Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mega Heat Ridge Toasting Much Of Eastern North America

d
A depiction of the strong heat ridge in the 'eastern
United States now is causing near record
temperatures. 
I'm in Yankton, South Dakota this weekened, and yesterday felt like a blast furnace.

It was an incredible 95 degrees - so hot for southeastern South Dakota, with winds gusting to 38 mph.

It's cooler behind a cold front in Yankton today, but the heat stays on from Iowa and Minnesota all the way to the East Coast.

And it's going to stay summer like in parts of the Northeast and southeastern  Canada for the next several days.

Blame it all on another one of those huge mega ridges. What I mean by mega ridge is an immense northward bulge in the jet stream that brings lots of very warm air north and lets it sit there.

These ridges don't usually last long, but sometimes, they stall, and the heat builds to very high, unseasonable levels and lasts a long time.

These things happen from time to time, but there is evidence in recent years, that these stalled mega ridges are happening more often and lasting longer. Could be a sign of global warming. More on that in a minute.

In this case, the ridge started forming over southeastern Canada around September 10 or so. That created the start of a spell of remarkable warm weather for this time of year across southern Quebec and Ontario, and northern New England, including Vermont.

This big blob of warm air has expanded westward into the Great Lakes and upper Mississippi Valley, eastward into the northwestern Atlantic, and now southward down the United States East Coast.

The strength of the ridge is peaking, too. That explains the tempeatures in the mid-90s in Yankton and places like Chicago on Friday.

In northern New England, temperatures will really get into record territory today through about Tuesday.

Burlington even has a slight chance of reaching it's latest 90 degree reading on record. As of today, the latest in September it has reached 90 in Burlington since they started keeping track of such things was on September 16, 1939. There is a chance temperatures could reach 90 degrees Sunday or Monday.

Record highs are sure to fall. The records highs for Sunday and Monday are 84 and 85 degrees, respectively. The official National Weather Service forecast highs for both days is 88 degrees.

This odd as this heat ridge feels for this time of year, it has protected us Vermonters from some potential trouble. First, it deflected the remnants of Hurricane Irma eastward, so we barely got a few showers out of that, instead of torrential downpours.

Then, the ridge blocked the northward progress of Hurricane Jose, which ended up stalling southeast of New England and giving Cape Cod and the islands a few days of gusty winds, rain and coastal erosion. Now the ridge seems like it also wants to block the northward progress of Hurricane Maria, which appears as it it will stay off the East Coast, and then head northeastward out into the North Atlantic.

These huge mega-heat ridges can cause real damage and even death if they hit at the wrong time of year, however. The notorious one in eastern North America in March, 2012 brought temperatures into the 80s for a week as far north as Quebec.

When the inevitable normal late winter/early spring weather came back in late March and early April, the frost killed billions of dollars worth of fruit crops on trees that bloomed to soon.

In the summer of 2003, a summer long heat ridge in western and central Europe brought temperatures to unprecedented levels for weeks on end, resulting in the heat-related deaths of possibly 35,000 people.

A heat ridge in 2010 caused an unprecedented heat wave that lasted nearly a month in Russia. About 10,000 people died of heat related illnesses and from pollution caused by an outbreak of wildfires caused by the hot, dry weather.

So as you can see, mega heat ridges don't always smile down on us benignly, like the current one is in Vermont and elsewhere in North America.

Some of these heat ridges are just natural variability - the weather has always gone off the rails from time to time.

However, there seems to be growing scientific evidence that climate change might be slowing down and bending the jet stream more and more. That makes these mega ridges more likely, and more likely to stick around for awhile longer than usual.

It seems like a decreasing temperature contrast between the Arctic and the tropics might be to blame. (The Arctic is warming up much faster than the tropics, which explains the declining contrast.)

So, enjoy the gorgeous, long stretch of weather Vermont and other areas have had are are having lately, but as aways, there's always a black lining around the silver cloud, to screw up a cliche.

Meanwhile, our current mega heat ridge will break down toward the end of the week, and we will return to our regularly scheduled cool autumn weather.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Quick Thursday Update: Maria, Jose, Heat, Storms, Snow. Kitchen Sink, Too?

These palm trees in Puerto Rico were reduced to
sticks by Hurricane Maria
Hurricane Maria was sideswiping the Dominican Republic this morning, hitting it pretty hard with dangerous winds, flooding rains and storm surges.  

Hey, it trashed a bunch of islands already, I guess the hurricane figures it will keep destroying things.

As expected, Puerto Rico is hurting bad. The entire island has no electricity, and it could take up to six months to get it back. Which sounds daunting, depressing and quite possibly deadly.

Imagine trying to run hospitals, emergency services, entire societies with electricity in the 21st century. Oh sure, there will be generators, and electricity will slowly come back on line, but still. It's almost like going back to the stone age.

Especially since so many houses, businesses and other buildings are destroyed. Here's a glimpse of how horrible it was, as related by one witness, as relayed by the Weather Channel and the Miami Herald:

"'What I'm seeing is incredible,' retiree Rosita Galguerra, 66, who was riding out the storm with her husband in the Rio Piedras neighborhood of San Juan, told the Miami Herald. 'The house is trembling - and my house is made of concrete with a concrete roof. The winds are like out of a horror movie and its gusts, gusts, gusts. The island is going to be completely destroyed.'"

I suppose the only bit of good news right now is that most computer forecasting models are still insisting that Maria will stay offshore of the East Coast of the United States. Maria will still produce high tides, dangerous rip currents and such for the next several days, but that's certainly better than a direct hit.

Meanwhile, weird Tropical Storm Jose is still sitting and spinning and slowly winding down southeast of New England. It's track has had a seemingly endless history of stalls, loops and weird turns. That's continuing. Forecasters expect Jose will basically sit in the same spot out there at least through Sunday.

This is just making the weather miserable on Cape Cod and the Islands. The wind has been gusting past 40 mph continuously since just after noon Wednesday on Martha's Vineyard.

Elsewhere, we're still expecting record heat in northern New England - including Vermont, and southeastern Canada this weekend. Here in Vermont, weekend daytime highs are expected to reach the upper 80s, compared to the normal temperatures in the mid to upper 60s this time of year. Burlington has already had six consecutive days with highs in the 80s.

Further west, a stripe in the middle of the country can expect some flooding rains over the weekend due to a stalled weather front. It's hard to pinpoint exactly where the flooding might happen, but some areas could get a half foot of rain in the northern Plains.

And it's still snowing in the Rockies.

It's going to be one of those weekends when the weather is totally off the rails.

This video from CBS Miami is as good as any to show you the totality of the destruction from Maria in Puerto Rico and other islands:


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hurricane Maria Hit Puerto Rico This Morning. It Looks Really Bad

Damage from Hurricane Maria in Martinique, which
wasn't even hit as hard by the hurricane as places
like Dominica, which people really can't get to yet. 
Powerful Hurricane Maria, as expected, plowed into the southeastern corner of Puerto Rico early this morning, and is spending the morning on a terrible northwestward path across the island.

Maximum sustained winds at landfall were 155 mph. Terrifying. True, that's a little less than the 175 mph earlier last night, but the difference is really minimal.

Maria also ran directly over the tiny island of St. Croix, and I'm sure there's terrible devastation there, too.

As you can imagine, I don't yet have many fresh reports coming out of St. Croix and Puerto Rico, as of early this morning as the region was still being crushed by Maria. I am concerned by media reports that not many Puerto Ricans went to emergency shelters in sturdy buildings, choosing to ride out the storm in flimsier structures. That can get deadly.

One big danger in such intense hurricane winds is that debris is flung around violently, and this debris becomes deadly missiles. Not only is there new debris flying around in the terrible winds of Maria, but there was still a lot of fallen trees, branches and detritus from Hurricane Irma a couple weeks ago that is also being blown around.

At this point, it looks like that after Puerto Rico, Maria will become somewhat less danger, but still a big menace. Of course by then, the damage will have been done.

Hurricane Maria is forecast to sideswipe the Dominican Republic and then head northwestward to the east of the Bahamas.  So far, it looks like Maria will stay east, in the Atlantic Ocean offshore of the United States, but there's still no guarantees.

We actually have ex-hurricane Jose to thank for likely causing Maria to probably miss the United States. A strong ridge of high pressure, which is part of a strange weather pattern I'll get to in a minute, is parked over the Northeast and southeastern Canada.

Had it been able to assert itself further east, the high pressure system would have steered Maria toward the East Coast.

However,  Jose caused an area of weakness in the high pressure ridge, and prevented it from spreading out into the ocean waters east of Canada's Maritime provinces. Instead of being blocked by the high and moving westward, Hurricane Maria will be drawn into that "weakness" that is off the U.S. East Coast.
Satellite view of terrifying Hurricane Maria making
landfall in Puerto Rico this morning. 

Still, we have some more tropical strangeness to get through out in the Atlantic. Jose is slowly spinning down, but will stall for days southeast of New England.

Jose caused coastal flooding, and a lot of beach erosion across the Northeast Tuesday, and that will continue, at least for some extent, for the next few days.

There's even the chance of something called the Fujiwhara effect, when two tropical cyclones get too close to each other and start rotating counterclockwise around each other. The Weather Channel says to think of it like the Tilt-a-Whirl at the fair, except we're talking tropical cyclones, not teacup rides at the county fair.

The Fujiwhara effect in this case, if it develops, could fling a weakened Jose westward into New Jersey while slingshotting Maria northeastward out to sea. This is by no means guaranteed, but it is one scenario which could play out. We'll see.

The high pressure system I told you about that is, or is not influencing Hurricane Maria is part of a rather extreme and stuck weather pattern developing across the nation. When things don't move along as they normally do, the weather gets weird, and that's starting now.

The high pressure ridge will likely cause near record high temperatures in southeastern Canada, part of the eastern Great Lakes and northern New England, including here in Vermont over the weekend.

We've already had this type of weather over the past week as the weather patterns have been stuck for awhile now.

Meanwhile, out in the the northern Plains, severe weather is an issue. There were reports of at least four tornadoes in South Dakota yesterday, and there is a chance of severe weather, including the possibility of tornadoes all week, with the biggest chance of dangerous storms Friday in western Minnesota and eastern South Dakota.

What luck! I'm flying into South Dakota Friday.

The slow moving storms out in the Plains could cause flooding problems over the weekend, too.

Meanwhile, the stuck weather pattern will keep the snow piling up in the mountains of Montana, northwestern Wyoming and Alberta, Canada., among other places in the northern Rockies. A few of the highest elevations could get a foot and a half of snow.

Yikes! An early winter.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Category 5 Hurricane Maria Devastates Dominica, Other Islands Targeted

Hurricane Irma bearing down on the Leeward Islands
on Monday. It quickly blew up to a Category 5 storm
with sustained winds of 160 mph. 
Another gorgeous Caribbean Island has just been swallowed up and destroyed by a huge hurricane during this devastating late summer.

It was a worst case scenario for the island nation of Dominica as Category 5 Hurricane Maria hit. 

First of all, they didn't have much time to prepare.  Places like Barbuda and the Virgin Islands at least had about three days to prepare for Hurricane Irma earlier this month.

Hurricane Maria blew up from a tropical storm to a Category 5 monster with 160 mph sustained winds in just 27 hours, all the while bearing down on Dominica, population about 72,000.

Everybody on Dominica was in grave danger. The Prime Minister of Dominca, Roosevelt Skerritt  tweeted during the storm: "My roof is gone. I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding."

He was later rescued, but as the winds began to die down he sent out a heartbreaking message:

Skerritt said in part:

"So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace....My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains...."

Skerritt said every roof of every house he knows of on the island was blown off. "I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating... indeed, mind boggling."

Dominica is just the start of Maria's wrath, most unfortunately. The mountains of Dominic barely dented Maria's strength - it knocked the storm back down ever so slightly to a high end Category 4 hurricane.

But now, Hurricane Maria right back up to a Category 5 monster with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph.

Maria will remain a Category 4 or 5 storm as it plows through the Virgin Islands and then Puerto Rico in the next couple of days.

Puerto Rico is a real nightmare. It has severe infrastructure and economic problems, and the electrical network still isn't really fully up and running after Puerto Rico was sideswiped by Hurricane Irma a couple weeks ago.

There's a lot of concern about Puerto Ricans living in flimsy wooden or tin houses. "You have to evacuate. Otherwise you're going to die. I don't know how to make this any clearer," said Hector Pesquera, the island's public safety commissioner.

As for the mainland United States and Maria, there's still no guarantees. Unlike during Irma, it looks increasingly like Maria will curve north well before reaching Florida, so the Sunshine State will likely be spared, aside from some coastal flooding and battering waves along the state's east coast.

It is possible that dying Hurricane Jose, which will cause tropical storm conditions along the New England coast, will influence Maria in a good way.

Again, no guarantees, but there are suggestions among at least some of the computer forecasting models that Jose, lingering southeast of New England, could help pull Hurricane Maria northeastward, keeping it away from the United States east coast.

Again, it's important to stress that there's still a chance Maria could have impacts in the United States, so we'll have to keep an eye on this one, just in case.

By the way, up here in Vermont, we're going to stay on our extended period of dry, unseasonably warm weather for the next several days. There were a few pop up showers Monday, but not many, and a little rain from Jose will probably creep into southeastern Vermont Wednesday.

Up in Burlington, we tied the record high of 87 for the date on Monday. It was the fourth consecutive day in the 80s. Today might be the fifth.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Hurricanes Jose And Maria Just Keep On Menacing

Visible satellite view of growing Hurricane Maria taken
just after sunrise as the storm bears down on the
Leeward Islands. 
This very busy hurricane season continues to keep pace today, as we now have more specific forecasts of how Hurricane Jose will affect New England. And Hurricane Maria is a terrible threat to a number of Caribbean islands.

Let's take the two big storms one at a time:

HURRICANE JOSE

Coastal New England is now getting ready for Hurricane Jose, which won't hit the region directly, but  will be big enough to make for a very nasty midweek.

A tropical storm watch is now in effect from the Delaware Coast to southeastern Massachusetts. Some computer models bring gusts over 60 mph to some coastal locations as Jose makes its closest pass late Tuesday and Wednesday.

There will almost surely be some trees and wires down in the areas covered by the tropical storm watch.

It's going to rain like hell on the Cape and Islands, too, with maybe three to as much as eight inches of rain expected on outer Long Island, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and the Cape.

Forecasters are watching this closely. Right now it looks like the heaviest rain won't get that far inland, minimizing the chances of widespread flooding. However, if the downpours go just a little further west than expected, places like Boston and New York could see some pretty unpleasant urban flooding.

It looks like coastal flooding, battering waves and rip currents will affect beaches in New England all week, too.

On the bright side, Jose is weakening as it approaches New England, as it's being worn down by strong upper level winds and colder ocean temperatures. (Hurricanes need warm ocean water to survive and grow, if the water gets a little too cool, hurricanes tend to weaken.)

Jose will stay offshore, it looks like, but either it, or its remnants will linger southeast of New England all week into next weekend. There's even a chance it could head south again, find some warm water and begin to rebuild itself. We'll see about that.

Up here in Vermont, the effects from Jose will be minimal. There probably will be some showers from Jose in the southeastern half of the state Wednesday.

DANGEROUS HURRICANE MARIA

Hurricane Maria was rapidly intensifying this morning as it approached the central Leeward Islands. Its top sustained winds were 90 mph early this morning, but Maria is forecast to become a major hurricane - Category 3 or 4 with winds of 125 mph or more.

Maria's track is roughly parallel to the one destructive Hurricane Irma took, but Maria's path is just a little south of Irma's.

The northern Leeward Islands, and the Virgin Islands, completely trashed by Irma, are now going to get raked by Maria. It's just awful, to say the least.

Even worse, with the track further south, the central Leeward Islands, which didn't fare terribly with Irma, will get a horrible blow.

Also, Irma skirted Puerto Rico just to its north, causing massive power failures and some damage on that island, but it didn't devastate the U.S. territory.

At this point, it looks like Hurricane Maria will probably go right over Puerto Rico Wednesday or early Thursday while it is at top strength, so this is a real scary moment for them.

After Maria is done with Puerto Rico, it will head toward the northwest, kind of on a path toward the U.S. East Coast. But for the mainland, it's not time to panic yet, for sure. While it's possible Maria could hit, the massive hurricane could turn out to sea as well.

Nobody knows for sure, so we'll just have to keep watching.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Heat, Jose, Lee And Maria Keeping Us Busy

Satellite view Sumday morning shows Hurricane Jose southeast of
the Carolinas, soon to be Hurricane Maria in the center menacing
the Leeward Islands, and weak Tropical Storm Lee to the right. 
Quick Sunday update as the weather gets active again, though not so active here in Vermont.

The record high for today's date in Burlington, Vermont is 86 degrees, set in the hot September of 2015. That record could be challenged today as our long warm spell peaks.

Don't worry about any sharp cold fronts, though. Temperatures will slowly ease back downward over the next several days, but still remain warmer than normal. Little if any rain will come, either.

But the tropics sure are busy again! We have Hurricane Jose, still tormenting forecasters off the East Coast, new Tropical Storm Lee, which probably won't amount to much, and soon to be Hurricane Maria, which has a lot of people, including me, deeply worried.

HURRICANE JOSE

Hurricane Jose is still trudging northward, well off the East Coast. Many computer forecasting models predict Jose to steer directly toward New England, then take a hard right turn before it gets here, thereby making New England miss the worst effects of the storm.

Note that I said many computer models. That's because a few still take Jose into or at least very close to eastern New England during the middle of the week. The bottom line is that the Northeast Coast is guaranteed to have rip currents, battering waves, some coastal flooding and breezy conditions. There's still a chance it could get even worse than that so stay tuned.

Here in Vermont, we still expect minimal effects from Jose.

TROPICAL STORM LEE

This one developed in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean yesterday. It is moving to the west or northwest. Strong upper level winds above Tropical Storm Lee indicate the system won't be able to develop much and could just dissipate in a few days. It doesn't look like much of a threat to anybody at this point.

TROPICAL STORM MARIA

Maria is the scary one. It quickly developed into a tropical storm yesterday as it organized itself remarkably fast. It's expected to become a hurricane today and a major one within a couple of days.

Soon-to-be Hurricane Maria is heading toward the central and northern Leeward Islands, and will probably be a major hurricane by the time it gets there. This, of course, is extremely bad because many of these islands were devastated by Hurricane Irma.

Maria is also a threat to the badly Irma damaged Virgin Islands as well. This hurricane is also a definite threat to Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola.

It's too soon to speculate on what kind of threat Maria could pose to the United States. But Maria is the one to watch and the one to be worried about.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Last Summer Weekend, And Hurricane Jose

A very hazy view from a hill in St. Albans, Vermont Friday.
Up here in Vermont, it's the last weekend of astronomical summer, and in the weather department, it's going to be the last weekend of summer, too.

This is typical August, not September. Sunshine, haze, a fair amount of humidity, and temperatures in the 80s will greet us both today and Sunday. This is quite a switch from the first 10 days or so of September, which was quite a bit cooler than normal.  

If you like summer weather, enjoy it. It's probably the last time you'll see such weather until next year. Having said that, part of next week will be warm, too, but maybe not quite as toasty as this weekend.

I have to say, air quality isn't great. You probably noticed the haze yesterday and that will continue today and Sunday. A large part of it is the wildfires in the western United States and Canada, which produced a large cloud of smoke that has been obscuring the skies over much of North America for the past month.

Another reason why it's kind of polluted out there is because the high pressure system causing our warm weather is also stagnant. Just sitting there. With no good winds to push pollutants away. So our cars and other stuff emit pollutants into the air and it doesn't blow away.

The air will eventually, gradually get better. A fair amount of snow fell on the mountains of Montana and Alberta Friday, which will go a long way to suppressing some of the fires out there. That means less smoke and haze will work it's way eastward toward us.

Also, the stagnant ridge of high pressure will weaken with time during the upcoming week, and the air will get stirred up by Hurricane Jose.

Don't worry. I still don't think Vermont is going to get huge effects from Jose, but coastal New England might. I'll get to that in a second.

The weakening high pressure system and the northern extent of Jose will create an east wind over the North Country next week. That means the air will come from a less polluted source: The atmosphere over the Atlantic Ocean.

HURRICANE JOSE

Of course, as I said, Hurricane Jose is creating the aforementioned east wind, and the storm is definitely going to pose some problems along the East Coast.

It's northeast of the Bahamas, still, and about to head north. It will slowly crawl toward New England over the next few days. It will probably - but not definitely - remain offshore.

It's not the most powerful hurricane ever. Maximum sustained winds are around 80 mph, and Jose could weaken to a tropical storm once it's off the Northeast Coast.
Satellite view of Hurricane Jose spinning northeast
of the Bahamas on Friday. 

However, Jose is getting to be huge in size and is moving slowly. That means that even if the center of Jose stays well offshore, coastal areas from North Carolina on up to the Northeast can expect nasty rip currents, beach erosion, some coastal flooding and other hazards like that.

Tropical storm conditions could easily come up to Cape Cod and the islands by Wednesday, though that is not cast in stone yet.

Many - but not all - computer models have Jose making a right turn away from the coast, but it's unclear if that veer to the east would come before Jose gets to New England. It could come once Jose is in southern New England. Too soon to tell.

At this point here in Vermont, Jose could drop some rain on us around Wednesday especially over the southeastern half of the state. But even that's not sure because we don't know the exact track of the storm.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Erratic Jose Still Raising Questions For New England

After weakening this week, Jose is showing signs of
restrengthening this morning northeast of the Bahamas
Could be a New England threat next week.
Maybe I was too quick the  other day to dismiss the chances of Tropical Storm or Hurricane Jose affecting New England.

Jose, now a tropical storm after being a hurricane for quite a long time, is expected to restrengthen to hurricane status soon. I talked yesterday about how erratic the path of Jose is, and that's still the case.

It's now sort of getting its act together in terms of where it's going, and that direction is basically north.

Factoring in a blocking high pressure system to the north, computer models have been nudging Jose's future northward journey westward. Kind of like Hurricane Irma's northward turn into Florida last week.

Nobody yet knows for sure if Jose will affect New England, and if so, to what extent. We do know that the Atlantic beaches are in for rough surf and rip currents from now on forward.

Eastern New England, especially, could be in for wind and rain from Jose during the middle of next week. How much depends on whether Jose comes close to or even over Cape Cod, or does it stay further east.

Some computer forecast models bring Jose ashore in southeastern New England. Many others do not. And there's wide disagreement on how strong Jose would be as it nears New England.

Here in Vermont, the effects, if they happen, will probably be less. Jose could bring us some rain. If it does, it's more likely to hit toward the east.

Lots of questions about Jose now, so sit tight and stay tuned.

Until we see what happens with Jose, Vermont will continue to get some nice late summer weather. The remnants of Irma brought in some rather high humidity, clouds and a few scattered showers and storms on Thursday.

Irma could squeeze out a couple more showers this afternoon. It will stay warm, with largely sunny days through early next week around here.

Meanwhile, a new tropical depression is forming way out in the eastern Atlantic. It'll be Tropical Storm Lee soon. It's also too early to determine where wannabe Lee will go and if it will affect any land.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Weird Hurricane Jose Path Joins Long List Of Other Weird Paths

The weird track of Hurricane Ginger in 1971.
Hurricanes are rarely straight forward. They intensify or weaken unexpectedly, veer off course, and especially just do weird loops, reversals and other odd things as they make their way across warm tropical waters.

Hurricane Jose is doing some oddball loops out in the Atlantic Ocean and is expected to continue meandering unpredictably out there.

In August, Hurricane Harvey tragically stalled over Texas, unleashing those unprecedented floods there. On its way through Atlantic islands on its way to the United States, Hurricane Irma took a brief  detour southwestward for awhile.

The path of hurricanes and typhoons re controlled and guided by the flow of upper level winds. In the tropics in the northern hemisphere, the winds generally go east to west, which explains why hurricanes often approach the United States from the east.

Troughs of low pressure often pick up hurricanes, guiding them northward.

But sometimes, these upper level steering currents are weak or non-existent. Which leaves hurricanes or typhoons with no guidance, so to speak. They become lost and meander aimlessly out there in the Atlantic. Or Pacific. Wherever they happen to be

There's been some classic oddballs in the past, so Jose is not that unusual.

In 1971 Hurricane Ginger formed northeast of the Bahamas, moved northeast into the central Atlantic Ocean, then abruptly reversed course and headed toward the southwest, then performed a tight loop, then continued southwestward and ended up near where it started northeast of the Bahamas. Then Ginger moved northwestward, hit North Carolina, then went southeastward out to sea and dies.

Phew!

The paths of all the Atlantic tropical cyclones in the
super busy year of 2005 show how erratic they usually are.
Hurricane Kyle in 2002 changed directions half a dozen times in its trek across the Atlantic.

In fact, most hurricanes have an erratic path. Just check out the map in this post of the supremely busy 2005 hurricane season. The path of all 28 storms that year in the Atlantic superimposed upon one another look like a big messy bowl of spaghetti.

The bottom line: Expect the unexpected with any tropical cyclone.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Irma Records, And Seemingly Endless Vermont Sunshine

Sister Margaret Ann in West Kendall, Florida
became an social media sensation when
she was spotted chainsawing like a pro
to clear trees felled by Irma that were
blocking a road. 
I have to say that while we've been watching Hurricane Irma, we here in Vermont have entered a stretch of truly gorgeous late summer/early autumn weather.

Sunny, warm days and clear, cool nights have settled in starting this past Sunday, and it's due to continue all week.

There are very few flaws to this weather if you like these types of conditions. There is still smoke in the air high above us, from all those fires in the western United States and Canada. That's giving the sky an off-color, not that bright robins egg blue we like to see.

Chances are the smoke will clear a bit, we'll see. That's partly due to a dramatic shift in the weather coming up for Montana, which has really had a big problem with wildfires this summer.

Today, in the western Montana mountains, the threat of wildfires and dense smoke continues amid unusully warm conditions.

By Thursday night, the temperatures in those same mountains will plummet by up to 50 degrees and it will start to snow. The first winter storm watch of the season is in effect for some of the Montana mountains, believe it or not.

Back here in Vermont, no snow, but there might be a few isolated to scattered showers and thunderstorms around Thursday and Friday afternoons to briefly interrupt our sunny stretch. That's because a little moisture from the dead remnants of Hurricane Irma sneak into our sunny world.

High pressure, however looks like it will continue to hang tough over us through the weekend, giving us continued warm afternoons and clear nights.

While I say nights will be clear, this time of year there is almost always patches of dense fog, especially in river valleys and near lakes and ponds.  So you'll have to watch out for that if your driving early any morning for the next week. Any fog each day will burn off quickly after the sun comes up.

Recapping Irma, she did set some records for an intense Atlantic hurricane.  Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University who specializes in hurricanes compiled a long list. Some highlights.

Irma was tied with the 1935 Florida Keys storm, Gilbert in 1988 and Wilma in 2005 as having the second strongest winds on record for any Atlantic hurricane, at 185 mph. (Hurricane Allen maxed out at 190 mph in 1980.)

The 185 mph Irma winds were the strongest of any Atlantic Ocean hurricane outside the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico.

Those 185 Irma winds lasted 37 hours, the longest period of time  such strong winds persisted for any tropical cyclone anywhere in the world.

Irma was a Category 5 storm for a little over three days, tying the record for the longest life of a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic. The tie was with a hurricane that hit Cuba in 1932.

Another interesting coincidence: The last major hurricane to hit Florida was Wilma in 2005, which made landfall on Marco Island. This year, Irma made landfall in Florida, you guessed it -- on Marco Island.

By the way, the other hurricane spinning out in the Atlantic - Jose - is looking more and more likely to completely miss the United States, which is great news.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Irma Is Finally Dead; Some Parting Thoughts

A blown apart home in Naples, Florida after Irma.
Photo by Bryan Woolston/Reuters.
There's still some flooding going on in parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina this morning and millions of people are still without power, but what was once Hurricane Irma is dissipating over the northern Georgia and Alabama this morning.

It's interesting how the far southern and far northern parts of Irma's route though Florida and the Southeast seem to have had the worst effects of the storm.

That makes sense in the Florida Keys. After all, that's where Irma first came ashore in the United States.

But the storm had such a wide girth that it caused that record storm surge flood in Jacksonville, Florida and close to it in Charleston, South Carolina.

Some areas won't get electricity back for weeks. That's especially troublesome in Florida. Imagine enduring Florida's humidity for weeks with air conditioning. (The heat index in Miami yesterday, after the hurricane, was 103 degrees.)

I also hope there are some post-scripts. There were reports that a few employers were demanding employees either stay and not evacuate before the storm, or get right back to work or get in Big Trouble.

The manager at Jacksonville Pizza Hut told employees they had to work and could not evacuate until less than 24 hours before the storm. This despite the fact that everyone from Florida Gov. Rick Scott on down were telling people to evacuate early to avoid traffic jams, gas shortages and the storm itself.

We hope the manager at that Pizza Hut gets fired. (Pizza Hut corporate said the Jacksonville restaurant was not following company guidelines.)

I also want an update on management of a West Palm Beach apartment complex to not allow residents to board up windows ahead of the storm, despite the fact the complex had a bunch of storm shutters in storage.

The apartment complex management would not talk to media, but here's my theory: It was an insurance scam: My conspiracy mind says the apartment management wanted severe damage to the structure, then they would get an insurance write-off, then rebuild nicer so they could charge higher rents to subsequent tenants.

I hope someone finds out what was really going on.

These are all small aspects of a big story, a big storm. I guess there's so many moving parts, you've got to look at the trees, not the whole forest.

On another subject, forecasters are still watching Hurricane Jose out in the Atlantic. It's performing all these weird loop de loops out there. It seems like the majority of forecasts eventually take Jose out to sea and away from the United States, but a few computer models place it along the East Coast in about a week.

I'm not terribly alarmed about Jose at this point, but it's worth keeping our eyes on.

Here are some videos. The first shows the flooding in Charleston, South Carolina:



Here's a video from the Associated Press of the relentless storm surge coming into Jacksonville, Florida;



StormChasingVideo was out on the Florida Keys when Irma landfall and they came back with this video:


Finally, watch the first half of this video: Seth Meyers says everything about the hurricane that I wanted to. (The second half of the video is all politics, go ahead and watch if you want, but in the first half, Meyers nails it on Irma:

Monday, September 11, 2017

Irma Damage Is Incredibly Widely Distributed

A big mess to clean up in Miami Beach. Photo
by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.
Hurricane Irma was continuing to torture Florida early this morning, as it moved through the northern part of the state and on into Georgia.

The storm has fallen to tropical storm status  this morning as sustained winds fell below 75 mph.

So far two U.S. deaths have been reported with Irma, but that could still rise.

I'm sure the damage from Irma in the United States will go well into the billions of dollars yet again.

It's not as if any one town or city, or any one county was devastated. There is no place that I know of in Florida that's completely leveled.

But the area Irma covered is so vast that serious damage is distributed over an unusually wide area for a hurricane.

Pretty much all of Florida except the extreme northwest corner got a big blow. Close to 5 million Floridians had no electricity this morning.

In some places - like Naples and Tampa-St Pete, there was storm surge damage but it was less than many feared.  However, with strong west winds south of the center of Irma this morning, there could be new storm surges along Florida's west coast today.

Preliminary reports indicate severe damage is hit and miss. The city of Naples is largely intact, but Everglade City, a little to the south, is reporting serious damage. There was a lot of storm surge flooding on Marco Island, too.
Reports from the hard-hit Florida Keys are sparse, with no phone service and no way yet to get access to the islands. We'll see what happens there.



Irma was and is so wide that is sent storm surges into Miami and on up the east coast to Georgia. This morning, Jacksonville, Florida, which was nowhere close to the center of the storm's eye, had a record high storm surge off the Atlantic Ocean. Water rescues were ongoing and the city was under a flash flood emergency.

A weather station in Jacksonville this morning also recorded sustained winds of 68 mph, gusting to 87 mph.   The storm's reach is so long that Atlanta, Georgia was under its first-ever tropical storm warning this morning.

Storm surges will continue on into coastal Georgia and South Carolina today.

When Irma made a landfall at Marco Island, the wind gusted to 130 mph.

As of this writing, it's hard to say how extensive the damage is in Florida. It was too stormy to go out last night for a look-see in most of the state. So the evaluations are starting this morning, especially in the southern part of the state, where the storm was winding down first.

On Sunday, I noticed a lot of people were glued to the television, watching all the live updates. And I guess that was the appeal: It was live TV, and unlike the mostly scripted things we see on the boob tube, we didn't know what the eventual outcome would be.

I'm not saying this was disaster as entertainment, but you have to admit, Irma held our interest, that's for sure.

There will be plenty more news about Irma in the coming days and weeks, but lets hope we can continue to get some of those "not as bad as feared" dispatches.




Sunday, September 10, 2017

Worst Part Of Irma Is The Storm Surge

Irma smashing Cuba on Saturday. The biggest threat
from Irma today is violent, dangerous storm surges
along Florida coastlines. 
Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys this morning and will continue staggering up the Florida west coast today and tonight, as has been expected.

You're probably seeing on social media lots of dramatic photos and videos of strong winds in the Florida Keys.

The wind will cause a lot of damage, to be sure. Irma's maximum sustained winds were 130 mph this morning, and hurricane force winds will extend through much of Florida over the next 24 hours.

But the real damage, the real trouble, still comes from the storm surge. I told you yesterday how vulnerable Tampa can be, but the storm surge is really going to be a problem all up and down Florida's coast.

If you want an illustration of how fast and scary and violent storm surges often are, watch the video at the bottom of this post of a storm surge coming into Gulfport, Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The film makers helpfully time stamped each scene so you know how fast it's going.

You won't see as many videos of that, since storm surges are so dangerous to be in. But I'm sure you'll see a few examples.  As I've said before storm surges cause most of the deaths and most of the destruction in most hurricanes. I doubt Irma will be an exception.

The storm surge had already started in Key West early this morning as the eye of Irma passed very close by. As winds gusted to 94 mph in Key West, low tide had barely ended and the storm surge was overwhelming what normally would have been somewhat low water. The storm surge was pushing right through buildings all around the Keys.

Expect the same within the next 24 hours in Florida cities and resorts such as Naples, Marco Island, Fort Myers, Clearwater, Tampa and St. Petersburg.

The storm surge along the Florida west coast is expected to be five to eight feet above normal water levels, and that will flood and batter thousands of buildings.

One dangerous thing to note is around Naples and Fort Myers this morning, strong offshore winds were pulling water away from the beaches. The water looked drained. This might entice people to come down to the beach to watch the spectacle.

But then the water would come back fast and furious when the storm surge comes along. People could be trapped. There were forceful messages on social media this morning for people to stay far away from the beaches until the hurricane is well past Florida.

On the east side of Florida, the storm surge around very low lying Miami Beach is forecast to run three to five feet, so that's a grave problem there, too.  Video was already emerging of storm surge flooding in Miami Beach.

Irma will finally weaken for good as it makes landfall in Florida and heads up into Georgia. Even there, tropical storm warnings extend all the way north of Atlanta. Flood watches and warnings extend that far north, too.

Meanwhile Hurricane Jose largely missed the northern Leeward Islands that were devastated by Irma.

But the news is, at least potentially, not all good with Jose. It was originally expected to be picked up and move north, where it would die in the North Atlantic. But it didn't get picked up and it's left to meander in the central Atlantic for a few days.

There's a chance, not an enormous chance, but a chance, that Jose could start moving west again and eventually pose a threat to the U.S. east coast.

That's not cast in stone, to be sure, but it's something to keep an eye on, more than a week from now.

We've still got our hands full with Irma

Here's that video of the Gulfport storm surge in 2005.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Irma Starts Wrecking Florida Today

Just part of the Tampa Bay area. You can see how
vulnerable the heavily populated area would be
to a storm surge from a hurricane like Irma.
Welcome to the horrible weekend of Hurricane Irma.

The big storm is still playing around with Florida, keeping everyone wondering which part of the state it's going to nail hardest.

It really hadn't started its northward turn yet, and was moving along the northern Cuban coast.

This interaction with land has kinda, sorta weakened Irma ever so slightly, but as I said yesterday, don't focus on the word "weaken." It still is and will be a horrible, horrible hurricane.

It's a huge storm in area, so a wide area is going to get tropical force and hurricane force winds.

The current thinking  now is it will turn north in time to make landfall near Key West, Florida, which is just terrible, given how low and exposed the keys are.

Sustained winds could still be 140 or 150 mph or so once Irma reaches the Keys, depending  upon how much Cuba's land interfered with Irma's circulation, and how much it can restrengthen over water.

Re-strengthening is forecast once Irma leaves Cuba.

I don't think I've ever seen as dire a warning from a National Weather Service office as I did last night when the NWS meteorologists in Key West, Florida said this:  "This is as real as it gets. Nowhere in the Florida Keys will be safe."

Adds Ed Rappaport, acting director of the National Hurricane Center: "It's not clear that it's a survivable situation for anybody that is still there in the Keys."

I really, really hope everybody left.

It now looks like Irma will move north along the western Florida coast, not eastern as was projected a few days ago. Irma is a huge sized hurricane, so that's kind of cold comfort for eastern Florida. Though it might not be quite as bad in places like Miami and Fort Lauderdale as first feared, it's going to be very dangerous there, with storm surges and hurricane strength winds.

TAMPA BAY WORRIES

The cities that are now in real trouble are Naples, Tampa and St. Petersburg.
Destruction from Irma in the Caribbean islands. 

The Tampa Bay region has always been regarded as particularly vulnerable to strong hurricanes. Thousands upon thousands of people have built homes on spits of land that are barely above sea level.

Barely five weeks ago, the New Orleans Times Picayune had a big article about how the Tampa Bay area is likely the most vulnerable city in America to a catastrophic hurricane. This is the same publication that predicted catastrophe for New Orleans months before Katrina.

Here's just one scary paragraph from the Times Picayune article, one that leaves everyone in a cold sweat now that Irma looms:

"By a stroke of gambler's luck, Tampa Bay hasn't suffered a direct hit from a hurricane as powerful as a category 3 or higher in nearly a century. Tampa has doubled down on a bet that another won't strike anytime soon, investing billions of dollars n high-rise condominiums along the waterfront and shipping port upgrades and expanding a hospital on an island in the middle of the bay to make it one of the largest in the state."

Oh, and by the way, natural processes and sea level rises due to global warming have made water during normal times closer to all these buildings. The Tampa Bay area experiences some flooding in even small storms.

How about this from the Times Picayune:  "Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's warning was even starker. Standing outside City Hall last year, he described what would happen if a hurricane as small as a category 3 with 110 to 130 mph winds hit downtown:

'Where you're standing now would be 15 feet under water.'"

A guess we can still hope for Tampa's gambler's luck and Irma will somehow go west or east of Tampa, or weakens more than expected, but at best, this will still be an enormous deadly mess.

At the moment, the Irma forecast for the Tampa Bay area is winds of 90 to 110 mph with gusts to 135 mph, with a three to five foot storm surge. Much of the property around Tampa Bay is at elevations of five feet or less.

IRMA'S RECORDS

The records Irma has set are pretty amazing.

The Washington Post, in a terrific explanation of Irma's strength and staying power, says Irma "lucked out" in a variety of ways.

The hurricane threaded the needle between land masses. Landfalls almost always weaken hurricanes terribly quickly, unless they pass over such tiny islands as Barbuda and St. Martin, as Irma did.

Wind shear, which is strong or shifting winds in the upper atmosphere, tend to quash hurricanes. Wind shear over the Atlantic has been particularly weak this year, so hurricanes in the Atlantic during 2017 have a better chance of getting really, really strong.

That's a big reason why Hurricanes Harvey and now Jose are so strong, joining the intensity of Irma.

Steering currents are important as to where hurricanes go. The Bermuda High, the area of high pressure in the Atlantic that always asserts itself in the summer, has been stronger and further west than usual. That helps hurricanes maintain a generally westward motion to the south of the Bermuda High.
Another view of Irma's destruction

Had the Bermuda high been weaker, it would have been easier for storms like Harvey and Irma to recurve northward into the middle part of the North Atlantic, where they would have died harmless deaths.

(Even so, hurricanes this year can still curve north. After trashing islands previously wrecked by Irma, Hurricane Jose will likely turn north well before reaching North America, so it's no real threat to the United States.)

Finally, Atlantic Ocean waters in most areas are warmer than normal. And yes, this has to do with climate change.  As climate change progresses, we won't necessarily have to contend with more hurricanes than we do now, but chances are whatever hurricanes form have a higher potential of becoming wicked strong.

The Atlantic Ocean has always produced incredibly formidable hurricanes, but usually, the western Pacific creates the kings of all tropical systems. (They're called typhoons over there; typhoons and hurricanes are exactly the same thing.)

Not this year.

The Washington Post says this about Irma:

"When the storm maintained wind speeds of at least 180 mph for 37 hours, it set a record for most intense storm for such a long duration - anywhere on Earth. 

Super Typgoon Haiyan (Yolanda) - which devastated the Philippines and killed more than 6,000 people in 2013, was the previous record holder at 24 hours"

That the Atlantic Ocean should produce a hurricane as strong as Irma isn't a slam dunk proof of global warming. Still, it should concern us all that a lot of tropical systems - hurricanes and typhoons and whatnot - have been setting records for intensity in recent years.

Some of that surely has to do with better data collection......

Irma is an overwhelming hurricane, in a year we've already been overwhelmed by Hurricane Harvey.

When this type of thing happens, I do what human nature tends to do: I shut down the big picture and look at some of the picky details, which helps us all cope. The gallows humor in these situations usually helps, too.

So we turn to Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh Says Irma Is Liberal Conspiracy

Rush Limbaugh, that thundery blowhard of a radio host, informed us that week that we have nothing to worry about from Hurricane Irma.

As Slate points out, Limbaugh told us this week that liberal scientists and the media overhype and manipulate hurricane forecasts because they want to scare us into make us sign on to their "fake" global warming activism.

Slate quotes Limbaugh thusly:

"So the media benefits with the panic with increased eyeballs, and the retailers benefit from the panic with increased sales.. I don't want to mention brand names because that's not the point. Let's all it Basement Depot. Basement Depot, huge, huge, business. Basement Depot spends gazillions of dollars every year in local advertising in hurricane forced areas in order to advance their global warming agenda."

I got quite a  few likes on social media this week when I suggested Limbaugh should stand on a Hurricane Irma-exposed beach to "prove" to us that the storm is just a liberal false flag.

Alas, it turns out Limbaugh is a total snowflake. He lives and broadcasts from South Florida, and he's fleeing the storm, just like many thousands of other. Sorry, no video of Rush blowing away in a rush of hurricane force winds for you!

Anyway, hang tight this weekend, Florida! We hope everybody makes it through OK





Friday, September 8, 2017

Dread In Florida As Hurricane Irma Menaces The State

Devastation in St. Martin.
Now it's inevitable that giant Hurricane Irma will pummel Florida. 

Oh, yes, there's still picky little questions about its exact track, and exactly how strong Irma will be when it hits Florida, but we know now Florida is going to have a terrible disaster.

At least 500,000 Floridians have fled or are fleeing inland ahead of the storm. So, too, are thousands of people in coastal Georgia and South Carolina.

Florida is experiencing gas shortages because so many people are either on the road, getting out of dodge, or stocking up on supplies of fuel for generators, or gas for their cars because they know service stations will be, well, knocked out of service by Irma.

Some of those picky details on Irma: It's still unclear if the giant hurricane will score a direct hit on Miami, or will it smash the Florida Keys instead. In some sense, it doesn't matter because almost all of Florida is going to experience hurricane force winds. But I suppose 75 mph is better than 150 mph.

As of this morning, Hurricane Irma had "weakened" to a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 155 mph. As I noted yesterday, this "weakening" means nothing. Irma will remain a powerful hurricane.

It's possible Irma will cross the northern coast of Cuba before striking Florida. That would be bad for Cuba, of course, but slightly good for Florida, as winds would decrease further - but still be terribly destructive.

However, sea water temperatures are very hot - much above normal - in the path of the storm through the Bahamas and south and east of Florida. Very warm ocean water is jet fuel for hurricanes, and Irma will probably take advantage of that and stay strong.

Right now, the National Hurricane Center is guessing Irma's top sustained winds will be near 150 mph when it reaches Florida early Sunday morning. By the way, tropical storm force winds will arrive well before then.

Irma is a huge hurricane in size as well as strength, so its wind field is huge, too. A bigger wind field means a bigger area is going to get hurricane force winds.

The biggest killer in hurricanes is a storm surge. The low pressure in a hurricane causes sea levels to rise, plus the hurricane's winds push massive amounts of water toward shore. Add enormous, battering waves to the mix and you understand why states like Florida, Georgia and South Carolina are kicking residents out of their coastal homes and sending them inland.
From left to right, Hurricanes Katia, Irma and Jose menace
the Atlantic Ocean

The chances of surviving a massive storm surge are low, and you can't send rescuers out in a Category 4 hurricane to try to save you. People idiotic enough to stay put in their South Florida beachfront home are on their own.

The storm surge heights are forecast to be five to 10 feet above normal high tide in the Florida Keys. The highest point in the Keys is just 18 feet above sea level, and the vast majority of the islands have elevations of ten feet or less.

Meanwhile, Miami Beach sometimes floods in just a full moon and no storms. (Sea level rise, largely caused by climate change, causes that.) Now imagine the six-foot storm surge forecast for low-lying Miami Beach. Yeah, scary.

"This is a catastrophic storm that our state has never seen," Florida Governor Rick Scott said.  

Meanwhile, Irma continues to island hop on its way to Florida, trashing the Turks and Caicos yesterday, and the Bahamas today and tomorrow.

So far, at least 14 people have died at the hands of Irma. This number will go up.

JOSE AND KATIA

Meanwhile, Hurricanes Jose and Katia are causing nightmares for other people, particularly in the northern Leeward Islands and in Mexico.

Hurricane Jose has strengthened to a major hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph. Jose will come close to islands such as Barbuda and St. Martin, which were devastated by Hurricane Irma.

Tropical storm warnings and hurricane watches are up for those islands. I don't know what people are going to do there as so many homes have been blasted away by Irma. Where will they go for shelter?

Here's hoping Jose veers sharply to the north and largely misses those places. We'll see.

Hurricane Katia is still menacing the Mexican east coast. It's sustained winds were 90 mph as of early this morning and more strengthening is forecast before it makes landfall tonight.

Like Mexico needs another disaster. You might have heard about that huge 8.1-magnitude earthquake last night.


This is one of the gloomier weather blog posts I've filed in a long time. But, unfortunately, there's a lot of gloomy news out there.



Thursday, September 7, 2017

Irma Mows Down Islands, Still Eyes Florida. Also, Hurricanes Jose, Katia

Extreme damage on the island of Barbuda after
Hurricane Irma.
We're all watching helplessly as immense Hurricane Irma takes down one island after another as it mows its way slowly toward the Bahamas and probably Florida.

At last check, at least 10 people have died in the storm, and that toll is sure to rise.

ABC's Good Morning America quoted Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda as saying damage on Barbuda is "unprecedented" and the island is "barely habitable."

Antigua suffered somewhat less damage than Barbuda. However, other news reports describe the island of St. Martin as 95 percent destroyed.

Scary videos of the destruction are at the bottom of this post. It must have been so frightening for the people caught up in this. Like being in the middle of a tornado. Although a tornado lasts just minutes. This wend on for hours.

There was damage in Puerto Rico, too, but luckily Irma's eyewall, the area near the center of the storm with the most vicious winds, skirted just to the north of the islands.

The Turks and Caicos are going to get nailed by Irma tonight and the Bahamas get it Friday and Saturday. Then we get to Florida. More on that in a second.

Irma early this morning still had sustained winds of 180 mph. It's been that strong for at least 33 hours, a new record long time for an Atlantic hurricane.
Extreme damage on St. Martin from Hurricane Irma

Irma looks like it could start a "weakening" trend starting this morning, but don't focus on that word "weakening." It's still very likely going to be an extremely powerful Category 4 or 5 hurricane all lthe way to the vicinity of Florida.

FLORIDA'S NIGHTMARE

Mandatory evacuations are underway in parts of Florida, particularly the Keys and areas around Miami Beach. Store shelves have been cleared of supplies like bottled water, batteries and plywood. Millions of Florida residents are either hunkering down or fleeing as I write this.

While the National Hurricane Center has for days been saying Florida is a potential target, they are now confident enough in their forecasts that they'll likely issue a hurricane watch for at least parts of the state later this morning.

Irma will begin to be felt in Florida starting Saturday, but to what extent?

That's still unclear.

The National Hurricane Center projects Irma to make landfall in the southeastern corner of Florida, near Miami early Sunday morning.

But remember, that Miami projection is just the center of the so-called cone of uncertainty. Various computer models put Irma in different locations this weekend, as is typical of trying to forecast a hurricane that's still three days away.

It's pretty clear Irma will take a sharp turn toward the north, toward Florida this weekend, but we don't know exactly when it will make that turn.

Basically, that means Irma could theoretically go up the west side of Florida, plow through the middle of the state all the way to Georgia, or run up right along the east coast of Florida, or in a best-case scenario for Florida, move northward off the east coast of the state.

Of course, if Irma did that, it would probably just slam into the Carolinas, causing plenty of havoc there.

VERMONT IMPACTS?

Since this is a blog based in Vermont, I'm sure some readers are wondering if Irma will eventually have any impact in the Green Mountain State.

The short answer is, nobody knows.

I'm just speculating at this point, but a worst case scenario for Vermont would be a dying Irma going right overhead, unleashing heavy rains that would cause flooding.

We've had quite a bit of rain over the past week, so soils are wet and can't absorb as much water as they could have a week ago, when we were having a dry spell.

But still, that worst case scenario is just me being Mr. Doom and Gloom. I'm sure there's a chance we'll get some rain out of Irma, but right now, there's no point in forecasting anytbing for Irma in Vermont.

After all, if Irma does have any impact here, it won't happen for another week or so.

JOSE AND KATIA

For the first time since 2010, there are a total of three hurricanes simultaneously spinning in the Atlantic Ocean. Irma, of course.

Then there's Jose. And there's bad news about this one today.

Jose's top sustained winds are 90 mph. It's expected to strengthen and peak in intensity at about 125 mph just as it's passing over or near the northern Leeward Islands. That, of course, is where Barbuda and other islands devastated by Irma are.

The National Hurricane Center expects hurricane and tropical storm watches will be issued for some of these islands later this morning.

I don't think survivors on those islands can take another hurricane. Here's hoping that it veers further north, and spares these islands. We'll see.

Hurricane Katia this morning was lurking off the Mexican east coast. Top sustained winds with Katia are 80 mph. Since the storm is sitting over very warm water and there isn't much in the way of upper level winds to tear it apart, Katia will probably strengthen.

Katia is basically stationary now, but is expected to start moving southwestward soon, then slam into the central Mexican east coast around Saturday.

Here's a heartbreaking video from Barbuda:



Here's some extreme winds on St. Martin from Irma:


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Irma Devastation. Also, Jose, Katia, Even Northeast Floods

Major damage to a hotel on St. Martin, caused by
Hurricane Irma.
I'll kind of do the same format as yesterday, as the weather picture remains extremely busy, and in some cases devastating.

I'll start with the obvious - Irma - and then move on to all sorts of other weather news - some of which is affecting us here in New England.

IRMA MOWING ISLANDS

Hurricane Irma plowed into the tiny island of Barbuda overnight, still as a Category 5 storm with winds of 185 mph, gusting to 225 mph.

A weather station on Barbuda reported sustained winds of 108 mph gusting to 155, before wind reports abruptly went calm. I don't know if that was the eye of Irma hitting or just the wind measuring equipment failing under the extreme strain of the storm.

A storm surge of over eight feet smashed the south side of Barbuda. I don't have details yet on how people are doing out there.

Barbuda and the neighboring hard-hit island of Antigua have a population of about 100,000, though it's unclear how many people left the islands before Irma hit.

This is just the beginning, of course. Next up today is St. Martin, which got slammed this morning. Early reports from St. Martin indicate severe damage, even to sturdy buildings. The Virgin Islands are getting it, too.

Irma is a terrible threat to Puerto Rico as well. It'll pass over or just to the north of Puerto Rico tonight, with a lot of damage expected there. Already, as of 10 a.m. Eastern Time, outer rainbands from Irma have already toppled trees and cut power in parts of eastern Puerto Rico. It's going to keep getting worse as the day drags on.

The Turks and Caicos Islands, as well as the southeastern Bahamas, could see extreme storm surges of 15 to 20 feet, which would take out huge swaths of coastal communities. I hope they have great evacuation plans there.

Eventually, Irma gets close to Florida, so we have to talk about that in some detail.

Since Irma won't be around Florida until Sunday or so, the future path is uncertain. It could hit any part of the Florida peninsula, and the center of Irma could miss it entirely. Still, Florida is certain to have some effects from Irma, we just don't know to what extent yet.

The forecast future path of Irma as it heads toward the United States later this week reminds me of Hurricane Matthew last year.

Last year, Matthew headed westbound across the central Caribbean, then took a sharp turn north, where it devastated Haiti, then moved northward just off the east coast of Florida, still as a major hurricane, then coming ashore in South Carolina, then offshore again while unleashing a devastating flood in North Carolina.
Major damage and flooding on St. Martin with
Hurricane Irma this mornig. 

Irma is starting from a position further north than Matthew, but is still forecast to abruptly change its basically westward path just above the coast of Cuba and veer sharply north toward Florida over the weekend.

Here's the problem: We still don't know exactly when Irma will turn north. It's a few days away so the so-called cone of uncertainty is wide.

Irma could go up the west coast of Florida, or smack directly into the southern tip of Florida, possibly still as a Category 4 hurricane, or move north just off the east coast of Florida just like Matthew did. Some of the computer models have been trying to push Irma in that more easterly path. We'll just have to wait and see.

Of course, if Irma does this more easterly trick, that would put the Carolinas at a higher risk of getting blasted.

By the way, you'll hear media reports of Irma "weakening" and perhaps talking about a sigh of relief from Florida.

Don't buy it. It's true Irma will likely no longer be a Category 5 storm with 185 mph winds by the time it gets near Florida Sunday or early Monday.  Disruptions in Irma's circulation from nearby islands, and some upper level winds will probably cut back on Irma's strength a little.  But I'm guessing ot that much.

Irma will still be a formidable hurricane near or over Florida.

The state is already kind of a mess and Irma isn't anywhere near Florida yet. Tourists and non-residents have already been order off of the Florida Keys. Miami Beach plans to announce mandatory evacuations later today or tomorrow, says the Miami Herald.

Store shelves across Florida are bereft of supplies like bottled water, plywood and other things people need for storm preparation.

Price gouging is a problem, too.

Bottled water on Amazon is selling for an inflated price, which has brought accusations of price gouging.  According to CBS news, Amazon uses "dynamic pricing," in which as demand for an item increases, so does the price, guided by Amazon's algorithms.

In this case, Amazon, shut your goddamn algorithms off, you selfish bastards.

The Florida Attorney General's office has opened a price gouging hotline to report such activity.

Anyway, I could go on and on with the developing story of Irma, but I'll just keep posting updates as needed.

Let's move on to other weather news that you should hear about today:

OTHER TROPICAL TROUBLE:

Tropical Storm Jose continued to strengthen toward hurricane status well east of Irma. Jose will probably travel on a more northwesterly course than Irma, but still could clip the northern Leeward Islands, already devastated by Irma.

Tropical Storm Katia has formed in the Bay of Campeche, east of Mexico. It's going to meander around for a few days then head southwestward into the central Mexican coast, forecasters believe. It could strengthen to a hurricane before landfall.

Texas still looks safe from Katia, so that piece of news is good. They don't need another Harvey.

NORTHEAST FLOODS:

It's another rainy day in the Northeast, and the flood threat is increasing in parts of the region. Flash flood watches are up in parts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine as a stalled front over that region is unleashing heavy rains there.

Two to four inches of rain could fall there by Thursday morning, on top of the locally heavy rain they had yesterday and last night.

Here in Vermont, we're west of the front so the rain isn't so heavy. No major flooding is expected in the Green Mountain State, but as you can tell it's another rainy, gloomy day here.

On Tuesday, some parts of Vermont and the rest of New England had some damage from severe thunderstorms. Most of it was in the form of trees and power lines down. One especially strong storm snapped off nine pine trees in Pittsfield, Vermont.

We'll provide updates as we go along, so stay tuned.

Here's a video showing the destruction in St. Martin: