1-in-100 year rains cause extreme flooding in NY, PA; Nate, Maria, and Katia

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:37 PM GMT on September 08, 2011

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An extreme rainfall event unprecedented in recorded history has hit the Binghamton, New York area, where 7.49" fell yesterday. This is the second year in a row Binghamton has recorded a 1-in-100 year rain event; their previous all-time record was set last September, when 4.68" fell on Sep 30 - Oct. 1, 2010. Records go back to 1890 in the city. The skies have now cleared in Binghamton, with this morning's rain bringing the city's total rainfall for the 40-hour event to 9.02". However, another large region of rain lies just to the south in Pennsylvania, and all of the rivers in the surrounding region are in major or record flood. The Susquehanna River at Binghamton is at 25.18', its highest level since records began in 1847, and is expected to overtop the flood walls protecting the city this afternoon. In Hershey, Pennsylvania, Swatara Creek is 18' over flood stage, and more than 8' above its record flood crest. Widespread flash flooding is occurring across the entire area, and over 125,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.


Figure 1. Radar-observed rainfall from the Binghamton, NY radar.


Figure 2. The Susquehanna River at Binghamton is at its highest flood height on record this morning (25 feet.) Records at this gauge go back to 1847. Image credit: NOAA/AHPS.


Figure 3. In Hershey, Pennsylvania, Swatara Creek is 18' over flood stage, and more than 8' above its record flood crest. Records at this gage go back to 1930. Image credit: NOAA/AHPS.

The extreme rains are due the the remains of Tropical Storm Lee interacting with a stationary front draped along the Eastern U.S. Adding to the potent moisture mix last night was a stream of tropical moisture associated with Hurricane Katia that collided with the stationary front. You don't often see a major city break its all-time 24-hour precipitation record by a 60% margin, according to wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, and he can't recall ever seeing it happen before. It's worth noting that the Susquehanna River Binghamton stream gage, which has been in operation since 1847, is due to be shut off in 3 weeks due to budget cuts. Here's the note at the USGS web site:

NOTICE (03/23/2011)--Data collection at this streamgage may be discontinued after October 1, 2011 due to funding reductions from partner agencies. Although historic data will remain accessible, no new data will be collected unless one or more new funding partners are found. Users who are willing to contribute funding to continue operation of this streamgage should contact Rob Breault or Ward Freeman of the USGS New York Water Science Center at 518-285-5658 or dc_ny@usgs.gov.

Tropical Storm Nate
Tropical Storm Nate formed in the southern Gulf of Mexico yesterday afternoon after the Hurricane Hunters found a well-defined surface circulation and 45 mph surface winds. Nate is the 14th named storm this year, and comes three days before the climatological half-way point of the Atlantic hurricane season, September 10. A typical hurricane season has just 10 - 11 named storms, so we've already had 35% more than a whole season's worth of storms before reaching the season's half-way point. At this rate, 2011 will see 28 named storms, equaling the all-time record set in 2005. Nate's formation date of September 7 puts 2011 in 2nd place for earliest date of arrival of the season's 14th storm. Only 2005 had an earlier formation date of the season's 14th named storm (September 6, when Hurricane Nate got named.) Third place is now held jointly by 1936 and 1933, which got their 14th storm of the season on September 10.

Latest visible satellite loops show that Nate's low-level center is exposed to view, due to northeasterly upper-level winds that are creating a moderate 10 knots of wind shear. This shear is keeping all of Nate's heavy thunderstorms pushed to the south side of the center. Sustained winds at Buoy 42055, about 100 miles to the northwest of the suspected center of Nate, were north at 31 mph at 6:50 am CDT this morning. We haven't had a hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm since yesterday afternoon, and the next plane is due to arrive near 2 pm this afternoon. Water vapor satellite loops show that here is a large area of very dry air from Texas to the north of Nate, and this dry air is probably interfering with the storm's development.

Up until last night's 8 pm EDT runs of the computer models, the models were in general agreement that Nate would meander in the Bay of Campeche for several days, until a ridge of high pressure built in to the north of the storm, forcing it westwards to a landfall in Mexico. However, the latest 2 am EDT run by the GFS model predicts that Nate may gain enough latitude to escape being forced westwards by the ridge, and instead move northwards to make a landfall along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The GFDL, which uses the GFS for its initial conditions, is also on board with this idea, as is the HWRF model, to a lesser degree. The 2 am EDT run of the NOGAPS model did not go along with this idea, though. We will have to wait until the NOAA jet makes its first mission to sample the steering currents in the Gulf of Mexico to get a better idea on how probable this northern path might be; their first flight will be tonight, and the data will make it into the 8 pm models runs that will be available first thing Friday morning. As far as intensity goes, the very dry air to Nate's north should begin being less of a problem for it by Friday, when the upper level winds shift more to blow from the southeast, and the shear drops to the low range, 5 - 10 knots. Since the storm is moving very slowly, it will upwell cooler waters from the depths that will slow intensification, though. The earliest Nate would become a hurricane is probably on Saturday.


Figure 2. GOES-13 image of Hurricane Katia, Tropical Storm Maria, and Tropical Storm Nate taken at 8 am EDT September 8, 2011. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Tropical Storm Maria
Tropical Storm Maria is midway between the Northern Lesser Antilles Islands the coast of Africa, and due to arrive in the Northern Lesser Antilles late Friday night or Saturday morning. Satellite loops show that Maria has been ripped up pretty badly by the 10 - 20 knots of wind shear affecting it, with the low-level center exposed to view, and a few disorganized clumps of heavy thunderstorms lying to the west and northeast of the center. Water vapor satellite images show that Maria is embedded in a very moist environment. Ocean temperatures are near 28.5°C, which is 2°C above the 26.5°C threshold usually needed to sustain a tropical storm. Maria passed just south of Buoy 41041 this morning, and top sustained winds during passage were 42 mph, gusting to 56 mph. Maria will pass close to buoy 41040 near 8pm EDT tonight.

With wind shear predicted to continue in the moderate range for the next five days, and the storm struggling to maintain its circulation, strengthening of Maria to a hurricane before it reaches the Lesser Antilles seems unlikely at this time. None of the intensity models are calling for Maria to reach hurricane strength until well after the storm passes Puerto Rico. However, Mike Ventrice, a meteorology Ph.D. student at the University of Albany, pointed out to me yesterday that a atmospheric disturbance known as a Convectively-Coupled Kelvin Wave (CCKW) is passing through the Lesser Antilles Islands today, and is headed eastwards towards Maria at 25 mph. Maria will encounter this CCKW Thursday night or Friday morning. There is a great deal of upward-moving air in the vicinity of a CCKW, and will help strengthen the updrafts in Maria's thunderstorms, potentially intensifying the storm. None of our models are detailed enough to "see" CCKWs", so we may see more intensification of the storm than the models are calling for. Given the disorganized state Maria is currently in, though, the extra boost in upward motion provided by the CCKW may not make of a difference to the storm.

The track forecasts for Maria from the various models agree that the storm will affect the Northern Lesser Antilles Islands, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. After it passes the Lesser Antilles, Maria has the usual amount of high uncertainty in its 5 - 7 day track forecast. The models are split on how strong the steering influence a trough of low pressure along the U.S. East Coast will have. The UKMET model prefers a more southerly track for Maria through the Turk and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas towards the U.S. East Coast, while the other models predict a more northwesterly track, with a potential threat to Bermuda. Climatology favors a track that would miss the U.S., with Dr. Bob Hart's track history pages suggesting that Maria has a 14% chance of hitting Canada, 5% chance of hitting Bermuda, and an 18% chance of hitting North Carolina.

Hurricane Katia
Hurricane Katia has brought a few rain showers and some gusty winds of 20 - 30 mph to Bermuda last night and this morning, but is not going to bring hazardous weather to the island as the storm makes it swing around Bermuda today and tomorrow. Latest satellite loops show that Katia is a shadow of its former Category 4 self, as dry air has eaten into the southwest side of the storm into the eye. 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 a multi-day period of high surf leading to beach erosion and dangerous rip currents.

I'll have an update this afternoon.

Jeff Masters

Bryn Athyn, PA (HighRdGeo)
Fetters Mill 9-8-11 morning
Bryn Athyn, PA

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Quoting fire635:


I will be reporting you if this continues,,, you cannot continue giving people false security. You are NOT a seer of the future. Things are never 100% in weather. At best I would tell this person in Houston to watch it like EVERYBODY else in the gulf states need to. WAY too early to tell where Nate will be going. Hold off on the shutters for now, but keep your eyes open
.

I agree. The use of absolutes in forecasting is just a prescription for trouble.
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485. SLU
Quoting FLdewey:


My prays for Texas.



No seriously... they're in the 180 degree cone of questionability.


Really sad for Texas how the models jumped from Mexico to Louisiana and Mississippi while totally ignoring Texas like it doesn't exist.
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484. 7544
cmc shifts a little west on the new run ?
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Hi,

At what time is the Recon mission to maria?
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Quoting nash28:


Oh god. Please no politics on the board. Both parties suck. It's like a bowl of excrement looking in the mirror at itself.

Back to the weather...


Nash that may not be weather related but it's the best and most truthful post I've seen on the blog all day!
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Quoting sporteguy03:

This should help you, it has zero to do with ocean currents, more so the steering currents in the atmosphere.
Link


Very interesting article. That answered my question. Thank you very much for the link.
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Quoting basti11:




no mam no need to you are very SAFE from nate going into MEXICO...


I will be reporting you if this continues,,, you cannot continue giving people false security. You are NOT a seer of the future. Things are never 100% in weather. At best I would tell this person in Houston to watch it like EVERYBODY else in the gulf states need to. WAY too early to tell where Nate will be going. Hold off on the shutters for now, but keep your eyes open
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Currently Active Tropical Cyclones
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476. JLPR2
Maria at: 13.2N 51.5W

The tropical storm entered an area of higher TCHP but with it's fast movement it wont matter.
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Quoting jpsb:
Do you have a link for that (Perry does not believe in science). Tia.


Oh god. Please no politics on the board. Both parties suck. It's like a bowl of excrement looking in the mirror at itself.

Back to the weather...
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Quoting FLdewey:


LOL... Literally choked on my drink on that one. Thanks for the laugh.



Still not too much to go on here.


Well wasn't really meaning to be funny. The people in Texas need some MAJOR relief soon. Just being ironic. I really hope they get a change in weather and soon.
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470. Caner
Quoting wxobsvps:


SW?


Currently stalled, rocking back and forth to the NW\SE while stuck in a trough of Office Chair.
Member Since: June 27, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 179
Quoting Dakster:


Thanks. I like that 69News - We give it to you both ways... Interesting slogan for a news station.
born and raised in easton Pa!!! Used to swim at eddyside park on the river could swim in the pool or the river... that is high!!!!
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Flash Flood Guidances over the northeast have fallen below 1 inch for a 24 hour time period... basically any rain will cause flash flooding
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467. jpsb
Quoting muddertracker:

he doesn't care about education or teachers



doubledigression?
Since you are asserting that as a fact, I'd like to hear some conclusive evidence to support your assertion.
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1276
Quoting Patrap:
Some folks really have some serious social issues that manifest here,and that reflects directly on their character.

Literally.



Most who cackle about calamity,,most likely have never experienced in their lives directly.

Agreed!
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Quoting Neapolitan:

If Aero Union had complied more with minimum safety standards, they would have maintained their contract. But instead, the company's owners found extra profit more important than saving lives, the USFS had no choice but to cancel. Article


Kinda takes the wind outta the Admin on its demise.

But considering who made the post, well, u know.
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Quoting junie1:
well i hope its not a Marilyn track that would suck marilyn killed us here in stthomas so i pray its not that bad

I remember that.
M. was a terrible hurricane.
Stay Safe!
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For those with Facebook. The falls right near Shepard Niles between Montour & Watkins
@wxdude
Nick Walker
Check out this #flooding video from Watkins Glen, NY facebook.com/photo.php?v=24… fb.me/1ihwJ5OOG
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461. DFWjc
Quoting jpsb:


and back to talking about Hurricanes, Tropical Storms and invest, please....
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Quoting twincomanche:
In case any of you in Texas want another thing to be mad at the Federal government about read this. Just another example of something too important to leave to the private sector.
Link

If Aero Union had complied with minimum safety standards, they would have maintained their contract. But instead, the company's owners found extra profit more important than saving lives, so the USFS had no choice but to cancel. Article
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Quoting Caner:


Too early, but you should continue to watch it.


This is much better advice than Basti11's!
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12z Experimental FIM draws Nate slightly east, then NNW through 60 hrs.
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454. skook


Flood gates were installed on both sides of the Market Street Bridge linking Wilkes-Barre and Kingston.

Edward Lewis/The Times Leader
Link
Member Since: August 10, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 369
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Quoting pottery:

Hi to you, and CaribbeanTracker...
94F in Trini right now and rising.
Should peak at about 2:30pm.
Still real Hot and Humidity is 56% right now.
Some cloud around but no rain.
Strange Wet Season for true.
well i hope its not a Marilyn track that would suck marilyn killed us here in stthomas so i pray its not that bad
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Quoting aprinz1979:


Someone answered you already


If they did, I missed it. I had to go give an exam. It must have been a while after I asked it. Sorry.

Thank you Sportguy. I'm reading it now :)
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Correct me if I am wrong but the fact the GFS takes her close to the east coast might mean something because normally the GFS is the most extreme as far as showing recurvature too early
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How strong do you think Nate will become.
How many of you think it will head the
way that the GFS says? Just curious.
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445. Caner
Quoting FLdewey:


I thought meteorology was a science, but maybe it's been transferred to the school of business for budget reasons.


I was unaware meteorologists manufactured hurricanes.

Hurricanes are no more a 'science' or a product of 'science' than my foot.

Both are a force of nature, capable of being observed by man. One with greater detail than the other.

Neither can be created by 'science', and neither of their origins are fully understood by scientists.

They are equally at a loss to fully predict the path either might take at any given moment, although they can observe trends with great detail.
Member Since: June 27, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 179
444. txjac
When I went outside to walk the dog the smoke was over WSW Houston, everything was grey and it smelled like everyone in the neighborhood was burning their fireplaces.

When I got to work the smoke was in the office and the same type of smell.

Just was outside, seems if the winds are picking up too
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Quoting JNCali:

foshizza!
.

Does foshizza mean for sure, or is it a type of beer or something?
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Quoting CaribBoy:


It's very hot and humid here as well. After 2 weeks without a drop, we finally got 3inches of rains yesterday afternoon and last night. Trees are happy now! Now regarding MARIA, we are following her closely... I have the feeling she can do something insane near the Central/N Lesser Antilles/PR & VI just like Marilyn did in 1995 (a NNW track impacting most islands while gathering strenght..)

Hi to you, and CaribbeanTracker...
94F in Trini right now and rising.
Should peak at about 2:30pm.
Still real Hot and Humidity is 56% right now.
Some cloud around but no rain.
Strange Wet Season for true.
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GOM RGB

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Quoting BioWeather:
I asked this question this morning but didn't get any answer. Maybe someone on the blog right now could answer (I hope). My question is what makes some storms move at a faster forward pace and some just crawl along? I understand that they slow down before making a turn but why would a storm proceed 23 mph into a head wind like Maria is doing? Is it the ocean currents? I'm just trying to understand. TIA

This should help you, it has zero to do with ocean currents, more so the steering currents in the atmosphere.
Link
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Quoting Patrap:
Some folks really have some serious social issues that manifest here,and that reflects directly on their character.

Literally.



Most who cackle about calamity,,most likely have never experienced in their lives directly.


Amen.
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FNMOC and GFS both show Maria wandering nicely off the SE Coast.

Just need her to slow down a bit when she gets close.
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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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