read, but then again, it had been almost 12 years since a major hurricane had made landfall anywhere along the coastline of the United States. Had complacency set back in along the U.S. coastline?

As a matter of fact, it had been over 12 years since a major hurricane made landfall in the Sunshine State. In July 2005, Hurricane Dennis had made landfall in the Florida Panhandle area. In addition, there had not been a Category Four Hurricane coming ashore in the United States since Hurricane Charley tore through Punta Gorda, Florida in August 2004.

In the run up to the landfall of Hurricane Harvey on the evening August 25, 2017, approximately 50 to 60 percent of the residents of Rockport, Texas, where the storm came ashore as a powerful Category Four Hurricane, decided to stay and ride out the storm. Keep in mind, the last time a major hurricane came ashore in Texas, particularly the middle to low coast of the Lone Star State, was in August 1999, when Hurricane Bret made landfall.

The thing to remember with Hurricane Bret was the fact that it was a very small storm that actually had weakened from a Category Four in the Gulf to Category Three, and it struck a very sparsely populated area along the coast. The last time, the Texas coast had experienced a storm as strong as Hurricane Harvey was Hurricane Celia in 1970. Hurricane Allen had been a Category Five storm at one point, but weakened to a Category Three before making landfall in August 1980.

Hurricane Ike was also a powerful storm, and had strengthened to Category Four at one point in the Caribbean, but by the time it came ashore near Galveston in September 2008, the storm had lost some punch and was downgraded to a Category Two Hurricane. The moral of the story is that it had been quite a while since even residents along the Texas coastline experienced a storm with Harvey’s type of fury. This may have contributed to many of those residents in Rockport staying instead of evacuating.

Public officials did try to drive home the point that Harvey was not a storm to mess with. They had advised people to write their names and social security numbers on their arms in the event that they could not be identified in the storm’s aftermath. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service also clearly indicated that Harvey was going to slow down and linger in Texas for a few days, and that would result in torrential rains.

Despite this, and advice from Texas Governor Greg Abbott, local officials in Houston felt that they were able to handle this problem on their own. The mayor and the local emergency management officials had decided to have residents stay in place. A significant part of the reason for this decision was because of what had taken place during the evacuation prior to Hurricane Rita in September 2005. Back then, officials told people in the Houston area to evacuate since they didn’t know where exactly Rita would end up.

Approximately 3 million people fled ahead of Rita. People got on the roads causing tremendous traffic jams. Due to the tremendous traffic, there were many that took as long as 20 hours to get to their destination. About 100 people had died from various reasons including heat stroke. Among the dead were 24 people in a bus carrying nursing home evacuees that caught fire. In addition, there was chaos and frustration that led to fights on the roadways according to the Houston Chronicle article written in 2015, and ran again on August 25, 2017.

Nevertheless, Houston officials had 12 years to rework the plan. It is true moving some 2.5 million residents in Houston itself as well as several million more in the outlying communities is difficult, but having them stay in place in the face of a storm that wound up surpassing the rainfall totals spawned by Tropical Storm Allison, the only tropical storm on record to have its name retired, was not a very good option either. Even General Russell Honore, who was a key player in helping the City of New Orleans begin the long road back to normal after the chaos following Hurricane Katrina, stated that at least those most susceptible should have been evacuated.

It had been over 16 years since Tropical Storm Allison’s deluge over the Houston area. It had also been almost 9 years since Hurricane Ike pounded Galveston. It had been 12 years since the chaotic mass exodus in response to the threat from Rita. So, what was being done in that time to address these issues? Perhaps the lack of a significant hurricane threat in the Atlantic Basin over the past 12 to 13 years played a small part in all of this. In fairness though, the response by the people of Texas, the United States, and local, state, and federal officials in the wake of Harvey has been terrific. It has been great to see people coming together to help others in need.

Before Hurricane Andrew struck Homestead and rolled across South Florida in August 1992, there had been a period of about 20 years where there was a dearth of activity in the Atlantic Basin as a whole. South Florida had not really been hit with a major hurricane since Hurricane Betsy in 1965. Herbert Saffir, the engineer who joined forces with Robert Sampson to come up with the Saffir-Simpson Scale to classify hurricane intensity, had indicated to the Chicago Tribune back in June 2001, that the building industry had become complacent. Prior to Andrew, it wasn’t being followed, and was getting in the way of builders and contractors, who were “in a rush to get a job finished.”

During that 20 year period before Hurricane Andrew, the population of Florida changed as more and more people migrated south to the Sunshine State from areas in the north that either didn’t experience hurricanes at all, or rarely dealt with them. The same perhaps could be said in today’s Texas, which really hadn’t experienced a major hurricane in some parts of its vast coastline in 18 years, and a Category Four Hurricane on par with the strength of Harvey in 47 years.

09.03.17

New Jersey Feels Impact of Hurricane Harvey on Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harvey’s Remnants Bring Some Rain to Garden State

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

Rains from Saturday Evening into Sunday Nearly Total an Inch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

08.28.17

The Harvey Saga Continues As Storm Moves Out Over Water Again

Posted in Storm Track, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Aftermath, GWC News, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Hurricane Records, Tracking the Tropics at 8:58 pm by gmachos

The Relentless Storm Regaining Strength Again From Warm Waters of Gulf

The City of Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, is in a state of desperate paralysis as flood waters continue to rise from torrential rainfall from Tropical Storm Harvey. Once a Category Four Hurricane prior to landfall down the Texas coast at Rockport on Friday night, has brought about as much as 39 inches to areas in Southeastern Texas.

So far, there have been 2,000 rescues attempted. Earlier in the day, the rain relented as the storm’s rain bands rotated to the east and Beaumont, which had already received over 18 inches of rain. Rain has moved into Louisiana, where it has gone as Far East as New Orleans. The Crescent City, which has also seen its fair share of rain the past two summers, has received 4 to 6 inches from Harvey’s outer bands.

Other areas in South Central Louisiana could receive between 5 to 15 inches. Southeastern Louisiana including New Orleans could receive between 5 to 10 inches before the storm finally heads out. Even areas in Arkansas could receive a foot of rain from this system, which has re-energized and strengthened to have maximum sustained winds of 45 miles per hour, and a minimum central pressure of 997 millibars, or 29.44 inches of Hg.

Meanwhile, back in Texas, Dayton, a town in Liberty County, Texas, has received 39.72 inches of rain. According to Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University, this amount represents the fourth highest rainfall ever from a tropical cyclone in Texas. The Houston metropolitan area receives about 42 inches of rain per year. During Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001, there was about 35 inches of rain. Forecasts are calling for Harvey to bring another 10 to 15 inches over the next day or two to these same waterlogged areas.

Since the storm made landfall on Friday, the Brazos River has risen some 35 feet in the area of Sugarland, Texas, and may reach 59 feet there later this week according to CNN. In addition, much of Southeastern Texas, is also still battling with tornadoes. So far, 12 have been confirmed, but there have been at least 60 tornado warnings since the storm made landfall. Tornado Watches have shifted eastward to Beaumont and the Sabine Pass area of Texas into Southern Louisiana.

Harvey continues to be a record breaker by remaining a tropical storm some 72 hours after landfall. According to Klotzbach, which is the longest on record that a Texas landfalling hurricane has remained a named storm. FEMA director Brock Long asked for all hands on deck this morning as he urged all three levels of government: federal, state, and local as well as ordinary citizens to pitch in. Volunteers with boats have been urged by Houston Police to come help.

The Cajun Navy, which was created in response to flooding events in Louisiana, have also stepped forward to assist. As of 7:00 PM EDT this evening, there has been a total of 7 deaths so far from the storms. However, there are only about 5,500 people in the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Another 1,000 people have found shelter in nearby Friendswood. People are getting desperate in trying to get help. Volunteers with boats have reported being shot at or being rushed at by people that they are unable to rescue.

The Houston School District has cancelled classes for some 215,000 children, and schools aren’t expected to reopen until at least September 5th. Sporting events such as this coming weekend’s college football game between BYU and LSU at Houston’s NRG stadium is going to be moved to another venue. One of the possibilities is moving the game to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, but that area is also beginning to feel the affects of rainfall from Harvey. The exhibition game between the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys scheduled for this Thursday is also in doubt with the Texans practicing in Frisco, Texas.

Another 15 to 20 inches is expected to fall in Houston over the next few days so we could end up seeing a record shattering 50 inches of rainfall from this storm when it is done. The highest rainfall total from a Texas tropical storm or hurricane according to Klotzbach was Amelia in 1978. Hurricane Mitch, which had been a Category Five Hurricane at one point in October 1998, reportedly dumped 75 inches over Honduras and Nicaragua putting portions of those two countries back 50 years according to experts at the time.

08.26.17

The Real Problem Begins as Harvey Weakens to Tropical Storm

Posted in Storm Track, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Aftermath, GWC News, Storm Warning, Hurricane Intensity, Hurricane Records, Tracking the Tropics at 2:52 pm by gmachos

The Focus with Storm Now Goes to Heavy Rain and Flooding

Late Friday night, Harvey came ashore as a Category Four Hurricane near the town of Rockport at about 10:00 PM CDT, or about 11:00 PM EDT. Wind gusts in Rockport were as high as 132 miles per hour, and the devastation in the town is widespread and catastrophic with many building and roof failures. The real problem begins though as Harvey transitions to a potentially devastating rainmaker.

Harvey lasted as a hurricane for some 15 hours before just being downgraded to a tropical storm with 70 mile per hour winds as of 2:00 PM EDT, or 1:00 PM CDT. Corpus Christi ended up dodging a huge bullet with the storm moving further to the north, and placing the city on the western, and more weaker side of the storm. The result was winds that were less than half that in Rockport. Peak wind gust at Corpus Christi was 63 miles per hour according to CNN.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott indicated in his latest press conference that rainfall amounts have ranged from 16 inches in Houston well off to the north and east to 20 inches in Corpus Christi. The disaster declaration has been expanded to 50 counties. Approximately 1,000 people are involved in search and rescue operations across the area affected by the storm. The Southeastern portion of the Lone Star State is under a Tornado Watch as Harvey’s circulation continues to move further inland. About 50 Tornado Warnings have been issued since the storm made landfall.

Inland areas such as Victoria, Texas are currently being lashed by strong winds and heavy rains. Many of the rivers in Eastern Texas are either under major or moderate flood stage. According to Robert Smith of Garden State Weather, there are over one million people that are without power at the moment in Texas. Although the storm has weakened, Harvey still contains plenty of tropical moisture, and now that the steering currents over the storm have broken down, and the storm has slowed to nearly a crawl, torrential rains and flooding are becoming a huge concern.

Mandatory evacuations have been issued for residents along the Brazos and San Bernard River. Harvey came ashore with 130 mile per hour sustained winds and a minimum central pressure of 938 millibars. The low pressure ranks Harvey as among the Top 65 storms of all time in the Atlantic. Harvey’s pressure at landfall makes it stronger Texas hurricane than Celia (1970) with 945 millibars, and Allen (1980) with 948 millibars. Harvey was the first major hurricane to come ashore in the United States in almost 12 years, and the first Category Four system to make landfall since Hurricane Charley in August 2004.

Harvey became the first major hurricane to make landfall in Texas since Hurricane Bret did in 1999. Bret was a much smaller storm that struck a relatively uninhabited area at that time, and therefore didn’t cause much death or destruction. Harvey, which had weakened to a depression on Sunday, and then was downgraded to an open wave shortly afterward, began to get better organized on Wednesday night, and then rapidly intensified with a pressure drop of 65 millibars in about 57 hours.

Reasons for the rapid deepening with Harvey was due to the fact that the upper level wind shear that had been hampering it during the day on Wednesday, had relented. High pressure built up aloft and Harvey’s structure became more symmetric or circular, and fed off the high octane energy from the very warm water of the Gulf of Mexico, which have ranged between 85 and 90 degrees during the course of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

Prior to Harvey’s landfall on Friday night, the United States coastline had not endured a landfalling major hurricane since Hurricane Wilma came ashore in Southwestern Florida in late October 2005, which was 4,324 days ago. With the dearth of landfalling major hurricanes over the last dozen years or so, many people living along the coast have not experienced a major hurricane. This fact may have influenced many residents including about 50 to 60 percent of the population of Rockport, decided to ride out the storm according to media reports.

About a couple weeks ago, there was a lot of chatter going around the internet, Twitter, and Facebook about the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season being a disappointment to date, and some didn’t expect much to happen the rest of the season. Harvey is a simple and powerful reminder that large numbers to not always translate into a huge season. All it takes is just one.

08.25.17

Harvey Bears Down on the Texas Coast

Posted in Storm Track, Commentary, Storm History, Storm Aftermath, Storm Preparation, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 11:34 am by gmachos

Storm Poised to be 1st Major Hurricane to Make Landfall in U.S. Since 2005

Over the past 24 hours since my last blog post on Harvey, the storm has not only become the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season’s third hurricane, but it has become a strong Category Two system on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, and could be on the cusp of being the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States in almost 12 years, and the first such storm to come ashore in Texas in 18 years.

Feeding off the very warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and no longer feeling the effects of shear from an upper level low, Harvey’s now circular and symmetric structure has been able to flourish. Harvey, which dropped 16 millibars in just 8 hours as of 10:00 AM yesterday morning, has deepened even further with its minimum central pressure falling another 38 millibars to 947 millibars, or 27.97 inches of Hg.

As of the 10:00 AM CDT Advisory, maximum sustained winds with Harvey have increased to 110 miles per hour, which is just one mile per hour below the threshold for a Category Three, or major hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Wind gusts are estimated to be as high as 125 miles per hour. Harvey is located some 115 miles to the Southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas, or about 120 miles to the South-Southeast of Port O’Connor, Texas. Forward motion has slowed to the Northwest at about 10 miles per hour.

Hurricane force winds extend some 35 miles from the eye while tropical storm force winds reach out some 140 miles from the center of circulation. Harvey is expected to slow down even more, and linger around the Texas coast for at least several days. The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center does indicate that this storm is expected to dump anywhere from 15 to 25 inches along the middle to upper Texas coast with some isolated areas receiving up to 35 inches, or just under 3 feet of rain.

Another dangerous effect from this storm is storm surge. The majority of people who die in tropical storms and hurricanes, are from the effects of storm surge. Portions of the Texas coast from Padre Island to Sargent is expected to get a storm surge anywhere from 6 to 12 feet. Further along the coast from Sargent to Jamaica Beach and from Port Mansfield to Padre Island are expected to receive a storm surge from 5 to 8 feet. The NHC has numerous watches and warnings issued for the Texas and Northern Mexico.

One more thing to worry about, especially in Texas, is the possibility of tornadoes. Now most tornadoes spawned in hurricanes, especially in the dangerous and notorious right front or northeastern quadrant, are not the type of twisters that can occur during the peak of Severe Weather season, but they can be numerous. For example, in Hurricane Beulah, a Category Four Hurricane in 1967, there were 150 tornadoes spawned.

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect from Port Mansfield to High Island, Texas. A Storm Surge Watch is in effect from south of Port Mansfield to the mouth of the Rio Grande River. A Hurricane Warning is in effect from Port Mansfield to Sargent, Texas. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect from north of Sargent to High Island, Texas and south of Port Mansfield to the mouth of the Rio Grande River. A Hurricane Watch is in effect from south of Port Mansfield to the mouth of the Rio Grande River. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect from south of the mouth of the Rio Grande River to Boca de Catan, Mexico.

Looking at the latest infrared satellite imagery from the Western Gulf of Mexico, you can see the storm has grown in size somewhat, and more deeper reds, an indication of higher and colder cloud tops, have increased, and a pinhole eye feature has become more noticeable. The water vapor imagery clearly shows a very potent storm with good outflow and a well defined eye. The latest forecast track from the NHC has Hurricane Harvey coming ashore along the lower to middle Texas coast at about 1:00 AM CDT, or 2:00 AM EDT on Saturday as a major hurricane.

From that point, the forecast track is showing Harvey lingering along the Texas coast over the next several days, and moving as far north as Houston and Galveston as a tropical storm by early Wednesday morning. Looking at the models courtesy of Tropical Tidbits, the GFS is showing a track that takes Harvey inland over Texas on Saturday, and meanders it inland for a bit, and then treks it southward back along the coast before heading northward along the coast over the next five days.

The European model (ECMWF) has the storm tracking inland along the Texas coast, and meandering along the coast, and not going as far inland before going up the coast to the Houston area, and into Southwestern Louisiana within six days, and into Northwestern Louisiana by about a week’s time. The CMC, or Canadian model keeps Harvey to the south in Southern Texas, where it meanders inland for a few days before heading south and dissipating over the mountains of Northern Mexico. The HWRF model has a much different scenario.

The HWRF model has the storm moving inland over the low to middle Texas coast, and drift northward and weakening over the next several days, but then it has the storm moving back to the south over the waters of the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico, and then making a second landfall in the Sabine Pass area around Port McArthur, Texas within five days. Regardless of the track, residents in Eastern Texas from Brownsville to Houston to Port McArthur should expect a lot of rain over the next several days to possibly a week.

Harvey is forecast to become a Category Three Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with 120 mile per hour winds over the next 12 hours, or just prior to landfall along the Texas Coast. If Harvey does reach major hurricane strength, and comes ashore that way, it becomes the first major storm to make landfall in the United States in almost 12 years. The last major hurricane to come ashore in the United States was Hurricane Wilma back in October 2005. Harvey would also be the first major hurricane to come ashore in Texas since Hurricane Bret in August 1998.

This is going to be the first significant test for the Trump Administration, which has really struggled to establish an agenda, maintain stability, and resist infighting amongst its staff and within the Republican Party. Memorable moments of poor presidential leadership have occurred during natural disasters. For example, the response by the George H.W. Bush administration to Hurricane Andrew after its landfall in South Florida in August 1992 contributed to that administration’s defeat to Bill Clinton in November that year.

Fast forward to August and early September 2005 and George W. Bush, the son of George H.W. Bush, and his administration’s poor response in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall along the Central Gulf coast and the devastation it caused to the New Orleans area, particularly the Lower Ninth Ward, and the Mississippi Gulf coast, where storm surge levels reached record levels for North America at over 28 feet. President Trump’s efforts in response to Hurricane Harvey will be closely watched and under a media microscope that has been merciless.

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