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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765. IKE
18Z GFS at 102 hours....has the western GOM system stronger on this run...at 1005 mb's....

EDIT...now that I look again it shows it stronger then what's left of Fred Flintstone...

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Member Since: July 2, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 2811


Atlantic Ocean View TS Fred (Updated ~3 hours)
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129442
Member Since: July 2, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 2811
18 Z TS FRED Dynamic Models (More sophisticated models)

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129442
Quoting jurakantaino:
Lucky you that can escape hurricanes, we in the islands can evacuate anywhere ,just do the best you can and find an strong safe place to weather the storm.
I should have prefaced my remarks saying for persons in u.s.coastal areas..my friends in the islands have to have a different mindset, and always are in my thoughts when a storm approaches...
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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?
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? Fred is still projected to be a fish storm right. Thanks.
Quoting Orcasystems:


Yes it does, hit pretty dern hard too...
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753. jipmg
Quoting Orcasystems:




what? Im just saying it looks similar to katrina as a cat 1, im not forecasting lol
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Howdy all. Just a quick stop to say that based on the latest satellite imagery and estimates, that I think Fred is now a minimal category 1 hurricane. As far as RI goes, I don't foresee that, but it is a good possibility that Fred could reach low end category 2 status (100mph) before weakening. Gotta go, be good y'all.
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AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129442
Quoting jipmg:
Fred looks similar to how Katrina did when it hit SFLA


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748. jipmg
Fred looks similar to how Katrina did when it hit SFLA
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As the world turns... with Shear :)

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TS FRED Multiplatform Satellite Surface Wind Analysis from 1800 UTC



Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129442
Quoting canehater1:
I have evacuated for Hurricanes 5 times and I
would add one thing to Dr. M's blog today..
Make your decision early and leave before the traffic is too bad...While it is always disconcerting to leave your home not knowing what will happen, stress from being in heavy traffic only makes it worse.
Lucky you that can escape hurricanes, we in the islands can evacuate anywhere ,just do the best you can and find an strong safe place to weather the storm.
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Hi All....
Member Since: July 2, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 2811
Quoting cyclonekid:
He is a very good meteorologist...Tropical Update #24 with updating info.


That is a very good update
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
looks like models have slightly delayed(though not weakened) the Autumn-like punch to early to middle of next week. That means the potential problem in the western GOM won't be associated with that front. But the one before it(which is much weaker).

Afterwords, it still appears likely rainy season will come to an early end for the Gulf Coast(especially for Florida and the southeast). Can't wait!

I wonder if something will develop off the remnants of that front in the southwest Caribbean? Will probably not worry about that until the 20th.
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TS Fred 1945 UTC

One has to have a Well formed Eyewall and a Warm central column for IR.

This has neither





RAAMB Page TS FRED

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129442
well im out, maybe later someone can answer my question, take care
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
????Another try????
http://www.weather.com/multimedia/videoplayer.html?from=email&bcpid=823425597&bclid=877032950&bctid =959746457
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Quoting Hurricane009:
Also, Weather456 do you ever come on Tropics Chat


I have before, but I don't routinely go there.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Fred Intensity estimates

ADT - 3.6 - 57 knots
AMSU - 70 knots
SATCOON - 72 knots
TAFB and SAB 55 knots
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
He is a very good meteorologist...Tropical Update #24 with updating info.
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Remember, you can preview the imgage or video to make sure it took.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11518
I have evacuated for Hurricanes 5 times and I
would add one thing to Dr. M's blog today..
Make your decision early and leave before the traffic is too bad...While it is always disconcerting to leave your home not knowing what will happen, stress from being in heavy traffic only makes it worse.
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Quoting Weather456:


Go the video of ur choice and look to the right and there you will see "Embed".....copy the link in that entire box and paste it into the comment box at WU. Dont insert any links or anything, just copy, paste and post. Set it and forget it. lol
Thanks
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129442
Quoting cyclonekid:
Yea...I remember...Question. How do you post youtube videos???


Look beside the video there should be a little box that says embed. Copy the embed code paste it here.
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 10 Comments: 3665
Quoting cyclonekid:
Yea...I remember...Question. How do you post youtube videos???


Go the video of ur choice and look to the right and there you will see "Embed".....copy the link in that entire box and paste it into the comment box at WU. Dont insert any links or anything, just copy, paste and post. Set it and forget it. lol
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting winter123:
reeposted image. I think i see a little swirl at the very southern BOC. tiny burst of convection but the shear looks low there.



I have a question, how do you post loops?
Quoting tornadodude:


I have a question, how do you post loops?
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting iceman55:



the wind shear looks like late SEPer
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Quoting Weather456:
Meanwhile, do you guys remember the wave ahead of 95L

Yea...I remember...Question. How do you post youtube videos???
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718. beell
Ok, I take it back! I'll blame it on trying to look at sat loops on a cell phone. On a better piece of equipment now. What I saw as an indentation or collapse around the center was actually a raising of the cloud tops over the center. An optical delusion. Fred looks just fine!

I appreciate the folks that were kind enough to say I was just wrong instead of wrong and a troll!
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717. jipmg
Quoting Weather456:
Meanwhile, do you guys remember the wave ahead of 95L



shear is ripping it apart, and will continue to do so.. until it gets under that upper low
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Quoting Tomski5421:
Hopefully Fred can catch me a few fish before it dies out later this week, but seriously, the eastern pacific has had a way better hurricane season than the Atlantic


its called "el nino"
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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.

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