Lee's winds fan deadly Texas fires; a dangerous day for Lee's floods and tornadoes

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:43 PM GMT on September 05, 2011

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Texas' unprecedented heat wave and drought turned deadly yesterday when fires fanned by Tropical Storm Lee's gusty winds swept through East Texas, torching 300 homes near Austin, and killing a woman and her 18-month old daughter who couldn't escape the flames in Gladewater. At Austin Bergstrom Airport yesterday afternoon, the counter-clockwise circulation around Tropical Storm Lee brought sustained winds of 25 mph, gusting to 31. Lee didn't bring any clouds or moisture to Austin, and the afternoon high hit 102°, with a humidity of 22%. With the region enduring it's driest 1-year drought on record, yesterday's heat, dryness, and winds resulted in extremely critical fire conditions. The forecast today for Austin is marginally better--temperatures will be cooler, only reaching the upper 80s, but strong winds of 20 - 25 mph will continue to blow, and the atmosphere will be drier, with humidities in the 15 - 25% range. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has declared a "Critical" fire weather danger area for East Texas today, one level below yesterday's "Extremely Critical" conditions. You can monitor today's fire activity by using our wundermap for Austin with the fire layer turned on. The summer of 2011 now holds every major heat record for the city of Austin, including most 100° days (67 so far), hottest month in recorded history (August, breaking the previous record by a remarkable 2.1°), hottest summer (by 1.1°), and hottest day in history (112°F, tied with Sep, 5, 2000.)

Texas' unprecedented heat
For as long as people have been taking weather measurements in Texas, there has never been a summer hotter than the summer of 2011. As wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt documents in his latest blog post, seventeen major cities in Texas recorded their hottest summer on record in 2011. Most of these stations had records extending back more than 100 years, and several of the records were smashed by an amazing 3.4°F--at Lubbock and at Wichita Falls. Neighboring states also experienced unprecedented heat, with Oklahoma recording America's hottest month by any state in recorded history during July, and Shreveport, Louisiana breaking its record for hottest month by 3°F in August. Mr. Burt commented to me: " I do not believe I have ever seen a site with a long period of record, like Shreveport, where records go back to 1874, break its warmest single month on record by an astonishing 3°. This is unheard of. Usually when a site breaks its single month temperature record, we are talking about tenths of a degree, rarely a whole degree, let alone 3 degrees! Hard to believe, frankly." Texas has also had its worst fire season on record, with over 3.5 million acres burned this year, and it's driest 1-year period in recorded history.


Figure 1. Observed rainfall for the seven-day period ending at 8 am EDT Monday Sep 5, 2011. Tropical Storm Lee had dumped in excess of ten inches of rain sections of Louisiana and Mississippi (pink colors). Image credit: NOAA/AHPS.

Heavy rains from Lee creating dangerous flooding situation
Tropical Storm Lee has been absorbed by a cold front, and is no longer a tropical depression. However, the remnants of Lee are bringing torrential rains to the South and Appalachians today, and pose a serious flood threat. NOAA's latest Quantitative Precipitation Forecast warns that "an excessive and life-threatening rainfall event will be unfolding today and tonight across the Tennessee Valley and also the Southern Appalachians." A wide region of 4 - 8 inches of rain is expected along the path of Lee's remnants as they slide northeastwards along the front. These rains will likely accumulate later this week to 2 - 3 inches over New England regions devastated by Hurricane Irene's floods. Also of concern is the potential for tornadoes today. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has logged 22 tornado reports so far from Lee, and today promises to be the most serious day for tornadoes yet, with SPC predicting a "Moderate Risk" of tornadoes across the South. Lee's heaviest rain amounts, by state, as of 10 am CDT today:

Holden, LA: 15.43"
Florence, MS: 13.45"
Mobile, AL: 11.35"
Milton, FL: 10.03"
Cumberland City, TN: 5.09"
Bridge City, TX: 3.12"
Plum Springs, KY: 3.10"


Figure 2. Predicted rainfall for the 5-day period 8am EDT Monday - 8 am EDT Saturday, Sep 10, 2011. Lee's remnants are expected to bring a large swath of 4+ inches of rain all the way to Pennsylvania. Image credit: NOAA/HPC.


Figure 3. Severe weather risk for Monday, September 5, 2011.

Hurricane Katia
Hurricane Katia is close to major hurricane strength, and is now a high-end Category 2 hurricane with 110 mph winds. Latest satellite loops show a well-defined eye and good upper-level outflow on all sides, but the hurricane still has a lopsided appearance, due to the impacts of dry air and moderate wind shear on its south side.

The computer models have finally come into agreement on the long-range future of Katia, determining that the trough of low pressure that will develop over the Eastern U.S. later this week will turn the hurricane to the north well before the storm reaches the U.S. As the storm moves northwards past North Carolina, Katia will get caught up in west-to-east moving winds associated with the jet stream, and taken northeastwards out to sea. No land areas are in Katia's cone of uncertainty, though Newfoundland, Canada will need to watch future forecasts to see how close Katia may pass to the southeastern portion of that province. The main impact of Katia will be high surf leading to beach erosion and dangerous rip currents. Long period swells from Katia are arriving at the Southeast U.S. coast today, and the entire U.S. East Coast will receive an extended multi-day period of high surf.


Figure 4. Afternoon satellite image of Hurricane Katia.

95L off the coast of Africa
A large tropical wave with plenty of intense thunderstorm activity and spin is located about 500 miles southwest of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa. This wave, Invest 95L, is under a moderate 10 - 20 knots of wind shear, and is headed west at 15 mph. Water vapor satellite images show that 95L is embedded in a very moist environment. Ocean temperatures are near 28°C, which is 1.5°C above the 26.5°C threshold usually needed for a tropical storm to form. With wind shear predicted to drop to the low range tomorrow, I don't see anything that would keep 95L from becoming a tropical depression in two or so days. NHC is giving 95L a 20% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Wednesday; given the storm's rather impressive organization and spin apparent on recent satellite loops, I'd put these odds at 40%. The NOGAPS model predicts 95L will develop by Saturday, a few hundred miles north of the Northern Lesser Antilles Islands, but this storm could just as easily pass directly through the Lesser Antilles on Saturday or Sunday, and develop into a tropical storm much sooner. If you plan on being in the Lesser Antilles Islands this weekend, pay attention to 95L.

New Gulf of Mexico disturbance
A cold front swept into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Texas behind Tropical Storm Lee early this morning. The front is expected to continue to the east and stall out Tuesday and Wednesday along a line from Louisiana to Mexico's Bay of Campeche in the southern Gulf of Mexico. Several recent runs of the ECMWF and GFS models have given support to the idea that a tropical depression would form at the tail end of this front late this week, in Mexico's Bay of Campeche. The path such a storm might take would depend strongly on where the center forms. A more northerly formation location near the top of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula would likely result in a northward motion towards the Florida Panhandle, while a more southerly formation location might lead to the storm getting trapped in a region of weak steering currents, resulting in a slow, erratic motion in the southern Gulf. NHC is currently not highlighting the Bay of Campeche in their Tropical Weather Outlook, and it will likely be Wednesday before enough heavy thunderstorms build to warrant mention.

Jeff Masters

Up In Smoke (Madermade)
Another wildfire this afternoon in Bridgeport, Tx... still burning!
Up In Smoke
Mandeville, Louisiana Lakefront during TS LEE (hurricanep)
Mandeville, Louisiana Lakefront during TS LEE
Lake Pontchartrain Lakefront (hurricanep)
TS Lee still affecting Louisiana
Lake Pontchartrain Lakefront
Tropical Storm Lee-Day 2 #2 (jennjeff1)
Tropical Storm Lee-Day 2 #2

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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129902
I know this a far out, but it don't look to me no help to us down the road either. ughhhh

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Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32853
Latest update on fire damage just east of Austin; 25,000 acres burned & 475 homes destroyed.
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CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
6.2 / 942.2mb/119.8kt

Sat estimates thinking we have Category 4, with winds of 140 Mph. Thinking that at the 11 Pm we should see 120 to 125 MPH, but she looks to be nearing her peak, and a EWRC should occur late tonight into tomorrow, and then the trough should begin to affect her, which would result in her pulling north and out to sea.


Katia about done...
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Texas fire info; apologies in advance if this is off-topic at the moment.

Quoting aquak9:
Here's a link for the RedCross Safe and Well Registration. You can list yourself, or search for people.

Link

This link is the incidents page for Austin and Travis counties. Link

And this is Austin's Homeland Security Page which includes road closures and power outages, ya gotta scroll down a little, it's on the right side of the page.

Link
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 178 Comments: 26674
Quoting HallsCrossRdsTNWx:
While it's nothing compared to Texas, I only received 0.59" for the whole month of August. Trees are dropping their leaves, grass and gardens all dried-up. Sure do appreciate the rain even if we get it all in two days.
If I could I'll give you some of the rain that we've been reciving as of late and coming up for this week.We're suppose to get 5 inches this week full of rain.I'm afraid that sooner or later the rivers streams and creeks are gonna bust their banks.
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Quoting Tazmanian:



95L is the one too watch i have a vary bad feeling about this one


Me too, I don't want another Irene.
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6878
Quoting FrowardSemovedly:


I'm just on the outside of the last evac. Hell, I'm just gonna walk down and sit in the Trinity till it's all over.
Hope you and your family are safe!
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Quoting Tazmanian:
any one from FL too NC need too close watch 95L


Maybe even the gulf coast taz.
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6878
A lot of Kids come here for Weather info, so Please watch the Language,

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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129902
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


There was a tornado there, and rather significant damage.


Thanks for letting me know - that's really worrying!
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csweigart 10 mins 16 secs ago Twitter
Possible Tornado picture taken on Ga. Hwy. 85 in Fayetteville. yfrog.com/h7uprlvj #GAStorms #GAWX #news #wx
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


I don't see it...I do see that the BAMS is crazy, and so is the WNPR.

LOL
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Quoting Msuknotmet:
Is anyone near Powder Springs in Atlanta? I have friends there that I've been trying to reach and can't get hold of them. Any tornado warnings there at the moment?


There was a tornado there, and rather significant damage.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32853
ALL Tornado Warnings here

SVR T-STORM WARNING CHARLESTON SC - KCHS 518 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
SVR T-STORM WARNING TALLAHASSEE FL - KTAE 417 PM CDT MON SEP 5 2011
TORNADO WARNING PEACHTREE CITY GA - KFFC 516 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
TORNADO WARNING PEACHTREE CITY GA - KFFC 516 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
SVR T-STORM WARNING TALLAHASSEE FL - KTAE 513 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
TORNADO WARNING COLUMBIA SC - KCAE 513 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
SVR T-STORM WARNING CHARLESTON SC - KCHS 508 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
SVR T-STORM WARNING GREENVILLE-SPARTANBURG SC - KGSP 504 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
SVR T-STORM WARNING TALLAHASSEE FL - KTAE 503 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
TORNADO WARNING PEACHTREE CITY GA - KFFC 502 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
SVR T-STORM WARNING CHARLESTON SC - KCHS 500 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
SVR T-STORM WARNING JACKSONVILLE FL - KJAX 459 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
SVR T-STORM WARNING TALLAHASSEE FL - KTAE 459 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
SVR T-STORM WARNING TALLAHASSEE FL - KTAE 457 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
TORNADO WARNING PEACHTREE CITY GA - KFFC 449 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
TORNADO WARNING BLACKSBURG VA - KRNK 448 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
SVR T-STORM WARNING TALLAHASSEE FL - KTAE 446 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
TORNADO WARNING PEACHTREE CITY GA - KFFC 443 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
TORNADO WARNING PEACHTREE CITY GA - KFFC 441 PM EDT MON SEP 5 2011
FLASH FLOOD WARNING BIRMINGHAM AL - KBMX 341 PM CDT MON SEP 5 2011
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129902
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Added my own track (just trying to agree with the models-just a guess):


I don't see it...I do see that the BAMS is crazy, and so is the WNPR.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32853
Quoting Itsanotherdud:
burning to the west of 290


I'm just on the outside of the last evac. Hell, I'm just gonna walk down and sit in the Trinity till it's all over.
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Quoting nofailsafe:


That's about the track I gave it too. I went with the last GFS ensemble, weighed the long-track ones heavier than the short for one track and then weighed them based on direction for another and it's pretty close.
I think Katia might make a weakness for 95L to follow.Sorta like Danielle did with Earlie(Earl) last year.
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Quoting nofailsafe:


That's about the track I gave it too. I went with the last GFS ensemble, weighed the long-track ones heavier than the short for one track and then weighed them based on direction for another and it's pretty close.

I hope the track I doodled doesn't come true, It would give me boatloads of rain.
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KATIA
Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129902
Is anyone near Powder Springs in Atlanta? I have friends there that I've been trying to reach and can't get hold of them. Any tornado warnings there at the moment?
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Quoting FrowardSemovedly:
Any suggestions on what to take in a fire evac situation? Just curious- never had to consider it before and thought some here might have a few good ideas.


All important documents, stuff that cannot be replaced such as old photos and family heirlooms, any medicine you might be taking, and what ever you can fit in your vehicle such as clothes and bedding. Any thing that is of value to you and your family. It is also a good ideal to video your belongings should your home be destroyed for insurance purposes. This would validate the value of your items.
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Cypress fire appears to be visible during the last couple frames.

Link
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Quoting mamakins:
Hummm... I wonder if that might work?...LOL


At this point I am willing to try just about anything... May start with a Chicken and see how that goes first. LMAO
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Quoting redwagon:

KOTG, have you heard any analysis on the twin COCs Lee had there until yesterday morning? Got distracted with 45mph wind, then fires next to my house, then earth (dustdevils coating everything), haven't caught up on the water element yet.
no maybe have to wait till post season for that i reckon
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While it's nothing compared to Texas, I only received 0.59" for the whole month of August. Trees are dropping their leaves, grass and gardens all dried-up. Sure do appreciate the rain even if we get it all in two days.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Added my own track (just trying to agree with the models-just a guess):


That's about the track I gave it too. I went with the last GFS ensemble, weighed the long-track ones heavier than the short for one track and then weighed them based on direction for another and it's pretty close.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
is that the out of control grass fire there was a warning a while back

KOTG, have you heard any analysis on the twin COCs Lee had there until yesterday morning? Got distracted with 45mph wind, then fires next to my house, then earth (dustdevils coating everything), haven't caught up on the water element yet.
Member Since: August 4, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3280
Quoting HoustonTxGal:


I too am in North Houston and I have done rain dances till I have blisters and still nothing... I am considering Human Sacrifice as my next step...LOL
Hummm... I wonder if that might work?...LOL
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Quoting indianrivguy:


no doubt, a dang shame you couldn't share some with Texas.


Yeah,,they in a bad way over there. I talk to some most every day.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129902
Blog Update

Tropical Update: September 5th; 5:15p.m EDT


Update on Hurricane Katia, 95L, and the Gulf of Mexico disturbance. Feel free to check it out.
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Oh lord(rolling eyes).Accuweather is once again presenting doom and gloom on there website worrying peoples poor minds in N.C and the Atlantic seaboard.
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Quoting Itsanotherdud:
i live right off fry road near the bh golf course
So do you have a yard left? I've tried to water but even the sprinkler system can't keep all my shrubs alive.
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Quoting HCW:

Added my own track (just trying to agree with the models-just a guess):
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Quoting Patrap:


Hiya irg,, was a long wet windy weekend.



no doubt, a dang shame you couldn't share some with Texas.
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Quoting mamakins:
It's funny how you take rain for granted. I live in the Houston area but have watched what the drought has done to family members crops and cattle. It's truly a sad situation. I would even do a rain dance if I thought it could help!


I too am in North Houston and I have done rain dances till I have blisters and still nothing... I am considering Human Sacrifice as my next step...LOL
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Quoting Itsanotherdud:
i live right off fry road near the bh golf course


Well, it's clearly visible on satellite. The Texas Forest Service website seems to be a little busy at the moment unfortunately...
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Tornado Warnings are startin to get annoying, TV getting a EBS ivery 5 min or so.
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:
Like 3 separate tornado warnings for Atlanta. One for Macon (where I am). Conditions about to deteriorate.


Cnn was saying there were 4 tornado touchdowns at once around the Atlanta area.. Is that correct?
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864. MZT
Video of Bastrop Fire. You begin to see the flames over the trees around 1:30 then: "We gotta get outta here"

Bastrop Fire on YouTube
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Any suggestions on what to take in a fire evac situation? Just curious- never had to consider it before and thought some here might have a few good ideas.
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This season, the models seem to have done a poor job so far predicting the impact of dry air on systems. With Lee, I can kind of understand because of the uncertainty of the track, but other track predictions have been pretty good--they just seem to almost ignore the presence of dry air.
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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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