Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:15 PM GMT on September 01, 2006
Tropical Storm Ernesto slammed ashore at 11:30pm EDT last night near Cape Fear (Wilmington) North Carolina. Just prior to landfall, the Hurricane Hunters observed a partial eyewall with 70 mph surface winds, but Ernesto never made it to hurricane strength. Ernesto has brought heavy rain to North Carolina--up to a foot in some areas--and an extensive area of 6-8 inches (Figure 1). Three tornadoes were reported in North Carolina yesterday. One of them damaged the roof of a home near Morehead City. Up to 1500 families needed to be evacuated from low-lying areas in the state due to river flooding. However, no major damage has been reported, and Ernesto's storm surge was only 1-3 feet where it came ashore near Cape Fear. Cape Fear reported 70 mph wind gusts last night as the center crossed land (Figure 2). We've archived a nice 3-hour radar animation of the storm making landfall in North Carolina.
Ernesto will remain a tropical storm today, then make the transition to an extratropical storm on Saturday. Lots of people's Labor Day weekend plans are going to be spoiled by the copious rains that will spread up the East Coast and into the Great Lakes. However, large portions of North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware are under drought conditions, so Ernesto's rains will be welcome for some.
Figure 1. Total precipitation from Ernesto estimated by the Morehead City radar before it failed.
Figure 2. Wind analysis of Ernesto at landfall in Cape Fear, NC at 12:30am EDT 9/1/06. Only a small area of 50 knot (58 mph) winds (green area) affected the coast.
Hurricane John has re-intensified into a dangerous Category 3 hurricane, and is headed for a landfall on the tip of Mexico's Baja Peninsula about 3pm PDT today. John's appearance on satellite imagery this morning is impressive, with a well formed eye and good upper-level outflow on all sides. The storm should be able to maintain Category 3 intensity up until its landfall on the Baja. The Air Force Hurricane Hunters are on their way to the storm now to provide last minute intensity measurements of the storm.
John is a threat to the U.S.
In a previous blog, I discussed in detail the historical record of the five Eastern Pacific tropical cyclones that have affected the U.S. with tropical storm force winds. Three of the four main global forecast models now bring John or its remnants northward to San Diego by Labor Day. In particular, the reliable GFDL model has John as a 40-mph tropical storm Monday afternoon near the Mexico/California border. There is still the possibility that John will get forced westward, but residents all along the Baja Peninsula should be prepared for John to bring heavy rains and high winds their way. The exact strength of the storm during this trek will depend heavily on how close the eye passes to Baja today; a direct hit on the tip of Baja will severely disrupt the storm, but a sideswipe may leave the storm strong enough to bring hurricane and tropical storm conditions unusually far north along the Baja Peninsula. I give John a 10% chance of bringing sustained winds of tropical storm force to San Diego.
Super Typhoon Ioke
Super Typhoon Ioke continues to churn in the Central Pacific as a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds, and it expected to stay a Cat 4 or 5 for at least three more days. However, its amazingly long run as an intense typhoon appear numbered--its getting far enough north that a trough of low pressure should be able to grab it by Tuesday, weaken it, and pull it northwest towards Japan.
Some impressive satellite loops and 3-D images of Ioke passing Wake Island are available at the RTS Weather Station on Kwajelein Atoll.
African tropical waves
The tropical wave near 16N 54W is surrounded by a large cloud of dry air and African dust, but has slowly been able to pump more moisture into its center each night over the past few days as thunderstorm development kicks up then dies away. By Sunday, the wave may have enough moisture to develop. It should be in the Lesser Antilles Islands at that time.
A tropical wave near 12N 38W, midway between Africa and the Lesser Antilles Islands, has changed little since yesterday. Some slow development of this system is possible over the next few days.
I'll have an update late this afternoon as Hurricane John approaches Baja.
Comments will take a few seconds to appear.