09.05.17

Monster Hurricane Irma Bears Down on Leeward Islands

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 11:59 pm by gmachos

Storm Dramatically Intensifies to Powerful Category 5 Hurricane

Infrared Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Irma.
Infrared satellite imagery depicts Hurricane Irma, which is now a monster Category Five storm as it heads toward the Northern Leeward Island. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Last night when I last posted to my blog, Hurricane Irma had intensified into a Category 4 Hurricane with 130 mile per hour winds. Pressure had fallen to 944 millibars. Irma didn’t stop there though. This morning when I headed out to work, I received a message via twitter from a good friend of mine that the pressure with Irma had fallen to 937 millibars, and it was still falling.

While at work, I didn’t get a chance to check the NHC web site for any updates on the storm. Then, when I got home at about 1:30 PM this afternoon, I learned that the hurricane had strengthened to a monster Category Five Hurricane with 180 mile per hour winds. By far Irma had become the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic in 2017. It could actually become the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic ever.

Back during the monster hurricane season of 2005, there were five storms that reached Category Five intensity (Dennis, Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma). The last three of that wicked bunch surpassed each other for being the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. Wilma, the last major hurricane to make landfall in the United States before Hurricane Harvey came ashore near Rockport, Texas about two weeks ago, had a pressure of 882 millibars at one point.

Within a half an hour of getting home, the next advisory on Irma came out at 2:00 PM. The storm had intensified some more to have maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, and a minimum central pressure of 926 millibars, or 27.34 inches. In addition, Puerto Rico, had joined Florida in declaring a state of emergency. Residents on the island, which is a United States territory, are very scared according to reports on CNN’s Anderson Cooper this evening. Florida has been already under a State of Emergency for over 24 hours, and special needs residents were being evacuated in South Florida.

The storm is already creating financial havoc. As Harvey did to the oil and gas industry in Texas, Irma is causing chaos in the United States Orange Juice market. With Florida’s large Orange crop under threat from Irma, Orange Juice futures were up according to Bloomberg Television. In addition, there were long lines in stores all across South Florida. Residents scrambled to buy such things as propane tanks and bottled water. One person reported that they actually had to buy a pack of bottled water for about $25.00.

The latest advisory, at 11:00 PM EDT, from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, indicates that Irma is still a Category Five Hurricane with 185 mile per hour winds, but the storm is even stronger with its minimum central pressure now down to 916 millibars, or approximately 27.05 inches of Hg. Wind gusts with this storm are in upwards of 195 knots, or nearly 225 miles per hour. The eye of this intense storm is just about 25 nautical miles wide. Hurricane Irma has grown in size as well. Last night, the storm was a little larger than Harvey. Since then, it has become even larger.

Hurricane force winds in Irma are now extending some 50 miles from the eye while Tropical storm force winds reach out some 175 miles. Irma is getting very close to the Northern Leeward Islands at this time. The menacing storm is about 50 miles to the East-Northeast of Antigua or roughly 50 miles to the East-Southeast of Barbuda. Irma is now moving to the West-Northwest at 15 miles per hour. Hurricane Warnings are in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy, British Virgin Islands, United States Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, Dominican Republic from Cabo England to the northern border of Haiti, and Guadeloupe.

A Hurricane Watch is in effect from the Northern of Haiti from the border with the Dominican Republic to Le Mole St. Nicholas, Turks and Caicos Islands, Southeastern Bahamas, Cuba from Matanza Province eastward to Guantanamo Province. Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Dominica and the Dominican Republic from south of Engano westward to the Southern border of Haiti. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Haiti from south of Le Mole St. Nicholas to Port-Au Prince. Interests in Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, the Northern Bahamas, Florida, and the Florida Keys should closely monitor the progress of Hurricane Irma.

The storm has a classic structure. It has that typical buzz saw look to it with a well defined eye, solid banding, perfect symmetry, and healthy outflow. Hurricane Irma has been a Category Five Hurricane for about 12 hours now. Most hurricanes can only sustain Category Five intensity for about 30 hours at best. Some have managed to surpass that. Experts indicated that this storm could be as powerful at this stage in the Atlantic as Hurricane Allen was in August 1980. There will be likely fluctuations in intensity as the storm goes through eyewall replacement cycles, and continues to re-organize.

According to the latest forecast discussion from the NHC, Irma is expected to go through a gradual weakening phase as it pushes through the Northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba. Keep in mind that there are mountains ranging from 7,000 to 11,000 feet above sea level in Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti) and Cuba. Irma’s interaction with these rugged land features will probably take some of the starch out of the storm, and the intensity forecast has the hurricane weakening to a still quite powerful Category Four storm with 140 mile per hour winds by the end of five days on September 11th.

Right now, the NHC consensus track for Irma continues to have it on a more West-Northwest track, which puts it just to the north of the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba through Saturday evening, and then taking more of a turn toward the north like Hurricane Charley did in August 2004. The storm will be in the area of Key West by Sunday night. South and Central Florida as well as the Western end of Cuba are currently in the cone of uncertainty.

09.04.17

Hurricane Irma Intensifies to Category Four Storm

Posted in Storm Track, Commentary, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 8:14 pm by gmachos

Florida Declares State of Emergency Ahead of Potential Hit from Dangerous Storm

Infrared Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Irma.
Infrared satellite imagery depicts Hurricane Irma, which intensified into a Category Four storm as it closed in on the Northern Leeward Islands early Monday evening. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Earlier on Monday, Hurricaneville reported on the growing threat from Hurricane #Irma, which is now a few hundred miles to the east of the Leeward Islands. At the time of my last blog post, the winds with the storm were at 120 miles per hour, or a strong Category Three intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Late Monday afternoon, the ninth named storm of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season strengthened even further.

As of the 5:00 PM EDT Advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, Irma strengthened to have maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour with gusts as high as 160 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure remains at 944 millibars, or about 27.88 inches of Hg. Irma, which is pronounced ER-mah, is located approximately 490 miles east of the Leeward Islands, and now moving more to the west at 13 miles per hour.

Hurricane Irma, which is the fourth hurricane, and second major hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, is a little larger than Harvey was with hurricane force winds now extending some 40 miles from the eye while tropical storm force winds now reach out about 140 miles. The eye’s diameter is about 15 nautical miles, and is well defined. There remain numerous watches and warnings out for the Lesser Antilles.

A Hurricane Warning remains in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Saint Maarten, Saint Martin, and Saint Barthélemy. A Hurricane Watch is now in effect for Guadeloupe, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Guadeloupe. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Dominica. In addition to all of this, Florida officials have declared a State of Emergency.

The Sunshine State could see a possible landfall as early as this coming weekend according to an article posted this afternoon by CNN. Irma can still intensify even more. The NHC’s late afternoon forecast discussion indicates that Irma is expected to intensify to have 145 mile per hour winds within 12 hours, and reach its peak intensity of 150 miles per hour within 24 and 36 hours. By the time that the storm is in the area of South Florida, the Florida Keys, and Northern Cuba at the end of five days, Irma is expected to weaken, but remain a Category Four Hurricane with 130 mile per hour winds.

Taking a look at the most recent model runs from Tropical TIdbits, the GFS has Irma as a powerful 895 millibar low, or an equivalent to a powerful Category Five Hurricane in the Florida Straits between the Florida Keys, South Florida, and the Northern Coast of Cuba by the middle of Saturday afternoon. Fast forward 24 hours later, Irma is onshore in South Florida as a 920 millibar low. The storm will continue to advance northward, and be in Southern Georgia by next Monday afternoon, September 11th.

Meanwhile, the Euro has the storm a little further to the south and east, and over water off the Central Florida coast near Cape Canaveral as a 937 millibar low by the same time on Monday afternoon, September 11th. This is after the storm is forecast by the model to be situated just off the coast of Northern Cuba as a 946 millibar low by the mid-afternoon of Saturday, September 9th. The Canadian model has the storm further north and east than the Euro by the end of 7 days.

After getting close to the Florida Straits and north of the Northern Cuba coast as a 978 millibar low by the mid-afternoon of Saturday, September 9th, the CMC model has Irma as a 972 millibar low located a couple hundred miles east of Jacksonville, Florida by the afternoon of September 11th. The EPS ensemble model has the hurricane hugging the Northern Cuba coast as a 988 millibar low by mid-afternoon this coming Saturday. Then, the model’s forecast track has it moving into the Florida Straits on Sunday, and be in the vicinity of Tampa, Florida on Monday afternoon, September 11th as a 994 millibar low.

The HWRF model has the powerful storm with a 924 millibar low in the Florida Straits just to the north of the Northern Cuba coast late Saturday evening. So, over the next five days, the models are in general agreement that the storm will be in the area of the Northern Cuba coast on Saturday afternoon. Beyond that, the models vary with an array of solutions once you go six or seven days out. It all depends on if and when the trough advancing into the Eastern United States will pick up Irma.

For the residents of New Jersey, the Canadian model, CMC, does have an interesting solution for the end of eight days, or 192 hours. The model proposes that Irma will be in the vicinity of Chesapeake Bay as a 974 millibar low on Tuesday morning. I must emphasize though that the Euro and GFS have been more reliable models than the CMC although the GFS has been having a history of very low pressures with the storm’s intensity and track. It is also over a week out. In other words, a lot can change before that, and it is just something to keep in the back of your minds.

All residents in the Northern Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico including Culebra and Vieques, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Cuba, the Southern Bahamas, Florida Keys, and South Florida should continue to monitor the progress of the storm, and make the necessary preparations now. Residents further north along the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic portion of the United States should also pay attention on the progress of this system, and be ready in case the storm’s forecast track makes more of a turn to the north.

Long Drought Between Major Hurricanes Contribute to Texas Disaster?

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

Did 12 Year Gap Between Major Storms Cause Complacency?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hurricane Irma Closing in on Northern Leeward Islands

Posted in Storm Track, Commentary, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 12:07 pm by gmachos

Second Major Hurricane of 2017 Strengthens Slightly; Warnings Issued

Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Irma.
Visible satellite imagery depicts Hurricane Irma, a Category Three storm closing in on the Northern Leeward Islands on early Monday afternoon.

While there has been a tremendous amount of focus on rescue and recovery efforts in Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and the recent escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the tropics in the Atlantic Basin have continued on its whirling way. Developing in the middle of last week, Hurricane Irma became the fourth hurricane and second major hurricane of the season.

Right now, it doesn’t look likely that Irma will be going away very soon, and it is very likely that it will become a significant threat not only for islands in the Northern Leeward Islands, but also the Bahamas, and somewhere along the United States coastline from New England to the Gulf of Mexico. The track of Irma depends on how far south the storm will go before it makes a turn to the north.

The models, particularly the GFS, have perplexed forecasters not only with different landfalling points, but also very low pressures. One model run of the GFS last night at 18Z, had the minimum central pressure in Irma down to an amazing 857 millibars, and maximum sustained winds near the eye at 157 knots, or about 180 miles per hour by the early morning hours of September 9th.

The latest advisory (11:00 AM AST) has been issued by the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, and the first warnings have been issued. A Hurricane Warning is now in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Saint Maarten, Saint Martin, and Saint Barthélemy. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Guadeloupe, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Dominica.

Currently, Hurricane Irma is located some 560 miles East of the Leeward Islands, and continues to move to the West-Southwest at about 14 miles per hour. Winds have increased to 120 miles per hour to make it a Category Three Hurricane on the Samir-Simpson Scale. Pressure has fallen another three millibars since earlier this morning to 944 millibars, which is the lowest for a storm in the Atlantic since Hurricane Katia in September 2011 according to Phillip Klotzbach of Colorado State University. The size of the storm is quite similar to that of Harvey with hurricane force winds extending some 30 miles from the eye while tropical storm force winds reach out 140 miles.

Viewing the latest intensity forecast from the National Hurricane Center, Irma is expected to continue intensifying over the next 48 hours. The hurricane is expected to become a Category Four Hurricane within the next 12 hours, and peak to have winds at 125 knots, or 145 miles per hour within 48 hours. The forecast track from the NHC takes the storm further to the west over the next five days were it will be in the area of Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos islands by Friday morning, and on the north coast of Cuba by Saturday morning.

Throughout the entire five day forecast period, Hurricane Irma is expected to remain a major hurricane. The 6Z GFS model has a 930 millibar low in the area of the Turks and Caicos islands, Southeastern Bahamas, and the island of Hispaniola in 96 hours. Twenty-four hours later, a 931 millibar low is lingering off the Northern Coast of Cuba. By day six, the GFS has the storm inland over Cuba just to the South of Havana as a 945 millibar low. The Euro has the storm on a similar path, but further north, and with higher pressure.

The European model, ECMWF, has Hurricane Irma right over the Northern Cuba coastline as a 952 millibar low by late Saturday evening. Then, in the late evening of Sunday, September 10th, the Euro has Irma moving to the north, and closing in on South Florida and the Florida Keys as a 934 millibar low. So, the Euro has the storm moving back out over water, and dramatically strengthening as it approaches Southern Florida. Within another 24 hours, the Euro moves Irma further to the north along the Southeast coast in the vicinity of Georgia and South Carolina as a 932 mb low in the late evening hours of September 11th.

The CMC, or Canadian model has the storm further to the north in the Southern Bahamas by the end of four days. It also has the storm with a much higher pressure at 986 millibars, or just within minimal threshold of a Category One storm. At the end of day five, or late Friday night, the Canadian model has Irma moving into the Northwestern Bahamas, and a little stronger at 978 millibars. Then, the storm turns westward, and goes into extreme South Florida and the easternmost portion of the Florida keys as a 971 millibar low by late Saturday night.

The EPS ensemble model animation shows Irma in the area of the Turks and Caicos islands and the Southeastern Bahamas by the end of four days. It will then move the storm further west and along the northern coast of Cuba by the end of 6 days. The model then turns Irma to the north, and heading toward the Wilmington, North Carolina area by the end of 9 days, or 216 hours. The HWRF has a solution that puts Irma on the east coast of Cuba as a 950 millibar low at the end of 5 days.

Right now, Hurricane Irma is being pushed to the southwest and west-southwest thanks to a strong mid-level ridge over the Central Atlantic, and that should continue over the next few days, and then turn more westward and northwestward as it gets to the periphery of the ridge. A large mid-latitude trough is expected to become more pronounced over the next several days and it will lift out to the northeast by the end of the week or this weekend, which will allow the Atlantic ridge to reassert itself by five days.

Bottom line is that the storm is going to be steered by the Bermuda high to the north, and it looks like the ridge will steer it further west into the area of Northern Cuba, the Florida Straits, Florida Keys, and South Florida by the end of five days. All residents in the Northern Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Turks and Caicos Islands, Southern Bahamas, South Florida, and the Florida Keys should monitor the progress of Hurricane Irma, and be prepared to protect their property and evacuate if called upon.

Areas further up the Eastern Seaboard including the Central Florida Coast, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mid-Atlantic States, and New England should keep an eye on this storm as well since there are model solutions still showing that the storm could come up along the East Coast by this weekend or early next week. We are reaching the statistical peak of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which is next Sunday, September 10th, things have picked up in the basin over the last several weeks, and we now know that all it takes is one storm to change the mindset of how big a season we are having.

The Weather Channel recently posted a story on the large number of “I” named storms that have made significant impacts on the United States and the Atlantic Basin since 2001. Since that time, there have been there have been 8 such storms, or in other words about one significant “I” storm every two years. The last such “I” storm was Ingrid in 2013, so we are overdue for one, and Irma could be it. A couple of these “I” storms include Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and Hurricane Irene in 2011, which affected the Garden State.

09.03.17

New Jersey Feels Impact of Hurricane Harvey on Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harvey’s Remnants Bring Some Rain to Garden State

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

Rains from Saturday Evening into Sunday Nearly Total an Inch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

08.28.17

Potential Cyclone Ten Gets a Bit Stronger as it Hugs South Carolina Coast

Posted in Storm Track, Storm Preparation, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Tracking the Tropics at 9:48 pm by gmachos

Winds Have Increased; Gusty Winds and Heavy Rains Along South Carolina Coast

As we continue to watch the continuing saga with Harvey in not only Texas, but also Louisiana now, Hurricaneville is also monitoring Potential Cyclone Ten, which is yet to acquire enough tropical characteristics to become a tropical cyclone. Winds have increased a little while pressure has dropped slightly over the last 24 hours.

In the most recent advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida at 8:00 PM EDT, the disturbance was located some 35 miles to the South-Southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, or approximately 160 miles to the Southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina. The disturbance had been stationary earlier in the day, but is now moving again to the Northeast at 12 miles per hour.

Maximum sustained winds have increased a little to 40 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure in the low has fallen slightly to 29.71 inches of Hg, or 1006 millibars. A Tropical Storm Warning is still in effect for North of Surf City to Duck along the North Carolina coast as well as Albermarle and Pamlico Sounds. A Tropical Storm Watch remains in effect from Surf City, North Carolina to the South Santee River.

Last night, the NHC had given PTC Ten a high chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm over the next 48 hours to 5 days. This evening, the odds have decreased to just a medium threat with a 60 percent probability of development over the next 48 hours to 5 days. Gusty winds and heavy rains have been already impacting the South Carolina coast, and tropical storm conditions are possible within the next 24 to 36 hours.

Rainfall is likely to be the biggest threat from PTC Ten, or if it becomes a named storm, Irma. Forecasts are calling for rainfall amounts between 3 to 6 inches along Northeastern South Carolina, North Carolina, and Southeastern Virginia coasts. Isolated amounts could reach 9 inches. There is also a chance of dangerous surf and rip current conditions from swells generated by the disturbance as well as tornadoes.

Looking at the most recent forecast discussion from the NHC, the intensity forecast is calling for PTC Ten to become a tropical storm or depression within the next 12 to 24 hours. Afterwards, the disturbance is expected to become post tropical, or extratropical but still having its winds increase to as high as 70 miles per hour by 72 hours thanks to an energy conversion resulting from the storm morphing from a tropical or barotropic system to an extratropical, or baroclinic system.

Moving on to the forecast track, the cone of uncertainty has narrowed a bit since last night. The disturbance is expected to remain quite close to the coast until the mid-afternoon on Tuesday, and then turning more to the east and out to sea. By early Wednesday morning, PTC Ten is forecast to be several hundred miles to the Southeast of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Within twelve hours after that, the storm will race well to the south of the Gulf of Maine. Extreme Southeastern Newfoundland is on the edge of the cone of uncertainty by late Thursday.

The Harvey Saga Continues As Storm Moves Out Over Water Again

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

The Relentless Storm Regaining Strength Again From Warm Waters of Gulf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

08.27.17

Watching Potential Cyclone Ten off Southeast Coast

Posted in Storm Track, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Tracking the Tropics at 8:05 pm by gmachos

Invest 92L Getting Its Act Together, and Could Be Irma Within Five Days

While the catastrophic flooding is taking place in Southeastern Texas from Tropical Storm Harvey on Sunday, the Atlantic Tropics continue to stir up as Invest 92L is getting its act together. The National Hurricane Center has noticed, and issued its first advisory on what is now, Potential Cyclone Ten off the Southeast coast.

As of the most recent advisory from the NHC at 8:00 PM EDT, Potential Cyclone Ten is located some 135 miles South-Southwest of Charleston, South Carolina, or about 270 miles South-Southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina. Maximum sustained winds are at 35 miles per hour with gusts up to 45 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure is 1007 millibars, or 29.74 inches of Hg.

The disturbance is currently stationary off the Southeast United States. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for South Santee River to Duck, Albemarle Sound, and Pamlico Sound. The NHC is presently giving a high probability for Potential Cyclone Ten to become either a depression or storm within 48 hours to five days. Regardless of its status, this potential cyclone is expected to bring somewhere between 2 to 4 inches of rain with isolated amounts of 6 inches to places along the South Carolina, North Carolina, and Southeast Virginia coast.

Although it is expected to become a tropical system over the next 24 hours according to the 5:00 PM Discussion from the NHC, it is not expected to remain tropical for long. The potential cyclone is expected to transform from a barotropic to a baroclinic or post-tropical system within 48 hours. The cyclone is expected to merge with an approaching cold front, and that will create a shearing condition that will limit development, and keep it on a path that will carry it over the Carolinas and Southeastern Virginia and then out to sea.

There is a chance that this cyclone will affect Newfoundland as an extratropical system later in the week. Coastal Newfoundland is within the Cone of Uncertainty for late afternoon Thursday although the forecast center of the system is expected to remain over the North Atlantic. If this potential cyclone does intensify and organize into a tropical storm, it will be named Irma. So far, the pace of this season is well above average with the 9th named storm usually coming on October 4th. Back in 2011, Irene was coming through New Jersey on this date.

As of right now, there have been 10 potential cyclones, 9 depressions, 8 named storms, 3 hurricanes, and one major hurricane. Things have really ramped up as expected over the past couple of weeks as we move into the peak of the season, and more classic Cape Verde storms take shape. Speaking of the Cape Verde storms, another wave moved off the West African coast today.

Catastrophe Unfolding in Southeastern Texas

Posted in Storm Track, Storm Facts, GWC News, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Hurricane Records, Tracking the Tropics at 6:31 pm by gmachos

As Bands of Rain Continue to Pour In Houston Area, Historic Flood Builds

Over the past several days, I have woken up in the middle of the night, but at about 3:00 AM this morning, there was a different feeling that I had. Once I took a look at my Twitter and Facebook feeds on my cell phone, I saw that many forecasters fears were being realized along much of coastal Texas including the Houston area.

I saw and retweeted or shared information from the National Weather Service office in Houston indicating that some 6 to 10 inches fell in just a matter of about four hours. Some of my Facebook friends that live in the Houston metro area and further east along the coast at Beaumont, and Southwestern Louisiana, were discussing how the flood waters were rising, and how the rain just wasn’t stopping.

Eventually falling to sleep again, I woke up again at about 7:30 AM this morning, and turned on HLN, which was formally CNN’s Headline News, and watched as the morning anchor was speaking with a resident of the Houston metro area as well as someone from the Harris County Sheriff’s Department so that they could arrange some sort of rescue from the rising flood waters in this resident’s home.

Fears have been growing that the rainfall amounts could get as high as 50 inches. Looking at the most recent rainfall amounts from around the Houston area and Southeastern Texas, those prospects are very likely. Some places have already seen close to 25 inches already, and we are only some 43 hours since Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor with 130 mile per hour winds and a minimum central pressure of 938 millibars.

Harvey, which is the strongest Category Four Hurricane to come ashore along the Texas coast since Hurricane Carla in 1961, did make quite an impact to the Texas coast in the area of Rockport. Many buildings were devastated if they didn’t fail completely, roofs were completely torn off homes, and large signs were torn off like sheets of paper from a notebook. The storm remained a hurricane for another 15 hours after that until about 3:00 PM on Saturday.

With the storm’s fury along the coastline now past, the real fear is now setting in, and that is the fact that Harvey has slowed to a crawl, and with its abundance of tropical moisture, and no steering currents to take it somewhere else, the result is what many feared, a catastrophe of enormous proportions with flooding that is likely to easily surpass that of Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001. Allison is the only tropical storm on record, which had its name retired.

Highways are now submerged under many feet of water. The flooding has reached the extent where large Interstate Exit Signs and highway video cameras are almost completely submerged in water. Panoramic views of the city of Houston show significant flooding nearly everywhere around the city. Cable news showing footage of people wading through the high flood waters in order to find refuge wherever they can find it. With the storm forecast to linger in the area for the next several days at least, rainfall amounts around the affected area could easily be doubled.

In addition, the Houston Metro area as well as much of Southeastern Texas has been pummeled by the onslaught of rotational thunderstorms and tornadoes caused by the friction between the landfalling Harvey and the Texas landmass. The National Weather Service in the Houston area has had to issue at least 60 Tornado Warnings since Harvey made landfall on Friday night. Now, usually, these twisters are not of the EF3, EF4, or EF5 variety, but they’ve easily piled on to the misery that is unfolding.

As of the most recent advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, Harvey remained a minimal tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour, and a minimum central pressure of 1000 millibars, or 29.53 inches of Hg. Tropical Storm Harvey continues to move slowly, and now to the Southeast at 2 miles per hour. Harvey is located some 25 miles to the Northwest of Victoria, Texas, which also received a tremendous amount of rainfall.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Port O’Connor to Sargent along the Texas coast while a Tropical Storm Watch has just been issued from North of Sargent to San Luis Pass. Tropical storm force winds still extend some 140 miles from the center of Harvey. Isolated storm totals could reach 50 inches along the upper Texas coast including the Houston and Galveston area. Residents of Southwestern Louisiana should also be wary of Harvey. The NHC urges residents not to travel in the affected area if you are in a safe place, and not to drive onto flooded roadways.

The Federal Government has been constantly monitoring the situation, and helping Texas officials with search and rescue operations. Texas Governor, Greg Abbott said in a news conference earlier today that the main priority is to save lives. President Donald Trump has indicated that he will be traveling down to Texas to assess the situation on Tuesday. Abbott has been quite happy with the federal response saying that he gives “FEMA a grade of A+.” FEMA director, Brock Long is not only focused on the current situation and getting the proper response out, but also focusing on the long term help as well according to NBC’s Dallas/Fort Worth affiliate.

Speaking of television, Harvey’s rains have also impacted some of the coverage by local TV stations in the Houston metro area. Earlier on Sunday, CBS affiliate, KHOU-TV in Houston had to go off the air after flood waters began to move in on the first floor of their studios. The storm is not done yet, we are still at the very beginning of this weather driven drama.

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