Texas fires will diminish today; Lee's rains set all-time records

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:27 PM GMT on September 06, 2011

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East Texas' dangerous fires continued to rage out of control yesterday, thanks to gusty north winds associated with the passage of a cold front and the remnant circulation of Tropical Storm Lee. Since Saturday, wildfires have torched over 500 homes in East Texas and killed two people. At Austin Bergstrom Airport, sustained winds of 20 - 25 mph, gusting to 30 - 35 mph blew much of the day yesterday. Tropical Storm Lee's remnants didn't bring any clouds or moisture to Austin yesterday, and the temperature climbed to 91°, with a humidity of just 11%. With the region enduring it's driest 1-year drought on record, yesterday's heat, dryness, and winds resulted in critical fire conditions. The forecast today for Austin is much better--winds will be only 5 - 10 mph, which should give firefighters the upper hand in many of the blazes, despite low humidities that will be in the 15 - 25% range. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center is not predicting that critical fire weather conditions will return during the remainder of the week. You can monitor today's fire activity by using our wundermap for Austin with the fire layer turned on.


Figure 1. True-color image taken by NASA's Aqua satellite of the the fires burning near Austin, Texas on September 5, 2011. Image credit: NASA.


Video 1. Video shot by a motorist on Highway 21 near Austin, Texas of the smoke from the fires that raced through Bastrop County on September 4, 2011.The highway closes and the motorist is forced to turn around.

Texas' unprecedented heat
As I reported in yesterday's post, there has never been a Texas summer hotter than the summer of 2011. 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.) As wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt documents in his latest blog post, the situation is similar across the rest of the state. 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 2. Observed soil moisture for Sunday Sep 4, 2011. Soil moisture is expressed in percent, with 50% being a historically average soil moisture level. Very dry soils, with moistures in the driest 1% - 30% in history (red and orange colors), were present over much of the south, where Lee dropped its heaviest rains. These dry soils have limited flooding damage. Image credit: N OAA Climate Prediction Center.

Heavy rains from Lee create significant flooding
Tropical Storm Lee is no more, but its remnants are marching slowly northeastwards along a stalled cold front, bringing torrential rains. Jackson, Mississippi received 11.68" in a 24 hour period yesterday, which is that city's heaviest 24-hour rainfall on record, according to wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt. Their previous record was 8.54", set April 11 -12, 1979. Fortunately, Jackson was in severe drought, and the dry soils were able to absorb a significant amount of rain before the local rivers began flooding. The Pearl River at Jackson rose above flood stage this morning, and is expected to crest at moderate flood stage late this week. Chattanooga, Tennessee also set its record for the wettest 24-hour period in its history, with 9.85" falling yesterday. The previous record was 7.61", set on March 30, 1886. Again, the dry soils that were present before the event started will help keep river flooding in the minor to moderate range on area rivers. Soils are at near-average moisture levels in Central Pennsylvania, where Lee's remnants are expected to drop over seven inches of rain over the next two days. These rains should cause moderate and possibly major flooding in Pennsylvania. Also of concern is the potential for tornadoes today. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has logged 25 tornado reports over the past three days from Lee, including three near Atlanta, Georgia yesterday. More tornadoes are likely today over North Carolina, Southern Virginia, and Northern South Carolina, where SPC is predicting a "Slight Risk" of severe weather.

Lee's heaviest rain amounts, by state, as of 4 am CDT today:

Holden, LA: 15.43"
Florence, MS: 13.45"
Tillman's Corner, AL: 11.74"
Milton, FL: 10.03"
Chattanooga, TN: 9.85"
Rome, GA: 5.70"
Roanoake, VA: 4.30"
Bluefield, WV: 3.14"
Bridge City, TX: 3.12"
Flatwoods, KY: 3.67"


Figure 3. Predicted rainfall for the 2-day period 8am EDT Tuesday - 8 am EDT Thursday, Sep 8, 2011. Lee's remnants are expected to bring a large swath of 7+ inches of rain into Central Pennsylvania. Image credit: NOAA/HPC.

Hurricane Katia
Hurricane Katia strengthened this morning into the Atlantic's first Category 4 hurricane of the year, but has slipped slightly in intensity due to an eyewall replacement cycle, and is now a strong Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds. Latest satellite loops show that the eye has now disappeared, and the hurricane is having trouble maintaining its eyewall in the face of moderate wind shear of 10 - 15 knots on its northwest side. Continued weakening to a Category 2 storm is a possibility, though Katia will probably re-strengthen later today or on Wednesday once it manages to build a new eyewall.

The computer models continue to agree that a low pressure system over the Eastern U.S. associated with the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee will turn Katia 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, and Katia's outer rainbands should remain just offshore from North Carolina, New England, and the Canadian Maritime provinces at the point of closest approach. The main impact of Katia will be high surf leading to beach erosion and dangerous rip currents. Long period swells from Katia have arrived at the coast, and the entire U.S. East Coast will receive an extended multi-day period of high surf. The East Coast is lucky that Tropical Storm Lee came along, since Lee helped to create the steering pattern that will keep Katia from hitting the U.S.


Figure 4. Morning 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 700 miles west-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 to west-northwest at 15 mph. Recent satellite loops show that 95L has an elongated circulation center; this will need to tighten up into a more circular shape before the storm can become a tropical depression. 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 remain low to moderate the next four days, the atmosphere expected to stay moist, and ocean temperatures predicted to gradually warm, I don't see anything that would keep 95L from becoming a tropical depression in 1 - 2 days. NHC is giving 95L a 70% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Thursday. There is a large amount of model support for development of 95L into a tropical depression, with most of the models predicting it could be a weak tropical storm by the time it reaches the Northern Lesser Antilles Islands on Friday or Saturday. Residents of the islands should anticipate the possibility of tropical storm conditions arriving as early as Friday. Most of the models predict 95L will follow a path near or slightly north of the Northern Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico, then curve northwestwards, on a trajectory that would likely miss the Bahamas.

New Gulf of Mexico disturbance
A cold front swept into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Texas behind Tropical Storm Lee yesterday morning, and has stalled out along a line from Tampa, Florida to Mexico's Bay of Campeche in the southern Gulf of Mexico. Heavy thunderstorms have begun to build along the tail end of this front in the Bay of Campeche, but are still not very concentrated or organized. Most of the computer models develop a tropical depression in the Bay of Campeche late this week, and these same models did very well at anticipating the formation of Tropical Storm Lee in the Gulf of Mexico last week. Given the moderate wind shear, warm waters, and presence of an old cold front to serve as a nucleus for development, a new Gulf of Mexico tropical depression by late this week appears likely. 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. This is the solution of the European Center Model (ECMWF), which takes a weak tropical storm with a central pressure of 1000 mb into the Florida Panhandle on Sunday. 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. This is the solution of the latest runs of the GFS, NOGAPS, and UKMET models. NHC is giving this disturbance a 20% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Thursday.


Figure 5. Volunteers with Portlight.org disaster relief charity take a break from their Hurricane Irene relief efforts in Pink Hill, NC. From their latest blog post:Please help as you can. And please remember in your thoughts and prayers those in the path of Irene.

Jeff Masters

Crockett Texas Wildfire 2 (Moussifer)
A tree becomes a torch. We could hear the fire's roar.
Crockett Texas Wildfire 2
Bastrop's Burnin (CenTexWeatherGal)
This HUGE fire has already burned over 500 homes and over 30,000 acres. It is 0, yes 0 percent contained and stretches 16 miles long and 6 miles wide. The smoke plume can be seen on dopler radar. This fire is actually to the north east of Bastrop which is east of Austin.
Bastrop's Burnin
Magnolia Fire (shanzi)
Mighty close!
Magnolia Fire
flood (lazzyhazy1)
flood

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Quoting robert88:
All that dry sinking air in the GOM should keep the lid on 96L. I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes deactivated soon.


I do not think so, not with the strong model support its receiving. ECMWF spinning it up is saying something.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24938
1080. txjac
Quoting robert88:
All that dry sinking air in the GOM should keep the lid on 96L. I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes deactivated soon.


Please no ..I would like to see it fight the dry air and make it to Texas and bust up some of this dryness. Nothing harsh ..just lots of rain
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Quoting SPLbeater:
Aint no way that this low pressure area near the Lesser Antillies is gonna develop with wind shear from Katia down there, that system is hopeless



LOL


Jose from in high wind shear so can that in fac when we had Irene it was giveing wind shear too 91L wish be came Jose




so yes am giveing that a ch
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5093 Comments: 115939
1078. Thrawst
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


No, I put up that text in red to avoid confusion, lol. Those little points represent where, if the storm is south of it, then it is more likely to impact the USA. If the storm is north of them, then it is more likely to recurve. This doesn't apply to every storm of course.


Ahh I gotchya :P
Thanks for the info though!
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1077. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting FLdewey:
It's not just Taz.

Bluestorm5 called me an idiot, taz poofed me and Orca freaked the heck out and called me some Canadian slur when I suggested Katia would be a fish.

I are no science dooood, but ummmm.. she's a fish.

What's up with the fish rage?

Maybe it's confusion on the definition of a "fish storm" that is the root cause. A "fish storm" is a storm that does not make landfall. Brushing Bermuda, or even the CONUS doesn't count.
its a high seas storm get with the program are you trying to be a trouble maker here
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All that dry sinking air in the GOM should keep the lid on 96L. I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes deactivated soon.
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Quoting aprinz1979:
I don't know which word gets people angrier here........FISH or WEST?


It's a west-moving fish storm, haha.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


================================================= =======

Huh? The EURO sends 96L into Florida/Louisiana as a significant hurricane. Additionally, its not likely to get pushed into Mexico. The models all disagree, some send it to Texas, others to Mexico, and others to Florida.

As for the dry air, anybody can tell you the same thing I did in post #946.


That's scary lookin'.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
I don't know which word gets people angrier here........FISH or WEST?
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Quoting FLdewey:
It's not just Taz.

Bluestorm5 called me an idiot, taz poofed me and Orca freaked the heck out and called me some Canadian slur when I suggested Katia would be a fish.

I are no science dooood, but ummmm.. she's a fish.

What's up with the fish rage?

Maybe it's confusion on the definition of a "fish storm" that is the root cause. A "fish storm" is a storm that does not make landfall. Brushing Bermuda, or even the CONUS doesn't count.


You have haters Dewey, lol.
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Quoting justalurker:
all aboard, welcome to the choo choo ride.



stop this train...I wanna get off
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Quoting Thrawst:


Are those your projected points ?? If so, I've lost a lot of respect for you pointing a potential major hurricane about 120 miles or so to my east at your last point :P


No, I put up that text in red to avoid confusion, lol. Those little points represent where, if the storm is south of it, then it is more likely to impact the USA. If the storm is north of them, then it is more likely to recurve. This doesn't apply to every storm of course.
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Quoting Jasonsapology:

In 34 days I have seen many great and some not so great posts, as well as those that start screaming troll the second someone disagrees with a regular on this blog.

Taz calls a lot of people out and poofs more people than anyone. He wants to be accepted as an "expert" on this blog, but he seems to be a troll in disguise to me. He is the first to call anyone out with their own opinion of a fish storm. I was simply asking him several times why a fish storm is bad and he get's so defensive over that term?


You have WUmail.
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Aint no way that this low pressure area near the Lesser Antillies is gonna develop with wind shear from Katia down there, that system is hopeless
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


================================================= =======

Huh? The EURO sends 96L into Florida/Louisiana as a significant hurricane. Additionally, its not likely to get pushed into Mexico. The models all disagree, some send it to Texas, others to Mexico, and others to Florida.

As for the dry air, anybody can tell you the same thing I did in post #946.




TropicalAnalystwx13 even if it dos go out too sea it stil wont be call a fish storm be come it has hit land
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5093 Comments: 115939
1066. Thrawst
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
img src="http://i.imgur.com/3TbOW.gif" style="max-width: 501px; width: 500px; "


Are those your projected points ?? If so, I've lost a lot of respect for you pointing a potential major hurricane about 120 miles or so to my east at your last point :P
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1064. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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all aboard, welcome to the choo choo ride.

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Local TV met (head meteorologist) said that 96L was a non-issue for the U.S. because it will be moving into Mexico. Hummm - time will tell.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


================================================= =======

Huh? The EURO sends 96L into Florida/Louisiana as a significant hurricane. Additionally, its not likely to get pushed into Mexico. The models all disagree, some send it to Texas, others to Mexico, and others to Florida.

As for the dry air, anybody can tell you the same thing I did in post #946.
I've been saying Maria would be the "sleeper" hopefully I'm wrong, but I got a feeling I'm not.
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Katia is still trying to get her act together...time runnin out for that storm
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================================================= =======
Quoting StormHype:


That's your post also, so point is moot. Way too much dry air pushing in from the north on this for now to see it making up to the NE GOM as a TS. It's likely going to get pushed into MX as a blob as all models sans the Euro are showing.


Huh? The EURO sends 96L into Florida/Louisiana as a significant hurricane. Additionally, its not likely to get pushed into Mexico. The models all disagree, some send it to Texas, others to Mexico, and others to Florida.

As for the dry air, anybody can tell you the same thing I did in post #946.
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1055. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
012L/H/K/C3
MARK
28.26N/67.76W
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Where do you think is the more likely path of invest 96L?
I'm thinking that it'll probably mimic the path depicted in the 12z ECMWF. The deep-layer trough that should be approaching the region in a few days looks like it'll be amplified enough to bring it northwards.
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Tazmanian i never said it was going out to sea, i was saying another storm for us to HOPE and WISH it was going out to sea.
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Louisiana, please watch the GOM carefully this week! Invest 96 could turn ugly very quickly and if the center forms far enough south it could have all week to develop!

Everyone South of Brownsville and east of the Sabine Pass needs to watch this one.
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Quoting Jasonsapology:

So Taz, why is a fish storm bad? Why are you so happy that it might hit PR? You seem to ignore any question that calls you out. So why is a fish storm bad?


You seem quite inquisitive for a 34 day old member?

Name seems to ring a bell though...
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1050. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
GOM/BOC
96L/INV/XX
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Hello Bloggers, I tried driving to Bastrop Tx. today HWY 21 was closed so I turned around and went thru Austin and drove on 71. I picked up a young lady who is like my third daughter and she is staying with us until Bastrop is livable again, she lost everything so I took her out to get School supplies and clothes. I have known her for all of her 15 years and it made me feel good to do this. I know of 8 to 10 families who have lost their homes. I do know they found 2 people dead in Bastrop fire. I think alot of people will come to Bastrop's rescue because there are so many great people out there. Less smokey here today and we will be OK as long as we pull together and help each other, have a great day. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers, Sincerely Dennis.
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1048. DFWjc
Quoting FLdewey:


They have the internet on computers now?


yeah, you can go to www.yoursofunny.omg.lol.... :)
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


*Ahem*

Post #946.


That's your post also, so point is moot. Way too much dry air pushing in from the north on this for now to see it making up to the NE GOM as a TS. It's likely going to get pushed into MX as a blob as all models sans the Euro are showing.
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Quoting Levi32:
The 18z GFS is still near and north of Puerto Rico with TD 14, as it should be.
Quoting Levi32:
The 18z GFS is still near and north of Puerto Rico with TD 14, as it should be.



I hope that TD14 take a Marilyn type of track, even that we recoved in record time for Irene is not safe to gamble with Mother Nature.
Member Since: July 29, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 90
Might be a good analog for 96L. At least this is what the ECMWF thinks.

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Quoting FLdewey:


They have the internet on computers now?


Oh boy...lol.
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Quoting Levi32:
The 18z GFS is still near and north of Puerto Rico with TD 14, as it should be.
That's a scary thought my friend
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
One thing to note about 96L is that it is located in the Bay of Campeche, a region known for promoting cyclonic curvature...and thus assisting in the formation of closed surface circulation.
Where do you think is the more likely path of invest 96L?
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Quoting StormHype:


Get back into your cage while I take a break then.



lol lol
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5093 Comments: 115939
Quoting StormHype:


Give me a break... have you even checked the water vapor imagery?



*Ahem*

Post #946.
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Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5726
Quoting StormHype:


Give me a break... have you even checked the water vapor imagery?



I do have to say the strength of these early season troughs have been amazing to me...storms can barely make it into the Caribbean...And this last front that just came through could possibly bring upper 40s to Louisiana tonight...that is amazing for early September...unless it is home-brewed storms i still say the season is just about done for the Western Gulf because there seems to be no way a wave coming from Africa can make it all the way across
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One thing to note about 96L is that it is located in the Bay of Campeche, a region known for promoting cyclonic curvature...and thus assisting in the formation of closed surface circulation.
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Quoting StormHype:


Give me a break... have you even checked the water vapor imagery?




i think you need a break lol
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5093 Comments: 115939
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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