Storms Roll Through Starkville, Cause Damage

After becoming the top dog (no pun intended) in college football, the city of Starkville had some additional excitement. A line of storms rolled through the town of my alma mater, Mississippi State University, and caused damage and power outages Monday afternoon.

Mississippi and neighboring states in the deep south was and continues to be under the gun with a potent October storm that brings a moderate risk of severe weather. A line of potent thunderstorms moved through the town. People on social media posted images of damage, as well as posts reporting power outages across town.

The line of storms, as well as some discrete cells ahead of the line, continue to prompt warnings.

A slight risk of severe weather remains for the panhandle and Big Bend area on Tuesday – including Tallahassee.

SPC: Slight Risk of Severe Weather For TLH Tuesday

(Source: SPC/NOAA)

(Source: SPC/NOAA)

The Storm Prediction Center has placed a portion of the southeastern U.S. – including a portion of the Florida panhandle and the Big Bend – under a slight risk category of severe weather for Tuesday. This includes Tallahassee and Panama City.

An upper-level trough is expected to dig in the Midwest on Tuesday (see below). There will be plenty of lift associated with this large-scale system. At the surface, a low is expected to track from the lower Midwest to the northeast into the Great Lakes states. This will push a cold front through the eastern states Monday and Tuesday.

(Source: WeatherBell)

(Source: WeatherBell)

Warmer, more moist air will be transported northward towards the Florida panhandle and Big Bend. This, along with some shear, could help bring organized thunderstorms across the area on Tuesday. The GFS and the Euro are nearly identical on timing of the arrival of the front. Thunderstorms could be in the afternoon (if the current timing holds), where thunderstorm activity would get help from any daytime heating. CAPE isn’t expected to be very high, but might be sufficient.

The greatest threat will likely be damaging winds, but a couple of tornadoes can’t be ruled out.

We’ll find out more Monday when the latest data and model runs are released. For now, keep tabs on the weather.

Charley: My Perspective 10 Years Later

It was August 2004. President Bush was running for reelection, the iPod was the item of choice for listening to music, and people were getting ready to watch the Summer Olympics in Greece. I was a student at Central Florida Community College (now known as the College of Central Florida), and had two part-time jobs: A clerk at a grocery store in Belleview, Fla. and a lab assistant for the science department at CFCC. I was on the fence of whether I should study meteorology or journalism, but I was on a meteorology track at the time. I was living in Summerfield, which is three miles south of Belleview or 15 miles south of Ocala. It was just a few days before the fall semester started when Tropical Depression Three came on my radar. I kept writings to document what was happening at the time. Here’s what I wrote on the night of August 9…

At 11 p.m. EDT, Three was located 165 miles west of Grenada in the Caribbean Sea. Models have this thing going towards the west, then west-northwest, then, maybe, get into the gulf. The 2 p.m. GFDL model run has Three as a possible hurricane a couple hundred miles west of Naples on Saturday. The BAM Medium has it not far off the coast of Ft. Myers on Saturday. These long range models aren’t etched in stone. It could ruin my final weekend of freedom, [or] it could skip away. We’ll see. As of now, it looks real good on the satellite imagery and it could strengthen as predicted. The SHIPS model has it as a hurricane in 72 hours. It gives me something to watch. 

The “final weekend of freedom” bit refers to a planned trip to Ormond Beach, which borders Daytona Beach to the north. My mother has a timeshare in Ormond, and her time slot started when Charley would impact Central Florida. 

The next morning, Three became Tropical Storm Charley as it was 450 miles south-southeast of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Charley was moving rapidly to the west-northwest with 40 mph maximum sustained winds. Twenty-four hours later, it had its eye on Jamaica with winds of 65 mph with it’s forward speed not changing much. Hurricane watches were already issued for the Florida Keys. It became a hurricane 12 hours later as the center of circulation moved just to the south of Jamaica. Charley started to move northwest the next morning. As of the 5 AM EDT advisory on August 12, hurricane warnings were issued for southwest Florida and the Keys. Hurricane watches were issued for portions of coastal West Central Florida – including Tampa Bay. My level of concern increased. Here’s what I wrote on the evening August 12…

After waking up at 7:30 a.m., I was still wondering if I really did wake up and was in some kind of weird dream. I was pondering whether the forecasts and satellite imagery were real. Since Monday, forecast models have been pretty consistent on a storm named “Charley” striking Florida’s gulf coast. I was thinking that things would change. They didn’t. 

I went to work for the 11-4 shift. It was packed! It was constantly busy with no break in sight. It was like that all day long. Some people feared the storm. However, some employees and customers denied the thought of the storm coming to the area. One woman said it will just bounce off Cuba and go away. Some said, “God will make it go somewhere else.” 

I was told management at my job that the store would likely close because of the storm. Marion County Schools and CFCC planned on being closed, too. It was looking like I would have time to prepare for what might happen. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) and the media pretty much agreed that Charley would likely make a direct impact on Tampa Bay. This meant that the storm – moving northeast – would make a direct impact on Ocala. At its projected speed and intensity, it looked like it would be a category 1 hurricane at best by time it got to our area. Living in a home that I wouldn’t call safe for winds above 100 mph, I was became somewhat concerned – especially if this storm were to intensify. There was also one thing I noticed…

Tomorrow will be Friday the 13th. Interesting. I always knew some of the weirdest things happen on that day. 

As a meteorology student and weather fanatic, I await this storm with excitement. I’ve never experienced hurricane force winds before and it would be an interesting experience. However, another side of me thinks about the possible damage and the threat of lives being lost…

The next morning (August 13), I kept tabs with local media as early as 5:30 in the morning. Not a whole lot changed with the forecast and prep mindsets. 

Sometime after noon, WFTV-TV Chief Meteorologist Tom Terry went against the general consensus and made a bold forecast. When everyone was screaming “Tampa Bay” for Charley’s destination of choice, Terry said that this storm would eventually be an Orlando storm. Charley started making a nudge to the right, which gave him suspicion of it hitting the Port Charlotte and Fort Myers area – not Tampa Bay. I started to notice the nudge, too. Did this mean that Tampa Bay and Ocala would be in the relative clear? With this path, this would place the two areas in the left-front quadrant of the hurricane. This is the weaker side of the storm; therefore, winds would not be as strong.

Then, at 1:15 PM EDT, the NHC said that maximum sustained winds have jumped from 125 mph to 145 mph. This was now a category four hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Dropsondes from reconnaissance aircraft noted that the minimum central pressure fell from 964 mb at 11:22 AM EDT, to 941 mb at landfall nearly 4.5 hours later (Pasch et al, 2004). I was stunned by the sudden increase in strength. I was thankful and disappointed at the same time. I was thankful that our domicile would likely be okay, but disappointed as a weather fanatic that I would miss the chance to experience such a storm. 

The storm was compact – kind of like Hurricane Andrew 12 years earlier. This kept the effects to a smaller geographic area. With such a small-scale storm, any change in path could change the impacts from Charley in any given area. In fact, the strongest winds were within 6 nautical miles of the center of circulation (Pasch et al, 2004). If you were the unlucky family that was close to this storm’s center, you were in for one hell of a ride.

Charley made landfall at 3:45 PM EDT near Cayo Costa, north of Captiva, according to the NHC’s final report on the storm (Pasch et al, 2004). The eye then passed over Punta Gorda an hour later. At 6:10 PM EDT, I wrote…

Apparently, the upper and mid-level trough and a cold front decided to move slightly east and change the projected course of the storm. Instead of hitting Tampa Bay like it was  projected this morning, it hit about 50-60 miles south and made landfall near Charlotte Harbor. 

I’ve witnessed some live shots from Port Charlotte on WKMG-TV from reporter Donald Forbes. The area was slammed. Just before landfall, Forbes made wind measurement from his handheld wind gauge of 58 mph. Not long later, [his location] was hit really hard and he had to retreat.

As of now, some squally weather is on the way from the south and the sky is starting to get dark. 

I was glued to the Orlando TV stations through the evening as Charley got closer and closer. One interesting aspect I realized that evening: The people who evacuated from Tampa Bay to Orlando-metro got to experience the hurricane after all. Even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got to enjoy some of that hurricane.  

As of the 8 PM EDT advisory, winds decreased to 85 mph with a minimum central pressure of 970 mb. The forward speed had increased as the upper-level pattern began speeding up the movement of Charley. The storm went through Orlando and vicinity around 9:30 PM EDT. You could see the live Florida Department of Transportation cameras across the metro area shake – some violently. The major highways – Interstate 4, the Turnpike, and other toll roads – were deserted except for the occasional crazy person driving at full speed and/or with their hazard lights flashing. Central Florida was mostly hunkered down. 

Meanwhile, I was outside my home with my VHS-C camera filming what was happening around me. Was it exciting? As much as watching grass grow. The highest wind gust at the Ocala airport was 24 mph, according to a post I wrote the following day. At Leesburg (18 miles southeast of Summerfield), the highest gust recorded was 39 mph (Pasch et al, 2004). Gainesville’s highest gust was 15 mph. It was relatively a gentle breeze compared to what was happening an hour to my southeast. The lowest pressure recorded at my home was 1008 mb, per my writings.

The change in path did shock some people. But the NHC did have warnings in place for southwestern Florida 23 hours before the storm made landfall. 

“No one near the landfall location should have been surprised by the arrival of this hurricane,” according to the NHC’s final storm report. 

Finally, I watched as the storm was heading right along the I-4 corridor towards Daytona Beach. That’s right: The place I was planning on taking a weekend vacation before classes started for the fall term. A small break before I decided to dive into a 16-credit-hour regiment of Spanish, chemistry, calculus, and a humanities class (which didn’t end in excellence). I watched as TV reporters flailed in the wind in Daytona as the storm was barely a category 1 hurricane. By midnight, Charley gave Florida the middle finger as it’s center of circulation entered the Atlantic waters to go screw with the Carolinas with 70-knot winds. 

The next morning, I was somewhat anxious to see what had happened to Central Florida. I had to make a quick decision as to stay in Summerfield, or join my mother and stepdad in Ormond for a short vacation that might suck. 

Lightning Safety: How One Business Prepares [VIDEO]

My colleague and friend, Brittani DuBose, and I worked on a promo piece for work about lightning safety. We talked to a local roofing company about their lightning procedures, and talked to an ER doctor on how lightning victims can be affected. This originally aired on Friday.

Hurricane Season Likely to Remain Near to Below Average

We have wrapped up two months into the Atlantic hurricane season, but the season is still young. Climatologically speaking, we don’t hit the peak of the season until Sept. 10. So, where are we now and how much could we see for the rest of the season?

SO FAR

There have been two named tropical cyclones in the Atlantic: Arthur and Bertha. Arthur formed off Florida’s east coast as a depression on June 30 and became a tropical storm 12 hours later. Arthur moved north and hit coastal North Carolina on the night of July 3 and took off towards the northeast.

Tropical Storm Bertha formed Thursday night. It currently remains a weaker tropical storm thats entering the Bahamas. Bertha is predicted to remain from the U.S. mainland and head out to sea.

ORIGINALLY PREDICTED…DOZENS OF DAYS AGO…

Academia, government agencies, and private entities have mostly predicted a near average to below average season. To name a few, NOAA predicted eight to 13 named storms, with three to six of those hurricanes and one to two of those major. Doctors Philip  Klotzbach and William Gray of Colorado State University predicted 10 named storms in their June 2 update, with four of those becoming hurricanes and three of those major. WeatherBell predicted eight to 10 named storms, with three to five of those hurricanes and one to two of those major hurricanes.

Many forecasters were thinking that El Niño development could stifle tropical cyclone development in the Atlantic basin. El Niño tends to create higher wind shear in the basin, inhibiting organized thunderstorm development in the tropics. The lower water temps in the Atlantic (cooler AMO index) and drier air were some of the factors considered in WeatherBell’s report.

WHAT NOW?

NOAA is still calling for “weak-to-moderate” El Niño development in the next few months. From the latest sea surface temperature (SST) data, development might be falling off the tracks.

(Source: Climate Prediction Center (CPC)/NOAA)

(Source: Climate Prediction Center (CPC)/NOAA)

Based on the SST anomalies in the equatorial Pacific, development looked promising until mid July as the SST anomalies dropped off the South American coast and rebounded. Though it rebounded, it appears that near-normal temps on the immediate coast have replaced higher SST anomalies earlier in the summer.

So, then I looked at the SST anomalies in terms of the depth below the sea.

(Source: CPC/NOAA)

(Source: CPC/NOAA)

The depth of the warmer waters off the South American coast have decreased since late May.

The El Niño pattern, based on the latest observations, is looking weak at best in the near term. Most dynamical models are still hinting at the continued development of an El Niño event.

(Source: CPC/NOAA)

(Source: CPC/NOAA)

The lack of progression of an El Niño pattern might help keep some life for the rest of the season. Maybe.

There is one factor that has been limiting tropical cyclone development: Dry air.

(Source: CIMSS/University of Wisconsin-Madison)

(Source: CIMSS/University of Wisconsin-Madison)

The map above shows the current Saharan Air Layer (SAL). This dry air, which can also be dusty, can put a choke-hold on tropical cyclone development. TCs aren’t fond of dry air, you see. We experienced a lot of this last year and continue to so far this year.

Gray and Klotzbach released their latest seasonal forecast on Thursday. They are keeping the same numbers as they had in June. They write in their abstract:

We have maintained our below-average seasonal forecast, due to anomalous cooling of sea surface temperatures in the tropical and subtropical eastern Atlantic along with high sea level pressures and strong vertical wind shear across the tropical Atlantic.

The duo also mention the development of a weak El Niño during the peak of the season.

With the dry air and neutral to weak El Niño conditions expected (among other factors), I can expect the rest this season to be near to below normal. However, it’s important to remember that it only takes one storm in one season to affect your location and can have devastating impacts.  Always be prepared.

Bertha Develops East of the Lesser Antilles

Some interesting news came across my Twitter feed late last night. With Invest 93L going in and out of consciousness as it was being attacked by some dry air and shear, I wasn’t expecting the disturbance to be named by the National Hurricane Center.

On Thursday, recon found 40-knot winds with a well-developed center of circulation. The sudden jump in convection in the north and east side of the storm prompted the upgrade of the system.

Infrared satellite image from Friday morning (8:15 AM EDT) of Tropical Storm Bertha. (Source: NOAA)

Infrared satellite image from Friday morning (8:15 AM EDT) of Tropical Storm Bertha. (Source: NOAA)

 

This morning, Bertha is 110 miles east-northeast of Barbados and moving west-northwest at a brisk 20 mph.  This movement is expected for the next day or so. Maximum sustained winds are at 45 mph with a minimum central pressure of 1008 mb.

The tropical storm is expected to move over the islands tonight and move more northwest towards Puerto Rico sometime Saturday. Tropical storm warnings are already in effect for that island. Afterwards, guidance models are mainly keeping Bertha over the eastern Bahamas and moving more north.

A upper trough is expected to deepen across the eastern United States (see below) with a high off to the east over the Atlantic. These features are expected to help steer Bertha to the north and away from the eastern seaboard.

The 300-mb guidance run (GFS run for 8 AM EDT Monday) shows the trough that's expected to help keep Bertha offshore. (Source: WeatherBell)

The 300-mb guidance run (GFS run for 8 AM EDT Monday) shows the trough that’s expected to help keep Bertha offshore. (Source: WeatherBell)

Too much strengthening isn’t expected as Bertha could run into a little more shear and dry air ahead of it. Also, any interaction with the mountainous terrain of the Caribbean islands could also inhibit further intensification. The NHC keeps this as a tropical storm through the forecast period.

I’ll always keep an eye on it. I’ll let you know if things change, but it looks like a low risk of a direct impact to the U.S. at the moment.

Tropical Wave in the Mid Atlantic Looking Better Organized

The National Hurricane Center has been watching a tropical wave moving through the Atlantic nearly 900 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands.

(Source: NOAA)

(Source: NOAA)

The wave has improved in circulation, organization, and thunderstorm development based on infrared satellite imagery. It’s almost looked like a tropical cyclone based on the last few frames, but I think we need to wait and see what happens with this tonight into tomorrow.

The NHC is giving this a 50 percent chance of development in the next 48 hours, and a 70 percent chance in the next five days. The shear forecast looks very low for at least the next 48 hours. One limiting factor could be the dry, Saharan air that’s ahead of the disturbance.

The GFDL and HWRF models hint at development in the next few days as moves west-northwest.  One forecasting pro tip: The weaker this storm remains, the chances of it going more west than northwest will be likely. I’ll be watching it.

Strong to Severe Storms Possible in Fla. Panhandle, S. Ga.

The Storm Prediction Center placed a strip of the coastal Carolinas, extreme northwestern Florida peninsula, and southern Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia,  under a slight risk of severe weather on Monday. This slight risk zone is not too far to the north of Tallahassee.

(Source: SPC/NOAA)

(Source: SPC/NOAA)

A cold front is currently stretched across northern Texas northeastward through Indiana and associated with a surface low over Michigan. Aloft, a trough sits over southeastern Canada and upper New England.

A shortwave trough is expected to swing around the upper low and help push the front further south across the southeastern U.S. The air at and near the surface is pretty juicy with dewpoints in the mid 70s in most locations in the southeast. Along with CAPE values possibly pushing over 3,000 J/Kg (yikes), this could leave a good setup for strong to severe storms. The primary threat in this area will likely be damaging winds. The timing will likely be in the afternoon into the evening.

Keep an eye on the skies tomorrow (Monday) afternoon and evening.

Heat Advisory In Effect For Portions of Panhandle, N Fla.

The National Weather Service has issued heat advisories for much of the panhandle and northern Florida – pretty much along the I-10 corridor – through 7 PM EDT today. Cities in the advisory include Tallahassee, Marianna, De Funiak Springs, Perry, Lake City, and Jacksonville.

A period of heat indices between 108F and 112F is expected, according to a statement from the NWS in Tallahassee.

The heat index is a measure of how hot it really feels when the relative humidity and air temperature are factored in. The combination of the two can make it feel worse than it already is (if that’s possible), and have the potential to be life threatening if precautions are not taken.

Currently, at the surface, high pressure is sitting over the central Gulf of Mexico. Dewpoints are in the mid 70s, pushing into the upper 70s in some spots (gross). The predominant flow is mainly out of the east across northern Florida. Based on the 8 AM EDT (12 Z) soundings from Jacksonville and Tallahassee, precipitable water amounts range between 1.5 and 1.9 inches. It’s still fairly juicy outside. With low rain chances expected today due to the dry air aloft, this will allow for temps to climb into the mid to upper 90s in many locations today.

It’s important to stay cool and hydrated as much as possible. If you have to be outside, take breaks in the shade and drink plenty of non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic beverages.