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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I must say, I do rather enjoy this new look. For those complaining about it, you'll get used to it.
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Quoting spathy:

Thanks Keep.
Innisfail looks pretty populated.
And that bay area there looks like a bad funneling area for surge.
point of extreme effect
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 176 Comments: 55665
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.



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Well, this is the next one....
Link

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congrats on the new look, looks cleaner and easier to use ;]
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I will risk being off topic to try to lighten things up a bit. This post warrants it. Good luck to all in the blizzard's path (including myself) and the cyclone's path.

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Here's something you don't see at this time of the year. Looks pretty interesting to me, even though nothing is to come from it.



Noticed it, too. At a glance, it looks like a surface trough. Too bad upper-level shear is strong, else we might see Arlene out of it.
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Quoting RecordSeason:
something isn't right with the script.

It's cutting off the right side of some posts.
That's info WunderAdmin would like in their blog. They'll check it out if they know about it, I've found.
http://www.wunderground.com/blog/WunderPress/comment.html?entrynum=12
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Argh. Looks like blowing snow got into the server. I sure liked the old radar controls better.

Liked the favorites on the side where I could see them all the time.

Sorry, change is hard. Must be old age.
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The hurricane/typhoon archive is much more useful: http://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/hurrarchive.asp
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Here's something you don't see at this time of the year. Looks pretty interesting to me, even though nothing is to come from it.


I think that's actually the storm that came through a few days ago.
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Here's something you don't see at this time of the year. Looks pretty interesting to me, even though nothing is to come from it.

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Guided Tour to NewWU
over and out. goodnight..
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Cool new look Wunderground!
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Quoting 1900hurricane:

Isn't that this storm? That's from January 29th.


Don't know.... Maybe you're right...
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How about a "change" intermission? :)

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Quoting atmoaggie:
A new format or an odd reload...
?


Looks like the former.
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Woah, new look to the webpage!
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Presto Chango ! :)

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We have a new Look to the whole site


Spiffy
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129442
Quoting sunlinepr:
Next one... Link

Isn't that this storm? That's from January 29th.
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big yasi is right. grave situation over there now.
this on top of the rains is unprecedented, i think,
at least in modern history.
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A new format or an odd reload...
?

I like it. Much cleaner.
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110. Skyepony (Mod)
The live cam of Yasi with twitter on the side.. It's like couch tour for cyclones.
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Quoting Skyepony:
The Groundhogs aren't going to like coming out of their holes tomorrow. Some too buried under snow even.

I hope they do come out. Wind will blow them to Chicago.
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Next one...
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Looks to be CAT4 at landfall.
Yasi is a horrific cyclone.
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:
I would like to request some help of any partially-experienced fellow Wikipedians on the following:


Just popped in a paragraph. Editing wikipedia is not for the faint of heart.
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Quoting DEKRE:
96. atmoaggie 10:16 PM EST on February 01, 2011

Its just coral - not very solid. You can nicely see the reef on your photograph
Right, I see it.

Still not a river sediment barrier island. Willis Island has been in the open ocean for...well since the Aussies towed it out there from Sydney harbor. (Sry)

I'll be surprised if anything more than what man brought there is destroyed. Again, JMHO.
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Nice, big CONUS water vapor loop for all day (WARNING, 16 MB): http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/goes/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/110201-02_goes_wv_anim.gif

Can see Chicago getting some drier mid to upper level air in this. (GOES water vapor can tell us nothing about what moisture, thus, lake effect snow, is going on at lower levels)
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102. flsky
FEMA has issued to a deployment warning to me.
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101. DEKRE
96. atmoaggie 10:16 PM EST on February 01, 2011

Its just coral - not very solid. You can nicely see the reef on your photograph
Member Since: April 27, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 306
100. Skyepony (Mod)
The Groundhogs aren't going to like coming out of their holes tomorrow. Some too buried under snow even.
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Today

State Extremes

Louisiana


State Lows:
Shreveport 21°F

State Highs:
Boothville 71°F
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129442
What a storm!!
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NAM 0 UTC run a hair less snow for TX-LA-MS-AL and shifted a little to the NW from 18 UTC run. And Houston misses it, on this one.

The peak of snowcover on Friday morning:
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Quoting RecordSeason:


That would not surprise me based on the geography and based on the wave heights reported by NASA. With 37.5ft waves, the crests may have over-topped the highest point on the island by as much as 12 or 13 feet(4meters), even if the mean water level rise did not.

There might not be a willis island at all any more.

When Andrew hit Louisiana it cut Timbalier island clean in half, and that island was a lot bigger than Willis.
It sure will be a mess, etc., but this is not a river sediment, mud-island:



There's some rock, there, on/under Willis Is. JMHO.
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:


How can Tracy be even close to Monica's size? And are you sure Australia is almost as big as the US?

From the most easterly to the most westerly points of Australia it's approx 2550 miles. North to south is 3100miles
From the most easterly to the most westerly points of USA is 2600 miles.From north to south 2500miles.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
Two vids I shot this evening.  Chicago was a bit windy...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTXk6EHQxIM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOy9Y5A4qpo
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Quoting Dakster:
Aussiestorm - Are you in harms way? If so, stay safe!

I am 1200 miles from where TC Yasi will make landfall at 11pm tonight. 9hrs time

Dayton, Ohio - local tv station reports 45,000 have already lost power
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
Quoting AussieStorm:




Darwin after Tracy.


How can Tracy be even close to Monica's size? And are you sure Australia is almost as big as the US?
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129442
Quoting oddspeed:
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Here is a NOAA GOES13 Video of your snowstorm
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
Quoting AussieStorm:




Darwin after Tracy.


Also in your pic, the location of the 3rd cyclone is in the NW part of the Gulf of Carpentia; Tracy never was tracked that far east
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Quoting AussieStorm:
very nicely done... always good to see comparisons.. many have no idea how huge Australia is.
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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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