Tenacious Storm Battles Back From Open Wave To Major Hurricane
A week ago, it seemed like the elements had gotten the best of Tropical Storm Ophelia. Upper level wind shear and dry air appeared to have the fledgling storm on the ropes. By Sunday afternoon, Ophelia had dissipated to an open wave. Her demise was premature though. Within 48 hours, the storm was back as a depression, and has flourished since.
On Friday morning, Ophelia energized into the third major hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season. It is the fourth hurricane overall so far this season. There have been 17 depressions and 16 named storms. All the hurricanes this year have occurred within the last five weeks. The most devastating storm has been Hurricane Irene while the most powerful has been Hurricane Katia.
Ophelia could get as strong as Irene was at her peak, but it may be a tall order for the system to pass Katia as the season’s strongest storm. Located about 580 miles South of Bermuda, Hurricane Ophelia now has maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour with gusts of 140 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure is down to 960 millibars, or 28.35 inches of Hg. The eye is well defined while hurricane force winds reach out some 30 miles while tropical storm force winds reach out about 175 miles.
A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Bermuda. The five day forecast track has Ophelia moving to the east of Bermuda as a hurricane on Sunday morning. The storm is expected to continue to push northward and possibly affect the extreme Southeastern coast of Newfoundland in the Canadian Maritimes. With its latest strengthening, Ophelia is expected to still be a tropical storm as it moves towards the maritimes.
The latest forecast discussion indicates that Ophelia should be peaking in its intensity. However, this storm is tenacious, and has outperformed all the intensity forecasts to this point. In addition, Ophelia is still to the south of Bermuda, which means that there should be plenty of warm water. There is still the threat of shear and dry air to hamper it, but the storm has strengthened to the point where it has an environment of its own, which will be harder to overcome. The storm could strengthen a bit further.
Add Another Five Inches Of Rain In Northwest Jersey
In what seems to be an endless cycle, another upper level low continues to spin in the Midwest, and more rain streams up into portions of the Garden State. It has been the story for nearly the last two months, and the result has been 20 plus inches of rain throughout much of the Garden State. Northwestern Middlesex County has received 21 inches of rainfall in the past 60 days.
The latest round came over the past several days. On Wednesday, heavy rainfall struck in Northwestern New Jersey. Places such as Hackettstown in Warren County, Clinton Township in Hunterdon County, Newton in Sussex County, and Mount Olive in Morris County received anywhere between 2.1 and 3.9 inches of rainfall. Those amounts increased to 5 inches or more on Thursday when another round of rain came through.
Meanwhile, in South Plainfield, located in Northwestern Middlesex County, there was 0.06 inches on Wednesday, and another 0.63 inches on Thursday. Only 1.2 inches of rain fell in the past week. So, residents here have been pretty lucky. More rain fell in the waterlogged region of the Susquehanna Valley of Central Pennsylvania, which is still trying to dry out from rains earlier this month courtesy of the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee.
A couple spots in New Jersey hard hit by the latest round of rainfall were Bartley Road in Flanders in Morris County and Schooleys Mountain Road in Washington Township in Warren County. Schooleys Mountain Road, which actually starts as County Road 517 in the Hunterdon County hamlet of Oldwick, was severely crippled by floodwaters. Portions of the road surface was torn apart by the flooding according to an article in Thursday’s Star-Ledger.
Meanwhile, Bartley Road became prey for a raging river of water to come in, and carry away anything in its path. A number of cars were swept away by the flash flood. Rescues had to be made. David Robinson, the State Climatologist, indicated that with the latest round of rainfall, the statewide average since August 1st has been 22 inches. For the year, the average around the Garden State has been about 51 inches, which is just under 9 inches short of the all time record.
More rain could be on the way as this current upper level low is going to be replaced by another one that will be situated a bit further to the east in the Eastern Great Lakes. Unsettled conditions are expected to resume on Saturday with showers along with cooler temperatures. The forecast for Sunday is expected to be a bit warmer than previously anticipated. Temps were only expected to get into the mid to upper 50s on Sunday. Now, they are forecast to be in the low 60s.
Here is time lapse video of weather conditions in South Plainfield, New Jersey on September 29, 2011. On this day, we had a couple waves of downpours move through the area. The biggest of the two cloudbursts was in the mid to late afternoon. Surprisingly, there was only 0.63 inches of rain that fell on this day. The second thunderstorm was part of a line of storms that eventually went through Northeastern New Jersey where it downed trees and power lines.
Here is video footage of a second round of some rain and wind that came through South Plainfield, New Jersey on September 29, 2011. This round was more brief than the strong thunderstorm that rumbled through earlier in the afternoon. It only produced a trace of rainfall, but it did make the skies look ominous and generate some gusty winds.
Here is storm footage of a late September thunderstorm rolling through Northwestern Middlesex County. The storm didn’t bring a lot in the way of wind and hail, but did bring another six tenths of an inch of rain to South Plainfield. Later on, the same line of storms pushed through Bergen County in Northeastern New Jersey, and downed trees and power lines.
Here is a time lapse video of weather conditions in South Plainfield, New Jersey on September 13, 2011. It was a nice late summer day here in Northwestern Middlesex County. Temperatures climbed into the 80s under mostly sunny skies. Fall was still ten days away, but the way things turned out during this particular week, the day was perhaps one of the last summer like days of the year.
Here is time lapse video of weather conditions in South Plainfield on September 15, 2011. There were some dramatic changes in the weather on this day as a powerful cold front came through to bring some rain and gusty winds ahead of a temperature drop of some 30 degrees in 24 hours. The front ushered in the first taste of fall in 2011.
Here is a time lapse video of what could have been the last summer like day of 2011 in Northwestern Middlesex County. Temperatures climbed into the mid to upper 80s around the Garden State. It was a great day to get out to the beach one last time this year. A powerful cold front rolled in the next day to drop temperatures some 40 degrees by Friday morning.
Hurricane Hilary Wakes Up Things In Eastern Pacific
It has been a sluggish hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific. The shift to neutral conditions in the wake of La Nina have shifted back towards a newer and weaker La Nina episode. As a result, we still have cooler than normal sea surface temperatures in the EPAC, and that has thwarted tropical development.
Up until this week, there have only been eight depressions and seven named storms in the Eastern Pacific. However, there have been more hurricanes and major hurricanes than in the Atlantic. While the Atlantic Basin has had 16 depressions and 15 named storms, there have been only three hurricanes and two major hurricanes. No storm has been stronger than a minimal Category Four Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Pacific has had seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes. Of those four major storms, each has become a Category Four system. Hurricane Hilary is the latest of the major hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific. After a hiatus of a little more than a month, the tropics picked up again in the Eastern Pacific, Hilary emerged on Wednesday off the Southwestern coast of Mexico. Since then, the storm has become a small, but very powerful storm.
Hilary, which has hurricane force winds extending some 25 miles from the eye, and tropical storm force winds reach some 85 miles from the center, now has maximum sustained winds of 145 miles per hour with gusts up to 175 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure is down to 944 millibars, or 27.88 inches of Hg. The powerful system is located some 135 miles south of Lazaro Cardenas in Mexico.
The latest forecast discussion from the NHC, indicates that Hilary should continue to strengthen over the next 12 hours, and maintain Category Four intensity through 48 hours, and major hurricane strength up to 96 hours. The projected consensus track calls for Hilary to stay off the Mexican West Coast, but possibly recurve into Baja California beyond five days.
Tropical Storm Ophelia Battling Tough Obstacles; Disturbance Lurks In East Atlantic
After a lull in activity for a few days, things are trying to get busy again in the Tropical Atlantic. Tropical Storm Ophelia formed earlier in the week, but has been battling very difficult upper level winds. Meanwhile, a new tropical disturbance has moved off the West African coast into the Eastern Atlantic. There is also an upper level trough in the Western Atlantic, but it is not expected to become a depression or storm at this time.
Ophelia is the main feature in the Atlantic at the moment. However, it is barely hanging on to minimal tropical storm status. Thanks to wind shear, the circulation of the storm has been exposed, and the thunderstorm activity that is trying to develop can’t seem to form in the center. As of the 11:00 AM EDT Advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Ophelia is located some 635 miles to the East-Southeast of the Leeward Islands.
Maximum sustained winds are only at 40 miles per hour with gusts up to 50 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure of 1006 millibars, or 29.71 inches of Hg. The storm is moving off to the West at 16 miles per hour. Tropical storm force winds extend some 260 miles from the center, but they are mostly off to the stronger eastern side of the system. Ophelia has a very well defined circulation. However, there are no thunderstorms present there.
While the latest forecast discussion from the NHC does indicate that the dry air and strong southwesterly shear that has been plaguing the storm over the past couple days is expected to persist throughout the forecast period. However, Opehlia is still expected to hang on as some sort of tropical cyclone although it is possible it could be classified as an open wave within 48 hours. By the end of the five day forecast period, Ophelia is expected to be a depression or minimal tropical storm.
No watches or warnings are out at the moment, but residents in Bermuda should keep a close eye on the storm. Meanwhile, a new tropical disturbance is being watched in the Eastern Atlantic. An area of low pressure located some 385 miles to the South-Southeast of the Cape Verde Islands is becoming better organized. Showers and thunderstorm activity is growing, and upper level winds are becoming favorable for development. Right now, there is a 30 percent chance of tropical formation over the next 48 hours.