Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hurricane Maria and Tropical Storm Jose: September 20, Update B

Another ‘what a day’ Day… apparently I’m running out of words to describe days like today! In addition to the news emerging of the disastrous second major earthquake in Mexico yesterday, news started to emerge from Dominica and the US VI (St. Croix this time), and, of course, Puerto Rico, where she is still causing trouble. No electricity, buildings damaged, at least 10 deaths reported so far (and that’s without getting to rural areas or the area of major impact) etc. By the way, 100% of the island of Puerto Rico is without electricity, and may be for days or weeks. This is like saying that as of today the entire state of Iowa plus half of DC has lost electricity and there isn't any chance of restoring it for days or weeks - that is the magnitude of this disaster (and that's just on one island).  

Hurricane Maria
She is currently at 19.4N, 68.2W, heading NW at 9mph and is now on her way towards the Turks & Caicos (although she may clip the Dominican Republic on her way there):
Crossing the mountains of Puerto Rico definitely made her weaker and the NHC eventually agreed that she was a very strong cat 2 storm with winds of 110mph (cat 2 range: 96-110 mph) when she left the island. However, of course, as soon as she got back over water she started to re-intensify and is now back to being a cat 3 storm with winds of 115mph, central pressure 959mb. I agree with this – partly because the eye has been relatively clear (if a bit wobbly) for many hours:
But also because she still has a very robust vorticity (circulation) signal throughout the troposphere. You can also see from the infrared images that Maria, the ‘storm of the century’, continues to drop bucket-loads of rain on Puerto Rico – the red area is thunder-stormy weather, with possibly tornadoes. The main issue now for Puerto Rico is definitely the water. In addition to the torrential rain still being dumped on Puerto Rico, there is storm surge and I also read that some of the river banks overflowed and there is flooding from those as well. Plus, the island has mountains, so there will also be flash-flooding as the water runs down them. Water/rain/floods will also be the big issue on Hispaniola, especially if she dumps a large amount over Haiti.

Stay safe out there!

<Technical Alert!> To look at the storm surge around Puerto Rico and the USVI, you can look at the CARICOOS website – they have one page devoted to Tides & Currents. Clicking on the green/tide icons will take you to the source of the data. Here is the preliminary data (meaning it hasn't been quality controlled yet) showing water level at Yabucoa Harbor, close to where she made landfall as a cat 4 storm earlier this morning:
It looks like they had almost 6ft of water – and at least 5.5ft over the predicted tides. < End Technical Alert! >  

The NHC got the data today from a plane that spent hours flying through Maria twice today (once before landfall and once after she left Puerto Rico).  There is a very nice thank you to the crew who did this because the data they collected helped the NHC to determine that she was no longer a cat 4, but had dropped down to a cat 2 storm:  

“We would like to thank the crew of the latest Air Force Reserve
mission for their incredible service today.  After beginning their
mission this morning before the center first moved onshore, the crew
went above and beyond, returning to Curacao to refuel, and then
heading back to Puerto Rico to catch Maria's center when it first
moved back off the coast.  The data collected by the crew was
incredibly important for us to analyze Maria's intensity and
structure after moving across the island, and we are grateful for
their effort.”
There are a few things to point out here. First, the people who fly for hours in those cramped quarters to get the vital data needed to make sure that the intensity and track forecasts are as good as they can be are amazing! They are professionals at what they do and I would definitely thank all of them because without that data, the forecasts would be way worse (not mine of course ;-)). And kudos also to the NHC for writing the above. Second, the data they collect is pretty good, but it doesn’t cover all levels and all corners of the entire system, so it is still used to estimate the overall conditions across the storm. Third, this again does point to the huge technology window – in this day and age, when we can gather amazing data from Saturn, and send robots to Mars or the bottom of the Ocean (coming soon!), surely someone can figure out how to gather continuous data from inside a storm and get the data back to initialize the forecast models correctly?

Tropical Storm Jose
He definitely loves the northwest Atlantic! He loves it so much that he is going to hang out there for days and days and wear himself out…
I don't recall a storm just pacing back and forth quite like this forecast shows before... usually they have a little loop or something. Pretty neat really. He is at 39.8N, 67.8W, heading ENE at 6mph. Winds are 60mph, central pressure is 982mb, making him a mid-sized Tropical Storm (TS range: 39-73mph). But there isn’t too much convection in him - some rain, some heavier rain, a few splashes of rain, a couple more drops of rain, some more rain, a bit more heavier rain, oh, and did I mention rain? mostly over New England:
Seems just like Ye Olde England actually.

Night for now,

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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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