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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So many of the really good bloggers post very infrequently now. Hopefully if this blog gets back to mostly weather posts they will return and grace us amateurs with their knowledge
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Quoting CapeObserver:
KatrinaBiloxiGirl......mail
Thank you!!
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Quoting muddertracker:

Drakoen is good, too. And SJ, Surfmom and Chiiklit are also knowledgeable, as are others. I like Reedzone, I know some don't...but he does support his opinions w/ data. Nash is awesome (when he decides to slum it..lol) Weather456 and 326 are great posters, too...and others. Don't think this blog will go to the dogs without one person...that's simply not true. Levi, thanks for being here :)
and KMAN..of course..sorry! He's awesome!
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Quoting LeMoyne:


Igor plumped up and got a bit rounder after 1800 and pulled away from 20N a bit. Max speed is in caption as kt so knots it is.
Eye was oblong E-W and incomplete on South side according to CIMSS-MIMIC at this time as well.

??? Not by this IR, he didn't. I'd say the NE quadrant is about as weak as it has ever been (since hurricane status).

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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Let's not forget Drakoen. I wish Weather456 would come back. I liked him best of all.
Ditto! I also like kmanislander for his cool demeanor and his strait up forecast. He never seem to wishcast storm, just stated the facts as he sees them.
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641. mbjjm
Quoting WXTXN:
Somthing has come off of the yucatan behind Karl and is headed for the well ventiated area off of the Tx coast. Fugiwara effect has this headed NW? Check out this IR loop: Link


just a trough, associated shear too high for development.
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Quoting KanKunKid:
Just for those interested. I was being an entertainer in an outdoor pavillion in a small but quite popular town of Puerto Morelos Mexico performing with recording artist Mark Mulligan at a place known as the Cantina Habanero, during the wrath of Karl.
He (Karl) must not have appreciated my atristic contribution and made sure to it my main computer had a gram or 2 of seawater forced through the windows by high winds (about 60 mph) and fried my mother board in my house from across the room. Fortunetely I brought 5 computers into Mexico. The small one was stolen by corrupt police (which is a normal thing in Mexico) so now I am down to 3.

Karl whipped up a windstorm for an hour and then left for Campeche. More damage was done south, I am told. Basically it was a non-event for us (for those that care) and I am still alive but with one less computer.

That's my report and I'm out.


Good to hear from you. We were wondering about your status. Glad you're okay. Thought you might have been standing on a seawall somewhere yelling into the wind. :)
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Quoting islandeye:
the 18gfs looked like it was trending back towards the sunshine state. was out on the gulf today....92 degree water measured off the stern...
Oh yeah, you will continue to see the final track of the cyclone being developed by the GFS flip-flop. A definitive track won't be know until the actual cyclone develops, if it ever will.
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Quoting KanKunKid:
Just for those interested. I was being an entertainer in an outdoor pavillion in a small but quite popular town of Puerto Morelos Mexico performing with recording artist Mark Mulligan at a place known as the Cantina Habanero, during the wrath of Karl.
He (Karl) must not have appreciated my atristic contribution and made sure to it my main computer had a gram or 2 of seawater forced through the windows by high winds (about 60 mph) and fried my mother board in my house from across the room. Fortunetely I brought 5 computers into Mexico. The small one was stolen by corrupt police (which is a normal thing in Mexico) so now I am down to 3.

Karl whipped up a windstorm for an hour and then left for Campeche. More damage was done south, I am told. Basically it was a non-event for us (for those that care) and I am still alive but with one less computer.

That's my report and I'm out.


Lives can't be replaced, yet computers can. Glad to hear that you are ok.
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Quoting Chicklit:
Hey, evening wubloggrs.
Good news is Igor's track may have shifted a little right of Bermuda. Also see he has weakened to CAT 2.

It's good it's shifted to the right, but Igor's very big. 3rd largest hurricane ever in fact.
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The statement made earlier today [Sept 17] by Dr. Mark Guishard, Director of Bermuda Weather Service on Hurricane Igor follows below:

This storm is one that should be taken extremely seriously – as the Minister has already stated, the threat is high. A Hurricane Watch is already in effect.

We at the Bermuda Weather Service, in consultation with the US National Hurricane Center, will be issuing a Hurricane Warning this afternoon. this Warning is issued whenever hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours.

If there is any doubt, let me make a few basic comparisons – Hurricane Fabian in 2003 was a Category 3 when it made a direct hit on Bermuda – this storm, Hurricane Igor is also forecast to be at or near Category 3 intensity when it moves close to Bermuda on Sunday night.

Fabian had a wind swath at the equivalent time frame 2 days before the CPA, of about 110 nm in diameter. The swath of Hurricane Force winds associated with Igor is currently approximately 150 nautical miles across. The tropical storm force winds (otherwise known as gales in winter storms) extend some 500 miles across the storm’s diameter (Fabian’s were 350nm). So, not only is Igor of similar intensity to Fabian, it is actually bigger, making us an even more likely target. Make no mistake, even if the center of this system misses the island, we will experience significant impacts.

The current forecast is indeed for a direct hit on the island, the worst case scenario in these situations. Accordingly, we should prepare for sustained winds of on the order of 100 knots (115 mph), with gusts to 120 knot or 140 mph. Again, this is comparable to the wind speeds we experienced during Hurricane Fabian in 2003.

The baseline level of the water (without putting wind driven waves on top of

it) is what we refer to as storm surge, and it is expected to be on the order of 5 to 7 feet above the normal tide levels. high tides through the weekend are in the pre-dawn hours and early evenings, low tides are generally near noon and midnight. I must reiterate the comments of the Minister – if your property is prone to surge, then it will likely have some inundation during this event.

Analyses of the wave heights associated with Igor indicate that the maximum waves at the centre of the storm are in excess of 50 feet. Already we are starting to see large swells on the south shore in advance of the approach of Igor. Expect rip currents and battering waves on the reefline, and potentially dangerous surf at the beaches.

Rainfall is always of concern and isolated road flooding is to be expected.

Of course with all tropical systems, which are intensely rotating, there is the potential for the spin up of tornado activity, which we saw in both Hurricane Fabian, and in Category 1 Hurricane Emily in 1987. In recent years, we have seen tornado activity associated with outer rain bands – Hurricane Florence in 2006 and Hurricane Bill last year are examples of this. The point I am making is that even in advance of the worst conditions, we could see some severe weather affect the island several hours before the onset of worst conditions.

Regarding levels of certainty, computer models on which we base these forecasts have been not only consistent with each other, but also consistent through time, in saying that we will have an impact from Igor. However, one of the very reasons that we treat tropical systems with such caution is their ability to make sudden changes in track and intensity – hence, as with all tropical systems, there is uncertainty inherent in this forecast. We all hope and pray that Igor will veer a little further away than is currently forecast, but we must take all action now to prepare to safeguard life and property.

Please have a plan of action to protect your life, your family, your property and your business. If you have a plan, please implement it now – Saturday evening will be too late to make any further preparations – as I have already said in previous media statements, this is not the time to be complacent. Be safe and god bless.
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631. txjac
KanKunKid, happy to hear that you are well ..sorry about your computer ..better it than you! Stay safe
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Quoting pilotguy1:

Much as he annoys me about his global warming rants let's not forget Dr. Masters.........and Orca.

Drakoen is good, too. And SJ, Surfmom and Chiiklit are also knowledgeable, as are others. I like Reedzone, I know some don't...but he does support his opinions w/ data. Nash is awesome (when he decides to slum it..lol) Weather456 and 326 are great posters, too...and others. Don't think this blog will go to the dogs without one person...that's simply not true. Levi, thanks for being here :)
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625. WXTXN
Somthing has come off of the yucatan behind Karl and is headed for the well ventiated area off of the Tx coast. Fugiwara effect has this headed NW? Check out this IR loop: Link
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Hey, evening wubloggrs.
Good news is Igor's track may have shifted a little right of Bermuda. Also see he has weakened to CAT 2.
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623. mobal
Quoting EcoLogic:
So...will Karl make it into the EPAC?


No
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If Karl goes to EPAC, will he keep the same name?
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Quoting pilotguy1:

Much as he annoys me about his global warming rants let's not forget Dr. Masters.........and Orca.


Oh yeah and them too. LOL
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Vorticity in the EAtl AOI looks to be increasing, as is convection (for that matter, the news of the death of the African wave train appears to be a bit premature):

CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE

Tropical weather-related image


CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE

Tropical weather-related image
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Valid Sun - Mon
Link
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615. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
URPA12 PGUA 180006
VORTEX DATA MESSAGE
A. 17/23:56:30Z
B. 23 deg 26 min N
126 deg 08 min E
C. 700 mb 2603 m
D. 95 kt
E. 261 deg 8 nm
F. 056 deg 112 kt
G. 027 deg 10 nm
H. 941 mb
I. 11 C / 3039 m
J. 21 C / 3047 m
K. 8 C / NA
L. NA
M. C24
N. 12345 / 07
O. 0.02 / 0.01 nm
P. AF307 0620W FANAPI OB 10
MAX FL WIND 112 KT NE QUAD 22:49:10Z

---
Recon data on Fanapi

They're actually flying into a typhoon.
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So...will Karl make it into the EPAC?
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Quoting txjac:


I vote for A


Vote for A
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


I have Hurricane Donna videos posted HERE
if you're looking for Hurricane Donna related videos. I have about 12 other videos I've yet to post...looking for any footage in particular?


Thank you hurricanejunky! I'm mostly interested in the impact in the Keys--My grandparents vacationed there and owned property, but they lost everything they owned in Marathon and Key Colony Beach with Donna. Us grandkids weren't allowed to mention the storm around my grandfather, and my mother did not dare name one of us "Donna." Or "Betsey" for that matter.
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Quoting muddertracker:
I'll miss Flood. Levi, if you are still on, could you speak a little bit on the rainfall chances for central texas over the next few days? tia


Well there is already a good batch of precip moving into southern-central Texas. If you mean way inland in the middle of the state then you won't get near as much as the central gulf coast, but you will probably get periodic rain over the next couple days.

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Quoting txjac:



Thanks for the update CRS ...I'm still waiting to hear from coworkers in Veracruz. Havent heard back from them since earlier this morning


Yes thanks for keeping us up on things CRS. As sad as they may be. :( And I hope your coworkers are ok txjac. Communications breakdown happens after these things (at least in my experience) and they are unnerving. Hope they make contact soon.
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To AtHomeInTexas and Texasgulf:

I'm in Victoria and am starting to get nervous about from all the chatter about a major hurricane in the gulf. Let's all pray that it doesn't pan out.

It's been a wild ride today, hasn't it? I'm glad that Karl stayed south and just sent us some of his excess moisture.
Member Since: September 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 138
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I currently do not know where the disturbance is located, and since the GFS now develops the disturbance a bit later, I'm starting to think that it may not even be located in the Atlantic basin. Nevertheless, I'll continue to monitor the models.
the 18gfs looked like it was trending back towards the sunshine state. was out on the gulf today....92 degree water measured off the stern...
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I'll miss Flood. Levi, if you are still on, could you speak a little bit on the rainfall chances for central texas over the next few days? tia
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Thanks, Korie.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:

Igor will exceed Wilma's ACE comfortably.

Wilma had ACE of 39 and Igor had an ACE of 33.72 at 5 pm, and should pass Wilma on Sunday.


Read my blog post on this very subject. An excerpt: 26 days ago, the seasonal storm count stood at 3-1-0, and ACE was barely over nine. In those 26 days since, we've gone 8-5-5, and gathered nearly 106 ACE units. That is, quite literally, an entire average season's worth of ACE, nearly an entire average year's worth of both tropical cyclones and hurricanes, and double an average season's worth of major hurricanes. And, in case I need to remind you, we're only a week beyond the climatological peak, waters are at near-record high temps (especially in the western Caribbean, where they remain untouched), and atmospheric conditions are still more than primed for major action.

ACE by Year
ACE by Year
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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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