Joaquin Intensifies to Category Four, but Latest Forecast Track Has Storm Staying Offshore
During the day on Thursday, Hurricane Joaquin continued to intensify as it grinded its way through the Bahamas. The storm had winds increase to 125 miles per hour during the 11:00 AM EDT Advisory and the barometer continued to drop to 942 millibars. Then, several hours later, the winds increased to 130 miles per hour making it a Category Four Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with its pressure dropping to 936 millibars.
The intensification trend continued through the mid to late afternoon period as well. Even though winds remained steady at 130 miles per hour, the pressure fell another five millibars to 931 millibars, or 27.49 inches of Hg as of the 8:00 PM Advisory. What this means is that over the last 27 hours or so, the pressure has dropped some 36 millibars, or 1.33 millibars per hour. As hinted at last night, Joaquin is going through a rapid deepening, or rapid intensification phase.
The latest discussion from the National Hurricane Center as of 5:00 PM EDT on Thursday has Joaquin continuing to strengthen until it peaks at 140 miles per hour over the next 48 hours. By 72 hours, the storm should begin to weaken with winds slackening to 125 miles per hour. This brings no solace to the residents of the Bahamas, which have taken a beating from this storm much like it did when Irene moved through the area four years and a month ago. Joaquin is a bit stronger storm with higher winds than Irene had at peak intensity (125 mph winds).
Moving on to the current and future track of Joaquin, the storm is currently located some 25 miles to the East-Southeast of Clarence Town on Long Island in the Bahamas, or about 75 miles to the South of San Salvador. The storm has been moving at a very slow pace. Now down to 5 miles per hour after moving a little faster at 7 miles per hour. General direction has been to the WSW today. Now, Joaquin could be slowing down because it might be beginning to make a turn. Keep in mind that there is a trough to the west of it moving through Florida and the Southeastern United States. This trough will serve as a buffer between Joaquin and the Southeastern U.S.
Over the course of the day, the models, especially the GFS, or American model have begun to come in agreement with the European model, or the ECMWF on the future track of Joaquin. On Wednesday, there was great disparity between the GFS, UKMET, NOGAPS, the Canadian model, and the ECMWF with the ECMWF maintaining its track to the east towards Bermuda, and then eventually out to sea. Meanwhile, the other models were steadfast on a track that would have put Joaquin ashore over the Mid-Atlantic coast from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the Tidewater region of Virginia. In response to this, Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe and New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie put their states under a State of Emergency.
Now, the GFS and ECMWF are now seeing eye to eye with the track that the ECMWF has been consistently pointing to, a shift to the east away from land. The NHC guidance now shows Joaquin going even further offshore than it did during the 2:00 PM Advisory. However, it is very important to note that although Joaquin’s track appears to be shifting east, the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are not out of the woods yet, and even if the storm does stay away from land, the size and strength of it will produce an easterly fetch that will cause heavy surf, swells, rip currents, and possible coastal flooding as it passes by to the east.
A New Month Begins with Joaquin Strengthening to Category Three While Forecast Uncertainty Remains
Since the last post to the GWC and Hurricaneville blog last night on Hurricane Joaquin in the Western Atlantic. Things have become more serious. As I had indicated last night, Joaquin appeared to be rapidly deepening. If you recall, Hurricane Hunter aircraft detected a much stronger storm with 105 mile per hour winds, and a minimum central pressure of 954 millibars, or 28.17 inches of Hg. Over a three hour span, the pressure dropped some 13 millibars.
Well, after the last report was posted to the blog, Joaquin further intensified. As of the 5:00 AM Advisory on Thursday morning from the National Hurricane Center, Joaquin’s winds have increased to 120 miles per hour, and the minimum central pressure in its eye has dropped another 6 millibars to 948 millibars, or 27.99 inches of Hg. So, in the last 12 hours (from 5:00 PM on Wednesday to 5:00 AM on Thursday), Joaquin’s pressure has dropped some 21 millibars, or about 0.63 inches of Hg (Mercury). Another concern is the uncertainty of the forecast.
When I woke up this morning, I checked my Facebook feed, and found a post by The Weather Channel’s Bryan Norcross, which was posted late last night. It basically points out that the situation with Joaquin is becoming more dire: A strengthening storm with no real consensus on where it will go. Yesterday, the models had a fairly wide range of solutions with the GFS and several other models pointing to a U.S. landfall from North Carolina’s Outer Banks to the Tidewater region of Virginia while the European, or ECMWF model, had the storm heading to the east toward Bermuda, and eventually out to sea. There are many players coming into this game right now, and that is what is creating the forecasting challenge.
The bottom line here is that although the National Hurricane Center has a cone of uncertainty pointing in general direction of the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, there is still a great deal of uncertainty in the forecast that the cone should be wider. In other words, all residents along the East Coast from Florida to Maine should pay close attention to this storm, and be prepared to act quickly if and when Joaquin makes a definitive move. Another concern with Joaquin is that if the storm does decide to head toward the Eastern Seaboard, it could pick up in forward speed like many East Coast Hurricanes in the past do. Two strong examples of that scenario off the top of my head would be the Long Island Express of 1938 and Hurricane Gloria, which struck Long Island and New England almost 30 years ago to the day (September 27, 1985).
When you have a strong hurricane moving up the East Coast in a mostly south to north trajectory, the forward motion adds to or subtracts from the speed of the sustained winds rotating around the storm’s center. For example, if you have a hurricane with say 120 mph winds like Joaquin, and it is moving up the coast at a rate of 45 to 50 mph, locations on the eastern side, particularly in the dreaded northeast quadrant of the storm, where you have the highest winds and surge, sustained winds could easily be 165 to 170 mph. Meanwhile, to the west, winds will slacken to only about 70 to 75 mph. Those were the types of situations that happened with the Long Island Express of 1938, where the storm was moving up to 70 miles per hour up the East Coast. To put a real fix on that type of motion, the Long Island Express was near Cape Hatteras at about 7:00 AM on September 21, 1938, and by 2:00 PM, it was crossing Long Island.
Now, while I have gone into a good deal of detail about this scenario, it may not happen at all. Instead, we could see a scenario similar to Hurricane Floyd, or Hurricane Irene, where the storm slowly creeps up the coast. A slow moving storm would be great news in terms of the wind and surge, but it would be a big problem in terms of rain. With hurricanes and tropical storms, rainfall is proportional to how fast the storm is moving. With both Floyd and Irene, the storms were slow movers, and as a result, there was a good deal of rain. On the other hand, Sandy was a bit more of a fast mover, and as a result, there was less rain. Getting back to the storm, here are the most recent particulars on Joaquin as of 5:00 AM on Thursday. The storm is located some 65 miles to the Southeast of San Salvador in the Bahamas, or 20 miles to the North of Samana Cays in the Bahamas.
Maximum sustained winds with Joaquin are up to 120 miles per hour with gusts in upwards of 150 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure is now down to 948 millibars, or 28.17 inches of Hg. The storm is moving to the West-Southwest at a slow pace of 7 miles per hour. A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the Central Bahamas and the Northwestern Bahamas including: the Abacos, Berry Islands, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, and New Providence. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Bimini and Andros Island in the Bahamas. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Southeastern Bahamas excluding the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Andros Island. To repeat, there is still a great deal of uncertainty in the forecast with Joaquin. Not only in the projected path of the storm, but also with the intensity. It is imperative that residents along the East Coast of the United States pay very close attention to this storm.
All It Takes to Have a Bad Hurricane Season Is One Storm, and Joaquin Could be the One
Coming into this week, the Atlantic Hurricane Season was experiencing typical El Niño year type doldrums. While the season hasn’t been as bad as the 1997 one was, which was the year of perhaps the most powerful El Nino episode ever, it has still produced a dearth of big storms, and especially no threat to the United States mainland. To date, there have been 11 depressions, 10 named storms, 3 hurricanes, and one major hurricane in the Atlantic.
However, while the numbers are down, all it takes is for one storm to make it a season to forget for coastal residents along the United States shoreline from Texas to Maine. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew proved that. So, did the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, and the 1938 Long Island Express. All of these storms came in average to below average seasons. The latest storm to form in the Atlantic this season, Joaquin, could be one of those types of storms.
Forming from an area of disturbed weather that persisted off the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern US coasts since September 15th, Joaquin emerged on Tuesday, and became the third hurricane of the Atlantic season on Wednesday. Currently, the storm is in the Western Atlantic near the Bahamas. According to the 8:00 PM EST Advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, Joaquin is centered some 95 miles east of San Salvador in the Bahamas, and moving to the Southwest at only 7 mph. Maximum sustained winds have increased from 85 to 105 mph.
Hurricane Hunter reconnaissance aircraft flew into Joaquin earlier today, and found it much stronger. Now a Category Two Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with gusts up to 120 mph. Minimum central pressure in the eye is now down to 954 millibars, or 28.17 inches of Hg. However, here is something interesting to note: Joaquin’s pressure has dropped from 967 millibars at 5:00 PM to 954 millibars at 8:00 PM. A drop of 13 millibars in only 3 hours, which is very significant. Could it be a sign of rapid deepening? Will have to wait and see. In the meantime though, Joaquin is expected to become a major hurricane with 115 mile per hour winds within the next 48 to 72 hours, and in light of recent developments, could be sooner than later.
Presently, Hurricane Watches and Warnings as well as Tropical Storm Warnings are up for much of the Bahamas. The models are not in consensus yet. While the European model, which performed very well with Hurricane Sandy back in 2012, is taking the storm out past Bermuda, and out to sea after 72 hours, the GFS, UKMET, Canadian, and several others have the storm heading toward a landfall along the Eastern Seaboard. The European has not performed well lately, but up until now, has built up a fairly good record of performance in recent years including Sandy. The GFS on the other hand, did well with Hurricane Irene. Both Irene and Sandy were bad news for New Jersey by the way.
Looking back at Irene and Sandy, I would venture that Joaquin is starting to shape up a lot like Irene at this point in time. If you recall back in late August 2011, Irene moved through the Bahamas as a major hurricane with 115 mph winds, and actually strengthened a bit more after moving through with 125 mph winds. Then, dry air got entrained in the system, and like a runner struggling to get to the finish line, Irene limped her way up the United States east coast before making landfall first along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and then making a second landfall in South Jersey. Another similarity between Irene and Joaquin is the rainfall and flooding potential.
With the rainfall that has already occurred in not only New Jersey, but throughout much of the Eastern United States over the past few days, and with more on the way prior to Joaquin’s forecasted arrival late this coming weekend into early next week, the scenario could be quite similar to Irene, but not the same. Back in August 2011, there was a tremendous amount of rain across the Garden State. Historic numbers were being produced. For instance, at GWC, where a new weather station had just been installed some two months earlier, there was over 15 inches of rain for the month and about two-thirds of that was produced prior to Irene.
Other areas across New Jersey had even more rain. Some isolated spots had up to 25 inches of rain. Keep in mind that New Jersey averages somewhere around 40 inches of rain per year. So, the ground was teeming with moisture when Irene paid a visit. Another possible scenario as far as flooding goes for Joaquin could be one similar to that prior to Hurricane Floyd. Remember, much of the summer was quite a dry one in New Jersey. From about June 20th until about a week ago, places such as GWC in South Plainfield, had only received between 4 and 4.5 inches of rain. So, despite the recent rains, the ground is still fairly dry.
Prior to Floyd, there hadn’t been the tremendous rains that were experienced prior to Irene. Although Hurricane Dennis spun off the Carolinas, and produced some rain for the Mid-Atlantic, Floyd came into places such as New Jersey with a lot less to work with as far as saturated ground. Nevertheless, slow moving Floyd, which had weakened to a Tropical Storm by the time it had reached the Tri-State area, still dumped 11.67 inches of rain here at GWC, and still produced some flooding in the neighborhood. Not like Irene did though. Although Irene only brought 5.34 inches of rain to GWC in South Plainfield, it still ended up being the icing on the cake for the worst flooding in my neighborhood in the 44 years I’ve lived there.
Looking at the forecast track, the model consensus that the NHC is going with is calling for Joaquin to end up somewhere between the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the Tidewater region of Virginia by Sunday night. New Jersey, which still lies in the NHC’s cone of uncertainty, could start feeling the effects from Joaquin during the day on Monday. Bottom line, all residents along the Jersey Shore, and even inland should be close attention to the whereabouts of this developing storm. All coastal residents along the U.S. shoreline from the Carolinas to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast should closely monitor this storm, and be prepared to take action if necessary.
Nor’easter Pays New Jersey a Visit On Thursday and Friday Followed By a Possible Threat from Hurricane Joaquin
After several months of mostly dry weather, New Jersey is about to make up for lost time. Already the Garden State has received anywhere from 1 to 2 inches of rain. Here at GWC in South Plainfield, the rainfall gauge has picked up 1.02 inches since Tuesday afternoon. Yesterday’s heavy rain also caused a power outage in the neighborhood where GWC is located.
The heavy rain over the last 24 hours is only the beginning of what could be a very serious one-two weather punch for not only New Jersey but for the Mid-Atlantic and New England States from the Carolinas on up into Maine. The first punch is expected to arrive during the day on Thursday in the form of a Nor’easter, which is expected to produce a plethora of weather related problems including localized flooding, coastal flooding, gusty winds, and even beach erosion.
Earlier on Wednesday, the National Weather Service office in Mount Holly, New Jersey issued a Coastal Flood Watch from Thursday night until late Saturday afternoon. There has already been some issues along the coast this week thanks to the astronomical high tide that accompanied the Harvest Moon and the lunar eclipse that took place on Sunday night, and lingered into Monday morning. Clouds began to develop on Tuesday morning, and haven’t left as the first wave of storm systems over the next week moved in.
According to the local forecast produced by the NWS office in Mount Holly, skies will remain cloudy on Wednesday night into early Thursday morning with rain developing during the day on Thursday. The steadier and heavier rains will begin on Thursday night, and continue through Friday and into Saturday with breezy conditions also developing. The probability of rain in the forecast goes from 50 percent during the day on Thursday to between 80 and 90 percent on Friday. Earlier in the week, one of the European model runs had indicated the possibility of up to 6 inches of rain for much of the Northeastern corridor. In addition, the conditions along the coast will begin to deteroriate.
With increasing surge along with wave heights between 6 to 10 feet along the Jersey Shore thanks to sustained winds between 14 and 21 miles per hour with gusts as high as gale force, coastal flooding is very likely. At high tide, the forecasted water level at Sandy Hook is expected to reach 7 feet while at Seaside Heights down in Ocean County, the predicted water level is expected to reach between 6.5 and 7 feet according to the NWS. Keep in mind, this is just for the nor’easter, which is expected to last into Saturday. The second punch of this one-two weather combo is anticipated to arrive sometime on Sunday into Monday.
Since September 15th, there has been an area of disturbed weather off the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic coast. The disturbance was noted over the weekend as it produced heavy surf along the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic. A couple days ago, this disturbance became TD #11, which then became Tropical Storm Joaquin on Tuesday. Late Tuesday night, Joaquin strengthened to become only the third hurricane of the 2015 Atlantic Season, but it could be the biggest threat yet to the United States mainland, which hasn’t experienced a landfalling major hurricane since 2005.
Currently, Joaquin is a Category One Hurricane stirring near the Bahamas with winds up to 85 miles per hour. Still in an area with favorable sea surface temperatures, and very little in the way of upper level wind shear to tear its developing thunderstorms apart, Joaquin is forecasted to strengthen to a major hurricane by sometime on Friday, and is also expected to make landfall somewhere in the area from the Carolinas to the Tidewater area of Virginia by Sunday. New Jersey, which has had recent impacts from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, has been in the cone of uncertainty for several forecast cycles now.
Although there is a lot of uncertainty on the forecast track of Joaquin, it is becoming more and more likely that this storm will make landfall somewhere in the Mid-Atlantic and affect the Garden State in some shape or form. Bottom line, pay attention to the weather forecasts on your local news as well as your most reliable weather app, and here at GWC and Hurricaneville. There is going to be a more comprehensive report on Joaquin shortly from Hurricaneville in the blog.
Here is a slideshow of photos taken of the wild and colorful skies over South Amboy and Laurence Harbor along the Jersey Shore in Middlesex County during the weekend of September 12-13, 2015. On the Saturday, ominous clouds developed as a storm system moved in from the south and west. Then, on Sunday, the clouds returned in the mid to late afternoon to combine with the setting sun for a colorful sunset.
Here is a short video of the colorful skies at sunset over South Amboy’s Waterfront Park on the 2nd Sunday in September 2015. The day started off nice with some sunshine, but then clouds gathered during the mid-afternoon and joined forces with the sun to produce quite a color display at sunset.
Here is weather footage of weather conditions in the Vineyard Haven section of Martha’s Vineyard on the morning of my first day there over Labor Day Weekend 2015. The sunrise was great, and was a tremendous start to what ended up being a great day weather wise. There was a bit of a breeze that still lingered from Friday and Friday night when I arrived at Oak Bluffs. Otherwise, the weather was a perfect 10.
Here is weather footage of the threatening skies over both South Amboy and Laurence Harbor in Middlesex County, New Jersey on the second Saturday of September 2015. Clouds gathered ahead of a storm system that was supposed to bring some rain to Central Jersey. However, at GWC in South Plainfield, the rain gauge only tallied 0.02 inches while the high temperature was only 77 with a dew point of 70 for a heat index of 80.
Here is a time lapse of the sun setting at Port Monmouth’s Waterfront Park on the evening of September 8, 2015. The sunset capped off a very hot day for this time of year in Central Jersey. At GWC in South Plainfield, the mercury climbed to 95 degrees. Combine that with a dew point of 68, the heat index rose to 101.
Here is a time lapse video of the sunrise at Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard during the morning of Labor Day 2015. On this day, GWC packed up and headed to Oak Bluffs for its eventual departure back to New Jersey. Before that though, it managed to capture the sunrise over Vineyard Harbor. There was some early morning cloudiness that got burned off by the sun. Temperatures eventually rose up into the low 80s with pleasant conditions.