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 wxobsvps:


To make such a northward jump, the weakeness must be pretty strong
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Quoting Gearsts:
A hit on PR? :(


Still depicting it... but quit a direct hit.
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Quoting MoltenIce:
There's Maria's circulation, completely exposed from the main convection. It looks like an open wave IMO.



An open wave wouldn't have a circulation, exposed or otherwise...
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TS Nate Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery Loop
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128287
According to the GFS 12Z, MARIA could just HIT most of the lesser antilles..
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NATE
Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128287
229. HCW
Zooomed in a little more and a cleaner image

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Quoting WxLogic:
@72HR 12Z GFS:



So far is looking similar to the 06Z run.
A hit on PR? :(
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Looks like the shear is dropping ahead of MARIA.
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Quoting Dakster:


I envy you... Being able to leave... This year has been exceptionally hot and humid. I thought I was imagining things, until I realize we were breaking heat records.

And don't even get me started on the traffic.


I totally agree, Central Florida is nearly as bad and the heat has been unbearable this year. I plan on relocating to the NE when I finish college. Will likely see more interesting weather (and varied) there anyhow.
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can someone help me understand something please? Could Maria get pulled westward if nate goes westward? Or is it the other way around where a further North and east Nate means a deeper trough which would recruve maria further east of the U.S. coast? thanks!
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Quoting jadedANDcynical:
Dear Nate,

Greetings from Texas!

As you may or may not know, we have plenty to offer a storm such as yourself:

1) A BIG Texas welcome
2) Land, lots of land. Under Starry skies above.
3) Plenty of warmth
4) An actual NEED for what you offer

In short, we the people of Texas, humbly request your presence at this time and would gladly make you welcome for as long as you care to stay.

Sincerely,
The citizens of Texas


Dear Texas,

My Brother DON went to visit you earlier this year and I haven't heard from him since. I am a little apprehensive about visiting your state. But I will keep it under consideration should Mexico not work out.

Sincerely,

Nate
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@72HR 12Z GFS:



So far is looking similar to the 06Z run.
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GFS 6z frames loading are interesting..

Nate,,son of Lee
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128287
221. 7544
gfs taking nate north in th gom hmmmmm
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There's Maria's circulation, completely exposed from the main convection. It looks like an open wave IMO.

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I have to say, that looking at visible the cloud tops don't look to be being sheared to the point of being an issue preventing strengthening. The absence of outflow boundaries indicates the dry air isnt causing collapsing thunderstorms either. These combined are likely equally to blame for Nate's sluggishness. Couple that with elongated weak upper level divergence, and I think you have a recipe for a floundering tropical storm. Once the divergence becomes more symmetric and the wind shear shifts to a southerly component like the models suggest, I think we'll see a slow organizational trend. If he manages to drift NE at all, I think the gulf coast solution is viable. On the other hand, with the GFS ensembles saying gulf coast for days, we shouldn't be shocked when one run of the operational swings that way. Could easily swing westward and the track is heavily dependant on exactly how far NE nate can make it in the next ~72 hours
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Dear Nate,

Greetings from Texas!

As you may or may not know, we have plenty to offer a storm such as yourself:

1) A BIG Texas welcome
2) Land, lots of land. Under Starry skies above.
3) Plenty of warmth
4) An actual NEED for what you offer

In short, we the people of Texas, humbly request your presence at this time and would gladly make you welcome for as long as you care to stay.

Sincerely,
The citizens of Texas
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12z Early Cycle NHC model tracks
Nate
Statistical/Simple Models (CLIPER,BAMs,LBAR,other Statistical Models)




Dynamic Models (More sophisticated models)





Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128287
Some of the models have picked up on something between the 00z and 6z runs as the ones who have the intermediate runs changed significantly. It now appears that the 12z GFS is going with the 6z to the north as well.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10248
Quoting gypsysnake:
So what are we seeing here? Is Nate sucking low level moisture from under that dry area on the WV?



Yep
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Quoting HCW:

2.9%


stormtop says 98%
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I'm thinking that unless Nate develops a lot more convection, going into the Tex-Mex border might just fan the flames. Liable to poof like Don did.
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Quoting Dakster:


I envy you... Being able to leave... This year has been exceptionally hot and humid. I thought I was imagining things, until I realize we were breaking heat records.

And don't even get me started on the traffic.
Sold the house in Margate in 2005 and b uilt a Cypriss log home in north Florida. I don't miss it at all!
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Quoting Drakoen:
Dry air has not yet reached the the circulation as evidenced on water vapor imagery:



It will be interesting to see what happens to the dry air once return flow sets up in a couple of days. I think once Nate grows a little stronger, he's going to pull in some of that dry air, but I'm not sure just how dry the air will be at that point. I don't think a minimal hurricane is out of the question yet.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10248
So what are we seeing here? Is Nate sucking low level moisture from under that dry area on the WV?



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I really don't know how you all up north live with constant clouds and rain. It has been cloudy for a week down here and it is way depressing. It is no wonder grunge music came from Seattle and Booty Bass comes from Miami.

it does look like our visit from the sun is going away soon...Link
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Quoting Drakoen:
The SHIPS analyzed shear at 10 knots at 68 degrees (ENE). With such a small storm it is more vulnerable to wind shear.


It looks to be a little higher than that....when looking at visible.......you can see the tops being blown off.
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TROPICAL STORM NATE DISCUSSION NUMBER 4
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL152011
1000 AM CDT THU SEP 08 2011

NATE HAS THE APPEARANCE OF A SHEARED TROPICAL CYCLONE WITH THE CENTER LOCATED NEAR THE NORTHEASTERN TIP OF THE MAIN CONVECTIVE MASS. THE INITIAL WIND SPEED IS RAISED TO 45 KT...BASED ON A SHIP OBSERVATION
OF 40 KT TO THE SOUTHEAST OF THE CENTER...AND RECENT STRONGER WIND REPORTS FROM ELEVATED PEMEX OIL RIGS IN THE BAY OF CAMPECHE. AN AIR FORCE RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT IS SCHEDULED TO INVESTIGATE NATE THIS AFTERNOON AND SHOULD PROVIDE A BETTER ASSESSMENT OF THE INTENSITY.

NATE IS CURRENTLY LOCATED IN AN ENVIRONMENT OF LIGHT TO MODERATE NORTHEASTERLY SHEAR. THE SHEAR IS FORECAST TO LESSEN DURING THE NEXT DAY OR SO...WHICH SHOULD ALLOW FOR GRADUAL STRENGTHENING.
LATER IN THE FORECAST PERIOD...SOUTHWESTERLY SHEAR IS EXPECTED TO INCREASE AND ALONG WITH DRIER LOW- TO MID-LEVEL AIR...IS FORECAST TO SLOW THE INTENSIFICATION PROCESS. THE UPDATED INTENSITY FORECAST IS
SIMILAR TO THE PREVIOUS ADVISORY AND IS IN GOOD AGREEMENT WITH THE SHIPS/LGEM GUIDANCE.


Link
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Quoting scooster67:


South Florida is always Hot and humide. Thats why I left. And the traffic.


I envy you... Being able to leave... This year has been exceptionally hot and humid. I thought I was imagining things, until I realize we were breaking heat records.

And don't even get me started on the traffic.
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Quoting Drakoen:
The SHIPS analyzed shear at 10 knots at 68 degrees (ENE). With such a small storm it is more vulnerable to wind shear.


With clash of the Titans I have to agree with Drakoen on his shear analysis, sorry Levi!
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 3025
Kermit is out flying what looks like a bouy drop mission and the Air Force plane is on it's way to Nate

Google Earth
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199. 7544
not expecting a change with this gfs run
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Quoting Dakster:


I am telling you... It has been HOT and Humid.


South Florida is always Hot and humide. Thats why I left. And the traffic.
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Sorry the font is so big...still learning my way around : )

 

Tropical Storm Nate Advisory #4
Valid: 10:00 AM CDT Thursday September 08, 2011

Tropical Storm Nate Track Chart, Advisory #4

 
Current Location: 20.0N/92.4W
Geographic Reference: 120 NM west of Campeche, Mexico
Movement: Nearly Stationary
Max Winds: 45 kts gusting to 55 kts
Organizational Trend: Slowly increasing in organization
Current Hurricane Severity Index: 3 out of a possible 50 points (1 size/2 intensity)
Maximum Hurricane Severity Index: 11 out of a possible 50 points (4 size/7 intensity)
Forecast Track Confidence: Below average, based on poor model agreement.


Changes From Our Previous Forecast
We have nudged the track a little north on this advisory.


Our Forecast
Little movement is indicated by satellite loops, and we do not expect Nate to move much over the next 24 hours. Beyond 24 hours, we think that Nate will begin moving slowly northwest and westward toward Mexico, but there is considerable uncertainty in the track. There has been a significant shift northward in the model guidance overnight, with several models now indicating a northward movement toward the central Gulf Coast. We are going to wait for at least one more model run before making any significant track adjustments. However, if the model trend does continue, then we may make a significant adjustment in the track farther north later today.


Though Nate was experiencing some northeasterly wind shear earlier today, that shear appears to be diminishing. We think that Nate will steadily strengthen over the next 3-4 days, possibly to a Category 2 hurricane. Confidence in the intensity forecast is low.


Expected Impacts on Land
Southern Mexico/Yucatan Peninsula: Squalls will continue through late Friday


Expected Impacts Offshore
Bay of Campeche:
Squalls will continue throughout the central and eastern Bay of Campeche through this weekend.
North-Central Gulf Lease Areas: Should Nate be steered northward, as some models indicate, then squalls could reach the deepwater areas off the mid Louisiana coast as early as Saturday evening.


We will be awaiting reports from a recon plane this afternoon, so our next update will be close to 4PM CDT.


Meteorologists: Chris Hebert / David Piech


 © 2011 ImpactWeather, Inc. All rights reserved.
tropicswatch@impactweather.com

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196. HCW
Quoting scooster67:
What are the chances of Nate pulling Maria further West?

2.9%
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Quoting mobhurricane2011:
i like when folks with actual knowledge of the tropics have discussions like ADULTS on here like Levi32, and Drakoen, Mississippi. They have actual proof behind what they are saying and dont start name calling such as troll and other names that get tossed around on here. And its very informative to beginners like myself to actually get to see what they are talking about.


I am with you on that. Is enlighting to have these outstanding folks that have the knowledge and know the science behind the many factors that have to be taken into account to then analize what may occur with the systems.
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194. jpsb
Quoting RitaEvac:
I'm still not excited with this track

I am, a little more north and we are getting RAIN! Yes RAIN!
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Quoting 69Viking:


Maybe the shear map is not showing the shear over Nate correctly.


You can clearly see that Nate is getting Sheared from the NE....you can see the tops being blowed off......probably around 20kts on appearance.
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Here we go again with the 1 in 100 year, yearly rains events.
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Quoting CaribBoy:
MARIA could do like 1995 MARILYN



Have you seen the cone lately?
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Quoting Levi32:


Or dry air choking the other quadrants of the circulation where vorticity, and thus surface convergence, is weaker, yielding less support for convective activity in the face of the dry mid-level layer. The SW quad is better-suited to deal with the dry air due to enhanced vorticity and convergence near the curved coast of the BOC. The trough of low pressure extending northeast of nate is decreasing overall vorticity there by spreading it out.

Exactly what I was going to say!! Darnit you beat me to it again...
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Quoting Drakoen:
Dry air has not yet reached the the circulation as evidenced on water vapor imagery:

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The SHIPS analyzed shear at 10 knots at 68 degrees (ENE). With such a small storm it is more vulnerable to wind shear.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30491
MARIA could do like 1995 MARILYN

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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.