Archive for the ‘Hurricanes’ Category

Super Typhoon Megi Set To Strike Philippines With Extreme Intensity
October 17, 2010

Super Typhoon Megi Cast an Impressive Multispectral Image at 2330Z Oct 16, 2010

For a more recent update regarding Typhoon Megi’s approach to China CLICK HERE

Japan Meteorological Agency Forecast Track Super Typhoon Megi (Juan)

The Philippines is making preparations ahead of a powerful Super Typhoon set to strike the island nation Monday morning with effects being felt on Sunday. The storm, known locally as Juan, is feared to have the same flooding potential as Typhoon Ketsana in Sept 2009. Typhoon Megi (a.k.a. Typhoon Juan) has behaved exactly as expected and it is now a very powerful storm designated as Super Typhoon Megi, Super Typhoon Juan or Super Typhoon 15W.  Whichever moniker you choose, it is a force to be reckoned with as its energy release compares favorably to an excess of the global electric generating capacity or as an equivalent to the largest yield atomic weapon every minute.  Another estimate puts a well developed tropical cyclone energy release on par with 500,000 Hiroshima style atomic bombs per day

Super Typhoon Megi Graph of Central Pressure Progression

In any event, the inhibiting factors to the storm have gone by the wayside as anticipated and the central pressure has dropped to 908 mb, which is extremely low.  To provide a frame of reference of how that compares to intense hurricanes in the North Atlantic,  Hurricane Camille in 1969 bottomed out at 909 mb and had winds approaching 200 mph.  Hurricane Andrew in 1992 had a minima pressure of 922 mb and the lowest that Katrina had in 2005, well before landfall, was 920 mb.   Super Typhoon Megi is not too far from the all-time lowest recorded atmospheric pressure which occured in 1979 with Typhoon Tip, which had a remarkable central pressure of 870 mb.  Previously, Typhoon Ida held the record of 879 mb when it was 750 miles east of Luzon (very close to the current location of Megi-450 miles NE of Manila) in 1958.  So, extremely intense storms in the region are not totally uncommon.  The clouds that had been obscuring the center have gone by the way-side and a well defined, relatively small eye has developed. 

West Pacific IR Rainbow Satellite Featuring Typhoon Megi-Click Image for Most Recent Loop

Super Typhoon Megi (Juan) JTWC Forecast Track 00Z 10.17.10

A pressure approaching 900 mb can easily support higher winds than the 3 UTC (Z) Oct 17 2010 analysis of 140 kt sustained winds of 140 kts and gusts to 170 kts, which translates to sustained winds of 161 mph or 259 kph and gusts to 195 mph or 315 kph.  Some further intensification is possible as the forecast calls for sustained winds to increase to 145 kts and gusts to 175 kts.  While the pressure can support even higher winds than that, at this point, they are so strong that it almost becomes academic in relation to the destruction potential and the ultimate intensity at landfall will most likely be subject to eyewall replacement cycles.  When a tropical cyclone goes through an eyewall replacement cycle, central winds typically fall off but the breadth of gale force winds expands.  That was the case with Hurricane Katrina which “only” had winds of 125 mph at landfall as it headed  into Mississippi but 100 mph winds were felt all the way to Mobile.  Another factor that may inhibit substantial intensification would be a slight disruption of the northern outflow.  This is an example of why it is difficult for an extremely intense tropical cyclone to maintain its maxima for long as environmental conditions must be perfect and perfect conditions rarely last long.  Nevertheless, as it stands, the official forecast from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center puts the winds around 140 kts at landfall sometime after 00 UTC (Z) October 18, 2010 north of Palanan and east of Tuguegarao.  It would not be out of the question for winds to exceed forecast levels at some point in time.  The timing of eyewall replacement cycles, however, is beyond current forecast abilities until the beginning of the cycle change is actually observed.

West Pacific Total Precipitable Water Latest 72 hours-Click Image for Loop

West Pacific IR Satellite with Wind Barbs (Isotachs)

As was anticipated, the trof of low pressure near Okinawa that was causing a weakness in the steering ridge to the North has moved northeast and the ridge filled in.  Consequently, the previous west northwest track of Megi has shifted westward at 12 kts.  The ridge is expected to continue to build such that the westward track should change around the time that the storm gets to the coast of Luzon such that it moves west-southwest.  That track would take Megi over the mountainous regions of northern Luzon but well north of Manila.  The storm surge on the eastern, northeastern and northern part of the island will be extreme but exact levels will be determined by the geogrpahy of the coast.  The mountains will enhance the rain totals which will most likely be extreme.  Even as it loses intensity rapidly over the mountains, the circulation will be such that there will be an onshore flow off of the South China Sea toward Manila for a period of time so rain totals will most likely be high on both sides of Luzon. 

Super Typhoon Megi Morphed Integrated Microwave Imagery with max Wind Velocity-Click Image for Loop

If there is any good news to report it is that the forward speed may increase a bit and so the center of the storm may be over Luzon for only about 12 hours.  That’s plenty of time to do plenty of damage but at least its not going to crawl across the Philippines and extend the high risk for catastrophic flooding.  By 12UTC (Z) October 18, 2010 Typhoon Megi should re-emerge over the ocean in the South China Sea with winds forecast to have been reduced to 95 kts.  However, once over the warm waters of the ocean, Typhoon Megi will regain some strength but most likely will not get back to it’s former self…that would be extremely rare and there simply will not be time nor will the environmental conditions support such a scenario.  Even so, It is expected to get back to 115 kt sustained winds by 00UTC (Z) October 22, 2010. 

Super Typhoon Megi Graph of Wind Speed Progression

Previously, the extended forecast track had suggested a second landfall on the South China island of Hainan followed by a final landfall after crossing the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam.  Modeling data though has formed a consensus though of another trof coming down through Asia. 

Map SE Asia

That trofiness is expected to influence Megi northwest after it enters the South China Sea.  The depth of that trof will determine the fate of Megi.  If it is slow or not so strong, then Megi may run into China south of Hong Kong, though it would still be close enough to affect that city.  If the trof is a little deeper, then it could turn Megi for a more direct affect on Hong Kong and if the trof is fast and very deep, it could conceivably turn the storm north and then northeast.  While there may not be sufficient room in the sea for this to occur without striking land, that scenario would put Taiwan at risk of a hit from the Southwest and potentially even Japan after that.  It’s way too soon to tell.  One thing seems invevitable:  the Northern Philippines will be affected adversely of the effects of a major tropical cyclone by 00UTC (Z) 18 October 2010.

Typhoon Fanapi Set To Strike Taiwan Before Weekend is Over
September 18, 2010

Click on Image for Most Recent Western Pacific Rainbow IR Image Loop

Typhoon Fanapi Forecast Track as per Joint Typhoon Warning Center

The people in Taiwan are anticipating the arrival of Typhoon Finapi.  Among other things, it is disrupting the fishing season that just started at the beginning of the month.  Perhaps more importantly, the Typhoon is packing winds that will cause concern for damage and a potentially devastaing surge.  However, the actual surge is determined by geograhpical features of the island as well as the physical features of the shelf and I am not aware of the physical features around Taiwan.  I cannot find any buoys in the region that are in operating condition but reports of 28 foot seas have been made.   While the forward speed of around 12 mph might limit the storm surge potential to a small degree, winds running at 105 kts (120 mph) will be sufficient to push a substantial amount of water up to the right of landfall.  Typhoon Fanapi’s intensity puts it as an equivalent of a category 3 hurricane.   Beyond the wind and surge threat, the topography of the island will serve to enhance rain totals and authorities are expecting up to 20 inches in some areas.  With a storm travelling around 10 mph, Typhoon conditions can be expected in several parts of the island for up to 8-12 hours.

Total Precipitable Water-Click on Image For Most Recent Loop

When you look at the satellite imagery, you find that Finapi is a well formed, compact tropical cyclone but the outflow to the north is almost absent while there remains some outflow to the south.  There is a big fat high to the north of the cyclone that is inhibiting the poleward outflow which may have inhibited the storm from becoming even more intense.   The central pressure of 935 mb has the potential to support winds higher than previous estimates.  Nevertheless, tropical storm force winds extend up to 150 miles from the center and typhoon winds some 35 to 40 miles from the center of circulation.   I suspect that there is the possibility that this storm may be getting slightly more intense as it approaches Taiwan for landfall as it appears that Fanapi has completed an eyewall replacement cycle.  An eyewall replacement cycle is a natural occurence related to a well developed tropical cyclone and typically, the maximum winds decrease as the storm goes through the cycle of replacing an eyewall, though the overall strong windfield expands.  Once the cycle is complete, then the storm returns to its previous intensity.  Hence, the satellite imagery suggests that the cycle is complete and Fanapi may be ramping up toward maximum potential just prior to landfall.

Fanapi IR Satellite 09.18.10 1732Z

For what it’s worth, Fanapi is the Micronesian name for “sandy islands” and it is expected to continue on its track generally to the west at around 10 kts and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center Forecasts points  to a landfall about 70 miles SSE of Taipei near the coastal town of Hualien.  Geographically speaking, it seems to me that the little bay to the north of Hualien may be vulnerable to an enhanced surge.  Once the storm makes landfall, the topographical features of Taiwan will disrupt the storm sufficiently that it will fall to below 100 kts when it re-emerges over the Taiwan Straits and will move into China within 36 hours with winds of around 80 to 85 kts about 150 miles Northeast of Hong Kong.  Inland flooding will be a concern for China as the storm dissipates, particularly when one considers that China has experienced flooding problems all summer long in many parts of the huge nation.

Hurricane Earl Set For Brush With US Coast From Hatteras to Cape Cod
September 2, 2010

Hurricane Earl IR Rainbow Image 1915Z 09.02.10 Click for real time loop

Hurricane Earl Spaghetti Model 18Z 09.02.10

If you recall a few days ago I had talked about the challenges for Hurricane Earl maintaining its ferocity.  One of the main concerns that I had was a huge amount of dry air that Earl was getting ready to move in to.    I was a bit surprised that the NHC didn’t mention it more often and it appeared that Earl was able to fend off the dry air.  However, it seems apparent now that dry air did indeed work its way into the storm and Earl rapidly decreased in intensity on Thursday evening.   The dry air intrusion seems to have coincided with what so often seems to be the case which is that Hurricane Earl began an eyewall replacement cycle during the late morning on Thursday, prior to a potential Outer Banks of North Carolina landfall.   Most likely, Earl yesterday reached its maxima when it topped out at 145 mph with gusts to 165 and a central pressure somewhere in the neighborhood of 930 mb.  If you look at the satellite loop, you will note that the eye seems to fill in.  That was not an indication that the storm is dying, but instead was indicative of a very healthy hurricane.  What typically happens with an eyewall replacement cycle is that the maximum winds near the eye decrease somewhat, but the overall energy gets dispersed throughout the storm.  Hence, a broader field of strong winds results.  At 3:30 PM EDT Earl essentially had two eyes.  The old eye was collapsing and a new, much larger,  eyewall was developing around it.  So, winds decreased and the pressure rose to 943 mb but its a much larger storm.  By 5 pm Earl’s maximum winds had dropped to 115 mph and the pressure was up to 947 mb.   We saw that with Hurricane Katrina.  As it made landfall, the winds dropped off to 125 mph in far western Mississippi and near the mouth of the Mississippi River yet, all the way east over to Mobile, AL winds were in excess of 100 mph.  So, regardless of exactly where the eye of the storm runs in relation to North Carolina, the winds on the Outer Banks and even for some distance inland will be hazardous.

Hurricane Earl Spaghetti Model Intensity Forecast 18Z 09.02.10

On Thursday afternoon, another potential problem was that, if the replacement cycle was complete before it got to North Carolina, then it could have been in a re-intensification stage and perhaps deepening back toward a category 4 hurricane.   At this point, that is not only unlikely but also rather irrelevant.  As of 3:30 pm EDT on Thursday, Earl was moving at about 355 degrees, or just slightly west of due North.  It had crossed just west of 75 degrees West Longitude.  Cape Hatteras is at 75 degrees 15 minutes W. Long and 35 degrees 30 minutes North Latitude.  I believe that there is a fair chance that Cape Hatteras will take a direct hit though if Earl is just off shore, then it could be in the western eyewall.  If you look closely at the 2PM forecast discussion, the NHC forecast position at 2AM is 75 degrees West Long and 33.5 degrees North Lat, or right over Cape Hatteras.  At two AM on Saturday, the storm is forecast to have maximum winds of nearly 100 mph and is located at 40.o N and 75.8 W or almost exactly over Marthas Vineyard.   Keep in mind a wobble to the right by 25 miles would spare the eye passing over these locations but it would still be close enough to be potentially destructive.  By 8PM EDT Earl’s maximum winds had decreased to 110 mph and the liklihood of the trend of winding down is rapidly diminishing.  It would appear from the satellite depiction that upper shear is starting to work on Earl as well as dry air from the Eastern United States.

N. Atlantic IR 1945Z 09.02.10 Click For real time loop

Hurricane Earl NHC Forecast Track 2PM 09.02.10

Once it passes Cape Hatteras, three things will start to work in conjunction to turn it North Northeast and then Northeast.  First, there is the Coriolis Force, which is the force that wants to turn a cyclone to the right of its path in the Northern Hemisphere.  That force increases as the storm moves poleward.  Then there are the mid lattitude prevaling westerlys.  That is the general persistent wind flow in the mid lattitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.  Finally, there is a frontal boundary that is progressing Eastward.  As of 3:30 PM EDT it was just west of the Ohio Valley.  That is some distance from the coast and not moving as fast as we might like.  But, as it approaches, winds ahead of the front or trof will increase from the Southwest.  That will increase Earl’s forward speeed and also serve to knock up the upper air support of the hurricane.   As mentioned earlier, by 8PM EDT the satellite imagery appears to indicate that the southwesterly shear was already taking a toll on Earl.

Structure of a hurricane

Essentially, a hurricane is a warm-core area of low pressure that is a giant heat engine, drawing its energy from warm ocean water.  The ocean has to be at least 80 F.  Not every surface low over the ocean becomes a hurricane though.  It is essential that a hurricane get what I call a “hat” or an anticyclone aloft.  That would be a big area of high pressure.  That is why when you look at a satellite loop, you see clouds going clockwise, yet at the surface, the hurricane winds go counter clockwise.  The upper level high serves to vent the storm.  The structure of a hurricane is such that, at the surface, the flow is toward the center in a counter clockwise fashion.  When the air reaches the center it has nowhere to go but up.  Aloft, the high pressure features air that sinks and goes outward in a clock wise fashion.  The high aloft helps push out the rising air below and as it does, it allows for a more even flow of air rising from below.  When these winds from the southwest kick in, it will disrupt the ventiing flow aloft which will limit the rising air below.  All of that should start to occur in earnest once Earl gets past the Outer Banks.  At that same time, it will start to cross over water that is either near or below 80 F and eventually will get over water that is definitely too cold to support a tropical system.

Atlantic Sea Surface Temperatures-Click for Loop

So, look for rapid weakening of the storm beginning off the North Carolina coast and thereafter.  It will also lose its tropical characteristics probably before it gets to Cape Cod.  Nevertheless, winds of at least hurricane force will continue as the storm moves north.  The forecast track takes it very close to Long Island and even over Cape Cod.  While it may lose its hurricane classification, it will also provide a very healthy storm surge and a high tide will only aggravate the situation.  Click here to find the storm surge forecast for your location.  The storm will also be moving very very quickly so, on the one hand, the effects will not last as long but the conditions will also deteriorate very rapidly.  No one can tell with exact certitude where the center of Earl will travel.  That should not surprise anyone when one considers that the earth is 25,000 miles around;  a margin of error of say 50 miles represents just a fraction of a percent but, it can be the difference between terrible conditions and horrific conditions.  Most of the time, people who try to ride out a storm vow they will never do so again.  Sometimes, they lose their lives and by that time it is obvious they made a mistake.  With hurricanes you do not get a second chance.  Getting out of the way is the better part of valor.  Also, Earl’s interaction with the front may enhance rain fall inland greatly.  Flooding will be a concern from not only the surge, but also rainfall.

N. Atlantic Basin Total Precipitable Water Image-Click For Loop That Clearly Indentifies Cyclone in the N. Atlantic

Gaston NHC Forecast Track 2PM 09.02.10

Gaston Spaghetti Model 18Z 09.02.10

Behind Earl is Fiona which should not be an issue for the United States and perhaps no one.  What is of greater concern is Tropical Storm Gaston.  It is much farther south than Danielle was, or Earl or Fiona.  Fiona will get picked up by the same trof that is picking up Earl and Danielle also got picked up by a trof.  But, Gaston is so far south that it will most likely sneak under any trof and westerly flow around  an Atlantic high should drive Gaston in a westerly fashion.  Most models put Gaston either near or South of the Dominican Republic in about a week and most develop it into a hurricane.  It will not be traveling over any water that has been worked over by Danielle, Earl or Fiona so it should be plenty warm enough and conditions should be conducive for development, perhaps even enough to support a major hurricane.  Its location will offer scenarios for it to enter the Gulf of Mexico as well as potentially affecting the East Coast. 

HURRICANE EARL DISCUSSION NUMBER  34
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL   AL072010
500 PM EDT THU SEP 02 2010

DATA FROM A RECONNAISSANCE PLANE INDICATE THAT EARL HAS WEAKENED A
LITTLE BIT THIS AFTERNOON.  THE CENTRAL PRESSURE ROSE TO 947
MB…AND A BLEND OF THE SFMR MEASUREMENTS AND FLIGHT-LEVEL WINDS
SUGGEST THAT THE INITIAL INTENSITY HAS DECREASED TO 100 KNOTS. EARL
SHOULD CONTINUE TO WEAKEN GRADUALLY AS THE SHEAR INCREASES AND THE
HURRICANE SHOULD WEAKEN EVEN FASTER AFTER 24 HOURS AS IT MOVES OVER
A COLDER OCEAN.  AFTER CROSSING CANADA IN 48 HOURS…EARL SHOULD
BECOME POST-TROPICAL/EXTRATROPICAL AND THEN DISSIPATE AS IT IS
ABSORBED BY A MUCH LARGER EXTRATROPICAL CYCLONE.

SATELLITE AND RECONNAISSANCE FIXES SHOW…AS ANTICIPATED…THAT EARL
HAS TURNED NORTHWARD AND IS MOVING 360 DEGREES AT 16 KNOTS. THE
STEERING PATTERN CONTROLLING THE MOTION OF EARL…AND THE
CONSISTENCY IN TRACK GUIDANCE…HAVE BEEN ADEQUATELY DESCRIBED IN
PREVIOUS DISCUSSIONS. EARL IS ABOUT TO BECOME EMBEDDED IN THE
MID-LATITUDE FLOW AND IT IS READY TO GRADUALLY TURN TO THE
NORTH-NORTHEAST AND NORTHEAST WITH AN INCREASE IN FORWARD SPEED.

ALTHOUGH THE MAXIMUM WINDS IN THE CORE HAVE DECREASED…EARL
CONTINUES TO BE A LARGE AND POWERFUL HURRICANE.

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INITIAL      02/2100Z 32.5N  75.2W   100 KT
12HR VT     03/0600Z 34.8N  74.8W    95 KT
24HR VT     03/1800Z 38.0N  72.7W    85 KT
36HR VT     04/0600Z 41.7N  69.0W    75 KT
48HR VT     04/1800Z 46.5N  64.5W    50 KT…POST-TROP/EXTRATROP
72HR VT     05/1800Z…DISSIPATED

$$
FORECASTER AVILA

Hurricane Earl Eyes US: Hurricane Warning Flags Flying on East Coast
September 1, 2010

Hurricane Earl 1915Z IR Rainbow Image 09.01.10-Click Image for Real time Loop

Click Here For The Most Recent Update Regarding Hurricane Earl’s Brush with the US East Coast

Hurricane Earl 1915Z Visible Satellite Image 09.01.10-Click Image for Real Time Loop

If you recall, yesterday I mentioned that one aspect of the forecast regarding Hurricane Earl was the dry air in which Earl was moving into.  I had thought that perhaps dry air might work its way into the circulation of the hurricane and perhaps limit its intensity potential or even bring it down a notch or two.  At 5 AM on Wednesday September 1, 2010 the National Hurricane Center included this bit of information near the end of it’s discussion: ” …WATER VAPOR IMAGERY SHOWS A TONGUE OF MID/UPPER-LEVEL DRY AIR WRAPPED MORE THAN HALFWAY AROUND THE CYCLONE.”  I honestly had been surprised that they had not mentioned that potential earlier because the the scale of the dry air ahead of the storm was rather large.   Nevertheless, by Wednesday afternoon, the outflow symmetry of Earl looks to have improved  and the dry air looks to have been absorbed without a whole lot of disruption; perhaps it hurt Earl a bit.  But, Earl overcame the dry air and at 5pm EDT on Wed Sept 1 had maximum winds of 135 mph with gusts to 160 mph.  Central pressure was 941mb and was moving at 310 -320 degrees (NW) at 17 mph.    The dry air was one of the “challenges” that I referred to that I felt Earl would face in maintaining its intensity.  There are other issues at play as well that suggest the storm has seen its better days and its ferocity will not be as great as it once was, or even feared it would be, when it affects the US Coast.  Nevertheless, I would not take the storm lightly and it would be advisable to get out of its way if you may be in the path of Earl.

N. Atlantic Basin Total Precipitable Water Image-Click For Loop That Clearly Indentifies Cyclone in the N. Atlantic

18Z Hurricane Earl Spaghetti Model Track 09.01.10-Note Model track or two suggest a mainland landfall

As of 5 PM EDT Wednesday, Hurricane Warning flags have been hoisted from  Bouge Inlet, North Carolina to the North Carolina/Virginia.  A Hurricane Watch extends from the North Carolina/Virginia border to Cape Henlopen, DE and from Woods Hole, MA to Sagamore Beach, MA.  Tropical Storm Warnings are posted from the North Carolina/Virginia border to Sandy Hook, NJ.  A Tropical Storm Warning means tropical storm conditions are likely within 36 hours, A Hurricane Watch and a Tropical Storm Watch means that those conditions are possible within 48 hours.  A Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected in the warned area with the onset of tropical storm force winds expected within 36 hours.  Tropical Storm winds are considered to be 40 to 73 mph and winds are considered hurricane force at 74 mph.  Remember, these are sustained winds, not gusts.  Winds can gust to at least 20% higher than the sustained winds.  It is not uncommon with a hurricane for a region to experience continuous hurricane force winds for many hours.  Most people who survive “riding out” a hurricane swear they will never do so again.  Wind is only part of the story as torrential rain is always a part of a hurricane and the storm surge associated with any hurricane is typically the gravest life taker.  People generally have no idea just how powerful the sea can be.  Click here for to find the storm surge probability forecast for your region.

Note the Trof in N. Central US on 1845Z Atlantic IR Rainbow Image 09.01.10-Click Image for Real Time Loop

18Z Hurricane Earl Spaghetti Model Intensity Graph 09.01.10

By midday on Wednesday,  Hurricane Earl had continued its gradual curvature around a big fat ridge extending from the Atlantic.  As the ridge continues to move eastward,  Earl will continue its right hand shifting and will eventually be moving due North.  By late Thursday, the long anticipated trof moving across the northern United States will be close enough to pick up Earl.  The result will be an increase in forward speed as well as a turning of the storm; first North-Northeast and eventually Northeast.  The timing of the trof will be the determining factor as to the precise track of Earl up the East Coast, particularly off of New England.  The variable is so slight that no one can say with certainty how it will play out.  An hour or so timing difference of the trof’s influence on Earl can make the difference between the storm staying offshore or running over land.  Suffice it to say, it will be at least a close call and no one along the NE Coast of the United States will escape some affect of Hurricane Earl. 

Atlantic Sea Surface Temperatures-Click for Loop

While the shearing winds from the Southwest ahead of the trof and the dry air trying to work its way into Earl may serve to limit its intensity,  forecasts continue to call for a major hurricane with winds of 100 to 120 mph running just off the North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware coasts.  By the time its off the New England coast, it will be probably scooting along at least at 30 mph and winds will have diminished from weakening due to the shearing winds that mess up its upper support as well as colder water. Tropical Cyclones need surface water temperatures of at least 80 F current coastal conditions from off of Delware northward fall below that level.  Farther out though, in the Gulf Stream, waters remain above 80 F extend a shade farther north.   However, hurricane conditions may still be probable for Long Island and Cape Cod, if not the mainland of the New England states.  The official track keeps the storm offshore but it would not take much of a deviation, say 20 miles, for the eye of the hurricane to run right over Long Island and perhaps Cape Cod or Nantuckett Island.  While its not entirely likely, it is not totally out of the question for Earl to actually make at least a partial landfall on some portion of the mainland. 

NHC Hurricane Earl Forecast Track 5PM EDT 09.01.10

While the winds may back off as it heads farther North, the increase in forward speed may serve to enhance the storm surge to the right of the storm.  Further, given that Earl was a big bopper, the sea will not necessarily react as quickly to diminishing winds so the surge may be on the top end of the normally expected storm surge associated with a minimal hurricane running up the East coast.  So, when you hear the forecasts call for a category 1 hurricane off the Jersey shore of off of the New England coast, it would be advisable not to pooh-pooh it as the destructive potential of a  category 1 hurricane can be somewhat excessive. 

18Z Tropical Depression 9 Spaghetti Model Track 09.01.10

Behind this is Tropical Storm Fiona which has been experiencing some difficulty as the outflow from Earl has been disrupting its outflow.  Aside from its intensity, the same trof that is picking up Earl will most likely pick up Fiona as well, regardless of its strength, and should turn it north well before it threatens the US coast.  Behind Fiona is a Tropical Wave (Invest 98) and Tropical Depression 9 which was designated at Tropical Storm Gaston at 5pm EDT September 1.  Invest 98 appears to be running over the same worked-over water as Danielle, Earl and Fiona and may have a difficult time developing.  However, Tropical Storm Gaston is farther south and the initial modeling data suggests its track will be more westerly and as it will be far enough south as to not be influenced by any trofs farther North.  While there is no data currently showing a rapid intensification, a few models do indicate that it will develop into a hurricane and the general track would suggest the potential exists for it to some day affect the US coast from the Gulf of Mexico to the East Coast.  It’s a long way out and there are many scenarios so there will be time to monitor its development. 

HURRICANE EARL DISCUSSION NUMBER  30
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL   AL072010
500 PM EDT WED SEP 01 2010

VISIBLE SATELLITE IMAGES INDICATE THAT THE EYE HAS BECOME VERY
DISTINCT…WITH OJECTIVE T-NUMBERS OSCILLATING AROUND 6.0 FOR THE
PAST FEW HOURS. AN AIR FORCE PLANE MEASURED FLIGHT-LEVEL WINDS OF
138 KNOTS AND A MINIMUM PRESSURE OF 941 MB IN THE LAST FIX.
HOWEVER…SFMR MEASUREMENTS WERE A LITTLE LOWER. A COMPROMISE OF
THESE DATA SUPPORTS AN INITIAL INTENSITY OF 115 KNOTS.
HOWEVER…EARL COULD FLUCTUATE IN INTENSITY DURING THE NEXT 12 TO
24 HOURS BUT SHOULD BEGIN TO GRADUALLY WEAKEN AS IT REACHES
COOLER WATERS AND MOVES INTO HIGHER SHEAR BEYOND 36 HOURS. BY DAY 5
THE HURRICANE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ABSORBED BY A LARGE EXTRATROPICAL
CYCLONE WELL NORTH OF CANADA.

SATELLITE AND RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT FIXES INDICATE THAT EARL
HAS BEEN MOVING RELENTLESSLY TOWARD THE NORTHWEST OR 310 DEGREES
AT 15 KNOTS. THE HURRICANE IS ABOUT TO REACH THE WESTERN EDGE OF
THE SUBTROPICAL RIDGE AND SHOULD BEGIN TO TURN MORE TO THE
NORTH-NORTHWEST AND NORTH LATER TONIGHT AND THURSDAY. IN ABOUT 36
HOURS OR SO…THE HURRICANE WILL ENCOUNTER THE BASE OF THE
MID-LATITUDE WESTERLIES AND SHOULD BEGIN TO RECURVE OR TURN TO THE
NORTHEAST WITH AN INCREASING FORWARD SPEED. THIS IS THE SOLUTION
CONSISTENTLY PROVIDED BY TRACK MODELS…WHICH HAVE EARL PASSING TO
THE EAST BUT NOT FAR FROM THE OUTER BANKS OF NORTH CAROLINA ON
THURSDAY NIGHT. ONLY A SMALL WESTWARD DEVIATION OF THE TRACK TO THE
WEST WOULD BRING THE CORE OF THE HURRICANE TO THE COAST.

GIVEN THE FORECAST TRACK…THE LARGE SIZE OF THE WIND FIELD…AND
THE EXPECTED INCREASE IN FORWARD SPEED WATCHES AND WATCHES HAVE
BEEN EXTENDED NORTHWARD ALONG THE EAST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES.

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INITIAL      01/2100Z 26.3N  73.3W   115 KT
12HR VT     02/0600Z 28.4N  74.7W   115 KT
24HR VT     02/1800Z 31.7N  75.4W   110 KT
36HR VT     03/0600Z 35.1N  74.7W   100 KT
48HR VT     03/1800Z 38.5N  72.2W    90 KT
72HR VT     04/1800Z 46.5N  63.5W    60 KT
96HR VT     05/1800Z 58.0N  57.0W    40 KT…POST-TROP/EXTRATROP
120HR VT     06/1800Z…DISSIPATED

$$
FORECASTER AVILA

Hurricane Earl Faces Challenges, Still Major Threat to US East Coast
August 31, 2010

Hurricane Earl Visible Satellite 1945Z 08.31.10 In Midst of Eyewall Replacement Cycle; Dry Air May Be Trying to Work In-Click Image for Real Time Loop

Note Great Lakes Trof and Huge Area of Dry Air Over Mid Atlantic States: Click Image for Real Time North Atlantic IR Rainbow Loop

CLICK HERE FOR MORE RECENT UPDATE CONCERNING HURRICANE EARL, HURRICANE WARNINGS AND WATCHES ALONG THE US EAST COAST AS FAR NORTH AS MASSACHUSETTS

Hurricane Earl has been behaving like a well developed hurricane as during the day on Tuesday it has been going through an eyewall replacement cycle.   Typically, the old eyewall collapses and a new eyewall forms.  During this time, any given storm’s maximum winds will typically decrease in response to a rise in the central pressure.  However, the energy tends to get dispersed throughout the storm, thus winds in the extremities may be higher than normally expected as the gradient is not quite as steep.  This is what happened with Hurricane Katrina:  it was going through an eyewall replacement cycle when it made landfall and so it was only a category 3 hurricane but, winds in excess of 100 mph were experienced well away from the center.  I believe that the winds were about 125 mph at the point of landfall in Western Mississippi but winds of 108 mph were felt near Mobile Alabama.  In any event, Earl should complete this cycle by Tuesday afternoon and thereafter some moderate strengthing is possible, though most models do not take it to category 5 status.    So, it may max out at around 140 mph and not 155.  What’s 15 mph amongst friends?  It’s still an extremely formidable storm.

NAM 850mb 12Z Thu 09.02.10 Note Movement of Trof East

NAM 12Z 850mb Wed 09.01.10 Note Trof Over Great Lakes

We had a big high pressure ridge over the Eastern United States last week and another ridge in the Atlantic with a trof in between.  Hurricane Danielle followed the trof that split the two ridges and stayed well out in the open waters of the Atlantic.  By this weekend, that weakness between the two ridges filled in and formed generally one large ridge from the mid Atlantic to the Eastern US with a slight weakness in the ridge along the US East Coast.  Now, as hurricanes traverse farther north from the equator, the coriolis parameters become greater.  The coriolis force is the apparent motion caused by the rotation of the earth.  Any hurricane in the Northern Hemisphere will want to move to the right due to the rotation of the earth.  Until the last day or so, the ridge to the north was strong enough to for the most part overcome the coriolis parameters and keep Earl moving generally westward.  However, as Earl moved north of the Virgin Islands, it began to get toward the edge of the strongest part of the ridge and now is moving to the right of a westward track.  Midday Monday it had a vector of 285 degrees and by the evening it was running at 300 degrees.  This however is not the expected turn north.

NAM 12Z Fri 850mb 09.03.10 Note Relation of Trof on East Coast Vs. Earl Position

That turn north will not occur until a trof moving across the northern part of the United States moves eastward to the US East Coast.  When it does, it will provide the channel for Earl to turn north and run up the trof.  A c0uple of things will happen at that time.  The southwesterly flow ahead of the trof will pick up the storm and turn it north and then eventually north-northeast and then northeast and the forward speed of Earl will also increase.  By the time its up to about 35 degrees North Latitude, it will most likely be scooting along at about 30 mph.  That southwesterly flow will not only turn it and increase its forward speed, it should also disrupt the outflow aloft and that would tend to limit any intensification potential or even lead to a decrease in intensity.  Even though there is a high probability of that coming about, it will still be a very strong storm with a high storm surge potential and its even possible that the forward speed might enhance the surge potential in the front right quadrant. 

1845Z Water Vapor-Huge Area of Dry Air Looks As if it is trying to wrap into Earl: Click Image for Real Time Loop

With regard to the intensity there is another potential fly in the ointment that could prove beneficial.  I noticed yesterday a huge area of dry air on the water vapor imagery to the north of Earl.  That dry air is not quite as large in scale today but it’s still there and is moving south.  Earl will be moving right into that environment and I think that there is a fair chance that Earl may have some of that dry air wrap into it.  If that happens, then the dry air will tend to weaken the storm.  Hurricane Opal got a shot of dry air and it actually acted as a steroid shot for a few hours and the intensity jumped unexpectedly but then it fell quickly when that dry air got into the core.  I believe that there is a chance that some dry air intrusion may take place. If so , that  would be good news.  Nevertheless, I believe the big story with Earl will be the ultimate track.

08.31.10 18Z Hurricane Earl Spaghetti Models Intensity

The spaghetti models have been consistently keeping the storm off the coast, though some recent runs had a model or two taking the storm inland in Maine or one even had it going in farther south in New England.  The National Hurricane Center has been inching the official forecast ever so slightly westward for each of the most recent forecast tracks and has been pretty consistent in keep their forecast track  to the left of the model consensus track.  No one can say for certain at this point because it comes down to a matter of hours in regard to the trof digging into the East Coast.  6 hours difference in the timing would result in the difference of a major hurricane running right along the coast or running up say 80 miles offshore.  While both scenarios would bring significant effects to the East Coast, a storm running just off the coast would be probably the worst case scenario.  In that worst case scenario in my mind, the eye of the hurricane would remain over water so the intensity would not drop all that quickly.  Meantime, coastal residents from North Carolina to Maine would feel the effects of a major hurricane, storm surge, winds and all. 

18Z 08.31.10 Hurricane Earl Spaghetti Model

There remain many scenarios as there are still several days for this to play out.  However, I think its safe to say that residents of the Eastern Seaboard will feel the effects of a hurricane by the end of the week.  The question is how much of an effect and no one can say with certainty what the answer to that question is.  However, places like the outerbanks of North Carolina, the Virginia Coast, Long Island and Cape Cod will get the worst of whatever Earl has to offer.  The history of hurricanes running up the East Coast is filled with examples of storms that weren’t too terrible, but there are also some glaring examples of storms that brought extreme devastation and loss of life.  While we can’t avoid any devastation, there is no reason for loss of life as the potential is great enough with this storm for everyone to know that the better part of valor is to get out of the way.  Remember, estimates suggest that a hurricane at its peak can release 10 to the power of 15 watts of total energy which equates to about 500,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs every day.  Hurricane Earl quite literally is the most powerful force on the face of the earth right now and that is a battle man cannot win.


Hurricane Earl NHC Forecast 5PM 08.31.10

WTNT42 KNHC 312043 TCDAT2 HURRICANE EARL DISCUSSION NUMBER 26 NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL072010 500 PM AST TUE AUG 31 2010 ALTHOUGH THE SATELLITE PRESENTATION IS NOT AS IMPRESSIVE AS IT WAS EARLIER...A RECONNAISSANCE PLANE AROUND 1700 UTC REPORTED A MINIMUM PRESSURE OF 940 MB AND MAXIMUM FLIGHT-LEVEL WINDS OF 128 KNOTS. THESE DATA SUPPORT AN INITIAL INTENSITY OF 115 KNOTS. CURRENTLY...THERE IS SOME SOUTHWESTERLY SHEAR DISRUPTING THE UPPER-LEVEL OUTFLOW OVER THE WESTERN SEMICIRCLE OF EARL. THIS SHEAR IS CAUSED BY A WEAK UPPER-LOW OR TROUGH OVER THE EASTERN BAHAMAS AS OBSERVED ON WATER VAPOR IMAGES. HOWEVER...MODELS WEAKEN THE UPPER LOW AS EARL MOVES AROUND IT...RESULTING IN A MORE FAVORABLE ENVIRONMENT. EARL IS EXPECTED TO MAINTAIN ITS CATEGORY FOUR INTENSITY FOR THE NEXT DAY OR TWO. EARL HAS BEGUN TO MOVE TOWARD THE NORTHWEST OR 305 DEGREES AT 12 OR 13 KNOTS DURING THE PAST FEW HOURS. THE SUBTROPICAL HIGH THAT IS STEERING EARL TOWARD THE WEST-NORTHWEST OR NORTHWEST IS FORECAST TO GRADUALLY SHIFT EASTWARD AS A BROAD TROUGH BECOMES ESTABLISHED OVER THE EASTERN UNITED STATES. THIS PATTERN WILL FORCE EARL ON A MORE NORTHWESTERLY AND NORTHERLY TRACK FOR THE NEXT DAY OR TWO. THEREAFTER...EARL WILL REACH THE BASE OF THE MID-LATITUDE WESTERLIES AND WILL LIKELY TURN SHARPLY TO THE NORTHEAST WITH AN INCREASE IN FORWARD SPEED. THIS IS THE SOLUTION UNANIMOUSLY PROVIDED BY TRACK GUIDANCE. ONCE AGAIN THE OFFICIAL FORECAST HAS BEEN SHIFTED A FEW MILES TO THE WEST BEFORE 48 HOURS FOLLOWING THE TRENDS OF THE ECMWF AND THE GFS. GIVEN THE LARGE AREA OF TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS ASSOCIATED WITH EARL...AND THE NEW DEFINITION OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS...A HURRICANE AND TROPICAL STORM WATCH HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR A PORTION OF THE MID- ATLANTIC COAST. INTERESTS FROM VIRGINIA NORTHWARD TO NEW ENGLAND SHOULD MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF EARL. FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS INITIAL 31/2100Z 22.0N 68.8W 115 KT 12HR VT 01/0600Z 23.3N 70.5W 115 KT 24HR VT 01/1800Z 25.6N 72.8W 115 KT 36HR VT 02/0600Z 28.0N 74.5W 115 KT 48HR VT 02/1800Z 31.0N 75.5W 115 KT 72HR VT 03/1800Z 36.0N 73.5W 95 KT 96HR VT 04/1800Z 44.0N 65.0W 75 KT 120HR VT 05/1800Z 56.0N 55.0W 50 KT...POST-TROP/EXTRATROP $$ FORECASTER AVILA

Major Hurricane Earl Posing Real Threat to US East Coast
August 30, 2010

Click on Image for Latest Satellite Loop

Earl Visible 1945Z 08.30.10 Click for Loop

CLICK HERE FOR MORE RECENT UPDATE

Hurricane Earl will pose a threat to residents along much of the eastern coast of the United States later this week.  If you recall, last week we had Hurricane Danielle that became a powerful hurricane but turned north from the tropical regions into the Central North Atlantic and really was nothing more than a concern for shipping, though it may eventually raise issues along the SE Greenland coast, Iceland, England or mainland Europe.  Danielle turned north because there was a trof in between ridge in the North Atlantic and a ridge over the eastern third of the United States.  Since that time, the trof lifted up and out and the ridge has filled in to a large degree.

Click on Image for Water Vapor Loop

Consequently, Earl has been traveling more westward around the expanding Atlantic ridge at the lower latitudes of teh North Atlantic than Danielle did.  The idea has been that this storm would turn north by now but the models did a lousy job of anticipating the expansion of the Atlantic ridge.  However, each model run from the last 48 hours have been taking the track of Earl farther and farther west.  At this point, none of the hurricane models that make up the spaghetti model depiction take Earl into the United States but does bring it close enough to cause an increase in tides and also provide windy weather in squalls.  However,  midday Monday, Earl was passing North of the Virgin Islands with a vector of 285 degrees, or just 15 degrees north of due west, which means that Earl has not begun its turn.

Hurricane Earl 18Z Spaghetti Intensity Model 08.30.10

Remember, coriolis parameters will want to turn Earl north but the ridge is preventing that.  Any weakness in that ridge will allow Earl to turn.  As it stands, the ridging along the US East Coast is not all that strong so some turning northwest  is anticipated.  But the major turn will come when a trof digs in from the Great Lakes and down the East Coast.  If that happens, then Earl will turn north and increase in forward speed.  There should also be some decrease in intensity as shearing with the trof will tend to mess up the upper support.  However, Earl will remain a significant hurricane.  At 5pm, winds were estimated at 135 mph with gusts to 155 mph.  Several models take Earl to Category 5 status on the Saffir Simpson Scale over the next few days before backing off. 

Hurricane Earl 18Z spaghetti model 08.30.10

The issue is when does Earl turn?  If the trof does not dig as deep as the models advertise, then the turn could be a more gentle, wide turn and that would increase the possibility of it running along the East Coast.  If the trof does not come through fast enough, then the storm will be farther west when it makes its turn and then it affects the US.  None of the hurricane models at this point show the eye of Earl on land in the US.  A couple of conventional 12Z models run it along the VA coast but, in general, they too keep it off shore.  Most models time the storm as off the VA coast on Thursday night.  The majority of the 12Z hurricane models take it to 131 to 140 mph winds (cat 4) at its maxima but decrease intensity as  it runs up the coast.  What concerns me is that if you look at the spagetti models at 18Z, they initiate Earl moving in a heading something a little greater northwest than what I observe from the actual satellite loop.  It could just be a wobble but its possible that Earl may have a bit more of an initial westward motion than the models think and that could greatly affect the ultimate track, depending on how the trof shakes out.  The 5PM Discussion has the intial motion at 290 degrees, which is 5 degrees farther north than the 11AM discussion, but the NHC has once again shifted the track farther west for the first 72 hours.  Again, this bears watching on the East Coast 

National Hurricane Center Forecast Hurricane Earl 5pm EDT 08.30.10

The 18Z hurricane models also raise the stakes and  initiate Earl as a Category 4 hurricane, yet, at 3pm EDT it was only 125 mph.  Several raise its intensity to category 5 before backing it off somewhat.  Regardless, tides will be running very high later this week all along the East Coast.  Folks from North Carolina to Maine will feel some effect of Earl for the latter half of the work week…it just remains to be seen how much of an effect.  The National Hurricane Center added this last remark to its 11AM Monday discussion, which should be enough for East Coast residents to pay attention:

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.

HURRICANE EARL DISCUSSION NUMBER  22
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL   AL072010
500 PM AST MON AUG 30 2010

THE RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT MEASURED 116 KT FLIGHT-LEVEL WINDS AND
108 KT SFMR SURFACE WINDS SHORTLY AFTER 1500 UTC.  THIS WAS THE
BASIS FOR THE EARLIER INCREASE IN INTENSITY.  SINCE THAT TIME…THE
PRESSURE HAS CONTINUED TO DROP AND WAS DOWN TO 955 MB ON THE LAST
DROPSONDE RELEASED IN THE EYE AROUND 1700 UTC.  SINCE THE AIRCRAFT
DEPARTED EARL…THE EYE HAS CONTINUED TO CLEAR AND IS SURROUNDED BY
CLOUD TOPS TO -70 DEGREES CELSIUS OR COLDER.  OBJECTIVE SATELLITE
INTENSITY ESTIMATES HAVE INCREASED TO JUST ABOVE 6.0 ON THE DVORAK
SCALE AND SUPPORT AN INITIAL INTENSITY OF 115 KT…CATEGORY FOUR ON
THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON HURRICANE WIND SCALE.

EARL IS EXPECTED TO REMAIN IN A LOW SHEAR ENVIRONMENT AND OVER WARM
WATER DURING THE NEXT FEW DAYS AND SOME ADDITIONAL STRENGTHENING IS
LIKELY IN THE SHORT TERM.  THEREAFTER…EYEWALL CYCLES WILL LIKELY
INDUCE SOME FLUCTUATIONS IN INTENSITY…WHICH ARE DIFFICULT TO
PREDICT.  THE NHC FORECAST IS AGAIN NEAR THE HIGH END OF THE
INTENSITY GUIDANCE. AT DAYS 4 AND 5…THE HURRICANE IS FORECAST TO
MOVE OVER COOLER WATER AND INTO AN AREA OF INCREASING SHEAR WHICH
SHOULD RESULT IN WEAKENING.

THE INITIAL MOTION IS 290/13.  THE FORECAST REASONING REMAINS
UNCHANGED AS EARL IS EXPECTED TO TURN NORTHWESTWARD IN ABOUT 24
HOURS AROUND THE WESTERN PERIPHERY OF THE SUBTROPICAL RIDGE. THE
TRACK GUIDANCE HAS SHIFTED NOTICEABLY WESTWARD DURING THE FIRST
48 HOURS…WITH THE GFS AND ECMWF ON THE EASTERN EDGE OF THE
ENVELOPE.  THE OFFICIAL FORECAST HAS BEEN ADJUSTED WESTWARD…
PRIMARILY THROUGH 72 HOURS…AND LIES BETWEEN THE GFS/ECMWF AND THE
MULTI-MODEL CONSENSUS.

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.

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INITIAL      30/2100Z 19.3N  64.7W   115 KT
12HR VT     31/0600Z 20.2N  66.3W   125 KT
24HR VT     31/1800Z 21.7N  68.1W   130 KT
36HR VT     01/0600Z 23.4N  70.1W   130 KT
48HR VT     01/1800Z 25.8N  72.1W   125 KT
72HR VT     02/1800Z 31.6N  74.7W   115 KT
96HR VT     03/1800Z 38.0N  71.0W    95 KT
120HR VT     04/1800Z 45.5N  63.0W    70 KT…INLAND

$$
FORECASTER BROWN

Hurricane Katrina Should Not Have Been A Surprise
August 29, 2010

View of New Orleans from Air Force One following a Hurricane; but it's NOT the Hurricane that You May Think

Flooding In New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward Well After A Hurricane. Note the Era of the Rescue Helicopter

On This Date in History:  When a category 4 hurricane approached the Southeast Coast of Louisiana, residents who did not leave the city of New Orleans were urged to stock up on food that did not have to be cooked as well as plenty of water.    They were urged to have an emergency radio and flashlights with fully charged batteries and make certain that gas tanks were topped off.  Residents who had small boats were told to make sure that their boats were secured.   As the hurricane roared toward shore, 8 offshore oil rigs were lost, including one owned by the former company of President George H. W. Bush.  Even though the hurricane weakened to a category 3 storm at landfall, a huge storm surge pushed west up the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.  Levees along the Mississippi Gulf River Outlet and along the Industrial canal failed.  Water in the Lower Ninth Ward reached the roofs of several homes and some residents drowned as they were trapped in their attics, attempting to escape the rising waters.  The levee breaches not only flooded the Ninth Ward, but also Chalmette, Gentilly and parts of St. Bernard Parish.  

Flooding In New Orleans From a Hurricane 40 years before Katrina

After 10 days, the water receded and left behind were over 164,000 homes  flooded by the hurricane.   Rumors persisted that levees were intentionally breached in an effort to protect more valuable property than that in less affluent areas such as Chalmette and Lower Ninth Ward.  However, evidence suggests that the failure of the levees was the result of substandard construction and poor maintenance.  The President of the United States had a busy schedule and had no plans to visit the devastated region.   The influential Senator from Louisiana called the President and told him, “…we have really had it down there, and we need your help.”  The President replied, “you got it.”   The Senator asked the President to visit New Orleans so he could see the devastation for himself.  But, the President explained that his schedule was full but said, “Let me look and see what I can back out of and get into and so on and so forth and let me give you a ring back if I can’t go, I’ll put the best man I got there.”  The Senator said he didn’t want his “best man.” 

Hurricane Betsy's Erratic Storm Track Was blamed by some on aircraft research missions flying into the storm

The Senator reminded the President of the political benefits of the President of the United States visiting the region.  The Senator was up for re-election and reminded the Commander-In-Chief of what a presidential visit would mean to his own re-election prospects to the US Senate.  “When I run for office next time, I’m going to be on the same dodge you’re going to be on. And frankly, if you go to Louisiana right now, you might be . . . just make it a stopover. We’ll [unclear]. You go to Louisiana right now, land at Moisant Airport.”   He then added a little extra flair by illustrating an imaginary news story:   “The President was very much upset about the horrible destruction and damage done to this city of New Orleans, lovely town. The town that everybody loves.”  The President first flew over the city in Air Force One before he eventually landed at Moisant Airport in New Orleans.

LBJ Gave Orders Better Than He Took Them But He Listened to Russell Long

The name of that hurricane was Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and the President of the United States was Lyndon B. Johnson. Hurricane Betsy was the first hurricane to cause damage worth over $1 Billion (1965 dollars), thus it was tabbed “Billion Dollar Betsy.”  The White House Tape Recording of the phone call from Sen. Russell Long to President Johnson and his response to Hurricane Betsy reveals that Long also reminded the president that he had lost Louisiana in the 1964 election and if he just came by for a visit, then “… they couldn’t beat you if Eisenhower ran.”  It is absolutely amazing of the similarity in several aspects surrounding Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Meteorologists were well aware of the lessons of Betsy but the media was completely ignorant and largely remain so today.  After Hurricane Betsy, the levee system was expanded and improved around the city of New Orleans but the same issues arose regarding construction and also maintenance.  But, even though Betsy was a stronger storm at landfall than Katrina, Katrina proved to be even more devastating to the Crescent City than had Betsy 40 years before.

Result of Storm Surge Through the Gulf Outlet From Hurricane Betsy 1965

Winds with Betsy in New Orleans were much higher than they were with Katrina as Katrina had weakened substantially prior to landfall as it went through and eyewall replacement cycle and Betsy actually hit New Orleans whereas Katrina did not.  However, Katrina still maintained its formidable storm surge associated with a category 4 or 5 hurricane.  Perhaps the greatest difference between the two storms was the angle of attack.  Hurricane Betsy came from the Southeast and moved Northwest.  It moved just south of the city and the city actually experienced both the north and east eyewall.  Katrina approached from the South-Southwest, very similar to Hurricane Camille in 1969 and the city was never affected by the eyewall.  Most computer models create a worst case scenario for a hurricane affecting New Orleans as a category 5 approcahing from the Southwest.  I’ve seen SLOSH models that put 30 feet of water in downtown New Orleans in association with a category 5 hurricane making landfall around Houma.  Like Katrina, Betsy was a category 5 hurricane that declined to category three level at landfall but its attack from the Southeast meant that the storm surge pushing west up Lake Bourne and into the Gulf Outlet or into Lake Pontchartrain was limited.  A storm approching fromm the Southwest has all of the Gulf of Mexico to grab and push into the region while a storm like Betsy threw much of its surge on Alabama and Mississippi and the orientation of the Gulf Coast relative to its approach also limited the water available for a surge.  Hence,  Katrina had a bigger surge than Betsy.

Katrina Storm Track

It is also important to recognize that Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans.  Hurricane Katrina did not hit New Orleans; it hit Mississippi. The track was very similar to that of Hurricane Camille in 1969.  It could have been much worse and unless we do not understand what happened with Katrina and Betsy 40 years before, then the same thing will happen again.  However, should a category 5 hurricane make a landfall near Houma heading North-Northeast, then I suspect that any effort man makes will help but will not offer full protection.  While Katrina was far worse than Betsy for New Orleans, the lessons from 40 years before should have been heeded.  Some tried.  The New Orleans Times Picayune eerily published a story called “Washing Away” in 2002 that outlined the disasterous effect of even a moderate hurricane on New Orleans.  No one listened.

hurricane-katrina-51On This Date in 2005 New Orleans, Louisiana was under water.  It had been affected by Hurricane Katrina, but there are some things to remember from Katrina. As I mentioned, Katrina was only a category three hurricane when it made landfall on Monday morning August 29, 2005. Its winds had diminished just prior to landfall due a natural (and well timed)  eyewall replacement cycle. That is a natural process for a hurricane when new eye forms as the old one collapses. The maximum winds decrease typically and the energy gets dispersed somewhat. So the result was that 100 mph winds went beyond Mobile but the top winds were down to 120-130 mph. But, remember, the storm previously had winds of 175 mph and just because you reduce the winds does not mean the sea will react immediately so the storm surge remained what would be associated with a category 5 storm.

Katrina Surge in MS over 8 meters

Katrina Surge in MS over 8 meters

The surge in Mississippi was well over 30 feet in places. That is because it swept up the water from the mouth of the Mississippi, which is the Mississippi Trench. The water there is about 8,000 feet deep, give or take. The water along the shelf of the Mississippi coast is about 90 feet. There is no place for the water to go but on the land.  Hurricane Betsy did not draw on the same deep source for the surge and also had a vector heading that spread much of the surge along the coast.  Nevertheless, Lousiana still did not get the main surge with Katrina either.  Mississippi took the full brunt of the Katrina’s surge.  Mississippi was hit by the main force of the hurricane’s wind and water with New Orleans being on the western edge. The surge to the west of the eye was still substantial and actually went up Lake Bourne with the winds ahead of the storm coming from the East and shoving the water up the intercoastal waterway and then to the Industrial Canal and finally to the wall that collapsed into the Lower 9th Ward. I am told that the flood wall was designed to be weaker on that side of the canal so that if there was a huge force that threatened the integrity of the wall, the main part of the city would be protected. The Lower 9th Ward is in a natural marshy area and not a higher area like the French Quarter.   With Hurricane Betsy, the flood wall along the Industrial Canal did fail on both sides.

Storm Tide up Lake Bourne From Easterly Wind Ahead of Katrina about 5 meters

Storm Tide up Lake Bourne From Easterly Wind Ahead of Katrina about 5 meters

As a review, the New Orleans Times Picayune has a site that shows the progression of flooding of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina which includes a timeline. When you get to the flooding of Jefferson Parish, its important to note that the pumping station had been abandoned prior to the storm by order of the Police Jury President. The workers wanted to stay but politicians ordered them out. The defense of the police jury is that they said it was part of a “doomsday plan” devised years before to send workers 100 miles north in the event of a major hurricane. They say that they were prepared for a direct hit from a Category 5 hurricane. But, many residents say they would not have been flooded had the workers been allowed to stay at their posts. Further, at 11pm CDT on the 27th, the National Hurricane Center Forecast was not for a direct hit on New Orleans, but instead a Mississippi landfall.  Had the public officials not ordered the pumping station abandoned, its possible that many millions in property damage would not have happened.

The true story of Katrina, in my mind, has not been accurately portrayed in the press. In fact, I recall seeing a national news reporter saying from the French Quarter that the city had “dodged a bullet” when, in fact, the timeline shows that the levees on the east side of town had been over-topped hours before and the eastern suburbs were under water. Even when flooding had become known,  many news outlets used the same tired phrase that “New Orleans had dodged a bullet.”    Not surprisingly, most of those stories have been removed from internet archived files.  The fiasco that was the Superdome during Katrina was also not something that should have been a surprise as during Hurricane Georges, a similar situation resulted. The result of 14,000 people seeking shelter from Georges in 1998 was that evacuees stole furniture and damaged property that resulted in thousands of dollars in losses, and there were difficulties supplying the people living temporarily in the dome with necessities.  The procedures were not changed and the media had no clue that it had happened before.  From my experience, there are far more ignorant and uncreative people in television news than the public knows.  Way too many “journalists” are more interested in being on TV than in actually getting to the bottom of a story.  Often, they are incapable of understanding the nuts and bolts of a story or those who are competent become lazy or simply ignore facts that do not fit their world view.   For that reason, the true story may be years in being revealed to the public as true academics unravel the whole story.

Blanco Shows Leadership Skills Following Katrina

Blanco Shows Leadership Skills Following Katrina

In spite of my general feelings regarding the press, there are some who are willing and able to tell a full story.  On Sept 5, 2005 the Washington Post reported that the Governor of Louisiana refused to ask or allow for Federal Troops and takeover of relief efforts, partly due to political concern over how it would look for a Democrat Governor needing the help of President Bush. We have a federation and the Federal Government cannot just willy nilly send in troops into a state unless it falls under the guidelines of the Insurrection Act. By the time the governor had allowed the Feds in on that level, the city was already cut off. Other reports point to the Washington Post story stating that Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco had not declared a state of emergency prior to the storm (which was false, she did) as proof that none of that is true.

Gulfport MS: What a Direct Hit from a Major Hurricane Really Looks like..there's nothing left

Gulfport MS: What a Direct Hit from a Major Hurricane Really Looks like..there's nothing left

However, historian Douglas Brinkley wrote in his book Deluge that, while Blanco did declare a state of emergency, she only filled out a legal form that requested Federal assistance after the storm. Brinkley says, “If Blanco’s message to Bush had been an emphatic letter or frantic telephone call, and not merely a legal form—if it had actually communicated what wasn’t happening in Louisiana (i.e., evacuation)—various U.S. government agencies might have mobilized more quickly. Just as New Orleans wasn’t properly communicating with Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge wasn’t properly communicating to Washington, D.C. There was a chain of failures.” Brinkley does find fault with FEMA director Mike Brown for his lack of urgency. The fact that Brown was a little laid back is a bit odd since he had generally led hurricane relief efforts for Hurricane Ivan, Wilma, Charlie and Jean in Florida just the year before and the post storm criticism never seemed to come from Mississippi where the storm actually hit…it was just Louisiana. But, Brinkley also points out how a member of the Louisiana legislature tried to get Mayor Ray Nagin to understand the grave situtation but that they mayor was watching Little League Baseball less than 48 hours before the storm.

Hurricane Katrina as Cat 5 Hurricane Well Before Landfall

There is plenty of blame to go around.  From my experience in the media, it is no surprise at all that collectively they knew nothing about Hurricane Betsy nor that they initially had no clue about the flooding.  The way that they reported Katrina made it sound like the Lower 9th Ward and Chalmette had never been flooded like that before and both areas suffered similar flooding with Hurricane Betsy.  The newsfolks made it sound like the problems at the Superdome were unprecedented when, in fact,  a nearly identical situation with evacuees at the Superdome had happened in the past.  When people started charging that levees were purposely destroyed, no one thought to remind people that in 1965 similar charges were made.   Nevertheless, what is so terrible about this is not so much the nitwittery of the media, but instead the public officials.  They had some plans that simply didn’t work the way they were supposed to or should have worked.   But there were other concerns from previous storms that were never addressed nor corrected.  Political considerations were also an unnecessary and unhelpful part of Hurricane Betsy and Hurricane Katrina.  Elections matter.  I have always speculated that had Mike Foster still been the Governor of Louisiana, the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans may not have been so devastating.   However, while it could have and should have been better, it was going to be a disaster no matter what regardless of whether Lyndon Johnson was President or George W. Bush or whether Mike Foster or Kathleen Blanco was Governor. Man proposes, God disposes.

Weather Bottom Line:  The humidity levels have increased again so it will be a little more uncomfortable with lows in the upper 60’s.  Highs will be in the lower 90’s.  I told you that I thought that we had turned the corner on the excessive heat and humidity but that did not mean there would be no more 90 degree days.  It will be dry for the next several days, though an errant afternoon t’shower can’t be totally ruled out.

When a Hurricane Saved Washington DC and helped Win a War
August 25, 2010

Hurricane Providence Saved Washington as Commander In Chief Headed For the Hills

Hurricane Providence Saved Washington as Commander In Chief Headed For the Hills

Madison did not live up to Cartoon Maker's Image

Madison did not live up to Cartoon Maker's Image

On This Date in History:  The war of 1812 began June 18, 1812 when Congress declared war on Great Britain and President James Madison signed the measure into law. Why we call it the War of 1812 is lost on me because it wasn’t over until Christmas of 1814 and the biggest victory for the United States occurred after the war was over. Seems Andy Jackson and his boys in New Orleans didn’t get the news and met the British in a famous battle around Lake Borgne. The battle took place in January of 1815….so officially, one cannot say there was a battle of New Orleans in the war of 1812 because it was 1815 and the war was over. But, since Cleveland had already taken the moniker “the mistake by the lake” I guess they had to call it something. Wouldn’t that be pretty bad luck if you fought and died for your country in a battle of a war that was already over?

Stuart's George Saved by Dolley

Stuart's George Saved by Dolley

Now, not long before the war was over, Washington DC was in big trouble. On August 24, 1814, soldiers were racing alongside the civilians out of town in a panic. The British had landed 8 days prior with some 4000 battle-hardened troops who had seen plenty of action in the wars with Napoleon. The Americans were not experienced, not well trained and not well led. The President of the United States, James Madison came galloping through on a horse shouting “Clear Out! Clear Out!” When the Commander-In-Chief is telling everyone to haul-ass, then everyone listens. One of America’s proudest moments. Before his wife, Dolley Madison, left she grabbed a bunch of paintings including Gilbert Stuart’s famous painting of George Washington.  It’s a good thing she did because, as it turns out, Dolley Madison is credited with saving valuable artifacts of the nation

Maj. Gen. Robert Ross Led The Men Into Washington and Led Them in a Hasty Retreat In the Face America's Secret Weapon

The Redcoats came marching into Washington expecting a defense. Instead, they faced but a single volley of musket fire. But, it was enough to get their attention because it killed one guy, wounded three others and took out the horse from under the commanding general. The Brits moved on to the Capitol, where again they expected a last stand. So, they fired a few rockets through the windows and storm trooper busted down the doors only to find the chirping of crickets. So, they set the place on fire. Then they set the White House on fire as well as the Treasury building. Major General Robert Ross, the commander, stopped by the newspaper National Intelligencer to pick up the scribe’s final paper that assured the residents that the city was safe. Yup…the press was right on that story and have been as accurate ever since. Anyway, Ross couldn’t get the paper into his pocket as a souvenir because he had already filled his pockets with some of Madison’s personal papers. The general shouted, “Damn It! My pocket is full of old Madison’s love letters!” That’s what he gets for looting.

Bill Thornton Saved the Patent Office...Sorta

Bill Thornton Saved the Patent Office...Sorta

On August 25, 1814, a single maniac named John Lewis came charging at the British Army. He was the grandnephew of George Washington and it seems he was upset over his impressment into the Royal Navy. So, he went on a revenge binge only to get himself shot to death. There was another, more successful defender though. Dr. William Thornton ran the Patent Office and just as the soldiers were set to torch the building, he told the perpetrators that they would be no better than the barbarians who had put ablaze the Ancient Library of Alexandria. I suppose in shame, the Redcoats backed off and the Patent Office was saved. Then, Divine Providence showed up.

Not Long After the British Burned the White House, a Hurricane Doused the Flames and Forced the Redcoats Backed to their Ships

The British tried to set fire to 150 barrels of gunpowder at an abandoned American fort. The nitwits ended up setting off the whole kit and kaboodle at once and killed 30 of their own men while wounding another 44. Seems these guys were their own worst enemy. Then the wind picked up and the rain started to fall in buckets. Just in the nick of time, on this date in 1814,  before the entire city was burned to the ground, a hurricane showed up. The fires were put out and Ross ordered a full scale retreat back to their ships. The British never returned and Washington DC was saved from total destruction by this so-called “Hurricane of Providence.”   Most accounts of the burning of Washington, such as the New World Encyclopedia, mention the hurricane in passing but do suggest that the rain from the tropical cyclone did put out the fires in the public buildings.  Now, just because the British evacuated Washington DC doesn’t mean that they were done. Somehow their ships were spared the wrath of the hurricane because less than a month later, they attempted to invade Baltimore but they were not able to fully penetrate the city’s defense or destroy Fort McHenry that guarded Baltimore Harbor. It was during the bombardment of Fort McHenry that Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the words to what became known as the Star Spangled Banner. And guess who was also involved in that attack? Why none other than Maj. Gen. Robert Ross was a key figure in the adventure of Francis Scott Key during the Battle of Baltimore. So, without the Hurricane of Providence, maybe there would not have been a Star Spangled Banner. But, this national intervention of Divinity didn’t save everything. While the city was saved, the Patent Office that Dr. Thornton so skillfully saved wasn’t as lucky. The roof blew off. Perhaps Dr. Thornton missed church that week.

Weather Bottom Line:  You won’t believe the end of the week.  A big fat area of high pressure is dropping down from Canada.  You’ll wake up to temps in the low 60’s or maybe even upper 50’s on Thursday morning.  It will be tough to get to the low 80’s in the afternoon.  Friday the high moves off to the east but overnight temps will fall to the low to mid 50’s.  The wind will become more easterly on Friday afternoon and we’ll get to the low 80’s.  Another cool night on Friday night will give way to Southeasterly winds on Saturday and highs in the mid to upper 80’s and then we’ll threaten 90 on Sunday.  There will be abundant sunshine throughout.  This high will get anchored along the East Coast which will help prevent Hurricane Danielle from approaching the US and most likely what will become Hurricane Earl as well.

Hurricane Camille A Powerful But Forgotten Lesson
August 17, 2010

Ocean Going Ships Were No Match for Hurricane Camille Aug. 17, 1969

Before Katrina, There Was Hurricane Camille

On This Date in History:  Hurricane is the name given for tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic.  Tropical Cyclones  form in various parts of the globe but are most frequent in the Western Pacific, where they gain the moniker of Typhoon.  While the annual frequency in the North Atlantic is well below the number expected in the Western Pacific, the very fact of their destructive potential is sufficient for there to be a close study of the storms as they relate to the United States.  By the early 20th century, Americans are used to seeing satellite loops and expert analysis with forecast tracks on television.  While the exact landfall and intensity forecast is not always perfect, everyone in a given area is well informed about the prospects for their area regarding any tropical cyclone activity.  But, it wasn’t all that long ago that none of that was available. 

The Forecast Track For Hurricane Camille Missed the Mark-We've Come a Long Way Since 1969

blahHurricane satellite tracking technology was first developed in 1960, so it has not been available for all that long.  Prior to satellites, the only way that meteorologists could know that a hurricane was approaching was from ship reports.  But, ships tend to try to avoid big storms so the information available was relatively limited.  That meant that the forecast success rate was limited.  The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 was officially forecast by the US Weather Bureau to go up the east coast of the United States.  Meteorologist Isaac Cline in Galveston was convinced the storm was approaching Southeast Texas while his bosses in Washington kept saying otherwise.  So, the advent of satellite technology was a huge step forward in tracking storms.  The first hurricane to be tracked continuously by satellite was a rather ominous one:  Hurricane Camille.  In just 3 days it would grow from a tropical storm to become the most powerful force on the face of the earth and the storm of the century.

Hurricane Katrina Made Landfall in Almost The Identical Location As Hurricane Camille 36 Years Earlier

Camille came off the African coast as a tropical wave and progressed across the Atlantic.  On August 9, 1969 it was reported as a disturbance nearly 500 miles east of the Leeward Islands.  Five days later, it was determined that it had a circulation  near the Cayman Islands with a central pressure of 29.50″ or 999 mb and it gained the name of Tropical Storm Camille.  A day later, it was southest of Cape San Antonio, Cuba and it’s pressure had dropped to 991mb or 29.26″ of mercury.  The maximum winds were estimated to be 115 mph and Camille was designated as a hurricane.  Now, the forecast had called for the storm to make a landfall in the Florida panhandle.  But, hurricane forecastinig was in its infancy and, again, this was the first storm to be tracked by satellite.  So, the level of experience using such techniques was limited.  The forecast track versus the actual track had a much larger degree of error than we have today.   Even today,  the intensity forecast is extremely difficult so, back in 1969, the experts had their hands full in that regard.  By the 16th of August, Hurricane Camille had moved North-Northwest into the Gulf of Mexico and its central pressure dropped to 905 mb or 26.72″ of mercury.  At that time, it was the lowest central pressure ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico and one of the lowest ever recorded for a tropical cyclone anywhere in the world. 

Fishing Boats Became Common Yard Decorations

On August 17, 1969 Hurricane Camille was about 250 miles South of Mobile Alabama with maximum surface wind speeds estimated to be in excess of 200 mph.  Hurricane Camille was significantly more powerful than Hurricane Katrina.   At 11:30 pm on this date in 1969, Hurricane Camille made landfall near Bay  St. Louis, MS.  Hurricane Katrina had a remarkably similar path as Camille.  Remember, Hurricane Katrina did not hit New Orleans; Hurricane Katrina hit Mississippi in nearly the same location as Hurricane Camille 36 years before. 

Destruction Level Map As a Result of Camille

When Camille made landfall, the guage at the west end of the Bay St. Louis bridge registered 909 mb or 26.85 inches of mercury.  That represented the second lowest barometric pressure ever recorded in the United States; a 1935 Labor Day Hurricane in the Florida Keys checked in with 892 mb or 26.35″.   Hurricane Andrew registered 922 mb at landfall near Miami in 1992 and I believe that Katrina checked in at 920 mb when it was offshore but had a considerably higher central pressure at landfall.   Extreme winds associated with such low pressure make measuring velocity difficult as anemometers tend to blow away or power supplies to measuring devices often fail.  But, the SS Cristobal anchored in Pilottown, LA estimated winds of 160 mph.  Overall, maximum sustained winds estimated for Hurricane Camille were estimated to be 180 to 190 mph with gusts of 210 to 220 mph.  Keep in mind that a tornado designated as EF-4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale has winds of 166-200 mph.  The highest rating for a tornado on the EF scale is EF-5 with winds of over 200 mph.  Hurricane Camille was much larger than any tornado yet its top winds approached those of the most destructive tornado. 

Top computer generated image shows new eyewall forming around contracting old eyewall; bottom shows new eyewall

While Katriana and Camille both were category 5 hurricanes on the Saffir Simpson Scale at one time, Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a category 3 hurricane with winds of 125 mph.   Camille slammed the coast at full fury.  It is very rare for a hurricane to make landfall in the United States as a category 5 hurricane.  Only Camille in 1969, Andrew in 1992(FL landfall) and the unnamed Florida Keys Hurricane in 1935 hold such a distinction on the list of most intense hurricane to strike the United States.  While it is uncertain why several storms have weakened prior to landfall, I believe part of the reason is happenstance.  It is very difficult for a hurricane to maintain maximum strength for long.  Absolute perfect conditions must exist for a hurricane to reach such a level and as time goes by, those conditions change.  Also, there is a natural life-cycle to a tropical cyclone in which, when it reaches its top strength, there is something called an eyewall replacement cycle.  The initial eyewall collapses toward the center and a new eyewall forms.  During this process, the central pressure will tend to rise and the winds decrease.  Hurricane Katrina was in the midst of an eyewall replacement cycle when it made landfall which is why it did not hit Mississippi at maximum intensity.   However, it has been my  observation that when a hurricane goes through the cycle, the energy gets expanded from the center and so, while the winds at the core may be decreased, winds at the extremities seem to be stronger than normally anticipated.  In the case of Katrina, the winds near Mobile at Dauphin Island, AL were clocked at 105 mph; that is not much of a lapse from the maximum winds. 

Storm Surge Map Hurricane Camille 1969

Storm surge take time to react to changes in wind speed.  So, while the pressure rose and winds fell off with Katrina, the forward momentum of the storm in conjunction with the storms previous winds of 175 mph resulted in a storm surge consistent with a category 5 hurricane and not a category 3.  I’ve never done a study on the subject before, but I hypothesize that the part of the United States perhaps most vulnerable to a high storm surge is the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  As we have seen with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the water gets very deep very quickly off the coast.  The Deepwater Horizon was located only about 65 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River but it was in some 5000 feet of water.  The area is known as the Mississippi Canyon and depths just off the mouth of the Mississippi River approach 10,000 feet in some spots.  Conversely, the Mississippi Bay is extremely shallow.  So, when the volume of water shoved up from the Gulf comes ashore in Mississippi, it is trapped by the bay and has nowhere to go but up.  With Hurricane Camille, a maximum storm surge of 24.6 feet was recorded near Pass Christian, MS. 

Most of Metairie Was Not As Fortunate As My Aunt

I have family in New Orleans. I was born there.  I know the city.  On the Friday prior to Katrina’s landfall, I called my aunt in Metairie and told her that the storm would hit Mississippi; I told her if I was wrong, then it would be farther east.  The laws of physics and atmospheric conditions told me that it would not hit New Orleans.  However, I warned her that I could not be certain if they would not get affected by the western eyewall or how the levees would hold.  I suggested that she go visit my parents in Houston.  She was reluctant, saying that her house was 8 feet above see level on the Metairie Ridge and that her house never flooded.  I reminded her that, be that as it may, she would be out of power for weeks and nothing would be more miserable than being in New Orleans with no air conditioner.  She finally relented on Sunday and it took her 18 hours.  As it turns out, she was right.  Her home had little or no damage.  Just a mile or so down the road, the homes not on the ridge were irrepairably flooded. 

Click on Map for Times-Picayune Slide Show of Katrina New Orleans Flooding

You see, while New Orleans was not hit by a hurricane and did not receive the full storm surge and Katrina could not match the intensity of Hurricane Camille, it was a much larger storm.  The push of the water to the west,  was enhanced initially by the large wind field and the east wind ahead of Katrina.  As the storm went by the progression of the surge that led to the flooding of New Orleans continued with additional surge that went up Lake Borgne, through the Intercoastal Waterway and toward the Industrial Canal.  I speculate that the surge of Katrina was greater than Camille due to its size.  The surge along the Mississippi Coast was between 20 and 30 feet.  I know for sure, that I told Snow  White on Sunday night prior to Katrina’s landfall that “alot of people are going to die tonight.”  I know that I told my friend and co-anchor, Steve Burgin, the same thing.  Snow White says that I said it on the air.  I’m not so sure that I did.

Before and After View of the Richelieu Apartments Where A Hurricane Party Was Supposedly Held; As the Story goes-one person survived by floating out of a 2nd story window before the building collapsed

But, the reason that I knew that was because it had been so long since Hurricane Camille, that most people did not remember Camille.  I was a kid in 1969 and we were supposed to go to a family reunion in Biloxi but Biloxi was blown and washed away. We drove to Mobile Bay and the Grand Hotel at Point Clear, AL a month after the storm.  I saw the fishing boats on the other side of the highway after Camille.  I saw the empty space were homes and businesses used to be.  Interstate 10 was not complete yet and we had to divert way north to Poplarville, MS and I remember that far inland all of the trees laid over like matchsticks and the utter devastation to Poplarville that was 40 miles inland.  I rememberd how large ocean going freighters were stuck on the beach and saw a giant beached barge.  I remembered the story of the infamous hurricane party supposedly held at the Richelieu Apartments

Flooding In Richmond, VA From Hurricane Camille

Most of the people who lived there in 2005 were not aware of Hurricane Camille.  Certainly, the developers of all of those casinos that the legislature determined could not be on land did not learn any lessons from Hurricane Camille in 1969.  Camille killed some 267 people, though many were killed in Virginia and West Virginia from flooding.  In fact, rainfall from Camille  in parts of the Virginia’s  approached 25 inches.   Due in large part to the flooding in New Orleans, somewhere between 1000 and 2000 died from Katrina, yet I”m afraid that to some degree, the lessons from Katrina could be forgotten just as they were with Camille.  The greatest that I can think of is that no one seems to want to admit that Hurricane Katrina did not hit New Orleans.  Some folks along the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005 had no clue of what was about to hit them.   I’m afraid that, even though Katrina utterly devastated New Orleans, it will be lost on public officials and residents that it could be far worse.  It is quite unsettling to think of what a Hurricane Camille striking Southeast Louisiana from the Southwest with 200 mph winds would do to the Crescent City.

Weather Bottom Line:  I saw over the weekend a forecast that called for temperatures in the 90’s this week which tells me that person’s abilities are limited.  Upper 80’s is the story as a frontal boundary came through followed by  a secondary push of drier air.  That front to the south didn’t go to far and tomorrow we have a wave running up along that boundary which may overrun our area and give us a chance for rain.  I’m still not so sure that the remnant of Tropical Depression 5 is not going to help bring us some moisture too this week.  Anyway, the humidity should slowly return as the week progresses and we probably will eventually get back to the low 90’s by the end of the week as a warm front moves north on Friday or Saturday in advance of an oncoming cold front.  It’s not that great of a front except that it will reinforce the fairly comfortable conditions we have with bearable humidity and highs around 90.  Sunday looks to be the better of the weekend as rain chances should be off the board.

The Grifon Did Not Sink But Peter Benchley Gains a Script Anyway
July 31, 2010

The Grifon from "The Deep" Was Real and So Was Bisset

Shaw Keeps His Eyes Forward
Shaw Keeps His Eyes Forward

On this date in 1715, the French ship Grifon survived a hurricane off the coast of Florida. “So what,” you ask?Well, first off when the Spanish came to the new world they were looking for booty and plunder. They wanted to exploit the region for its natural resources and send it back to the king in Spain. So they would gather up all of their gold and trinkets and send them back on ships, usually in a convoy to protect against pirates. The Spaniards were rather formidable in those days and so it was suicide for any marauding pirates to try and take on a fleet of ships. On this date in 1715, 10 Spanish ships and one French ship made its way through the Straits of Florida. 

Shaw wasn't making up the stuff about the Griffon

Shaw wasn't making up the stuff about the Griffon

The flotilla rounded the Florida peninsula in order to follow the Gulf Stream back to Europe.  As it made their way up the east coast of Florida,  the entire fleet ran into a hurricane. Some sources say the fleet hit the hurricane on July 30, 1715 and I suspect the difference is that the ships went down on the night of the 30th or early morning of the 31st as this account implies.    In any event, for some reason, the French ship sailed farther off the coast from the Spaniards. The Spanish ships, filled with hundreds of tons of gold and silver, sunk. Some estimate the value of the treasure in 1975 dollars was about $86 million.  But,  the French ship survived. That French ship was the Grifon.

Painting of 1715 Ship Wreck

The sinking of the Spanish fleet in 1715 was one of the worst of Spain’s New World ventures in terms of lives and treasure lost.  Over 1000 men went to the bottom with the 10 ships and the crown lost over 14 million pesos.  Maritime historians that the ultimate cause of the disaster beyond the hurricane was that the Spanish had a habit of over loading their galleons and speculation is that was the case with the 1715 Spanish fleet.   News of the disaster reached Havana and Spain quickly dispatched ships for salvage operations.  A good bit of the treasure was located in waters shallow enough for breath-holding divers to gather a large number of coins.  The salvage operations took several years to complete and the Spanish built a small store house on the edge of a small island to house the treasure until it could be taken back to Spain.  But, British freebooters caught wind of the operation and in 1716, a bunch of ships under the charge of Henry Jennings raided the island and made off with 350,000 pesos.  Undeterred, the Spanish resumed salvaging until they had gotten all that they could get in 1719. 

A Famous Scene from "The Deep"

A Famous Scene from "The Deep"

If you remember the movie The Deep then this ship is familiar to you. Its the ship that Robert Shaw decided had survived but later came back and may have sunk. I’ve provided a script from the scene below. But anyway, there are two things that come to mind from this. First is that Peter Benchley did a fabulous job of basing his fictitious tale on accurate history. I was very surprised that there really was a Grifon that really was the only ship to not sink in a hurricane. The other thing is that about 80% of that gold was recovered by the Spanish by 1719 but the rest did not come back to the surface until the mid 1960’s, which makes me wonder how much of Benchley’s script was really ficticious. Speaking of scripts, if you can take your eyes off of the photo of Jacqueline  Bisset, you can read the script from The Deep, here.

Weather Bottom Line:  Morning rain should give way to cloudy skies.  I doubt if we get to 90 today.  But, the warm front will slowly lift north and we will become hotter and more humid again.  Look for scattered showers and t-storms for a couple of days and then a big fat ridge noses up from the Southwest which will limit rain chances and take our temperatures back into the mid to upper 90’s probably beginning on Tuesday.

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