Great Blizzard pounding Chicago; extremely dangerous Cyclone Yasi nears Australia

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

Share this Blog
5
+

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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 187 - 137

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9Blog Index

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: 46912
186. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting EnergyMoron:
New format...

If I click on my own avatar I get the image... protection problem?

Running Vista with IE7


My guess is Browser. Nice wildflowers (from Firefox).
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
185. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Australia RSMC ADT

2011FEB02 033200
T 6.6
Estimated pressure: 913.0
129.6 knots
Final: 6.6
Adjusted: 6.9
Raw: 6.9

Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46912
New format...

If I click on my own avatar I get the image... protection problem?

Running Vista with IE7
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Patrap:
We have a new Look to the whole site


Spiffy
its all good got some adjustments to make on my blog other than that i like the sleek new look
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059
New format...

If I click on someone's avatar I no longer get the photo, etc...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I live very close to where Dr. Masters lives, and it's starting to pick up now. Heavy stuff supposed to hit here about 4 AM (in 4 hours)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Yasi is a beautiful beast -- looks great on Sat.

Although with the WU changes, it's not on the full map picture with the SSTs on the Tropical Weather front page.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
177. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
173. TORMENTOSO83 4:53 AM GMT on February 02, 2011
My brother live in Chicago and he called me and told me that the wind is very strong and he can't bearly see across the street


Did he tell you about the thunder and lightning?
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46912
Quoting TORMENTOSO83:
My brother live in Chicago and he called me and told me that the wind is very strong and he can't bearly see across the street

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

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Complete Update






Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I love the new style for the new style of wunderground, just can't wait til this hurricane season to see how it works
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
My brother live in Chicago and he called me and told me that the wind is very strong and he can't bearly see across the street
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Double posted...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Wow...

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
6.9 / 903.4mb/137.4kt


Final T# Adj T# Raw T#
6.6 7.0 7.0
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Yasi Floater - Funktop Color Infrared Loop

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129841
167. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting sunlinepr:


Doing some research....

http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/frost2/frost2.htm

Link


Nice hoarfrost & frost flowers..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Skyepony:


The Link at the top of that will get you there. Better yet it could the topic of hot debate here tonight.
I'll admit that I am intrigued...

Thoughts ranging from the snow sliding down the wire and accumulation piling up on top to the behavior of the wind around a cable like that.

But, also have to admit that I am tired and may need to sleep on it to have any coherent thoughts...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
IDQP0005
Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
Queensland
Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre

Media: Transmitters serving the area from Cape Flattery to Sarina and inland to
Georgetown are requested to USE the Standard Emergency Warning Signal before
broadcasting the following warning.

TOP PRIORITY
TROPICAL CYCLONE ADVICE NUMBER 14
Issued by the Bureau of Meteorology, Brisbane
Issued at 1:53pm EST on Wednesday the 2nd of February 2011

A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal and island communities from Cape
Flattery to Sarina, extending inland to Julia Creek and to the area west of
Croydon.

A Cyclone WATCH is current for the remaining inland parts west to the Northern
Territory border and north of Winton.

The Cyclone WARNING from Cape Melville to Cape Flattery has been cancelled.

At 1:00 pm EST Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi, Category 5 was estimated to be 345
kilometres east of Cairns and 360 kilometres northeast of Townsville and moving
west southwest at 35 kilometres per hour.

SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE 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.

DURING THE EVENING, THE VERY DESTRUCTIVE CORE OF CYCLONE YASI WILL CROSS THE
COAST BETWEEN CAIRNS AND INGHAM, ACCOMPANIED BY A DANGEROUS STORM TIDE SOUTH OF
THE CYCLONE CENTRE.

Tropical Cyclone Yasi, CATEGORY 5, will continue to move in a west-southwesterly
direction. The cyclone is expected to cross the coast between Innisfail and
Cardwell close to midnight.

Coastal residents within the warning area, and particularly between Cairns and
Proserpine including the Whitsundays, are specifically warned of an EXTREMELY
DANGEROUS SEA LEVEL RISE [i.e. storm tide] as the cyclone approaches, crosses
the coast and moves inland. The sea is likely to steadily rise up to a level
which will be VERY DANGEROUSLY above the normal tide, with EXTREMELY DAMAGING
WAVES, STRONG CURRENTS and FLOODING of low-lying areas extending some way
inland. People living in areas likely to be affected by this flooding should
take measures to protect their property as much as possible, and be prepared to
follow instructions regarding evacuation of the area if advised to do so by
authorities.

DAMAGING WINDS with gusts to 90 km/hr are currently affecting the coast and
islands, and are forecast to spread into the tropical interior overnight and
west to Julia Creek during Thursday.

Between Port Douglas and Ayr these winds will become DESTRUCTIVE with gusts in
excess of 125 km/hr developing during this afternoon and early evening,
spreading into the tropical interior overnight. VERY DESTRUCTIVE winds with
gusts up to 290 km/hr are expected to develop between Cairns and Ingham during
the evening as the cyclone approaches and crosses the coast. These VERY
DESTRUCTIVE winds will also occur on the seaward side of hills to the north of
the cyclone and also affect the Atherton Tablelands.

Due to the large size of the cyclone, people in the path of the VERY DESTRUCTIVE
WINDS are likely to experience these conditions for about 3 to 4 hours.

Winds are forecast to gradually ease about the east coast during Thursday
morning as the cyclone moves inland.

FLOODING RAINS will develop from Cooktown to Sarina during the afternoon and
then extend inland overnight.

People between Cape Flattery and Sarina, extending inland to Julia Creek and to
the area west of Croydon should complete preparations quickly and be prepared to
shelter in a safe place.
- Boats and outside property should be secured.
- For cyclone preparedness and safety advice, visit Queensland's Disaster
Management Services website [www.disaster.qld.gov.au]
- For emergency assistance call the Queensland State Emergency Service [SES] on
132 500 [for assistance with storm damage, rising flood water, fallen trees on
buildings or roof damage].

People about the remaining inland parts west to the Northern Territory border
and north of Winton should consider what action they will need to take if the
cyclone threat increases.
- Information is available from your local government
- For cyclone preparedness and safety advice, visit Queensland's Disaster
Management Services website [www.disaster.qld.gov.au]
- For emergency assistance call the Queensland State Emergency Service [SES] on
132 500 [for assistance with storm damage, rising flood water, fallen trees on
buildings or roof damage].

Details of Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi at 1:00 pm EST:
.Centre located near...... 16.8 degrees South 149.0 degrees East
.Location accuracy........ within 30 kilometres
.Recent movement.......... towards the west southwest at 35 kilometres per hour
.Wind gusts near centre... 290 kilometres per hour
.Severity category........ 5
.Central pressure......... 930 hectoPascals


Please ensure that neighbours have heard and understood this message,
particularly new arrivals or those who may not fully understand English.

The next advice will be issued by 3:00 pm EST Wednesday 02 February.

This warning is also available through TV and Radio Broadcasts; the Bureau's
website at www.bom.gov.au or call 1300 659 212. The Bureau and the State
Emergency Service would appreciate this warning being broadcast regularly.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129841
ACK!!! the new layout is really jarring to my Aspie self, LOL!

Yasi
Quoting RecordSeason:
This is sick. Look how much the symetry improved in just the past 2 hours.



Incredible.




Yasi may be stronger than ever right now.

It looks like Katrina or Rita at peak intensity, only bigger...


Ugh, it's as if Nature were being a sadistic ***** torturing those folks in Queensland! :-(
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Skyepony:
Readers with explanations are invited to submit them for consideration.


Doing some research....

http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/frost2/frost2.htm

Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
This isn't something we see everyday...

.. Wind Chill Advisory now in effect until 10 am CST Wednesday...

The Wind Chill Advisory is now in effect until 10 am CST
Wednesday.

* Wind chills... lowest wind chill readings Wednesday morning are
expected to range from the single digits across the East Texas
lakes into central Louisiana... to the lower teens across the
Interstate 10 corridor.

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

A Wind Chill Advisory means that very cold air and strong winds
will combine to generate low wind chills. This will result in
frost bite and lead to hypothermia if precautions are not taken.

If you must venture outdoors... make sure you wear a hat and
gloves.

But all and all we have it better than many who are facing this cold. My heart goes out to everyone in Yasi's path. That's a scary thing to have to face.:(
Stay safe and stay warm everyone.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting atmoaggie:
No, the storm surge isn't going to wash away Denver, y'all...
Thanks for clearing that up...I thought it was a Great Salt Lake-effect storm!...lol
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting presslord:


Snowtorious B.I.G.
*groan*
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
What a DRY--WARM winter La-nina has brought to the SE!! High in Mobile, Al. Wed. HI-47 Low-34 Thurs 80% rain Hi-39 Low-29 Fri 100% rain Hi-40 Low 34. Then it will be seasonal for a couple of days and then go right back into a COLD---WET pattern. What is going on and what kind of forecast can we expect to see for the 2011 Hurricane season, when the forecast didnt pan out for the winter??
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
158. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting atmoaggie:
Interesting.
(And your "submit" link is no good. WU may nix a "mailto" html link.


The Link at the top of that will get you there. Better yet it could the topic of hot debate here tonight.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Flinders Reef Sustained at 70 knots, Gusting to 90 knots. Pressure 977.3 (as of 2 pm)

Holmes Reef Sustained at 51 knots, Gusting to 63 knots. Pressure 980.0 (as of 1:52 pm)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 1900hurricane:
Can we please rename this storm? "The Groundhog Day Blizzard" sounds way too generic, especially for a storm of this magnitude.


Snowtorious B.I.G.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I pray the powerpuff girls protect the citizens of townsville tonight!
This seems like scary stuff.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 1900hurricane:
Can we please rename this storm? "The Groundhog Day Blizzard" sounds way too generic, especially for a storm of this magnitude.


Seems like there is a need to document Winter season the same way it's done in the Hurricane season. Systems should be classified by category, named and all data collected...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Skyepony:
Readers with explanations are invited to submit them for consideration.
Interesting.
(And your "submit" link is no good. WU may nix a "mailto" html link.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
151. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Brisbane
Tropical Cyclone Advice #14
SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE YASI (14U)
2:00 PM EST February 2 2011
=========================================

At 1:00 PM EST, Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi, Category Five (930 hPa) located 16.8S 149.0E, or 345 km east of Cairns and 360 km northeast of Townsville has 10 minute sustained winds of 110 knots with gusts of 155 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west southwest at 19 knots.

Hurricane Force Winds
======================
40 NM from the center

Storm Force Winds
=================
130 NM from the center in southern quadrant
60 NM from the center in northwestern quadrant
90 NM from the center in northeastern quadrant

Gale Force Winds
===============
190 NM from the center in northern quadrant
260 NM from the center in southwestern quadrant
250 NM from the center in southeastern quadrant

Dvorak Intensity: T6.0/6.5/D1.0/24HRS

SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE 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.

DURING THE EVENING, THE VERY DESTRUCTIVE CORE OF CYCLONE YASI WILL CROSS THE COAST BETWEEN CAIRNS AND INGHAM, ACCOMPANIED BY A DANGEROUS STORM TIDE SOUTH OF THE CYCLONE CENTRE.

Tropical Cyclone Yasi, CATEGORY 5, will continue to move in a west-southwesterly direction. The cyclone is expected to cross the coast between Innisfail and Cardwell close to midnight.

Coastal residents within the warning area, and particularly between Cairns and Proserpine including the Whitsundays, are specifically warned of an EXTREMELY DANGEROUS SEA LEVEL RISE [i.e. storm tide] as the cyclone approaches, crosses the coast and moves inland. The sea is likely to steadily rise up to a level which will be VERY DANGEROUSLY above the normal tide, with EXTREMELY DAMAGING WAVES, STRONG CURRENTS and FLOODING of low-lying areas extending some way inland. People living in areas likely to be affected by this flooding should take measures to protect their property as much as possible, and be prepared to follow instructions regarding evacuation of the area if advised to do so by authorities.

DAMAGING WINDS with gusts to 90 km/hr are currently affecting the coast and islands, and are forecast to spread into the tropical interior overnight and west to Julia Creek during Thursday.

Between Port Douglas and Ayr these winds will become DESTRUCTIVE with gusts in excess of 125 km/hr developing during this afternoon and early evening, spreading into the tropical interior overnight. VERY DESTRUCTIVE winds with gusts up to 290 km/hr are expected to develop between Cairns and Ingham during the evening as the cyclone approaches and crosses the coast. These VERY DESTRUCTIVE winds will also occur on the seaward side of hills to the north of the cyclone and also affect the Atherton Tablelands.

Due to the large size of the cyclone, people in the path of the VERY DESTRUCTIVE WINDS are likely to experience these conditions for about 3 to 4 hours.

Winds are forecast to gradually ease about the east coast during Thursday morning as the cyclone moves inland. FLOODING RAINS will develop from Cooktown to Sarina during the afternoon and then extend inland overnight.

Tropical Cyclone Watches/Warnings
==================================
A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal and island communities from Cape Flattery to Sarina, extending inland to Julia Creek and to the area west of Croydon.

A Cyclone WATCH is current for the remaining inland parts west to the Northern Territory border and north of Winton.

The Cyclone WARNING from Cape Melville to Cape Flattery has been cancelled.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46912
Quoting PrivateIdaho:
Wow.
No, the storm surge isn't going to wash away Denver, y'all...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
149. JRRP
O o
que gran cambio
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Whoa..
Wow.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
147. Skyepony (Mod)
Really like the new site design:)

Here's one for the snow geeks from SpaceWeather..

SNOW SPIRALS: As a winter storm of historic proportions prepares to sweep across the USA later this week, midwesterners should be alert for some unaccustomed sights. One of them is snow spirals. Michael French photographed this specimen in Frederick, Maryland, on Jan. 29th:


"I call them Karra Spirals, after my wife Karra Strickland who discovered them in our yard," says French. "They were all over town, spiraling down the braided metal guy-wires on telephone poles. Here's the curious thing: The wires were spun clockwise, while the snow formations were spun anti-clockwise. The hardened snow spirals were rotated opposite of the metal wire's weave. We also noticed that spirals near the top of the wires were longer (~1 meter) than spirals at the bottom (0.1 - 0.3 meters)--perhaps because of gravity?"

Indeed, the changing wavelength of the spiral suggests gravity played a role in their formation. This could be how heavy snow sags under its own weight when it clings to a braided wire. Why the spirals should oppose the braid, however, is not obvious. Readers with explanations are invited to submit them for consideration.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Can we please rename this storm? "The Groundhog Day Blizzard" sounds way too generic, especially for a storm of this magnitude.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting ktymisty:
size comparison with countries and Yasi
Link


Excellent...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting KoritheMan:


Good to see you around, Drak.


Thank You!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Freezing rain, stay 10 miles south where you belong.
Member Since: September 1, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 172
Quoting ktymisty:
size comparison with countries and Yasi
Link


Whoa..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
size comparison with countries and Yasi
Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Drakoen:
Pretty amazing to see the observations coming out of Chicago. Heavy Snow with outright blizzard conditions with gusts near 60mph as the deformation band snow swath moves through the city.





Good to see you around, Drak.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
i like the changes to the site
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059
someone under the age of 30 is responsible for this travesty!....where is my old WU?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I must say, I do rather enjoy this new look. For those complaining about it, you'll get used to it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 187 - 137

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9Blog Index

Top of Page

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.

Local Weather

Overcast
31 °F
Overcast

JeffMasters's Recent Photos

Lake Effort Snow Shower Over Windsor, Ontario
Sunset on Dunham Lake
Pictured Rocks Sunset
Sunset on Lake Huron