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 VoodooRue:


Which town, Grothar? Most of my family and friends are around the Tunkhannock area, which has already been cut off in both directions by flooding from the Susquehanna.


Ah, almost neighbors. In Bradford Country. Sayre/Athens, just North of Towanda. You know (pooh talk?) LOL
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Quoting DookiePBC:


Nothing makes me feel safer than seeing the day 5 forecast point sitting on top of the Palm Beach area. By the time I have run around outside screaming with my arms flailing, they've usually moved the cone 200 miles east. ;-)


LOL!!!
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Quoting 69Viking:


I'm pretty sure dry air has nothing to do with steering.


But I think he is telling us what PLANFALF is showing.
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Quoting MississippiWx:
FWIW, Nate wasn't supposed to become a 70mph storm until late tomorrow night. He is a good 32-36 hours ahead of schedule with strength.


And we know which way stronger storms LIKE to go! This is going to be a fun one to watch and could get ugly for somebody along the Gulf coast. So much for someone's assumption that dry air was affecting it's strength LOL!
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Quoting angiest:


Don't worry, the final trek in to land follows Audrey, no Texas landfall here.


Audrey...*shudders* I've heard stories....
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Quoting MississippiWx:
FWIW, Nate wasn't supposed to become a 70mph storm until late tomorrow night. He is a good 32-36 hours ahead of schedule with strength.

I wonder what it will take to nudge Nate out of the starting blocks.....
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Fire NW of Houston ramping up again from visible sat loop
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Quoting SeniorPoppy:


If models are showing a Florida hit right now, then we are in the clear.


Nothing makes me feel safer than seeing the day 5 forecast point sitting on top of the Palm Beach area. By the time I have run around outside screaming with my arms flailing, they've usually moved the cone 200 miles east. ;-)
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


I am sorry to hear about the floods and yes, Maria may want to come knocking. Hopefully, she will just bring you a little drink of water.


Florida always moves in and out of the cone more times than the Good Humor man. I think we should be OK. How you doing, Rookie?
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If Nate can fill in his NE quadrant, he will intensify quickly. You've already seen what half of a storm can do in the BOC...
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Quoting TropicalWeatherGrl88:


Yea it's way to soon to say that. Plus the good ones still send her north which makes sense considering it's been like this the whole season.


I get what you mean, but never say that just cause they have been going northward so far this season means that every next one that comes toward the CONUS is just automatically going to turn northward too. Just gotta wait and see.
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Quoting Grothar:


What a coincidence, I was just thinking of me, too. Hi everybody. I have been busy getting reports from our home in Northeast PA. Doesn't look good. They have evacuated our town. Most of the area is already flooded and some towns are already under 5 feet of water. The Susquehanna hasn't even crested yet. Binghamton is going to get the worst flooding ever. The last time anything this bad happened was in 1972 with Agnes. Worst flooding ever. They are calling us every hour with updates. I will try and post what I can. Don't like that model with Maria.
Prayers continue for your luck to change.
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Nate is a much smaller, and compact system, unlike Lee which could never get tightly wrapped. Nate is doing a fine job of fighting off the dry air to the NW. IMO a weakness to the north and NE of Nate exist. I would expect a strenghtening Nate to begin a slow general N to NNE movement by tomorrow morning.
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Quoting alvarig1263:
Looks like some of the models want Maria to hit FL. Any thoughts?


Yea it's way to soon to say that. Plus the good ones still send her north which makes sense considering it's been like this the whole season.
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Quoting basti11:


well you tell me this nate is not going to gain much latitude with all the dry air to the north of him...i think its a very good possibility nate moves south into the yucatan...i just dont see with the steering currents in place nate could come up towards the northern gulf...


I'm pretty sure dry air has nothing to do with steering.
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820. bwi
Courtesy WTOP.com
Since Monday, some areas of the WTOP listening area [Washington DC and region] have received nearly 10 inches of rain, flooding basements and roads.

Here are some of the unofficial rain totals:

•Columbia, Md: 9.89 inches
•Bowie, Md.: 8.08 inches
•Upper Marlboro, Md.: 7.39 inches
•Waldorf, Md.: 7.02 inches
•Chevy Chase, Md.: 6.23 inches
•Arlington, Va.: 5.91 inches
•Woodbridge, Va.: 5.82 inches
•Washington, D.C. at Children's Hospital: 5.6 inches
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Quoting alvarig1263:
Looks like some of the models want Maria to hit FL. Any thoughts?


If models are showing a Florida hit right now, then we are in the clear.
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Quoting TropicalWeatherGrl88:


So glad to see you are feeling good enough to be on the blog. Wish you the best! I love you comments and humor.


Thanks TW. I feels good to be alive.....again.
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817. N3EG
Quoting RitaEvac:


Well when it starts to poof from the dry air it might just be a good tropical storm


Don't worry, it will be pumping the ridge real soon...LOL
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Quoting CaneHunter031472:


If that's the case, this steering pattern will apply.



Given how wide the NHC cone is, possiblities are as wide...
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6168
FWIW, Nate wasn't supposed to become a 70mph storm until late tomorrow night. He is a good 32-36 hours ahead of schedule with strength.
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Quoting Grothar:


What a coincidence, I was just thinking of me, too. Hi everybody. I have been busy getting reports from our home in Northeast PA. Doesn't look good. They have evacuated our town. Most of the area is already flooded and some towns are already under 5 feet of water. The Susquehanna hasn't even crested yet. Binghamton is going to get the worst flooding ever. The last time anything this bad happened was in 1972 with Agnes. Worst flooding ever. They are calling us every hour with updates. I will try and post what I can. Don't like that model with Maria.


Which town, Grothar? Most of my family and friends are around the Tunkhannock area, which has already been cut off in both directions by flooding from the Susquehanna.
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Looks like some of the models want Maria to hit FL. Any thoughts?
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Quoting skook:



Where at in PA? Those towns on the Susquehanna without levees are going to be overwhelmed over the next few hours, it seems. Those even with levees might not be spared :(.


Sayre/Athens. Our home is very high, but the town is already under water. There is a very large medical facility there, called the Robert Packer/Guthrie Clinic. One of the largest medical facilities in the country. Very dangerous situation. They are currently trying to rescue some friends of ours who are stuck in their home already under water near Monroeton.
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Quoting Grothar:


What a coincidence, I was just thinking of me, too. Hi everybody. I have been busy getting reports from our home in Northeast PA. Doesn't look good. They have evacuated our town. Most of the area is already flooded and some towns are already under 5 feet of water. The Susquehanna hasn't even crested yet. Binghamton is going to get the worst flooding ever. The last time anything this bad happened was in 1972 with Agnes. Worst flooding ever. They are calling us every hour with updates. I will try and post what I can. Don't like that model with Maria.


I am sorry to hear about the floods and yes, Maria may want to come knocking. Hopefully, she will just bring you a little drink of water.
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Quoting pensacolastorm:


The models are flip flopping with each run. Is Nate coming to the northern gulf or not? I hope we have accurate info later tonite or early tomorrow.


lots of uncertainties, stay tuned.
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Quoting twincomanche:
If he had one he still has it.LOL.


LOL you're right!
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Quoting CaribBoy:


NATE has fairly shallow convection. and is a fairly small system


If that's the case, this steering pattern will apply.

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H.Katia's_6pmGMT_ATCF : Starting 7Sept_6pmGMT and ending 8Sept_6pmGMT

The 4 southern line-segments represent HurricaneKatia's path,
the northernmost line-segment is the straightline projection,
and the island blob at 41.268n70.2w-ack is the endpoint of the most
recent
previous straightline projection connected to its nearest airport.

Using straightline projection of the travel-speed&heading derived from the
ATCF coordinates spanning the 6hours between 12pmGMT then 6pmGMT :
H.Katia's travel-speed was 14mph(22.5k/h) on a heading of 7.9degrees(N)
H.Katia was headed toward passage over WinterHarbor,Maine ~2days1hour from now

Copy&paste 41.268n70.2w-ack, 29.4n69.3w-30.3n69.9w, 30.3n69.9w-31.4n70.2w, 31.4n70.2w-33.0n70.2w, 33.0n70.2w-34.2n70.0w, bhb, 33.0n70.2w-44.356n68.026w into the GreatCircleMapper for more info

The previous mapping (for 8Sept_12pmGMT)
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IMO Maria is slightly improving but needs a BIG BLOW UP over the center. A big one with some grey on IR AVN
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6168
Quoting hurricanejunky:


Not sure you'd want to. That's trading one nightmare scenario for another.


Well when it starts to poof from the dry air it might just be a good tropical storm
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Good Afternoon

Blog Update


Hurricane Katia-Tropical Storm Maria & Nate
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Sorry I'm not buying this



Don't worry, the final trek in to land follows Audrey, no Texas landfall here.
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Quoting CaribBoy:


NATE has fairly shallow convection. and is a fairly small system


The models are flip flopping with each run. Is Nate coming to the northern gulf or not? I hope we have accurate info later tonite or early tomorrow.
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795. skook
Quoting Grothar:


What a coincidence, I was just thinking of me, too. Hi everybody. I have been busy getting reports from our home in Northeast PA. Doesn't look good. They have evacuated our town. Most of the area is already flooded and some towns are already under 5 feet of water. The Susquehanna hasn't even crested yet. Binghamton is going to get the worst flooding ever. The last time anything this bad happened was in 1972 with Agnes. Worst flooding ever. They are calling us every hour with updates. I will try and post what I can. Don't like that model with Maria.



Where at in PA? Those towns on the Susquehanna without levees are going to be overwhelmed over the next few hours, it seems. Those even with levees might not be spared :(.
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&^%^$%
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Sorry I'm not buying this



I like the gfs track, hopefully it will turn true
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Quoting CaneHunter031472:
Any new info on the HH mission to Nate? This data will be extremely important in helping the modles get a more accurate hold on the system. Runs after the mission data is crunched by the models will be much more accurate and I anticipate big changes in the forecast.


They found winds very close to hurricane force.
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Quoting hurricanejunky:
I bet Texas is feeling a little torn with this latest GFS run:



It looks like Nate just wants to stand there and knock on our door for a while...
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Sorry I'm not buying this



Not sure you'd want to. That's trading one nightmare scenario for another.
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Quoting CaneHunter031472:
Any new info on the HH mission to Nate? This data will be extremely important in helping the modles get a more accurate hold on the system. Runs after the mission data is crunched by the models will be much more accurate and I anticipate big changes in the forecast.


NATE has fairly shallow convection. and is a fairly small system
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6168
Sorry I'm not buying this

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Quoting Grothar:


So glad to see you are feeling good enough to be on the blog. Wish you the best! I love you comments and humor.
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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.