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 iceman55:
TexasHurricane hey


Hi, iceman.....
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Here's JB's afternoon take.
All you JB bashers try not to get a woody...



TUESDAY 2 PM
UKMET CONTINUES TO CLASSIFY AS A TROPICAL STORM.

In fact, it is now stronger with it as it comes to the coast than the old run. My point is the objective model parameters to classify see this the way I do. So I am not just trying to verify forecasts.

In any case, here is the latest idea from the model, which of course is their tropical guidance and not their final idea. But the point is the parameters needed to classify are there, from a source that has no "dog" in the fight.


TROPICAL STORM DEVELOPED IN THE MODEL ANALYSIS AT POSITION : 34.6N 75.8W

VERIFYING TIME POSITION STRENGTH TENDENCY -------------- -------- -------- -------- 12UTC 08.09.2009 34.6N 75.8W WEAK


00UTC 09.09.2009 35.6N 74.1W MODERATE INTENSIFYING SLIGHTLY


12UTC 09.09.2009 36.2N 72.7W WEAK WEAKENING RAPIDLY


00UTC 10.09.2009 36.1N 72.9W WEAK LITTLE CHANGE


12UTC 10.09.2009 36.6N 73.9W MODERATE INTENSIFYING RAPIDLY


00UTC 11.09.2009 38.1N 74.7W MODERATE INTENSIFYING SLIGHTLY


12UTC 11.09.2009 39.2N 75.0W WEAK WEAKENING RAPIDLY


00UTC 12.09.2009 BELOW TROPICAL STORM STRENGTH


This is a potentially serious situation from Long Island to the Delmarva Peninsula. This is heading out for the Gulf Stream and the upper pattern is more favorable for development there. I give this a bit over a 1-in-10 chance to reach 996 mb with a recon wind (assuming they actually fly into it) of 65 knots on the surface.

Dan brought something up in the office and I agree with it. Given last years refusal to upgrade an obvious tropical cyclone in late September, and the posture here, there is very little chance that no matter what they will. What is astounding is that a respected forecast office such as the UKMET can objectively classify this, and the statements out of TPC are emphatically the opposite.

It makes no difference to me, as the tropical impact forecast is for storms west of 55 west (nine this year) and storms that satisfy the criteria that we should adopt... closed rotary circulation over water higher than 25 C... winds over gale force in one quad... classify it. I guess I wouldn't mind if the argument were over depression or storm... but given what other systems have looked like this year, farther away, you have got to be puzzled.

The other problem is that there is attention now on this. Admitting it is warm core is akin to saying we don't know what we are talking about.

But let me again state my worry. As "extreme" as I may seem, it is not the worst case. This could be cranking tomorrow at this time, and that is without help from the big high. It's headed for an area that is better for development than where it has been. One has to ask... if it gets to 1007 with 8-inch rains and gales with this little going for it... what's to stop another 10-15 mb out over the warm water.

By the way, the fact it is NOT moving with the upper system that was supposedly the argument for it being baroclinic but is running for the warm water indicates its main source of energy is the warm water. One could see that with the banding and the refusal of rain to get west of the center. The heavy rain that broke out farther northwest were overrunning but the storm always kept its excessive rains near it. One can see that in Doppler rain readouts.

Okay, enough for now.

*****


TUESDAY 10 A.M.

CENTER NEAR HATTERAS

http://www.meteo.psu.edu/~gadomski/SAT_SE/anim8vis.html

The low-level center is near Hatteras now. There is colder-than-normal water for about 100 miles east of Virginia and so the center, to prove again its warm core, not baroclinic, will move to the area of warm water and probably be near 150 miles east of the Virginia Capes before starting its move back to the coast.

Convection with this will always be north of the center and banded to the east. This is because the strongest low-level forcing, once the big high gets to the north, will be to the north. It is now losing whatever upper, baroclinic support it has as the vort max that TPC may be using to justify a non warm core system is to the north, leaving a warming low-level center (pressures lower, but heights higher).

Again one has to ask oneself, when does the North Carolina Outer Banks get gales and 8-10 inches of rain in September without a tropical classification from a system that clearly originated its center of low pressure over water greater than 80 degrees, from the intersection of an old front that was there for several days and an African origin feature.

While this is not Erika, it shows the value of pattern recognition. The theory behind Erika being near Hatteras Wednesday is because that is where the pattern from last week said to look for a tropical cyclone to be. The atmosphere has a way of going to that.

Why would this be worse than Ernesto or the Mother's Day Storm?

Well Ernesto was weakening as the high came in.. this one should hold its own.

It also is out over the water, coming back. Ernesto was over land.

Both that and the Mother's Day Storm had a shorter duration, more intense period than this will have on the coasts affected (unless of course it really goes to town and becomes a 996 mb millibar hurricane.. not out of the question but a long shot) but this will have less, but 36 hours. Peak wind gusts were 80-90 mph with Ernesto, Mother's Day last year 70-75, this looks like a lot of 50-mph gusts. Highest gusts I have seen so far have been 45 mph, but remember this has been a tight system so far... if recon had gone in, they would have found a heck of a lot better structure than Danny or Erika... Ana too.

It's interesting to see the headline on the NWS office page at Newbern, N.C., with the T.S. Danny storm report... given what Danny did, knock down a couple of sand castles there.. Compare that to 8-10 inches of rain and gale-force winds with no name here. Seems a shame this doesn't have a headline.

If it had a name, it would have. (lol)

Reminds me of Mickey in Rocky, telling him why he needed a manager.

Ciao for now. ***
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Good aferternoon.....what's new in the tropics?
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Quoting Floodman:


Just a follow up and re-fill of scripts...shouldn't be a problem...hopefully


Ugh. Flood you sound like me. I get to do that Thursday. Hope everything turns out ok. :)
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Quoting Floodman:


I only said what I did for the benefit of those with limited internet experience...


Just messing around its slow and im bored, which equals mischief.
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hey floodman
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Quoting StormChaser81:


JUST CANT STOP WRITING IN CAPS, MY COMP HAS TAKEN OVER, TOO MANY CAPS NOT ENOUGH TIME...


I only said what I did for the benefit of those with limited internet experience...
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Quoting Floodman:


Just a follow up and re-fill of scripts...shouldn't be a problem...hopefully


oh ok, good to hear that
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Quoting tornadodude:


good luck


Just a follow up and re-fill of scripts...shouldn't be a problem...hopefully
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Quoting Floodman:
ALright, off to the doc...


good luck
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ALright, off to the doc...
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Quoting Dakster:
lol. NRAamy


Howdy, Dak
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Quoting tornadodude:


yeah, good catch, my bad :P


Fixed it, thanks again
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Quoting Floodman:
Just a note on netiquette: using your Caps Lock to type entries here is not necessary and in fact is considered to be in poor taste...


JUST CANT STOP WRITING IN CAPS, MY COMP HAS TAKEN OVER, TOO MANY CAPS NOT ENOUGH TIME...
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lol. NRAamy
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


hasnt felt the weakness yet



Not at all!
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hasnt felt the weakness yet
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Quoting NRAamy:
Just a note on netiquette: using your Caps Lock to type entries here is not necessary and in fact is considered to be in poor taste...

so is taking a dump on Danny....

;)


Who dumped on Danny?
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Quoting WXHEAD:


In the second paragraph, do you mean misled? (instead of mislead?)


yeah, good catch, my bad :P
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Quoting iceman55:
Floodman ?


Just a word to those who have a problem with the volume of their entries...LOL
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Quoting Floodman:
Just a note on netiquette: using your Caps Lock to type entries here is not necessary and in fact is considered to be in poor taste...


OK
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Just a note on netiquette: using your Caps Lock to type entries here is not necessary and in fact is considered to be in poor taste...

so is taking a dump on Danny....

;)
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So uh, shouldn't Fred start going WNW by now?
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Just a note on netiquette: using your Caps Lock to type entries here is not necessary and in fact is considered to be in poor taste...
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I will be quite happy when Fred turns North!
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This time in 2006, we were talking about Florence, 2009 moving very similar to 2006, so see no reason why this yr shouldnt produce that number of named storms - 10. In fact 30 November, some would surprise if we get 12.
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DATE/TIME LAT LON CLASSIFICATION STORM
08/1745 UTC 12.0N 29.2W T3.5/3.5 07L
08/1145 UTC 11.8N 27.9W T3.5/3.5 07L

Not quite at 'cane strength just yet.
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Quoting iceman55:
Floodman /so have to watch guess


Steering looks to take this feature into Mexico...
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Other than Fred, the next best shot for development would be the GOM, but still not 100% sold.
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STRANGE SEASON
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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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