Karl makes landfall near Veracruz; Igor slightly weaker

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:29 PM GMT on September 17, 2010

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Hurricane Karl made landfall on the Mexican coast ten miles north of Veracruz at 1pm EDT today as a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds. Veracruz was on the weak (left) side of Karl's eyewall, and did not receive hurricane force winds, except perhaps at the extreme northern edge of the city. Winds at the Veracruz Airport, located on the west side of the city, peaked at sustained speeds of 46 mph, gusting to 58 mph, at 11:54am local time. Radar out of Alvarado shows that Karl has kept its eyewall intact well inland, even as the storm moves into the high mountains east of Mexico City. Karl was the first major hurricane on record in the Bay of Campeche--the region of the Gulf of Mexico bounded by the Yucatan Peninsula on the east. There were two other major hurricanes that grazed the northern edge of the Bay of Campeche, Hurricane Hilda of 1955 and Hurricane Charley of 1951, but Karl is by far the farthest south a major hurricane has been in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane records go back to 1851, but Karl is a small storm and could have gotten missed as being a major hurricane before the age of aircraft reconnaissance (1945).


Figure 1. Tracks of all major hurricanes since 1851 near Mexico's Bay of Campeche. Karl is most southerly storm on record in the Gulf of Mexico. Image credit: NOAA Coastal Services Center.

With Karl's ascension to major hurricane status, we are now ahead of the pace of the terrible hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 for number of major hurricanes so early in the year. In 2005, the fifth major hurricane (Rita) did not occur until September 21, and in 2004, the fifth major hurricane (Karl) arrived on September 19. Wunderblogger Cotillion has put together a nice page showing all the seasons with five or more major hurricanes. The last time we had five major hurricanes earlier in the season was in 1961, when the fifth major hurricane (Esther) arrived on September 13. This morning we continue to have three simultaneous hurricanes, Hurricanes Igor, Julia, and Karl. This is a rare phenomena, having occurred only eight previous years since 1851. The last time we had three simultaneous hurricanes in the Atlantic was in 1998. That year also had four simultaneous hurricanes--Georges, Ivan, Jeanne and Karl--for a brief time on September 25. There has been just one other case of four simultaneous Atlantic hurricanes, on August 22, 1893. The year 2005 came within six hours of having three hurricanes at the same time, but the official data base constructed after the season was over indicates that the three hurricanes did not exist simultaneously.

Also remarkable this year is that are seeing major hurricanes in rare or unprecedented locations. Julia was the strongest hurricane on record so far east, Karl was the strongest hurricane so far south in the Gulf of Mexico, and Earl was the 4th strongest Atlantic hurricane so far north. This unusual major hurricane activity is likely due, in part, to the record Atlantic sea surface temperatures this year.


Figure 2. Hurricane Karl as seen by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Terra satellite at 12:20 pm CDT on Thursday, September 16, 2010. Image credit: NASA.


Figure 3. Radar image of Karl at landfall in Mexico. Image credit: Mexican Weather Service.

Impact of Karl on Mexico
Given that the Bay of Campeche coast has never experienced a hurricane as strong as Karl, its impact is likely to cause major damage to a 50-mile wide coastal area beginning ten miles north of Veracruz. Fortunately, the coast is not heavily populated there, and is not particularly low-lying, so the 12 - 15 foot storm surge will not be the major concern from Karl. The main concern will be flooding from Karl's torrential rains. The region has been hit by three Category 2 hurricanes over the past 55 years, and two of these storms caused flooding that killed hundreds. The strongest hurricanes in history to affect the region were Item in 1950, with 110 mph winds, Janet in 1955, with 100 mph winds, and Diana of 1990, with 100 mph winds. Flooding from Janet killed over 800 people in Mexico. and flooding from Diana killed at least 139 people. Karl's high winds are also a major concern, and these winds are likely to extensive damage.

Igor
The Hurricane Hunters just left Hurricane Igor, and found that the hurricane has continued to slowly weaken. On their last pass through the eye of Igor at 1:49 pm EDT, an Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft found a central pressure of 947 mb. The eyewall was missing a chunk on its southwest side. Top winds at the surface as seen by their SFMR instrument were barely Category 1 strength, 76 mph, though the aircraft did see 117 mph winds at 10,000 feet, which suggests the surface winds were probably of Category 2 strength, 105 mph.


Figure 4. Hurricane Igor as seen by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Terra satellite at 10:50 am EDT on Thursday, September 16, 2010. Image credit: NASA.

Igor's impact on Bermuda
Hurricane warnings are now flying for Bermuda, and tropical storm force winds will arrive at the island late Saturday night. Igor is a huge storm, and tropical storm force winds extend out 290 miles to the north of its center. As the hurricane moves north, it will expand in size, as it takes advantage of the extra spin available at higher latitudes due to Earth's rotation. By Saturday night, Igor's tropical storm force winds are expected to extend outwards 320 miles from the center. Igor will be moving at about 11 - 13 mph during the final 24 hours of its approach to Bermuda, so the island can expect a period of 39+ mph tropical storm force winds to begin near midnight Saturday night--a full 24 hours before the core of Igor arrives. Igor will speed up to about 15 mph as it passes the island near midnight Sunday night, and Bermuda's battering by tropical storm force winds will not be as long as Igor moves away, perhaps 10 hours long. Hurricane force winds will probably extend out about 70 miles from the center when the core of Igor reaches Bermuda, and the island can expect to be pounded by hurricane force winds for up to 6 - 8 hours. In all, Bermuda is likely to suffer a remarkably long 36-hour period of tropical storm force winds, with the potential for many hours of hurricane force winds. Long duration poundings like this are very stressful for buildings, and there is the potential for significant damage on Bermuda. However, buildings in Bermuda are some of the best-constructed in the world, and if Igor weakens to Category 2 strength, as appears likely, damage on the island may be just a few million dollars. According to AIR Worldwide, "Homes in Bermuda are typically one or two stories and constructed of 'Bermuda Stone,' a locally quarried limestone, or of concrete blocks. Roofs are commonly made of limestone slate tiles cemented together. Commercial buildings, typically of reinforced concrete construction, rarely exceed six stories. In both residential and commercial buildings, window openings are generally small and window shutters are common. These features make Bermuda's building stock quite resistant to winds, and homes are designed to withstand sustained winds of 110 mph and gusts of up to 150 mph."

Bermuda's hurricane history
Igor is similar in strength and projected track to Hurricane Fabian of 2003. Fabian hit Bermuda as a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds. It was the most damaging hurricane ever to hit the island, with $355 million in damage. Fabian's storm surge killed four people crossing a causeway on the island. These were the first hurricane deaths on Bermuda since 1926. The most powerful hurricane on record to strike Bermuda was the Category 4 Havana-Bermuda Hurricane, which hit on October 22, 1926, with 135 mph winds. The hurricane sank two British warships, claiming 88 lives, but no one was killed on the island. The deadliest hurricane to affect the island occurred on September 12, 1839, when a Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds and an 11-foot storm surge hit, tearing off the roofs of hundreds of buildings and wrecking several ships. An estimated 100 people were killed (source: Encyclopedia of Hurricanes, Typhoons, and Cyclones, by David Longshore.)

Elsewhere in the tropics
A tropical wave off the coast of Africa, a few hundred miles south of the Cape Verdes Islands, is disorganized, but has the potential for some slow development over the next few days. The NOGAPS model develops this wave into a tropical depression 4 - 5 days from now. NHC is giving the wave a 10% of developing into a tropical depression by Sunday.

I'll have a new post on Saturday.

Jeff Masters

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Pottery---
I don't have a rain gauge because my yard is just too small,trees,etc, but I have seen my pool go up 4 inches in an hour from our
Florida storm cells that build and sit in one place. It still amazes me, but luckily we have no dirt here,just sand so the puddles disappear quickly.
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Does anyone know what the ACE was in 2005 at this point?
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Quoting PcolaDan:


Well, my daughter has a "United Federation of Planets" flag on her front porch. And a communicator tattoo, well, where you would expect a communicator to be. :)
Now that is hardcore!
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Quoting washingtonian115:
The question I want to ask for anyone that lives on a island is where do you go if the intire island is below sa level,and flat?.


UH, erm, eh, How can an island be under sea level? Flat, yes, but...
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Quoting washingtonian115:
The question I want to ask for anyone that lives on a island is where do you go if the intire island is below sa level,and flat?.


to the cell tower?
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Quoting tropicfreak:


Where does Katrina fall on that list?

I'm not sure, but I think she's not in the Top 10.
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Quoting bdafinsfan:
Should be finished with all preparations tomorrow by noon. Our house is over 300 years old, we rode out Fabian here in 2003 and made it through with minimal property damage (quite a beating the yard, trees and pool took though). Decided to board up the windows and doors this time around.

Igor's starting to feel a lot like Fabian, but with about 50% larger windfield, we're in for a long weekend...

Incidentally my folks were married during Hurricane Faith in 1966, another large hurricane to impact Bermuda!
Are you sure that your house is 300 years old??
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AtmoAggie seems same to mee... been here WAY too long ... gonna go for at least a bit ... Maybe get some sleep - been riveted by Igor and then learning and then Julia interaction and now the super fine night crew.

Really nice views of lower levels now comin' up for Julia with top removed by some super shear as Igor gets strong in NE. Doesn't look like Igor has been able to stabilize its eye well. But still way stronger than Julia. I still say Igor's (unstable?) eye been bigger than Julia for quite awhile.

Besides the Relative Weather content is is still low - its near my can do point. Blessed Be!
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Quoting washingtonian115:
The question I want to ask for anyone that lives on a island is where do you go if the intire island is below sa level,and flat?.


I do not think people live in islands below sea level...
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Quoting Chicklit:
Looks like IGOR may be pulling himself back together again.

Impressive. Poor Bermuda.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Three Largest Hurricanes
1. Faith
2. Gabrielle
3. Igor


Where does Katrina fall on that list?
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Quoting SunnyDaysFla:
LOL Pottery

Some people like to beat a dead horse. Now give us a gem about the weather?

LOL
Well, it rained here again today. 2.25" with gusty winds from the southwest. Big branches down in my garden.
52.5" rainfall so far this season (from May), and the season ends (climo) in December.
Aint that exciting??

(well, I think it is more exciting than the ongoing Lamentations around here. But then, that's just me...)
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24142
Looks like IGOR may be pulling himself back together again.
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The question I want to ask for anyone that lives on a island is where do you go if the intire island is below sa level,and flat?.
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Quoting Thundercloud01221991:
For the time being Hurricane Faith has the record for the largest Hurricane in the Atlantic Basin but we will see what Igor has up its sleeves here

Three Largest Hurricanes
1. Faith
2. Gabrielle
3. Igor
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Quoting pottery:
Good Evening all.
From reading back a couple of pages, I gather there is nothing going on in the Tropics, weatherwise?
How very strange....


It seems as if everyone is in the post-landfall letdown with Karl, the soon-to-be RIP of Julia, and resting up for the OMG Bermuda with Igor.

Watching Igor is like seeing a train wreck in slow motion.
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At around 11 years ago today hurricane floyd made landfall.
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Quoting CaptnDan142:


True, both the NHC and local Emergency Management are governmental entities - and if I said that part didn't give me the willies I'd be lying. lol

I know it's kind of putting all your eggs in one basket and all, but at least in that case, I know who made the basket. Just have to figure out if that's a good or bad thing. ;-)
Very true!
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For the time being Hurricane Faith has the record for the largest Hurricane in the Atlantic Basin but we will see what Igor has up its sleeves here
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Quoting PcolaDan:

You, sir, lead a sheltered life. (or are very young) lol
LOL. I'm 46 years old! Watched Star Trek after school almost everyday growing up, although I don't consider myself a "Trekie"
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Quoting BDADUDE:
Have been out on the town tonight. Went to flannaganns and docksiders. All is cool in BDA tonight.

Good for you, Dude.
Hope your hurricane prep is in order.
Please keep us informed of what's happening.
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You are lucky ;;; bermuda people!
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Should be finished with all preparations tomorrow by noon. Our house is over 300 years old, we rode out Fabian here in 2003 and made it through with minimal property damage (quite a beating the yard, trees and pool took though). Decided to board up the windows and doors this time around.

Igor's starting to feel a lot like Fabian, but with about 50% larger windfield, we're in for a long weekend...

Incidentally my folks were married during Hurricane Faith in 1966, another large hurricane to impact Bermuda!
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Quoting AllBoardedUp:
Who's Scotty?


If you're American and asking that, I feel old. lol

All about Scotty
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Quoting bdafinsfan:
I'm from Bermuda, born and raised. Longtime lurker (4 years or so), finally just created an account tonight so I could post some stuff.

Born here in 1971, was here for Emily in 1987 and Fabian in 2003. Getting ready for Igor, we're in for a bit of a blow.

Will probably post some pictures tomorrow if I can figure out how to do that...
Welcome.
Do what you can to prepare and be safe.
Stay in touch as you can and let us know if you have any questions.
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LOL Pottery

Some people like to beat a dead horse. Now give us a gem about the weather?
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Julia just got her top (outflow+towers?) nearly completely sheared off by Igor... Just a little trail still coming off lower level eye. GOES Julia cam gives good look at her innards ...
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You know, a month ago my tracking map looked very blank.
I remember thinking that Alex, TD2, and Bonnie looked very lonely.

I wholeheartedly regret that 1 second thought as we move into the later part of Sept, cuz it has been busy, and it looks to stay that way.

(BTW, a a month ago people were calling the season a bust, and now, 8 storms and 5 majors later, I see none of those people harping anymore.)
still think it'll be 20-13-8/7
GO RAVENS!
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Quoting sammywammybamy:
Bermuda:



Bermuda is not Just 1 Island.



How commercial is it in bermuda?
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Here is a hint about the size of Hurricane Igor:

(all of these are straight lines)

From Cape Hatteras to Cape Cod is 538 miles
Southern Tip of Florida to Pensacola, FL is 546 miles
Bermuda to Cape Hatteras is 640 miles
Honduras to Northern Cuba is 555 miles
From the border of Texas and Arkansas to the Border of Texas and New Mexico is 528 miles
Cleveland to NYC is 529 miles
Spain and Portugal from east to west is 613 miles


The Size of Igor is now 575 miles
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Quoting BobinTampa:


cmon. You can't figure that out. Why couldn't storm have just stayed in his own blog on this site. Why did he take a cheap shot at dr. Masters on his new site?? Of all the people to blame for storms departure, dr. M was last on the list.

What storm did was classless.


He hasn't dissed Dr. M on his blog...You are full of BS
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Quoting clwstmchasr:


Ever watch Star Trek from the 1960's?
I know who Scotty was. I was just being a smart*ss!
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Quoting StormJunkie:


Not moving in much closer, but still moving in a little with most runs. Landfall had been right around 372-384 yesterday I though...But I could easily be confused after the past four days...lol
A bit of a collective hangover.
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.