Saturday, September 16, 2017

Hurricane Jose, Tropical Storm Lee, Tropical Storm Maria, and a Special Report from St. Thomas: September 16, Update A

First today, Tom from St. Thomas finally managed to send an email and a couple of photos out:

“The category 5 hurricane Irma completely devastated St Thomas, St John, Tortola, and other northern islands of which we have no information. All of the trees were denuded of leaves, 90% of the power poles were destroyed and 90% of residents’ homes sustained damage to roofs and windows.

To describe life after the storm is indeed difficult without photos so I will attach one or two.

The winds hit us at night and by morning we awoke to a nuclear looking landscape...... No green leaves, trees and limbs down everywhere, power lines, telephone and cables twisted every which way across roads making them impassable by car or truck:
(photo credit: Tom J., St. Thomas)
(photo credit: Tom J., St. Thomas)
Day 7 after the storm and the roads are still showing little improvement as people are trying their best to just survive with fresh drinking water and basic food, waiting for crews of men to clear trees and wires.... Huge long lines of people and cars slowly negotiating the downed power lines and trees of main artery roads. FEMA'S 3 distribution centers and gas stations gridlocked cars looking for open stores... for 7 days it has been traffic gridlock as people jam the roads rather than staying put and waiting for recovery efforts to clear roads.

Our home weathered the storm very well, on top of being lucky that no neighbor's roofs or large tree debris caused a breach on our roof or walls.

My observations of the wind and torrential rain gave evidence to believe that the eye of Irma did not encompass the island but that the southern wall of the eye skirted the entire north portion of the island of St Thomas. We never observed the "calm" that Irma's hurricane eye would certainly bring as did Hugo in 89' or Marylyn in 95' showed us.

Recovery efforts are in effect but they are very slow as distribution of emergency food and water has been poorly planned.... Thus, you must be prepared to spend several days after the storm surviving with your own supplies.

We have running water and lights at night thanks to two small generators that I have kept maintained, one being from 1995 hurricane Marylyn.

We are doing our best at age 67 to cope with all of the challenges of this ordeal. And we are working hard in 88 degree heat to help the wildlife (except mosquitoes) to eat and stay alive.... birds, lizards, bees, iguanas.”

I am glad that they and everyone else that I know of survived, but it clearly continues to be an extremely rough situation and, alas, the season is not yet over.

Speaking of which... 

Hurricane Jose
He is still officially a cat 1 storm with winds of 80mph, central pressure of 973mb (cat 1 range: 74-95mph):
His convection and his circulation have both improved since yesterday although there isn’t a good eye at the moment, so I agree with the NHC on their assessment of a cat 1 with around 80mph winds.

He is currently at 28.9N, 71.9W, heading N at 6mph, and he is forecasted to pass west of Bermuda and east of most of the US. At this point, I would agree with the NHC assessment because the models have a better idea of the global pressure fields than I do:
There is some wind shear, which you can see in this larger infrared satellite image where the clouds are streaming off to the northeast:

That shear looks like it will increase ahead of him, so he won’t have much opportunity to be very strong – a cat 1 seems like a good estimate. Again, this is in agreement with the NHC.

Tropical Storm Lee
This is the Tropical Depression from yesterday. He is currently at 12.6N, 34.2W, heading W at 10mph. His convection is about the same and the circulation structure has only marginally improved, so as expected, he is now a Tropical Storm:
The satellite movie for Lee doesn't look as 'smooth' as the others because he is a little too far east at the moment and the images are taken every 3 hours and woven together to make this 'movie' (the 'smoother' movies for storms to the west are woven together from images taken every 30 minutes). At the moment I think he may take a little more westward track that the NHC forecast shows, but we agree that he will be moving generally W for at least the next 1-1.5 days:
He is moving over warm water and there is very little wind shear ahead of him. There is also not a lot of dry air around him, especially as Maria, with her humid air, is in front:
I expect that he will slowly intensify a bit more as there is not too much at the moment to inhibit that. 

We know he is definitely a Tropical Storm because there is a good vorticity (circulation) signal in the lower half of the troposphere. Click here and read the Technical Alert! for a refresher on vorticity maps. Here are the maps at the lowest level of the troposphere (850mb):
In the middle of the troposphere (500mb):

The upper troposphere (200mb):
You can see Jose has a signal in all three, meaning he is a hurricane. Lee, over to the east, has a signal only in the lower and middle levels, meaning his structure is that of a Tropical Storm. And Maria… well…

Tropical Storm Maria
She certainly put a dress and some make-up on since yesterday! This was the Atlantic Blobette with a pretty poor circulation however, as you can see, that has improved over the entire troposphere now and she has a small signal in the upper troposphere as well (not quite as much as Jose though). I would say she is a strong Tropical Storm/barely a cat 1 hurricane at this point – with winds of around 70-75mph. Officially though, she is a still a relatively weak Tropical Storm with winds of 50mph, central pressure 1002mb (TS range: 39-73mph):
You can see that the convection is not very strong at the moment (not a really solid area of yellow/orange/red in the infrared satellite imagery) – this is because she is taking in some dry air. But she continues to move over warm water with the sea surface over 29 deg C, and she is about to enter an area where the upper ~100m of the water column is warmer than 26 deg C, which will provide her with some fuel. Also, the wind shear ahead of her is dying down too, which will allow her to grow. I would not be surprised if she is at least a mid-to-strong cat 1 by tomorrow evening.

She is at 12.4N, 55.0W, heading W at a very rapid 19mph. As for the track. Hmm... I believe there’s a song about this… “How can you solve a problem like Maria? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?” (The Sound of Music). Aye aye aye (with much shaking of my head)…
From the limited data I have, I would agree with the NHC and say we are looking at a WNW track in her short-term future. I'm sorry to say this but the Leeward Islands and Greater Antilles should brace themselves for another hurricane of some magnitude. Under normal conditions, they would be able to handle a storm like Maria, but under their current situation... eugh!  

Time to get a big bottle of wine out.

More tomorrow! 

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DISCLAIMER: These remarks are just what I think/see regarding tropical storms - not the opinion of any organization I represent. If you are making an evacuation decision, please heed your local emergency management and the National Hurricane Center's official forecast and the National Weather Service announcements. This is not an official forecast. If I "run away, run away" (Monty Python), I'll let you know. 


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