Archive for the ‘Hurricane Wilma & T.S. Alpha’ Category

Wilma, one year later

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

One year ago today, Hurricane Wilma became the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, as its barometric pressure bottomed out at 882 millbars — the climax of an unbelievable 12-hour, 86-millibar pressure drop.

‘Twas an absolutely amazing storm.

28th tropical storm of 2005 posthumously identified; Wilma should have been Alpha!

Thursday, April 13th, 2006

The National Hurricane Center announced today that it has discovered the 28th tropical storm of 2005, more than six months after-the-fact. As the Tropical Cyclone Report (PDF) for “Unnamed Subtropical Storm, 4 to 5 October 2005” explains:

As part of its routine post-season review, the Tropical Prediction Center/National Hurricane Center (TPC/NHC) on rare occasions identifies from new data or meteorological interpretation a previously unnoted tropical or subtropical cyclone. The TPC/NHC re-analysis of 2005 has revealed a short-lived subtropical storm near the Azores Islands, which increases the record count of tropical/subtropical storms during 2005 to 28.

The NHC adds: “Operationally, it was treated as a non-tropical low. Post-storm analysis, including AMSU data that were not available in real time, indicated that the system had sufficient tropical cyclone characteristics to be considered a subtropical storm for 12-18 h.” The Storm Track offers a slightly different explanation for why the storm wasn’t “operationally” identified: “Like many of the storms last season, this system was located far outside the normal tropically active realm and was therefore overlooked.”

The Unnamed Storm’s short life occurred in between the formation dates of Hurricane Stan (October 1) and Tropical Storm Tammy (October 5). As such, if the Unnamed Storm had been identified in real time, it would have been named “Tammy,” meaning Tammy would have been “Vince,” Vince would have been “Wilma,” and Wilma — the strongest hurricane in the history of the Atlantic basin — would have been “Alpha.” Yup. The Storm Track elaborates:

Hurricane Wilma — which struck Cozumel, Mexico and then Southern Florida after becoming the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic — should have been named Alpha! Yes, the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic should have been named with a Greek letter, and that irreplaceable Greek letter should then have been retired. Some people may be happy such a media circus was avoided. However, one can’t help but wonder if this will be a clear signal to the World Meteorological Organization that perhaps it is time to reconsider the Atlantic tropical cyclone naming system.

It’s entertaining, in light of this, to read my first post about Wilma, announcing its formation and then stating:

If another tropical storm forms between now and the end of the hurricane season (November 30), it will be named Alpha, and we will proceed from there in the Greek alphabet. Imagine if a really bad hurricane forms, and its “name� has to be retired! The Greek alphabet would never be the same! ;)

Imagine, indeed. Wilma, if it had been named “Alpha,” would have been that “really bad hurricane”!

Under this alternate-reality scenario, the all-time record for the number of tropical cyclones in a season would have been broken on October 17, when “Alpha” (Wilma, in our reality) formed. That meants my October 22 blog post about the formation of the real Alpha, which was quoted in the Washington Post‘s October 23 article about me (“It’s official: . . . ALPHA BECOMES THE TWENTY-SECOND NAMED STORM OF THE SEASON AND BREAKS THE ALL-TIME RECORD FOR THE MOST ACTIVE SEASON ON RECORD . . . I’ve been talking about this possibility for months, and it has seemed virtually inevitable for weeks, but I’m still sort of stunned that it’s actually happened”) would have been far less dramatic; I would have been blogging about the ho-hum formation of “Beta” rather than the historic storm that broke the record and forced us to dip into the Greek alphabet for the first time ever.

Additionally, if Wilma had been Alpha and Alpha had been Beta, all my talk about “Wilmalpha” would instead have concerned “Alphabeta” — Alphabet for short. :)

Last but not least, the final tropical storm of the season — which, incredibly, formed on December 30, Becky’s and my wedding day (a wedding gift to the weather nerd, Glenn Reynolds called it — should have been named “Eta,” not Zeta. “Zeta” should have been the name of the weirdest storm of the season, the “impossible storm” that “completely lost respect for the governing laws of thermodynamics” and caused the National Hurricane Center to give up — the storm that was, in this reality, known as Epsilon.

To be clear, none of the names will actually be changed. The Unnamed Storm will remain unnamed. But it’s interesting — for giant nerds like me and Bryan Woods, at least — to think about what might have been.

Wilma in Mexico: an update

Friday, October 28th, 2005

Dr. Jeff Masters has an update on Hurricane Wilma’s impact in Mexico:

Officials analyzing the damage to Mexico now agree that Hurricane Wilma is the most destructive hurricane ever to hit Mexico, surpassing the $1.2 billion in insured property damage done by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. Most tourist facilities in Cancun, Cozumel, and surrounding areas are expected to be closed through mid-December, and economic losses from this closure alone will approach $1 billion. Officials estimate that 98 percent of the tourist infrastructure and 75 percent of the population of the state of Quintana Roo, which includes the resorts of Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and Isla Mujeres, have been damaged. Over 90 percent of the 17.4 miles of sand in Cancun has been washed away, and a multi-million dollar beach replenishment project will begin in December. Cruise ships scheduled to dock at Cozumel are finding alternate ports of call, as one of that island’s three piers for cruise ships was completely destroyed, and another heavily damaged.
Cozumel also suffered “significant damage” to its famous coral reefs, the Environment Department said in a report. Over a million acres of forests were also damaged by Wilma, according to the report.

On a hopeful note, Mexico has shown a remarkable ability to bounce back quickly from severe hurricanes, as we saw after Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 and Hurricane Emily earlier this year. The bulldozers are already out on the beaches of Cancun, clearing away debris. President Fox’s goal of having 80% of Cancun’s hotels open for business by December 15 is ambitious, but doable. A full recovery by Easter seems probable.

I can’t help but think about the person from my online chat who is supposed to get married at the Moon Palace on December 17. I wonder if that will happen?

Spawn of Wilmalpha pics

Tuesday, October 25th, 2005

Here are some pictures of today’s nor’easter. More here, including surfing in NYC!

So long, Wilma

Tuesday, October 25th, 2005

The NHC has issued its final advisory on Hurricane Wilma, which still has 85 mph winds but has become extratropical as it zooms off to the east at a remarkable forward speed of 53 mph.

Here is the final discussion on what may go down as the second-costliest hurricane in history (behind Katrina).

So, with Wilma and Alpha now both declared dead, are we finally at the end of this long, long hurricane sason? Nope. But the United States might be off the hook, according to Dr. Jeff Masters:

Hurricane season runs through the end of November. On average, we get one tropical storm every other year between now and the end of the year. Given that this is no ordinary year, I think we can expect at least one more tropical storm. However, I do think that the hurricane season for the United States is over. An strong cold front behind Wilma has spread unseasonably cool air across the Gulf of Mexico, the Bahamas, Cuba, and into the northwest Caribbean. This cool air will significantly chill the ocean waters surrounding the U.S., making it difficult for a tropical storm to form or maintain its strength near the U.S.

The Caribbean could definitely see another storm or two, though. The NHC is already tracking a potential proto-Beta:

AN AREA OF DISTURBED WEATHER HAS FORMED OVER THE SOUTHWESTERN CARIBBEAN SEA. SOME SLOW DEVELOPMENT OF THIS SYSTEM IS POSSIBLE DURING THE NEXT DAY OR SO.

The computer models are calling for that area to develop, according to commenter Andy. Here’s Joe Bastardi‘s take:

An area of low with a pressure of 1011 millibars has developed over the southwestern Caribbean near 11 north and 78 west. Satellite images show signs of organization and, if this trend continues, a tropical depression might form out of this cloud mass and low pressure. The most recent computer models show this feature drifting westward during the next couple of days, then moving northwest to about the coast of Nicaragua Thursday night and Friday. From there, computer models either stall the system or move it northward into the northwestern Caribbean this weekend

Meanwhile, Bryan Woods at The Storm Track quotes a good explanation of the “Spawn of Wilmalpha” nor’easter. Here’s the surface map from The Weather Channel:

Spawn of Wilmalpha update

Tuesday, October 25th, 2005

Here’s an update on the nor’easter hitting New England — which isn’t really a “spawn of Wilmalpha,” but I like the name anyway. :)

Nor’easter not the spawn of Wilma

Tuesday, October 25th, 2005

TWC meteorologist and weatherblogger Matt Newman clarifies that the coastal storm affecting New England today is not actually Wilma’s spawn:

Some good questions are being raised about the interaction of Wilma and the developing Nor’easter. This subject has been debated about at TWC and between many [meteorologists]. To clarify on what I posted earlier, the low pressure (nor’easter) developing would have likely developed regardless of Wilma’s presence. There was a time when we thought the upper-level low responsible for this nor’easter could capture Wilma, thus resulting in one monster of a storm….hence the “Perfect Storm” analogy. BUT, this will not be the case in this situation. It is unclear if Wilma really will play any role.

“The [nor’easter] is picking up some moisture from Hurricane Wilma, which is passing well southeast of the region, but is ‘going to be a good storm in it’s own right,’ said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton,” according to the AP.

Incidentally, Wilma is finally starting to weaken, but she’s still a Category 3 hurricane as of 5:00 AM EDT, with winds of 115 mph and a forward speed of 53 mph.

WaPo: Florida east coast “sucker punched”

Tuesday, October 25th, 2005

Oh, for the love of Pete:

Hurricane Wilma slammed into Florida’s east coast on Monday with a sucker punch — not hard from the Atlantic but from the Gulf of Mexico, roaring across the width of the state, barely losing force.

Most people here had gone to bed the night before believing the storm would lose steam by the time it made landfall or would at least hit the Everglades and stall; only mobile home residents were told to evacuate.

Okay, let’s get one thing straight. If anyone actually thought that Hurricane Wilma was going to “hit the Everglades and stall,” that belief was based on total ignorance, and had absolutely nothing to do with any prediction by any reputable meteorologist anywhere on planet earth. The Washington Post really should NOT be suggesting — in its second graf, no less! — that this was a reasonable thing for people to think. Re-damn-diculous.

Moreover, it was clear before any normal person’s bedtime Sunday night that Wilma was not weakening, and if anything was strengthening, as she approached the state’s west coast. And the forecasters had said all along that she would only lose 10-15 mph of wind speed, if that, while crossing the peninsula. So this whole “barely losing force” thing really was not unexpected.

I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for the real meteorologists to read crap like this. I mean, it pisses me off, and I’m just a fake meteorologist! :) Seriously, these weather experts work their asses off trying to produce a good forecast, and they succeed, and what does it accomplish? Large swaths of the public virtually ignore them — 90% of Key West refuses to evacuate, etc. — and, after the storm passes, the media acts like it was reasonable for people to have been “surprised” by things which were entirely expected. ARGH!!

P.S. Don’t get me wrong… the damage to the east coast of Florida was quite bad, and it’s not unreasonable for people to be somewhat surprised by the extent of it. Hell, I’m somewhat surprised by the extent of it. But for people to say they expected a hurricane moving at 20 mph to suddenly hit the brakes (even though no forecast called for such a thing), or to massively weaken immediately after landfall (even though all the forecasts said the winds would only drop slightly), is absurd. People need to f***in’ pay attention, and the media needs to not amplify ignorance and idiocy.

Wilma still Cat. 3, moving northeast at 47 mph!

Monday, October 24th, 2005

The 11:00 PM EDT advisory is out, and Wilma is still listed as a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph. In fact, according to the discussion, “Wilma’s eye has become better defined during the past 6 hours, and the diameter has decreased [from 70 to 45 miles] … [and] both the eye and eyewall convection have improved significantly.” All this “despite wind shear levels that would normally barely support a hurricane,” according to Dr. Jeff Masters. Remarkable! And it’s happening while the hurricane is moving northeast at 47 mph — which, as The Storm Track notes, is “very very very fast for a hurricane.”

Here’s a look at the various sytems that are converging:

It’s raining really hard in Connecticut right now. [CORRECTION: Or not.] And Andrew Leyden has pictures of Wilma/Wilmalpha/Whatever bringing wind and waves to Chesapeake Bay.

This will be a good satellite view to watch as Wilma moves out to sea and is eventually followed by Spawn of Wilmalpha (aha, now there’s a good name). See also here.

UPDATE: Weather Channel senior meteorologist and weatherblogger Matt Newman writes: “The debates will continue within the meteorological community about the events taking place along the East Coast but it appears more and more like Wilma will remain a separate entity from the extratropical (non-tropical) low pressure system forming off the Mid-Atlantic coastline.”

Wilma second only to Katrina?

Monday, October 24th, 2005

Dr. Jeff Masters writes:

Downtown Clewiston, next to Lake Okeechobee, suffered extensive damage. Up to 35% of the land area of Key West suffered inundation from Wilma’s storm surge. The damage to the Keys and the rest of Florida is still unclear, but preliminary estimates of the total insured plus uninsured damage are $4 – $18 billion. It is also too early to gauge Wilma’s impact on Mexico. Between 30-40% of the population in Cancun has suffered some damage to their housing. Reports are not in yet from the hardest hit areas, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, which is a bad sign. Wilma caused heavy damage in Havana, where huge waves pushed flood waters up to four blocks inland, and flooded the city up to three feet deep. Damage to Haiti, Jamaica, Honduras, and Belize was also substantial. Including the damage done to Mexico and the rest of the Caribbean, Wilma will probably be the second most costly hurricane of all time, next to Katrina.

Wow.

God, some people are idiots

Monday, October 24th, 2005

Here’s what I’m getting from this article: Key West residents are told to evacuate. 90% of them don’t. They wake up and are “surprised” to see that their low-lying, hurricane-vulnerable island is suffering serious flooding, with water “seeping into homes owners had thought would never flood.” (Those owners were delusional.) But then the flood waters recede, they are spared major structural damage, and by the end of the day, some of them feel “vindicated for staying in the defiance of orders to evacuate.” Resident Fran Masat, for example, declares, “If it doesn’t get any worse than this, there’s no point in leaving.”

Umm, let’s see… a minimal Category 3 passing so far to your north that only the outer edges of the eyewall hit you… and you don’t think it could “get any worse than this”? Are you JOKING?!? Yeah, it could get A LOT worse than that. A direct hit by a Cat. 4 or 5, for example, would flood the entire island and, oh I don’t know, KILL YOU. And guess what? Next time the evacuation order comes — next time, every time — you’ll have to decide whether to leave before you know for sure whether it will “get any worse than this.”

Have we learned nothing from Katrina? Argh!!! When you’re told to leave, you LEAVE!!!

UPDATE: Max Mayfield shares my frustration:

While he fears for the safety of those who ignored warnings to evacuate the Florida Keys as Wilma by bore down, Mayfield is perplexed they weren’t heeded.

“I’m really annoyed by that,” he said just as the initial damage reports from Monroe County trickled in.

“People are calling to be rescued from the rising waters,” Mayfield said. “You can’t get people (rescuers) out there right now.”

Quick! Somebody call George Clooney!

Monday, October 24th, 2005

The Storm Track has more on the “Wilmalpha Nor’easter,” or “Perfect Storm II,” or whatever you want to call it. TWC now has a reporter in eastern Massachusetts, and he’s invoking the spectre of Hurricane Grace and the Perfect Storm.

Below: the current surface map and the forecasts for tomorrow morning, midday and evening:

Good thing Taunton built a new dam!

Wilmalpha Nor’easter update

Monday, October 24th, 2005

I may be a “self-described weather nerd,” but that doesn’t mean I know everything about the weather. Sometimes, I’m flat wrong! In comments, Bryan Woods corrects me about Wilma, Alpha and the developing Nor’easter:

ROGER: Any chances Wilma and Alpha collide and regress their course back to land?

ME: No. First of all, Alpha isn’t strong enough to really “collide” with Wilma — it will simply be sucked into the much larger, stronger storm’s circulation. Second of all, neither of them are strong enough (or, more precisely, neither has a strong enough upper-level high overhead) to resist the pull of the massive trough of low pressure that’s dragging them northward. Their fates are sealed.

BRYAN: Brendan, what you said about the storms is not 100% true. The important thing to realize is that Wilma is feeding moisture to spawn this huge Nor’Easter near New England. When Nor’Easters bomb out like this, they very often retrograde back towards the coast. We saw that happen with the Halloween Storm of 1991 (aka “The Perfect Storm”) when Hurricane Grace ran into a trough much like this one (it is fairly common in the autumn). As it is, the models are forecasting the new low to basically stall out near Long Island while Wilma continues on to the northeast. If you think in the LaGrangian frame of reference (in reference to the dominant flow) this storm will actually be backing up with respect to the flow to maintain its position in the Eulerian frame (with respect to the ground). The difference between this stationary ‘motion’ and retrograding towards the coast is very little. This new low could very well backup. Also, don’t discount dissipated systems like Alpha. Had Wilma not been around, the positive vorticity advection associated with Alpha could have very well spawned a Nor’Easter when it reached the trough over the US and was pushed out over the boundary between the Gulf Stream and Labrador Fetch. That place is a train wreck waiting to happen in the autumn.

See, now I just learned something new there, and y’all learned it along with me. God bless the Internet! :)

In other news, maybe I shouldn’t have backed off my Perfect Storm II prediction. An hour or two ago, I heard one of the on-camera meteorologists on The Weather Channel mention something about the developing Nor’easter being “like the perfect storm.”

Alpha is dead, long live Alpha

Monday, October 24th, 2005

Tropical Depression Alpha is now just a trough of low pressure speeding north-northeast alongside Hurricane Wilma.

The discussion says:

VISIBLE IMAGERY AND AN EARLIER QUIKSCAT OVERPASS INDICATE THAT ALPHA NO LONGER HAS A LOW LEVEL CIRCULATION. THE REMNANT VORTICITY CENTER…A SWIRL OF LOW LEVEL CLOUDS…IS MOVING 025/25 AND WILL CONTINUE A RAPID NORTH-NORTHEASTWARD MOTION UNTIL IT IS ABSORBED BY HURRICANE WILMA IN 12-24 HR.

THIS IS THE LAST ADVISORY ON THIS SYSTEM BY THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER UNLESS REGENERATION OCCURS.

So passes the first-ever tropical cyclone named after a letter of the Greek alphabet.

P.S. And here I hoped it would somehow stick around long enough to co-exist with “Omega.” :)

P.P.S. Wilma, meanwhile, is still strengthening. She’s now up to 120 mph. She’s also still accelerating — now moving northeast at 37 mph! And according to the discussion, she could last longer than expected:

WHEN WILMA TRANSFORMS INTO AN EXTRATROPICAL CYCLONE IS NOT CERTAIN. IT MIGHT BE ABLE TO KEEP FROM BECOMING TOO ENTANGLED WITH THE STRONG BAROCLINIC TROUGH OVER THE EASTERN UNITED STATES FOR 24 HOURS OR MORE WHILE RUNNING ROUGHLY PARALLEL TO THE COASTLINE. WILMA HAS BEEN RATHER RESISTANT TODAY IN ALLOWING ITS INNER CORE TO BE DISRUPTED…AND IT COULD MAINTAIN DEEP CONVECTION NEAR THE CIRCULATION CENTER AND HOLD ON TO HURRICANE STATUS WELL INTO TOMORROW. SHORTLY THEREAFTER IT SHOULD MAKE THE TRANSITION TO EXTRATROPICAL…BUT REGARDLESS OF WHEN THAT DESIGNATION IS MADE…A LARGE AND STRONG CYCLONE WILL TRAVERSE THE WESTERN AND NORTHERN ATLANTIC FOR SEVERAL DAYS.

Wilma’s effects, and FEMA’s response

Monday, October 24th, 2005

I’m sure that assessment of the damage will not be immediate; however, it has been reported that Wilma is responsible for three deaths in Florida thus far, and has knocked out power to 2.2 million people. Also, there appears to be significant flooding in the Keys — which would make sense given the topography of the land (that is, extremely low).

FEMA’s response has been:

  • More than 3,000 National Guardsmen mobilized; another 3,000 on alert
  • More than 33,000 people in shelters
  • 50 truckloads of ice, 50 truckloads of water, 5 truckloads of meals delivered to Homestead Air Force Base
  • 100 truckloads of ice, 100 truckloads of water, 25 truckloads of meals ready at Jacksonville Naval Air Station
  • 6 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams deployed to pre-stage in Orlando
  • 6 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams on alert at their home bases.

I’m sure there will be additional help as time goes on. No reports as to any military response yet, although Florida might be so used to these things by now that such a response might not be necessary.

The WaPo has indicated that the president has declared the area a disaster zone, though, and federal assitance will be available.

President Bush declared a major disaster in Florida, thus freeing up disaster aid for the state. Collier, Lee and Monroe counties are eligible for aid under the declaration. Federal assistance will also be available for up to 75 percent of the costs to restore damaged facilities in 20 other Florida counties, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

More as it comes.

Posted by Brian (Briandot)