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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Quoting watchingnva:
im one of the viewers...lol...so it sounds like oz is giving up trying to get into mexico...i guess he will be staying in the south padre/ state highway 4 area while alex comes in...

Yeah, Mexico is not a nice place to be right now... hurricane or no hurricane.
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duplicate
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Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15950
Quoting weatherboyfsu:
Last visible showing a little more westward move........


Yep, saw it too, let's see if this is a trend.
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ALEX Rapid scan Loop
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129910
NHC havestorm surge estimates on the site now. Under "storm surge probability".
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Quoting Floodman:
Way to go Doug...egg him on! Maybe we can get him to do something really reckless! Maybe go out for a swim in some storm surge?


Now that would really be cool!
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Quoting winter123:
Since people keep posting the 10am track forecast and stuff, I thought I'd post just how far off from that track it is now. Intensifying caused more northerly movement. I expect 90mph at 1pm update.



My track around 11 a.m.

Photobucket
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Quoting Patrap:
Sometimes the words here are very insightful as to the total lack of preparedness.



That will probably be me...I moved to South Florida from orlando 4 yrs ago...The only "real" storm that I went through was Charley...I am one of those that will wait until I see the cone on South Florida before I get supplies...We have two lil' boys (4 & 7)....I probably should be more prepared?? I hate to go buy stuff now and there not be a storm again this year....(I have been here 4 yrs now and no storm yet).....
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Quoting IKE:
12Z CMC


Hmm... the last few frames hints at a low in the eastern gulf. interesting
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Last visible showing a little more westward move........
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i just don't even understand the point of TWC anymore. what a shame.
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Quoting MahFL:
Even if Alex makes landfall in TX the eye might still go over Brownsville due to the track, and that Brownsville is inland by 15 miles or so.


I agree...I think at the very least, Brownsville is going to get brushed by the eyewall. I might have to raise my initial guess at what the highest wind gust will be there...101 is starting to seem a little on the low side.
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Quoting winter123:
Since people keep posting the 10am track forecast and stuff, I thought I'd post just how far off from that track it is now. Intensifying caused more northerly movement. I expect 90mph at 1pm update.

Alex is not moving further north than expected because of intensification.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting 1900hurricane:

Not to mention what Ike did to the Ohio Valley!


Camile to Nelson County Virginia.
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Quoting Patrap:

That makes a lot more sense. This was made in 2005? Why hasn't it been implemented yet??
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Do we have an ETA for Alex to landfall yet?
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71.2 knots (~ 81.9 mph)
Category One Hurricane


If the trend with NHC's wind estimates continues that should be enough for an upgrade in the next update.
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Quoting Floodman:
Way to go Doug...egg him on! Maybe we can get him to do something really reckless! Maybe go out for a swim in some storm surge?


2 foot storm surge life threatening?
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129910
Since people keep posting the 10am track forecast and stuff, I thought I'd post just how far off from that track it is now. Intensifying caused more northerly movement. I expect 90mph at 1pm update.

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This season is getting started of a lot quicker than last year


Click me to see what I mean!
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826. Asta
re817- I like it! Thanks Patrap!
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hey Jerry!
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Pressures way up to 964


Wait for vortex message
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Way to go Doug...egg him on! Maybe we can get him to do something really reckless! Maybe go out for a swim in some storm surge?
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You have all been very helpful, and it isn't even July yet. Keep the info coming, with less drama, more storm talk.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Pressures way up to 964
Yup, Alex is going through an eyewall replacement cycle.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
819. MahFL
Even if Alex makes landfall in TX the eye might still go over Brownsville due to the track, and that Brownsville is inland by 15 miles or so.
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129910
CMC 12z 144 hours

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CORPUS CHRISTI TX
1221 PM CDT WED JUN 30 2010

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN CORPUS CHRISTI HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
NORTH CENTRAL ARANSAS COUNTY IN SOUTH TEXAS...
SOUTHEASTERN BEE COUNTY IN SOUTH TEXAS...
SOUTHWESTERN REFUGIO COUNTY IN SOUTH TEXAS...
NORTH CENTRAL SAN PATRICIO COUNTY IN SOUTH TEXAS...

* UNTIL 100 PM CDT

* AT 1215 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED
SEVERAL TORNADOES FORMING. ONE IS SOUTH OF QUINTANA...ONE NEAR
REFUGIO AND ONE NEAR WOODSBORO...THESE STORMS ARE MOVING WEST AT
35 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
REFUGIO...
WOODSBORO...
ST. PAUL...
SKIDMORE...

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

THE SAFEST PLACE TO BE DURING A TORNADO IS IN A BASEMENT. GET UNDER A
WORKBENCH OR OTHER PIECE OF STURDY FURNITURE. IF NO BASEMENT IS
AVAILABLE...SEEK SHELTER ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF THE BUILDING IN AN
INTERIOR HALLWAY OR ROOM SUCH AS A CLOSET. USE BLANKETS OR PILLOWS TO
COVER YOUR BODY AND ALWAYS STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS.

IF IN MOBILE HOMES OR VEHICLES...EVACUATE THEM AND GET INSIDE A
SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER. IF NO SHELTER IS AVAILABLE...LIE FLAT IN THE
NEAREST DITCH OR OTHER LOW SPOT AND COVER YOUR HEAD WITH YOUR HANDS.

A TORNADO WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 800 PM CDT WEDNESDAY EVENING
FOR CENTRAL TEXAS.
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you all should have been in swfl where it hit man what a wild ride it was.
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811. IMA
Quoting sailingallover:

My question would be has public transportinon shut down or are they saying they will at some specific time. How bad is the flooding, puddels , ankle high, knee high? Or does he simply want to go home early? 50 miles inland it can't be that bad yet.

There's already been a good bit of rain, and parts of the city flood with sea breeze showers. lol I don't know if you're a paid member, hopefully this 40-frame radar loop will show you what they've gotten just in the last 3 hours. That doesn't include what they got yesterday or the water flowing down the river. Uggghh! I'm through with this argument. I think some people disagree just to disagree!
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Quoting Hurricanes101:
I have always said for those who do not think Hurricanes can have a great impact inland; 2 prime examples

Hugo and what it did to Charlotte back in 1989

Charley and what it did to Orlando back in 2004

just because you live inland, does not mean you should not be prepared

I was in Atlanta in 1995 when Opal came through and we had 70 MPH gusts and tons of damage... Atlanta... Georgia... Please stay prepared everyone.
Member Since: August 28, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 113
Sometimes the words here are very insightful as to the total lack of preparedness.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129910
Pressures way up to 964
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15950
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


The rain is even getting here!

We had over 1/4" for the first time since May 4 at lunchtime today!



haha well at least you're appreciating what you got!

Up until monday, we only had 3.57 inches for the whole month of june! Really lame! But we have had over 4.3 inches since monday afternoon, so even though june has been very dry and hot, we basically just made up for that in 48 hours time!

We had a couple of really wild thunderstorms last couple days, reminded me of the squall lines in hurricanes, I think its because the atmosphere over the entire gulf and the gulf coast has an atmosphere similar to that of Hurricane Alex.

We had 2.22 inches of rain last night, which all fell in only 28 minutes, a massive amount of lightning too, as well as a wind gust to 56 mph at my house. The storms have been huge wind producers lately too, another sign of the tropical influence.

the PW is around 3.00 inches at Brownsville, just crazy how much moisture tropical systems can contain!

The PW here is forecast to reach up to 2.7 inches the next few days by the GFS as moisture pools ahead of the trough sagging south!

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Quoting watchingnva:
i can not stand the big headed folk on here posting their opinion like its coming from the nhc...like the post i was referring to...
Yes thank you. I think he might have alarmed some people!
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805. IKE
12Z CMC
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Hi Drak, how long before landfall?
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wow watch the water
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LOL, for some reason the advisory posted itself.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Hi! How are you Texas & Mexico people doing today? We finally got a tiny bit of rain this morning(but not enough!) here in South Florida (Pembroke Pines anyway)....I wish that I could take some of that rain off your hands....
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Oh yeah, the island also has Tampa General Hospital. They do not evacuate for any storm. I could always go there if I got stuck.
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Quoting hurrkat05:
ALEX IS DRIFTING TOWARDS THE NNW LIKE A CRAWL IN THE LAST 3 HOURS..STEERING CURRENTS NEED TO CHANGE BY TONIGHT ARE ALL BETS ARE OFF FOR ALEX MAKING LANDFALL..YOU PEOPLE IN SE TEXAS AND SW LA SHOUD PAY VERY CLOSE ATTENTION..YOU NEED TO HAVE EVERYTHING READY IN CASE YOU HAVE TO MOVE QUICKLY..I WILL HAVE MUCH MORE INFO THIS AFTERNOON AT 5PM..ALEX CONTINUES TO STRENGTHEN..


Alex is moving NW with a slight recent bias to the WNW. It is moving at a fairly rapid clip for the last several hours. It should makes landfall in NE Mexico around 7PM.
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Quoting JFLORIDA:


lol famous last words.

Come on if something like Charley were to go in there and you waited to the last minute you'd drown in your car along with everyone there and in st pete too. You know that CW! Tampa is FLAT.


I know, but I know how to monitor the water levels. I'd leave before it got too bad.
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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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