Wednesday, August 31, 2011

93L & Katia

We now have 93L entering the Gulf of Mexico. I really thought this was going to happen, and it looks like things are slowly coming together. Again, the pattern screamed for this. I fully expect 93L to become Lee, and I'm still sticking with a Texas landfall. However, that's a VERY tough forecast right now. I honestly don't care what the models are saying at this time, but I have to at least recognize that the spread is massive (South Texas to the Florida Panhandle). We will have a better idea by Thursday night/Friday morning, as this should meander around the Gulf for a few days. I'll be the first to say this is one tough forecast. But hey, that's the tropics for you, and I personally enjoy the challenge!

With Katia, I still think it is going to miss the US, but by a lot less than most think. I definitely have it well west of Bermuda, and this is a real threat to the Canadian Maritimes in my opinion. We'll see what happens, but I like a more west track than most. Many more updates to come on 93L & Katia. I'll try to put out a detailed post tomorrow night!

*Update 10 am* It is starting to look like 93L will just sit in the Northern Gulf and meander around for many days (Bad news for flooding rainfall!). I personally see it becoming a strong tropical storm/weak hurricane, but again, this is really tough! The track forecast is ridiculously tough still. While I'm sticking with a movement back SW towards Texas, it could easily go N/NE into LA, MS, AL, or the panhandle of Florida. It could also go into Louisiana and then pop back out into the Gulf and start heading towards Texas? Maybe by tomorrow morning I'll have a better handle on it. I know that's not what many want to hear, but it's just being honest. Very hard forecast!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Just My Thoughts...

I posted on facebook today that the next 10 days should be interesting/challenging out in the tropics. I personally feel Lee will develop and go into the Gulf (Most likely Texas), and I also think Katia is at least a threat to the east coast (Most likely North Carolina). I'm not predicting any disaster or any specific details, just there is a legitimate threat, that's all. I refuse to base my forecast on 7-10 day model forecasts, as I'm all about pattern recognition. Live by the model, and die by the model! The pattern says that Lee may form in the Gulf later this week/weekend, and that Katia may be a scare for the east coast. Key word is may, as you should always follow the NHC for official forecasts. What may become Lee is more of a gut call, so we'll see there. The pattern screams for it though in my opinion. With Katia, I would typically say she is going out to sea (~ 9 out of 10 tropical cyclones that form east of 35W longitude recurse harmlessly out to sea). Even though that tropical tip only leaves around a 10% chance for a US landfall, the Asian trough/ridge teleconnection at least tells me there is a threat. Especially, with a typhoon amplifying everything. At this time I think Katia will barely miss, but that will give many along the east coast a scare. It's going be close!

Anyways, the bottom line is these are just my thoughts. I'm wrong all the time, and I never claim to be an expert (In my opinion, there is no such thing in weather forecasting). I was off on Irene's track, even though I did say Morehead City, NC almost 4-5 days out. However, overall I'm not happy with my Irene forecast, because I blew the intensity and originally had south Florida as my most likely landfall spot. One thing about me, I'm not scared to say what I think. If people disagree, that's 100% fine, but at least have the respect to tell me your thoughts first. What I don't like, is people that are quick to criticize, yet never have the guts to say what they think until after the event is over. Like I said, I'm wrong all the time, as the best forecasters may get 66.7% of their forecasts right. Of course those odds go down even more the further out in time you go. I understand and accept that I will be wrong many times, but I'm not scared to say what I think. Even in storm chasing, I have always lived by the moto, "You win some, and you lose most". That's just the nature of meteorology, forecasting, and storm chasing in general.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Beyond Sad/Powerful

I got back home late last night from Kitty Hawk, NC. I drove nearly 2,100 miles, as Irene was the 13th hurricane I have chased. I'll get to Hurricane Irene later in the week (Will post many pictures/videos), but I want to focus on the 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina tonight. Instead of me recounting the things I saw during the chase in Gulfport, MS, I just want everyone to watch one single video that is beyond sad/powerful. It's hard not to get a little emotional watching this video. God bless Hardy Jackson and the rest of the people affected by Hurricane Katrina. I know one thing, I'll never forget this hurricane, as I'll always have a special place in my heart for the Mississippi Gulf Coast!

Also, here is a great Hurricane Katrina tribute video my friend Jesse Vinturella made...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kitty Hawk, NC

This is going to be short and to the point. I'm leaving around 4am tomorrow to head to Kitty Hawk, NC. Remember, this region of the Outer Banks is elevated, so I'm not worried about surge. We will have to hide the car from the winds, but I feel good about this spot. Of course we will scout this region out hardcore before we decided on an exact spot. Hurricane Irene has the potential to be a catastrophic hurricane for the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast US. PLEASE take all warnings very seriously and watch Hurricane Irene closely. I'll post again tomorrow when we get to North Carolina. Also, follow for the latest...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hurricane Irene Update

Hurricane Irene is starting to move away from Hispaniola and appears to be strengthening. There was a pressure drop from 976 mb to 969 mb in the last intermediate advisory (3 hours). The winds are still 90 mph, but I expect that to increase soon enough. There is typically a little lag time from a pressure drop and the winds responding. I still expect Hurricane Irene to become a monster hurricane, but maybe not quite as strong as first thought. The potential is there for a lot of deepening, so it's something to watch closely for sure!

The track is a different story. I'm am constantly humbled by weather forecasting, as this is still not an easy forecast as all! The trend continues a little east. The NHC's track takes Irene across the Outer Banks of North Carolina, before smashing into the Mid Atlantic/Northeast US. This is appearing more and more likely. Also, there is still a chance Irene could go out to sea, and miss the US completely. I still plan on going to Morehead City, NC tomorrow afternoon to setup and chase this potential beast. Maybe I'm just stubborn, but I have a feeling Morehead City won't be too far off. I would attempt the Outer Banks if I thought my car would make it. We'll see? I'll try to put out one more update before I leave tomorrow. Obviously, if things do trend more east, I'll be staying home. If you live in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast US, you really need to watch Irene very closely! This is potentially a very dangerous situation...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Quick Hurricane Irene Update

You can clearly see the NHC has come east with its track ideas today. By late Saturday/early Sunday this was becoming more and more clear. I originally had Irene making landfall near Miami on Friday, but I came back east to South Carolina yesterday. Right now, it actually looks like it could make landfall in North Carolina around Wilmington, if not a little east of that. While I feel much better about a Florida miss tonight, this track forecast is still not a done deal by any means. There is a big difference whether it hits South Carolina vs. North Carolina for the rest of the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast US. The further east along North Carolina Hurricane Irene hits, the worst the weather conditions for the Mid-Atlantic/ Northeast US. Also, there is still a shot it could miss the US entirely. While I don't personally see that, it's possible for sure.

I'm not going to get too much into strength right now, but Irene has a solid shot at becoming a monster hurricane. The future conditions for Irene look near ideal, but things can/do change. I will say, a major hurricane at landfall is looking very possible if not even probable. Especially, with Irene mostly missing Hispaniola to the north. It's honestly a scary setup. If you know me, you know I'm not about hype at all, but at the same time I feel like I wouldn't be honest if I didn't at least talk about the large potential for intensification. Please make sure you are hurricane ready from Florida to New England. Even if Irene misses, now is the time to be prepared. More updates to come...

* 7PM UPDATE: Hurricane Irene is a category-2! 100 mph (981mb)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

TS Irene

Ok, just when I thought South Florida looked like the spot, things have changed! I noted last night, there was a clear northerly shift with TS Irene. That continued through the night/day, and guidance has shifted east without a doubt. The problem is this, there is a fine line between Miami, FL and Charleston, SC. If you are off by 100 miles in the short term, it could lead to a HUGE error in the long term. It's about 600 miles by car from Miami, FL to Charleston, SC, so an error that large is very possible with the shape of Florida's/Georgia's coast. Due to the shape of Florida/Georgia, a 100 mile miss east of Miami, could lead to a 600 mile miss down the road. For this reason, I feel for the NHC. It's a forecasters/chasers nightmare!

I threw this out on facebook earlier, and I feel like it is something to at least consider. If we have a large/powerful hurricane rolling up the coast, that will release tons of latent heat in the atmosphere, which the models will have trouble seeing. This will pump the ridge some, but to what extent is hard to predict. This could be the deciding factor on where Irene will go in. Bottom line, it's one tough forecast to say the least!

My gut was around Miami since Friday, but it is hard to ignore the north shift. I think without a doubt if Irene misses, it will be to the east. And I have to say, my guy now says South Carolina. The scary thing with Irene is I think it will clip Puerto Rico and miss Hispaniola to the north. "If" that does happen, all I can say is LOOK OUT! This is going to be a major hurricane for someone along the east coast. If you live from the Florida Keys to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, watch this one closely. Even with the shape of the coast and how difficult this track forecast is, we'll know a lot more by Monday! Many more updates to come...

Friday, August 19, 2011


I posted this last night on facebook, but it still applies today. Will feel better about it in a couple days, but a track/intensity forecast right now is not the smartest option. Like the statement below, it just depends on how fast 97L develops and its interaction with the islands. The faster 97L develops, the more the threat to Florida. The slower it develops, the more the threat to the Gulf of Mexico. Plus, 97L's interaction with the islands is a huge wild card! If I had to put a forecast out right now, my gut instinct leans toward 97L developing quick enough to be a South Florida threat. The pattern leans that way to me, but we'll see? Big update to come soon (Probably Sunday)!

"The longer 97L takes to develop, the more west it will go. How it negotiates the islands is key! In wait and see mode right now..."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hurricane Camille 42 Years Later

Here are two blog posts I wrote on the anniversaries of Hurricane Camille. The first link, from the 41st anniversary, touches on the HRD re-analysis which "may" eventually downgrade Camille to a strong Category-4 hurricane at landfall in Mississippi. The second link, from the 40th anniversary, touches on several survivor stories from that horrible night. It also contains a link to a great blog post about Hurricane Camille by Stu Ostro. Enjoy!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hurricane Charley Account (~ 6 months later)

On Friday the 13th, August 2004, Hurricane Charley was making its way towards the western coast of Florida. Josh Johnson and I were about an hour north of Tampa around 6am that morning when we met up with our good friend John Walker at a hotel. We were all so tired after a long drive through the night, but we have been chasing for years, and drives like this were the norm. Just looking at the radars off the local TV stations in Tampa, I could tell right away that Charley was taking a turn to the right, and I had serious doubts at the time that Tampa was going to take a direct hit. I took a 3-hour nap, and woke up to check out more television coverage and radar presentations. At around 9:30am I knew Hurricane Charley was not going to hit Tampa. The scary thing was, if you watched the local television coverage you would think Tampa was the only spot in western Florida that was in trouble. I made a few phone calls back to my forecasting professor at Mississippi State University, showered, got a quick snack, and started mapping out where we were going to set up.

We got on highway 75 and started to head south. After lots of discussions with our forecasting professor and our own intuitions on the storm, we decided Port Charlotte, Fl was going to take a direct hit. We arrived in Port Charlotte around 1pm or about 3 hours before landfall. What we saw was appalling to say the least. We tried to warn everyone from locals to the police, but nobody would listen to us. Maybe its because were young, but I have to say that I have never been so frustrated in my entire life. Almost nobody was ready for the hurricane at all. Lots of places weren’t even boarded up, and most people were going about their business like it was a normal day. We got a lot of comments like, you don’t know what your talking about, its going to Tampa, your just trying to scare people, or my favorite, were Floridians and we know how to deal with hurricanes. Yes, that may be true if you live in South Florida and went through Hurricane Andrew, but the west coast of Florida hadn’t been hit by a major hurricane in almost 50 years. Nobody had any idea that a monster hurricane was on it way, and its was on a line that would tear right through the citizens of Charlotte county.

At around 2:30pm we got a call that Hurricane Charley was now a major hurricane, category 3, with 125mph winds. We knew at this point that Charley was becoming a very serious situation. Unfortunately, about 30 minutes later, our worst fears came true. We got another phone call; Hurricane Charley was undergoing rapid intensification, and was now a category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 150mph. Charley went from a strong category 2 hurricane at 965mb, to a strong category 4 hurricane at 941mb in only a couple of hours. The scary thing is we were receiving all this information while gassing up and eating a pizza we just picked up from a local pizza parlor. That’s unbelievable to me, and still angers me to this day. The last thing I said to the police was where are some concrete buildings, because all these buildings you see are going to be gone in about 2 hours. We scouted the area out very well, and found a cement-parking garage that we would use as our fort in this hurricane. Even at the time, with 4 years of chasing experience, nothing could prepare me for the wrath Charley was about to dish out. I mean, I’m not trying to brag or anything, but we have been in a few hurricanes and seen multiple tornadoes, some over a half mile wide about ¼ of a mile away. To be honest, that was NOTHING compared to the force Charley unleashed.

About an hour before landfall, we got in our car and drove around Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda trying to take some before pictures, and continuing to warn anybody we saw. The winds were picking up quickly, already tropical storm force at this point, so we headed back to our fort right next to the Bon Secours-St Joseph hospital. At around 4:15pm, the eye of Hurricane Charley made landfall in Port Charlotte. I honestly can’t explain to you what I saw. It was unbelievable how fast the winds were. Sustained near 150mph with higher gusts. Everything and anything in its way was destroyed. When you see bricks flying in the air at over 100mph, you know its bad. I look at it like this, tornadoes are the fingers of God, and hurricanes are the fists of God.

The most amazing part of Charley was the eye. I don’t think people understand what its like in the eye of a category-4 hurricane. First off, the winds go from near 150mph to almost nothing in about a minute. Your ears immediately start to pop, and when you venture outside you see almost total destruction knowing it’s only half over. The scariest thing was, Charley's eye was only 5 nm wide (It was a miracle we got inside that!). That is extremely small, much smaller than the eye of Andrew, and near the same size as the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane that annihilated the Florida Keys. The first Category 5 hurricane to strike the US in recorded history, with a pressure of 892mb or 26.35”. On average, the smaller the eye, the tighter the storm, and the stronger the hurricane. After taking a few pictures in the eye, you could see the southern eyewall making its way up the street. I couldn’t believe my eyes. You could see it coming up the street, starting to tear everything up as it did. We ran back to our fort, and preceded to take the second shot from Charley, which in my opinion, was as strong as the first shot we took. I have heard there was a wind gust of 173mph near by, which I definitely believe.

When it was all said and done we got in our car and drove around Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda. I felt so bad for the people. They really had no warning, and it looked like a bomb hit their county. I have never seen anything like it, and honestly I hope I never see anything like that again. As we drove around, I became madder and madder about the situation and the destruction I was seeing. Unfortunately, a lot of the people that died were killed in mobile homes. Mobile homes are destroyed in 70mph winds, so you can only imagine what they looked like after 150mph winds plus. I kept asking myself, why didn’t the cops warn these people and get them out to at least a stronger structure? The moral of the story to me was that next time I’ll do it myself and not rely on anybody else. All you had to do was get these people, most of which were elderly people, to a much safer cement building.

As bad as it was, it could have been worse. The Captiva and the Sanibel islands helped prevent a catastrophic storm surge. It was only 6 to 7 feet, but without those barrier islands protecting Charlotte County you could have seen a surge closer to 15 feet. I would guess the death toll would have been in the hundreds, even maybe near a thousand if that had happened. After taking a few pictures and trying to see if we could help anyone, we decided to leave and let the military, police, and emergency personal handle the situation. As we left you could see a convoy miles long with military, police, and emergency vehicles coming to try to help. That’s when it hit you that many people most likely died.

*I wrote this about 6 months after Hurricane Charley. Little did I know that I would experience the wrath of Hurricane Katrina about 6 months after I wrote this. Wind damage is bad, but it's nothing compared to the power of water. I found that out first hand on August 29th, 2005. However, Hurricane Charley is by far the best storm chase of my life. The things I saw are beyond amazing! Still to this day, I haven't experienced anything even close to Charley! You can really sense my frustration about people not being warned, but I have realized as I have gotten older, there isn't much you can do sometimes. It's up to an individual to take responsibility for themselves, even though the Charley situation was not a good one! Many mistakes were made, period!

It really pains me that I didn't have a video camera at the time. Product of being a very poor college student. I was down to a few dollars left in my bank account just to even chase Hurricane Charley, and I didn't receive my first TA payment from MSU until September 1st. Also, if I would have known Charley was going to explode to a Cat-4, I would have sold everything I had to get a decent video camera. lol... Oh well, at least I did get some great shots, and I feel very grateful for that! I can only hope I someday experience a hurricane like Charley again. Some people take that the wrong way, but I'm just being honest. I chase hurricanes, I don't make them! This was a once in a lifetime chase, but hopefully I'll get another shot someday. Hurricanes are what I live for!

©Greg Nordstrom - 2004

Thursday, August 11, 2011

93L is the one to watch!

This is what I posted on facebook today. I'm focusing on how fast 93L develops (9 out of 10 tropical cyclones that develop east of 35W longitude will recurve harmlessly out to sea) and how the trough ridge pattern will setup. Japan is a big key there. My gut/instincts says it will miss the trough, so you know what that means, west... I'll have a detailed update on Sunday!

"I will say looking at everything in depth, 93L is a legitimate threat. With that said, I'm still going to reserve judgement for a few days. Wouldn't be too smart to drop a 12 day track forecast right now. lol. I'm leaning towards it missing the trough, but I'll feel much better about it by this weekend. I don't care what the models say, I'm focusing on Japan and how fast it develops. Not seeing 92L though..."

Monday, August 8, 2011

Quick Update...

The tropics are quiet, but don't expect that to last long. By around August 20th or so I expect the real fireworks to start. If I had more time I would explain in detail, but the trough slowly retrograding back west, and looking at the MJO, I think the US better watch out. I had 14 named storms, but again, what's most important by far, is the fact I expect a high impact season. Don't see any reason at all to change that. Still believe Florida/Carolinas are the main areas to watch this season. Of course you shouldn't let your guard down from Texas to Maine, but I have a feeling the majority of the action will be focused in Florida/Carolinas. We'll see?

I'll try to blog some this week, but I'll be at the BMP/OMP workshop here at Mississippi State University. Online students will be coming in from all across the US/World, and I look forward to meeting them face to face for the first time. I always enjoy that. Again, I'll update when I can, but I don't really think there is going to be much to talk about this week as far as direct US threats...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011

TS Emily is Dead

Hispaniola - 1, Emily - 0

This was from my blog post this weekend: "There is a danger this could hit Hispanolia and get torn to pieces. That's very possible! "

I'll be the first to admit by Tuesday I thought she would make it, but I guess not. lol. Emily never really got her act together, and Hispaniola finished her off. I would still watch it as it heads through the bahamas, but it's pretty much a done deal for Emily! We'll see?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Latest Seasonal Update

Here is the latest Atlantic hurricane seasonal update from Dr. Klotzbach & Dr. Gray from Colorado State University. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thoughts on Tropical Storm Emily's Track

I'm going to keep this as quick as possible. This is still not an easy forecast, as things can/do change, but I do feel much more confident about it tonight.

I expect Emily to hit Hispaniola weak enough (probably a solid-strong TS), without a well developed core, that it will be able to regain strength fairly quickly in the Bahamas. So with that in mind, I expect Emily to move across the central/eastern part of Hispaniola, and pop out as a weak TS (40mph) or maybe a tropical depression. From there I expect it to gain strength, eventually becoming a hurricane as it moves through the Bahamas. While I think Emily will be close enough to scare everyone, I don't expect it to make landfall. I'll say it stays about 100 miles (give or take 50 miles either way) offshore as it nears both Florida and the Carolinas. This is not to say you shouldn't let your guard down, but I do feel fairly confident with that forecast. Also, this doesn't mean areas along the coast won't see stormy weather. There will almost certainly be high surf and a solid threat for rip currents. While I hope no one is in the water, if you are ever caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until you get out of it. If you swim into the current, you will eventually get exhausted and drown. Something to please keep in mind!

*NOTE: If I'm off by 100 miles, which is nothing in a 4-5 day forecast, that will make a big difference. While I feel fairly confident, I have been wrong many times before, and will be wrong many times in the future. It's forecasting, which is very difficult...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Thoughts on Tropical Storm Emily

This blog post is much more focused towards tropical cyclone interaction with an island/land like Hispaniola. I will touch on my thoughts/instincts on the forecast for TS Emily, but I still need more time to really nail that down. It's not easy! First with Hispaniola...

Tropical Tip: Strong hurricanes (well defined inner core) that moves across land often do not regain their intensity once back over water, while weaker storms intensify much more rapidly once back over the open water. Why? The land disrupts the inner core of the hurricane causing it to weaken, while the outer bands still over water continue to have healthy convection, which will prevent inflow from getting to the surface of the storm once back over open water. A couple good examples of that are Isadore in 2002 and Gustav in 2008.

So how does this apply to Emily and a landmass like Hispaniola? Well, this tip is especially true with a mountainous island like Hispaniola. It really tears up tropical cyclones. However, if Emily can remain fairly weak (not a defined inner core), then it is much more likely (if it can survive its trip across Hispaniola) to ramp up over the open water. If Emily does have a well defined inner core, it will be destroyed by Hispaniola, and it will be very difficult for it to ramp up again. Now of course this doesn't take into account many environmental factors like dry air and shear, as I'm strictly talking about land interaction and its effect on the core of a tropical cyclone. This all assumes the environment is ripe for intensification. That's important to keep in mind.

So here are three possibilities with Tropical Storm Emily:

1) It ramps up fairly quick, steered more by the trough, gaining enough latitude to just miss or clip Hispaniola to the north/east. This would lead to a strong hurricane in the Bahamas, but I believe in this scenario it would get picked up by the trough, barely missing the US. It would be close though!

2) It doesn't ramp up, steered much less by the trough, going across the island of Hispaniola. "If" it survives, then I would expect a decent ramp up until it gets very close to the Florida coast. A Cat-1/2 hurricane is very possible in this scenario, and I would likely expect a US landfall. However, this is still very tricky. It could hit Florida, or just barely miss, eventually hitting/clipping the Carolinas. That would be a forecasters nightmare!

3) It doesn't ramp up initially, but then starts to try to bomb out before moving across Hispaniola. If an inner core was well established, then I wouldn't expect much once it got back into open water. A similar track to #2 would occur, but I wouldn't fear intensification near as much. Of course this just depends on how strong Emily is when it hit Hispaniola. It would probably have to be a strong 1/weak 2, which is a probably unlikely.

So what do I think? I think scenarios 1 and 2 are most likely at this time. I would like to watch it for a day or so to really feel better about it. Since Emily took its sweet time to develop, a more western solution has become apparent. However, this doesn't guarantee that Emily will strike the US or even survive Hispaniola. There is also a chance it could stay very weak and keep moving west/south of Hispaniola. I think that is unlikely, but not impossible by any means. It's just too tough to put out an official track forecast I feel confident about right now. If it would have developed late Saturday/early Sunday, then I would feel confident by now. Since it didn't, I'll wait another day to be as accurate as possible. I'll post more thoughts tomorrow!

*Remember, I'm talking about a well developed inner core that is associated with strong hurricanes, in an environment that is conducive for intensification.

- Well developed core destroyed, very hard to ramp back up. Takes a lot of time...

- Not a well developed core, it will be disrupted, but it will intensify much more readily back over open water...


I'll have an update late tonight, but 91L sure has been taking its sweet time. The bottom line is this, the longer 91L takes to develop, the more west it will go. The energy "splitting" apart sure changed everything. Lol! You got to love the tropics!