On Friday, this site as well as the rest of the country reflected on the third year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall along the Gulf Coast. The storm holds the mark as the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history with some $80 billion dollars in damage while claiming some 1,833 lives. Now, in a bitter twist of irony, the same region is in the crosshairs again with a menacing storm named Gustav.
In a period of 39 hours, just more than a day and a half, Hurricane Gustav grew from a strong tropical storm to the fringes of Category Five intensity with 150 mile per hour winds. Thankfully, the storm moved over the Isle of Youth and Western Cuba, which put a halt to the momentum the storm had gained from its rapid intensification. Nevertheless, Gustav still has winds of 125 miles per hour, which still makes it a very formidable Category Three Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.
On top of that, the storm is back over water, and not just any body of water, but the very warm water of the Gulf of Mexico. Located approximately 425 miles from the Mouth of the Mississippi River, Hurricane Gustav has plenty of warm water real estate to cover before it comes ashore somewhere along the Central Gulf Coast. Presently, a Hurricane Warning is in effect from Cameron, Louisiana eastward to the Alabama/Florida border including the City of New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain. A Hurricane Watch is in effect from west of Cameron, ground zero for such powerful storms as Hurricane Audrey back in 1957, westward to High Island, Texas. The storm is moving quite briskly to the Northwest at 16 miles per hour as of the 5 AM EDT Advisory on Sunday morning.
A large ridge of high pressure, which is supposed to usher in very nice weather for the Northeast this week, may be the saving grace for New Orleans. The Big Easy, which honestly is in now condition to have another major hurricane knocking down its doors, especially since the brunt of Katrina ended up well east of the city, and thanks to a man-made disaster, it lay in ruin. A major hurricane making landfall west of New Orleans would be the doomsday scenario everybody has dreaded for years. It could be the end of a major American metropolis much like what happened to Indianola, Texas back in the 1880s, and its rival city Galveston some 30 years later. It would be a very crippling blow to the Crescent City to say the least. Two things actually saved New Orleans in Katrina. The first was the already mentioned fact that the storm’s strongest part, the eastern semicircle was well to the east, and the second was the fact that Katrina had weakened significantly prior to landfall.
Cuba’s rugged terrain may have put a temporary halt to Gustav’s march on New Orleans. Could Gustav regain itself, and become the monster Katrina was some three years ago? Only time will tell.
Over the past couple of days, the last remnants of what was Tropical Storm Fay had been spinning about in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Although the bulk of the precipitation had fallen over much of Central Pennsylvania during that time, New Jersey, particularly the southern part received some rain, but not much. However, that changed on Saturday morning as a cold front that is serving as the leading edge of high pressure began to move in from the west.
At about 5:00 AM this morning, rain began to fall over the Central Jersey area, particularly in Northwestern Middlesex County. According to the latest data received from the Greg’s Weather Center WX Station, which is back in operation, 0.28 inches of rain fell, which represents 72 percent of the total rainfall seen by the area over the past two weeks. There were no rumbles of thunder over the region this morning, but there was a brief downpour. More unstable weather is in store for today with clouds hanging overhead, and the possibility of isolated thunderstorms throughout the day and early evening.
Temperatures are expected to hover around the 80 degree mark. The low temperature was 67 degrees at about 6:20 AM this morning after a high of 78.7 on Friday. Humidity began to go on the rise on Friday as the moisture from Fay’s remnants began to move into the area. However, the moisture came mostly in the form of clouds although there were some brief spritzes of rain along with occasional drizzle. It really wasn’t until the front began to come through on Saturday morning that there was more significant rainfall.
Good evening everyone. As you can see from what I’ve done on the site today, I’ve been trying to get myself into tropical storm and hurricane mode finally over spending much of the summer focused on basketball. I caught myself a break over the past two or three days when Gustav struggled to keep itself together after coming ashore over Southwestern Haiti, and weakening to a tropical storm with 45 mile per hour winds.
Speaking of Gustav, have you been watching the central barometric pressure readings over the past 18 hours? While Gustav moved through the island of Jamaica during the overnight on Thursday and Friday, the pressure had risen to 993 millibars, or 29.32 inches of Hg (Mercury) at 2:00 AM EDT on Friday morning according to that particular advisory from the National Hurricane Center. Since that time, the pressure has dropped an average of a millibar per hour to 975 millibars, or 28.79 inches of Hg as of the latest (8:00 PM EDT) advisory from the NHC. The storm, which was reclassified to a minimal Category One Hurricane with 80 mile per hour winds. Could this pressure drop be an early indication of a rapid intensification phase?
Looking at the latest discussion from the NHC, there is an indication that a rapid intensification with Gustav could occur. The SHIPS model indicates that there is a 35 percent chance that Gustav will undergo a 30 knot, or a 35 mile per hour increase in its sustained winds over the next 24 hours. The conditions are there for rapid development. The sea surface temperatures in the Western Caribbean are close to, if not optimal. SSTs in this region are probably the warmest throughout the entire hurricane season. Upper level dynamics are also supportive to strengthening. Bottom line is that the situation is just right for Gustav to make that jump from a fledgling hurricane to a major hurricane. Many storms that go through rapid intensification start off as a tropical storm or minimal hurricane, and then rapidly intensify to a powerful hurricane of Category Four or Five strength.
Classic examples of this rapid intensification were: Hurricane Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Andrew, and Ivan. All five of these storms ended up as Category Five Hurricanes at one point in their lifetime, and after a rapid intensification phase. Going back to the latest discussion from the NHC, the forecast calls for Gustav to peak as a strong Category Three Hurricane with winds of 110 knots, or 125 miles per hour. Even at 72 hours, winds will still be at 120 miles per hour, which will still be nothing to sneeze at as it closes in on some point along the Gulf Coast of the United States.
Today is August 29th, and that day is significant since it was three years ago on this date that Hurricane Katrina stormed ashore along the Gulf Coast. The storm made two landfalls as it first came ashore near Buras in the Bayou of Louisiana, and then hit land again near the Louisiana/Mississippi border. The day before making landfall, Katrina had grown to be one of the most powerful storms on record with winds well exceeding Category Five strength on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.
The storm made the worst fears for the most vulnerable city in the United States to a landfalling major hurricane realized. For years, the city of New Orleans, the Big Easy, or the Crescent City as it is better known, had dodged bullet after bullet in the forms of Hurricane Camille in 1969, Hurricane Elena in 1985, Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Hurricane Georges in 1998, and Hurricane Lili in 2002. However, with Katrina, luck had run out for New Orleans although the damage from Katrina wasn’t initially that bad. It was actually the lack of a federal, state, and municipal response in the aftermath of the storm that made the situation much worse than it should have been.
Katrina ended up being the costliest natural disaster in United States History with some $80 billion dollars in damage. The previous mark had been held by Hurricane Andrew ($27 billion) when it rampaged through South Florida in August 1992. Initial estimates saw the cost for Katrina could go as high as $200 billion dollars from the damage not only in New Orleans, but also in the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which was hit far worse, and even suffered a greater catastrophe than when Camille came ashore in August 1969. The death toll was staggering by modern standards. Katrina ended up being one of the deadliest storms since 1900 with over 1,800 dead along the Central Gulf Coast. The storm generated the highest storm surge on the North American continent with levels rising as high as 28 feet shattering the previous mark held by Camille (24 ft. and 3 inches).
Hurricane Katrina was one of those situations where it could have been much better, and it could have been much worse. At about 2:00 PM EDT on August 28th, the storm reached peak intensity with 180 mile per hour sustained winds, and a minimum central pressure of 902 millibars, or 26.64 inches of Hg (Mercury). Seventeen hours later, at landfall near Buras, Louisiana, the storm had weakened to a strong Category Three on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with 110 knot, or 125 mile per hour winds, and a minimal central pressure of 27.17 inches of Hg. By the time it had made its second landfall along the Louisiana and Mississippi border, the winds had decreased to 120 miles per hour, and the pressure rose to 928 millibars, or 27.40 inches of Hg (Mercury). On top of that, the storm’s eye had passed well to the east of New Orleans putting the city on the western side of the storm, which is not as intense.
Had the response by the federal government in particular been better, the situation would not have spiraled so out of control. Even if the response was just a couple days late rather than a week or more, it would have made an enormous difference. In the wake of the levee breech and the catastrophic floods that resulted, New Orleans has struggled to get back to where it was. A mass diaspora took place in the United States with many former residents of the Big Easy re-locating elsewhere in the country. The demographics of not only the Crescent City, but also the State of Louisiana have dramatically changed to the point where it is much more Republican than it was before Katrina. Crime has gone up throughout the city, and many parts of the city are still in shambles.
Not to say that nothing positive has developed since Katrina. Two of the sports franchises in New Orleans, the Saints and the Hornets, have enjoyed a great deal of success in the past couple of years. The Superdome, a symbol of the mismanagement of the aftermath, was reopened after fears that it may have to be torn down following the roof being torn up. Conferences have been held in the city including the North American Summit between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. However, it has still been somewhat difficult for the city to attract tourists and business three years after the storm’s impact.
While some believe that the Atlantic has gotten off to a fast start with 8 named storms, 3 hurricanes, and a major hurricane so far in 2008, the Eastern Pacific has had its share of activity too. Now, it is true that the EPAC season has a bit of a jump on the Atlantic every year since the season in the Eastern Pacific basin starts two weeks earlier on May 15th while the Atlantic’s starts on June 1st to coincide with the beginning of meteorological summer. However, like the Atlantic, the East PAC is still on target for having an active year as well.
Coming into today, August 29th, there have been a total of 11 tropical depressions, 10 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and one major hurricane of Category Three Strength or better on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Of the four other hurricanes, two of them, Elida and Fausto became Category Two storms with winds of 100 miles per hour, or greater. The first named storm of the season, Alma, did not come until almost two weeks after the season started, and actually several days before Arthur emerged in the Atlantic to begin the season there.
The most recent storm, Julio was a tropical storm with winds of 50 mile per hour winds as it threatened the Baja Peninsula region of Western Mexico over the past week. The strongest storm of the season in the Eastern Pacific Basin has been, Hurricane Hernan, the only major storm of the year with maximum sustained winds at one point reaching 120 miles per hour on the afternoon of August 9th. Usually when there is a busy season in the Eastern Pacific, there is not a lot of activity in the Atlantic. Recent hurricane seasons of 1997 and 2006 are examples of this. Both of these seasons coincided with El Nino conditions, which bring warmer than normal sea surface temperatures to the EPAC, and hostile upper level conditions in the Atlantic.
On the other hand, when conditions in the Atlantic are active like they’ve been for the majority of the past 14 seasons (1995-2008), things are usually quiet or below average in the Eastern Pacific. Usually, when there is a lot of activity in one region, there is not a lot in the other. The reason why things are so quiet in the Atlantic when they are so busy in the Eastern Pacific is because the storms that form in the Eastern Pacific usually come ashore, and head eastward into the Atlantic basin, which creates shearing winds and unfavorable upper level dynamics in the region that prevents tropical storms and hurricanes from developing. On the other hand, the Atlantic usually becomes very active and the Eastern Pacific is quiet when there is a La Nina.
During La Nina, sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Pacific become cooler than normal, which hinders the development of tropical systems there, and helps storms and hurricanes flourish in the Atlantic since there are no storms coming across Mexico into the basin with hostile upper level winds to shear fledgling tropical storms apart. Both the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific seasons end on November 30th so we still have several months to see whether or not, the EPAC will finish above average.
Statistically speaking, the Tropical Atlantic usually hits full steam in August and September. The Cape Verde Season, where most of the powerful hurricanes develop in the deep tropics, occurs around this time after the ocean has been cooked by the strong rays of the summer sun for a couple months. The actual peak of the Atlantic Season is usually on September 10th. This season is heating up just at the right time.
Although there was a somewhat quick start to 2008 with Arthur forming the day before the official start, and Bertha developing into a powerful early season storm before causing problems for Bermuda, there really hadn’t been a great deal of significant activity. True, there has been a total of eight storms, and perhaps nine by the end of this weekend with the disturbance just off the coast of Africa, but there hasn’t really been this kind of activity yet. There is a potential to have three storms out in the Atlantic at the same time over the course of the next few days. In addition, parts of the Northeast have been dealing with the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay, which caused a great deal of flooding in Florida last week.
Gustav was the next storm to emerge from the warm waters of the tropics as it developed quickly on Monday, August 25th, after being closely monitored as a tropical disturbance over the previous weekend. Gustav became the season’s third hurricane on Tuesday before encountering mountainous terrain over Hispanola, and weakening to a tropical storm. Hanna followed suit on Thursday, August 28th, and is now a mild storm with winds of 50 miles per hour despite dealing with hostile upper level dynamics thanks in part to a nearby upper level low. In addition to those two tropical storms, there are a couple other areas of disturbed weather including one that was already discussed earlier.
Within the past 24 hours, a strong area of thunderstorms came off the West Coast of Africa, and has become a rather formidable tropical wave. Conditions are looking favorable for development, and this could very well become the ninth tropical depression, or even storm of the 2008 season. So far this year, there have been 8 named storms, 3 hurricanes, and one major hurricane. Pre-season projections indicated that there would be 12 to 16 named storms, 6 to 9 hurricanes, and 2 to 5 major hurricanes. After the fast start, those predictions, courtesy of NOAA, have gone up to 14 to 18 named storms, 7 to 10 hurricanes, and 3 to 6 major hurricanes.
It is reasonable that those numbers could be achieved since September usually brings 3 or 4 more named storms while October can result in two, especially since the latest active cycle began in 1995, and there have been a number of storms in November in recent years. Hurricane Michelle back in 2001 is a prime example. However, it is important to point out, that we are yet to see a major hurricane threaten the United States, and on this third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, that is the measuring stick by which many along our coastlines are going by these days. Even last year, which was active in terms of the number of named storms, was not memorable since no significant storms affected the U.S.
One thing is assured when it comes to hurricanes, and that is they bring plenty of moisture. Born deep in the tropics as fledgling tropical waves or disturbances, tropical storms and hurricanes take in the warm moist air of the tropical regions as well as the warm ocean waters that surround these areas, and intensify to in some cases monumental proportions. These vertically stacked systems are called that since a maturing storm or hurricane can have thunderstorm tops tower thousands of feet into the air as long as no wind shear gets in the way. Some may even reach the levels of the stratosphere.
These thunderstorms contain copious amounts of rainfall. Tropical Storm Fay last week proved that to be true by dumping up to three feet of water over parts of Florida and the Southeast. Hurricane Mitch also made a point by deluging Honduras and Nicaragua with some 75 inches of rain that led to the deaths of 11,000 people, and ruined the economies of those two Central American nations for many years. Tropical Storm Allison, the costliest tropical storm in United States History, was another example of how you don’t need to have an intense hurricane to cause a lot of damage as long as you can bring a lot of rain.
When you combine the abundant moisture of a tropical system with a mountainous land mass such as the islands of Hispanola and Cuba in the Central and Western Caribbean, you have a recipe for a great loss of life. Take for instance back in 2004 when Hurricane Jeanne got going in September, and ultimately became the fourth and final storm to hit Florida in a six week period that year. Prior to coming ashore in the Sunshine State, Jeanne was responsible for some 1,500 deaths in Haiti. The following year, in 2005, Hurricane Stan became the second deadliest storm that season behind Hurricane Katrina when its torrential rains spawned flooding and mudslides that left some 1,662 people dead in Central America.
The same thing happened again this week as Gustav, a one time strong Category One Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale squeezed out a ton of moisture over the Dominican Republic and Haiti as its tropical moisture collided head on with the rugged mountains of Hispanola that tower some 11,000 feet into the air. According to reports given in advisories by the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, Gustav spread torrential rains over the Haitian side of the island. General amounts were forecast in the 4 to 8 inch range initially, but then increased to 6 to 12 inches. Isolated areas received as much as 20 to 25 inches of rain from late Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday evening.
Another ingredient that fed this deadly deluge was the fact that Gustav slowed down in its forward motion, and even moved erratically. This was also similar in the previously listed instances of Fay, Allison, and Mitch. All three storms either moved erratically, made several different landfalls in the same general area, or were stationary. Consequently, lives were lost as 51 people were lost in Haiti including 25 in the town of Jacmel alone. Overall, 67 people have lost their lives in the Caribbean from the effects of Gustav according to a report from MSNBC on Thursday. The storm has since moved through the island of Jamaica, which is quite mountainous as well, and is now headed for the Cayman Islands, which suffered tremendous damage from powerful Hurricane Ivan back in 2004.
Residents along the Gulf Coast, which are commemorating the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall on Friday, are now getting ready for perhaps a repeat performance as Gustav is forecast to be somewhere in the Gulf by Labor Day.
Thought you saw the last of Tropical Storm Fay when it dumped torrential rains on Florida during its four separate landfalls over the Sunshine State. Well, think again. After Fay came ashore for the fourth and final time in Northern Florida and the Florida Panhandle, it proceeded westward, and finally went further inland into the Mississippi Valley area over the weekend.
Over the past several days, Fay’s remnants have been moving eastward across the Southeastern United States, and are currently dumping heavy rains on North Carolina including Charlotte. In addition to the heavy rainfall, there have been some isolated tornadoes. Meanwhile, the northern fringe of the precipitation from what is left of Fay is slowly moving northward into Virginia, and is expected to make its way into West Virginia as well as Western Pennsylvania, and the Washington, D.C. area later today. By tomorrow, Thursday, the rain shield will be advancing on Philadelphia, Southern Jersey, and Central Jersey.
According to the latest forecast from the National Weather Service Office in Mount Holly, New Jersey, there is a chance for showers and storms starting on Thursday night, and carrying over into Friday and Saturday. Of the three day, or 36 hour period, the best chance for rain is on Saturday with a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms. Temperatures during the period will range from the upper 70s to the low 80s.
While there has been somewhat of a focus on the tropics with Fay and now Gustav, the weather here in the Central Jersey area has been very nice. Although temperatures were on the increase a bit over the weekend, especially on Sunday, the conditions couldn’t have been any better. Nice high, thin cirrus clouds, blue skies, breezy conditions, and comfortable temperatures. Not a bad way to finish up the summer. If you were wrapping up your summer with a long awaited trip down to the Jersey Shore, you couldn’t have picked a better time to do it.
According to the recently posted data to the Greg’s Weather Center web site, the mean temperature over the past ten days has been 68.8 degrees with the maximum high temperature of 86.7 degrees observed on August 18th. The mean high temperature for the period has been 78.7 degrees. The minimum low temperature for the same period was 52.1 degrees on August 20th while the mean low temperature for the period has been 58.9 degrees. Another sign that we are now on the down side of summer, and slowly progressing toward winter is with the number of cooling degree days and the number of heating degree days.
Over the last ten or eleven days, there have been only 49 cooling degree days while there have been 7.4 heating degree days. Rainfall during the period has been minimal for the most part with a total of 0.11 inches of rain including 0.03 inches on August 19th. More of the same nice weather is expected for the rest of Wednesday, and even some of Thursday. However, the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay will be slowly creeping into the area, and spread some rain in the form of showers with perhaps a thunderstorm. Things will clear out though just in time for the Labor Day Weekend.
Good morning again. The work that has been done this morning on the GWC Weather Station is only the beginning of what will hopefully be a project to get the Greg’s Weather Center web site going again. After initially going online in June 2006, the site has been neglected somewhat due to a busy school and work schedule in addition to other web site commitments. I’ll keep you posted on further developments.
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