09.24.17

Watches Issued for North Carolina Coast for Maria

Posted in Storm Track, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 8:54 pm by gmachos

Storm Still at Category Two Strength; Pressure down to 941 Millibars

The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season continues to chug along, and it is reaching historic heights. According to Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University, the season’s Accumlated Cyclone Energy, or ACE, is now up 180, which as of right now is the third highest for this date behind that of the 1933 (220) and 2004 (207).

Those two seasons were memorable ones. The 1933 Atlantic Hurricane Season was the benchmark in terms of the total number of storms with 21 before 2005, and the 2004 season had the terrible four for Florida with Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. It is even higher than that of the 2005 season as of this date even though that season by this point, had four Category Five Hurricanes.

Thirteen years after that memorable 2004 season, which was the last time a Category Four Hurricane made landfall in the United States before Harvey and Irma did this season, we have ourselves the most active and devastating hurricane season since 2005. The latest monster storm, Hurricane Maria, which destroyed Dominica, St. Croix, and Puerto Rico last week, is now moving up the Eastern Seaboard.

Maria, which has weakened to a Category Two Hurricane with 105 mile per hour winds, had the lowest barometric pressure at 941 millibars with that kind of wind speed in the Atlantic since Hurricane or Superstorm Sandy. Ironically, the storm is moving up the East Coast like Sandy did. The question is, will it affect New Jersey and the Mid-Atlantic like Sandy did. Already Watches are up along the North Carolina coast.

As of the 8:00 PM EDT Advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, Hurricane Maria was located approximately 410 miles to the South-Southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Maximum sustained winds with the storm remain at Category Two strength at 105 mph with gusts in upwards of 125 mph. The barometric pressure has risen a bit to 947 millibars, or about 27.96 inches of Hg (Mercury). The storm continues to move to the north at a meager 9 miles per hour.

Like Irma before it, Maria is a vast storm system with hurricane force winds extend some 60 miles from the center while tropical storm force winds reach out some 230 miles from the center, or a total diameter of 580 miles. A Tropical Storm Watch is now in effect for north of Surf City, North Carolina to the North Carolina/Virginia border including Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. In addition, a Storm Surge Watch is now in effect along the North Carolina coast from Cape Lookout to Duck. Meanwhile, High Surf and Rip Current Advisories are in effect for the Mid-Atlantic including New Jersey, Delaware, and Long Island.

Could we be looking at a situation similar to Hurricane Irene or Sandy? It is possible. The National Hurricane Center has urged residents along the Mid-Atlantic, which includes New Jersey to continue to monitor the situation with this large storm. The most recent forecast discussion from the NHC at 5:00 PM on Sunday afternoon, Maria is expected to remain a Category Two Hurricane for the next 24 hours, and then weaken to a strong Category One Hurricane through 72 hours. The storm is expected to stay a hurricane through the five day forecast period.

Looking at the latest forecast track from the NHC, the hurricane is expected to continue heading mostly in a northward direction over the next 48 to 60 hours and be parallel to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina sometime between Tuesday afternoon and early Wednesday morning. Then, Maria is expected to make a right turn out to sea, and stay away from the Mid-Atlantic coastline of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York. Nevertheless, the storm is still expected to create rough surf, waves, and rip currents along the Mid-Atlantic coastline including the Jersey Shore and the South Shore of Long Island.

The models are showing a general turn to the east after four or five days. Both the Euro (ECMWF) and CMC (Canadian) global models have the storm staying close to the North Carolina and Virginia coast before turning to the east by Friday afternoon. The GFS has the storm clearing out much faster. The EPS and HWRF show a similar trend to the GFS. Looking at these tracks, the storm is more or less expected to take a track similar to Hurricane Emily did in August 1993. Get very close to Hatteras before turning away out to sea.

We will just have to wait and see. Things can change. Remember, the five day NHC forecast has an average error of 160 nautical miles so far in 2017. And, model forecasts can be wrong. Residents along the Jersey Shore, Delaware Beaches, Long Island, and the Maryland and Virginia coastline should continue to monitor the progress of the storm while those in North Carolina should be prepared for at least some tropical storm force winds.

09.21.17

Maria Lashes Northern Portion of Dominican Republic

Posted in Storm Track, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 10:32 pm by gmachos

Storm Re-Strengthens to Have Winds of 125 MPH: Still Potential Problem for East Coast

After pounding Dominica, St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico with Category 4 and 5 intensity winds between 140 and 160 miles per hour, Hurricane Maria had some of the starch taken out of her by the mountains of Puerto Rico, which only go up to 4,000 feet. Winds had decreased to below major hurricane status this time Wednesday night.

However, on Thursday, despite lashing the northern coast of the Dominican Republic including the majestic beach locale of Punta Cana with gusty winds and torrential rains, Maria intensified back to major hurricane status as its winds gradually grew throughout the day to 115, 120, and then 125 miles per hour. Wind gusts are now back up to 150 mph. Barometric pressure has fallen off to 955 millibars, or 28.20 inches of Hg as of 8:00 PM EDT on Thursday night.

Now, the hurricane is setting its sights on the Turks and Caicos Islands near the Southeastern Bahamas. Hurricane Hunter aircraft have found a flight level wind of 126 knots, or about 145 mph. The eye, which a couple days ago was very small and narrow at 11 miles, has grown very large to be about 34 miles after being as wide as 36 nautical miles in diameter. Irma’s eye had been as wide as 23 to 25 nautical miles in diameter.

Hurricane Maria has slowed some over the past 24 hours to just Northwest at 9 miles per hour. The storm is presently located about 85 miles North-Northeast of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, or about 80 miles East-Southeast of Grand Turk Island in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Looking at the latest forecast track from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, Maria is expected to move to the Northwest and North-Northwest, and stay east of the Bahamas over the next 48 to 60 hours.

By the end of the five day forecast period, or about 8:00 PM EDT on Tuesday, the NHC projects Maria to be several hundred miles east of the Carolina coastline. Keep in mind though that the NHC’s five day forecast has had an average error of about 160 miles so far this season. There is also still a great deal of uncertainty of what the storm will do beyond the five day forecast point. Earlier today, CNN depicted the GFS (American) and ECMWF (Euro) as keeping Maria offshore from New Jersey, New York City, and the Mid-Atlantic by this time next week.

However, yesterday (Wednesday), CNN indicated that both of the models had Hurricane Maria very close to New York City, New Jersey, and Long Island. Taking a peek at other models, the CMC or Canadian model has Hurricane Maria as a 980 millibar low right over Cape Hatteras by next Tuesday morning. The storm will then go further inland into Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Chesapeake Bay by next Wednesday morning. The NAVGEM has Maria a couple hundred miles off the North Carolina coast by next Wednesday morning. Then a couple hundred miles off Cape Hatteras as a 960 millibar low by next Wednesday afternoon.

The EPS ensemble model has Maria staying offshore through Wednesday and Thursday of next week much like the GFS and ECMWF. The HWRF hurricane model keeps the storm offshore by the end of the five day forecast period. Reading the latest forecast discussion from the NHC at 5:00 PM EDT on Thursday, have Maria remaining a major hurricane for 36 hours, and weakening to a Category Two storm by 48 hours, and a Category One Hurricane by the end of five days.

Currently, the NHC has a Hurricane Warning in effect for the northern coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to Puerto Plata as well as the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Southeastern Bahamas. A Tropical Storm Warning in effect for the northern coast of the Dominican Republic from west of Puerto Plata to the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the Central Bahamas.

Residents in the Bahamas and the East Coast of the United States should monitor the progress of this still dangerous storm over the next several days. Hurricaneville will continue to monitor this storm, and provide daily updates.

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.

09.19.17

Hurricane Jose Moving Towards Long Island and New England

Posted in Storm Track, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Hurricane Records, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 10:03 pm by gmachos

Storm Continues to Be a Minimal Hurricane Offshore in Mid-Atlantic

Sorry for the lack of posts to the blog over the past 8 or 9 days. Unfortunately, I started a new job last Monday, and I’ve been very focused on getting settled there. I just haven’t had the energy to post something in the blog. Instead, I have only been able to post something to Facebook and Twitter.

However, that hasn’t met that I’ve been completely dead. I’ve continued to watch the tropics with great interest. This is perhaps the most significant season since the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Some may disagree, but think about it. When was the last time, you had more than one Category Five Hurricane storm in the same year? Well, you could argue, 2007 with Dean and Felix, but were they as strong as Irma and Maria? Did they make landfall in the United States?

Here are some things to consider about this season in the Atlantic. First, we had our first major hurricane landfall in the United States since Hurricane Wilma in October 2005. This season also has done something that the 2005 season with all of its mammoth numbers didn’t do, have two Category Four storms make landfall somewhere along the United States. In addition, two of the strongest storms ever to impact the Northeastern Caribbean in Irma and Maria.

Jose was also in the mix to be one of these powerful storms, and for a while, it appeared to also be on the verge of becoming a Category Five Hurricane. The storm just fell short of that mark. Jose peaked at borderline Category Four and Five strength with 155 mile per hour winds, gusts in upwards of 185 miles per hour, an eye that was 15 miles in diameter, and minimum central pressure that bottomed out to 938 millibars, or 27.70 inches of Hg. Fortunately for the islands of the Northeastern Caribbean that had just been devastated by Hurricane Irma, two things would happen with Jose.

First, the storm’s eye steered just north of the Northern Leeward Islands, which mercifully gave a break to those areas hard hit by Hurricane Irma. Second, following a similar path to Irma, Jose ran into waters that may have been a bit cooler due to upwelling generated by Irma’s vast circulation as it moved through the region just days earlier. In addition, Jose’s circulation began to encounter a northerly shear, which also contributed to its weakening. Jose weakened to a Tropical Storm by the evening of September 14th, or six days after reaching its peak intensity.

Hurricane Jose would regain some strength, and re-intensify in the Western Atlantic to have winds of strong Category One strength at 90 miles per hour, but gradually weakened to just be a minimal hurricane as it approached New York, New Jersey, and the Mid-Atlantic. Jose has managed to remain a minimal hurricane strength despite moving into relatively cooler waters off the Mid-Atlantic shoreline. New Jersey’s Shore had been under a Tropical Storm Watch, but that was discontinued late Monday afternoon.

As of the 8:00 PM EDT Advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, Hurricane Jose lurks several hundred miles off the Jersey Shore, or approximately 265 miles to the South-Southwest of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Maximum sustained winds remain at 75 miles per hour with gusts in upwards of 90 miles per hour, and a minimum central pressure of 973 millibars, or 28.73 inches of Hg. Hurricane force winds extend some 60 miles from the eye while tropical storm force winds reach out some 310 miles.

Jose is a very massive storm that is about 740 miles in diameter. This is one of the reasons why, New Jersey is still experiencing some clouds, breezy conditions, some rain, and some humidity. A Tropical Storm Warning is still in effect for Woods Hole for Sagamore Beach including to Cape Cod, Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the coast of Long Island from Fire Island to Port Jefferson. Jersey Shore has a Coastal Flood Warning in effect until 1:00 AM on Wednesday morning.

During the course of the day on Tuesday, there have been bands of rain pinwheeling there way on shore in New Jersey. Conditions at GWC in South Plainfield, NJ have been breezy, humid, and damp throughout much of the day, especially since nightfall. Looking at the latest forecast track from the NHC, Jose is expected to loop around the Mid-Atlantic and New England waters until at least Saturday afternoon. The forecast discussion also indicates that Jose will weaken to a tropical storm within 36 hours, and become extratropical within 72 hours.

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.

09.10.17

Hurricane Irma Begins Her Assault on Florida

Posted in Storm Track, Commentary, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Hurricane Records, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts 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 Storm Track, Commentary, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Hurricane Records, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts 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 Storm Track, Commentary, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Footage, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Hurricane Records, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts 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.

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