Great Blizzard pounding Chicago; extremely dangerous Cyclone Yasi nears Australia

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:31 AM GMT on February 02, 2011

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The Great Groundhog's Day Blizzard of 2011 is wreaking havoc tonight from Texas to Michigan, and is poised to spread dangerous winter weather eastwards to New England during the day Wednesday. Four states have declared states of emergency—Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, and Kansas—and the National Guard has been called out in Illinois and Missouri. Up to 1/2” of ice has caused power outages in Indianapolis, and blizzard conditions have engulfed Chicago, where heavy snows of up to two inches per hour are falling in high winds. Winds tonight at Chicago's Calumet Harbor were tropical storm force, 39 mph, with gusts to 49 mph. Winds gusts of 60 mph were occurring at the Chicago buoy, 10 miles offshore in Lake Michigan.

The storm will probably be Chicago's biggest blizzard since January 2 - 4 1999, when a storm dumped 21.6" of snow. With tonight's snowstorm expected to have very unstable air aloft, "thundersnow" with snowfall rates of 4 inches/hour is possible, and there is a chance today's blizzard could rival Chicago's greatest snow storm of all time, the blizzard of January 26 - 27, 1967. That immense storm dumped 23 inches of snow on Chicago, stranding thousands of people and leaving an estimated 800 Chicago Transit Authority buses and 50,000 automobiles abandoned on the city streets and expressways. Twenty six Chicagoans died in the blizzard, mostly due to heart attacks from shoveling snow. Strong winds in Chicago today are expected to generate 14 - 18 feet waves on Lake Michigan, with occasional waves up to 25 feet. A significant coastal flooding event is possible for the city, with beach erosion and flooding along Lake Shore Drive. I'll have a full update on the great blizzard in the morning.


Figure 1. Satellite image of the Groundhog's Day Blizzard of 2011, taken at 8pm EST February 1. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Yasi nearing Queensland, Australia
Tropical Cyclone Yasi continues to intensify as it speeds westwards towards vulnerable Queensland, Australia. Yasi, now a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds, is under light wind shear of 5 - 10 knots, and over record warm ocean waters of 29°C (84°C). Low wind shear, record warm sea surface temperatures, and favorable upper-level outflow should allow the cyclone to maintain Category 4 strength until landfall Wednesday evening (local time.)

The Austrailian Bureau of Meteorology had this to say about Yasi in their latest advisory:

YASI IS A LARGE AND VERY POWERFUL TROPICAL CYCLONE AND POSES AN
EXTREMELY SERIOUS THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY WITHIN THE WARNING AREA,
ESPECIALLY BETWEEN CAIRNS AND TOWNSVILLE.

THIS IMPACT IS LIKELY TO BE MORE LIFE THREATENING THAN ANY EXPERIENCED DURING
RECENT GENERATIONS.

On Wednesday morning at 9:30am local time, Yasi hit tiny Willis Island, where a minimum pressure of 938 mb and a peak wind gust of 115 mph was observed before Yasi cut communications and damaged the radar.

Queensland faces three major threats from Yasi. The cyclone will bring torrential rainfall to a region with saturated soils that saw record flooding earlier this month. The latest rainfall rates in Yasi's eyewall as estimated by microwave satellite imagery are 20 mm (0.8") per hour. The GFS model is predicting that a wide swath of Queensland will receive 5 - 10 inches of rain over the next week, due to the combined effects of Yasi and a moist flow of tropical air over the region. Fortunately, Yasi is moving with a rapid forward speed, about 21 mph, and is not expected to linger over Queensland after landfall. The heaviest rainfall will miss Queenland's most populated regions to the south that had the worst flooding problems earlier this month, including the Australia's third largest city, Brisbane.

Yasi will bring highly destructive winds to a region of coast south of the city of Cairns (population 150,000.) Townsville (population 200,000) is farther from the expected landfall of the eyewall, and should see lesser winds. Strong building codes have been in place in Queensland since the 1960s, which will help reduce the damage amounts. The fact that Yasi's eyewall will miss these two major cities is lucky, since the coast is less populous between the two cities.

A dangerous storm surge in excess of ten feet can be expected along the left front quadrant of the storm where it comes ashore. The tidal range between low and high tide along the coast near Cairns will be about 2 meters (6 feet) during the evening of February 2. Yasi is expected to hit near midnight, halfway between low and high tide. Thus, the inundation from the storm surge will be about 1 meter (3 feet) less than it would have been had the storm hit at high tide.

Yasi is larger and more dangerous than Cyclone Larry of 2006, which hit Queensland as a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds. Larry killed one person and caused $872 million in damage (2011 U.S. dollars.) Yasi will bring heavy rains to a region with soils already saturated from record rains, and may become a billion-dollar cyclone.


Figure 2. Tropical Cyclone Yasi as captured by the Willis Island radar, as the western eyewall of Yasi moved over the island. Image credit: Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and kindly grabbed for me by Margie Kieper.

Links to follow:

Live streaming video from Channel 9 in Cairns, Australia

Jeff Masters

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236. kinase1
6:19 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
New Wunderground format sucks! I've been a loyal fan since the old days at umich.edu, but this is sterile and bland and difficult to navigate. Tweak it a bit at a time, but don't blow it out of the water with this ridiculous and traumatic overhaul.
Member Since: February 5, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 17
235. TampaFLUSA
6:16 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Thousands off the road, national guard called.

NWS Chicago

Blizzard creating life threatening situation for motorists... Reports from media and local law enforcement officially indicate that hundreds if not thousands of vehicles have gone off the roads. The governor has activated the National guard who are currently rescuing stranded motorists. The blizzard conditions will continue tonight... particularly in open areas where white out conditions will make travel impossible. Local law enforcement officials are telling people to stay off the roads as not a single Road is passable in rural and open areas. They are asking people to stay in a safe place and not to leave home tonight. This is a potentially life threatening situation. Link
Member Since: June 21, 2007 Posts: 10 Comments: 1657
234. Xyrus2000
6:15 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
I hearby name this winter storm: Snowfalupagus

*ducks*
Member Since: October 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1648
232. 1900hurricane
6:03 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
The latest pass on Yasi wasn't excellent, but at least it was something.

Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11707
231. Patrap
6:03 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129763
230. EnergyMoron
6:03 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Quoting weatherboy1992:
Link to the 'classic' wunderground site. But I like the update better.


Thanks... Skyepony still doesn't show up on the classic site so there is still a change and a problem.
Member Since: December 8, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
229. Patrap
6:01 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Live Feed Video, TC Yasi
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129763
228. Jedkins01
5:57 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Quoting Patrap:


man that thing looks extremely well organized, poor northeast Australia
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8014
227. Patrap
5:55 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Landfall is Misleading as to IMPACT always.

When the Eye Crosses the Coast,,fully half the Storm is onshore with most of the Surge.

Conditions will go downhill fast as the Left Side of the Eyewall closes in on the Coast.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129763
226. Jedkins01
5:55 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
At first I was a little annoyed by the change, however its only because I'm used to the old version. But I'm sure I'll get used to this version soon enough and end up liking it better.


I'm for change as long as it is actually in improvement.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8014
224. leftlink
5:53 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Winds from Yasi are already near 100km/hour and it is still 6 hours before landfall. see:


http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/02/02/3127949.htm


look on the sidebar for the recent winds, the peak is at Ingham as of 3pm australia time.
Member Since: December 28, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 134
223. JRRP
5:49 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Quoting sunlinepr:



exacto
jejeje
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6213
222. Patrap
5:49 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
For all the folks wanting the old site back, there is a nice little link on the "Notice Anything Different?" notice bar that lets you return to the Classic Site.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129763
221. gatorojo
5:49 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Quoting presslord:


Snowtorious B.I.G.

Awesome!
Member Since: April 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 32
220. EnergyMoron
5:46 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Quoting Patrap:
Submit a Support Ticket here


Pretty cool... there are upload photo issues (screendumped but could not upload to the site) but apparently the support ticket submittal took the dump
Member Since: December 8, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
219. sunlinepr
5:45 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Eye on Radar Loop...

Link
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
218. Patrap
5:44 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
TC YASI WunderMap® Zoomed animated Loop
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129763
217. Skyepony (Mod)
5:43 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Odd that little blob NE of PR isn't on any of the analysis and forecast cyclone phase evolution maps. Shows up on the 850 vort.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 222 Comments: 39353
216. sunlinepr
5:42 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Check this Australian Radar Site...

Link

Link
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
215. Patrap
5:39 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129763
214. 1900hurricane
5:39 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Quoting HadesGodWyvern:
I heard the thunder was loud according to Jim Cantore reporting from Chicago.

Yeah, I saw the same thing on my twitter feed.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11707
212. TORMENTOSO83
5:37 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Quoting 1900hurricane:

Hopefully the backside shouldn't be too terribly far away, although that isn't taking into account any lake-effect snow.


Yeah, it seems like that!!!
Member Since: July 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 288
211. Patrap
5:35 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Submit a Support Ticket here
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129763
210. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
5:34 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
I heard the thunder was loud according to Jim Cantore reporting from Chicago.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46906
209. Patrap
5:34 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Quoting EnergyMoron:


Thanks Pat...

Don't know how to submit a support ticket but at least left a comment on that blog.

How would I ever figure out how to send a WU e-mail if I can't click on your avatar and get everything?


The times dey be a changing seems.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129763
208. sunlinepr
5:33 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Quoting JRRP:

yes


Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
207. TORMENTOSO83
5:32 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Quoting HadesGodWyvern:


Did he tell you about the thunder and lightning?

Actually, when I was talking with him, I heard a thunder and I asked him: "what the heck?"

At once he had to stopped his car because there were ice on the wipers!
Member Since: July 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 288
206. JRRP
5:32 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Quoting HadesGodWyvern:


Is that Puerto Rico in the lower left?

yes
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6213
205. EnergyMoron
5:31 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Quoting Patrap:
You found you're way to this blog... blah...

If you have any issues with the new site please submit a support ticket.


Thanks Pat...

Don't know how to submit a support ticket but at least left a comment on that blog.

How would I ever figure out how to send a WU e-mail if I can't click on your avatar and get everything?
Member Since: December 8, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
204. sunlinepr
5:29 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
203. riblet2000
5:28 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Quoting 1900hurricane:

So are meteorologists more familiar with the area expecting the lake effect to kick in?

We're expecting another 3"-10" depending on where you are in relation to the Lake. NW Indiana could be in for a very bad day tomorrow. Where I am (12 miles west of downtown Chicago) we had about four inches of lake snow this morning and I expect another foot on top of the 6" we already have before noon Weds. There is a 3 foot drift on the south side of the house...
Member Since: April 17, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 38
202. sunlinepr
5:26 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
201. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
5:26 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
198. JRRP 5:23 AM GMT on February 02, 2011


Is that Puerto Rico in the lower left?
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46906
Posted by: WunderPress, 8:04 PM CST on February 01, 2011


You found you're way to this blog so you've already seen the new design of wunderground.com and we hope that you like what you've seen so far.

This is the culmination of 2 years of development and planning with the goal to improve the user interface and make it even easier for our users to quickly surface the weather data that they are looking for.

In fact, you could argue that this is the culmination of 16 years hard work. As you know, we constantly launch new products and tools to enhance the service we provide to you all. Over the years we've added so much data to the back-end that we needed to reorganize the Site Architecture - a spring clean as it were.

This has helped us group all of our content into 7 main channels which in turn has led to the easier to use navigation of the new site. The simple new layout design presents the data in a more digestible format and appears less data heavy.

Rest assured, we have not taken away any of the data from the old site. To the contrary, it is now easier to quickly view a lot more weather data than before - especially on the city forecast pages where you now get an overview of the hourly forecasts without having to click to a new page.

There are too many new benefits to list them all - the load time is a lot faster than the previous version, we have new graphics such as spark lines that enable you to quickly view weather patterns and you can customize your city forecast page using the collapsable modules.

If you want to learn more please take a look at this presentation that we put together which showcases some of the more significant changes.

Please let us know what you think of the new design - it's all for your benefit so we hope you like it!

If you have any issues with the new site please submit a support ticket.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129763
Quoting riblet2000:

It is getting progressively worse here (Chicago). Wind is picking up (45+ MPH almost constant now) with gusts to 60+...drifts to 3 feet...and we're only half done...wait until Lake Michigan snow machine gets going.

So are meteorologists more familiar with the area expecting the lake effect to kick in?
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11707
198. JRRP
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6213
197. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Some reports in Cook County, Illinois
=======================================

02/01/2011 1045 PM

3 miles SW of midway airpor, Cook County.

Snow m10.2 inch, reported by co-op observer.


02/01/2011 1039 PM

Schaumburg, Cook County.

Snow e13.0 inch, reported by amateur radio.

Wise and plumb Grove Rd. Drift 2 feet. E30 to 40 mph.



02/01/2011 1035 PM

Tinley Park, Cook County.

Snow e12.0 inch, reported by amateur radio.

Thundersnow.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46906
Quoting HadesGodWyvern:


Did he tell you about the thunder and lightning?

It is getting progressively worse here (Chicago). Wind is picking up (45+ MPH almost constant now) with gusts to 60+...drifts to 3 feet...and we're only half done...wait until Lake Michigan snow machine gets going.
Member Since: April 17, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 38
Quoting sunlinepr:


Maybe it depends on the browser.... I clicked on yours and I got this....


Yah, thanks... we are debugging (hopefully a developer reading).

The silly SmartMeterTexas site does not work on my laptop. I have to use the kid's notebook to get to it (running IE8) but there is still a bug in that it does not display the 2 day old electric usage without first displaying the day before!

WU is much better but simply reporting a problem

Member Since: December 8, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
Quoting all4hurricanes:
Cat 5?
Most certainly looks like it!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Cat 5?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Skyepony:


My guess is Browser. Nice wildflowers (from Firefox).


Okay, hopefully an admin/developer type is reading this.

You can click my avatar and get my info from firefox and I cannot click your avatar and get yours from IE7.

Yah, on wildflowers... Thanks.

Almost everything in the yard (except for dyanthus, allysum, snapdragons, and maybe some of the winter garden veggies) will be pretty black by morning with 19 F temperatures but the seeds are already planted!
Member Since: December 8, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
Interesting new format.

Any new snowfall totals from Chicago, IL?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting EnergyMoron:
New format...

If I click on someone's avatar I no longer get the photo, etc...


Maybe it depends on the browser.... I clicked on yours and I got this photograph...

Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
187. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
haha

I keep on clicking the community chat instead of the member chat in the menu.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46906

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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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