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.

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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Patrap Veracruz has a population of over 7 million, not 700,000.
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Quoting FatPenguin:
Igor might end up being the largest hurricane on record if gale force winds extend 320 miles from center, which could translate into a radius of 640 miles. Record is 605 miles set by Faith in 1966.

Muat be the atlantic record. I thought typhoon Tip was the largest storm ever...
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You know what. This is such BS. I have been on this blog as a part of the community for many years. Flag this...I'm out.
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Veracruz,Mex WunderMap®
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Veracruz has a Pop upwards of 700,000.

Reports of Power outages,localized flooding and 3000 Homes damaged so far..

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Quoting will40:

i know the GFS is still developing one, Not sure how much support it has. And btw it is a longggggggggggg way out

I put little stock in long range models. I was just curious. Thanks.
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Quoting will40:

i know the GFS is still developing one, Not sure how much support it has. And btw it is a longggggggggggg way out

I'm pretty sure the GFS had one developing before the one it now has developing but both were/are past the 10 day mark so I don't track those..
I have noticed over the years that the really long range GFS has a tendency to blow up lots of storms. Used to scare me when I was planning sailing trips longer than a week..it's much better now..good for guidance out to 10 days or so.
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Quoting PcolaDan:

My uneducated guess would be proximity to high population base. Look at the Mexico population density. You can also see how many people are being affected by Karl.

Wouldn't you think Mexico's power system could be somewhat like ours, a power grid? Sure, putting lines up costs money but so does shutting down the plant and risking fallout due to hurricanes. A nuke plant next to a population doesn't make sense to me, 3 mile island notwithstanding. TTFN!
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hurricane chaser just tweeted he has landed in bermuda.he plans to locate on the sw shore. has three others with him they have video and audio and will place there weather station about 1/2 mile from the coast. they will not be able to stream there product however the video should be worth the wait.
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12z Euro Ensemble
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Quoting DestinJeff:

I expect we'll see a significant system somewhere in the GOM before the season ends.

Not based on any patterns or signals or anything, just hard to imagine a year without something out there.

I have a feeling you may be right. I remeber between Elena in 82 (?) and Georges in 98, we saw little of anything the Mobile area. I'd love this season to be the beginning of another stretch like that, but we know how slim those odds are.
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Quoting StormJunkie:

You can see it over the NE and SE US on the Surface analysis.
Way to help a newby out SJ.
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Quoting oracle28:
so after all the conversation yesterday, there were NOT 3 hurricanes at once in 2005???
Not according to Dr Masters via an e-mail to Taz. Missed it by 6 hrs...
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Hurricane Karl plows into Mexico mainland, weakens
By the CNN Wire Staff
September 17, 2010 2:43 p.m. EDT

Mexico City, Mexico (CNN) -- Hurricane Karl weakened Friday afternoon after making landfall, but the heavy rain and storm surge it spawned still could pose significant problems in the Mexican interior, forecasters said.

Karl was a Category 3 storm when it came ashore about 10 miles (15 kilometers) north of Veracruz, Mexico, CNN's satellite and radar estimates showed, but is now classified Category 2.

The storm delivered torrents of rain and fierce winds several hours before it arrived around 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m. ET).

Maximum sustained winds at landfall were near 110 mph (175 kph) with higher gusts, according to the National Hurricane Center. The hurricane was moving west at about 8 mph (13 kph), it said.

The homes of at least 3,000 families in central Mexico were damaged, the state-run Notimex news agency reported.

At 1 p.m. Karl was 15 miles (25 kilometers) west of Veracruz.

High winds and seas could be a threat to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, said CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

"A dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 12 to 15 feet above normal tide levels along the immediate coast near and to the north of where the center makes landfall," the Hurricane Center said. "Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves."

Potentially dangerous rain also is forecast.

"Karl is expected to produce rainfall accumulations of 5 to 10 inches across the central and southern Mexican Gulf coast region with isolated amounts of 15 inches possible in the interior mountains," the center said. "These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides."

Some local flooding had already been reported, the Mexican Interior Ministry said.

Officials closed some roads and urged evacuations for large areas.

Mexico's National System for Civil Protection issued a red alert, the highest level, for central and southern Veracruz. An orange alert was in place for northern Veracruz and the states of Hidalgo, Tlaxcala and Puebla. A yellow alert was issued for the states of Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi and Oaxaca.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon also issued a warning Friday morning on his Twitter account.

"An alert for Hurricane Karl in the nation's central states," Calderon said. "(It) could convert to a Category 4. It will enter through Veracruz around midday."

Texas could be spared any major problems because a storm surge occurs only near the landfall location, said CNN meteorologist Sean Morris.

Coastal flood advisories have been issued for south Texas, which means forecasters expect a small amount of coastal flooding but nothing serious, Morris said.

A larger threat to south Texas will come from several inches of rain that could cause flooding and mudslides. The area could see as much as 4 inches by Sunday, with isolated amounts of up to 6 inches in far southern Texas.
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Quoting oracle28:
so after all the conversation yesterday, there were NOT 3 hurricanes at once in 2005???
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Quoting Want2learn:
Could someone please show in a picture of the trough that is supposedly going to pull Igor northward please.

You can see it over the NE and SE US on the Surface analysis.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16970
so after all the conversation yesterday, there were NOT 3 hurricanes at once in 2005???
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
I wonder if the lack of major hurricane landfalls in the lower Bay of Campeche was taken into account when picking the site of the nuclear power plant.
Sure should have been and probably was in site plans ... I trust it was shut down (heard so on this blog) An EIS can be a pickup load of paper.
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68. WunderBlogAdmin (Admin)
Please stay on topic. Material which is off topic, or meant to drive the discussion in that direction will be removed.
HurricaneKarl has been heading (5.2degrees west of) West SouthWest
at an average speed of 5mph(~8km/h) moving between its last 2 positions

16Sep 09pmGMT - - 19.6n93.7w - - - 80mph - - 977mb - - NHC.Adv.#10
17Sep 12amGMT - - 19.7n94.1w - - - 80mph - - 971mb - - #10A
17Sep 03amGMT - - 19.7n94.5w - - 100mph - - 968mb - - #11
17Sep 06amGMT - - 19.7n94.8w - - 105mph - - 967mb - - #11A
17Sep 09amGMT - - 19.7n95.3w - - 110mph - - 961mb - - #12
17Sep 12pmGMT - - 19.6n95.6w - - 120mph - - 956mb - - #12A
17Sep 03pmGMT - - 19.4n95.9w - - 120mph - - 967mb - - #13
17Sep 06pmGMT - - 19.2n96.4w - - 110mph - - 979mb - - #13A
17Sep 09pmGMT - - 19.1n96.6w - - - 90mph - - 985mb - - #14

Copy &paste 19.6n93.7w, 19.7n94.1w, 19.7n94.5w, 19.7n94.8w, 19.7n95.3w-19.6n95.6w, 19.6n95.6w-19.4n95.9w, 19.4n95.9w-19.2n96.4w, 19.2n96.4w-19.1n96.6w, mex, ver into the GreatCircleMapper for a look at the last 12*hours.
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Could someone please show in a picture of the trough that is supposedly going to pull Igor northward please.
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Thank you for the update and fresh new clean blog thread..

People let us try and keep it that way, please?

#42, P'Dan,
That population Map you posted of Mexico
I did not know the place that karl landed was that populated. for some reason I figured it was mostly desert or baron land. That is not good..
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Igor might end up being the largest hurricane on record if gale force winds extend 320 miles from center, which could translate into a radius of 640 miles. Record is 605 miles set by Faith in 1966.
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Quoting DestinJeff:

12z GFS still has it. 18z not run yet.

Let's hope that it doesn't pan out.
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Quoting StormSurgeon:
Have the long range models dropped any system possibly developing and moving in to the GOM?

i know the GFS is still developing one, Not sure how much support it has. And btw it is a longggggggggggg way out
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Quoting 1900hurricane:
The latest on Igorian structure:

Improved from earlier, but still not so good...
Yes I think he is simply using up his TCHP/OHC plus he is being squeezed by high pressure and surrounded by dry air both of his making and brough south by the troughs..
It will be interesting to see how long such a powerful storm can keep itself so intense when moving so slowly.
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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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