Remember Irene? NASA video shows life of the hurricane
Video from NASA's GOES-13 satellite covers the storm between Aug. 20-28.
Video from NASA's GOES-13 satellite covers the storm between Aug. 20-28.
The National Hurricane Center is watching Tropical Storm Rina, the 17th named storm of the 2011 Atlantic season, as it strengthens and moves toward Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.
Rina became a tropical storm Sunday night. At last check it was 190 miles southwest of Grand Cayman Island, and 370 miles east-southeast of Chetumal, Mexico. Top sustained winds were blowing at 45 mph, and the storm was moving at 6 mph to the northwest.
Rina was forecast to become a hurricane by Tuesday night, only the fifth hurricane of the season. Interests in Belize and on the Yucatan were advised to monitor the storm.
UPDATE, 2:14 p.m.: Rina is now a hurricane, and is expected to become a Cat. 3 "major" hurricane by late Tuesday. Earlier post resumes below:
Forecasters were predicting 1 to 3 inches of rain on the northeast coast of Honduras, and 2 to 4 inches in the Cayman Islands.
Most forecast storm tracks keep the storm in the northwest Caribbean through the rest of the week. Here is the latest advisory on Rina. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the latest forecast discussion.
Only four storm names remain on the 2011 list: Sean, Tammy, Vince and Whitney.
FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:
The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season is quieter now as we near the end of October. There have been 16 named storms, from Tropical Storm Arlene through Hurricane Philippe. That’s well above the 9.6 seasonal average, and just what Colorado State University forecasters predicted. We’re short on hurricanes, however – just five — a bit below average and well below the 6 to 10 predicted by forecast teams. Irene and Lee caused quite enough excitement here, thanks. The season ends officially Nov. 30.
(SUN PHOTO: Irene hits Ocean City, Karl Merton Ferron)
FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:
Today looks like another stormy one for the United Kingdom, made even more so by what’s left of the former Cat. 4 Hurricane Ophelia. After spinning up to 140 mph east of Bermuda on Saturday, Ophelia weakened to tropical storm strength, passed over George Calvert’s former plantation on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland on Monday, and headed east. It is expected to bring rain, wind, mild tropical air and 25-foot seas today to northern Ireland and western Scotland.
Hurricane Ophelia has become the third "major" hurricane of the Atlantic season, a Cat. 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with top sustained winds of 115 mph. The storm was located about 620 miles south-southeast of Bermuda, moving to the north-northwest at 12 mph.
There's a Tropical Storm Watch in effect on the island. Fortunately, the forecast storm track would carry it about 100 miles to the east, of the island, putting Bermuda on the more benign west side of the circulation. The storm is expected to fluctuate in strength in the next 24 hours before weakening.
Bermuda's residents have been told to expect tropical-storm-force winds by Saturday afternoon, with hazardous surf on the south beaches. Rainfall could reach an inch.
Tropical Storm Ophelia is now Hurricane Ophelia, only the fourth hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season. The storm is no threat to the U.S. coast. It was centered northeast of Puerto Rico, moving north-northwest in the Atlantic at 9 mph, on a course that would take it close to the island of Bermuda late Saturday.
Top sustained winds are blowing at 75 mph, just above minimal hurricane force, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The disorganized remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia appear to be perking up and getting better organized as they near the northern Leeward Islands. Forecasters in Miami are giving the storm an 80 percent chance of regaining tropical storm strength in the next two days.
The showers and thunderstorms were located a few hundred miles east northeast of the Northern Leewards. Locally heavy rains were forecast for the islands through Wednesday. Computer models all seem to steer whatever Ophelia becomes to the north, where it will be a threat only to Bermuda and ships at sea.
Forecasters predicted a busy season in the tropical Atlantic this year, and they were right. But neither of the current hot spots seems to pose a threat to the U.S. mainland.
We've reached the letter "P" now, with Tropical Storm Phillipe spinning in the eastern Atlantic, about 680 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands. The storm has developed top sustained winds of 60 mph, and it's moving northwest at 12 mph. On that course the storm will not become any sort of threat to the Americas.
The other disturbance hurricane forecasters are watching is an area of showers and thunderstorms a few hundred miles east of the Northern Leeward Islands. It's actually what's left of Tropical Storm Ophelia, which developed last week and faded over the weekend. Strong wind shear is preventing more development, forecasters say. The system is moving west-northwest at 5 to 10 mph, with just a 20 percent chance of regaining tropical storm strength in the next two days.
Curiously, on the other side of the continent, the remnants of Typhoon Roke, which was born in the western Pacific, pounded Japan last week and later crossed the International Date Line, is now battering the Northwest Coast of Canada and the United States.
The fierce autumn storm is bringing high winds - gusts to 105 mph - and as much as 8 inches of rain to the Vancouver and Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia. Gales are also blowing on the coast of southern Alaska, Washington and Oregon.
A big tropical low is getting better organized in the central Atlantic Ocean, and forecasters are giving it a 70 percent chance of becoming the next named storm of the 2011 Atlantic season, sometime in the next 48 hours.
The storm is already kicking up thunderstorms and looks pretty healthy from orbit. Forecasters say conditions in the region are favorable for continued development. If it does reach tropical storm strength, it would become Tropical Storm Ophelia, the 14th named storm of the season.
The count is now approaching the lower end of pre-season forecasts for the number of named storms this season, which ranged from 13 to 16. But hurricane counts remain low. Only three storms have made it to hurricane strength - Irene, Katia and Maria. The major forecasters have predicted at least 6 to 9 hurricanes this season.
Only two of this year's hurricanes reached "major" Cat. 3 strength or higher. Irene was a Cat. 3 storm at sea, but weakened to Cat. 1 at landfall in North Carolina. Katia was a Cat. 4 at sea, but never made landfall until it reached the United Kingdom. Maria was a tropical storm for most of its life, reaching Cat. 1 strength over the open Atlantic, with no U.S. landfall.
Forecasters had predicted at least 3 to 5 of this year's storms would reach Cat. 3 or higher.
The season ends officially on Nov. 30.
FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:
Today marks the eighth anniversary of Isabel’s 2003 landfall near Morehead City, N.C. It was a Cat. 2 hurricane at landfall, and weakened as it drove inland toward Western Maryland.
The 2.13 inches of rain on the 18th set a new daily record for BWI. But it was wind on the storm’s east side that drove a destructive, 8.5-foot storm surge into the Upper Chesapeake, breaking records set during the Chesapeake-Potomac Hurricane in 1933, and flooding Baltimore and Arundel shorelines.
(SUN PHOTO: Riviera Beach. David Hobby, 2003)
Hurricane forecasters are predicting that Tropical Storm Maria will turn to the north, then northeast while still well out to sea. The storm is expected to pass just west of Bermuda on Thursday.
This morning, the storm was located about 300 miles east of the southeastern Bahamas, moving to the north northwest at 6 mph. A Tropical Storm Watch was posted for Bermuda.
Puerto Rico was expecting total rains of 4 to 8 inches from Maria, with isolated amounts of 15 to 20 inches at higher elevations. Life-threatening mudslides and flash floods were possible.
The storm's top sustained winds were blowing at about 50 mph. Some modest strengthening is possible in the next day or two. But southwesterly shear has been limiting development. And now the southwesterly winds out ahead of the front moving off East Coast are expected to turn the storm and accelerate its movement to the north and northeast. It is likely to lose its tropical characteristics by the weekend.
In the meantime, at the Maryland beaches, the weather service is warning of a moderate risk of rip currents. Swimmers and surfers should continue to monitor advisories as the storm moves north this week.
FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:
Don Dobrow, in Baltimore, wonders why Tropical Storm Maria was described as being the 14th storm of the season: “M is the 13th letter of the alphabet.”
It is. But what the National Hurricane Center is counting are “tropical depressions” — areas of heavy rain, with winds below 39 mph. Until they organize enough to push top winds to 39 mph, they aren’t officially “tropical storms,” and don’t get a name.
Tropical Depression 10 last month (map, left)never topped 35 mph before expiring on Aug. 27.
(IMAGE: National Hurricane Center)
As if we didn'ty have enough to contend with after Irene, and with more rain and flooding from what remains of Lee, the tropical Atlantic continues to gin up more storms.
Hurricane Katia continues to spin its way across the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Maria formed east of the Antilles just this (Wednesday) morning, and another tropical wave seems likely to become a problem in the Gulf of Mexico (or possibly a desperately-needed rain-maker for Texas).
Katia was reported about 320 miles southwest of Bermuda, with top sustained winds of 85 mph. It was moving to the northwest at 10 mph. Hurricane forecastyers said they expected the storm would curve to the north and later tothe north-northeast by late Thursday. That would take Katia between the Carolina coast and Bermuda by Thiursday without a landfall at either place.
It is already affecting the beaches, however, with dangerous surf and riptides. High Riptide Risk notices are posted from Duck, N.C. to the Maryland/Delaware border. Waves are forecast to reach 4 to 6 feet today.
Tropical Storm Maria formed this morning about 1,300 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. It was packing sustained winds of 50 mph, moving to the west at a brisk 23 mph. Forecasters said some stregnthening is expected in the next two days. The forecast storm track looks much like Irene's for the moment.
Finally, forecasters are watching the next potential tropical storm, now located in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico. It is given a 60 percent chance of reaching tropical storm strength in the next 48 hours, and earning the name Nate. It's close enough to the Texas coast to raise hopes that it might throw some badly needed rain toward the Lone Star State, which is suffering through an historic drought and terrible wildfires.
Tropical Depression 13 continues to linger off the northern Gulf Coast Friday, with modest winds but formidible rains for the region, and for wherever the storm decides to go next week.
Forecaster expect TD13 to reach tropical storm strength later today, becoming Tropical Storm Lee. For now, it is centered roughly 210 miles southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River, moving north at 1 mph. Actually, forecasters can't be certain precisely where the storm is centered, where it's headed or how fast it's moving. That's because its center is hard to find, and its movement is both slight and erratic.
UPDATE, 1:45 p.m.: TD13 is now Tropical Storm Lee, with top sustained winds of 40 mph. Forecasters have not ruled out the possibility that Lee will reach hurricane strength. Earlier post resumes below.
The offshore oil rigs are reporting tropical storm winds north and east of the storm's center, forecasters said. And rain bands are now soaking coastal Louisiana.
What they do know is that it is packing a lot of rain, and is likely to strengthen. There is a Tropical Storm Warning in effect from Pascagoula, Miss. west to Sabine Pass, Texas, including the low-lying city of New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain. And the warnings predict 10 to 15 inches of rain, with the potential for as much as 20 inches through Sunday before this dawdling rain maker finally leaves.
UPDATE, 12:30 p.m.: Just got off a teleconference call with Bill Read, director of the National Hurricane Center. There was some discussion of whether the New Orleans-area pumps will be able to keep up with the heavy rains that are forecast with this storm. We may be seeing footage of water rising in the streets in that city before TD13 is through.
What really caught my attention were his comments on what happens down the road, when the tropical rains move north and east: "When the storm moves out," he said, "it will bring heavy rain northward into the Appalachians." He pointed to scenes we've seen this week out of Vermont, and said they may be repeated in the Southern Appalachians. "Unfortunately ... that's the kind of terrain where flash flooding is fast and it's violent. The exact timing and locations [of such events] are yet to be seen."
At least TD13 (or Lee) will be "gone before Katia's even in the picture," he said.
The forecast models are still a mess. But the consensus seems to be that TD13 will approach the coast of southern Louisiana this weekend, then turn gradually toward the northeast.
NWS forecasters in Sterling, Va. are anticipating that "a plume of tropical moisture from what should be named Lee will stream across the mid-Atlantic from the middle of next week into the weekend. This, along with an onshore flow, could create a significant rainfall event for the region."
FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:
The National Hurricane Center says Irene never made landfall in Maryland. “Landfall” occurs when the storm’s center crosses the coastline. Irene had three in the U.S.– in North Carolina, New Jersey and New York. But its center passed 10 miles off Ocean City’s beaches.
NHC’s Dennis Feltgen says only two hurricanes have made landfall here since 1851 – a Cat. 2 storm in 1878, and a Cat. 1 in 1893. But others, including Hazel in 1954, have arrived by land with hurricane winds.
(NASA PHOTO: Irene at the North Carolina coast)
There's plenty of activity in the tropics this morning, but also plenty of uncertainty about where these two storms might pose a threat.
The most immediate concern is with the thunderstorms and gusty winds in the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are giving it a "high chance" - 70 percent - of becoming a tropical storm (Lee) during the next 48 hours. They say conditions in the region are forecast to become more favorable for development in a few days.
UPDATE, 2:15 p.m.: The hurricane center has boosted the storm's chances of becoming Tropical Storm Lee in the next 48 hours Lee to 80 percent.
Meteorologists at AccuWeather.com say there's plenty to worry about:
"[T]his will be an extensive, slow-moving system, capable of affecting the same areas for days with downpours, stormy seas and rough surf conditions. Rough seas alone have potential to shut down [oil] rigs in the Gulf for an extended period.
"From 10 to 20 inches of rain may fall on part of the north-central Gulf Coast beginning late this week and continuing into next week, and could in itself result in disastrous flooding."
For now, this would-be Lee is drifting slowly to the northwest. But the forecast models are still having trouble dealing with the light steering winds in the Gulf. Their forecast tracks make no sense at all.
Meanwhile, far out in the Atlantic Ocean, Tropical Storm Katia graduated to hurricane overnight. The Cat. 1 storm is sporting top sustained windsof 75 mph. It was located 1,065 miles east of the Leeward Islands, moving to the west at 20 mph.
Forecasters expect a slow turn more to the west-northwest and some slowing in the next few days. Some additional strengthening is forecast, too, and some models predict Katia will reach Cat. 3 (sustained winds of 111 mph) by the weekend.
The track models look much more together than those for the Gulf Storm. Most continue to take Katia generally to the west-northwest, in a line that, if unchanged, would bring the storm to the southeastern U.S. coast late next week.
But forecasters, and some models, put a curve in Katia's path as it encounters the cold front coming off the eastern U.S. They would curve the track to the northwest, north and later to the northeast before Katia gets close to the coast. That could put Bermuda in harm's way.
The bottom line on Katia is that it's too soon to tell whether she will become a threat here, or merely good news for surfers.
Maryland Agriculture Secretary Earl "Buddy" Hance has released a preliminary accounting of agricultural losses from Hurricane Irene. The casualties include 30,000 chickens. Here's Hance:
"High winds and excessive rain caused loss of power, flooding, and tree and limb damage across most of the state. Southern Maryland and the Lower Eastern Shore, however, sustained most of the damage, primarily on drought-stricken corn fields where wind flattened the crop in many places, making it difficult to harvest. The remaining sweet corn was severely blown over and may not be recoverable, but we believe this will impact a small amount as most has been harvested.
"Overall Maryland livestock fared well with no significant loss. For the poultry industry, the Harim Group reported that the storm killed about 30,000 birds in Maryland. There were no other reports of bird loss or significant structural damage.
"Soybeans fared well and the moisture will help the crop. About 100 acres of watermelon were destroyed and another 100 acres sustained damage severe enough to be reported as a loss. About 600 acres of string beans may be unharvestable. There was no impact from the storm west of Frederick.
"The Farm Service Agency will further assess damages to agriculture – crops, livestock, conservation – and we should have a better indication of those estimates later this week. Farmers who experienced hurricane damage are reminded to stay in close contact with their crop insurance agents."
(SUN PHOTO: Doug Kapustin, 2007)
Tropical Depression 12, as forecast, became Tropical Storm Katia overnight. And forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say she will reach hurricane force by late Wednesday or early Thursday.
Looking farther down the road, forecast models have Katia reaching Cat. 3 ("major") hurricane strength by the weekend.
For now, Katia poses no threat to land. At 11 a.m. the NHC put the storm 630 miles west southwest of the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa. The highest sustained winds were 45 mph, with more strengthening expected as the storm gets better organized.
Katia was moving to the west northwest at 18 mph, a course that was expected to continue for at least 48 more hours.
Forecast models show the storm eventually approaching the Bahamas. One then curves it to the north before reaching the East Coast of the U.S.
NOTE TO READERS: Thanks for reading the Maryland Weather Blog! We had 248,000 page views last week, second only to Raven Insider.
I just took a look at the latest numbers from BGE on how the restoration of electric service is going. Looks like their own crews, contractors and mutual-aid crews from Midwest and Pa. utilities have restored service to about two-thirds of all the customers who lost power during Irene.
The utility reports on its website (at about 10:20 a.m.) that of the 743,000 outages they faced from the storm, about 500,000 have been repaired. Some 243,000 customers were still waiting for their lights to come back on.
Hardest-hit were Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties. In Baltimore County, 234,278 customers lost their power at some point during the storm. That's 63 percent of the total that BGE serves there. In Anne Arundel, 176,045 customers lost their lights. That is 74 percent of the total. I'm not sure if the total double-counts those who lost their power more than once. But it gives you a sense of the scale of the damage.
Of course, if it's your power that's still out, that's still 100 percent of the outages that remain to be cleared up, and you're still looking for the first bucket truck to show up. Keep in mind that it only makes sense for the utility to first tackle the line breaks that affect the most customers. If your lights are out because a tree fell in your back yard, and your neighbors were unaffected, you will be waiting at the end of the line. That's only fair. Inconvenient to say the least. But fair.
The 743,000 total is close to 50 percent more outages than the company planned for, and equal to 58 percent of the entire system of 1.3 million customers. Company officials said before Irene struck that they were planning for up to 500,000 outages in the BGE service area, but were prepared to expand the response if needed. Turns out it was needed.
(SUN PHOTO: Jeffrey F. Bill)
In the last two days I've heard some commentary about Hurricane Irene suggesting that it somehow fell short of expectations; that it was hyped by the news media beyond what was warranted.
So what's going on here? Are the news media at fault for printing (and broadcasting) strong warnings about the dangers posed by the storm? Are the hurricane forecasters at fault for getting something wrong in their forecasts? Did emergency managers overdo their warnings?
Do they all run a danger of somehow "disappointing" people in a way that will make them less responsive to future storm warnings?
Or is it a bigger hazard to life and property if we (forecasters and media) risk underplaying a storm's potential ? Wouldn't that, too, encourage more people to try to stay in place instead of preparing for the worst and getting out if instructed to ?
Finally, was this storm really a dud? It seems like millions of outages, trees down on cars and homes, schools closed, businesses shuttered, historic flooding in New England, estimated damages upwards of $10 billion, and 20 people dead could hardly be deemed anything but awful.
(PHOTO: Irene damage in Connecticut. Bertina Hansen, Hartford Courant)
A new tropical depression has formed in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Forecasters expect it will become Tropical Storm Katia later today, and strengthening to hurricane force by Thursday as it steams to the west-northwest in the mid-Atlantic.
Tropical Depression 12, as it's being called for now, was located this morning about 395 miles south southwest of the Cape Verde Islands - off West Africa - putting it in a class of storms known as Cape Verdean Hurricanes. They are the ones that tend to pose the greatest threat to the East Coast as we move into the peak of the hurricane season. The map above shows where the various forecast models take it in the next few days.
Here's AccuWeather.com's Henry Margusity on the storm's prospects.
TD12 is moving south of a high-pressure ridge in the mid-Atlantic that will keep it from curving north for a while longer. Forecasters are saying that, while the ridge will weaken some in the coming days, it is expected to restrengthen, "which should result in a continued west-northwest motion..."
FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:
Is there a good side to a storm like Irene? Peter Morici, a business professor at College Park, says yes: Pre-landfall estimates of the storm’s potential damage run to $30 billion. But reconstruction will yield “at least” $7 billion in new, direct private spending. Add higher values of rebuilt property, and other “multipliers,” and he figures there’s about $29 billion on the plus side. “The total effects of natural disasters on the scale of Irene are not large two years down the road,” he argues.
The National Weather Service's forecast office in Sterling, Va. has posted top wind gusts during Irene's passage across its coverage area west of the Chesapeake. Looks like Calvert County recorded some of the worst conditions on our side of the bay:
Top sustained winds: 56 mph, Calvert Cliffs.
Top wind gusts: 73 mph, Cobb Island buoy; 72 mph, Calvert Cliffs, Chesapeake Beach, Gaithersburg
Top rain total: 12.96 inches, West Plum Point, Calvert County; 12 inches, Perry Hall
OTHER WIND DATA: SUSTAINED WINDS
Point Lookout: 43 mph
Middle River: 42 mph
Solomons: 41 mph
Bay Ridge: 69 mph
Highland Beach: 68 mph
Solomons: 68 mph
Patuxent River: 64 mph
North Beach: 64 mph
Well, it sure felt like a hurricane struck Maryland last night, but Steve Zubrick, science officer at the National Weather Service's regional forecast office in Sterling, Va. says maybe not, officially.
I asked him whether Irene's visit in Maryland last night qualified as a hurricane landfall in the state. That would be huge news, because the National Hurricane Center currently recognizes just one - in all the time they've been keeping records - as a Maryland landfall. (We're checking to verify which one that was.)
Here's what Steve said:
"We'll have to check on the historic record of landfalls in Maryland. However, preliminary thinking is that Irene's center did not make landfall in MD.
"The definition says that the center of circulation (eye) of the system has to cross the coastline...and preliminary indications are that the center of Irene stayed offshore of MD.
"Later assessments might change that view, but for now, be aware that the NWS has not recognized landfall of Irene in MD, even though there were certainly impacts (see our latest Public Info Statement product for details).
"The NWS so far is recognizing [two] landfalls for Irene, one in North Caroline near Cape Lookout on Sat. morning; the other at Little Egg ... Inlet in NJ earlier today (Sunday)."
Weather observers on top of Mt. Washington (in New Hampshire), say they're already seeing the effects of Tropical Storm Irene. But the strongest winds are not expected until tonight. Their forecast calls for winds to gust tonight to more than 100 mph, and perhaps as high as 130.
Here's their report:
"Hurricane Irene will make its way northward into New England today, producing torrential rains and very windy conditions atop the higher summits. Irene will make landfall along the Connecticut coastline this morning, but will spread bands of heavy rainfall well in advance of its center. The periods of rain will become progressively heavier as the day wears on and Irene's eye comes extremely close to a direct pass over the White Mountains.
"Intense thunderstorms are often imbedded within the structure of a tropical cyclone, so rumbles of thunder and dangerous lightning are not out of the question as well. Wind speeds will pick up quickly through the day, gusting near hurricane force by afternoon. Winds are predicted to drop off around dusk as Irene's calm eye perhaps makes its way overhead.
"However, as Irene passes north of the region and begins to transition to an extratropical storm, winds will pick up tremendously, gusting well in excess of 100 mph--perhaps as high as 130 mph--in the wee hours of Monday. Temperatures will take a nose dive as well as the winds sharply shift towards the west and pull in chillier air, with overnight lows dipping into the upper 30s. Rain will taper to showers by daybreak, and come to an end early tomorrow, with the summits emerging from the fog tomorrow to reveal mostly sunny skies.
"Irene's fury will be in full force today, dumping as much as 6-8" of rain atop the higher summits. Tropical cyclones generally do not generate particularly significant wind events on Mt. Washington. However, Irene will be in the unique state of transition between tropical and extratropical system as it passes over and to the north. Should this transition occur quick enough, wind speeds will be on the higher end of the forecasted numbers, perhaps even a bit higher, as a tremendous pressure gradient forms. However, a slower or later transition will translate to less formidable wind speeds tonight. Nevertheless, at minimum, overnight winds will regularly gust in excess of 100 mph. However, the potential is there for a much more significant wind event."
(PHOTO: Mt. Washington Observatory, August 2011)
Hurricane Irene, the first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season, the first "major" (Cat.3 or higher) storm of the season, and the first to make landfall on the U.S. mainland since 2008, has been downgraded to a tropical storm.
The National Hurricane Center said at 11 a.m. that Irene's top sustained winds have fallen to 60 mph. The center was located 10 miles west of Danbury, Conn., moving to the north northeast at 26 mph. Irene was headed for northern New England later today, and then on to Quebec and Labrador.
All warnings have been canceled for the Chesapeake Bay, and the Hurricane Warnings on the coast have been downgraded to Tropical Storm Warnings.
Now that Irene has gone by us, and winds have swung around to the west northwest, the danger of damaging storm surge from Hurricane Irene - to the extent it ever was a real worry - is past, according to the National Weather Service.
"I would venture to say, yeah, for Baltimore Harbor and the Western Shore ... [storm surge] will not be too much of an issue now," said meteorologist Kevin Witt, at the weather service's regional forecast office in Sterling, Va.
Although city officials and many regular folks worried that Hurricane Irene might deliver the kind of destructive, 8 or 9-foot storm in the Upper Chesapeake we all remember from Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003, a big surge was never in the forecasts for this region. Unless your property is vulnerable to flooding caused by rain, most of the sandbags deployed Saturday probably were wasted.
That's because Irene tracked well east of the bay. That meant the wind out of the south, on the cyclone's east side, was blowing over the ocean, not up the bay. Isabel, by contrast, passed to the west of the bay, putting the south winds directly onto the Chesapeake, driving water north and into the bay's creeks and rivers.
Witt said there does remain some risk of high water today on the Eastern Shore of the bay, as the west or northwest winds at 30 to 35 mph slosh water toward the east.
So rather than a storm tide, Witt said, "we're looking at more of a blowout tide," where west northwest winds blow water out of the bay, producing stunted high tides and unusually low low tides. You can see the wind effects on the tide chart, above, for Annapolis. The Saturday morning high tide was more than a foot below predictions.
The prospect is much the same for the ocean beaches, where west northwest winds will begin to calm the waters. "Later this afternoon, east coast tides and waves will be coming down," Witt said.
There's a new tropical storm on the maps. Fortunately, Tropical Storm Jose is well out in the Atlantic, and he's headed north. This is likely a "fish storm." Winds from Hurricane Irene are creating wind shear that will probably do Jose in within 36 hours, forecasters say.
At 8 a.m., Jose was located 115 miles southsouthwest of Bermuda. It has top sustained winds of 40 mph, and it's moving to the north at 16 mph. The Bermuda Weather Service has posted a Tropical Storm Warning for the island. They're expecting tropical storm winds and rain totals of 1 to 3 inches.
Looking farther upstream, hurricane forecasters are watching another tropical wave that they're giving a 40 percent chance of becoming a named storm in the next 48 hours:
"SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS ASSOCIATED WITH A TROPICAL WAVE LOCATED A
FEW HUNDRED MILES SOUTH-SOUTHEAST OF THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS ARE
GRADUALLY BECOMING BETTER ORGANIZED. ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS
APPEAR CONDUCIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT OF THIS WAVE DURING THE NEXT
COUPLE OF DAYS AS IT MOVES WESTWARD AT 10 MPH.
"THIS SYSTEM HAS A MEDIUM CHANCE...40 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING
THE NEXT 48 HOURS."
The first numbers are starting to come in for Hurricane Irene's impact on Maryland, and Southern Maryland seems to have been hit hardest on rainfall.
BWI-Marshall Airport is reporting 4.6 inches of rain at 7 a.m. The heaviest rates were between 1 and 2 a.m., when 2.14 inches fell. Top sustained wind velocity was 30 mph, with gusts to 51 mph. The low barometer reading was 29.02 inches at 3 a.m.
The instruments at Ocean City Municipal Airport stopped reporting at 9 p.m. Not sure why. But the town's Office of Emergency Management issued a release this morning noting a rain total of 12 inches. Top sustained winds overnight were blowing at 60 mph, with gusts to 80.
With daylight, Ocean City officials were assessing damage at the resport. For now, the access routes onto the island remain closed until the damage assessment is complete and unsafe conditions secured.
Hurricane Irene made its second landfall at 5:35 a.m. near Little Egg Inlet, N.J., according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Winds were clocked at 75 mph. The barometric pressure there was 28.36 inches.
Here is a tally of rain totals for Maryland west of the bay, from the NWS/Sterling.
Here are some statewide 24-hour rain totals for Maryland, from the CoCoRaHS Network:
Denton, Caroline: 11.55 inches
Leonardtown, St. Mary's County: 11.35 inches
Easton, Talbot: 11.34 inches
Hollywood, St. Mary's: 10.11 inches
Bishopville, Worcester: 7.71 inches
Elkton, Cecil: 7.10 inches
Waldorf, Charles: 6.55 inches
Hamilton, Baltimore City: 4.54 inches
Catonsville, Baltimore: 4.30 inches
Columbia, Howard: 3.61 inches
Taneytown, Carroll: 2.54 inches
Frederick, Frederick: 0.97 inch
FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:
With all the rain and wind and water around, it’s hard to think much about fire danger today. But the Maryland State Fire Marshall’s office is reminding us all to think hard about it.
Use flashlights, not candles. And if you must use candles, put them on stable furniture and in tip-proof holders. Keep them away from kids and pets and flammable materials.
Using a generator today? Let it cool before refueling, and don’t run it in the house or garage. Carbon monoxide kills.
(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, 2003)
Maybe it doesn't look so bad to you out there. Maybe you're ready to get out on the road and have a look around, or head for Gramma's house with the kids. Here's meteorologist Eric the Red's take on what's ahead for Maryland as the sun goes down and Irene heads our way:
"The rain and wind we are getting now are nothing compared to what is in store, so don't be lulled into thinking this is it.
"BTW, before I start, it appears that Irene is going to track right up over the coastline. This is a very bad trajectory for the beach towns of MD, DE, and NJ. The silver lining is Irene did not intensify before making landfall today.
"However, due to the storm's large size, lack of wind shear (winds aloft buffeting the storm), and a track that takes it in close proximity to water and over low-lying land masses, Irene will be slow to weaken. AllI can say is thank God this thing didn't deepen the way models had projected.
"The core of the winds and heavy rain will approach from the south this evening, reaching the Baltimore metro area between 7 and 10 pm. Winds will increase out of the northeast to 40 mph sustained, with higher gusts, and peak during the late-night and early morning hours... (~ 5 am).
"The center of Irene should be just north of Ocean City, MD by 5 am, sparing that town an untimely peak storm surge (with high tide ~ 7 am). Rain should cut off rather rapidly after 8 am on Sunday, but the winds will be much slower to diminish. While the intensity will be less, the winds will finally die down late Sunday afternoon.
"Rain will be heaviest on the Eastern Shore and the counties immediately adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay, where 4" to 8" of rain is likely, with 12" totals possible closer to Irene's center. Rain amounts will diminsh notably as you head west from Carroll into Frederick County, MD, but showers from Irene will reach well into WV and western MD nevertheless."
By the way, just got a call from BGE's Rob Gould. He says the utility at 6 p.m. had about 13,000 outages, mostly in the southern end of its territory, with 6,000 more already restored. But the night is young. "The storm has yet to really hit us," he said.
Great. Where's my flashlight?
Flood Warnings have been posted for the Lower Eastern Shore counties of Maryland, including Worcester, Wicomico, Somerset and Dorchester. The northern section of Accomack County on Virginia's Eastern Shore, is also included.
The warning means that flooding is imminent or already occurring. Heavy rainfall had already dumped 2 to 4 inches on the region. Another 5 to 8 inches on top of that is expected before Hurricane Irene departs on Sunday. The NWS says:
"EXCESSIVE RUNOFF FROM HEAVY RAINFALL WILL CAUSE FLOODING OF SMALL
CREEKS AND STREAMS...HIGHWAYS AND UNDERPASSES. ADDITIONALLY...COUNTRY
ROADS AND FARMLANDS ALONG THE BANKS OF CREEKS...STREAMS AND OTHER LOW
LYING AREAS ARE SUBJECT TO FLOODING.
"DO NOT DRIVE YOUR VEHICLE INTO AREAS WHERE THE WATER COVERS THE
ROADWAY. THE WATER DEPTH MAY BE TOO GREAT TO ALLOW YOUR CAR TO CROSS
SAFELY. MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND."
The rain has finally started in downtown Baltimore. There is a whopping 0.01 inch in the bucket at The Sun's weather station at Calvert and Centre streets at 12:40 p.m. Winds are averaging 7 mph, but our anemometer is pretty sheltered.
Before the storm slides off to the northeast tomorrow, we're expected to get between 5 and 6 inches here, with winds gusting as high as 49 mph. Wallops Island, Va. has already clocked in 5 inches of rain.
Anybody going to the State Fair?
Feeling a little groggy this morning? Maybe you can blame it on one of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's Hurricane robocalls.
It seems the automated phone calls the city began making to several hundred thousand residents Friday afternoon were supposed to stop at 9 p.m. The mayor's recorded voice reminded constituents that Hurricane Irene was on the way, and urged them to stock up on food, water and emergency supplies in case of prolonged power outages.
It was a fine plan, until the computer server doing the work neglected to shut off at 9 p.m., as officials had directed. It apparently ran all night, until someone discovered the problem after 7 a.m. Saturday, and pulled the plug.
City spokesman Rico Singleton apologized, and described the issue as an "equipment malfunction." But whether it was a hardware glitch or a programming error, residents who were awakened in the middle of the night by their phones - and the mayor's voice - probably aren't very happy with the city this morning.
Lynn McLain, a northwest Baltimore resident in her 60s, whose phone rang at 4:17 a.m., never did get back to sleep. "Had it been an emergency evacuation, I could see calling. But I don't see calling to tell you you need to get canned food ... I hung up after the canned food."
"I felt myself thinking, 'What did this cost, as a taxpayer?' I also thought, 'She's going to lose more votes that she's going to get from this phone call.' ... Is it even a function of government to call and tell us to buy canned food? Get the TV stations to make an announcement," McLain said.
Singleton said the city plans to rely, in the future, on less disruptive text messages and email for such calls. But not everyone uses those technologies. For critical alerts, he said, robocalls may still be utilized.
Did you get the call? Your thoughts?
(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, January 2011)
The core winds of Hurriane Irene have come ashore near Cape Lookout, N.C. Top sustained winds are reported at 85 mph, about 10 mph above the tropical storm threshhold. The storm continues to move to the north northeast, across Pamlico Sound, on track to put move the center along the Delmarva coast by 8 p.m. Saturday night, according to AccuWeather.com
Irene is still a large, dangerous storm, capable of unloading tremendous rain and wind on the region. But it is continuing to weaken. The National Hurricane Center says satellite imagery show the storm cloud tops are warming on the western side, and rain bands on the southwest have dried up some. That means dry air from the southwest is being dragged in toward the storm's core, disrupting its energy system.
But Irene isn't through with us yet. Cape Hatteras instruments have clocked sustained winds of 59 mph, with gusts to 84. A storm surge of 4 to 8 feet is still forecast for the mid-Atlantic coast and the Lower Chesapeake Bay. Later today the beaches will see large and destructive waves.
The real story of this storm may well turn out to be heavy rain and flooding. Forecasters are still predicting 6 to 10 inches of rain, with isolated totals up to 15 inches. On the Western Shore, Baltimore and Central Maryland are still forecast to get 2 to 5 inches of rain, with 6 to 8 closer to the Bay.
Carroll County has been added to the Flash Flood Watch. Here's part of the NWS/Sterling foreacst discussion:
"HIGHEST EXPECTED RAINFALL FROM IRENE OVER SRN MD...THOUGH EAST-WEST ORIENTED RAIN
BANDS MAY CREATE STRIPES OF HIGHER AMOUNTS UP AND DOWN THE WESTERN
SHORE OF MD. LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS BETWEEN 4-6 INCHES...THOUGH
MOST AREAS IN THE FLOOD WATCH WILL RECEIVE BETWEEN 1-3 INCHES.
EXTREME EASTERN PORTIONS OF THE COUNTIES BORDERING THE CHESAPEAKE WILL
SEE AMOUNTS IN THE 6-8 RANGE AND TAPERING OFF SUBSTANTIALLY WEST OF
The core winds of Hurricane Irene were coming on shore on the eastern portions of North Carolina at daybreak Saturday. Top sustained winds have fallen to 90 mph, but Irene remains a dangerous storm, and is forecast to remain a hurricane when it reaches the Delmarva coast later today, and for
its second landfall on Long Island and New England on Sunday.
Ocean City and the Delmarva resorts should be prepared for sustained winds of 55 to 65 mph to night, with gusts to 85 mph. Rains on the Shore will total 6 to 12 inches, with some locations seeing as much as 15 inches. That's two or three months' worth in 24 hours. Expect disruptive and destructive flooding.
On the Western Shore, including the Baltimore area, forecasters have kept a Tropical Storm Warning in effect. They predict tropical-storm-force winds to begin by early Saturday evening. Plan for sustained winds of 35 to 45 mph, with gusts to 65.
And there will be plenty of rain. A Flash Flood Watch remains in effect from noon Saturday through Sunday morning. While the streets may be dry this morning, forecasters warn that we'll see rainfall totals of 2 to 5 inches during the storm, with some higher totals - 6 to 8 inches - along the Western Shore of the Chesapeake.
The best news is that the storm surge in the Upper Chesapeake Bay is not expected to exceed 1 to 3 feet. By comparison, the destructive surge during Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003 was 8 to 9 feet.
At 5 a.m., Hurricane Irene was 35 miles south of Cape Lookout, N.C., moving to the north northeast at 14 mph. Top sustained winds were blowing at 90 mph. It is a Cat. 1 storm.
The National Weather Service says tropical-storm-force winds are now being felt on the beaches of North Carolina as Hurricane Irene approaches Saturday's landfall. Observers at Folly Island, N.C. have clocked a wind gust to 55 mph.
Top sustained winds have fallen again, to 100 mph, but Irene is still a Category 2 storm. The storm is still moving due north, at 14 mph, and is now centered 300 miles south of Hatteras.
Irene's core winds are expected to approach the coast tonight, and over the beaches on Saturday before heading north toward Delmarva. The storm's center will pass over or near the Delmarva coast on Saturday night. Here's more from the National Hurricane Center:
"STORM SURGE WILL RAISE WATER LEVELS BY AS MUCH
AS 4 TO 8 FEET ABOVE GROUND LEVEL OVER SOUTHERN PORTIONS OF THE
CHESAPEAKE BAY...INCLUDING TRIBUTARIES...AND THE EASTERN SHORE OF
THE DELMARVA PENINSULA. THE SURGE WILL BE ACCOMPANIED BY LARGE...
DESTRUCTIVE...AND LIFE-THREATENING WAVES.
"IRENE IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE RAINFALL ACCUMULATIONS OF
6 TO 10 INCHES...WITH ISOLATED MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 15 INCHES...FROM
EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA NORTHWARD THROUGH THE MID-ATLANTIC STATES
INTO NEW ENGLAND THROUGH MONDAY MORNING. THESE RAINS COULD
CAUSE WIDESPREAD FLOODING AND LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOODS.
"SURF...LARGE SWELLS GENERATED BY IRENE ARE AFFECTING PORTIONS OF THE
COAST OF THE SOUTHEASTERN UNITED STATES. THESE SWELLS WILL CAUSE
LIFE-THREATENING SURF AND RIP CURRENT CONDITIONS."
Talbot and Caroline counties on Maryland's Eastern Shore have been added to the Hurricane Warning zone. All counties farther south on the Maryland portion of Delmarva are already under Hurricane Warnings.
That's not a guarantee that hurricane conditions will develop Saturday in these two northern counties. The probabilities are put at up to 11 percent. The probability for Tropical Storm conditions have risen, however, to 75 percent.
Nearer Baltimore, we're getting reports that local grocery stores are being hit hard by residents seeking to load up on supplies in case they're stuck without power, or cut off by downed trees and flooded roads.
The Giant Foods store in Hunt Valley was said to be cleaned out of bottled water. Whole Foods in Mt. Washington was "picked clean... of everything," according to our reporter.
What are you seeing out there? Are you stocking up? Is this the summertime equivalent of a snowstorm run on the stores?
(PHOTO: Preparations in Morehead City, N.C. Steve Nesius, Reuters)
The National Hurricane Center at 11 a.m. reported that Hurricane Irene has weakened a bit, with top sustained winds slipping from 110 to 105 mph. But thew storm is expected to move across or just offshore from North carolina's barrier islands on Saturday.
From there Irene is forecast to move north northeast toward Delmarva, passing over the beaches or just offshore. The resort is under a Hurricane Warning, and is expecting sustained winds of 70 to 90 mph, with gusts to 105 mph by Saturday night.
Baltimore remains under a Tropical Storm Warning, with winds forecast to reach 31 to 36 mph Saturday night, increasing to 36 to 46 mph, with gusts to 60 mph.
Fortunately, it looks as though the city and other Western Shore communities will see a modest storm surge of just 1 to 3 feet overnight into Sunday, compared with the 8 to 9 feet during Tropical Storm Isabel.
Irene was located 330 miles south southwest of Cale Hatteras, moving north at 14 mph. That motion was forecast to begin a shift to the north northeast on Saturday. Hurricane winds extended 90 miles from the center, with tropical storm-force winds still 290 miles from the center
North Carolina beaches were expecting a storm surge of as much as 6 to 11 feet. In the Lower Chesapeake, the surge is predicted at 4 to 8 feet.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake today said Baltimore's emergency services are ready for the storm, and she urged Baltimore residents to be sure they're ready, too.
"Even if Baltimore is not in the direct path of Hurricane Irene, high winds, rain and a storm surge can cause flooding and downed power lines throughout the city," she said. "We have been monitoring the storm all week long, and we are taking the necessary steps to keep the city safe. It is absolutely vital that every resident is prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws our way."
In Annapolis, Mayor Joshua J. Cohen declared a State of Emergency and urged all residents in low-lying areas to evacuate their communities by Saturday afternoon. Annapolis High School is being opened as a shelter at 4 p.m. Saturday for those who cannot find shelter with friends or relatives.
Both mayors said they will open city garages for residents who need to move their cars to high ground. Parking will be free for those residents.
I know, it's a beautiful day, and you want to stay in your beach chair. Maybe you'll ride out the storm and snap some pictures of the cool waves.
Don't. Pack your stuff, batten the hatches and leave. This is a serious storm coming your way tomorrow. If you don't care about yourself, think of the people who love you, and those who will have to try to rescue you or recover your remains.
Here are some forecast items to think about:
1. Irene's top sustained winds are forecast to reach 120 mph when it makes landfall on the Outer Banks Saturday.
2. Barrier Islands from North Carolina to Ocean City are under evacuation orders.
3. Hurricane Warnings are posted from Hatteras to Sandy Hook, NJ. Flash Flood Warnings or Flood Watches are posted for Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.
4. Forecasters expected 6 to 10 inches of rain, with a potential for 12 inches, during Irene's passage.
5. Flooding is the biggest single cause of death in hurricanes.
6. The forecast track takes the center of Irene right up the beach line to New York.
7. Waves will begin building tonight, reaching 12 to 15 feet Saturday through early Sunday.
8. The storm surge will be 4 to 8 feet in southern portions of the Chesapeake Bay and on the ocean side of Delmarva.
9. A State of Emergency has been declared in Maryland and Virginia.
Hurricane Irene, packing 110 mph winds, heavy rain and a 4 to 8-foot storm surge, continues to bear down on eastern North Carolina, southeastern Virginia and Maryland this morning. Hurricane Warnings now stretch from North Carolina to New Jersey, including the Maryland and Delaware resorts.
Baltimore and the entire Western Shore of Maryland - and the Eastern Shore inland from the beaches, are under a Tropical Storm Warning. Tropical storm conditions are now expected by Saturday from Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties, south and east.
The National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, Va. says winds at BWI-Marshall Airport will pick up Saturday afternoon, with sustained winds increasing to 24 to 29 mph Saturday, gusting to 34. Saturday night, winds will increase to between 37 and 47 mph, gusting to 54 mph.
The Western Shore region should also be prepared for 6 to 8 inches of rain through Sunday, with more to the east. Up to a foot of rain is possible on the Lower Eastern Shore. A Flash Flood Watch was posted for the entire Western Shore.
A storm surge of 4 to 8 feet was predicted for southern portions of the Chesapeake, its tributaries, the Eastern Shore and Delmarva. The beaches will see large and destructive waves.
"Now is the time to rush to completion preparations for the protection of life and property," forecasters warned. "Evacuate if directed to do so by local officials, or if your home is vulnerable to high wind or flooding." Here's more:
"MINOR TO MODERATE DAMAGE IS LIKELY TO MANY MOBILE HOMES...
ESPECIALLY THOSE THAT HAVE CANOPIES...AWNINGS...OR CARPORTS.
POORLY CONSTRUCTED HOMES MAY SUSTAIN MINOR WALL DAMAGE AND PARTIAL
ROOF REMOVAL. OTHER HOMES MAY HAVE MINOR ROOF AND SIDING DAMAGE.
SOME LOOSE OUTDOOR ITEMS WILL BE TOSSED AROUND AND MAY CAUSE
ADDITIONAL DAMAGE. A FEW POWER LINES WILL BE KNOCKED DOWN
RESULTING IN SCATTERED POWER OUTAGES. SOME LARGE BRANCHES OF
HEALTHY TREES WILL BE SNAPPED. MOST NEWLY PLANTED TREES AND SHRUBS
WILL BE DAMAGED OR UPROOTED."
At the 5 a.m. report, Hurricane Irene was located about 400 miles south of Cape Hatteras, moving north at 14 mph. Top sustained winds had eased a bit to 110 mph. Some restrengthening was possible, and the storm was expected to pass near or over the Outer Banks Saturday, at Cat. 2 or 3.
Hurricane Irene continues to strengthen, and forecast storm tracks are trending closer to the mid-Atlantic beaches. All signs for this storm appear to be looking worse Thursday afternoon, instead of better.
Add to that the saturating rains we've been getting Thursday from an unrelated line of thunderstorms, and we're being set up for serious flooding once the real rain gets here with Irene this weekend.
Ocean City has already issued orders to evacuate the island.
AccuWeather.com forecasters say Irene has the potential to topple a great many trees and power lines, damage roofs, siding and windows. High bridges may be closed due to high winds. Air travel and high-profile vehicles will be affected. Flooding, too, will close roads. The greatest cause of loss of life in hurricanes is inland flooding.
The weather service says there is a 5 to 10 percent chance of a storm surge in excess of 7 feet at Annapolis, and from Edgewood to Middle River.
BGE storm officials are planning responses to at least 100,000 power outages, with options to expand the effort to deal with several hundred thousand. Some 500 repair workers from the Midwest are already in town ready to go to work to help BGE crews put the system back together.
AccuWeather.com is saying "there is potential for the worst hurricane impacts in 50 years along the northern part of the Atlantic seaboard as Irene plows northward." The company's forecasters are predicting winds of 30 to 40 mph for Baltimore, with gusts of 50 to 70 mph, with 4 to 8 inches of rain. "Conditions will be much worse on the Eastern Shore, where full hurricane effects can occur."
At least one forecast model is bringing the storm up the western side of the Chesapeake Bay, the worst scenario for Baltimore and other communities along the Western Shore becuse it would mean a damaging storm surge up the bay. Think Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003.
Most models are predicting that Irene will make landfall in the Outer Banks region - instead of passing offshore as yesterday's forecasts suggested. From there, it would track north and slightly east, following the Delmarva and Jersey beaches before slamming into New York, Long Island and charging on through New England.
But if you think Central Maryland will escape because we're well west of all that, consider this: Irene is a huge storm. Hurricane winds (73 mph and up) extend outward for 70 miles from the Center. (Annapolis is 89 miles from Ocean City as the crow flies.) And tropical storm force winds (39 and up) reach 290 miles from Irene's core.
Here's UMBC Prof. Jeffrey Halverson's take on Irene. It's not a pretty picture.
The National Hurricane Center forecasters do expect Irene will begin to weaken as it hits colder waters and wind shear on its run north to the Outer Banks. At some point they said in this afternoon's forecast discussion, "southwesterly shear is forecast to increase, which will likely start weakening process. However, since Irene has such a large and intense circulation, it will probably be rather slow to weaken."
The National Weather Service forecast is forecasting Irene's showers and thunderstorms will arrive in Baltimore by Friday night, intensifying on Saturday. Tropical storm conditions are possible at BWI by Saturday night, with a 90 percent chance for heavy rainfall, with 1 to 2 inches possible on top of what may have already fallen. Expect lots more in heavy rain bands.
Tropical storm conditions are possible Sunday, too, but the storm will be departing rapidly as the day unfolds. Next week looks sunny and seasonable. For the cleanup.
Ocean City may see hurricane conditions on Sunday. Officials there have pulled the trigger on an evacuation.
Here's AccuWeather.com's take on the storm ahead.
Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist and frequent contributor here, said, "I think it is now safe to say we should expect major impacts from this storm, starting Saturday evening, at its worst Saturday night into Sunday morning, and then diminishing rapidly during the day Sunday... Folks, this is the real deal."
Hurricane Irene is continuing its march toward the East Coast. The Category 3 storm strengthened Wednesday, and its top sustained winds are near 115 miles per hour, and even more power is expected today and tonight, the National Weather Service said in an advisory this morning.
Right now, the storm's hurricane-force winds extend 70 miles from the center, the NWS said, and the tropical storm-force winds swell out 255 miles.
As the storm moves over the Bahamas, it's expected to drop 6 to 12 inches of rain in addition to its life-threatening rip currents and waves, the NWS said.
For Marylanders, the biggest worry is still the storm's coming deluge of rain -- and the flooding it may bring with it. Read the latest on Maryland preparations here. And find a list of resources here.
As forecast, Irene has strengthened today, with top sustained winds now blowing at 120 mph. The National Hurricane center says conditions are favorable for some further strengthening, and Irene could become a Cat. 4 storm in the next day or so.
But for Maryland, wind may not be our biggest worry as Irene approaches. Forecast models are predicting a potential for tremendous rain as the storm moves up the coast - as much as 11 or 12 inches of rain is predicted to fall this weekend just off the coast. It would take only a slight shift in the storm track to bring that kind of rain onshore.
And even if the computer's prediction proves accurate, the rain totals forecast for the Delmarva Peninsula still come in at 8 or 9 inches. And for the Western Shore, totals come to 4 to 5 inches.
The forecast map was sent to me by Prof Jeff Halverson, out at UMBC. "This is a very potent dynamical set-up for huge rainfall."
"It looks like areas to our north and east are in for a monster soaking this weekend," he said. "The morning models have Irene merging with a trough in the jet stream (crossing the Great Lakes on Saturday), and I suspect a potent coastal front will develop. This is looking more and more like a Floyd-type extra-tropical transition, but shifted further north than in 1999. Things are looking very wet from NJ north through Maine. The models have us right on the edge of this heavy rain shield, but I would not be surprised to see it back-build further west."
Hurricane Floyd (track map) swept up the coast in September 1999. Its storm track looks almost identical to Irene's, but a tad farther west, running right up the coastline from the Outer Banks to New York City, then charging inland over New England.
Floyd's wind and rain cut off electric power to almost half a million Marylanders, and many waited days for service to be restored. That triggered an order from then-Gov. Parris Glendening for regulators to investigate the utilities' emergency response plans. (BGE officials said Wednesday they are already monitoring Irene, and "taking proactive action to ensure it is prepared to aggressively respond to widespread and extended power outages should they occur.")
Some 750 trees fell in Baltimore alone during Floyd. Severe flooding struck in Crisfield, Elkton and North East. The governor later applied for federal disaster assistance for 11 counties. The largest damage estimate was $1.3 million in Harford County.
There were sewage spills, 255 roads were closed by flooding or downed trees. One death in Maryland was attributed to the storm.
Are you ready? Here's a preparedness guide from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.
(SUN PHOTO: Bottom: Floyd flooding, Karl Merton Ferron, September 1999)
There are plenty of uncertainties still, but hurricane forecasters have nudged their forecast track for Hurricane Irene just a bit more to the east. If that holds up, it could mean this will be more of a coastal storm for the Maryland and Delaware resorts. And for the Western Shore, at least, that would spare us an Isabel-like storm surge up the Chesapeake Bay.
That's not to say Central Maryland would escape Irene's wrath entirely. We can still probably expect some heavy rain over the weekend. And because we've been getting more rain lately, and are expecting more from a cold front due here on Thursday, weekend rain from Irene will fall on soils and in streams already full of water. And that raises the risks of flooding.
Here's Jeffrey Halverson, associate professor of geography and environmental systems at UMBC, on the rain potential:
"Big storms like Irene, even while along the coast or offshore, can circulate Atlantic moisture inland well in advance of the actual storm center. Moderate to heavy rain may actually begin spreading up the East Coast 24-36 hours ahead of the storm. The models are certainly presenting this scenario."
At 11 a.m., Irene was located about 285 miles southeast of Nassau, moving to the northwest at 12 mph. Top sustained winds were clocked at 115 mph, making Irene a "major," Category 3 hurricane.
Hurricane-force winds were expected in the Central Bahamas by Wednesday night, and in the northwestern Bahamas on Thursday. Storm suges of 7 to 11 feet above normal tide levels are possible in the Bahamas, along with large and dangerous waves. Rainfall could total 6 to 12 inches in the Bahamas.
The center of the National Hurricane Center's "cone of uncertainty" for Irene's future path turns her gradually to the northwest and then north in the next two days. That would take Irene ashore in the Outer Banks region of North Carolina. Mandatory evacuation orders are already up for Okracoke Island.
The current path would place the storm at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay by 2 a.m. Sunday. Forecasters at the National Weather Service regional forecast office in Sterling, Va., say Irene will arrive there as a coldfront crosses Maryland from the northwest. As the moist tropical air runs up against the cold front, it would trigger heavy rain in Central Maryland.
The impact at the beaches will depend on Irene's strength - it's forecast to be a Cat..1 hurricane at that stage - and how close she comes to the shoreline. But those at the beaches can expected heavy rain, wind and surf. Here's a (clickable) map of the wind forecast for Sunday. It shows strong winds on the Lower Eastern Shore and the lower bay.
The NWS forecast office in Wakefield, Va., is saying that tropical storm conditions are possible for Ocean City Saturday night and Sunday. Here's part of their morning forecast discussion from Wakefield:
"AT THIS POINT THE LATEST CONSENSUS TRACK WOULD SUGGEST A PERIOD OF
STRONG POTENTIALLY DAMAGING WIND AND HEAVY POTENTIALLY FLOODING
RAIN (MAINLY NEAR AND ALONG THE COAST) FROM FRIDAY NIGHT
(PRECEDING BANDS OF SHOWERS) THROUGH SATURDAY INTO SATURDAY NIGHT
BEFORE LIFTING TO THE NE SUNDAY."
What is it about these storms that begin with the letter "I"? Remember Isabel in 2003?
Well, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say Hurricane Irene appears to be headed our way this weekend. They stress that track forecasts this far in advance can be off by 200 or 250 miles. But the computer models still seem to be in close agreement about this one.
They're predicting landfall late Saturday or early Sunday somewhere near the North Carolina/ South Carolina border. It would be the first hurricane landfall on the U.S. mainland since 2008.
From there, Irene seems likely to continue moving north.
Her track after landfall will be of critical importance to Central Maryland and the Eastern Shore. A curve toward the east would put the Baltimore-Washington area on the more benign west side of the storm's center. That would mean less rain and wind, with winds shoving water down the bay.
But a northward track to the west of the Chesapeake Bay could be expected to blow water up the bay, raising the dangers of a large storm surge and destructive coastal flooding. Think of how storms like Hazel in 1954 and Isabel in 2003 producing severe coastal flooding along the bay shores.
UPDATE, 12 noon: The latest National Hurricane Center track forecast still shows Irene approaching the Chesapeake Bay by daybreak Sunday. The center of the "cone of uncertainty" puts the storm at the mouth of the Chesapeake - still at Cat. 1 hurricane strength - by 8 a.m.
At noon Tuesday, Irene was a Cat. 2 hurricane, packing top sustained winds of 100 mph. It was located about 70 miles south of Grand Turk Island in the Bahamas, moving to the west northwest at 12 mph. Forecasters said Irene could reach Cat. 4, with sustained winds above 131 mph, by early Friday morning. It is thought likely to be a Cat. 3 storm at landfall in North Carolina early Sunday morning.
Earlier post resumes below.
The official forecast doesn't sound too dire. The NWS/Sterling is calling for highs in the low 80s, with the chances for showers and thunderstorms rising from 50 percent Saturday to 60 percent Saturday night. The probabilities slip to 40 percent Sunday and Monday.
Here's AccuWeather.com's take on the storm.
AccuWeather.com says Irene's forecast track looks most like Hurricane Bertha, which struck near Wilmington, N.C. in July 1996 and caused tremendous damage along the nearby beach communities of Wrightsville and Topsail Beach. Twelve people died and property damage was estimated at $270 million.
In Maryland, a much-weakened Bertha delivered plenty of rain and wind, and caused widespread power outages. But there was little serious damage, even at Ocean City.
Hurricane Floyd, in 1999, also followed a path similar to that forecast for Irene. It dropped 14 inches of rain on portions of Maryland, and produced winds of 50 to 70 mph. There was a 2 to 3-foot storm surge in the bay. Three Marylanders died and 250,000 lost electric power.
Isabel's path was quite different. It made landfall in North Carolina and drove inland toward West Virginia. Rainfall in Baltimore was not extraordinary, but the counter-clockwise winds around the storm's center drove water up the bay, causing some record storm surge numbers, with tremendous damage around the Inner Harbor, Fells Point and other bayshore communities such as Bowley's Quarters.
There's more below from Prof. Jeffrey Halverson, Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Systems at UMBC
(Top: NWS, Irene forecast track. Bottom: Floyd, 1999)
The first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season was leaving Puerto Rico and moving toward the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and Haiti Monday morning.
And if Hurricane Irene follows the forecast storm track, it can be expected to steer a bit more to the north later this week and threaten the east coast of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Miami forecasters are predicting tropical storm conditions there by Thursday. AccuWeather.com is forecasting landfall late Saturday in the Carolinas.
And at least one forecast model is predicting a very heavy rain/wind/surf event for the mid-Atlantic coast early next week.
Top sustained winds at Irene's center were blowing at 80 mph, making this a mid-range Category 1 hurricane for now. But some further strengthening is expected in the next few days.
Hurricane Warnings have been dropped for Puerto Rico and nearby islands, replaced by Tropical Storm Warnings.
Hurricane Warnings have been posted for the north coast of Hispaniola. Hurricane Watches are up for the south coast of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Tropical Storm Warnings are in place for Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, all of Haiti and the south coast of the Dominican Republic, as well as the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Five to 10 inches of rain are possible in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Hispaniola as Irene blows by. As much as 20 inches are possible in some locations. Storm surges of 1 to 4 feet are expected, with large and dangerous waves.
The National Hurricane Center is watching the atmosphere to Irene's north, where high pressure is keeping the storm from curving north into the open Atlantic. Instead, it is being steered west, closer to the U.S. coast.
Computer models differ on how close to the coast the storm will get. But there does appear to be some agreement that it will continue to strengthen. The forecast discussion says:
"IT WOULD NOT SURPRISE ME IF THIS CYCLONE BECAME A MAJOR HURRICANE AT
SOME TIME DURING ITS LIFETIME"
Jeffrey B. Halverson, associate professor of geography and environmental systems at UMBC, is watching Irene's progress. He sent the latest GFS model results (for Monday, left). He said:
"For three days now, it has been portending a significant heavy rain event for the Mid Atlantic, and wind/high surf along the Eastern Shore. The track, heavy rain footprint and slow speed of the storm through the Mid Atlantic continues to look very Agnes (1972)-like."
AccuWeather.com's Alex Sasnowski, said, "It is very possible strong tropical storm or even hurricane conditions will continue to spread up the Atlantic Seaboard.
"If the fats forward motion of the storm continues, it could spread damage, including that of downed trees, power lines and coatal flooding issues, into the mid-Atlantic late this weekend and into southern and eastern New England by early next week."
FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:
Anyone recall the Chesapeake/Potomac Hurricane 78 years ago tomorrow? It made landfall at Nag’s Head, N.C. Driven inland by high pressure over New England, it moved west of the Chesapeake Bay, driving a 10-foot storm surge up the bay much as Isabel would do 70 years later. Four people driving between Baltimore and D.C. drowned in a flooded Little Patuxent. A train crossing the Anacostia was swept off the tracks, killing 10. Baltimore saw 7.62 inches of rain that day, still a record.
The tropical depression in the western Caribbean has finally made it to tropical storm strength, becoming the eight named storm of the season, Harvey. It's not huge, but it's way bigger than playwright Mary Chase's six-foot rabbit of the same name.
Harvey was located this afternoon 155 miles east of Isla Roatan, Honduras. It was moving to the west at 10 mph, with top sustained winds of 40 mph. Additional strengthening is expected before landfall.
The minimal tropicals torm has already triggered Tropical Storm Warnings for the bay islands of Honduras and the coast of Belize in Central America. Tropical Storm Watches are up for coastal Honduras, Guatelamala and the southeastern Yucatan Peninsula. Landfall there is likely on Saturday.
Minimal as Harvey is today, the National Hurricane Center said:
"HARVEY IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE TOTAL RAINFALL
ACCUMULATIONS OF 3 TO 5 INCHES ACROSS HONDURAS...GUATEMALA...AND
BELIZE...WITH POSSIBLE ISOLATED MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 8 INCHES. THESE
RAINS COULD PRODUCE LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOODS AND MUDSLIDES...
ESPECIALLY OVER HIGHER TERRAIN."
Hurricane forecasters and their computer models have begun to take an intense interest in a disturbance in the mid-Atlantic. It's not much yet, but the forecast models are unusually consistent in storm track predictions that would steer the storm toward a path up the East Coast by late next week.
They're not talking about the storm in the central Caribbean, which is given an 80 percent chance of becoming Tropical Storm Harvey in the next two days. That one is targeting the east coast of Central America.
The growing interest is in another disturbance now about 875 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands. For now, it has just a 10 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm in the next 48 hours. But conditions downstream look better for development.
If this does become the next named storm after Harvey, it would become Tropical Storm Irene. But what has forecasters so interested so soon are the computer models, which all seem to be taking the storm west and then north along paths that would intersect with the U.S. mainland somewhere between the west coast of Florida and the Carolinas.
If that proves correct, and the storm reaches even minimal hurricane strength, it would be the first hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since 2008.
AccuWeather.com considered the possibilities and said, "One thing is for sure is that the Atlantic Basin could experience its first hurricane of the season next week. Residents across the Caribbean, the Gulf Coast and the Eastern Seaboard should pay close attention to this tropical wave and how it develops the next few days."
Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist in Baltimore and frequent contributor here, noted the possibilities and said:
Hurricane forecasters say they've seen little change in that stormy region in the Caribbean. They don't seem to be getting better organized, and atmospheric pressures there have remained steady.
But conditions otherwise remain conducive to development as the tropical wave moves into the northwestern Caribbean, and the National Hurricane Center says there's still a 30 percent chance the disturbance could become the next named storm within 48 hours. That would be Harvey.
The system is moving to the west at 15 to 20 mph. AccuWeather.com forecasters say its most likely landfall would be in Central America.
Tropical Storm Gert - the seventh named storm of the 2011 Atlantic season - was still churning up the Atlantic well east of the Delmarva Peninsula on Tuesday. But the storm was moving briskly off to the northeast at 30 mph, and was losing strength.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center expect it will lose the rest of its tropical characteristics within 24 hours as it encounters cooler waters and begins to interact with a cold front.
Top sustained winds were estimated at 40 mph, a minimal tropical storm. There are no surf advisories or rip tide warnings at the beaches, so Gert appears to be too weak and too far away to be stirring things up for swimmers.
Curious that none of the seven named storms so far have reached hurricane strength. Seven is quite a lot for this time of year, but we seem really overdue for a hurricane. And the storms we have seen are veering away from the U.S. mainland - maybe due to the big, persistent dome of high pressure that has kept the South so hot this summer.
Meanwhile, forecasters are watching another cluster of storms in the eastern Caribbean. It's given only a 20 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm in the next 48 hours.
Hurricane forecasters are watching three disturbances in the Altantic, two of which are given a 40 percent chance of becoming tropical storms in the next two days.
The two most likely candidates to become Tropical Storms Franklin and Gert, are in the far eastern tropical Atlantic, near the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa. These "Cape Verde"-type storms are particularly dangerous because they have plenty of time to strengthen as they cross the ocean, and are the ones most likely to sweep up the East Coast and threaten densely populated U.S. territory.
The first was located 750 miles west of the Cape Verde islands. The collection of showers and thunderstorms appeared to be getting better organized, and conditions seemed favorable for more development, forecasters said. It was moving to the west northwest at 15 mph.
The second is farther east, just 275 miles south of the Cape Verde islands. This mass of clouds and scattered storms was moving to the west at 15 to 20 mph.
The third disturbance was located about halfway between the Carolinas and Bermuda, and likely making things messy for any cruise ships passing through the area. It was being given just a 10 percent chance of getting well-enough organized to become a tropical storm in the next 48 hours. And it was headed to the northeast, away from the U.S. mainland.
The remnants of Tropical Storm Emily - what's left after her collision with the mountains of Hispaniola Thursday - are given a 60 percent chance of re-organizing into a tropical storm as they drift north toward the Florida coast. Here's what the National Hurricane Center is saying:
"ALTHOUGH THE SHOWER ACTIVITY IS DISORGANIZED AT THIS
TIME...UPPER-LEVEL WINDS COULD BECOME A LITTLE MORE CONDUCIVE FOR SOME DEVELOPMENT ON SATURDAY. THIS SYSTEM HAS A HIGH CHANCE...60 PERCENT...OF REGENERATING INTO A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT
48 HOURS AS IT MOVES TOWARD THE NORTHWEST AND NORTHWARD AT 15 MPH."
Miami forecasters are predicting heavy rainfall, gusty winds and frequent lightning this weekend as Emily's remains pass through South Florida.
The National Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Emily, which struck the island of Hispaniola Thursday, has degenerated into a tropical low after colliding with the island's mountains. Forecasters said they have not pronounced Emily dead yet:
"THERE IS STILL A LARGE AREA OF ORGANIZED DISTURBED WEATHER OVER
HISPANIOLA ASSOCIATED WITH THE REMNANTS OF EMILY. THIS ACTIVITY IS
EXPECTED TO SPREAD TOWARD THE WEST-NORTHWEST AND NORTHWEST OVER
EASTERN CUBA AND THE SOUTHEASTERN BAHAMAS WITH SOME POTENTIAL
FOR REGENERATION IN THE NEXT DAY OR TWO."
All watches and warnings have been discontinued. But the storm remains a potent rainmaker, threatening the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Eastern Cuba and the Bahamas with more torrential rains:
"TOTAL RAINFALL ACCUMULATIONS OF 6 TO 12 INCHES WITH ISOLATED
AMOUNTS OF 20 INCHES POSSIBLE OVER THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND
HAITI. THESE RAINS COULD CAUSE LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOODS AND
MUD SLIDES. TOTAL RAIN ACCUMULATIONS OF 2 TO 4 INCHES ARE EXPECTED
ACROSS EASTERN CUBA...THE BAHAMAS...AND THE TURKS AND CAICOS
Here is the final advisory for Emily, unless the storm re-generates.
(PHOTO: Santo Domingo oceanfront, Erika Santelices, AFP/Getty Images)
Tropical Storm Emily was looking a bit disheveled this morning, with no increase in strength and increasing signs of disorganization as the storm approached Hispaniola. Top sustained winds remained at 50 mph.
The storm's primary threat to the island's people will be heavy rains, forecasters said. Totals of 6 to 12 inches are expected in the Dominican Republic and Haiti today, with some locations in danger of a deluge of up to 20 inches.
"THESE RAINS COULD CAUSE LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOODS AND MUD SLIDES," forecasters said.
Tropical Storm Warnings are posted for both countries on Hispaniola, and for eastern Cuba and the southeastern Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands. Watches are up for the Central Bahamas.
UPDATE, 2:30 p.m.: Emily's threat has caused several cruise lines to change course and/or cancel stops for some of its ships. Here's more.
There is some chance that Emily will fall apart as it crosses the mountainous terrain on Hispaniola. But it could also reform north of the island and become a concern for coastal interests from Florida to the Carolinas.
And while we're on the subject, the hurricane forecast team at Colorado State University said today they will not be changing their forecast for the 2011 Atlantic season.
"We are predicting the same levels of activity that we were forecasting in early April and June due to favorable Atlantic and neutral ENSO [El Nino/La Nina) conditions in the tropical Pacific," said William Gray. Continued warm water conditions and unusually sea-level low pressure anomalies in the tropical are also part of their reasoning.
So the CSU team continues to predict 16 named storms, nine of which will become hurricanes. And five of those hurricanes will reach "major" (Cat. 3) strength, if they're right.
They have recalculated their forecast for landfalls by a major hurricane along the US coast. They give it a 70 percent chance, well above the long-term average of 52 percent. They put the chances for a major storm making landfall somewhere on the East Coast, including Florida, at 46 percent. The long-term average is 31 percent.
The National Hurricane Center will post its August forecast update on Thursday.
Tropical Storm Emily continues to menace the Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola today. And looking ahead, the forecast storm track shows the storm moving on toward Florida and the southeast coast of the U.S. by this weekend.
For now, Emily remains a minimal tropical storm, and "poorly organized," with top sustained winds of just 40 mph. It was located about 270 miles southeast of San Juan, PR this morning, with little or no forward movement. The islands of Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra, as well as the Dominican Republic and Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, remained under Tropical Storm Warnings. The U.S. Virgin Islands are under a Tropical Storm Watch.
Emily is expected to quit her dawdling and start again toward the west northwest at 12 mph later today. Tropical storm-force winds extend 70 miles from the storm's center. St. Thomas, in the USVI, reported a gust to 49 mph early today.
Some strengthening is expected. But forecasters say several forecast models show Emily dissipating once it reaches Hispaniola. But if not, forecasters predict the storm - still at tropical storm strength - will begin a turn to the north later this week and could track up the southeast coast by Sunday.
The fifth named storm of the 2011 Atlantic season has formed in the Caribbean Sea near the island of Dominica. The forecast track would carry the storm south of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, then across the Dominican Republic and Haiti by mid-week.
The National Hurricane Center said Tropical Storm Emily's center this evening was about 350 miles southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, moving to the west at 17 mph. Top sustained winds were estimated at 40 mph. Gradual strengthening was expected.
In anticipation of the storm, Tropical Storm Warnings have been posted for the islands of Dominica, Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra. Tropical Storm Watches are in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat and Antigua.
Tropical Storm Don, a little stronger today with top sustained winds of 50 mph, is bearing down on the southeast Texas coast this morning. And while forecasters are watching Don, they've also got an eye on a new disturbance off the northeast coast of South America that stands a 30 percent chance of becoming Tropical Storm Emily over the weekend.
Don's center was located 190 miles southeast of Corpus Christi this morning, moving to the west northwest at a brisk 14 mph. Tropical storm conditions extend more than 100 miles from Don's center. A Tropical Storm Warning was posted for the coast from the Rio Grande River north to Matagorda. Interests there can expect tropical storm conditions within 24 hours.
Texas is in the midst of an historic drought, so some will surely welcome the rain that's likely to come with Don. But it may be too much of a good thing for many. Forecasters are warning of 3 to 5 inches of rain, with some places receiving up to 7 inches from the storm. Isolated tornadoes are also possible.
Meanwhile, out in the mid-Atlantic, forecasters are watching what could become the next storm of the season, Emily. It's now 1,200 miles east southeast of the Lesser Antilles. They say the disturbance continues to get itself better organized, and conditions look good for further strengthening.
The fourth named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season formed today in the southern Gulf of Mexico. Tropical Storm Don was located about 120 miles north of Cozumel, Mexico, and 755 miles east southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas.
Hurricane Hunter aircraft flew into the storm today and measured sustained winds of 40 mph - just strong enough to qualify as a tropical storm. It was moving to the west northwest at 12 mph.
Gradual strengthening is expected during the next 48 hours. Don was expected to approach the Texas coast by Friday. Given the terrible drought conditions in Texas, some rain may be welcome. But torrential rains and winds that could reach 65 mph may also threaten considerable damage, flash flooding and loss of life.
Forecasters in the National Hurricane Center in Miami are watching another stormy region of the northwest Caribbean today.
While it's given only a 20 percent chance of becoming a named storm in the next 48 hours, the disturbance is expected to get more organized in the next few days, and does seem like it could bring some badly needed rain to Texas later this week.
The storm, which would be named Don if it reaches tropical storm strength, is located between the Cayman Islands and western Cuba today, moving to the west northwest at 10 to 15 mph.
The hurricane season is picking up the pace, but so far there's no threat to land. Tropical Storm Cindy formed today in the open Atlantic Ocean, but forecasters say it is headed away from the U.S.
Cindy, the third named storm of the 2011 Atlantic season, took shape far from land, with top sustained winds of about 40 mph. It was headed northeast at 24 mph.
Tropical Storm Bret was reported to have weakened a bit more, with top winds slowing from 50 mph to 45 mph. It was located between the Carolina coast and Bermuda, moving to the northeast at 8 mph.
Despite forecasts on Monday that he would become stronger overnight, perhaps reaching minimal hurricane force, Tropical Storm Bret got weaker instead, with top sustained winds slowing to 50 mph. More weakening is expected as the day goes by.
The storm was centered this morning 410 miles south of Cape Hatteras, moving to the north northeast at 7 mph. Forecasters expect it will turn more to the northeast today and weaken to tropical depression status 250 miles east of Delmarva by early Friday morning.
Outer Banks visitors are being advised to be mindful of increased rip current risks, especially on south-facing beaches.
Tropical Storm Bret, the second named storm of the 2011 Atlantic season, is smacking the northwest Bahamas with heavy rains and wind. But the tempest is not expected to head for U.S. shores.
The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami says Bret is expected to remain at Tropical Storm force this week as it moves generally north and east between the Carolinas and Bermuda. Top sustained winds are currently about 50 mph. I'd expect it to kick up some surf on the Outer Banks and perhaps even on the Delmarva beaches.
NOAA will be sending Hurricane Hunter aircraft into the storm later today to gauge its dimensions. And forecasters say there is some likelihood Bret will gain some further strength as it pulls away from the Bahamas. But increasing wind shear later this week is expected to prevent it from becoming a hurricane.
Floridians are looking at an unusual storm system moving onto the peninsula from the Atlantic Ocean today, the first official day of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season. This weird disturbance actually began as a squall in Michigan.
The concentration of thunderstorms and gusty winds turned up Tuesday about 200 miles off the Jacksonville coast, and is moving south and west toward a Wednesday landfall in Central Florida. It's an area that badly needs rain, so the storm is not at all unwelcome. Better still, it won't have time to develop tropical characteristics and grow to more dangerous levels.
AccuWeather.com notes that much of Florida has received barely a quarter to a half of its usual rainfall this spring.
While we're on the topic of hurricanes, AccuWeather.com has posted a start-of-season update to its hurricane forecast. The only change is the addition of one major storm to the spreadsheet. So they're calling for 15 named storms, of which 8 are predicted to become hurricanes, and 4 will reach Cat. 3 status (sustained winds of 111 mph or more).
"We believe the highest potential for early season development will be near and off the southeast U.S. coast and from the southern and southeastern Gulf of Mexico southward over the western and southern Caribbean," the statement said.
"For the middle of the hurricane season, we see the greatest threat for the U.S. from the Texas coast eastward along the northern Gulf coast, as well as all Florida and Carolina coastal areas. Areas north of the North Carolina coast have a lower chance for direct impacts. We caution that just because this area has a lower chance does not imply no impact. There could also be indirect impacts from storms making landfall well to the south or even from the Gulf of Mexico. Those indirect impacts would include the potential for heavy flooding rainfall."
Out at Colorado State University, hurricane forecasters William Gray and Phil Klotzbach have updated their forecast, but they have not changed their forecast numbers.
They do offer some landfall probabilities, however. "Based on our historical analysis along with our current forecast, the probability of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coastline is approximately 72 percent," Klotzbach said. They're assuming that a more active season will mean more landfalls. But last season was one of the most active on record for the Atlantic, and there were no U.S. landfalls at all.
Breaking that down a little farther, Gray and Klotzbach say the chance of a major storm making landfall on the East Coast, from Florida northward, is 48 percent. The long-term average is 31 percent.
Both forecast teams base their expectations for an active season partly on the same factors: Persistent warm surface water temperatures in the Atlantic, especially in the hurricane "nursery" zones; "neutral" La Nina/El Nino conditions in the Pacific, which reduce the westerly Atlantic wind shear that can stifle hurricane formation; low air pressure in the hurricane development region of the Atlantic and westward into the Caribbean, and off West Africa.
The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season opens June 1, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has finally weighed in with its forecast. So it's time to make note of all the springtime predictions for the coming storm season so we can check again Dec. 1 and see how these folks did. Here's how they lay out:
Colorado State U.: 16
Long-term average: 9.6
Colorado State: 9
Long-term average: 5.9
"MAJOR" (Cat. 3+) STORMS:
Colorado State: 5
Long-term average: 2.3
(SUN PHOTO: Solomons, Sept. 19, 2003, Karl Merton Ferron)
Earth Networks, parent company of WeatherBug, has issued its 2011 Atlantic hurricane forecast. Like AccuWeather, and Colorado State, they see an “active” season ahead. But their predictions come in just below the others, with 13-14 named storms, 7-8 hurricanes, and 4 “major” storms. They reason that Atlantic waters are cooler than last year, and La Nina is weakening. But they hint at an increased risk of U.S. landfalls. NOAA’s official 2011 forecast is due next week.
A week after AccuWeather.com posted its spring prognostications for the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, it's Colorado State University's turn. The mountain folks who never experience a hurricane are once again predicting an "above-average" storm season.
That's due in large measure to the fact that we are in a multi-decadal cycle that began in 1995 during which we should expect storm totals above the long-term (1950-2000) average in most years. The 16-year period between 1979 and 1994 saw 25 major (Cat. 3, 4 or 5) hurricanes. The 16 years since have witnessed 61.
The CSU scientists expect the cycle to continue for another 10 to 15 years before switching back to a long, less active phase.
The CSU forecast is also very close to the one issued by AccuWeather.com a week ago, except for a slightly more aggressive prediction on the number of "major" storms - Cat. 3 and above. Here's how the two predictions out so far compare:
AccuWeather.com, March 30: Named storms: 15. Hurricanes: 8. Major: 3
Colorado State, April 6: Named storms: 16. Hurricanes: 9. Major: 5
1950-2000 average: Named storms: 9.6. Hurricanes: 5.9. Major: 2.3
The new CSU forecast includes a reduction, by one named storm, in the numbers released in the school's December forecast.
The CSU team led by Phil Klotzbach, of the CSU Tropical Meteorology Project, points to several factors contributing to their calculations. "We expect that anomalously warm tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures, combined with neutral tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures will contribute to an active season," he said.
The tropical Pacific is important because El Nino (above-average sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central tropical Pacific) tends to suppress hurricane development in the Atlantic, while La Nina or neutral temperature conditions tend to allow storm development. After a La Nina winter in 2010-2011, the sea surface temperatures in the Pacific have been warming up and are expected to be neutral this summer.
The Colorado team also looks at oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the Altantic and makes comparisons with those that existed during the summer in 29 prior years. They consider how those storm seasons turned out and then develop their "best estimate" of how the next season will look.
The closest analogs for the 2011 setup were found to be 1955, 1996, 2006 and 2008. All except 2006 had neutral or La Nina conditions, and all but 2006 were "very active" seasons.
Just where this year's storms can be expected to make landfall is impossible to predict with any precision. But the coastal regions of the United States have been extraordinarily lucky in recent years, said longtime hurricane forecaster William Gray, the other key member of the CSU team.
"Except for the very destructive hurricane seasons of 2004-2005, United States coastal residents have experienced no other major landfalling hurricanes since 1999. This recent 9 of 11-year period without any major landfall events should not be expected to continue," he said.
The team predicts a 72 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall in the U.S. The long-term average probability is 52 percent. The landfall chances for the East Coast, from Florida north, is put at 48 percent. The long-term average probability is 31 percent.
Last year in April, the CSU team predicted 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes. The actual count was 19 named storms (the third-most active season on record), 12 hurricanes, and 5 major hurricanes. No hurricanes made landfall in the U.S.
Maryland's People's Insurance Counsel has lost again in its bid to overturn a decision by Allstate Insurance Company to stop writing new property insurance policies in portions of 11 counties in the state that it regards as most prone to catastrophic hurricane damage - chiefly zip codes on the Eastern Shore and around the Chesapeake Bay.
Earlier this month, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed a lower court's decision that Allstate did not violate state anti-discrimination laws in drawing a red line around the places where it found itself most vulnerable. Those laws were written in the 1970s to end racial discrimination by homeowners' and auto insurance companies.
The decision was another loss in the Allstate matter for the Maryland People's Insurance Counsel Division, which had sought to reverse the company's move.
"The flaw in the Division's effort is that it seeks to apply those conditions or restrictions [against illegal discrimination] to what was a fundamentally business decision of Allstate that did not remotely involve any of the traditional or historic discriminations," the court found.
Here, in brief, is how it played out:
In the wake of the terrible hurricane seasons in 2004 and 2005, which caused major damage and huge insurance losses in Florida, Louisiana and Texas, Allstate began a risk analysis of its vulnerability to catastrophic damages that could result from landfalling hurricanes in 28 states.
Using a consultant's computer model, the company simulated 100,000 years of hurricane losses in storm-prone states, including Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. From that, they identified four model storms of Cat. 4 making landfall in Worcester County, Md., Sussex County, Del., Virginia Beach, Va., and Northhampton County, Va.
They projected what damages were likely from such storms in Maryland zip codes, and how exposed Allstate was to those losses. The result was a map laying out "hurricane bands" where Allstate's exposure was sharply higher than the average across the rest of the state. The company drew a line around those zip codes as "catastrophe-prone" and announced in 2006 it would stop writing new policies there. Current policy holders were not affected.
The People's Insurance Counsel - part of the Attorney General's office - took the company on, arguing that the move was arbitrary and unreasonable, and that the company failed to show its rates were insufficient to cover projected losses.
The Counsel also argued that no hurricane had made landfall in Maryland in at least 100 years. (In fact, the National Hurricane Center counts two that have. And many other storms have brushed the state; or, like Isabel in 2003, crossed it weakened to tropical storm strength after landfalls in the Carolinas or elsewhere.)
Allstate argued that its decisions were based on careful, objective analysis and sound business judgments.
The Maryland Insurance Commission in 2008 rejected the Insurance Counsel's arguments. So did the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. The Counsel took the case to the Court of Special Appeals.
In its March 1 opinion, the court ripped the Insurance Counsel's contentions, at various points, as "unreal," "absurd," based on a "fantasy analysis." The company's analyses of the risks it faced in the region, the court found, were sound.
Quoting from the Insurance Commissioner's earlier decision upholding Allstate's actions, the court said, "Allstate has demonstrated objectively that the zip codes located in Hurricane Bands 4-6 represent the greatest potential for loss in the event of a catastrophic storm when compared to the rest of the state ...[B]y refusing the accept additional insureds in the areas which pose the highest risk in the event of a catastrophe, Allstate will serve its business and economic purpose of reducing its exposure in the event of a catastrophic coastal storm."
In its analyses, Allstate found that if a storm identical to Hurricane Hazel in 1954 were to strike today, the company would face $307.8 million in insured losses in Maryland alone. Wind damage in Hurricane Band 4 would be 42 percent higher than the average for the rest of the state; 650 percent higher in Band 5, and 1,300 percent higher in Band 6.
The court also pointed out that there is a sharp difference between "ordinary risk" and "catastrophic risk." The former involves taking a chance on individuals by spreading the risk across a large number of insured people. In catastrophic risk, insuring a large number of individuals in a vulnerable location increases the danger of huge company losses in the event of, say, a hurricane strike.
"The fascinating development of the present case will illustrate, perhaps for the first time, the difference between short-term and long-term insurance problems and solutions, and the gaping difference between ordinary insurance risk and catastrophe risk," the court said.
Or, more colorfully, the court said, "The difference in magnitudes of risk between Hurricane Katrina, and Katrina Abramowitz, with two traffic infractions and three points on her driving record, is so vast as to be incomprehensible. Even to attempt to describe the one in terms of the other would be gibberish."
(SUN PHOTOS: Tropical Storm Isabel, 2003; Top to bottom: Algerina Perna, Jed Kirschbaum, Kim Hairston)
Dozens of deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage have prompted the World Meteorological Organization to retire two names from last season's roster of Atlantic hurricanes.
Igor and Tomas will be replaced on the 2016 names list by Ian and Tobias, the WMO said.
Tropical storms that form in the Atlantic basin are given alternating male and female names drawn from a set of six lists. Each list has 21 names in alphabetical order (omitting Q, U, X, Y and Z). Each year's list is re-used six years later.
But when a storm causes enough death and damage, the WMO's hurricane committee will vote to retire the name, and it passes into history.
Hurricane Igor formed near the Cape Verde Islands last September, moved across the Atlantic to a position just north of the Leeward Islands, where it reached Category 4 strength on Sept. 14. Top sustained winds were measured at of 155 mph.
The storm weakened at sea, but struck Bermuda as a Cat. 1 storm. From there it moved north toward Newfoundland and expanded in size. It made landfall near Cape Race, where it wreaked $200 million in damage - the worst there in 75 years. One person was killed in Newfoundland, two more elsewhere.
Tropical Storm Tomas became a hurricane on Oct. 30 after battering Barbados. It strengthened to Cat. 2 and struck several Caribbean Islands before moving between Haiti and Jamaica. Fourteen people were confirmed killed or missing in St. Lucia after the storm. Floods and landslides in Haiti killed 35. Damages in St. Lucia alone were estimated at $500 million.
The 2011 hurricane season begins June 1. The first names on the new list are Arlene, Bret, Cindy and Don.
(PHOTOS: Top: Tomas strikes Haiti, Carl Juste, Miami Herald/MCT; Bottom: Hurricane Igor, NOAA)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has captured satellite views of the entire 2010 Atlantic hurricane season and put them into a single 5-minute movie. It is mesmerizing. The season was a busy one. It tied with 1887 and 1995 for the third-highest number of named storms - 19.
Fortunately, warm and dry weather patterns over the U.S. blocked any of them from making a direct landfall on the U.S. mainland. Here's the movie: (Be patient while it loads.)
Hurricane Tomas passed to the west of the crowded Haitian capital Port au Prince over the weekend, mostly sparing the vulnerable earthquake resettlement camps. But local and international authorities continue to worry about the effects of heavy rains on the still-smoldering cholera outbreak.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the center of Hurricane Tomas passed through the Windward Passage between Haiti and Cuba, keeping its most intense winds focused on the westernmost regions of Haiti. It has since moved north and east into the open Atlantic and merged with larger weather systems, losing its tropical characteristics.
The Haitian government reported eight storm-related fatalities, and thousands of people displaced by flooding.
Cholera has killed more than 500 people in Haiti in recent weeks, and sickened more than 7,700. Storm-caused rains and flooding could help spread the bacteria and lead to more infections. Cholera spreads when contaminated water gets into food and water supplies. Severe diarrhea and vomiting can lead to dehydration, organ failure and death within hours.
(PHOTO: Thony Belizaire, AFP/Getty Images)
Haiti is under a Hurricane Warning today as Tropical Storm Tomas continues its slow turn in the Caribbean toward the vulnerable island nation. The warning means hurricane conditions - winds of 73 mph or more - are expected somewhere in the warned area late tonight or early Friday. Forecasters have also warned the island to expect a 1- to 3-foot storm surge with "large and destructive waves," and 5 to 10 inches of rain.
At a press briefing this afternoon, National Hurricane Center Diretcor Bill Read said the hurricane-force winds should be limited to Haiti's exposed beaches, and mainly in the form of gusts. The rest of the country will see mostly tropical-storm-force winds, of 39 to 73 mph.
"The predominant threat is the heavy rains," he said, with amounts as high as 15 inches in isolated areas. "Even a five-inch rain can cause significant flash flooding and mudslides throughout the area there."
The wind and rain may find more than a million Haitians in vulnerable tent camps, where they have taken shelter after being displaced from their homes by last January's devastating earthquake. The island has also been grappling with an outbreak of cholera outside of the capital Port au Prince. The disease has killed 492 people and sickened thousands.
The World Health Organization has said the epidemic is not over, and that the country should prepare for it to spread into the crowded capital.
Phil Gelman, the USAID"s Disaster Assistance Response Team Leader in Haiti, said aid agencies have been prepositioning emergency supplies for Haitians and assembling their own supplies to see them through the storm.
The World Meteorological Organization has also been advising Haitians, in French, to get out of vulnerable, low-lying locations and move into sturdier structures. He said surveys in the camps indicated "a lot of people" said they do have places to go. But he declined to guess how many will be riding out the storm in the open.
Gelman said efforts have been underway to clear drainage canals and "shore up hillsides" in advance of the storm "in an attempt to reduce the vulnerability of these informal settlements.".
Hurricane Warnings have also been posted today for the province of Guantanamo, in Cuba, the southeastern Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Tropical Storm Warnings are posted for Jamaica and two other eastern provinces in Cuba. A Tropical Storm Watch is up for the south coast of the Dominican Republic, just east of Haiti on the two countries' shared island of Hispaniola.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm was centered 295 miles west southwest of Port au Prince, moving to the north at 8 mph with top sustained winds of 50 mph. The latest forecast track would take the storm's center between Haiti and Cuba. But that would also place its strongest winds and rains on the east side of the Windward Passage - on Haiti.
Haitian authorities have urged people to seek safer shelter, and closed schools to reopen them as shelters. But there is little shelter to be had for hundreds of thousands of camp residents. Some have refused to leave without a guarantee of finding a safe shelter. In other parts of the impoverished country, people are living in flimsy homes, along dangerous, flood-prone rivers and on easily eroded hillsides.
Aid agencies were rushing in emergency supplies, and the U.S. has sent an amphibious ship to the area with 10 helicopters and medical and engineering teams. Read more in the Haitian Times, here.
As predicted, Tomas is a tropical storm again, with top sustained winds of 45 mph. For a time earlier today, its disorganization caused some weakening, and it was demoted to a tropical depression. But the storm has revived this afternoon, and a tropical Storm Warning and Hurricane Watch have been issued for Haiti.
More than a million Haitians displaced by January's earthquake remain vulnerable to the elements under tents and tarps in crowded displacement camps.
Tropical Storm Watches are also up now for eastern Cuba, including Guantanamo Bay, the south coast of the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and the southeastern Bahamas.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say Tomas was located 300 miles south southwest of Port au Prince, moving to the north northwest at 6 mph. It is expected to continue a turn to the northeast, passing over Haiti as a tropical storm on Friday. The Hurricane Center said:
"REPORTS FROM AN AIR FORCE RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT INDICATE
THAT MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS HAVE INCREASED TO NEAR 45 MPH...75
KM/HR...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. ADDITIONAL STRENGTHENING IS FORECAST
DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS...AND TOMAS COULD BE APPROACHING HURRICANE
STRENGTH AS THE CENTER NEARS HAITI."
Here is the latest advisory on Tomas. Here is the forecast track. And here is the view from orbit.
(PHOTO: AFP Getty Images, Thony Belizaire)
A disorganized Tropical Storm Tomas weakened to a mere tropical depression overnight. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami predict the storm will recover and reach hurricane strength again before reaching land.
Still, they're having trouble explaining the weakening, so their confidence in their predictions about the storm's future power is low.
Their track forecast, however, remains unchanged. Tomas is expected to make a turn to the north and track across Haiti:
"REGARDLESS OF THE EXACT TRACK AND INTENSITY OF TOMAS...THE TROPICAL
CYCLONE WILL POSE A SIGNIFICANT THREAT OF HEAVY RAINFALL...
FLOODING...AND POTENTIAL MUD SLIDES OVER HAITI AND THE
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC LATER IN THE WEEK."
Hurricane forecasters say they see signs of strengthening in Tropical Storm Tomas, and the storm is still expected to regain hurricane strength before striking Haiti and the island of Hispaniola late this week.
Tomas on Tuesday morning was located 355 miles south of Port au Prince, Haiti, moving to the west at 12 mph. Top sustained winds were estimated at 50 mph, up a bit from yesterday's reading. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said they see an intensification of thunderstorms near the storm's central low, and signs of banding features in some quadrants - both indicators of increased organization.
Predictions have Tomas regaining hurricane strength early on Thursday, and making a sharp turn toward the north and then northeast, reaching Haiti by late Friday or early Saturday.
Needless to say, the Haitian people are unprepared for a hurricane. An estimated 1.3 million people displaced by last January's earthquake remain in makeshift shelters and crowded camps. Minor storms this fall have resulted in deaths, injuries and the destruction of thousands of family shelters. On top of that, the country is fighting to contain an outbreak of cholera outside the capital.
International aid agencies are rushing supplies to staging areas in preparation for the expected storm. But with so many people in the relocation camps, it is considered impossible to move them all to secure shelters during the storm. Preparations include sandbagging, digging drainage ditches in the camps, and distributing tarps and ropes.
Such relief supplies are short, and aid groups say promised earthquake aid, including $1.15 billion from the United States, has not arrived. This has the makings of yet another calamity for Haiti, and we will likely be reading a lot about it this weekend and next week.
(PHOTO: Reuters, Eduardo Munoz; tent camp north of Port au Prince)
Tomas, weakened from its former Cat. 2 hurricane strength to a minimal tropical storm, is still expected to regain some of that strength and turn toward Haiti as a Cat. 1 hurricane by Friday morning.
The island nation has been advised to monitor the storm. And UN officials said more than a million Haitians are still living under tents and tarpaulins. A half-hour storm in September killed six people, injured 70 and damaged or destroyed the flimsy homes of 10,000 families, according to a wire service report. Evacuation of the vulnerable quake-refugee camps has been deemed impossible.
The National Hurricane Center said this morning that Tomas was about 420 miles southeast of Port au Prince, Haiti, in the eastern Caribbean Sea, moving to the west southwest at 14 mph. The storm's top sustained winds were just 45 mph.
But forecasters said re-strengthening could begin late on Tuesday, and a turn to the north could come by Thursday as the storm encounters a low-pressure system in the northwest Caribbean. Forecasters estimate a 36 percent chance that Port au Prince will see tropical-storm-force winds within five days.
High winds and heavy rains could be devastating for Haiti's people, many of whom have been living in makeshift shelters since last January's earthquake, Some are also coping with an outbreak of water-borne disease, including cholera.
As if they didn't have enough to contend with in Haiti, now Hurricane Tomas is forecast to become a major Cat. 3 storm and could make a turn toward that tortured island nation later this week.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Tomas, the 12th hurricane of the 2010 Atlantic season, is about 350 miles south southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, moving toward the west northwest at 8 p.m. after pummeling the Windward Islands.
It is packing top sustained winds of 100 mph, making it just 11 mph short of a Cat. 3 storm. Some weakening is predicted as Tomas encounters shearing winds in the next few days. But conditions later this week are expected to enable a restrengthening.
High pressure to the north of the storm will keep it headed west for now. But a turn toward the north is possible perhaps four days from now, forecasters said, as the high breaks down.
There is no mention of Haiti in the morning forecast discussion. But, while confidence is low, the tentative forecast track does move Tomas ominously in that nation's direction by the end of the week. The forecasters say there is a 40 percent probability of tropical-storm force winds in Port au Prince within the next five days.
That small storm in the Atlantic has become Tropical Storm Shary overnight, and while it appears to be a threat to Bermuda, is expected to swing north and east away from the U.S. mainland.
East of the Windward Islands, meanwhile, a second region of stormy weather appears to be on the verge of becoming Tropical Storm Tomas (pronounced toe-MAS) later today.
UPDATE, 5 p.m.: This storm has been upgraded to a tropical storm, and named Tomas. Only two more names remain on the primary list for 2010. Earlier post resumes below.
The National Hurricane Center said Shary (no kin to the late Shari Lewis or Lamb Chop) was located 220 miles south southwest of Bermuda, moving to the northwest at 18 mph. It has top sustained winds of 40 mph. The forecast track would turn the storm and take it just east of the island late today before accelerating off to the northeast. It is not expected to reach hurricane strength.
Off the coast of Venezuela, the next tropical system was getting better organized. Forecasters in Miami said the disturbance was 330 miles east southeast of the southern Windward Islands, moving to the west northwest at 15 to 20 mph. It is given an 80 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone by this weekend.
An Air Force Reserve unit was scheduled to to into the storm later today. If it reaches tropical storm strength, it will be named Tomas. Northern portions of Venezuela and the southern Windwards can expect heavy rain and gusty winds in the next few days as the storm approaches.
A third distrubance in the Atlantic is given only a 10 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone within the next 48 hours.
It looks like the 2010 hurricane season hasn't quite finished messing with our heads yet. The National Hurricane Center is tracking three disturbances in the Atlantic, at least one of which is given a good chance of becoming a tropical (or sub-tropical) cyclone by this weekend.
The nearest storm is centered about 700 miles south southeast of Bermuda, moving to the west northwest at at 15 mph. It hasn't changed much this morning, but forecasters say the conditions are improving for further development. They give it a 60 percent chance of becoming a tropical or subtropical cyclone in the next 48 hours. If so, it will be named Shary.
Farther east, a region of showers and thunderstorms 1,200 miles northwest of the Cape Verde Islands is producing gale-force winds, but does not appear to be getting better organized. Forecasters in Miami give it a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours.
Finally, a tropical wave now about 1,000 miles southeast of the Windward Islands is boiling up lots of thunderstorms over the Atlantic. It's moving to the west northwest at 15 mph, and conditions are good for further development. But for now, forecasters give it only a 20 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone within 48 hours.
Hurricane Richard has been downgraded to a tropical depression as it crosses the Yucatan Peninsula and heads for the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters don't expect the storm will re-strengthen once it reaches open water again. Wind conditions in the region should cause Richard to degenerate into a "remnant low," they say.
The rest of the Atlantic Basin looks pretty quiet as the official season moves into its last five weeks. Forecasters are watching another area of showers and thunderstorms in the eastern tropical Atlantic. But they give it only a 10 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours.
The 2010 season is down to the last four names on the primary list of 21 names. They are Shary, Tomas, Virginie and Walter. If those are all used and more are needed, the National Hurricane Center will turn to the Greek alphabet for more: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and so on, until Dec. 31.
The last time that happened was in 2005, when the forecasters drew six names from the Greek alphabet list, finally closing the curtain on the season with Tropical Storm Zeta, which formed on Dec. 30, and finally expired on Jan. 6, 2006.
If any storms form in January, forecasters would go to the top of the 2011 Atlantic list, which begins with Arlene.
Tropical Storm Richard grew to Cat. 1 hurricane proportions earlier today, and is now headed ashore in Honduras, Belize and the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula.
The 10th hurricane of the season was moving ashore near Belize city in what was once British Honduras - now Belize. It was packing top sustained winds of 90 mph, with hurricane-force winds extending 15 miles from the center of this small stor. Tropical storm-force winds were being felt more than 100 miles from the center.
But wind is not the most dangerous part of this storm. Richard is also sending a 3- to 5-foot storm surge ashore near and north of the storm's center, with battering waves. Rain totals of 3 to 5 inches will be common, with some locations seeing as much as 10 inches. Landslides and flash floods could claim lives and property.
The storm is forecast to weaken to a tropical depression by the time it emerges into the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday. Wind shear there is expected to prevent the storm from re-intensifying over the warm Gulf waters.
The National Hurricane Center says the stormy region that's been drifting in the Caribbean in recent days has finally gained enough strength and organization to become Tropical Storm Richard, the 17th named storm of the 2010 Atlantic season.
It's not entirely clear yet what the future holds for Richard, but there are some models that move it into the Gulf of Mexico, where it could strengthen to a major, Cat. 3 storm.
For now, it is a minimal tropical storm, with top sustained winds of 40 mph. It is located 220 miles south southeast of the Cyaman Islands, moving to the southeast at 6 mph. That movement is forecast to turn to the west, and then west northwest by this weekend, putting Mexico's Yuicatan Peninsula in its path.
Hurricane Paula, a very small and now minimal Cat. 1 hurricane, is moving north of western Cuba and threatening extreme South Florida with heavy rain. A Tropical Storm Watch is posted now for the Florida Keys and the Dry Tortugas islands. Showers and thunderstorms are expected in Key West.
But the storm is expected to curve east and then southeast, staying mainly over the island of Cuba. A Hurricane Warning is up for portions of western Cuba, and a Tropical Storm Warning is posted for Havana.
Forecasters say Paula is moving to the northeast at 7 mph, with top sustained winds of 75 mph. As it interacts with the island and encounters more unfavorable winds, it is expected to weaken, becoming a tropical storm later Thursday, and a tropical depression by the weekend.
UPDATE, 11:00 AM: Paula has been downgraded to a tropical storm.
Paula is an unusually small hurricane, with hurricane force winds extending barely 10 miles from its center. Tropical storm winds are measurable only 50 miles out. But it is still a soaker, with 3 to 6 inches of rain forecast for portions of Cuba, and some locations told to expect as much as 10 inches, bringing the danger of flash floods and mudslides. A storm surge is expected to push high tides 2 to 4 feet above normal, with large waves.
Tropical Storm Paula strengthened to minimal hurricane status overnight. The storm continues to spin in the northwest Caribbean, and could linger there for several days, forecasters say. Top sustained winds are estimated at 75 mph.
What happens after that is less than clear, however. If the storm continues to strengthen in the region's warm waters, it could be picked up by prevailing west-southwesterly winds and accelerated off toward South Florida and northeastward into the Atlantic.
But forecasters expect the storm to be weakened by wind shear in a few days. If so, that could keep it stuck in the same region, throwing wind and rain toward the Yucatan and western Cuba for days.
The official forecast track (map)keeps the storm pretty much where it is for the next five days, although forecasters concede they don't have much confidence in the last few days of that prediction.
UPDATE, 4:40 p.m.: Tropical Storm Paula has formed today in the western Caribbean southeast of Cozumel, where hurricane warnings were posted today. Paula has top sustained winds of 60 mph. It was forecast to become a hurricane on Tuesday, and to linger for several days this week off the east coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, and its resorts.
An earlier post follows:
The National Hurricane Center has sent a hurricane hunter aircraft into a stormy region that appears to be gaining strength Monday in the western Caribbean. Forecasters are giving this disturbance an 80 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours. If it reaches tropical storm strength, it will become Tropical Storm Paula.
For now, the storm is located off the coast of Nicaragua and Honduras, moving west northwest at 10 mph. If it becomes a tropical storm, forecasters said:
"... TROPICAL STORM WATCHES AND/OR WARNINGS WOULD BE
REQUIRED FOR PORTIONS OF THE COAST OF HONDURAS...BELIZE...AND THE
YUCATAN PENINSULA OF MEXICO. REGARDLESS OF DEVELOPMENT...HEAVY
RAINFALL IS POSSIBLE OVER PORTIONS OF NICARAGUA...HONDURAS...THE
CAYMAN ISLANDS...BELIZE...AND THE YUCATAN PENINSULA DURING THE NEXT
COUPLE OF DAYS."
The Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico are the most likely places for late-season storms to form. They can threaten Florida and the American Southeast (map).
Tropical Storm Otto has graduated. It is now Hurricane Otto, the 8th of the 2010 Atlantic season. But it continues to move off to the northeast, of no concern to the U.S. mainland. It could become a problem for the Azores early next week.
The National Hurricane Center said Otto is more than 400 miles south of Bermuda, moving east northeast at 17 mph, with top sustained winds of 75 mph. Forecasters say the storm will strengthen some before beginning to weaken again late Saturday as it accelerates into the northeast.
Even so, the NHC indicates Otto is leaving its calling card in the islands of the northeast Caribbean Sea:
"RAINFALL...ADDITIONAL HEAVY RAINFALL IS POSSIBLE IN THE NORTHERN
LEEWARD ISLANDS...THE VIRGIN ISLANDS...PUERTO RICO...AND THE EASTERN
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC TODAY. THESE RAINS COULD PRODUCE LIFE-
THREATENING FLASH FLOODS AND MUD SLIDES."
Elsewhere in the tropics, forecasters are watching a stormy region in the southwestern Caribbean. It is expected to get better organized in the next few days, but is given only a 20 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours. If it does become the next tropical storm, it would be named Paula.
So, how are the prognosticators doing so far this season, with a little more than 7 weeks to go? They predicted an active season compared with the long-term averages, and that has certainly held true.
AVERAGE (1966-2009): Named: 11.3 Hurricanes: 6.2 Major (Cat. 3 or higher): 2.3
ACTUAL 2010 TO DATE: Named: 15 Hurricanes: 8 Major: 5
Colorado State Univ.: Named: 15 Hurricanes: 8 Major: 4
AccuWeather: Named: 17 Hurricanes: 10 Major: 4
NOAA: Named: 14-23 Hurricanes: 8-14 Major: 3-7
Fortunately, nine of the 15 named storms have blown themselves out at sea (although a few have sent dangerous surf ashore). Only one - TS Bonnie made landfall in the U.S., a brush with South Florida. Nicole sent loads of rain our way, and Hermine caused serious flooding in Texas after a landfall in Mexico.
There's a new depression in the Atlantic Ocean north of Puerto Rico, the 17th of the season. It appears to be gathering strength, according to the National Hurricane Center. But forecasters, for now, are calling it a SUB-tropical depression because it does not yet seem to have the warm core characteristics of a true tropical cyclone.
In any event, it is expected to strengthen, and if it gets its act together, TD 17 could become Tropical Storm (or SUB-tropical Storm) Otto sometime later today.
UPDATE, 5 p.m.: TD 17 is now Subtropical Storm Otto. Forecasters say it could become a hurricane by late Thursday or Friday.
The good news is that even if it does reach storm strength - either tropical or sub-tropical - this thing is forecast to make a sharp right turn over the weekend and accelerate off to the northeast, bound for the Azores. It will not become a problem for the U.S. mainland.
So, this busy 2010 Atlantic hurricane season continues to generate lots of storms, and plenty of strong ones. But we remain mostly in a protective bubble. Dangerous surf, a whole lot of rain and flooding have been the worst of it for the mainland so far this year. No direct landfalls that I can recall.
Tropical Storm Matthew is making a bee-line for Central America, with Hurricane Watches and Tropical Storm Warnings for portions of the Honduran and Nicarguan coasts.
The storm was located Friday morning about 80 miles east southeast of the Honduran/Nicaraguan border, moving quickly west toward land at 20 mph. Top sustained winds were estimated at 50 mph. It's not a real powerful storm, but it is going to drive a storm surge ashore, and will deliver rains predicted at 6 to 10 inches, with some spots likely to get 15 inches.
That kind of rain will inevitably mean mudslides and flash floods that always put life and property in danger.
Once ashore, Matthew is forecast to weaken to a tropical depression, slow down and eventually turn toward the north. Over land, it could fall apart and dissipate. Or, it could move back over the warm waters of the Gulf and regroup.
AccuWeather.com blogger Meghan Evans says that in either case, moisture from Matthew, or perhaps the next storm to form in the Caribbean, is now likely to be drawn north into Florida. And that could eventually send some badly-needed rain our way.
The amazing Igor continues to prowl the Atlantic. The gigantic storm has lost its tropical engine, but it remains a formidible storm, with top winds of 80 mph, and a breadth that has now topped 900 miles.
Hurricane Warnings are posted for parts of Newfoundland and there's a Tropical Storm Watch up for the French-owned islands of St-Pierre and Miquelon.
Incredibly, this gigantic storm is still stirring the waters from Atlantic Canada to the Bahamas:
"LARGE SWELLS ALONG THE EAST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES WILL
BE SUBSIDING TONIGHT. SWELLS WILL BE SLOW TO SUBSIDE IN NOVA
SCOTIA...NEWFOUNDLAND...PUERTO RICO...THE VIRGIN ISLANDS...
HISPANIOLA...AND PORTIONS OF THE BAHAMAS DURING THE NEXT COUPLE OF
DAYS. THESE SWELLS ARE LIKELY TO CAUSE LIFE-THREATENING SURF AND
RIP CURRENTS. PLEASE CONSULT PRODUCTS FROM YOUR LOCAL WEATHER
OFFICE FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION."
With Hurricane Igor racing off toward Eastern Canada and rapidly losing its tropical characteristics, storm watchers are beginning to turn their attention to the 12th named storm of the season. TS Lisa is spinning up in the far eastern Atlantic, the birthplace of so many of our storms this season.
Lisa was located this Tuesday morning about 530 miles west northwest of the Cape Verde Islands, moving to the north at 5 mph. Top sustained winds are at minimal tropical storm force, just 40 mph. Conditions in the region seem favorable for further development, forecasters said. But there is little to drive the storm to the west for now, so the forecast track shows little movement.
Much closer to home, forecasters have also begun to watch a region of stormy weather in the Windward Islands and the eastern Caribbean. They're giving it a 20 percent chance to become a named storm within the next 48 hours. Here's a view from space.
The web site of the Royal Gazette reports no deaths and no serious injuries on the island of Bermuda as Hurricane Igor pulls away Monday morning. But at least 28,000 residents are without power and considerable damage is reported from around the island, especially in the historic town of St. Georges.
Here is some video from a spot many cruise passengers are familiar with - Tobacco Bay, just a short walk from St. Georges.
The Bermuda Weather Service at midnight reported sustained winds of 75 mph, with gusts to 98 mph as the east side of the storm's inner bands crossed the island. The eye passed about 40 miles to the west.
By daybreak, the Bermuda Weather Service was reporting rain with southwest winds at 40 mph - still tropical-storm-force - and gusts to 53. The barometer was rising as Igor moved off rapidly to the north northeast.
Bermuda's Royal Gazette is reporting heavy activity at the island's L.F. Wade International Airport Saturday as visitors who could, left the island in anticipation of Hurricane Igor.
The storm, weakened to Cat. 1 with top sustained winds of just 85 mph, was reported this morning 235 miles south of Bermuda, moving to the north northwest at 12 mph. The storms center was expected to pass near or over the island Sunday evening.
Although weakened, Igor is a large storm. Hurricane-force winds extend 90 miles from the storm's center, with tropical storm force winds felt 345 miles from the center. Islanders also were told to expect 6 to 9 inches of rain, a dangerous storm surge, and large waves.
If you're on the Maryland or Delaware shore, you can already see Igor's effects. There is a High Rip Current Risk advisory posted from the Outer Banks to the Maryland beaches. Here's the nut of it:
"LONG PERIOD SWELL WILL CONTINUE IN RESPONSE TO DISTANT BUT
POWERFUL HURRICANE IGOR. NEARSHORE WAVES WILL AVERAGE 4 TO 6 FEET
TODAY...WITH WAVE PERIODS AROUND 14 TO 16 SECONDS. THIS WILL
RESULT IN A CONTINUED HIGH RISK OF RIP CURRENTS ALONG AREA BEACHES
FROM OCEAN CITY MARYLAND SOUTHWARD TO CURRITUCK BEACH LIGHT NORTH
"THE MOST DANGEROUS RIP CURRENTS ARE EXPECTED A COUPLE OF
HOURS EITHER SIDE OF LOW TIDE...WHICH WILL OCCUR ON TODAY AROUND
1142 AM AT OCEAN CITY...AND 1141 AM AT DUCK. A HIGH RIP CURRENT
RISK IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE THROUGH MONDAY AS IGOR RE-CURVES WELL
OFF THE EAST COAST."
With cruise ships making regular runs from Baltimore to Bermuda these days, there must be thousands of Marylanders who have been to the island. What are your memories of your visit? What are your thoughts as the island prepares for Igor? Leave us a comment below.
Hurricane Igor is expected to strike the island of Bermuda this weekend. Hurricane Warnings are up for the speck of land 600 miles off the Carolina shores, and authorities there are warning residents this storm is "probably the worst we have seen," with winds up to 150 mph.
The National Hurricane Center, however, says Igor's central winds have decreased to 105 mph, with higher gusts, making it a Cat. 2 storm. That would make it less powerful than Hurricane Fabian, which struck in 2003. Igor, while weaker, is moving fairly slowly (10 mph), potentially lengthening the time it will batter the island.
Six hundred miles is close enough for this powerful storm to kick up swells, heavy surf and dangerous rip currents all along the mid-Atlantic coast. The National Weather Service is advising beach-goers to beware of surf conditions this weekend:
"SOUTHEAST SWELLS FROM DISTANT HURRICANE IGOR WILL GRADUALLY
INCREASE OVER THE COASTAL WATERS TODAY [FRIDAY] BRINGING DANGEROUS RIP
CURRENTS AND SURF TO AREA BEACHES. THE MOST DANGEROUS RIP
CURRENTS ARE EXPECTED A COUPLE OF HOURS EITHER SIDE OF LOW
TIDE...WHICH WILL OCCUR AROUND 930 AM. A HIGH RIP CURRENT RISK IS
EXPECTED TO CONTINUE THROUGH THE WEEKEND AS IGOR RE-CURVES WELL OFF
THE EAST COAST."
One swimmer was caught in a rip current and disappeared at Ocean City last month as Hurricane Danielle passed far offshore. Nearly 500 people had to be rescued that weekend (Aug. 28-29). The man's body was recovered a week later, 16 miles offshore.
The experience made everyone more cautious over the Labor Day weekend as Hurricane Earl moved past, more than 100 miles off the coast, again making the surf dangerous for swimmers.
Surf aside, the weekend weather for the beaches looks great.
(AP PHOTO: Laura Emmons, Salisbury Daily Times, Sept. 3, 2010)
Hurricane watchers were tracking three hurricanes in the Atlantic basin Friday morning.
Tropical Storm Karl rebounded to full hurricane force in the Bay of Campeche Thursday after crossing Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. By Friday morning it was spinning at Cat. 3 force, with top sustained winds of 120 mph. That makes Karl the fifth hurricane (out of six) this season to reach "Major" (Cat. 3) strength. That's a pretty impressive performance, and it's a lucky break there have been so few landfalls.
That said, Karl appears ready to go ashore in Mexico tonight or Saturday. The National Hurricane Center shows the storm moving to the west at 9 mph. A Hurricane Warning is up from Veracruz to Cabo Rojo, with Watches posted north to La Cruz.
Forecasters are warning of a 12- to 15-foot storm surge as the storm - which could strengthen further before landfall - approaches. Five to 10 inches of rain are likely, with some locations receiving 15 inches. Flash floods and mudslides pose grave risks to residents of the region.
Far to the east, Hurricane Igor (photo) continues to stalk the island of Bermuda. Igor was located early today 730 miles south southeast of Bermuda, moving to the northwest at 9 mph. Top sustained winds were estimated at 120 mph. The island is under a hurricane watch today.
Residents have been told to prepare for a "direct hit," and forecasters are comparing it to Hurricane Fabian, which struck in 2003, leaving several dead and millions of dollars in damage.
Hurricane Julia, even farther to the east in the mid-Atlantic, was continuing to unwind in the open ocean. Top sustained winds were estimated at 85 mph. The storm was located 1,400 miles southwest of the Azores, moving west northwest at 24 mph. It is not expected to be a threat to land. Here is the latest advisory on Julia.
Finally, forecasters have also begun to watch a new disturbance coming off the coast of Africa. The storm is given only a 10 percent chance of becoming a tropical system in the next 48 hours. If it ever makes it to tropical storm force, it would get the name Lisa.
Tropical Storm Karl was making its way ashore in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula Wednesday morning, spinning with top winds at 65 mph and bringing torrential rains to the region. Far to the east, Cat. 4 Hurricanes Igor and Julia continued to roil the Atlantic, with the greatest danger in tiny Bermuda.
Here's a satellite view of the entire basin, showing all three storms.
Karl's center was last situated just off Chetumal, Mexico, and is likely on shore by this writing. Tropical Storm Warnings were posted for the east coast of ther Yucatan, with Watches up for parts of coastal Belize.
Karl was expected to move inland and weaken, with 3 to 5 inches of rain forecast for the region. The storm is predicted to re-strengthen after moving off the peninsula into the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, reaching hurricane strength before making a second landfall on the Mexican Gulf Coast.
Igor (forecast track on the left, below) was located this morning about 1,000 miles southeast of Bermuda, moving to the west northwest at 10 mph. Top sustained winds were estimated at 145 mpg. Those winds were already affecting the Leeward Islands with large swells, and the same conditions are expected in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, creating dangerous surf and rip currents.
Rising surf and rip currents are forecast for the U.S. Atlantic Coast this weekend.
Bermuda (top, middle of Igor's track) is following Igor closely, although any Hurricane Watches aren't likely until Thursday. At least one cruise ship has elected to bypass the island because of the threat. Two other ships have tweaked their port calls in the Northern Leewards because of sea conditions.
Farther east, Hurricane Julia (storm track on the right on map) reached Cat. 4 strength overnight, with top winds at 135 mph. It remains a threat only to shipping and fish.
Does this seem like a busy, intense season yet? Consider these stats, from Jeff Masters' blog on Weather Underground:
1. Julia is the strongest hurricane to form so far east in the Atlantic.
2. Earl was the fourth-strongest to venture so far north.
3. This season marks only the second time two Cat. 4 hurricanes have spun in the Atlantic simultaneously. The first time was in September 1926.
4. Julia is the fourth Cat. 4 storm this season. Only two seasons have had five Cat. 4s: 2005 and 1999.
Now we have three named storms spinning in the Atlantic basin. - hurricanes Igor (Cat. 4) and Julia (Cat. 1) and a tropical storm, Karl, which graduated to that status this afternoon. According to my finger count, Karl is the 11th named storm of the season.
Karl is gathering strength in the western Caribbean, posing a growing threat to Mexico, Cuba, Belize and Guatemala. It was centered about 270 miles east of Chetumal, Mexico, moving to the west northwest at 15 mph. Top sustained winds were 40 mph - minimal tropical storm force.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said Karl was expected to slow its forward speed, finally moving over the Yucatan peninsula on Wednesday, and then to the southwestern Gulf of Mexico late Wednesday or Thursday. It looks like this one will make a second landfall in northeastern Mexico.
(The U.S. mainland, except for Hermine in Texas, seems to have been in a protective bubble so far this season.)
Tropical Storm Warnings were posted for parts of the Yucatan, with Watches up for northern Belize. From the NHC:
"A STORM SURGE IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE SOME COASTAL
FLOODING NEAR AND TO THE NORTH OF WHERE THE CENTER MAKES LANDFALL.
NEAR THE COAST...THE SURGE WILL BE ACCOMPANIED BY LARGE AND
"RAINFALL...KARL IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE TOTAL RAIN ACCUMULATIONS OF 3
TO 5 INCHES OVER THE YUCATAN PENINSULA...BELIZE...AND NORTHERN
GUATEMALA...WITH ISOLATED MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 8 INCHES."
Hurricane Igor, meanwhile, a threat mostly to Bermuda and soon to swimmers on the East Coast, was strengthening again this afternoon. Here the latest advisory. And here is part of a Hazardous Weather Outlook statement from the NWS forecast office in Mt. Holly, NJ, covering beaches in southern NJ and Delaware:
"THERE WILL BE AN INCREASED RISK OF DANGEROUS RIP CURRENTS AND SLOWLY
BUILDING SURF FROM THIS FRIDAY THROUGH AT LEAST THIS WEEKEND AS
HURRICANE IGOR LURKS WELL OFF THE EAST COAST. PLEASE MONITOR
TROPICAL PREDICTION CENTER PROJECTIONS OF IGOR"
I suspect we will see similar advisories soon for Maryland and Carolina beaches as the storm moves north.
There are two hurricanes blowing their way across the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday. Neither one looks like it will become a threat to the U.S. mainland, although Igor seems likely to stir up dangerous surf.
The biggest threat to land is likely to be in Bermuda, where Igor (top photo) appears to be headed this weekend. But forecasters say it's still too early to say whether the island will be seriously affected.
The storm early Tuesday was located about 700 miles east of the Northern Leeward Islands, moving to the west northwest at a leisurely 7 mph. Top sustained winds had backed down to 135 mph - still a Cat. 4 hurricane, but somewhat diminished from its 150 mph power on Monday.
Forecasters predict Igor will continue to curve toward the northwest, with a forecast storm track that is beginning to center on Bermuda. It still has a sharply defined, 20-mile-wide eye, and is moving through light shear and warm water. Some intensification is possible in the next 24 hours, forecasters said. But cooling waters and increasing shear beyond that should begin to sap its power.
Farther east in the tropical Atlantic, Julia reached hurricane stature overnight. The storm was located early Tuesday 355 miles west northwest of the Cape Verde Islands, moving to the west northwest at 10 mph. Top sustained winds were estimated at 85 mph.
Julia appears destined to remain an ocean storm, with little chance of striking the U.S. mainland.
A bigger threat to land may come from a new storm (bottom photo) developing in the western Caribbean. This storm is given a 70-percent chance of becoming a tropical storm in the next 48 hours. If so, it will be Tropical Storm Karl.
Now 375 miles east of Chetumal, Mexico, it is moving to the west northwest at 15 mph. The National Hurricane Center is warning:
"INTERESTS IN THE YUCATAN PENINSULA OF MEXICO AND BELIZE SHOULD MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF THIS SYSTEM.
"REGARDLESS OF DEVELOPMENT...LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL IS POSSIBLE OVER
PORTIONS OF JAMAICA...CUBA...THE CAYMAN ISLANDS...THE YUCATAN
PENINSULA...AND BELIZE DURING THE NEXT DAY OR TWO. THESE RAINS
COULD CAUSE LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOODS AND MUD SLIDES...
ESPECIALLY IN AREAS OF MOUNTAINOUS TERRAIN. AN AIR FORCE RESERVE
HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT IS SCHEDULED TO INVESTIGATE THIS SYSTEM
After spinning up to an impressive Cat. 4, 150-mph hurricane over the weekend, Igor continues to move west across the Atlantic Monday.
It's too early to say the U.S. mainland is entirely out of danger, but the hurricane forecasters are predicting the storm will turn right this week as weather patterns over the ocean carry it along. And that could pose a significant threat to the little island of Bermuda - 600 miles off the Carolina coast.
This morning, the storm is 940 miles east of the Northern Leeward Islands, moving to the west at 13 mph. Top sustained winds are estimated at 150 mph, just 5 mph short of the threshhold for Cat. 5.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center think Igor will begin a turn to the west northwest late today or tomorrow. It could also become a Cat. 5 storm today. If so, it would be the first hurricane this season to reach Cat. 5. Three of the season's four hurricanes to date have reached Cat. 4 - Danielle, Earl and Igor. But none has made landfall.
As powerful as it is, Igor is a compact storm. Hurricane-force winds extend only 40 miles from the center. Tropical-storm-force winds reach out 175 miles. But it is a classic, with a clean spiral and a sharply-defined "eye."
Forecasters also are watching Tropical Storm Julia, which joined the cast over the weekend. Julia is in the far eastern Atlantic, messing up the weather in the Cape Verde Islands. JUlia is expected to become a hurricane in the next few days. But from the looks of the forecast storm track, it does not appear Julia will ever become an issue on this side of the pond.
It's happened. Igor has appeared just off the West African coast, and he's coming this way. Igor (it's "EE-gor" not "EYE-gor") is certain to become the butt of bad jokes by meteorologists and David Letterman in the coming week. Just to get you up to speed on the "Young Frankenstein" movie dialogue many of these jokes will reference, here is a sampling.
The ninth named storm of the Atlantic season reached tropical storm force earlier today. The National Hurricane Center at 11 a.m. Wednesday said the storm was located about 95 miles southeast of the Cape Verde Islands, moving slowly to the west at 8 mph.
Igor's top sustained winds were blowing at just 40 mph, but hurricane watchers seem to have high hopes for the lad. AccuWeather.com has predicted it will become the season's next hurricane, and may (or may not) reach the continental U.S.:
"Igor could continue to plow westward toward the Antilles into next week, or could be picked up and turned northward by a trough of low pressure expected to drop in off the East Coast of the U.S. - Alex Sasnowski, senior meteorologist, AccuWeather.com
The National Hurricane Center has discontinued the Tropical Storm Warning for the Delmarva Peninsula.
Hurricane Earl continued to move toward southern New England and Atlantic Canada. Hurricane Warnings were up for Southeastern Massachusetts from Woods Hole around Cape Cod to Sagamore Beach, including the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.
Hurricane Watches were posted for portions of Nova Scotia. And Tropical Storm Warnings were up for the southern coasts of Long Island and Southern New England, as well as portions of Maine, all of Nova Scotia and other parts of Maritime Canada.
At 5 p.m., a sprawling Hurricane Earl was centered 230 miles south southwest of Nantucket, moving to the northeast at 22 mph. Tops sustained winds had fallen to 80 mph - just 6 mpg above minimal hurricane force.
The barometer was continuing to fall in Ocean City late this morning as Hurricane Earl moved north and east from the North Carolina coastline. Top winds were gusting to 37 mph at the OC airport, but there was little rain in the gauge.
The Tropical Storm Warning remained in effect, but a look at the beach cams shows residents and visitors out and about, jogging the beach and watching the tumult at the surf line. A few knuckleheads were out on the waves, as these photos show.
As the storm continues to move away, and a cold front approaches from the northwest, it seems likely the weather will begin to clear this afternoon, the sun will break through and usher in a fine Labor Day weekend.
The surf will continue to be rough and dangerous for a few days. But it looks like the resort will spring back for a profitable end to the summer season.
Earl, meanwhile, continued to drift away, reduced to an 85-mph Cat. 1 hurricane in the 11 a.m. advisory. The storm's center was located about 175 miles northeast of Hatteras, accelerating to the north northeast at 21 mph. Here is the latest advisory for Earl. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space.
You can see that this morning's cloudy, humid weather in Baltimore is spinoff from Earl. Radar shows that the rain bands are holding mainly east of the bay.
The storm continues to pose a danger to Southeastern Massachusetts and Maritime Canada. But fo us, we'll soon begin to turn our weather eye back to the tropics, where three more storms are lined up.
Tropical Storm Fiona is in the mid-Atlantic, moving toward Bermuda. The center was 245 miles south southwest of Bermuda, moving to the north northeast at 13 mph. Top sustained winds were estimated at 45 mph. A Tropical Storm Watch was in effect for the British overseas territory.
Fiona does not pose a danger to the U.S. East Coast, but can be expected to continue to help roil the surf here for several days.
Also under scrutiny by the National Hurricane Center in this busy season is Tropical Depression (and former Tropical Storm) Gaston. This struggling fellow, about 1,100 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands, is looking pretty ragged. But forecasters say conditions are ripe for some re-development as it moves west at 10 mph. They give Gaston a 40 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm in the next 48 hours.
Finally, just coming off the coast of West Africa is yet another stormy system. Some slow development seems possible, forecasters said. They give this one a 20 percent chance of becoming a named storm in the next two days.
Other than that? Very calm.
(AP PHOTOS: Rob Carr in Ocean City)
Hurricane Earl, weakened to a 105-mph Cat. 2 storm, passed about 80 miles off Cape Hatteras early this morning and began its expected trek up the East Coast toward New England, angling even farther away from the Demarva shores. Peak winds at Hatteras' Mitchell Field overnight rose to 35 mph, with gusts to 62. Nearly 3 inches of rain were recorded.
Winds were beginning to pick up in Ocean City, where the winds just before 7 a.m. were clocked at 12 mph out of the northeast, with gusts to 26. The National Weather Service said the resort should expect sustained winds to increase to between 32 and 37 mph later this morning, with tropical-storm-force gusts to 46 mph.
A quarter- to a half-inch of rain is possible before skies begin to clear off this afternoon. But rough surf and dangerous rip currents will continue to make swimming foolhardy until seas calm from today's predicted 15 to 20 feet.
All-in-all, thanks to Earl's offshore track, it looks like the Maryland and Delaware beaches will be spared a seriously destructive storm. And aside from some small craft warnings, the weather in the Baltimore area looks fine. Maryland, for the most part, seems to have dodged another dangerous tropical system.
The Hurricane Watch was discontinued this morning from the Carolina border north to Cape Henlopen Delaware. A Tropical Storm Warning, however, remains in effect on Delmarva, and as far north as Sandy Hook, N.J., and in the Lower Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.
By 8 a.m., forecasters expect that Earl's eye will be located off the Virginia Capes, moving to the north northeast at 18 mph. The atmospheric pressure at the eye was rising, reflecting the slow weakening of the storm as it moves over cooler waters. The forecast storm track would take it to Southeastern Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, where a Hurricane Warning remained in effect. Gusts to 85 mph were forecast tonight for Nantucket.
From there, Earl is expected to move quickly toward Nova Scotia and the Canadian Maritime Provinces.
Here's a pretty nice picture of Hurricane Earl taken this afternoon by a NOAA satellite.
It shows the storm's spiral clouds bearing down on the Outer Banks, with the outermost clouds now entering Southern Maryland and the Delmarva Peninsula.
The storm's course is still said to be due north, with a turn to the north northeast due Friday. Top sustained winds have dropped to 115 mph, a minimal Cat. 3 storm now
Earl is predicted to be off the Virginia Capes by 8 a.m. Friday.
If you want to track offshore air and water conditions as Earl approaches, you can click on the Diamond Shoals data buoy, off Hatteras. The barometer there has begun to fall sharply ahead of the storm. It's slipping here, too.
And here's how things are looking on the Outer Banks.
The National Hurricane Center is reporting at 2 p.m. Thursday that Hurricane Earl's top sustained winds have slowed to near 125 mph as it continues to spin north toward a brush with North Carolina's Outer Banks.
Hurricane Warnings are posted for the North Carolina coast, and for Southeastern Massachusetts, from Westport, around Cape Cod and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket to Hull, on the south side of Boston Harbor.
A Hurricane Watch remains in place for the mid-Atlantic coast from the Virginia/N.C. line to Cape Henlopen, Del., and for parts of Nova Scotia.
A Tropical Storm Warning is in place from the N.C/Va. line to Sandy Hook, N.J., including Delaware Bay and the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay.
Earl was expected to contune to weaken as wind shear and cooler waters take their toll. But it is likely to remain a dangerous storm as it nears the Carolina coast and Delmarva Peninsula, forecasters said. Hurricane-force winds extend 90 miles from the eye of the storm. tropical-storm-force winds extend as far as 230 miles from the center.
The coastal regions of the Eastern Shore are expected to see the worst of Earl's power. Tropical-storm-force winds may be felt as soon as late tonight or early Friday morning. The forecast for Ocean City calls for east winds to increase to 17 to 22 mph late tonight, and 33 to 43 mph Friday, with gusts to 55 mph.
Battering waves could rise to 18 feet, with a storm surge of 3 to 5 feet in the lower Chesapeake Bay. Rainfall at the resorts could total 1 to 2 inches.
The forecast for the Baltimore area for tonight and Friday remains pleasant.
At 2 p.m. Thursday, Earl's center was reported to be 245 miles south of Cape Hatteras, moving to the north at 18 mph. Here is the latest advisory on Earl. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space.
Hurricane Earl continued on a northward course Thursday that should put the Cat. 4 storm off the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay by 8 a.m. Friday. Forecasters say the storm will begin to weaken, but its wind field will expand.
That might account for the increase in wind speeds forecast for Ocean City Thursday night and Friday. National Weather Service forecasters in Wakefield, Va. now say the Maryland resort should prepare for east winds to increase to between 17 and 22 mph tonight, with gusts to 28 mph.
On Friday, forecasters said, winds at the resorts should swing around to the north as the storm pulls abreast of the Delmarva Peninsula, increasing to between 33 and 43 mph, with tropical-storm-force gusts to 55 mph. As much as an inch of rain is forecast for Ocean City during the period. The chances the resort will experience tropical-storm force winds during the storm were put at 59 percent.
Rough surf and dangerous currents are a given, as battering waves rise to a predicted 14 to 18 feet. (Baltimore's forecast, by the way, remains just fine.)
A Tropical Storm Warning and Hurricane Watch remain in effect for the Maryland and Delaware costs and the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay.
The brunt of Hurricane Earl's power is expected to be felt in eastern North Carolina, and in southeastern Massachusetts, where Hurricane Warnings are posted. Nantucket Island is being warned to expect winds of 80 mph and gusts to 105 Friday night.
At 11 a.m., the center of Hurricane Earl was located about 300 miles south of Cape Hatteras, moving to the north at 18 mph. An increase in speed and a turn to the north northeast were both expected on Friday. The storm's top sustained winds were estimated at 140 mph. A slow weakening is expected as the storm moves into a region of increased wind shear and cooler waters.
A powerful and dangerous Hurricane Earl continued to steam toward the North Carolina Outer Banks early Thursday, with winds strengthening to 145 mph overnight. A Hurricane Watch and Tropical Storm Warnings are posted for all of the Maryland and Delaware Atlantic coastline.
If forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are right, the Cat. 4 storm's center, and its most dangerous effects, will stay offshore as the storm track curves gradually to the northeast and toward southeastern New England.
Weather service forecasters in Wakefield, Va. expect weather conditions in Ocean City will begin to deteriorate today, with winds peaking late Thursday and Friday between 29 and 34 mph, with gusts to 44 mph.
Here's more of the Tropical Storm Warning posted for the Delmarva region:
"OVER THE TIDEWATER REGION ALONG SOUTHERN CHESAPEAKE BAY...STORM SURGE
VALUES EXPECTED TO PEAK BETWEEN 1.5 AND 3 FEET DURING HIGH TIDE
FRIDAY AFTERNOON...WHICH WOULD RESULT IN MINOR TO MODERATE COASTAL
FLOODING. NEITHER EXCESSIVE RAINFALL NOR TORNADOES ARE EXPECTED TO
POSE A THREAT TO THE WARNED AREAS. PERIODS OF HEAVY RAIN ARE
EXPECTED TO BRING BETWEEN 1 AND 2 INCHES OF TOTAL RAINFALL OVER
MOST OF THE WARNED AREAS..."
The weather service is also warning of dangerous surf conditions and rip currents, with large battering waves rising to between 14 and 18 feet on Friday as the storm passes. Beach erosion and overwash is most likely farther south.
Back here in the Baltimore and Washington areas, Earl is not expected to be a factor. The Baltimore forecast calls for sunny to partly cloudy conditions, with no rain and only light breezes.
There are some advisories up. Coastal Flood Advisories are up for the western shore of the Chesapeake, and the tidal Potomac, as winds out of the south and a falling barometer ahead of Earl raise high tide levels in the bay one foot above normal today, and 1 to 3 feet above normal on Friday. Here are some high tide times for Maryland:
"ON THE CHESAPEAKE BAY...
HAVRE DE GRACE...4:26 AM AND 4:25 PM...
BOWLEY BAR...2:03 PM AND 3:04 AM...
FORT MCHENRY BALTIMORE...1:12 PM AND 2:13 AM...
ANNAPOLIS U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY...11:42 AM AND 12:43 AM...
CHESAPEAKE BEACH...10:25 AM AND 11:26 PM...
SOLOMONS ISLAND...8:34 AM AND 9:35 PM...
POINT LOOKOUT...7:44 AM AND 8:45 PM..."
It all sounds reassuring. But that's when forecasters issue this reminder:
"CONFIDENCE IS INCREASING THAT
EARL SHOULD FOLLOW SUCH A TRACK THAT MINIMIZES THE IMPACT HERE.
HOWEVER...ANY SIGNIFICANT WESTWARD SHIFT IN TRACK WOULD WORSEN THE
IMPACT ON THE AREA. PLEASE REFER TO THE LATEST STATEMENTS FROM THE
NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER FOR DETAILED INFORMATION ON EARL.
Here is the latest forecast advisory on Earl. Here is the forecast storm track. Here is the view from orbit.
As if we needed more headaches from the tropics ... The National Hurricane Center has begun watching a new tropical depression in the Atlantic.
Dubbed Tropical Depression 9 for now, the stormy area was located 800 miles west southwest of the Cape Verde Islands - the same region where Earl (and Tropical Storm Fiona) formed last week. The new storm was moving to the west at 15 mph with top sustained winds of 35 mph.
UPDATE 5 p.m. Wednesday: TD9 has graduated to tropical storm status. It is, officially, Gaston. Earlier post resumes below.
Forecasters said the storm was expected to strengthen, and is likely to become a named tropical storm in 48 hours. If so, it would become Tropical Storm Gaston - the seventh named storm of the season.
The National Hurricane Center has posted a Hurricane Watch for the Maryland and Delaware coastal counties. That means hurricane conditions - winds of 74 mph or higher - are possible there within 48 hours.
Forecasters have also issued Hurricane Warnings for the Outer Banks, from Surf City, N.C. north to the Virginia border. The warning means hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours.
The Hurricane Watch extends from the North Carolina/Virginia border north to Cape Henlopen in Delaware.
Hurricane Earl was located 725 miles south southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C. It was moving toward the continues to track northwest at 17 mph. Top sustaiend winds were estimated at 125 mph, making this a "major" Category 3 hurricane. The Hurricane Center said:
"EARL IS A LARGE HURRICANE. HURRICANE FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP
TO 90 MILES...150 KM...FROM THE CENTER...AND TROPICAL STORM FORCE
WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 200 MILES...325 KM."
Hurricane Earl, still on track to sweep the U.S. East Coast from North Carolina northward starting Thursday night, was downgraded slightly this morning to a strong Cat. 3 hurricane.
Top sustained winds near the center of the storm were still blowing at 125 mph. Earl's center was located 815 miles south southeast of Cape Hatteras, moving to the northwest at 16 mph.
The forecast storm track would put Earl off the Outer Banks at 2 a.m. Friday, still at "major" Cat. 3 power.
One of the forecast computer models, shown in the map from Weather Underground at left, sends the storm ashore near Wilmington and north directly across Delmarva.
Hurricane Watches, already posted for the Outer Banks, from Surf City, N.C. to the Virginia border, were extended overnight to include the Virginia coastline to Parramore Island on the Virginia portion of the Eastern Shore.
Here's the forecast for Ocean City, where tropical storm conditions are possible late Thursday and Friday.
The Hurricane Watch means hurricane conditions - with winds of 74 mph or higher - were possible within 36 hours.
Here is the latest advisory on Earl.
Here is the forecast storm track.
And here is the view from orbit.
The National Hurricane Center has posted a Hurricane Watch for North Carolina's Outer Banks, including Pamlico and Albemarle sounds, as powerful Hurricane Earl heads toward the barrier islands.
The watch extends from north of Surf City to the Virginia/North Carolina border. A Tropical Storm Watch was issued for the N.C. coast from Cape Fear to Surf City.
Earl's center was located about 1,000 miles south southeast of Cape Hatteras, moving to the northwest at 14 mph. Top sustained winds remained at 135 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend outward 90 miles from the center. Tropical-storm-force winds extend for 200 miles.
A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions - winds of 74 mph or more - are possible within 36 hours. A Tropical Storm Watch means tropical storm conditions (winds 39-73 mph) are possible within 48 hours.
Hurricane Earl (seen in this video from the International Space Station) continues to pull away from the Northern Leeward Islands today, with no slackening of its 135-mph, Cat. 4 winds. What hurricane watchers are focused on now is just where the surrounding weather systems will send the storm as it begins to accelerate toward Cape Hatteras and the rest of the U.S. East Coast north of the Outer Banks.
A jog to the east could mean fair, if blustery, weather and rough surf along the coast. A tilt to the west could bring serious winds, rain and waves to the North Carolina coast and points north.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm's center was 1,000 miles south southeast of Cape Hatteras at mid-afternoon, moving to the west northwest at 14 mph. Forecasters said a Hurricane Watch may be posted late today for portions of the mid-Atlantic coast.
From here, Earl's path will be steered by high pressure - the Bermuda High - to the east, and a cold front approaching from the Great Lakes. If the cold front slows and is late in arriving, Earl could veer farther west and pound the coast by week's end, as one model predicts (yellow track on map). If it picks up speed, or high pressure over the ocean drifts farther out to sea, the storm could head north and east with little direct impact on the shoreline.
These and other factors are considered by Eric the Red as the professional forecaster from Baltimore (familiar to WeatherBlog readers from last winter's blizzard coverage) assesses the hazards we'll face as Earl draws near:
Beach-goers should expect cloudy, breezy and showery weather to greet them Friday when they step out for the day in Ocean City. Unless the forecast changes in the coming days, Hurricane Earl is expected to pass well off the resort's beaches. The rest of the weekend looks fine, with sunny skies and highs near 80 degrees.
But there may be plenty of action in the surf until the storm departs, with rough waves and increased danger from rip currents facing anyone contemplating a dip in the Atlantic. A "moderate" rip current risk was already posted for the beaches on Tuesday.
The National Hurricane Center said late Tuesday morning that Earl continued to move away from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Heavy rains, battering waves and tropical-storm-force winds were all forecast to diminish today in the U.S. possessions as the storm continued to depart.
Those same hazards were expected to increase farther west in the Turks & Caicos Islands, where a Tropical Storm Warning was posted. A Tropical Storm Watch was issued for the eastern Bahamas.
At 11 a.m. EDT, Earl's center was located 200 miles east of Grand Turk Island, moving to the west northwest at 14 mph. Maximum sustained winds were estimated at 135 mph, with higher gusts. Earl remains a Category 4 hurricane.
The forecast track at 11 a.m. shows a Cat. 3 Earl off Delmarva by 8 a.m. Friday, accelerating toward the north northeast. The National Hurricane Center estimates a 28 percent chance that Ocean City will experience 34-knot winds (39 mph) or higher by late Thursday or early Friday.
The Ocean City forecast from the NWS forecast office in Wakefield, Va., calls for "mostly cloudy and breezy" weather Thursday night, with a 40 percent chance of showers, continuing until noon Friday, when the storm is forecast to pull away to the northeast. The balance of the holiday looks great at the shore.
For those of us stuck here in the Baltimore area, the forecast is all clear for the long weekend, with sunny weather and highs dropping from the low 90s into the low 80s.
This morning's forecast from the National Hurricane Center continues to keep Hurricane Earl off the mid-Atlantic coast when it arrives there on Friday. None of the forecast computer models bring the storm's center to a direct landfall.
There is also some indication that, as the storm moves into increased wind shear, and over cooler waters, its strength is likely to diminish from the dangerous 135-mph, Category 4 rating it holds Tuesday morning.
Even so, forecasters are advising interests along the U.S. East Coast from Cape Hatteras to New England to continue to monitor Earl as the storm pulls away from the Northern Leeward Islands. Strong surf and dangerous rip currents continue to be a real hazard as the weekend approaches.
Earl's center was located this morning about 150 miles north northwest of Puerto Rico, moving to the west northwest at 13 mph. A gradual turn to the northwest was expected today, with that direction continuing through Wednesday.
The forecast storm track carries Earl to a point just off Cape Hatteras by early Friday, and off Delmarva later in the day. Central winds by that point are still expected to retain "major" Cat. 3 power. Successive tracks have seen the storm's most likely path creep slightly to the west.
But the official expectation is that Earl will stay offshore as it runs up the coast, funneled between high pressure spinning clockwise to the storm's east, and a low-pressure trough moving into the northeastern U.S. The latter system is forecast to bring Maryland cooler weather by the weekend, but exactly where the two systems will steer Earl remains unclear:
"SUBTLE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THESE TWO FEATURES WILL BE THE DETERMINING FACTOR...A QUESTION WHICH HAS NOT BEEN SETTLED YET."
The other issue to keep in mind is how broad an area Earl, and its effects, will cover as it tracks up the coast. The National Hurricane Center forecasters say the storm's worst effects will be somewhat limited:
"GUIDANCE KEEPS A TIGHT GRADIENT OF THE TROPICAL SYSTEM/S EFFECTS AS IT MOVES PARALLEL TO
THE COAST...ONCE IT MOVES NORTHEAST OF CAPE HATTERAS. THE WESTERNMOST
EXTENT OF THE TROPICAL EFFECTS WOULD BE LIMITED TO THE COASTAL
AREAS ALONG THE ATLANTIC SHORES FROM THE VA TIDEWATER TO SOUTHERN NEW
That would spare most of Maryland. On the other hand, much of the state could use a hefty does of tropical moisture. If the forecast is correct, only the coastal counties would get the full benefit.
With all eyes on (now 135-mph) Cat. 4 Hurricane Earl, it was easy to miss the arrival of a new tropical storm on the Atlantic stage today. Tropical Storm Fiona made the grade this afternoon, becoming the sixth named storm of the season. It's the gray smudge at the center of this satellite image. (That's Earl at upper left.)
Fiona is following in Earl's tracks. Its center was located about 900 miles east of the Leeward Islands, moving to the west at a brisk 24 mph. It could reach the Northern Leewards by Wednesday. The storm's top sustained winds were estimated at 40 mph. Some strengthening was forecast.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said today that Hurricane Earl has reached "major" (Cat. 3) hurricane status, with top sustained winds at 120 mph. Further strengthening is expected.
UPDATE: Late this afternoon Earl was upgraded again to a Cat. 4 storm, with top sustained winds of 135 mph. More strengthening was expected. The storm was moving away from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Earlier post reumes below.
The storm continues to pose an immediate threat of hurricane-force winds, battering weaves, 3- to 5-foot storm surge and up to a foot of rain to U.S. possessions in the northeast Caribbean, and could brush the U. S. East Coast later this week. Here's how some of the models spread the storm track.
At last check, Earl's center was located about 95 miles east northeast of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was moving toward the west northwest at 15 mph. Here are the watches and warnings in effect late this (Monday) morning:
"A HURRICANE WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* SAINT MARTIN AND SAINT BARTHELEMY
* ST. MAARTEN...SABA...AND ST. EUSTATIUS
* BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
* U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
* PUERTO RICAN ISLANDS OF CULEBRA AND VIEQUES
"A HURRICANE WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* PUERTO RICO
"A TROPICAL STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* ANTIGUA...BARBUDA...MONTSERRAT...ST. KITTS...AND NEVIS
* PUERTO RICO
"A TROPICAL STORM WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS
The storm's forecast track would carry it to the north and west in the next few days. Moving around the western edge of a zone of high pressure in the Atlantic, and east of a low-pressure trough forecast to move off the continent late this week.
The question is where, precisely, those systems will steer the storm, and how close they will allow it to get to the mainland.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say they have had to adjust the track westward several times so far - not good. Then they add this note:
"THIS IS A GOOD TIME TO REMIND EVERYONE THAT NHC AVERAGE TRACK
FORECAST ERRORS ARE 200 TO 300 MILES AT DAYS 4 AND 5. GIVEN THIS
UNCERTAINTY...IT IS TOO SOON TO DETERMINE WHAT PORTION OF THE U.S.
EAST COAST MIGHT SEE DIRECT IMPACTS FROM EARL."
It's also important to note that, even if Earl stays well offshore, it will pass us as a Cat. 3 or 4 storm. Surf conditions at the beaches this weekend will likely be even more dangerous than they were this past weekend, when Ocean City lifeguards had to perform 250 rescues. One swimmer is still missing. And that's just Ocean City. Conditions were similar all along the mid-Atlantic coast.
For more on Earl, check out Foot's Forecast, the student weather service that did so well during last winter's blizzards. They're on the tropical forecast, too, this summer.
The fifth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season is now a hurricane, and the National Hurricane Center's forecast shows Hurricane Earl growing to "major" proportions and making a sweep up the East Coast late this week.
For now, the center of the forecast "cone of uncertainty" keeps the storm well east of a direct landfall. But we seem quite likely to see rough surf and dangerous rip currents at the beaches as we approach the Labor Day weekend.
UPDATE: Strong surf and beach currents from Hurricane Danielle were causing problems at Ocean City this weekend. Earl could well be worse since it is forecast to pass closer to shore.
The hurricane center puts Earl's center less than 200 miles east of the island of Antigua, in the Northern Leewards. It is moving west northwest at 15 mph, with top sustained winds of 75 mph - just above minimal hurricane force. Here are the warnings and watches in effect Sunday afternoon:
A HURRICANE WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* ANTIGUA...BARBUDA...MONTSERRAT...ST. KITTS...NEVIS...AND ANGUILLA
* SAINT MARTIN AND SAINT BARTHELEMY
* ST. MAARTEN...SABA...AND ST. EUSTATIUS
A HURRICANE WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
* U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
* PUERTO RICO INCLUDING THE ISLANDS OF CULEBRA AND VIEQUES
A TROPICAL STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
* U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
* PUERTO RICO INCLUDING THE ISLANDS OF CULEBRA AND VIEQUES
Forecasters say conditions are favorable for further strengthening as Earl approaches the Northern Leewards. The storm is expected to become a major (Cat. 3, 111 mph) storm within 36 hours. Forecasters at Sterling, Va. are now noting that the Baltimore-Washington area will need to keep a watch on the tropical system by the end of the week.
Well, the forecasters called for a busy season in the Atlantic, and that's what they're grappling with today. The graphic below shows wind forecasts for both Danielle (uppermost blob in graphic below) and Earl (lower wind field).
Hurricane Danielle grew to Cat. 4 status overnight, and now packs winds up to 135 mph. The storm is now 480 miles southeast of Bermuda, moving toward the northwest at 12 mph. The forecast track takes Danielle north from here, to pass east of self-governing British overseas territory before turning away to the northeast. But large waves and dangerous surf are forecast for the island.
Some slight strengthening is expected, but Danielle will soon move into cooler waters, which will begin to sap its strength. Even so, forecasters are warning that strong waves and rip currents generated by the storm will reach the mid-Atlantic U.S. coast by this weekend. Be careful in the surf. Here's a bit of the forecast from the Outer Banks:
"NORTHEAST WINDS OF 15 TO 20 KNOTS AND INCREASING SWELLS FROM
DISTANT HURRICANE DANIELLE WILL LEAD TO SEAS BUILDING TO 6 FT SATURDAY
MORNING. THE SEAS WILL PEAK AT 7 TO 9 FEET LATER SUNDAY THEN
SLOWLY DROP BELOW 6 FEET BY MONDAY AFTERNOON."
Next on deck is Tropical Storm Earl. This storm is following Danielle, but on a course taking it a bit farther south and to the left, making it, potentially, a stronger candidate for a run up the East Coast.
Earl was centered this morning 1,300 miles east of the Northern Leeward Islands, moving to the west at 17 mph. Top sustained winds were clocked at 45 mph. Earl is expected to reach hurricane force (74 mph) by Sunday, and eventually reaching "major" (Cat. 3) strength (111 mph or more).
For now, the storm is forecast to miss the Northern Leewards, but, forecasters warned ...
"A DEVIATION TO THE SOUTH OF THE CURRENT FORECAST TRACK COULD BRING
EARL INTO THE NORTHERN LEEWARD ISLANDS. WITH THE WEEKEND
COMING...RESIDENTS IN THESE ISLANDS SHOULD CLOSELY MONITOR THE
PROGRESS OF EARL."
Finally, forecasters are watching another tropical wave just off the coast of West Africa. It is given a 70 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone within the next 48 hours. If so, it would get the name Fiona.
That will mean an increased risk of dangerous rip currents for bathers, but it will also likely attract surfers eager to jump on bigger-than-usual waves.
The word came from a Hazardous Weather Outlook posted today for Dare and Hyde counties on the Outer Banks. So far, there are no similar advisories for Maryland and Delaware beaches, but the marine forecast does show 4- to 5-foot seas by late Sunday.
Danielle remains a Cat. 2 hurricane, now 680 miles southeast of Bermuda. It is not expected to pose a direct threat to the East Coast. Instead, forecasters believe it will veer northward just east of Bermuda. But seas kicked up by the storm's 110-mph winds are expected to be felt on the U.S. coast. The storm is predicted to reach Cat. 3 strength late Thursday or Friday.
Hurricane Danielle continues to move to the northwest across the Atlantic today, but forecasters at the National Hurricane Center expect it will soon be swept to the north and later to the northeast by atmospheric patterns over the ocean. That will carry the storm east of Bermuda and away from any threat to the U.S. East Coast.
Not far behind Danielle, however, Tropical Storm Earl continued to strengthen, and a third storm appeared to be gathering steam off West Africa. If that trend continues, it would become Tropical Storm Fiona.
Danielle was situated about 770 miles southeast of Bermuda this morning, moving to the northwest at 15 mph. The hurricane's top sustained winds were estimated at 105 mph, making it a Cat. 2 storm on the Safir-Simpson scale.
Tropical Storm Earl was located 1,700 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands this morning. It was moving to the west at 17 mph, with top sustained winds of 45 mph. Forecasters said Earl is likely to see continued slow strengthening, and could reach hurricane force by Saturday, and "major" (Cat. 3) hurricane status by early next week.
Finally, to the east of Earl, forecasters are watching another area of stormy weather now moving off West Africa.
Tropical Depression 7 has been upgraded to a full-fledged tropical storm, the fifth of the season, dubbed Earl.
Earl is a minimal storm, with top sustained winds of 40 mph. It is moving west at 16 mph, and is now about 500 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands. Strengthening is expected to continue, with Earl likely to become a Cat. 1 hurricane by Friday.
Forecasters still expect this storm, like Danielle, will pass north of the Lesser Antilles.
As predicted, Danielle (center, photo above) has strengthened enough overnight to regain hurricane status, although top sustained winds remain at just 85 mph, a Cat. 1 storm for now. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say conditions for Danielle should improve in the coming days, allowing the storm to reach "major" (Cat. 3, 111 mph) status before weakening again by the weekend.
The storm poses no immediate threat to any land, and it is forecast to turn toward the north, and away from any encounter with the U.S.
Next up in the Atlantic is Tropical Depression Seven (right, in photo), which is expected to become the season's fifth named storm later today - Earl. The storm is now about 400 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands, moving toward the west at 17 mph, with top sustained winds of 35 mph.
Forecasters see little to inhibit strengthening in the next two or three days, so TD7 is expected to become a hurricane by the weekend. Initial guidance suggests this storm will parallel Danielle's path, steering northwest away from the Lesser Antilles. With luck, it will be a threat only to shipping and fish.
The pace of storm formation is picking up in the waters near the Cape Verde Islands in the eastern tropical Atlantic. Even as a slightly weakened Hurricane Danielle continues to move across the central Atlantic, forecasters are preparing to issue advisories on a new storm brewing off West Africa.
First Danielle. After reaching Cat. 2 strength late yesterday, the storm has been downgraded Tuesday morning to a Cat. 1 storm again, with top sustained winds of just 80 mph. Erosion of the storm's eye wall by an infusion of dry air ended Danielle's acceleration "with a thud," forecasters said.
UPDATE 5:30 p.m.: Danielle was downgraded this afternoon to a tropical storm, with top sustained winds of just 70 mph. But forecasters predicted the demotion would be temporary. Restrengthening to hurricane stature is expected within 48 hours.
The weakening seems to have caught hurricane-watchers by surprise. Here's how they see the storm's immediate future:
"SHIPS GUIDANCE SHOWS WESTERLY TO SOUTHWESTERLY SHEAR INCREASING TO BETWEEN 15 AND 20 KT OVER THE NEXT 24 HOURS OR SO...AND IT IS UNCLEAR HOW WELL DANIELLE WILL BE
ABLE TO MIX OUT THE DRY AIR. ONLY SLOW STRENGTHENING IS INDICATED
IN THE OFFICIAL FORECAST."
For now, they have set aside previous advisories that the storm would reach "major" (Cat. 3) status in the next few days. Although the track has edged a bit farther to the left than expected, Danielle is still expected to make a turn to the north before ever becoming a threat to the East Coast of the U.S. It would pass well east of Bermuda, too.
Not far behind Danielle, the next Cape Verde storm is brewing off West Africa. Forecasters give it a 90 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours. For now, it is a tropical depression about 1,100 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. It is moving west northwest at 15 mph.
The storm system brewing far out in the Atlantic has become the second hurricane of the Atlantic season.
The National Hurricane Center today reported that Hurricane Danielle is now 1,300 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, moving toward the west northwest at 17 mph. Top sustained winds have reached 75 mph.
Danielle is too far out to pose any immediate threat to land. But the storm continues to strengthen and is forecast to become a "major" (Cat. 3) storm by Wednesday, with top winds in excess of 111 mph.
The National Hurricane Center is now tracking a new tropical depression in the Atlantic, and predicts it could become a hurricane as early as Monday. If so, it will be the fourth named storm of the 2010 Atlantic season, and would carry the name Danielle.
UPDATE 5 p.m.: This storm is now, officially, Tropical Storm Danielle. Earlier post resumes below.
The storm - still badly organized - is in the lower left of this water vapor image.
Tropical Depression Six is now located 580 miles west southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, moving to the west northwest at 9 mph. Its top sustained winds are just 30 mph, but the storm is expected to strengthen slowly over the next 48 hours.
Tropical Storm Colin may be weak, and it appears to pose no danger of a U.S. landfall as it passes west of Bermuda this weekend. But the storm is likely to kick up strong surf along Maryland and Delaware beaches.
If you're at the shore, or headed there this weekend, you'll want to see this from the NWS forecast office in Wakefield, Va.:
"THE COMBINATION OF A NORTHEAST WIND FLOW ALONG WITH THE INCREASING
SWELL FROM DISTANT TROPICAL STORM COLIN WILL LIKELY RESULT IN AN
INCREASED THREAT FOR RIP CURRENTS ALONG THE MID ATLANTIC COAST THIS
Here's the forecast for Ocean City.
With only three named storms on the books so far as we move into the traditional August-to-October peak of hurricane activity in the Atlantic, the National Hurricane Center has trimmed the top end of its predictions for hurricane activity during the 2010 season. But not by much.
There is still "a high likelihood the season could be very active, and it has the potential for being one of the more active on record," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, a part of the National Weather Service.
And while he made no predictions on where the storms are most likely to strike the U.S., he did add that "multiple strikes are more likely during the more active seasons, such as could occur this year."
He stressed the need for advance preparations regardless of the outlook. "People need to prepare for each and every hurricane season, regardless of this outlook or any other outlook," Bell said. "It only takes one hurricane to make for a disastrous year."
"It is equally disconcerting that our coastlines have built up considerably in the last few decades, and many more people are not in potential harm's way," he said.
Separately, the Colorado State University forecast team of Phil Klotzbach and William Gray issued their August forecast update. It's unchanged from their June 2 predictions: 18 named storms, of which 10 will become hurricanes, 5 of them reaching Cat. 3 strength. Their forecast includes landfall estimates: a 50 percent chance that a major hurricane will strike the U.S. East Coast, including Florida; a 49 percent chance of a major storm striking the Gulf Coast, and a 64 percent chance of a cat. 3 storm striking in the Caribbean and Central America. All these probabilities are well above the long-term averages.
In a teleconference Thursday, Bell said NOAA's official storm forecast for the 2010 Atlantic season now calls for 14 to 20 named storms (down from 14 to 23 in the NOAA forecast issued in May). Of those, 8 to 12 are expected to become hurricanes (down from 8 to 14). And 4 to 6 of the hurricanes (down from 3 to 7) are predicted to reach "major" force, at Cat. 3 or higher and sustained winds of 111 mph or more.
Three major factors are still in place to generate this high level of storm formation, Bell said. The first is a continuing, multidecadal pattern of high storm activity that began in 1995. "So we're 16 years into an active era that historically lasts 25 to 40 years," he said.
The second is a pattern of record-high sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean. Those temperatures are currently running 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit above average. "The previous record warm year is 2005," Bell said.
Bell didn't point this out, but 2005 brought us Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (satellite image, top), and ended with a record 27 named strorms. In fact, the NHC ran out of names that season and had to employ Greek alphabet letters for the last six tropical storms, two of which became hurricanes.
The third factor Bell cited is the strengthening of the La Nina conditions in the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean. La Ninas tend to change wind patterns in the tropical Atlantic in ways that weaken the high-altitude winds that otherwise tend to cut off tropical storm development.
So far this season, there have been three tropical storms, only one of which has reached hurricane strength. Hurricane Alex went ashore in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula (photo above) as a tropical storm on June 27, and again in northeast Mexico on June 30 as a Cat. 2 hurricane.
Tropical Storm Bonnie crossed the southern tip of Florida on July 23 with little impact. And Tropical Storm Colin weakened in the mid-Atlantic earlier this week. Remnants of the storm (satellite image, left) continue to cross the Atlantic. They are given a 50 percent chance of regaining tropical storm strength in the next 48 hours.
(PHOTO: Middle photo: Matamoros, Mex., by Adrian Del Angel/Agence France Press/Getty Images)
Forecasters keeping watch over now-Tropical Storm Colin don't see much chance that the storm will strengthen into a hurricane. And any impact on the U.S. East Coast would seem to be limited mostly to heavy surf.
UPDATE 5:30 p.m.: Tropical Storm Colin has fallen apart. The National Hurricane Center is now calling it a "remnant low," that is expected to weaken in the coming days. Earlier post continues below.
The morning line on Colin is that the storm is having considerable trouble holding itself together. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said that Colin "has a very ragged appearance this morning." The closed circulation they saw Monday seems to have broken down, and the storm is encountering some shearing winds out of the west, which are putting a drag on further strengthening.
That said, Colin (center right in the NASA photo at right) is now about 800 miles east southeast of the Leeward Islands, moving toward the west at a brisk 24 mph. Top sustained winds are around 40 mph. There are no tropical storm watches or warnings up yet anywhere. But people with interests in the Northern Leewards and the Virgin Islands have been advised to monitor the storm's progress.
The storm track posted for Colin would take it north of Puerto Rico, with a slow turn toward the northwest, and then the north. That would bring it somewhere between Bermuda and the South Carolina coast by Sunday. Some slow strengthening is expected, eventually. But, for now, the Hurricane Center does not express much confidence that the storm could become even a Cat. 1 hurricane (73 mph) before then.
If Colin does hold itself together through all this, residents and vacationers along the East Coast can probably expect to see some impact on surf conditions as the storm moves east of the beaches next week. Heavy surf and rip currents are the most likely effects.
And depending on the storm's path, they could see some clouds and showers, too. That would be a boon to Maryland's Lower Eastern Shore, which is in moderate to severe drought. That's an outcome we could root for.
Alternatively, the hurricane forecasters say, "Colin could degenerate to an open wave due to a combination of its rapid motion and westerly shear."
The National Hurricane Center has upgraded that stormy region in the tropical Atlantic to tropical depression status, with a 90 percent chance that it will become the season's third named Atlantic storm, perhaps late today. If so, it will become Tropical Storm Colin. For now, it's just Tropical Depression #4, or TD 4.
Storm trackers said TD4 is now 1,300 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, moving to the west northwest at 17 mph. Top sustained winds are just below tropical storm force, at 35 mph. Further strengthening is expected, but it does not appear headed for hurricane status anytime soon.
The storm is in pretty warm waters, just what's needed to keep it fueled. Here's a map of sea surface temperatures across the Atlantic.
Hard to imagine that Gulf Coast residents are too impressed, or worried by what's left of Tropical Storm Bonnie.
The National Hurricane Center has downgraded the storm to a tropical depression again, and Tropical Storm Warnings along the coast have been discontinued. Gulf Coast residents have weathered this sort of stuff many times. Considering what else they've had to deal with in recent years, this can't be a biggie.
But I expect people in northern Louisiana are looking forward to the rain. They are in extreme drought at the moment - the red zone on the map at left.
Tropical Storm Bonnie, the second named storm of the 2010 season, was packing sustained winds of 40 mph this morning as it moved onto the coast of Southeast Florida.
The minimal tropical storm was expected to cross South Florida and re-emerge in the Gulf of Mexico late tonight and Saturday morning. After crossing the northern Gulf, the storm was forecast to approach the Gulf Coast of Louisiana late on Saturday.
Forecasters don't think Bonnie will reach hurricane strength. But South Florida and the Keys were warned to expect tropical-storm-force winds today and heavy rain - as much as 5 inches in some locations.
Tropical Storm Warnings are up for the northern Gulf Coast, from Destin, Fla. to Morgan City, La., including Lake Pontchartrain.
The National Hurricane Center says the stormy region that's been dumping heavy rain on Puerto Rico in recent days has become the third tropical depression of the 2010 Atlantic season. It appears headed through the Florida Straits toward the Gulf coasts of Louisiana and/or Texas in the coming days.
That will make it problematic for the thousands of boats and crew members working to secure the BP Deepwater Horizon well, drill the two relief wells and scoop up as much spilled crude as they can. Then there are the thousands deployed across the region on hundreds of other oil rigs.
On the other hand, northern Louisiana badly needs the rain.
TD-3, now in the Bahamas, is expected to become the second named tropical storm of the season, earning the name Bonnie when its sustained winds reach 39 mph.
Tropical Storm Warnings have already been posted for the southern tip of Florida, including the Florida Keys and Florida Bay.
That means tropical storm conditions are expected there within 36 hours.
A region of thunderstorms and soaking rains near Puerto Rico appears to be getting better organized. Hurricane forecasters now say there's a 60 percent chance the disturbance will become the region's second named tropical storm - Bonnie - within 48 hours. Forecasters said:
"ALTHOUGH THE SYSTEM DOES NOT YET HAVE A CLOSED CIRCULATION...
SATELLITE IMAGERY SUGGESTS THAT A SURFACE LOW PRESSURE AREA IS
BECOMING BETTER DEFINED JUST NORTH OF THE EASTERN TIP OF
HISPANIOLA. ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED TO BE FAVORABLE
FOR ADDITIONAL DEVELOPMENT AS THE SYSTEM MOVES WEST-NORTHWESTWARD
AT ABOUT 10 MPH DURING THE NEXT DAY OR SO.
"REGARDLESS OF DEVELOPMENT...
LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL AND GUSTY WINDS WILL LIKELY AFFECT THE
VIRGIN ISLANDS...PUERTO RICO...THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC...HAITI...
EASTERN CUBA...THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS...AND THE SOUTHEASTERN
BAHAMAS DURING THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS."
If this does become Tropical Storm Bonnie, the name may stir up memories of other storms by that name. A Hurricane Bonnie in 1986 made landfall in Texas, where three deaths were blamed on the storm and damages totaled $2 million. The storm dropped as much as 13 inches of rain and spawned 11 tornadoes.
Another Hurricane Bonnie made landfall in North Carolina in 1998 as a Category 3 storm. It packed 100 mph winds and 11 inches of rain. Total damage was estimated at $1 billion.
The most recent Bonnie was a tropical storm in 2004 (the name lists are recycled every 6 years). It crossed the Florida peninsula from west to east - the first of five landfalls in Florida that season - then ran up the East Coast without causing much of a problem.
For the moment, though, this latest storm is mostly just a big rain-maker. Here's the forecast for San Juan.
Here's AccuWeather.com's take on the storm. They expect it will give Florida a good soaking by the end of the week.
Hurricane forecasters are watching two areas of stormy weather in the tropics. Neither one is given much chance of developing into a tropical storm in the next 48 hours - just 20 percent. But they are expected to produce plenty of gusty winds and heavy rain for islands in their path, including Haiti.
The first disturbance is located near the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. It was stirring up showers and thunderstorms as it drifted west-northwest at 10 to 15 mph. Gusty winds and locally heavy rains were forecast for the northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where hundreds of thousands of people displaced by last winter's earthquake remain in flimsy shelters.
The second area of stormy weather is located in the central and western Caribbean Sea. It was moving westward at 10 to 15 mph with showers and thunderstorms, but posed no immediate threat to major land masses. Stay tuned.
The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season is up and running today as Tropical Storm Alex gathers strength in the western Caribbean Sea. The storm appears to be headed for Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, and from there into the western Gulf of Mexico.
We don't wish this storm on anyone, but at least a more westerly track will keep the worst of the storm's effects away from the many ships working in the northeastern gulf to contain the BP oil well blowout. Can't imagine what would happen if they had to leave the area and allow the well to spew freely until the weather clears.
Alex has top sustained winds this morning of 40 mph. It is headed west-northwest at 8 mph. The storm is packing rains that could total 4 to 8 inches, which would pose a threat of flooding and mudslides once it makes landfall.
That stormy region in the western Caribbean was getting better organized and gaining strength Friday and forecasters now give it a 70 percent chance of becoming the Atlantic season's first named tropical storm - Alex - within 48 hours.
UPDATE: Chances are now put at 80 percent that this storm will become a tropical storm within 48 hours, and maybe sooner.
Designated 93L, the storm was located between the northeast coast of Honduras and Grand Cayman Island. Surface pressures were falling - a sign of strengthening - and upper level winds were becoming more friendly to further development.
Computer models disagree on where the storm would go from there. Some take it west northwest toward the Yucatan and Mexico's northeast coast. Others send it more to the north, across the region where BP is trying to stop its oil well blowout, and coastal residents are laboring to keep oil off their shores.
An Air Force reconnaissance plane was scheduled to fly into the storm later today to gather more data on its development.
Also on the satellite images this morning is a second region of stormy weather. This one is in the Atlantic, just north east of the northern Leeward Islands. It's pretty disorganized, and forecasters say any development will be slow. They give it just a 10 percent chance of becoming a named tropical storm within the next 48 hours. It's headed northwest and should be no threat to land for some time.
Chances that a stormy region in the Caribbean will get organized and strengthen to tropical storm force appear to be growing today. The National Hurricane Center gives the weather in the region a 40 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next two days, up from near zero a few days ago.
For now, it's still a rather disorganized patch of thunderstorms affecting portions of Hispaniola, Jamaica and Cuba, as well as the Cayman Islands. But ...
"Upper-level winds are expected to become more conducive for deverlopment of this system as it moves westward or west-northwestward around 10 mph over the next couple of days," the NHC said. "There is a medium chance (40 percent) of this system becoming a tropoical cyclone during the next 48 hours."
In the meantime, AccuWeather.com forecaster Joe Bastardi has said, "The lid is about to pop off our first Atlantic threat of the season." He believes steering winds could bring the storm - if it forms - into the Gulf of Mexico by early next week. Gulf waters are very warm, so that would not be good news for those working to get the BP well under control, or to clear the beaches and marshlands of oil.
Bastardi recently revised upward his early forecast for the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. From the 16 to 18 named storms he forecast back in March, he has boosted his estimate to 18 to 21 storms. That puts him more in line with NOAA's May forecast of 14-23 named storms.
The Atlantic storm that hurricane forecasters have been watching as, potentially, the first tropical storm of the Atlantic season, appeared to be weakening this morning.
The National Hurricane Center again lowered its estimate of the chances for this storm, labeled 92L, to become a topical storm within the next 48 hours, to 30 percent. Showers and thunderstorms in the region of the low-pressure center were thinning out. And downstream, conditions for redevelopment were becoming less favorable.
Satellite images (left) seemed to show a vaguely recognizable spiral shape to the clouds in the region. But the infrared images made it evident that the highest and coldest cloud tops were disappearing, an indication of diminishing thunderstorms at the center of the low.
Seems we (and Haiti, and the Gulf) have dodged this bullet.
Hurricane forecasters are watching a stormy area in the Atlantic that could become the season's first tropical storm - Alex. The low-pressure center is currently far from any land mass, more than 1,400 miles east southeast of the Windward Islands of the Caribbean.
But conditions in the region are favorable for further development, forecasters said. And they give the storm a 60 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm during the next 48 hours. The disturbed weather is moving towatd the west northwest at 15 mph.
UPDATE 2 p.m. EDT: Forecasters this afternoon have reduced, to 40 percent, their estimate of this system's chances to become a tropical storm in the next few days.
Hurricane forecasters across the board have predicted a very active hurricane season in the Atlantic this year. They point to record-high sea surface temperatures in area of the Atlantic where many storms are born, and to developing La Nina conditions in the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean, which allows favorable wind conditions to develop in the Atlantic.
(An earlier version of this post stated "developing El Nino conditions" would contribute to an active hurricane season. The blogger regrets the error.)
The remnants of the NE Pacific's first tropical storm of the season, Agatha, are given little chance of quick redevelopment over the western Caribbean Sea. Conditions over the Gulf of Mexico are said to be even less conducive to storm formation at the moment.
Here's the latest from the National Hurricane Center on Agatha's prospects:
"INTERMITTENT SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS IN THE NORTHWESTERN CARIBBEAN
SEA EAST OF THE YUCATAN PENINSULA ARE ASSOCIATED WITH THE REMNANTS
OF PACIFIC TROPICAL STORM AGATHA. UPPER-LEVEL WINDS...PARTICULARLY
TO THE NORTH OF THE SYSTEM IN THE GULF OF MEXICO...ARE NOT
CONDUCIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT AND THERE IS A LOW CHANCE...10
PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS. THIS SYSTEM IS EXPECTED TO MOVE LITTLE OVER THE
NEXT DAY OR SO."
But while Agatha poses only a slight risk to the Gulf, it has already wreaked havoc over parts of Central America, with 140 reported dead and scores more missing in the affected countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico.
Torrential rains have caused landslides and a rather stupendous sinkhole in Guatemala City (photo, above).
"Tropical moisture from Agatha's remnants was already reaching South Florida Tuesday morning. Locally heavy showers and thunderstorms already reportedly caused minor urban flooding in the southwest Miami metro area by mid-morning after 3 to 5 inches of rain fell."
(PHOTO: Reuters/Casa Presidencial handout)
It's the beginning of the hurricane season in the north eastern Pacific Ocean, too, and it's off to a tragic start as remnants of Tropical Storm Agatha continue to drench parts of Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador with up to 20 inches of rain. At least 16 people have died and 69,000 have been evacuated amid the torrential rains and resulting landslides.
In contrast with the Atlantic, the eastern Pacific is expected to have a quiet season this year, with forecasters giving the region a 75 percent chance of a below-normal number of tropical storms forming, and a 10 percent chance of only a normal season. Forecasters cite ongoing multi-decadal cycles that are suppressing storm formation in the region, and the expected neutral or La Nina phase of the Pacific cycle of seas-surface temperatures.
Those are some of the same reasons why predictions for the Atlantic basin call for an active to extremely active season this year. While La Ninas tend to suppress tropical storm formation in the Pacific, the long-distance atmospheric patterns they set up tend to take the brakes off storm formation in the Atlantic. And, the Atlantic remains in its own multi-decadal cycle which, since 1995, has stimulated above-normal storm formation there.
Just about everybody who makes seasonal hurricane forecasts in the spring has made one for the 2010 Atlantic season, which opens, officially, on June 1 and runs through November.
And they're all calling for an "active season." That's because the El Nino event that suppressed storm formation last seaosn is gone, and is likely to be replace dby La Nina, which takes the brakes off storm formation in the Atlantic.
There are also some record warm sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic this season. And, we remain in the middle of a multi-decadal cycle of air pressure and water temperature factors in the Atlantic that have made for above-average storm activity in the Atlantic basin since 1995.
Here's a rundown of some major forecasters' predictions for 2010:
Organization Named storms Hurricanes "Major" (Cat. 3 or higher)
AccuWeather.com: 16-18 10 4
Colorado State U.: 15 8 4
NOAA: 14-23 8-14 3-7
NC State Univ.: 14-19 7-11
WeatherBug: 12-17 6-9 4
Average: 9.6 5.9 2.3
Jeff Masters, at WeatherUnderground, has posted a detailed discussion of what might happen when a hurricane boils up over the Gulf of Mexico this summer and barrels through the big BP oil slick. It's not a pretty picture:
"One of the more unnerving prospects to consider if a hurricane hits the oil spill is what the hurricane's storm surge might do with the oil/dispersant mixture. The foul mix would ride inland on top of the surge, potentially fouling residential areas and hundreds of square miles of sensitive ecosystems with the toxic stew.
"The impacts of the oil and dispersant on vegetation may be too low to cause significant damage, since the hurricane would dilute the mixture with a large amount of sea water, and wash much of the toxic brew off the vegetation with heavy rain."
Yes, but ... There's more. Read it here.
(PHOTO: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)
The National Hurricane Center has issued a statement noting the development of an area of bad weather northeast of the Bahamas. The gale, moving slowly toward the north northwest, has a 30-to-50-percent chance of developing into the Atlantic season's first tropical storm, officials said. Here's the satellite loop. And here's more from the hurricane center:
"A NON-TROPICAL LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM CENTERED ABOUT 500 MILES
SOUTH-SOUTHWEST OF BERMUDA IS PRODUCING A LARGE AREA OF
DISORGANIZED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS OVER THE SOUTHWESTERN
ATLANTIC OCEAN ALONG WITH GALE-FORCE WINDS. THIS LOW IS EXPECTED
TO MOVE SLOWLY TOWARD THE NORTH-NORTHWEST AND HAS SOME POTENTIAL
TO GRADUALLY ACQUIRE SUBTROPICAL OR TROPICAL CHARACTERISTICS DURING
THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS. THERE IS A MEDIUM CHANCE...30
PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A SUBTROPICAL OR TROPICAL CYCLONE
DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS."
If so, the bad weather could begin to pose the risk of rough surf and rip currents along the southeastern U.S. coastline in the week ahead. Cruise ships leaving Baltimore and points north with destinations in Bermuda or the Caribbean might also encounter bad weather and rough seas en route.
AccuWeather.com's Joe Bastardi thinks the storm will stay offshore, wandering around off the Carolinas for a time before heading east and out to sea. But he says it will likely send gales and showers onshore.
Those faithful readers who were with us during the blizzards of 2009-2010 will remember our intrepid contributor, Eric the Red. The professional meteorologist from Baltimore helped keep us abreast of coastal lows and negative NAOs and other winter terrors about to be visited upon Central Maryland.
Well, Eric is back, and this time he's got his eye on the tropics, and what he sees could be our first taste of the 2010 hurricane season. Or not. Time will tell. Anyway, on Wednesday, he says...
"...my eyes were drawn to a disturbed area of weather along an old frontal boundary in the Florida Straits. Well, now it's Friday, and that area of disturbed weather has shifted east, and is now located to the east-northeast of the Bahamas... (upper right on satellite map)
"OK, cool... should just scootch off and out to sea ... Wooo Haaa Haaaa haaaaa......
"Remember our "negative" NAO... the blocking high over the nrn Atlantic? Yup, the thing that kept blocking all the storms and gave us 3 blizzards and 2 close calls. Well... it's baaaack. And as it builds and strengthens, it will prevent our whatever-it-is to the east of the Bahamas from escaping out to sea. So, this way early heads up is being sent.
"It appears that as upper-level winds become more favorable, a tropical storm or hybrid version of one will begin to take shape early next week. This system will be pushed slowly to the west and northwest by the blocking high, and would likely begin to impact portions of the central and southern Ataltnic Coast by mid to late next week (Weds-Fri).
"Most models take it toward the central North Carolina coast. At this point, it's something to watch and note. Don't ask me now if it's gonna impact your Memorial Day beach weekend cos you be at the Surf 'N Sands Condo on 132nd, 3rd floor Ocean Front (2nd door down on the left from the elevator). I haven't a clue. But this is the time of year when old frontal boundaries can generate tropical storms, and this one fits the bill. I'm sure there are lots of folks with plans, so I'll keep ya posted. - E."
AccuWeather.com also sees a tropical threat to the southeast coast next week.
AccuWeather.com's Joe Bastardi has released his spring hurricane forecast to those of us who won't pay for his company's pricier services, which made it available weeks ago. "It's a big year coming up," he told me in an interview Tuesday morning. Here's the link to the story we posted today. It will run Wednesday in print.
Readers are already yawning at the predictions. "We hear the same prediction every year," they say. Or, "Why should we believe them? They can't even predict the weather for the Preakness on Saturday."
Well, actually, near-term weather forecasts are now quite reliable. Saturday should be sunny for the Preakness. Long-term hurricane forecasts are less so. But the challenge is greater.
And it is true that hurricane season forecasters have been repeating themselves a lot in recent years. That's partly because we are in an active phase of the multi-decadal Atlantic cycle. It began in 1995, and we have seen more active hurricane seasons most years since then, compared with the long-term averages. So we can expect them to call for an "active" season quite frequently until the decadal cycle shifts.
It's also true that the same forecasters found themselves backpedaling on last season's forecasts for another active season. That's because the Pacific was heating up last summer, moving into a moderate El Nino, which tends to suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic.
So the spring forecasts were too high. In March, AccuWeather.com called for 13 named storms, cutting that to 10 in May as the El Nino numbers came in. In April, the team at Colorado State University predicted 12. WeatherBug said we'd see 11 to 13. And in May, NOAA predicted 9 to 14.
In the end, we saw only 9 named storms, just a shade below the long-term averages. There were only 3 hurricanes in 2009, roughly half the long-term average. Two of those became "major" (Cat. 3 or higher) storms, a bit below the average of 2.3. It was blessedly quiet in the tropics.
Forecasts can miss their target, and Bastardi freely admits it. "In 2007 I was wrong," he said. "I thought it would be a big year in Florida. Instead, all the [storm] tracks went south and east of Florida." He ticked off a couple of other forecast "busts."
Bastardi had the right idea about this past winter, warning last fall we'd see the coldest, snowiest winter in these parts since 2002-2003. And he was right about the snow, except that it was WAY snowier than even his forecast of 25 inches at BWI. (We got a record-shattering 77 inches. Our average at BWI is 18 inches.) And, he expected that the most snow would fall in January and February. He got the February part right, but January saw few flakes, and he didn't anticipate the big December storm.
But hey, these are forecasts. Informed guesses. They are not the TV listings. We shouldn't rely on them for their precision, but consider them fair warning. Bastardi's hurricane forecast, and those that will follow in the coming weeks, should be reminders that these storms are very real, and potentially terrible possibilities. We need to consider them in our planning and preparations (thinking of a September cruise?), and pay attention when real storms appear on the horizon.
And if the direst forecasts fizzle, we should celebrate.
(TOP: AP Photo/ Dallas Morning News; BOTTOM: Smiley N. Pool/AFP/Getty Images)
Another hurricane forecaster has chimed in, and again the spring forecast calls for a busier-than-usual storm season in the Atlantic basin.
This prediction is from the forecasting team of Phil Klotzbach and William Gray at Colorado State University. They don't see a lot of hurricanes in Colorado, but Gray has been making predictions and getting attention for them for 27 years.
Their April prognostication calls for 15 named storms in the season that opens June 1 and closes Dec. 1. That's better than 50 percent higher than the long-term average of 9.6 names storms per season.
Of those named storms, Klotzbach and Gray expect eight to develop into hurricanes (the average is 5.9), while four would reach "major" Category 3 status, with top winds of 111 mph or more. (The average is 2.3 major storms per season.)
The Colorado State forecast is more conservative than the one issued last month by AccuWeather's Joe Bastardi, who predicted 16 to 18 named storms this season.
But both camps base their forecasts on the same factors: a waning El Nino event in the tropical Pacific and and unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic. The warm Atlantic waters provide fuel for the birth and growth of big storms. El Nino's influence produces "shear" winds in the Atlantic that tend to cut off storm development, so a weakening El Nino would remove those curbs.
Last year's hurricane season, under the restricting influence of a growing El Nino event, triggered just nine named storms, and only three hurricanes. Forecasters repeatedly revised and downsized their predictions last year as the season played out and the El Nino strengthened.
This season, Klotzbach and Gray say based on developing conditions and 58 years of historical data, that the risk of a major (Cat. 3) storm making landfall along the U.S. coastline is 69 percent, compared with an average of 52 percent in the 20th century.
As for the risk of a major storm making landfall along the East Coast, the Colorado State team put the chances at 45 percent, compared with a long-term average of 31 percent.
"While patterns may change before the start of the hurricane season," Gray said, "we believe current conditions warrant concern for an above-average season."
The federal forecasters at NOAA will release their forecasts in May.
(SUN PHOTOS/Top: David Hobby/Bottom: Karl Merton Ferron/ Tropical Storm Isabel, 2003)
AccuWeather.com's hurricane forecasters believe the 2010 Atlantic season will be "much more active" than last year's relatively meek performance. A rapidly weakening El Nino event in the tropical Pacific, unusually warm surface waters in the Atlantic's key hurricane nursery, weakening trade winds and higher humidities, they said, are all pointing to increased activity.
"This year has the chance to be an extreme season," said forecaster Joe Bastardi, who led the company's hurricane forecast team. He also correctly forecasted a very snowy winter season for the mid-Atlantic states in 2009-2010, although his predictions were far short of the actual, record-breaking totals.
The new AccuWeather.com hurricane forecast, out Wednesday morning, calls for 16 to 18 tropical storms this season (the average is 11; last year saw just nine, and only three became hurricanes).
Of the 16 to 18 he expects, Bastardi believes 15 will occur in the western Atlantic. He predicts seven landfalls, five of them hurricanes, of which two or three will come ashore in the U.S. (about average).
Bastardi sees similarities in this year's setup to those in 1964, 1995 and 1998. In 1964, Hurricane Cleo struck near Miami as a Cat. 2 storm and killed 217 people. In 1995, Hurricane Opal struck the Florida panhandle and caused $3 billion in damages. And in 1998, Hurricane Bonnie (photo) came ashore near Wilmington, N.C. as a strong Cat. 2 storm and caused $1 billion in damage.
The hurricane season begins officially on June 1, and continues through November.
(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron/Bonnie whips Ocean City, Md. in 1998)
The 2009 hurricane season has been over for exactly 9 days and already an intrepid band of forecasters has issued its predictions for 2010.
Phil Klotzbach and William Gray, at Colorado State University, say the El Nino event that was blamed for suppressing hurricane formation during the 2009 season (and influencing this stormy autumn we've had) will wane by next summer.
That, they say, will take the brakes off the underlying conditions - warm sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic - that have been sending us unusually active Atlantic seasons, on average, since 1995.
So, nearly six months out, the CSU team expects to see 11 to 16 named storms next season. Of those, 6 to 8 will reach hurricane force, with 3 to 5 of those reaching Cat. 3 strength (111 mph).
The long-term averages are: 9.6 named storms; 5.9 hurricanes; 2.3 "intense" (Cat. 3) storms.
Their December forecast predicts a 40 percent chance that at least one major (Cat. 3) storm will make landfall along the East Coast, including Florida's Atlantic coast. The long-term average is 31 percent.
It's the first time Klotzbach and Gray have used number ranges in their initial forecast. They say they will list specific numbers in their next update, in April.
The CSU forecasts are based on 58 years of data on hurricanes and air and water conditions in the Atlantic basin. They claim their system has correctly forecast above- or below-average seasons in 44 of those 58 years.
Time will tell. In the meantime, here's an interesting take on the surprising amount of Maryland damage done by Ida, the Gulf hurricane remnants that stalked the U.S. East Coast in November. That's the Calvert County shoreline of the Chesapeake above, where a storm surge driven by Ida's passage eroded many feet of beach.
(Photo by Karl Hille, for NASA)
NOAA says it was the slowest season since 1997 in terms of the number of named storms and hurricanes.
The final tally? Nine named storms (Ana through Ida), of which three became hurricanes. Two of those made it to "major" status of Category 3 (111 mph winds) or higher. There were also two tropical depressions that never became strong enough to earn a name.
Bill grew to Cat. 4. It was linked to two deaths - a 54-year-old man who died in storm surf in Florida, and a 7-year-old Maine girl who was swept from rocks at Acadia National Park by a storm wave.
Fred impressed only the meteorologists. It stayed far out in the eastern Atlantic and blew up to Cat. 3 before it expired. It turned out to be the strongest hurricane on record south of 30 degrees North latitude, and east of 35 degrees West longitude, and only the fourth known storm to reach Cat. 3 in that part of the Atlantic. But hardly anyone noticed.
Ida killed more than 150 people in El Salvador alone before it moved from the northwest Caribbean into the Gulf of Mexico. It reached Cat. 2 strength over the Gulf, but went ashore in northwest Florida as a tropical depression. Its remnants contributed to a destructive low that formed off the southeast Atlantic coast. The resulting three-day nor'easter caused significant flooding and beach erosion from the Carolinas to New Jersey, including Maryland.
Ida was blamed when three New Jersey fishermen perished as their boat sank in rough seas. Three motorists died in weather-related crashes in Virginia. A 36-year-old surfer died in rough waves in New York, and an elderly man died in North Carolina when a tree fell on him in his yard.
While two storms brought tropical-storm-force winds to the U.S. mainland, no one experienced hurricane winds. It was the first time in three years that's happened, NOAA said.
So how did the prognosticators do? The season proved less active than the springtime predictions had suggested. Most forecasters guessed high based on long-range cyclical factors in the Atlantic that have boosted storm formation since 1995. But they lowered their expectations as a developing El Nino event in the tropical Pacific promised to suppress hurricane development in the Atlantic. The season turned out to be below the long-term averages.
Here's the scorecard, based on the spring forecasts:
Average: 11 named storms; 6 hurricanes; 2 "major" storms.
Actual: 9 named storms, 3 hurricanes, 2 "major" storms.
NOAA (May forecast): 9-14 named storms; 4-7 hurricanes; 1-3 "major."
Colorado State U. (April): 12 named storms; 6 hurricanes; 2 "major."
WeatherBug (April): 11-13 named storms; 6-8 hurricanes; 3-4 "major."
AccuWeather.com (March): 13 named storms; 8 hurricanes; 2 "major."
The first long-range forecast for the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season will likely come in December, from the folks at Colorado State University.
(AP PHOTO/Vernon Ogrodnek/Ida's remnants rake Ocean City, N.J.)
While we watch the Atlantic hurricane season wheeze to a close, the Pacific continues to be a fearsome storm factory.
Up next is Typhoon Nida, left, now 150 miles west southwest of the U.S. territory of Guam. The storm has reached Cat. 5 strength, a Super Typhoon. Top sustained winds are blowing at 172 mph.
For now, no large land masses are threatened, although a number of small islands near Saipan are being affected. Here's more on Nida from NASA.
An increasingly disorganized Ida weakened to tropical storm force overnight, but continues to pose a significant threat to the Gulf Coast and inland regions of the Southeastern U.S.
After landfall, the storm could reform off Cape Hatteras as an Atlantic coastal storm, bringing rain, wind, heavy surf, beach erosion and coastal flooding to shore communities from the Carolinas to New Jersey, forecasters say.
The biggest immediate worry is probably heavy rain and flooding in an area of the Deep South that has already seen more than enough rain this fall.
As Ida's center moves toward land Monday, wind shear is sending the heavy precipitation onshore well ahead of the surface low. Rainfall along the Gulf Coast today will likely total 3 to 6 inches, with some locations receiving as much as 8, forecasters said.
Once the storm's center finally reaches shore, high winds will bring water levels 3 to 5 feet above normal along the Gulf near and to the east of landfall, all compounded by large and destructive waves.
Winds, meanwhile, have diminished. The storm's top sustained winds were "just" 70 mph at last check. All hurricane watches and warnings have been dropped. Tropical Storm Warnings remain in place from Grande Isle, La. to the Aucilla River, Fla. New Orleans and Lake Ponchartrain are included in the warning area.
Here is the latest advisory for Ida. Here is the forecast discussion. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space. Ida may already have played a role in the heavy rains and mudslides that killed more than 120 people in El Salvador over the weekend.
AccuWeather.com's Alex Sosnowski, meanwhile, is looking ahead a few days. He says Ida's energy could reorganize off the Atlantic coast after mid-week, taking on the proportions of a strong nor'easter. That would mean gusty onshore winds, large swells, rough surf and coastal flooding for interests from Hatteras to the Jersey Shore, including Maryland and Delaware beaches.
"The angry sea will lead to strong and frequent rip currents," Sosnowski said. "Bathers are advised to avoid the water from Wednesday into the weekend." Likewise, small craft operators should stay in port from Florida to Long Island, at least until Friday.
Baltimore's forecast calls for a chance of showers Tuesday through Thursday.
As they depart, Ida's remnants are expected to draw cold air into the region, dropping daytime highs from the low 70s, which are expected to go today, to the 50s by the latter half of the week. "The threat of heavy snow with this event has diminished," he adds, "since the storm will quickly migrate to the coast."
Mr. Foot, take note.
Just when you thought we'd slipped by without a late-season hurricane this fall, Hurricane Ida puffs up and appears to be headed for the northern Gulf Coast.
The National Hurricane Center has posted Hurricane Watches from Grand Isle, La. to the Alabama, Mississippi state line. There are flood warnings up for New Orleans, which is expected to get heavy rain. The Hurricane Watches mean hurricane conditions could develop within 36 hours, although forecasters do expect the storm will begin to lose its tropical characteristics Tuesday as it nears the Gulf Coast and experiences wind shear and cooler waters. Some chance remains, however, that it could still be a tropical storm at that point.
The storm at last check was about 75 miles northeast of Cozumel, Mexico, and about the same distance southwest of the western tip of Cuba. The storm is moving through the Yucatan Channel, and into the Gulf of Mexico.
Top sustained winds are estimated at near 90 mph, making Ida a Cat. 1 storm.
UPDATE: Ida has strengthened today to a Cat. 2 storm, with top sustained winds of almost 100 mph. The watches have been extended farther east along the Gulf Coast. The National Hurricane Center's advisory includes the following:
"RAINS WILL BE INCREASING WELL IN ADVANCE OF IDA ACROSS THE CENTRAL
AND EASTERN GULF COAST...BUT WILL BECOME STEADIER AND HEAVIER BY
MONDAY INTO TUESDAY. TOTAL STORM ACCUMULATIONS OF 3 TO 5 INCHES
WITH ISOLATED MAXIMUM STORM TOTALS OF 8 INCHES WILL BE POSSIBLE
THROUGH TUESDAY FROM THE CENTRAL AND EASTERN GULF COAST NORTHWARD
INTO THE EASTERN PORTIONS OF THE TENNESSEE VALLEY AND THE SOUTHERN
Weakened to tropical depression status and somewhat disrupted by its passage over parts of eastern Nicaragua and Honduras, Ida is continuing to drop life-threatening rain over the Central American countries. But the storm is expected to move back over water late today, into the northwest Caribbean, and on toward the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are getting conflicting predictions from their computer models and other guides. But the guesswork seems to be settling on a storm track into the central Gulf by early next week, with a likely curve toward Florida.
Although there is at least one model forecasting the storm will regain hurricane force, the NHC seems to be holding Ida's redevelopment to tropical storm force for the moment, citing continuing wind shear in the region and cooler waters in the Gulf.
Tropical Storm Ida became the season's third hurricane overnight, with top sustained winds of 75 mph. The storm moved onshore on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, some 60 miles north of the town of Bluefields, and was expected to weaken over land. But forecasters are still predicting Ida will move back over water into the northwest Caribbean and restrengthen.
UPDATE: 1 p.m. EST. Ida was downgraded today to a tropical storm.
The storm is producing heavy rains, with 5 to 7 inches likely in most locations, and as much as 20 to 25 inches possible in some spots. Those conditions would produce life-threatening flooding and mudslides.
While there remained some possibility the storm will dissipate while over land, the forecast storm track still has Ida moving into the Gulf of Mexico by Tuesday, at tropical storm strength, posing some risk for the Gulf Coast of the U.S.
The National Hurricane Center is tracking the 11th tropical depression to form this season in the Atlantic basin. The 2009 hurricane season officially ends at the end of this month.
The new storm, designated Tropical Depression 11, got its act together Tuesday in the southwestern Caribbean, and now threatens the Nicaraguan coast and offshore islands with torrential rains and 35-mph winds. It may well become the season's ninth tropical storm - Ida - later today.
UPDATE: 4 p.m. TD 11 became Tropical Storm Ida this afternoon. Top sustained winds are at 60-mph, with higher gusts. Some further intensification is likely before landfall in Nicaragua. Rainfall as high as 20 or 25 inches are possible in some locations, raising the danger of flooding and mudslides.
Forecasters think the storm will weaken as it goes ashore, and crosses over portions of Nicaragua and Honduras. But it is expected to head north, move back over the northwest Caribbean and regain tropical storm strength as it heads into the Gulf of Mexico next week. One computer model even has it reaching hurricane strength.
TD 11 was located this morning about 125 miles east southeast of Bluefields, a former buccaneer hideout on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. It was moving toward the northwest at about 8 mph.
Pity poor Henri. The eighth tropical storm of the 2009 season formed Tuesday in the Atlantic, and puffed up a bit, with top sustained winds reaching 50 mph. But almost immediately the storm began to weaken as it drifted closer to the northern Leeward Islands.
This morning, Henri was downgraded to a tropical depression, with top winds of barely 35 mph. And forecasters expect the storm will dissipate later today, and become just another tropical low skirting the northernmost islands of the Caribbean.
That's good news for residents, mariners and vacationers, of course. The 2009 season continues to prove a relatively mild one for the region, thanks in large measure to the El Nino conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which tend to suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic.
The National Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Henri, which formed yesterday in the Atlantic, was a bit stronger Wednesday morning. But the forecast still calls for the storm to weaken and dissipate by tomorrow.
The storm's top sustained winds increased from 40 to 50 mph early today, but have since faded a bit to 45. The forecast storm track takes Henri toward the west northwest at 15 mph. At last check it was about 375 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands.
Henri is the dense little patch of purple in the water vapor image above. To the south and east is a diffuse area of showers that also is being watched by NHC forecasters. It is given less than a 30 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours.
That's "ahn-Ree" for you non-French-speakers. Tropical Storm Henri formed today in the Atlantic Ocean, the eighth named storm of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season.
Henri is centered about 600 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands. Top sustained winds are only about 40 mph, just above minimal tropical storm strength. The storm is moving toward the west northwest at 18 mph.
The forecast storm track takes Henri in the general direction of the southeast U. S. coast, but the storm is not expected to make it that far, at least not as a tropical storm. Forecasters say it will likely weaken into a "remnant low" in the next two days.
Back on the job this morning after a weekend break for a wedding in Ocean City. (Note to self: Yes, you can get a sunburn in October; wear sunblock), and a hectic Monday chasing Nobel prize winners and cramming for a story on telomeres.
Somehow, during that brief period, the 2009 season's seventh named tropical storm puffed to life in the northeastern Atlantic, and was swallowed up by a frontal system headed for the British Isles.
The storm was Grace, an oddball that formed near the Azores - on the latitude of New York City - hardly tropical, some would argue. Too far north to catch the east-to-west Trade Winds for a ride across the Atlantic, Grace drifted north and east.
The first advisory for Grace was issued on Sunday. Top sustained winds reached almost 70 mph on Monday, but began to slow after that as the storm raced off to the north northeast. The National Hurricane Center issued the last advisory on Grace late Monday night.
Here is AccuWeather.com's take on the rain and wind headed for Ireland and the UK. ,
September is, statistically at least, the peak of hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin. But this year has been notably anemic. We were busier in August.
Only two named storms cropped up during the month that ends tonight, compared with four in August. Tropical Storm Erika formed east of the Leeward Islands on Sept. 1, drifted westward for three days and wheezed to an end southeast of the Dominican Republic. Winds peaked at about 60 mph., and the storm dumped a lot of rain on the islands.
Fred was a bit more impressive. It formed Sept. 7 and blew up to hurricane force before expiring Sept. 12 near where it was born in the far eastern Atlantic. Fred was only the second hurricane of the season.
Tropical Depression 8 formed briefly on Sept. 25, but fell apart the next day without growing strong enough to earn a name.
Jeff Masters, on his Wunder Blog, is calling this the quietest September in the Atlantic since 1997.
In all this season, the Atlantic Basin has generated just six named storms, including two - Bill and Fred - that reached hurricane force. In fact, both Bill (Aug. 15-24) and Fred reached "major" (Cat. 3) strength.
The U.S. mainland has been spared. Tropical Storm Claudette, in mid-August, stirred things up along the Florida/Alabama Gulf Shore. Bill kicked up a lot of wind and waves along the Atlantic coast all the way to the Canadian Maritimes before expiring in the Atlantic. The photo above shows Ocean City, N.J. beachgoers getting a briefing on Bill-caused rip currents.
Danny did the same in the Carolinas late in the month before being absorbed by a frontal system. But that was about it, to the relief of millions.
Hurricane forecasters have been lowering their expectations all season, pointing to the moderate El Nino conditions developing in the Pacific Ocean. El Ninos tend to suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic.
Back in late May, for example, Colorado State University prognosticators William Gray and Phil Klotzbach forecast 11 names storms, with five predicted to become hurricanes, and two that would reach "major" proportions.
In June, the National Hurricane Center expected 9 to 14 named storms, with four to seven hurricanes one to three "major" storms.
By August, CSU had cut its forecast to 10 names storms, with four hurricanes, two reaching major status. The feds were by then looking for seven to 10 named storms, with three to six hurricanes, one to two becoming major.
Give them credit. We have seen two major hurricanes. And we could still see some additional activity. But there is nothing happening in the tropics at the moment.
(Top, AP Photo/Jim Gerberich; Bottom, SUN PHOTO/John Makely/Surfing Isabel's waves in Ocean City, Md., 2003)
Tropical Depression No. 8 has formed in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean, according to the National Hurricane Center. It could become the season's seventh named storm - Grace - later today or tomorrow.
But conditions are not favorable for the storm's continued growth. Once again, strong wind shear aloft is expected to cut this disturbance down to size.
The storm is 500 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands, with top sustained winds of just 35 mph. It is moving northwest at 14 mph and poses no immediate threat to land. And from the look of the forecast track, never will.
Once-a-Hurricane Fred, which never posed a threat to land, has stalled far out in the Atlantic and fizzled to below tropical storm force. The National Hurricane Center today issued its final advisory on the storm.
Fred formed in the far eastern Atlantic on Sept. 7, and by late the next day had reached hurricane strength. It soon became the second major (Category 3) hurricane of the 2009 Atlantic season. It's top sustained winds reached 115 mph at one point.
But the storm never seemed to get into gear, and drifted slowly at sea for several days before finally fading. It still has something of its spiral shape (above), but has now lost its central convection - the engine that drives hurricanes - and been demoted to a weak "remnant low" posing a threat only to shipping.
The hurricane center, meanwhile, is watching some rainy non-tropical weather in the Gulf of Mexico, and a poorly organized low coming off West Africa.
Tropical Storm Fred became a hurricane overnight, the second of the season, getting much better organized and doubling its top sustained winds to around 105 mph - Category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. It's promising to get even stronger today.
But forecasters at the National Hurricane Center don't hold out much hope this storm will survive for long as a hurricane. It's about to run into southwesterly wind shear, drier air and cooler waters to the north. That will throw a wrench into the works, with rapid weakening to follow. And it's not likely to make it to our side of the Atlantic, either.
Fred was about 500 miles southwest of the Cape Verde Islands this morning, in the far eastern Atlantic.
That tropical depression in the far eastern Atlantic became Tropical Storm Fred overnight, with top sustained winds of 50 mph. Fred is expected to reach hurricane strength in the next few days, but steering winds in the region suggest it will not make it across the ocean to threaten the U.S. or the West Indies.
Tropical Storm Erika was hanging on to its tropical storm status as it stumbled through the northern Leeward Islands Thursday morning. But only just barely.
UPDATE: 4:50 p.m.: A weakening Erika has finally been downgraded to a tropical depression, and all tropical storm watches and warnings have been discontinued. While top winds have slowed to 35 mph, heavy rains are still forecast for the region. The earlier post follows:
The slow-moving storm's top sustained winds were still around 40 mph, but those winds extended far from the storm's hard-to-pinpoint center, by as much as 175 miles in the eastern quadrant.
So, Tropical Storm Warnings remained in effect for the northern Leewards, and were extended westward to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico this morning. But the biggest threat from this storm for now will likely be heavy rain. Forecasters said Erika could drop 3 to 5 inches across the region, with as much as 8 inches in some places.
Erika's problem has been wind shear - high-level winds out of the southwest that are cutting off the storm's cloud tops and choking off its ability to spin up and grow. It's a factor that is especially pronounced in El Nino years like this one, and limits the number and strength of Atlantic storms. The storm also faces drier air ahead, and interference from island land masses in its path.
The storm's center Thursday morning was 200 miles east southeast of Puerto Rico, moving to the west northwest at about 8 mph.
In the meantime, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center have begun watching a new tropical wave that's coming off the coast of West Africa. This one looks pretty strong, but for now it is given less than a 30 percent chance of becoming a new tropical storm in the next 48 hours.
The season's fifth named storm has formed in the Atlantic Ocean, the National Hurricane Center reported Tuesday afternoon.
Tropical Storm Erika has top sustained winds of 50 mph, with slow strengthening predicted. The storm's center is 390 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands, moving toward the west northwest at 9 mph. Tropical Storm Watches have been issued for the northern Leeward Islands.
Erika seems to be following nearly the same path as Hurricanes Bill and Danny before her. Both of those storms swept north of the Bahamas and passed between the Carolina coast and Bermuda before curving north, then northeast and expiring in the North Atlantic.
Forecasters say the storm may strengthen for a time, but faces increased wind shear in a couple of days, and that's likely to weaken Erika's power. Such high-level winds are stronger in El Nino years like this one, and are forecast to limit the number and power of this year's storms.
But computer models disagree on how much shear will hobble Erika. Here's the hurricane center's thinking:
"THE NHC FORECAST
WILL SHOW SLOW INTENSIFICATION OVER THE FIRST COUPLE OF DAYS...THEN
WEAKENING THEREAFTER AS THE SHEAR TAKES OVER. THE NHC FORECAST WILL
BE CONSERVATIVE AT THIS TIME...BUT IT IS OF NOTE THAT ALMOST ALL OF
THE RELIABLE INTENSITY GUIDANCE SHOW ERIKA EVENTUALLY BECOMING A
HURRICANE...DESPITE THE SHEAR."
A powerful Hurricane Jimena was bearing down on Mexico's Baja Peninsula Tuesday with top sustained winds of 145 mph, 5 to 10 inches of rain and a big storm surge. Mass evacuations were ordered and anyone with property in the resort towns should be watching events in the region with grave concern.
There should be particular concern for Mexico's poor, who will surely suffer the most from this storm.
Here is the latest advisory on Jimena. Here is the