Fred is born; storm surge survival misconceptions

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:29 PM GMT on September 08, 2009

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Tropical Storm Fred sprang to life yesterday off the coast of Africa, but is not a threat to any land areas for at least the next week. Satellite imagery from the European satellite shows a well-organized circulation with plenty of low-level spiral bands and high cirrus clouds streaming away from the storm at high levels, indicating good upper level outflow. There is dry air of the Saharan Air Layer to the north of Fred, but it is far enough away so as not to be a major impediment to development. Wind shear is moderate, 10 - 15 knots, and ocean temperatures are 1 - 2°C above the threshold needed for tropical cyclone formation.


Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Fred, off the coast of Africa. Note the layer of low stratocumulus clouds to Fred's north, a sign of relatively dry, stable air there.

The forecast for Fred
Wind shear this afternoon is expected to drop to the low range, 5 - 10 knots, and continue to remain low until Thursday morning, when it will rise to the moderate range again. Given Fred's current improving appearance, the storm should be able to attain hurricane status by Thursday. At that time, a strong trough of low pressure traversing the North Atlantic will bring higher shear, weakening the storm. The trough will also pull Fred to the northwest and then north. Most of the models foresee that this trough will not be strong enough to fully recurve Fred to the northeast and out to sea. However, with the steering pattern for this year continuing to feature plenty of deep troughs of low pressure moving off the U.S. East Coast, the odds of Fred making it all the way across the Atlantic to threaten land areas appear low at this time.

Elsewhere in the tropics
An area of concentrated thunderstorms has developed off the North Carolina coast in association with the remains of an old cold front. This system is under about 20 - 30 knots of shear, and is not tropical. However, it will bring heavy rain to eastern North Carolina and Virginia today and Wednesday, as the storm slides north-northeastward along the coast.

A strong low pressure system is expected to move into the central U.S. by this weekend, dragging a cold front into the western Gulf of Mexico. In several of their runs over the past few days, the GFS and ECMWF models have been predicting a tropical system may develop along this front in the western Gulf of Mexico by Sunday or Monday. The latest GFS phase space analysis of the predicted storm confirms that this would be a tropical cyclone, and not extratropical. There is currently not an area of disturbed weather in the Gulf, but we will have to keep an eye out there beginning this weekend, when the front moves offshore.

I'll have an update Wednesday, when I'll also announce the release of wunderground's excellent new series of storm surge pages. The new storm surge section provides more than 500 detailed, zoomed-in storm surge maps from the official storm surge model used by the National Hurricane Center--the Sea, Lake, and Overland Surge from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model. The Weather Underground has created SLOSH model worst-case flood maps for Category 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 hurricanes for the entire U.S. Atlantic coast, plus Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas. Zoom-in maps of fifteen important cities such as Miami, New York City, Boston, Tampa, and Corpus Christi are included. To help coastal residents see how past storms have affected their region, the wunderground storm surge pages also include SLOSH model animations of the surge for more than 30 historic storms--from the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635 to Hurricane Ike of 2008. Included here is one section from the new storm surge pages, "Storm Surge Survival Misconceptions".

Storm Surge Survival Misconceptions
The storm surge is usually the most dangerous threat of a hurricane. The ten deadliest U.S. hurricane disasters, including the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 (8000 killed), the Lake Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928 (2500 killed), and Hurricane Katrina of 2005 (1833 killed), were all primarily storm surge disasters. The Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald ran a series of stories in 2005 on people who were lucky enough to survive Hurricane Katrina's record storm surge. There were some common misconceptions that were touched on in these stories, and are reproduced here from Margie's Kieper's blog on the Hurricane Katrina storm surge.


Figure 2. A man wearing a tiny life jacket and clutching a neon green noodle and a pet dog floats on the remains of a house in Waveland, MS, during Hurricane Katrina. The photo was taken from the second floor window of a home, and the water is close to the roof line of the first floor. The home was at an elevation of about 17 feet, and the surge is close to ten feet deep here. There are electric lines running down from a pole to a home from left to right. In the distance on the right is a home with water up to the roof line. The eye is probably overhead, as the water is relatively calm and there appears to be little wind or rain, even though the pine trees are bent from the recent force of the eyewall winds. The photo was taken by Judith Bradford. Her husband, Bill Bradford, swam out and rescued the man and his dog, and two other people who floated by. He reported that the water was nothing like white water, but was a gentle, continuous flow. He was lucky. In the nearby Porteaux Bay area, a woman watched her fiance get pulled from a tree by the force of the current. The man was washed out into the Gulf and drowned. The image above is described in more detail on Margie Kieper's Katrina storm surge web page.

Misconception: Call 911 and you can be rescued, while the water is pouring into your home.
How? No one will be able to get to you. Water rises quickly--sometimes six to ten feet within minutes; cars can't drive in it, and it is usually unnavigable by boats when it is coming ashore.

Misconception: Just stuff towels under the door jambs. Then rush around to start picking up things that are close to floor level, so you can save them.
Bad idea. In a minute or so the surge will burst open the door, and instead of standing in a room with four inches of water, you'll be knocked off your feet and into whatever piece of furniture is closest, and will suddenly be in three or four feet of moving water that you can't make any headway into...just before the refrigerator, quickly rushing through the water towards you, knocks you cold.

Misconception: You'll be able to maneuver around in the rushing water.
Probably not. Some people who drowned were not even able to get out of the room they were in, when the water started pouring into the home. The speed of water in surge can be equivalent to a Class III or IV rapids (Class V is hardly navigable by expert kayakers and canoers, and Class VI is not navigable at all).

Misconception: You'll know in time.
The surge is usually not a wall of water as is often assumed, but rather a rapid rise of water of several feet over a period of minutes. It can sneak in unexpectedly, on little cat feet. Most people that were not completely taken by surprise simply happened to look out the window at the right time.

Misconception: You can outrun the storm surge in your car.
Here's an email I got last year from a resident in the Florida Keys who ignored the evacuation order for Hurricane Ike in 2008: I hate to bother you again, but we live on Marathon in the Florida Keys on the Atlantic side, and my husband says that if we see water coming up from storm surge and have an inch of water in our house, that we can outrun the storm surge in our car. Can you please tell me if there is any way this can possibly be true? P.S., I don't know of anyone who lives down here who is planning on evacuating for Ike. Everyone says they are staying. If you wait until the water is an inch high before trying to outrun the surge, the odds are that the surge will rise to over a foot high before you get your car out of the driveway. If the water is a foot high, the typical 10 - 15 mph speed of the storm surge's current has enough force to sweep a car away. In many places along the coast, there is only one road out of a low-lying region prone to storm surges, and the surge will cut off one's only escape route. The Keys have only one road, and the storm surge will likely be moving perpendicular to the road, cutting off the only escape route. One of these days, there are going to be a lot of people who fail to evacuate caught and killed in the Keys by the storm surge from a major hurricane.

How to Survive a Storm Surge
People who survived Katrina's storm surge did one of several things: they floated out an open window, and managed to hang onto debris, a tree, or some other structure above the water, until the surge receded, hours later. Or, they were able to pull themselves into an attic, or make it up to a second floor, where water did not reach, and luckily the home was not swept away. It is common in many flood-prone regions behind levees to keep an axe fastened to the wall of the attic. Then, if water comes in unexpectedly, you can get into the attic and chop a hole through the roof to escape. Don't forget to keep a length of rope there that you can use to tie yourself to a sturdy part of the house (don't tie yourself to the steel beams of the house, as these will sink).

The best way to survive a storm surge is to heed evacuation orders and leave before the surge arrives!

Storm Surge Safety Actions
- Minimize the distance you must travel to reach a safe location; the further you drive the higher the likelihood of encountering traffic congestion and other problems on the roadways.

- Select the nearest possible evacuation destination, preferably within your local area, and map out your route. Do not get on the road without a planned route, or a place to go.

- Choose the home of the closest friend or relative outside a designated evacuation zone and discuss your plan with them before hurricane season.

- You may also choose a hotel/motel outside of the vulnerable area.

- If neither of these options is available, consider the closest possible public shelter, preferably within your local area.

- Use the evacuation routes designated by authorities and, if possible, become familiar with your route by driving it before an evacuation order is issued.

- Contact your local emergency management office to register or get information regarding anyone in your household whom may require special assistance in order to evacuate.

- Prepare a separate pet plan; most public shelters do not accept pets.

- Prepare your home prior to leaving by boarding up doors and windows, securing or moving indoors all yard objects, and turning off all utilities.

- Before leaving, fill your car with gas and withdraw extra money from the ATM.

- Take all prescription medicines and special medical items, such as glasses and diapers.

- If your family evacuation plan includes an RV, boat or trailer, leave early. Do not wait until the evacuation order or exodus is well underway to start your trip.

- If you live in an evacuation zone and are ordered to evacuate by state or local officials, do so as quickly as possible. Do not wait or delay your departure, to do so will only increase your chances of being stuck in traffic, or even worse, not being able to get out at all.

- Expect traffic congestion and delays during evacuations. Expect and plan for significantly longer travel times than normal to reach your family's intended destination.

- Stay tuned to a local radio or television station and listen carefully for any advisories or specific instructions from local officials. Monitor your NOAA Weather Radio.

Source: NOAA

Jeff Masters

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Quoting Tazmanian:
no way in heck are we going too see 5 name storms in SEP no way the most we can end up with is may be 2 un less wind shear takes overe sooner then forcast in other word fred may be are last name storm if wind shear takes overe i be dran sure and i eat crow for this if a name storm pop up in nov in a EL Nino year


Taz we already go 2 and shear is high and the MJO is a downward motion

we only go 2 more to go and conditions are much more favorable in the last week of September
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting weathersp:
Won't be long now..

FRED:


That is an eye.

Question: ADT currently has weakening on. Is Fred weakening?
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Quoting weathersp:
Won't be long now..

FRED:


My observation confirmed rofl.. I'll call Category 1 at 11 pm.
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


clarify please 456?


A surface trough is expected to develop over the Western Gulf of Mexico, whether it develops or not is to be seen. But if it does, what the models do with it is similar to Grace in 2003. Ironically if it does develop and become named, the next name on the list is Grace.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
911. IKE
That is eerily similar...

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Won't be long now..

FRED:
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no way in heck are we going too see 5 name storms in SEP no way the most we can end up with is may be 2 un less wind shear takes overe sooner then forcast in other word fred may be are last name storm if wind shear takes overe i be dran sure and i eat crow for this if a name storm pop up in nov in a EL Nino year
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Quoting Weather456:
Anybody remember tracking Grace in 2003, well it looks like we might get a repeat



clarify please 456?
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Quoting redwagon:


This is a beautiful loop:

http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/loops/wxloop.cgi?wv_east_enhanced+12


Thanks for the site.That is an excellent representation with large coverage of the Caribbean as well as GOM/ FL
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Alright NOW this might be the eye. :)


looks like our 2nd cane is coming
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Anybody remember tracking Grace in 2003, well it looks like we might get a repeat

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Alright NOW this might be the eye. :)
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Quoting Hurricane009:
How do you get the T# for fred.


Here sport,CIMSS ADT
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
Quoting Hurricane009:
How do you get the T# for fred.


Here

LINK
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting IKE:


I would say yes.



ok
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Quoting btwntx08:
but the 18z nam is picking up the boc system in 36-48 hrs imo


and the GFS too apparently.
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lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol


the E Pac now have more name storms then any one us dos


the E PAC has won 1st

the W PAC 2nd

the one that has the fred 3dr
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Quoting btwntx08:
but the 18z nam is picking up the boc system in 36-48 hrs imo


The NAM is not pretty good with TC development.

The other reliable models however do show the feature....it quickly moves inland either over Texas or Louisiana


Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
891. IKE
Quoting Tazmanian:



and???


I would say yes.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting IKE:


High is center just inland from the BOC....I see a cyclonic spin down there too, but it looks sheared to me....


THanks Ike!
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888. IKE
Quoting btwntx08:
but the 18z nam is picking up the boc system in 36-48 hrs imo


NAM is not the most reliable model for the tropics, although it did a good job showing the system in the Caribbean that eventually spun up into a major in the east-PAC.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting superpete:


You can try this link via the NHC
http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/gmex/flash-avn.html


This is a beautiful loop:

http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/loops/wxloop.cgi?wv_east_enhanced+12
Member Since: August 4, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3146
Quoting Tazmanian:
IKE do you think EL Nino is playing a row in are high wind shear right now that wind shear map sure dos look like late SEP



and???
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Quoting iceman55:
i ,m hear fred a cat 1 now

I wouldn't doubt that.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 4898
Have a question does the throughs outbreak that is forrescasting GFS for the month of Sept is normal or this is because El niño?
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Quoting Tazmanian:



yes weeks and look its overe cooler waters now and its a cat 2 storm that storm dos not no when too give up


oh ok, well the image said it formed on september 3rd
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880. IKE
Quoting cajunstorm:
local met in lafayette louisiana gives no chance of gulf storm just rain maker


End result is probably the same. I gave it a 35-40% chance of developing into a tropical system. I'll stick with that for now.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting tornadodude:


weeks?



yes weeks and look its overe cooler waters now and its a cat 2 storm that storm dos not no when too give up
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877. IKE
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Naw Ike it's not about proving each other wrong. I'm wrong every day! ;)


NO...I wasn't saying anything negative toward you. I don't mind being wrong. Just don't remember many systems moving NE in September and the first one you posted, Earl, came right over me...lol.

Must be getting old. Then again, my son will be 30 tomorrow.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
Quoting cattlebaroness:
where is the best place to view the GOM images that update frequently. I have tried NOAA but I think I am not looking at the right area.


You can try this link via the NHC
http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/gmex/flash-avn.html
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Quoting Hurricane009:
What is Tropical Storm Freds T#. If you do not want to look it up, how do i look it up??


Fred

SAB and TAFB 3.5
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
IKE do you think EL Nino is playing a row in are high wind shear right now that wind shear map sure dos look like late SEP
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Quoting homelesswanderer:


Hi Tex. I'm still not sure. Haven't looked at all of the latest models. Just the GFS. That seems to drag something right through here. But I have no idea if it will be rain or something else. Far as I know the GFS is the only one who develops anything. So it's still wait and see. But from reading that thing I posted it looks like whatever it is will come this way. Or some of it will. Lol. Sorry i'm not very helpful.


ok,thanks. just wondering what your thoughts were of it.
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Quoting Hurricane009:
I think that Fred will peak at a low end 4 or strong 3 if it goes through RI

I'm thinking Fred is going to be a Category 2 with winds of around 105-110mph.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 4898
Quoting Tazmanian:



that storm been a round for weeks on end it sure dos not no when too give up


weeks?
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The current entity in the BOC is NOT the one the GFS is toying with..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
Quoting Orcasystems:
Eureka..I have made a discovery... if you look at the AOI I posted for Fred I noticed the following... maybe I am on to something.

Most of the 4 Letter models have it going to the North.

Most of the 2 Letter and 2 Number models have it going West.

Anyone want to try and figure that one out?


lmao
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.