The odds of a hurricane spoiling the Republican National Convention in Tampa

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:48 PM GMT on August 14, 2012

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On September 25, 1848, the Great Gale of 1848, the most violent hurricane in Tampa's history, roared ashore as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane with 115 - 135 mph winds. Major R. D. S. Wade weathered the storm in Fort Brooke, in what is now downtown Tampa. Here is what he wrote this to his commanding officer in Washington D.C.: "The waters rose to an unprecedented height, and the waves swept away the wharves and all the buildings that were near the Bay or river." A 15-foot storm surge was observed at Fort Brooke, and the peninsula where St. Petersburg lies in Pinellas County was inundated "at the waist" and "the bays met," making St. Petersburg an island. After the hurricane, "Tampa was a scene of devastation. Magnificent old oaks were toppled by the hurricane's winds. At Fort Brooke the barracks, horse shed, and other structures were gone. The pine forest north of the garrison was filled with wreckage and debris. The hurricane's powerful surge had shifted sand all along the coast and reshaped many of the keys near Tampa Bay. Navigation routes were filled in and closed, making charts of the area produced before 1848 almost useless after the hurricane. In terms of intensity and destruction, the 1848 storm remains perhaps the greatest in Tampa's history" (Barnes, 1999.)


Figure 1. Pencil sketch of the Captains' Quarters, drawn by one of the officers stationed at Fort Brooke in 1845. Fort Brooke was one of the largest military establishments in the United States at the time. Image Credit: The Tampa Bay History Center.

Fort Brooke today
Fort Brooke is the current site of the Tampa Bay Convention Center, which hosts the Republican National Convention on August 27 - 30 this year. The convention center is in Evacuation Zone A, which is evacuated for Category 1 hurricanes. The Tampa Bay Times Forum and two major convention hotels--the Tampa Marriott Waterside and the Embassy Suites--are in Evacuation Zone B, which is evacuated for Category 2 hurricanes. In a worst-case Category 4 hurricane, the Convention Center could be immersed in 20 feet of water. Clearly, even a Category 1 hurricane would be enough to spoil the convention. So, what are the odds of a mass evacuation order being issued for Tampa Bay during the convention?


Figure 2. Predicted height above ground of the water from a worst-case Category 4 hurricane in the Tampa Bay region, as computed using NOAA's SLOSH storm surge model. The Tampa Bay convention center would go under 20 feet of water, and St. Petersburg would become an island, as occurred during the 1848 hurricane.


Figure 3. Perhaps the most spectacular hurricane image ever captured: view of Hurricane Elena on September 1, 1985, as seen from the Space Shuttle Discovery. At the time, Elena was a Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds, located just 80 miles offshore from Tampa Bay, Florida. The hurricane prompted the largest mass evacuation in Tampa Bay history.

Two mass evacuations in Tampa in the past 25 years
Two hurricanes have prompted mass evacuations of more than 300,000 people from the Tampa Bay area over the past 25 years. The first was Hurricane Elena of 1985, a Category 3 hurricane that stalled 80 miles offshore for two days on Labor Day weekend, bringing a 6 - 7 foot storm surge, wind gusts of 80 mph, and torrential rains. On August 13, 2004, another mass evacuation was ordered for Hurricane Charley. Thanks to a late track shift, Charley missed Tampa Bay, and instead hit well to the south in Port Charlotte as a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds. More limited evacuations of low-lying areas and mobile homes in the 4-county Tampa Bay region were ordered for three other hurricanes in the past fifteen years--Hurricane Georges of 1998, Hurricane Frances of 2004, and Hurricane Jeanne of 2004. Other historical storms which would likely trigger mass evacuations were they occur today include:

The 1921 hurricane. One of only two major hurricanes to hit Tampa, this Category 3 storm brought a storm tide of 10.5 feet.

Hurricane Easy of 1950. The hurricane parked itself over the west coast of Florida, drenching residents with record-breaking rains, and brought a 6.5 ft storm surge to Tampa Bay.


Figure 4. Damage to Bayshore Boulevard after the 1921 Tampa Bay hurricane. The road leads to the Tampa Bay Convention Center from the south.


Figure 5. Track of the Tampa Bay Hurricane of 1921, one of only two major hurricanes ever to hit the city. This Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds brought a storm tide of 10.5 feet to Tampa Bay.


Figure 6. A near miss: just a slight deviation in the path of Hurricane Charley of 2004 would have brought the Category 4 hurricane into Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay's vulnerability to hurricanes
Tampa Bay doesn't get hit very often by hurricanes. The last time it suffered a direct hit by any hurricane was 1946, when a Category 1 storm came up through the bay. The Tampa Bay Hurricane of October 25, 1921 was a the last major hurricane to make landfall in the Tampa Bay Region. At that time, there were 160,000 residents in the 4-county region, most of whom lived in communities on high ground. Today there are 2.75 million residents in the region, most of whom live along the coast and low-lying areas or in manufactured housing. About 1/3 of the 4-county Tampa Bay region lies within a flood plain. Over 800,000 people live in evacuation zones for a Category 1 hurricane, and 2 million people live in evacuation zones for a Category 5 hurricane, according to the 2010 Statewide Regional Evacuation Study for the Tampa Bay Region. Given that only 46% of the people in the evacuation zones for a Category 1 hurricane evacuated when Category 4 Hurricane Charley threatened the region, the potential for hundreds or thousands of people to die when the next major hurricane hits the region is high. In the long run, I expect a multi-billion dollar sea wall will be built to protect Tampa Bay from storm surges, since sea level rise will make storm surge damages increasingly problematic. A 2007 study by Tufts University titled, Florida and Climate Change, found that a 2.25 foot increase in sea level--which many sea level rise scientists expect will happen by the end of the century--would put 152,000 people in Pinellas County (where St. Petersburg is located) at risk of inundation.

The hurricane forecast for the Republican National Convention
Given that there have been two mass evacuations of Tampa during the past 25 years during the peak three-month period of hurricane season--August, September, and October--history suggests that the odds of a mass evacuation order being given during the 4-day period that the Republican National Convention is in town are probably around 0.2%. Any tropical waves which might develop into hurricanes that could hit Tampa during the convention would have to come off the coast of Africa next week. Looking at the latest 16-day forecast from the GFS, all of the tropical waves coming off of Africa next week are predicted to exit too far north to make the long crossing of the Atlantic and threaten the Gulf Coast. While something could develop in the Gulf of Mexico from the remains of an old cold front, it is rare for such storms to grow strong enough to deserve mass evacuations. So far, early signs point to a hurricane-free Republican National Convention at the end of August.

References
Barnes, J., 1999, Florida’s Hurricane History. The University of North Carolina Press.

Weisberg, R.H, and L. Zheng, 2006, "Hurricane storm surge simulations for Tampa Bay", Estuaries and Coasts Vol 29, No. 6A, pp 899-913.

History of Pasco County: The 1921 Hurricane

The 2010 Statewide Regional Evacuation Study for the Tampa Bay Region

The Tampa Bay Catastrophic Plan for a Category 5 $250 billion hurricane

Jeff Masters

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Quoting Tribucanes:
WU really needs to get a hold of their blog site. Too many bad things happening with the trolls posting porn, perpetrating as others, apparently getting real members in trouble, and just generally being idiot jerks causing ruckus. Hope they find the cash for moderators and get a handle on these fools sooner than later.


Im sure there are many upstanding members of this blog who would volunteer as a moderator....and perform that duty without bias!!
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Thanks for that update Keeper, that rings of the truth.
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WU really needs to get a hold of their blog site. Too many bad things happening with the trolls posting porn, perpetrating as others, apparently getting real members in trouble, and just generally being idiot jerks causing ruckus. Hope they find the cash for moderators and get a handle on these fools sooner than later.
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


And it sits there a while

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looks like it moves slowly westward then gets shunted southwest by that High pressure
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Kinda eerie, eh?


2006 is probably the best recent analog. It has been a long time since we have had a strongly negative PDO, a warm AMO and an El Nino. We are just now getting into a pattern where cold PDOs will be more prevalent. 2006 had a very weakly negative PDO, as well as similar anomalies in the Atlantic and Nino regions. It is difficult to sniff out what to expect with all of these variables that come into play. We would have to go back to the 50s to probably sniff out the best analogs for this season.

2012


2006
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1081. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Tribucanes:
Hope someone didn't troll me in weather chat and get me banned. Sigh.
maybe something going on i tried to go to chat and iam banned as well the trolls may have had it shut down for a bit don't get to worried at the moment
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059
Quoting KoritheMan:


Kinda eerie, eh?


The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season was significantly less active than the record previous season. It marked the first since 2001 in which no hurricanes made landfall in the United States, and was the first since 1994 that no tropical cyclones formed during October.[1] Following the intense activity of 2005, forecasters predicted that the 2006 season would be only slightly less active. Instead a rapidly forming moderate El Niño event in 2006, activity was slowed by the presence of the Saharan Air Layer over the tropical Atlantic and the steady presence of a robust secondary high pressure area to the Azores high centered around Bermuda. There were no tropical cyclones after October....

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Quoting dfwstormwatch:

As it makes landfall 00z GFS 183 Hrs


And it sits there a while

Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 253
Quoting TXCWC:
High builds in north of it on this run - landfall around TX/MEX border as a 60mph storm - alot of rain for deep south TX

I'D call that 70-75
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Wow, something wrong with world today xtreme. They got me banned from the room apparently. Operation get a life in full effect for whomever that loser is.
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Quoting TXCWC:
High builds in north of it on this run - landfall around TX/MEX border as a 60mph storm - alot of rain for deep south TX


Can you please give me the link for this? I have been looking for a map like this but can't. Thanks
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Quoting Tribucanes:
Wow banned from weather chat and I have done nothing. WTH is going on here?

There is a hacker in there telling people their ip addresses... i left!!
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1073. TXCWC
High builds in north of it on this run - landfall around TX/MEX border as a 50mph-60mph storm - alot of rain for deep south TX
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Hope someone didn't troll me in weather chat and get me banned. Sigh.
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Quoting TXCWC:
180hr GFS UHHHOHHH...down below 1000mb...moderate TC shown here...enough time to reach strong TC/Hurricane?



I really really hope not! Texas' longest period without a hurricane landfall was 10 years. It's been 4 now. A run at the record would be nice.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 253

As it makes landfall 00z GFS 183 Hrs
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Quoting MississippiWx:
El Nino will be declared sooner rather than later.



More Central Pacific warming trend....Modiki El Nino.
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Wow banned from weather chat and I have done nothing. WTH is going on here?
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Quoting sunlinepr:


Compare those ONI values, 2006 that was a Nino season with current 2012 values...

Almost similar....


Kinda eerie, eh?
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Why in the hell have I been banned from weather chat? lol a million trolls there this week, I have said NOTHING bad there at all and I am banned. I am so confused right now. :)
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Vertical shear did. Look at those warm anomalies during peak season. No surprise there.

And 2010 just seemed innocuous because 70% of the storms stayed at sea.


Compare those ONI values, 2006 that was a Nino season with current 2012 values...

Almost similar....
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Quoting Tribucanes:
Only one or two majors, interesting. Still thinking we'll see our first major before August is out and will see 2/3 more in September. Thinking we'll still see 3/4 majors, but Kori you have the insight of doing this longer than I. And without a doubt, more knowledge usually leads to more accurate assessments. Any desire to work your way up to management at Walmart Kori and put off your education for a few years during these lean times for jobs?


Walmart is the means to an end. Nothing more, nothing less. It is going to support my education in some fashion or another. They offer some pretty decent scholarships (though I am unsure if they are state or national) to their associates. But yes, I tolerate enough **** at work, so I may as well work my way up. I'm finally taking the department manager test tomorrow. Then it's off to speak to the store manager and see where to go from there.
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Quoting Altestic2012:


vs





Yeah... 2012 isn't a Modoki El Nino. Saying that does give the wishcasters some hope though.


Can you post maps comparing 2008 and 2012?

This current season more mimics the Modiki of 2008 than 2004.

Here's why. View this link

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/0907 02140835.htm
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Quoting Altestic2012:


vs





Yeah... 2012 isn't a Modoki El Nino. Saying that does give the wishcasters some hope though.


I didn't say there was an extreme trend toward a Modiki. But the latest ENSO region SST anomalies graph (shown below) indicates a notable warming of the Nino 3.4 and Nino 4 regions. Nino 1 and 2 have declined, while Nino 3 has remained about the same.



Again, this may not herald anything. More than likely it's just a temporary fluctuation. But in the event it's not...

Besides, why would I want to wishcast? Nature doesn't kiss my ass.
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This color-enhanced view of NASA's Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as the satellite flew overhead. Image credit: NASNASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona



PASADENA, Calif. -- The first color image taken from orbit showing NASA's rover Curiosity on Mars includes details of the layered bedrock on the floor of Gale Crater that the rover is beginning to investigate.

Operators of the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter added the color view to earlier observations of Curiosity descending on its parachute, and one day after landing.

"The rover appears as double bright spot plus shadows from this perspective, looking at its shadowed side, set in the middle of the blast pattern from the descent stage," said HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen, of the University of Arizona, Tucson. "This image was acquired from an angle looking 30 degrees westward of straight down. We plan to get one in a few days looking more directly down, showing the rover in more detail and completing a stereo pair."

Meanwhile, Curiosity has finished a four-day process transitioning both of its redundant main computers to flight software for driving and using tools on the rover's arm. During the latter part of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft's 36-week flight to Mars and its complicated descent to deliver Curiosity to the Martian surface on Aug. 5, PDT (Aug. 6, EDT and Universal Time), the rover's computers used a version of flight software with many capabilities no longer needed. The new version expands capabilities for work the rover will do now that it is on Mars.

"We have successfully completed the brain transplant," said Curiosity Mission Manager Mike Watkins of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Now we are moving on to a new phase of functional checkouts of the science instruments and preparations for a short test drive.

Link
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El Nino will be declared sooner rather than later.

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Only one or two majors, interesting. Still thinking we'll see our first major before August is out and will see 2/3 more in September. Thinking we'll still see 3/4 majors, but Kori you have the insight of doing this longer than I. And without a doubt, more knowledge usually leads to more accurate assessments. Any desire to work your way up to management at Walmart Kori and put off your education for a few years during these lean times for jobs?
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1056. TXCWC
180hr GFS UHHHOHHH...down below 1000mb...moderate TC shown here...enough time to reach strong TC/Hurricane?

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Quoting CaneHunter031472:


Awesome link. Thank you.
Yes it is, you're very welcome.
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1053. TXCWC
0Z GFS day 7

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Quoting Dragod66:


ok but i mean what killed the 2009 season then?


Vertical shear did. Look at those warm anomalies during peak season. No surprise there.

And 2010 just seemed innocuous because 70% of the storms stayed at sea.
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Quoting Tribucanes:
What's your outlook on things Kori? Hope your well.


Things will get cracking soon, especially if the current trend toward a Modiki El Nino continues. But even if not, and even with the usual recurve pattern in place, it would be haphazard and misinformed to give up on the season now.

We may only see one or two majors, but they will come.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Link


Awesome link. Thank you.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


It wasn't the name of the game in 2009 or 2010.


ok but i mean what killed the 2009 season then?
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1048. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Northern Hemispheric ENHANCED WV anim image

11 mins old

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059
FIM 114 HRS

GFS 114 HRS
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What's your outlook on things Kori? Hope your well.
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93L - Gordon

African storm - Helene

Possible GOMEX storm - Isaac
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1044. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Northern Hemispheric IR anim image 9 mins old

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059
Quoting Tribucanes:
I'm still feeling something wanting to form in the Gulf in the next week, with a ULL/MLL forming in the next 24/60hrs. over the central Gulf. As far as I know though, these feelings have yet to ever be right. :)


Watch the GOMEx....but not until this weekend into next week.

Stalled frontal boundary.
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Link
Quoting CaneHunter031472:


I hope the replacement is for the better. GFS is one of the models I trust the most. Of course I don't only rely on it, but I do look at it first. Is there a link to FIM?
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Quoting Dragod66:
angela... it seems that dry air has been the name of the game for like 3 years now... what gives?


It wasn't the name of the game in 2009 or 2010.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
I've been hearing on here that it's suppose to replace the GFS in the future. And it did fairly well with tracking Ernesto.


I hope the replacement is for the better. GFS is one of the models I trust the most. Of course I don't only rely on it, but I do look at it first. Is there a link to FIM?
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damn :(
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Quoting CaneHunter031472:


Well, that's interesting! FIM. Isn't that a new model or one that is being tested or something? How accurate is it? GFS looks pretty boring, but it does show some development in the GOMEX 126 Hrs in the 18Z Run.

I've been hearing on here that it's suppose to replace the GFS in the future. And it did fairly well with tracking Ernesto.
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I'm still feeling something wanting to form in the Gulf in the next week, with a ULL/MLL forming in the next 24/60hrs. over the central Gulf. As far as I know though, these feelings have yet to ever be right. :)
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
12z Experimental FIM at 168 hrs. 850 mb. wind:



Well, that's interesting! FIM. Isn't that a new model or one that is being tested or something? How accurate is it? GFS looks pretty boring, but it does show some development in the GOMEX 126 Hrs in the 18Z Run.

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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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