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 TampaSpin:


NOPE and a further South and West it should be trending.
tampa do you see convection increasing in its south quadrant soon Maria?
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Quoting skook:
Mandatory evacuations are underway in Luzerne County for those areas affected by Hurricane Agnes.

Emergency management officials have moved up the evacuation times by four hours. Residents must now be out of their homes by 4 p.m. Thursday.

Nearly 65,000 residents are expected to be evacuated.

Officials said the new crest for the Susquehanna River is expected to be a 40.7 feet at Wilkes-Barre.
Link
Whoa! Hey do you know how bad the flooding is in Reading, PA? I use to go to the Penn State Berks Campus, very hilly in that area.
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Quoting dogsgomoo:


Uh... We have (Six Flags) White Water. That counts right?


Sure only 6 hours away and easy to visit on the weekends! Luckily I have friends in Atlanta. The middle to Northern half of Atlanta is pretty nice except for the Traffic! I drove in Madrid, Spain for 3.5 years and I never thought I'd see worse traffic until I drove in Atlanta for the first time, wow, too many people and too few roads!
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Quoting wxobsvps:
186



This particular model is a welcoming sight.

But, in the run up to the possibility of Nate at least skirting the Texas Coast, the winds will pick up in the middle of the state adding dangerous conditions to the areas already on fire.

Unless we get a good solid hit from Nate, a glancing blow like this model indicates could do more harm than good.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
That doesn't look nice, atall



NOPE and a further South and West it should be trending.
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Quoting CaneHunter031472:
The GFS has Nate now right off the coast of Texas at 180hrs. Texas sure needs the Rain while us in Mississippi Gulf Coast need to get a little drier and continue enjoying this cool weather. Texas be careful for what you have wished for tho, although I rather have a hurricane than fire.


In that run Nate looks healthy enough to give maybe the eastern 2/3rds of SE Texas a decent show at rain. Lee caused rain in about the eastern 1/3rd of the area.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
That doesn't look nice, atall

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Quoting Patrap:
I loathe Summer here,,but the last 2.5 days behind Lee makes it worth it.

Was wunderful day yesterday to walk Nola Roux round the Golf Course @ Audubon Park


Glad to hear you've gotten a cool down too.

It would be nice if the cool weather had come with El Nino and hopes for TX rain. Sigh.....
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Quoting skook:
Mandatory evacuations are underway in Luzerne County for those areas affected by Hurricane Agnes.

Emergency management officials have moved up the evacuation times by four hours. Residents must now be out of their homes by 4 p.m. Thursday.

Nearly 65,000 residents are expected to be evacuated.

Officials said the new crest for the Susquehanna River is expected to be a 40.7 feet at Wilkes-Barre.
Link


Whaaaa?
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting juniort:
Why is Barbados not in the watch area for Maria?
the south quadrant is very dry of maria!
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Quoting scooster67:
Forgot to mension that we have a couple quality football teams up this way too :)


Way off topic, but how many will be following the US rugby team in the Rugby World Cup? I bet most Americans don't even know about it. US are first time qualifiers and play Ireland on Sunday. They'll just be hoping to keep the score respectable. Then they play Russia next Thursday. First time Russia have qualified too, and the best chance of a US win.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Models are out to lunch, ignoring all of em

Yeah I've quit even wishing anymore....I'm just resigned to my (dry) fate!!!
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Quoting wxobsvps:
Landfall @ 204...just east of TX/LA border


Almost, but not quite, entirely unlike Audrey.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
321. skook
Mandatory evacuations are underway in Luzerne County for those areas affected by Hurricane Agnes.

Emergency management officials have moved up the evacuation times by four hours. Residents must now be out of their homes by 4 p.m. Thursday.

Nearly 65,000 residents are expected to be evacuated.

Officials said the new crest for the Susquehanna River is expected to be a 40.7 feet at Wilkes-Barre.
Link
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Models are out to lunch, ignoring all of em
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting wxobsvps:
Landfall @ 204...just east of TX/LA border
Did the Ridge break down, I sure hope so, die Death Ridge Die!
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Why is Barbados not in the watch area for Maria?
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Quoting 69Viking:


LOL, yeah because they have beautiful sugar white beaches in Atlanta too!


Uh... We have (Six Flags) White Water. That counts right?
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The GFS has Nate now right off the coast of Texas at 180hrs. Texas sure needs the Rain while us in Mississippi Gulf Coast need to get a little drier and continue enjoying this cool weather. Texas be careful for what you have wished for tho, although I rather have a hurricane than fire.
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314. skook
Live News from Eastern PA Link

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Quoting angiest:


Just to bust our bubbles, but GFS once showed the storm that became Irene hitting Houston. Let's see two runs.

Wow just had a flashback....her name was RITA!!!LOL
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Quoting Dakster:


Do yourself a favor and go to the NE in January/February before you make that decision. I want to move north, but shoveling ten foot of snow just to get out of my driveway isn't on my agenda either.

And yes, the NE has four seasons with varied temps and colors. They are Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Something I have yet to experience fully. I am very familiar with our one season of Summer.


I have lived in Northern Va for several winters and loved it, but, I realize the NE/New England receives alot more snow and is significantly colder.
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Quoting Dakster:


Do yourself a favor and go to the NE in January/February before you make that decision. I want to move north, but shoveling ten foot of snow just to get out of my driveway isn't on my agenda either.

And yes, the NE has four seasons with varied temps and colors. They are Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Something I have yet to experience fully. I am very familiar with our one season of Summer.


No, we have two seasons up north here. Winter, and Construction.
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Quoting wxobsvps:
162


This is next Thursday??? still sitting?
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wow every time i look at the computer models for nate ...it is big changes
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Quoting PCBBum:



Shhhhhhh!!!!!! This place is terrible, no one wants to live here, every one i talk yo wants to leave this small town and move to Atlanta. Now THATS where you need to GO.


LOL, yeah because they have beautiful sugar white beaches in Atlanta too!
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Quoting Patrap:
Maria has lost her skirt seems

Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery



She is going into the Caribbean where she will then redevelop .........just got that gut feeling!
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Quoting Gearsts:
A hit on PR? :(
Yes, this is probably another direct hit to Puerto Rico, but luckily very weak... thanks goodness.
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Definitely some rotation N.E. of Nate..
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Boy if God only knows how bad Texas needs this storm to come towards them. Please answer my prayers for the sake of Texans.

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Quoting xtremeweathertracker:
Texas welcomes you Nate!!!



Just to bust our bubbles, but GFS once showed the storm that became Irene hitting Houston. Let's see two runs.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
174HR:



Given this pattern... I don't believe TX will get get it. In matter fact it would be the worst side to be on.
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I've learned over the last couple years. If the GFS has you in her bullseye at 5 days out...it's not going there. (with exception <-- my disclaimer)
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Quoting 69Viking:


Just move to the Emerald Coast on the FL Panhandle, we still get 4 seasons and summer only runs from Mid May through Mid September! Temp was 59 this morning when I went to work, Fall is in the air! You're still in FL here and there is a lot less traffic! Plenty of jobs too with the Military bases here!



Shhhhhhh!!!!!! This place is terrible, no one wants to live here, every one i talk yo wants to leave this small town and move to Atlanta. Now THATS where you need to GO.
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Quoting scooster67:
Ther are thousands of nice 5+ acre plots of land up here in North Florida. Come on over :)

We get all 4 season's and no snow to shovel.
Forgot to mension that we have a couple quality football teams up this way too :)
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Maria has lost her skirt seems

Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127814
Texas welcomes you Nate!!!

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The Above is Lower Level Steering......MARIA should track nearly due West for now while Nate South some!
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Quoting Patrap:
..the 50's are like Heaven in Sept,,take'um anyway you can.


We actually tied a record low in Houston yesterday. And our afternoon highs are roughly average.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Please forgive my ignorance....but if Nate were to move further north would it just cause us more wind and fire or could we get a chance of rain.
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I wonder what would happen if Nate & Maria collided over Florida. Has something like that ever happened? Is it even a possibility?
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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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