Alex, strongest June hurricane in 44 years, is now a tropical storm

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:20 PM GMT on July 01, 2010

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Hurricane Alex, the strongest June hurricane in 44 years, is Tropical Storm Alex, thanks to passage over the rugged terrain of Mexico. Alex made landfall at 9pm CDT last night, 110 miles south of Brownsville, Texas, as a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds. Alex was the strongest June hurricane since Hurricane Alma of 1966, which had 125 mph winds as it skirted the west coast of Florida. Brownsville long-range radar shows that Alex's heavy rains continue to pound the Texas/Mexico border region, and satellite estimates of rainfall (Figure 1) show that some of Alex's spiral bands dumped rains in excess of five inches today, in addition to the 5+ inches that fell yesterday. The Brownsville airport received 6.46" of rain as of 8am CDT today from Alex. Alex is being blamed for at least thirteen deaths in Central America and Mexico due to flooding, though none of these deaths occurred in the region where the storm made landfall. Alex spawned two tornadoes that hit South Texas, and there were at least four other reports of tornado funnel clouds that did not touch ground. Alex may continue to spawn isolated tornadoes today over South Texas and northern Mexico.


Figure 1. Radar-estimated rainfall so far today for Alex.


Figure 2. Snapshot of the Brownsville long-range radar showing Hurricane Alex at landfall at 8pm CDT Wednesday June 30, 2010.


Figure 3. Alex nearing landfall in northeastern Mexico at 12:10 CDT June 30, 2010, as seen by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Terra satellite. Image credit: NASA.

Storm Surge
Alex's maximum storm surge occurred along a 50-mile stretch of the Mexican coast centered about 75 miles south of Brownsville, Texas. The National Hurricane Center Sea, Lake, and Overland Surge from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model predicted that the maximum water depth at the coast reached about 5 - 6 feet above ground level (Figure 3.) A storm surge of 1 - 2 feet was predicted by SLOSH for the Brownsville, Texas region. A storm surge of about 2 feet was observed in South Texas at the South Padre Island Coast Guard Station and Port Isabel.


Figure 4. Hurricane Alex's Maximum Water Depth (storm tide minus the elevation of the land it is passing over) computed using the primary computer model used by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) to forecast storm surge--the Sea, Lake, and Overland Surge from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model. The accuracy of the SLOSH model is advertised as plus or minus 20%. The maximum surge occurred to the right of where Alex's core made landfall, over a sparsely populated marshy area. This "Maximum Water Depth" image shows the water depth at each grid cell of the SLOSH domain. Thus, if you are inland at an elevation of five feet above mean sea level, and the combined storm surge and tide (the "storm tide") is ten feet at your location, the water depth image will show five feet of inundation. For more information on storm surge, consult our detailed storm surge pages.

Alex in historical context
Alex is the first June hurricane since Hurricane Allison of 1995. There have been only eleven hurricanes in May or June since 1945; only four of these were major Category 3 or higher storms.

Alex's bizarre behavior
Alex had several rather remarkable features I've never seen in a hurricane. Firstly, it underwent an eyewall replacement cycle as a Category 1 hurricane with 80 mph winds. Usually, we don't see the inner eyewall collapse and an eyewall replacement cycle occur until a hurricane reaches Category 3 strength. I've seen it happen on occasion to a Category 2 storm, but never a Category 1. Secondly, after Alex's inner 9-mile diameter eyewall collapsed at 10am EDT yesterday morning, an outer spiral band began to become the new eyewall. Winds in this outer spiral band/new eywall increased as the day progressed, as typically happens in an eyewall replacement cycle. However, part way through that process, Alex suddenly reversed course, and was able to build a small inner eyewall with a 12-mile diameter that was completed by landfall. I've never seen a hurricane change its mind in the middle of an eyewall replacement cycle and build an inner eyewall so fast. Finally, Alex had an unusually weak winds, considering how low the pressure was. The pressure was more typical of a hurricane one Saffir-Simpson category stronger than what the surface winds suggested.

Elsewhere in the tropics
The latest run of the NOGAPS model predicts the formation of a tropical depression the Western Caribbean on Tuesday. None of the other models is showing tropical development worthy of concern over the coming seven days.

Wind and ocean current forecast for the BP oil disaster
Alex is continuing to generate very rough conditions over the Deepwater Horizon blowout location, with 5 - 9 foot waves and 3 - 4 foot swells. The wind and seas will gradually subside today, according to the latest marine forecast from NOAA. The resulting currents induced by Alex's strong winds will push oil to many protected bays and estuaries that haven't seen oil yet. 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 5 - 15 knots Friday through Tuesday but remain mostly 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
I'll have an update Friday morning. Dr. Rob Carver plans on summarizing Alex in his blog later today.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane Alex (LRandyB)
Weather inbound to Hurricane Alex.
Hurricane Alex

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..Looks Like a whole lot more coming too!
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192. IKE
GFS at 78 hours....

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We're STILL getting gusts to 30 & 31kts here at BPT (TX/LA border), 600+/- from the storm proper. Mom said the sun came out in HRL at 8:15 this a.m. Our OVC009 has just NOW broken up and for the first time in 60 hours or so we're seeing the sun. Incredible coverage on this one. It's REALLY fortunate Alex didn't have another day or so to spool up, I think.

BTW, if whatever is left actually exits into the Pacific & rebuilds, doesn't it get renamed off the Pac list? We were discussing it here at work. Thankx!
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Hi All, just checking in....any areas of interest here?

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Wave emerging from Africa now has low shear till 45 W longitude, then there is a cut-off upper low in the C Atl. If that pattern persists, at most, that wave would be like another Invest 92L.

But, while it has a convective burst, don't see any real organization with that wave. Looks like for at least the next day or two, things will be calm in the wake of Alex.

From NWS Miami...
THE SHORT RANGE MODELS ARE ALSO SHOWING A 50 TO 60 KNOT MID TO
UPPER LEVEL JET MOVING SOUTHWEST AROUND THE UPPER LEVEL LOW TODAY.
THIS WILL PUT SOUTH FLORIDA IN THE RIGHT ENTRANCE REGION OF THE
JET. THE 500 MB LEVEL TEMPERATURE IS ALSO AROUND -9 TO -10 DEGREES
IN THE 12Z MIA SOUNDING THIS MORNING. THIS VERY COLD AIR WILL ALSO
REMAIN OVER THE CWA TODAY.

ALL OF THIS MEANS THAT THE ATMOSPHERE WILL BE VERY UNSTABLE TODAY
ACROSS SOUTH FLORIDA. SO HAVE RAISE THE POPS ALL AREAS A LITTLE
BIT WITH LIKELY POPS OVER THE INTERIOR AND WEST COAST AREAS...AND
HIGH IN CHANCE POPS OVER THE EAST COAST AREAS.

Cold core upper low looks like it'll increase chances for afternoon thunderstorms, but no wash out. Best chances for thunderstorms is late afternoon with that setup, when lowest-levels of atm. are warmest, which contrasts with the cold core upper low and leads to the break of the stability.
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Quoting Patrap:

How to make God laugh

by MonkeyBoy on June 25, 2010

This really is a banner hurricane year. I mean this from a very objective perspective: its hot as hell, no shearing winds, but what really puts it over the top is the oil. If anyone has a good guess as to what is going to happen when a hurricane hits that dispersant laden crude oil, I’m sure BP has had them killed by now. I do know that the Insurance Companies have said they will not cover oil damage to homes but then, these cats always plan for the worst. That’s not bad advice.

So I found myself thinking of the possible scenarios today and I kept coming back to the big unknown. Can the oil and/or the dispersants be picked up off the ocean surface in sufficient quantity to rain death down on us all? I just don’t know, but I think the best option is to assume it can to some degree. I should mention that the daily rains here in NOLA seem particularly unlikely to contain chemicals from the spill due to the lack of a significant aerosol-effect to cause enough of the chemicals to state shift – besides, most of those storms condense right over us.

Anywho, I’m just guessing like everyone else. My general rule is that at Cat III or bigger I’m out. This year I’m re-thinking that; not because of the storm at all but because of the possibility of a very toxic rain. Other than that, the short term plan hasn’t really changed.

Its the long-term that needs much more consideration. In the long-term I think we need to admit, at least internally, that this place may just be too toxic to return to…maybe for months…maybe years….maybe even decades. Its a horrifying thought but one best accepted here and now rather than from some remote place. If you accept that possibility you have an opportunity – a wonderful opportunity and a pretty big responsibility too. The opportunity is to get out there and do everything. Go walk in the parks. Go eat great food. Go visit with friends. Go do everything worth doing. In short, enjoy being here and intentionally make memories that you can carry with you as long as you have to. If nothing happens then all you’ve done is had one of the best Summers of your life.

Then there’s the responsibility – opportunities demanding, ugly sister. If something does happen, then we could find ourselves the custodians of an entire culture. If the only thing the dispersants actually disperse is us, as a community, then we need to take as much of this place with us as we can. We need to take recipes, and traditions, and memories, and anything else we can pack in our hearts and minds. And most of all we need to take each other.

A lot of people in New Orleans are tired – at least mentally. Our emotional equity hasn’t recovered completely over the last five years. It would be a good time to really set your ego aside and look at yourself. Are you able to take on the kind of fight we did five years ago? And be honest. If the answer for you is no, then you need to do what’s right for you when the time comes. Its difficult to see yourself as vulnerable, but it is potentially catastrophic if you make decisions without recognizing that you are vulnerable. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Try and gauge how they’re doing. See if there’s something you can do to help them. Sometimes – usually – that means just listening. And be patient with each other. Things might get pretty crazy; and I don’t mean the lampshade on the head kind of crazy. Just remember, everyone around you right now is potentially a story that takes New Orleans out into the rest of the world.

We are all first hand witnesses of a terrible, ridiculous crime and I can think of at least one company and several politicians that would love for us to disappear. Its up to each of us to make sure that doesn’t happen.
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CMC model is also showing potential development between the Bahamas and Bermuda. Looks like something to keep an eye on.
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185. srada
From the Wilmington, NC NWS..they are mentioning the model runs for the low near the bahamas and they usually dont do that..weird forecast

LONG TERM /SUNDAY THROUGH WEDNESDAY/...
AS OF 3 AM THURSDAY...CONTINUE TO FAVOR HPC/ECMWF SOLUTION THROUGH
THE EXTENDED WITH UPPER RIDGE AND SURFACE HIGH IN PLACE. BY THE
MIDDLE OF NEXT WEEK DEWPOINTS START TO CREEP BACK UP. DIURNAL
CONVECTION MAY MAKE A RETURN ON WED...BUT FORECAST SOUNDINGS STILL
SHOW LOTS OF DRY AIR. FOR NOW WILL KEEP INHERITED SILENT POPS. TEMPS
NEAR TO SLIGHTLY ABOVE CLIMO THROUGH THE PERIOD. GFS CONTINUES THE
TREND OF DEVELOPING A TROPICAL LIKE SYSTEM SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE
BAHAMAS AND BERMUDA...BUT IT ALSO CONTINUES TO SHOW ALMOST NO RUN
TO RUN CONSISTENCY. ECMWF HAS YET TO SHOW A SIMILAR FEATURE...AND
IT HAS BEEN DOING GOOD TC GENESIS THIS SEASON IN BOTH THE
ATLANTIC AND PACIFIC BASINS. FOR NOW WILL CONTINUE TO IGNORE THE
GFS SYSTEMS.
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NEXRAD Radar
Corpus Christi, Storm Total Surface Rainfall Accumulation Range 124 NMI

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Quoting Baltimorebirds:
The meteorologist at cnn said that the oil would be to heavy in order to evaporate so it would saty behind in the process.Just like salt particals stay behind when evaporation occurs.


Salt is completely different. That's a dissolved solid.

Crude Oil has everything from asphalt-level to natural gas-type hydrocarbons. Nat Gas (boiling point like -50C or so) would evaporate outright and only potentially fallout in the arctic circle (I've heard there are volatile organics in ice cores, no source on that though). Anything with a boiling point above water won't evaporate at all really. Probably only a small percentage of organic compounds in crude have similar enough properties to be in a similar climate situation. I see the water cycle as a giant distillation column. You can only get certain products to rain down (water). That being said, my knowledge of climate and weather is nill, and my expertise ends there.
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gulf coasts all the way around are getting hit with heavy rains, and it just keeps reforming, good we need it here in TX
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Although it seems we have gotten alot of rain in SWFL this season, we are actually behind 40-60%

Link

still over for the year to date Link
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Quoting RitaEvac:
heavy tropical downpours here in Galveston county going on, training cells just going over and over here
still getting "copious"(not spurious) amounts of rain in SE Louisiana too...
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WunderBlogs - Adding images
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What about the upper lever low spinning east of Florida do you think it will ruin rain wise our long weekend here in Miami?
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heavy tropical downpours here in Galveston county going on, training cells just going over and over here
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Quoting mtyweatherfan90:


Yep, and its raining even harder.
Monterey was slammmed by Hurricane Gilbert with heavy flooding and a large death toll.
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Quoting Baltimorebirds:
How?.By asking questions and putting down my opinions.
just kidding dude...the blog is like the traffic here in NOLA...sometimes hectic sometimes not so much
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I know there are some bloggers from S Texas like btwntx08, haven't seen blog posts from them. Wonder if power went out in some spots like in Brownsville.
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Guys were only averaging 1 named storm a month, this season is a dud.... lmfao joke folks
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As of this morning I had received 2.5 inches of rain at my house, from Alex. It is now pouring again, but the wind seems to have stopped.
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Quoting Baltimorebirds:
Blog has gone dead.
you killed the blog BaltimoreBirds...
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Toxic Rain? As a chemical engineer, I just don't know how much that's really possible, or probable. Dr. Masters should look into that more...
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Quoting Prolefeed:


Getting peppered with rain, getting jacked by floods and I'm not even allowed to say what Alex is doing to that iconic statue down there.


Where are you stationed at? Please feel free to post stories about your experience with Alex on my blog, just trying to get a collection of stories about this storm's impacts. I also am wondering if anyone has stories to tell about perhaps increased oil contamination on their shores since Alex entered the Gulf (I hope these impacts are not occuring, but just curious to know stories you have not captured by the media).
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Quoting IKE:
Spurious low(?), at 60 hours on the original GFS/12Z.....



Spuriouscaster
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is that spin near cuba not an ULL? was just east of florida yesterday...
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Brownsville to Victoria and Corpus Christi, TX look like they're still feeling Alex.

Still painting...getting more done before the rain hits here in ECFL this afternoon.
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Ah, so there appears to be a "spurious" low that has the potential to develop. The GFDL develops this on the OTHER side of Florida.

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Spurious Low Casters :)
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The stuff going on near Cuba, Bahamas, and Florida is merely an upper-level low spin (remnants of Invest 94L, I have been tracking it). Its a cold core upper low system, and needs lots of convection to build down to the surface as a warm core system. This is not likely to happen, and this process needs a lot of time to develop.
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Hmmm... The CMC also sees an area of low P. near Florida...

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Spurious is Fine..


Furious isnt.
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Any storms on the horizon?
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146. IKE
Spurious low(?), at 60 hours on the original GFS/12Z.....

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Quoting Hurricanes101:


Baltimore has been downcasting the season for a few weeks now lol


Well after seeing Alex anyone that predicts this to be a slow season really needs to pay attention and wake up. The 2010 season is already more deadly and destructive than the entire 2009 Atlantic hurricane season.
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Quoting IKE:



...DISCUSSION...

THE GULF OF MEXICO...
HURRICANE ALEX DOMINATES THE WEATHER PICTURE. UPPER LEVEL
ANTICYCLONIC FLOW MOVES AWAY FROM ALEX AND COVERS THE REST OF
THE GULF OF MEXICO THAT IS TO THE EAST OF ALEX. A MIDDLE LEVEL
TO UPPER LEVEL TROUGH REACHES 32N/33N BETWEEN SOUTH CAROLINA
AND GEORGIA. A FRONTAL BOUNDARY SPANS THE AREA FROM SOUTH
CAROLINA TO MISSISSIPPI. SHOWERS ARE TO THE NORTH OF 27N
TO THE EAST OF 90W. MIDDLE LEVEL TO UPPER LEVEL CYCLONIC FLOW
APPROACHES FLORIDA FROM THE ATLANTIC OCEAN...THANKS TO A 25N79W
CYCLONIC CIRCULATION CENTER THAT IS IN THE NORTHERN BAHAMAS.



Morning,

I hope everyone in S Texas and NE Mexico continues to fare as best they can during Alex. Anyone have stories to tell about Alex? Please post on my blog (link) Just want to hear collection of stories about how Alex impacted you.

Also, that mid to upper cyclone over Florida is believe it or not the upper cyclone that interacted with Invest 94-L last week. You can see the synoptic histories of both Alex and Invest 94-L on my latest blog post as well.
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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.