Category Archives: Story

Nate hits Nicaragua, sets eyes on the US

Tropical features in Central America are almost always deadly, no matter the central pressure or storm classification. Nate is no exception. A fairly disorganized feature at this point, it has brought a copious amount of rainfall to Nicaragua, and at the latest update, it was reported to have led to the deaths of 20 people, thanks to flash flooding and mudslides.

The terrain in Central America abets those particular disasters, but Nate remains a fairly unbalanced Tropical Storm, and will still need to pass by the Yucatan before he can traverse the Gulf and find the resources to strengthen, though right now, it appears Nate will avoid a direct landfall over the peninsula.

As you can see with the NCAR spaghetti plots, there is a surprisingly good consensus, tracking Nate northward towards the Mississippi Delta. Importantly, this will keep New Orleans on the weaker, western side of the storm. Additionally, the feature will be moving fairly quickly, preventing any unmanageable rainfalls along the Gulf Coast.

The NHC is forecasting for Nate to become a hurricane not long before his landfall, but that is certainly a worst case scenario, given the general model consensus.

There are a select few models that have Nate reaching hurricane status, but the majority pin him as a strong tropical storm. They can be dangerous in their own right, but this isn’t going to be a repeat of the three major hurricanes that moved through the US and Caribbean earlier this hurricane season.

Tropics Quiet down

It’s been a heck of a month in the Atlantic Basin’s hurricane season. A named storm was active for every day of the month, with an incredible FIVE major hurricanes occurring during September. The season started off very weak, with an Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) value adding up to less than 4 through Emily, the season’s 5th named storm, breaking a record for lowest ACE value through 5 named storms. With Maria’s final advisory, the 2017 ACE value is now just above 202 units, which is the most ACE since 2005 and well over double what the average season is (92). September broke the record (September 2004) for highest ACE value for any month in history with an incredible 173.805 value. Recovery efforts continue in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and most imminently in Puerto Rico, where the island continues to try and get on its feet after being completely devastated by Maria.

On a positive note, the Atlantic is quiet now, with nothing of note expected to develop in the near future. It’s definitely needed so these storm-ravaged areas have a chance at recovering quickly.

September Forecaster of the Month

This was a terrible month for meteorologists, as we saw our passion – the weather – spin out of control and destroy the lives of so many people, first with Harvey concluding in Houston, then Irma in Florida, and finally, and perhaps most cataclysmicly, Maria in Puerto Rico. Meteorologists tend to get blamed whenever this type of thing goes on, but the truth is, because of the preparations so many undertook, particularly for Irma, many, many lives were saved. Much of the verification we did at Victoria-Weather didn’t touch upon the hurricane influenced destruction in the southern US, but we all have a new respect for the fact that weather can change lives. In this month, where the weather was such an influence on the news and way of life for so many, Accuweather can claim that they were the best forecasters. Congratulations.

The Atlantic is slowing down

After a terrible stretch of misfortune from late August into the middle of September, we are now left with a respite. Now Tropical Storm Maria is tapering off in the Atlantic, while Hurricane Lee is not a threat to any land. There is a wave over Cuba that may develop into a tropical storm, but the available ocean for continued intensification is not enough to make this area a serious threat to explode into a catastrophe.

Most importantly, the central Atlantic is nearly devoid of cloud cover, indicating that there aren’t any of those long range waves with the entire ocean with which to strengthen. There is some cloud cover over the Lesser Antilles, with perhaps a slight bit of rain. Hopefully, the clouds will help alleviate the heat, rather than bring more rain to places like Barbuda, Guadalupe, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.  High pressure in the southeast bodes well for Florida as well, and coastal Texas continues to dry out, nearly a month after Harvey made landfall. Let’s continue to pray for favorable conditions, for as long as the region needs to start getting back on their feet.

Despite hot summer, Western US sees first snows of 2017-18 season

This summer was almost unbearable for residents of the western US. While folks east of the Rockies saw a relatively comfortable August (before hurricane season, that is to say), everything was an excessive heat advisory with temperatures reaching record levels all along the Pacific Coast. Well, the script, as they say, has flipped.

While it’s been in the 90s as far north as the Twin Cities this weekend, but out west, especially in the Grand Tetons and Sierras, a sharp upper level trough has brought an early season bout of cold air to the western US. How Cold? Cold enough for snow. Around Lake Tahoe, some locations saw a foot of the white stuff on the last day of summer.

The upper trough continues to remain parked over the central Rockies, and a lee trough is helping with the production of a great deal of rain in the Great Plains, but also leading to the forecast for more snow from Yellowstone through the Utah Wasatch.

Obviously, with 90s still occurring north of the Mason Dixon Line, we aren’t into the winter time forecast pattern quite yet, the possibility is certainly right around the corner, even to us flatlanders.


Hurricane Maria continues destructive 2017 hurricane season

The major weather headline for 2017 will undoubtedly go to the devastating hurricane season, which featured three major hurricanes making impactful landfall, and another rolling out to sea with a much lesser imprint on the Caribbean.

Maria is the latest in this litany of destruction, impacting Dominica and Puerto Rico the hardest, while also smacking the Turks and Caicos and Bahamas once again. Dominica, like Barbuda before it, as well as St Barts, St. Martin and the Virgin Islands have been laid waste, while Puerto Rico is said to be entirely out of power. Given this destruction, the fact that there have been only about 200 storm deaths to date with the entire season is nothing less than miraculous.

While Maria’s course took it directly over Dominica and Puerto Rico, which will be very costly in the end,  those islands are  arguably some of the most well prepared to contend for a storm of this magnitude. The joint weather monitoring service for the Lesser Antilles is headquartered in Dominica, while San Juan is home to a NWS office.  Another factor that helped save lives is Maria’s striking terrain of Puerto Rico, which will lead to some flash flooding, but also worked to corrode Maria’s strength and make her weaker in the Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic and Bahamas. The zealous preparation saved lives.

Maria looks to be done with major land masses, as she has grazed the Dominican Republic and is sliding through the Bahamas towards the open Atlantic. Fortunately, after Maria has shifted into the Atlantic, there looks to be ample time to recover. For the first time in a while, the Atlantic Basin will be quiet.

Irma Takes Aim on Florida, Jose Brings Double Whammy

I’m sure you might be on a bit of Irma overload from this site and everywhere else out there, but this storm is truly a major news story and will cause billions upon billions of dollars in damage by the time the weekend is out. Irma underwent an Eyewall Replacement Cycle earlier this morning, temporarily weakening it down to 140mph winds, however, it’s gotten its act together over the last 3-6 hours and intensified back to a Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 160mph. Right now, Irma is making yet another landfall as a Category 5 storm, this time over Central Cuba. Irma is expected to kind of ride along the coastline as it finally starts its’ shift to the northwest over the next 12-24 hours and eventually shift back out fully over water in the very warm waters of the Florida Straits. At that point, it will make a sharp turn towards the north and make landfall over far southern Florida, with the main area of impact now looking like it will be somewhere between Everglades City and Ft. Myers after it rolls over the Florida Keys. It’s expected to be a strong Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane, with sustained winds around 140-160mph and gusts nearing 200mph in spots.

The entire southern half of Florida is under a Hurricane Warning, with the Northern FL Peninsula under a Hurricane Watch (which will no doubt be upgraded in due time as well), and Storm Surge Warnings are found everywhere from Tampa Bay around the peninsula to Melbourne. Another thing to take away from Irma is how WIDE it is. Of course the most wind-driven damage will be right in the powerful eyewall, but hurricane force winds stretch out 70-80 miles away from the eye. So while Miami/Ft. Lauderdale will escape the worst of it, they’ll still get hefty winds and some storm surge as well. Either way you slice it, South FL is going to get hit hard by a historically strong hurricane. Hopefully everybody who can has evacuated further north, or has boarded up as much as they can.

And as if that wasn’t enough Hurricane Jose is about to take aim on the Antigua/Barbuda area, which has already been devastated by Irma. Barbuda has been completely evacuated in advance of Jose, mainly because there’s almost nothing left on the island for residents to take shelter in. Hopefully it veers just off to the north so they can be spared the worst of a double hurricane whammy. With Irma at 160mph and Jose at 155mph, it’s a new record for strongest simultaneous hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin. Certainly a season for the record books this season.

Hurricane Irma, and a brief note on forecaster of the month

At this point, it seems fairly likely that Hurricane Irma will make land fall in the United States. There is a chance that she will make first stop south of Homestead, Florida, near Key Largo before tracking up the coast towards Hilton Head along the Georgia South Carolina Border early next week. With a slight alteration to the track, especially if it follows this morning’s guidance, Irma will instead slide just off shore, maintaining some of her strength before slamming into the South Carolina coast between Hilton Head and Charleston. The Key Largo landfall scenario is the one put forth currently by the NHC.

Looking close, Irma is projected to make landfall near Key Largo by the Euro, and will slide just to the west of town, which is essentially a worst case scenario. Winds around the eye are the strongest in the front-right portion of the eye wall, relative to storm motion, which would be where Miami is, if Irma follows the Euro track. The GFS takes Irma just off the coast, which would be the best case for Miami and the coast of Florida, but might not be as good for the Carolina coast. A look at the spaghetti plot shows many of the tropical models side with the GFS.

To date, Irma has laid waste to low lying tropical islands like Barbuda and St. Martin. She will pass north of the Greater Antilles, which is great news for the populations there, but also means little threat of weakening. The Bahamas, one way or another, are in for some serious issues, ahead of the American impact.

Now, really quickly, I’ll just note that there was a tie at the top of the leaderboard in the month of August, with The Weather Channel finishing strong and drawing level with Accuweather.


Record Floods, Record Heat, Go Away Irma!

The news continues to be dominated by scenes of the destruction Harvey wrought upon the TX coastline as it make landfall near Rockport, and of course the epic flooding in Houston and places further along the Gulf Coast into Western LA. It’s my hope that these areas in Western LA and where Harvey actually made landfall don’t get ignored as most focus on Houston. Areas around Rockport and Port Aransas were mostly flattened by the sustained hurricane force winds that battered them for nearly half a day.

But as the Gulf Coast continues to start to pick of the pieces, and in many areas, wait for the floodwaters to recede, a new possible threat emerges, Hurricane Irma. Irma is still way out in the Atlantic, but has sustained winds of 115mph (Category 3) and look to take an odd path over the next few days. Most storms out in the Atlantic head on a more west-northwesterly route, maybe sometimes due west. Irma, however, wants to go west-SOUTHwest throughout the weekend. It’s not very often a storm “loses” latitude, but that’s what it’s expected to do. This could be a problem because the further south it goes, the longer it would take for it to recurve out over the Atlantic as it gets closer to the Caribbean. Models have it going anywhere from the Gulf to New England, so it’s still a WAYS out of being any real threat to land, but they do all agree on it being a major hurricane as it pushes into next week. Irma will definitely be a storm to keep an eye on.

And as if THAT wasn’t enough, another weather story that’s been pushed under the proverbial rug that is Harvey is the epic heat wave engulfing the Western US right now. Downtown San Francisco broke their ALL-TIME RECORD HIGH tonight as they topped out at 106 degrees. San Francisco Airport broke their all-time record as well at 104. Places everywhere baked over 100 degrees and crushed records, with Healdsburg and King City peaking at 111. It should start subsiding over the next couple of days, but meanwhile, the West will continue to roast.

Sun rises on devastated Texas Coast

Hurricane Harvey made his landfall on the Texas Coast near Aransas Pass late last night, bringing with it some of the strongest winds the United States has ever seen from a landfalling storm. Port Aransas was the big ‘winner’ with winds of 132mph.
Harvey has been downgraded to a Tropical Storm, which means that the winds have alleviated, and the storm surge is likely abating, but the crisis is not even close to over. Harvey has stalled between San Antonio and Victoria, and is dumping rain throughout eastern Texas. The rain will ultimately be the biggest cause of loss, both of life and property, but before that crisis comes to a head, let’s take a look at some of the imagery of the incredible wind damage in the Rockport and Refugio area.