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Category 1 Rusty drenching Australia; major winter storm hits Midwest U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 4:06 PM GMT on February 26, 2013

Tropical Cyclone Rusty is intensifying as it remains nearly stationary off the coast of northwest Australia, and poses a dangerous heavy rainfall threat to the coast. Rusty peaked at Category 1 strength with 85 mph winds on Monday at 18 UTC, then weakened to 75 mph by 06 UTC on Tuesday, due to a combination of dry wrapping into the center, interaction with land, and the storm's slow movement allowing it to upwell cooler waters from down deep. However, recent satellite loops show that Rusty's eyewall clouds now have colder tops, and the eye has shrunk, indicating that the storm is strengthening. A 7 am EST satellite intensity estimate from NOAA put Rusty at Category 2 strength with 105 mph winds. The storm may intensify even more, thanks to low wind shear of 5 - 10 knots and near-record warm ocean temperatures of 31 - 32°C (88 - 90°F). It's not often that a tropical cyclone gets 31 - 32°C waters to feed off of; these temperature are about 1.5°C (2.7°F) warmer than average for this time of year. Rusty is very close to the coast, though, and doesn't have much time to intensify further. The storm is predicted to make landfall near Port Hedland (population 15,000), on Wednesday between 06 UTC and 12 UTC (1 am - 7 am EST in the U.S.) Port Hedland is Australia's top iron ore export port, which is ironic, considering that a storm named "Rusty" has now shut down the port. With its slow movement, large circulation, and near-record warm waters to feed off, Rusty is going to dump some prodigious rains on the coast of northwestern Australia over the next few days. Radar out of Port Hedland shows very heavy rains have been affecting the coast all day, and sustained winds as high as 55 mph, gusting to 74 mph, have been observed at the Port Hedland airport. Rusty is also capable of causing considerable wind and storm surge damage, and evacuations have been ordered in low-lying areas of Port Hedland. Rusty is the strongest tropical cyclone to affect Australia in the 2012 - 2013 tropical cyclone season.


Figure 1. Tropical Cyclone Rusty at 0545 UTC on February 26, 2013 as seen by NASA's Aqua satellite. At the time, Rusty was a Category 1 storm with sustained 75 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.


Figure 2. Radar image of Rusty showing the large cloud-free eye and an intense band of precipitation to its southwest moving ashore over the coast of Australia near Port Hedland. image credit: Bureau of Meteorology.

Major blizzard pummels Midwest U.S.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the second major winter storm in a week is blasting the Midwest with heavy snow and high winds. The snowstorm, dubbed "Rocky", ended this morning in Wichita, Kansas, which got 6.8" of snow. When combined with heavy snows that fell in last week's storm, the 21.0" inches of snow in February 2013 now ranks as Wichita's snowiest month in its history, breaking the old record of 20.5" set exactly 100 years ago in February 1913. The 19" of snow that fell on Amarillo, Texas over a 24 hours period ending yesterday (February 25) was that city's second greatest 1-day snowfall on record, says wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt in his latest blog post. A band of very heavy snow of up to 3" per hour set up over the airport for several hours, accompanied by lightning and thunder. Thundersnow was also reported in Versailles, Illinois this morning, bringing 3" of snow in just 30 minutes. Wunderblogger Lee Grenci has a detailed post on thundersnow, and analyzes the thundersnow episode that occurred during last week's snowstorm ("Q") over the Midwest. The 19" of snow that fell on Amarillo yesterday was equivalent to 1.48" of rain, making Monday the wettest day in the city in over two years (November 11, 2010 was the last time the city got so much precipitation.) While the precipitation from the two major winter storms during the past week will not come anywhere close to busting the Midwest drought, the value of this moisture runs into the billions of dollars for the parched fields and aquifers of the Midwest.


Figure 3. Snowfall amounts from Winter Storm Rocky.

Jeff Masters
Stuck - Lubbock, Texas
Stuck - Lubbock, Texas
Blizzard
Blizzard
One of the worst blizzards I've seen hit the Texas Panhandle today with 50+ mph winds and plenty of snow .

Hurricane Winter Weather

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Quoting GTcooliebai:
Goodmorning Everyone




Hey GT,

I live in Brooksville, Hoping to see a lite dusting. Guy at my job wants to bet me that it is not going to snow. Not going to take that bet but would love to see snow.
Quoting pcola57:
Astronomy Picture of the Day


Asperatus Clouds Over New Zealand - 2013 February 27



Explanation: What kind of clouds are these? Although their cause is presently unknown, such unusual atmospheric structures, as menacing as they might seem, do not appear to be harbingers of meteorological doom. Known informally as Undulatus asperatus clouds, they can be stunning in appearance, unusual in occurrence, are relatively unstudied, and have even been suggested as a new type of cloud. Whereas most low cloud decks are flat bottomed, asperatus clouds appear to have significant vertical structure underneath. Speculation therefore holds that asperatus clouds might be related to lenticular clouds that form near mountains, or mammatus clouds associated with thunderstorms, or perhaps a foehn wind -- a type of dry downward wind that flows off mountains. Such a wind called the Canterbury arch streams toward the east coast of New Zealand's South Island. The above image, taken above Hanmer Springs in Canterbury, New Zealand, in 2005, shows great detail partly because sunlight illuminates the undulating clouds from the side.


Wow that image seems surreal
Quoting robintampabay:



Hey GT,

I live in Brooksville, Hoping to see a lite dusting. Guy at my job wants to bet me that it is not going to snow. Not going to take that bet but would love to see snow.


Don't worry. Before the January, 1977 snow event in this area, as amazing as it was, most of the public and the majority of the local meteorologists were scoffing at the idea of our area seeing any snow at all.

I was in 8th grade at the time and recall that when rumors of us getting a little bit of snow in a few days started circulating, some kids in school were hopeful that it would happen, just as you are, and they were in fact confident that it would snow. Others boldly offered to make wagers that it would not snow, just like the guy at your job is doing. The rest is history.

That does not mean that history will repeat, of course. The point is, when it comes to snow in Florida, the majority will not believe it will happen or even that it can happen until they see it happen.
Quoting FLWaterFront:


Don't worry. Before the January, 1977 snow event in this area, as amazing as it was, most of the public and the majority of the local meteorologists were scoffing at the idea of our area seeing any snow at all.

I was in 8th grade at the time and recall that when rumors of us getting a little bit of snow in a few days started circulating, some kids in school were hopeful that it would happen, just as you are, and they were in fact confident that it would snow. Others boldly offered to make wagers that it would not snow, just like the guy at your job is doing. The rest is history.

That does not mean that history will repeat, of course. The point is, when it comes to snow in Florida, the majority will not believe it will happen or even that it can happen until they see it happen.



Like I said it probably won't happen, but I will be up at 1am Sunday morning on my back porch waiting to see if it does!
505. VR46L
Centre of Rusty seems to be Inland now

in Rainbow





JeffMasters has created a new entry.
507. eddye
have u guys seen the new gfs shows very cold air for south florida