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 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


Someone answered you already
Member Since: October 5, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 269
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
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TS Nate

Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery


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Quoting FLdewey:
The real question is if a big storm were to strike Houston, would all of the Katrina evacuees head back to NOLA?


The computer models would be in good agreement that they would, so PLEASE stop making comments like that. LOL
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I think Canes are really scared of Rick Scott,,so those over dere should be safe till the next election
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Quoting FLdewey:


Rick Perry doesn't believe is science, soooo maybe the hurricane won't exist for him.


He will pray it away...
Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10034
428. Caner
Quoting FLdewey:
The real question is if a big storm were to strike Houston, would all of the Katrina evacuees head back to NOLA?


The big question would be whether Louisiana should deploy its national guard to NOLA or the TX/LA border.

;^p
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Live webcam on the Delware River, at Easton PA Link


Thanks. I like that 69News - We give it to you both ways... Interesting slogan for a news station.
Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10034

Quoting FLdewey:
The real question is if a big storm were to strike Houston, would all of the Katrina evacuees head back to NOLA?
foshizza!
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Quoting CaribBoy:


thank you for the links :)


No problem - look here too:
http://www.torro.org.uk/
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Yosemite Sam comes to mind.

LoL
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@goldndomer
Chris Ungureit Jr
"@TWCBreaking: The power of water in Lycoming County, PA on State Route 973. twitpic.com/6hw5ku" #Susquehanna #flooding #pawx #Lee

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Quoting twincomanche:
Maybe the guy from Aero Union can sit next to the guy from Gibson Guitar for the big speech tonight.
Great (sad) article TwinC... You'd think TX could contract directly with Aero and not go thru the Forest Service at all?!
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As well as that, there is our tornado website for the UK: http://www.torro.org.uk/site/index.php

On average the United Kingdom experiences 35-40 tornadoes a year, but this average will fluctuate, particularly with the improved communications and a growing network of TORRO reporters. In 2004 there were 70 tornadoes, 2005 63 tornadoes and 2006 ~49 tornadoes.

Quicktime file of tornadoes from 2004.
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414. Caner
Quoting FLdewey:


Rick Perry doesn't believe is science, soooo maybe the hurricane won;t exist for him.


Since when are hurricanes a product of 'science?'

I was under the impression they were around long before our feeble attempts to establish such a concept even occurred to us.
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Quoting IpswichWeatherCenter:


We get a lot of tornadoes, they just tend to be rather weak and rubbish. I've seen a few, they tend to just hit fields.

For example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_London_tornado
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_Birmingham_torn ado
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Tornado_of_10 91
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Malvern_Tornad o_of_1761


thank you for the links :)
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5929
Quoting CaribBoy:


Tornados in the UK? I didn't know they were getting tornados.. and even severe t-storms


We get a lot of tornadoes, they just tend to be rather weak and rubbish. I've seen a few, they tend to just hit fields.

For example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_London_tornado
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_Birmingham_torn ado
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Tornado_of_10 91
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Malvern_Tornad o_of_1761
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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

It seems the only aid TX is getting is from other Texans. I realize we're not the only state having disasters, but really so much could be done to stop the devastation if they'd let these planes fly.
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Quoting hydrus:


is that why i can't link anywhere from this site?
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Quoting hydrus:
NAM is interesting..Link


It is showing a low moving over South Texas, that is what catches my eye. I was going to comment earlier that the Central US water vapor loop shows the "Texas High" as it is called is over Western Mexico at present and moisture is wrapping around the top of it into Texas and the NW Gulf... Link

It looks to me like the configuration over Texas is in a state of change. Maybe some day we will get a little relief!
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405. Caner
Quoting thesituation:
I live in houston and I am wondering if I should start putting my shutters up because of Nate?


Too early, but you should continue to watch it.
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Quoting thesituation:
I live in houston and I am wondering if I should start putting my shutters up because of Nate?


ask Grandpato4.
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Quoting angiest:


Or they are stuck in a time-warp. ;) I'm familiar with Agnes (one of my favorites for strange storms, she became a tropical storm whilst moving west to east across the Yucatan), and I know that PA was one of the places her remnants hit hard. If showing the severity of the flooding today was what they meant, there was a better way to say it.


Er ya. Especially since a good portion of the adult population wasn't even born when Agnes did her thing. It WAS nearly 40 years ago.... Using past weather examples to warn people during a real time emergency situation and to tell them where they should evacuate from? That's a wee bit... irresponsible?

A map of shaded counties regions would probably be more helpful because I'm sure a lot of people are like, "wth is Agnes"?
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Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20493
Has there ever been a time where we a storm hitting one of the gulf states at the same time that another storm is hitting the east coast?
Member Since: January 19, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 69
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Boy if God only knows how bad Texas needs this storm to come towards them. Please answer my prayers for the sake of Texans.

Anybody that thinks gov Perry got special pull with the Almighty . . .
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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

well that figures
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Quoting quakeman55:

I'm thinking that especially if it degenerates (temporarily) into an open wave, Maria will find itself in the middle of the Caribbean, then potentially in the GOMEX as a hurricane...we've seen it happen before...
Soooooo, if Marie sneaks into the GOM whilest Nate is still spinning in their?
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394. Caner
Quoting hydrus:
NAM is interesting..Link


The NAM is showing the HP ridge over Tex/Mex staying in place, which has already failed.

The HP has been displaced to the SW and new HP is building in over north Texas.

Both of those scenarios were accurately reflected in the GFS run, so im favoring it at the moment.

Link
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worried the nate could really blow up this wkend
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What happens to the forcasted path of Nate should it get stronger?
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Quoting FLdewey:


The UK has the highest rate of tornadoes per sq km in the world.

Allo Gov'na

I wonder if they still sound like freight trains over there.


Trams.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting caribbeantracker01:
in the island of grenada it is very hot down here and i could certainly do with the rain


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..)
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5929
The Wyoming Valley is now safe...Jim Cantore is coming!

Link
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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.