Large and intensifying Hurricane Alex bears down on northeastern Mexico, South Texas

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:23 PM GMT on June 30, 2010

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Hurricane Alex continues to intensify as it slowly bears down on the coast of northeastern Mexico. Brownsville long-range radar shows the spiral bands of Alex, which has dumped heavy rains of up to four inches in northeastern Mexico and near Brownsville, according to satellite estimates of rainfall. The Brownsville airport received 0.78" of rain in the hour ending at 8am CDT, and 0.61" in the hour ending at 9am CDT. Floods from Alex have already killed ten people--six in Nicaragua, and two each in El Salvador and Guatemala.


Figure 1. Snapshot of the Brownsville long-range radar showing Hurricane Alex approaching the coast.

The 7:12am CDT eye penetration of the Hurricane Hunters found a central pressure of 959 mb, a modest 2 mb drop from the reading four hours previous to that. They noted a very tiny eye, ten miles in diameter, with a gap in the northwest side. Tiny eyes like this tend to be unstable, and in the 9:05am CDT eye penetration, the Hurricane Hunters found that the inner eyewall had collapsed, and the pressure had risen 2 mb, to 961 mb. A new, much larger eye will form today as the day progresses. During these "eyewall replacement cycles", a hurricane will typically weaken a few millibars , and the strongest winds will spread out over a larger area as the hurricane conserves angular momentum. Thus, the hurricane still has about the same amount of destructive power, it is just spread out over a larger area. This tends to increase the hurricane's storm surge, but lessens the wind damage, since the extreme winds of the inner eyewall are no longer present. Satellite loops show a large, well-organized storm with increasing amounts of low-level spiral bands forming, and improving upper-level outflow. Data from last night's flight of the NOAA jet showed an unusually moist atmosphere surrounds Alex, so dry air is no longer a problem for it. It's a good thing Alex has less than a day before making landfall, or else is would be a large and very powerful major hurricane.


Figure 2. Visible light image of Tropical Storm Alex taken at 19:35 UTC (2:35 pm CDT) on June 29, 2010, by NASA's Aqua satellite. At the time, Alex was a tropical storm with 70 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Storm Surge
Traditionally, a storm's ranking on the Saffir-Simpson Scale--the familiar Category 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 rankings we always talk about--have also been used to quantify storm surge threat. However, large, weaker storms that cover a huge area of the Gulf of Mexico, like Alex, can generate a larger storm surge than a smaller but more intense hurricane with a higher Saffir-Simpson rating. Thus, the National Hurricane Center has formally discontinued use of the Saffir-Simpson scale to characterize storm surge, and is studying the possibility of issuing separate Storm Surge Warnings a few years from now. These would be in addition to their traditional Hurricane Warnings. To give us a better idea of a storm's surge potential, Dr. Mark Powell of NOAA's Hurricane Research Division has developed the Integrated Kinetic Energy scale to rank storms. The scale ranges from 0 to 6, and a parallel wind damage scale that runs from 0 to 6 is also generated. Alex had an Integrated Kinetic Energy of 2.6 on the 0 to 6 scale at 1:30pm CDT yesterday, and its destructive potential rating for winds was just 1.2. Thus, Alex's surge ranked alomst one-and-a-half categories higher in destructive potential than its wind. These numbers have probably increased by a full category since yesterday afternoon. NHC is giving a 40% - 60% chance of a storm surge of at least 3 feet affecting the Brownsville area, and 10% - 30% chance the surge will exceed 5 feet. In theory, a Category 2 hurricane moving WNW at 5 mph can bring a storm surge of up to 8 - 9 feet to the South Texas and northern Mexican coast.

Other Impacts
Alex is bringing bands of heavy rain to the coasts of Texas and Mexico, as seen on the Brownsville, Texas radar. Hurricane local statements with projections for how Alex will affect the coast are now being issued by the National Weather Service in Brownsville and Corpus Christi. Flooding damage from the expected 6 - 12 inches of rain from Alex will be the main concern. Wind damage is a lesser concern, since the core of Alex is making landfall in a swampy, sparsely populated region of Mexico. The combined wind, surge, and flooding damage from Alex may be similar to 2008's Hurricane Dolly, which hit near Brownsville. Dolly was a Category 2 hurricane offshore that weakened to a Category 1 hurricane with 85 mph winds when it made landfall, and did about $1 billion in damage. Dolly also generated two weak EF-0 tornadoes, and Alex is capable of generating a few tornadoes as well, according to the latest discussion from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center. The atmosphere is moderately unstable, there is plenty of moisture, and wind shear at low levels has been increasing this morning. The greatest threat for tornadoes will occur late this afternoon, on the right side of where the storm makes landfall.

Alex in historical context
Alex is the first June hurricane since Hurricane Allison of 1995. Allison briefly became a minimal 75 mph hurricane before weakening and hitting the Florida Panhandle as a tropical storm. Alex is the strongest June hurricane since Hurricane Bonnie of 1986, which had 85 mph winds. Bonnie was the first hurricane I flew into as a member of the Hurricane Hunters. Bonnie made landfall along the upper Texas coast, and caused less than $20 million in damage. If Alex strengthens to 90 mph winds, it will be the strongest June hurricane since Hurricane Alma of 1966, which had 125 mph winds as it skirted the Florida Keys. There have been only ten hurricanes in May or June since 1945; only four of these were major Category 3 or higher storms.

Track forecast for Alex
All of the models take Alex to the west or west-northwest into northern Mexico by early Thursday morning. However, the steering currents are fairly weak, and Alex could stall and move erratically at times today. I don't anticipate that this weakness in the steering currents will allow Alex to move northward and make landfall in Texas. After landfall, the ridge of high pressure forcing Alex westward should remain in place and strengthen, keeping Alex's remnants over northern Mexico for several days.

Intensity forecast for Alex
Alex is over a region of ocean with moderately high total ocean heat content . Wind shear has fallen to a low 5 knots, and is projected by the SHIPS model to remain in the low range, below 10 knots, through landfall. The combination of low wind shear, moderately high ocean heat content, and plenty of moisture should allow Alex to continue to intensify today. Alex's pressure is already characteristic of a Category 3 hurricane, but the storm is so large that it is taking time for the winds to catch up to the pressure falls. It is unlikely that Alex's winds will be at Category 3 strength at landfall, since the storm is undergoing an eyewall replacement cycle, and does not have time to build a tight inner eyewall with strong winds before landfall. A Category 2 storm at landfall looks more likely.

Elsewhere in the tropics
The latest run of the NOGAPS model predicts the formation of a tropical disturbance in the Western Caribbean on Monday. None of the other models is showing anything brewing over the coming seven days.

Wind and ocean current forecast for the BP oil disaster
Alex is generating very rough conditions over the Deepwater Horizon blowout location, with 6 - 8 foot waves and 3 - 4 foot swells. Strong southeast to south winds of 15 - 25 knots will blow over the oil slick region today through Thursday, according to the latest marine forecast from NOAA. The resulting currents will push oil to many protected bays and estuaries that haven't seen oil yet. In addition, the 1 - 2 foot storm surge Alex is generating along the Louisiana coast will act to push oil deep into some low-lying marshlands. While this oil will be diluted some by the wave action, the impact of the oil and accompanying toxic dispersants on the marshlands is of concern. The latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA and the State of Louisiana show oil will also move westward along the central Louisiana coast towards the Texas border. Winds will decrease to 10 - 15 knots Friday through Monday but remain out of the southeast, keeping the pressure on the regions of coast in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi that are seeing oil hit their shores this week.

Resources for the BP oil disaster
Map of oil spill location from the NOAA Satellite Services Division
My post, What a hurricane would do the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
My post on the Southwest Florida "Forbidden Zone" where surface oil will rarely go
My post on what oil might do to a hurricane
NOAA's interactive mapping tool to overlay wind and ocean current forecasts, oil locations, etc.
Gulf Oil Blog from the UGA Department of Marine Sciences
Oil Spill Academic Task Force
University of South Florida Ocean Circulation Group oil spill forecasts
ROFFS Deepwater Horizon page
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery from the University of Miami

Next post
Either Rob Carver or myself will do an update late this afternoon or this evening.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane Alex (LRandyB)
Weather inbound to Hurricane Alex.
Hurricane Alex
Hurricane Alex (LRandyB)
Weather inbound to Hurricane Alex.
Hurricane Alex
Hurricane Alex (LRandyB)
Flight deck view from a WC-130J Hurricane Hunter aircraft
Hurricane Alex

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2348. leo305
it stalled on radar
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can someone post link to watch oz? tia:)
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Quoting TampaSpin:
Gotta be at least a Cat2 with this picture.....wow





it is a cat 2
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If this what systems in June are like in the 2010 season I fear what August will be like.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24179
It'll be interesting to see what T# SAB will give Alex when 7:45 rolls around.. 6.0?
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Quoting TampaWeatherBuff:


Impressive imagery and destructive force are two different measures, technically. The Saffir-Simpson scale measures the latter.


Uh you don't see a category 4 on satellite looking any better then this or any less.
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Wow

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15921
Wow... while i gotta admit Oz has cajones... he's nuuuts.
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Quoting TampaSpin:
Nice live feeds of South Padre Island with some pretty crazy breakers hitting....WOW


Link please :)
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This map demonstrates how much what is thought to be the future for a system can deviate from what actually transpires.

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Gotta be at least a Cat2 with this picture.....wow

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CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
5.5 / 960.0mb/102.0kt
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15921
2336. xcool
look stalla to me hmmm ?
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Quoting RitaEvac:
OZ drives up to Dairy Queen and figures out its closed


LOL!
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Quoting victoriahurricane:


5 tornado reports so far.

Link

Thanks, I appreciate the link.
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Quoting AlexEmmett:

it was way past the required cat 3 pressure at the end of the season it will be written in the books as a cat 3
wow! i guess i asked that question too late.:) is it really a cat. 3 all of a sudden like that? there is the monster i thought i would see. didn't understand why the pressure didn't match the winds before. if you don't mind can you elaborate on that?thanks in advance:)
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Haven't watched at Alex for about 12hrs.
Work getting in the way.....again.
Looks like someone is trying to do doughnuts in the parking lot.
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OZ drives up to Dairy Queen and figures out its closed
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Nice live feeds of South Padre Island with some pretty crazy breakers hitting....WOW
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Quoting Tazmanian:




look like Alex is takeing a little Dip too the S in the last few loops

thats the it looks to me too that will keep it over water longer too
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2328. centex
Is the post lanfall track reliable? Asking if it may go around ridge on left side.
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Quoting JamesSA:
I've been to that spot on the barrier island where it is about to make landfall. There is nothing whatsoever there. Just beach with miles of swampy wetlands behind it. Great fishing!

The little town of San Fernando a little ways inland is very small, and I recall most of the buildings were made of concrete and/or concrete blocks. That is typical construction even for little houses in Mexico, they don't use much lumber. They should be OK, they are rugged people who have been through these before.


Have a look at Google Earth - actual satellite photos. At the same camera eye altitude San Fernando is about 4 times the size of Port Isabel (pop approx 50,000) ... 200,000 souls, probably more in light of higher population density. I hope they are ready for a lot of water.
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2213 WPBHurricane05 "Really not much in the way of cities where Alex is making landfall. Unfortunately, I imagine those small villages are poorer and their homes aren't as sturdy."

Mostly concrete block better for hurricanes than most coastal homes in eg Texas. Mexico hasn't traditionally had an insurance&mortgage industry that would let developers dupe naive customers into buying matchstick homes.
So folks who live near the coast built sturdy cuz they knew if their home got knocked down, it was a total loss: no bank lending to build coastal homes cuz of no insurance, and no government loans to rebuild. Useta be that way in the US up until the '60s when FEMA stepped into the insurance&mortgage picture.

The real worry is flooding. The area is relatively flat with poor drainage.
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2325. leo305
if this gets to 946 or lower, it will be the strongest JUNE storm ever.

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Quoting mtyweatherfan90:


Thanks man! Really appreciate it.

Image of Monterrey before heavy rain:



Image of Monterrey during heavy rain:


Wish it was just a depression to cool you off and bring a little rain...stay safe!!
Member Since: September 1, 2009 Posts: 23 Comments: 1007
had to duck out, but if Floodman is still around, I'd sure like him to explain how the flood program is 'just fine.'

They are accepting renewal payments but policies are NOT in effect until Congress reauthorizes the program. It will almost certainly be reauthorized retroactively, but if you're one of the ones effected, I doubt 'just fine' is words you'd use to describe the situation.

That's not even mentioning how much money the program loses.
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000
URNT12 KNHC 302305
VORTEX DATA MESSAGE AL012010
A. 30/22:32:50Z
B. 24 deg 20 min N
097 deg 08 min W
C. 850 mb 1005 m
D. 77 kt
E. 117 deg 9 nm
F. 216 deg 78 kt
G. 120 deg 12 nm
H. 950 mb
I. 18 C / 1530 m
J. 23 C / 1534 m

K. 21 C / NA
L. CLOSED
M. C12
N. 12345 / 8
O. 0.02 / 1 nm
P. AF304 1201A ALEX OB 22
MAX FL WIND 98 KT NE QUAD 22:39:10Z
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Alex has really slowed his pace
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2320. Patrap
NEXRAD Radar
Corpus Christi, Base Reflectivity 0.50 Degree Elevation Range 248 NMI

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128655
Hot towers.
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Quoting angiest:


Someone posted yesterday that it was revised to 950 at time of landfall.

That was me, it is in the Hurricane Ike Post-Storm Analysis
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11669
Looking better by the second

GEOS
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2315. leo305
.
Quoting AstroHurricane001:
NEXT ADVISORY
-------------
NEXT INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY...800 PM CDT.
NEXT COMPLETE ADVISORY...1000 PM CDT.

NHC is going to issue another intermediate advisory in two hours. I think they're really on to something. Alex is going to be one dangerous storm.


they already said it is possible that Alex could touch CAT 3 intensity before landfall
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Quoting kmanislander:


It seems like forever since we started watching the wave that became Alex. At this rate I will need a new prescription for my glasses before the end of the season as my eyes are exhausted from running loops and viewing maps !.

LOL! I don't wear glasses but I might need some after November 30th.
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Quoting Patrap:


Fascinating..LOL
Look Pat....Your known worldwide now.....LOL
Member Since: February 27, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1125
2312. Enola
To our weather gurus - I'm sure this has been asked already in this thread, but what are the chances for Colorado getting any moisture from Alex? Thank you in advance!
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2311. angiest
Quoting JamesSA:
There is a large southerly component. Interesting.


I see it too. I placed a marker on the approximate center location in the first frame of my loop and on the last frame that marker is in the NE eyewall.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Could see 105-110 at 9 pm.. followed shortly afterwords by landfall.
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Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15921
2308. xcool
Alex player head games
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
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NEXT ADVISORY
-------------
NEXT INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY...800 PM CDT.
NEXT COMPLETE ADVISORY...1000 PM CDT.

NHC is going to issue another intermediate advisory in two hours. I think they're really on to something. Alex is going to be one dangerous storm.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
2304. Patrap
Quoting RitaEvac:
Oz talking about Pat on video sitting back in Nawlins


Fascinating..LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128655
http://www.kurv.com/ South Texas news talk radio
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Does anyone have any pictures from Mexico and not Texas?
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Quoting AlexEmmett:

it was way past the required cat 3 pressure at the end of the season it will be written in the books as a cat 3


Hurricane categories are determined by wind, not pressure.
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2300. xcool
Alex player head game time you know he go back nw
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Quoting Patrap:
College of DuPage Meteorology
Severe Weather and Flash Flood Warnings


It seems like forever since we started watching the wave that became Alex. At this rate I will need a new prescription for my glasses before the end of the season as my eyes are exhausted from running loops and viewing maps !.

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Alex look better as a cat 2 than most cat 4s
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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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