Texas fires will diminish today; Lee's rains set all-time records

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:27 PM GMT on September 06, 2011

East Texas' dangerous fires continued to rage out of control yesterday, thanks to gusty north winds associated with the passage of a cold front and the remnant circulation of Tropical Storm Lee. Since Saturday, wildfires have torched over 500 homes in East Texas and killed two people. At Austin Bergstrom Airport, sustained winds of 20 - 25 mph, gusting to 30 - 35 mph blew much of the day yesterday. Tropical Storm Lee's remnants didn't bring any clouds or moisture to Austin yesterday, and the temperature climbed to 91°, with a humidity of just 11%. With the region enduring it's driest 1-year drought on record, yesterday's heat, dryness, and winds resulted in critical fire conditions. The forecast today for Austin is much better--winds will be only 5 - 10 mph, which should give firefighters the upper hand in many of the blazes, despite low humidities that will be in the 15 - 25% range. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center is not predicting that critical fire weather conditions will return during the remainder of the week. You can monitor today's fire activity by using our wundermap for Austin with the fire layer turned on.


Figure 1. True-color image taken by NASA's Aqua satellite of the the fires burning near Austin, Texas on September 5, 2011. Image credit: NASA.


Video 1. Video shot by a motorist on Highway 21 near Austin, Texas of the smoke from the fires that raced through Bastrop County on September 4, 2011.The highway closes and the motorist is forced to turn around.

Texas' unprecedented heat
As I reported in yesterday's post, there has never been a Texas summer hotter than the summer of 2011. The summer of 2011 now holds every major heat record for the city of Austin, including most 100° days (67 so far), hottest month in recorded history (August, breaking the previous record by a remarkable 2.1°), hottest summer (by 1.1°), and hottest day in history (112°F, tied with Sep, 5, 2000.) As wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt documents in his latest blog post, the situation is similar across the rest of the state. Seventeen major cities in Texas recorded their hottest summer on record in 2011. Most of these stations had records extending back more than 100 years, and several of the records were smashed by an amazing 3.4°F--at Lubbock and at Wichita Falls. Neighboring states also experienced unprecedented heat, with Oklahoma recording America's hottest month by any state in recorded history during July, and Shreveport, Louisiana breaking its record for hottest month by 3°F in August. Mr. Burt commented to me: " I do not believe I have ever seen a site with a long period of record, like Shreveport, where records go back to 1874, break its warmest single month on record by an astonishing 3°. This is unheard of. Usually when a site breaks its single month temperature record, we are talking about tenths of a degree, rarely a whole degree, let alone 3 degrees! Hard to believe, frankly." Texas has also had its worst fire season on record, with over 3.5 million acres burned this year, and it's driest 1-year period in recorded history.


Figure 2. Observed soil moisture for Sunday Sep 4, 2011. Soil moisture is expressed in percent, with 50% being a historically average soil moisture level. Very dry soils, with moistures in the driest 1% - 30% in history (red and orange colors), were present over much of the south, where Lee dropped its heaviest rains. These dry soils have limited flooding damage. Image credit: N OAA Climate Prediction Center.

Heavy rains from Lee create significant flooding
Tropical Storm Lee is no more, but its remnants are marching slowly northeastwards along a stalled cold front, bringing torrential rains. Jackson, Mississippi received 11.68" in a 24 hour period yesterday, which is that city's heaviest 24-hour rainfall on record, according to wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt. Their previous record was 8.54", set April 11 -12, 1979. Fortunately, Jackson was in severe drought, and the dry soils were able to absorb a significant amount of rain before the local rivers began flooding. The Pearl River at Jackson rose above flood stage this morning, and is expected to crest at moderate flood stage late this week. Chattanooga, Tennessee also set its record for the wettest 24-hour period in its history, with 9.85" falling yesterday. The previous record was 7.61", set on March 30, 1886. Again, the dry soils that were present before the event started will help keep river flooding in the minor to moderate range on area rivers. Soils are at near-average moisture levels in Central Pennsylvania, where Lee's remnants are expected to drop over seven inches of rain over the next two days. These rains should cause moderate and possibly major flooding in Pennsylvania. Also of concern is the potential for tornadoes today. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has logged 25 tornado reports over the past three days from Lee, including three near Atlanta, Georgia yesterday. More tornadoes are likely today over North Carolina, Southern Virginia, and Northern South Carolina, where SPC is predicting a "Slight Risk" of severe weather.

Lee's heaviest rain amounts, by state, as of 4 am CDT today:

Holden, LA: 15.43"
Florence, MS: 13.45"
Tillman's Corner, AL: 11.74"
Milton, FL: 10.03"
Chattanooga, TN: 9.85"
Rome, GA: 5.70"
Roanoake, VA: 4.30"
Bluefield, WV: 3.14"
Bridge City, TX: 3.12"
Flatwoods, KY: 3.67"


Figure 3. Predicted rainfall for the 2-day period 8am EDT Tuesday - 8 am EDT Thursday, Sep 8, 2011. Lee's remnants are expected to bring a large swath of 7+ inches of rain into Central Pennsylvania. Image credit: NOAA/HPC.

Hurricane Katia
Hurricane Katia strengthened this morning into the Atlantic's first Category 4 hurricane of the year, but has slipped slightly in intensity due to an eyewall replacement cycle, and is now a strong Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds. Latest satellite loops show that the eye has now disappeared, and the hurricane is having trouble maintaining its eyewall in the face of moderate wind shear of 10 - 15 knots on its northwest side. Continued weakening to a Category 2 storm is a possibility, though Katia will probably re-strengthen later today or on Wednesday once it manages to build a new eyewall.

The computer models continue to agree that a low pressure system over the Eastern U.S. associated with the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee will turn Katia to the north well before the storm reaches the U.S. As the storm moves northwards past North Carolina, Katia will get caught up in west-to-east moving winds associated with the jet stream, and taken northeastwards out to sea. No land areas are in Katia's cone of uncertainty, and 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 high surf leading to beach erosion and dangerous rip currents. Long period swells from Katia have arrived at the coast, and the entire U.S. East Coast will receive an extended multi-day period of high surf. The East Coast is lucky that Tropical Storm Lee came along, since Lee helped to create the steering pattern that will keep Katia from hitting the U.S.


Figure 4. Morning satellite image of Hurricane Katia.

95L off the coast of Africa
A large tropical wave with plenty of intense thunderstorm activity and spin is located about 700 miles west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa. This wave, Invest 95L, is under a moderate 10 - 20 knots of wind shear, and is headed west to west-northwest at 15 mph. Recent satellite loops show that 95L has an elongated circulation center; this will need to tighten up into a more circular shape before the storm can become a tropical depression. Water vapor satellite images show that 95L is embedded in a very moist environment. Ocean temperatures are near 28°C, which is 1.5°C above the 26.5°C threshold usually needed for a tropical storm to form. With wind shear predicted to remain low to moderate the next four days, the atmosphere expected to stay moist, and ocean temperatures predicted to gradually warm, I don't see anything that would keep 95L from becoming a tropical depression in 1 - 2 days. NHC is giving 95L a 70% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Thursday. There is a large amount of model support for development of 95L into a tropical depression, with most of the models predicting it could be a weak tropical storm by the time it reaches the Northern Lesser Antilles Islands on Friday or Saturday. Residents of the islands should anticipate the possibility of tropical storm conditions arriving as early as Friday. Most of the models predict 95L will follow a path near or slightly north of the Northern Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico, then curve northwestwards, on a trajectory that would likely miss the Bahamas.

New Gulf of Mexico disturbance
A cold front swept into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Texas behind Tropical Storm Lee yesterday morning, and has stalled out along a line from Tampa, Florida to Mexico's Bay of Campeche in the southern Gulf of Mexico. Heavy thunderstorms have begun to build along the tail end of this front in the Bay of Campeche, but are still not very concentrated or organized. Most of the computer models develop a tropical depression in the Bay of Campeche late this week, and these same models did very well at anticipating the formation of Tropical Storm Lee in the Gulf of Mexico last week. Given the moderate wind shear, warm waters, and presence of an old cold front to serve as a nucleus for development, a new Gulf of Mexico tropical depression by late this week appears likely. The path such a storm might take would depend strongly on where the center forms. A more northerly formation location near the top of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula would likely result in a northward motion towards the Florida Panhandle. This is the solution of the European Center Model (ECMWF), which takes a weak tropical storm with a central pressure of 1000 mb into the Florida Panhandle on Sunday. A more southerly formation location might lead to the storm getting trapped in a region of weak steering currents, resulting in a slow, erratic motion in the southern Gulf. This is the solution of the latest runs of the GFS, NOGAPS, and UKMET models. NHC is giving this disturbance a 20% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Thursday.


Figure 5. Volunteers with Portlight.org disaster relief charity take a break from their Hurricane Irene relief efforts in Pink Hill, NC. From their latest blog post:Please help as you can. And please remember in your thoughts and prayers those in the path of Irene.

Jeff Masters

Crockett Texas Wildfire 2 (Moussifer)
A tree becomes a torch. We could hear the fire's roar.
Crockett Texas Wildfire 2
Bastrop's Burnin (CenTexWeatherGal)
This HUGE fire has already burned over 500 homes and over 30,000 acres. It is 0, yes 0 percent contained and stretches 16 miles long and 6 miles wide. The smoke plume can be seen on dopler radar. This fire is actually to the north east of Bastrop which is east of Austin.
Bastrop's Burnin
Magnolia Fire (shanzi)
Mighty close!
Magnolia Fire
flood (lazzyhazy1)
flood

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Quoting BrockBerlin:
GFS 18z run is puzzling my amateur eyes, it seems like it sends 14 north through a somewhat substantial ridge.


Theres no substantial ridge not in 2011 for that matter. 18z GFS swings a trof across the southeast and weakens what ever is left of the non-existent ridge and recurves the storm.
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Quoting AllStar17:
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I count 6 land falling storms out of 14.
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Sun is NOT happy right now.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 128 Comments: 35751
X-CLASS sun flare in progress
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if 14 stays weak still it will likely be on a west ward track however if she starts strengthening she will be moving in line with the NHC personally physically speaking regardless if she strengthens the ridge that is foretasted is very strong and a weak storm cannot push it self that far north!
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Quoting bohonkweatherman:
Hello Bloggers, I tried driving to Bastrop Tx. today HWY 21 was closed so I turned around and went thru Austin and drove on 71. I picked up a young lady who is like my third daughter and she is staying with us until Bastrop is livable again, she lost everything so I took her out to get School supplies and clothes. I have known her for all of her 15 years and it made me feel good to do this. I know of 8 to 10 families who have lost their homes. I do know they found 2 people dead in Bastrop fire. I think alot of people will come to Bastrop's rescue because there are so many great people out there. Less smokey here today and we will be OK as long as we pull together and help each other, have a great day. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers, Sincerely Dennis.


Thank you for your updates. We are keeping everyone there in our thoughts and prayers. I have been keeping an eye on that area. That is one big fire. I hope they can get it contained soon. As long as everyone can work together and help out, there will be brighter days ahead.
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1123. txjac
Quoting spathy:


Possibly
But in order to eat crow you had to stick your neck out.
So I have always likened the taste to bittersweet Turkey neck :O)

Freska was the perfect chaser.


Just a learner here ...and a slow one at that so I have no idea as to what crow or turkey neck taste like! Was just taking a stab in the dark ...lol
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Shhh!

wth did I miss?
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Quoting wunderweatherman123:



ok works for me
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Quoting muddertracker:


dude...that's kinda messed up...you ever meet someone like that?


Shhh!
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 128 Comments: 35751
Quoting Tazmanian:



he did huh? may be we sould here it from him 1st and make sure he did say that what you said above
post 860 if you dont believe me
It was the GFS ensemble mean. What would have to happen for TD 14 to hit the United States is either for it to pass into the heart of the Caribbean instead of north of Hispaniola, or to move slowly enough to allow the trough shown by the GFS to lift out before the storm gets to 70W.
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1115. txjac
Quoting justalurker:


i've had lamb, but what does crow taste like?


Like chicken ...what else?
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you spin me round and round like a record round and round!!

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TWC just said Katia should make it close to Iceland as a strong storm (80mph).
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


don't forget the groupies
nice folk into feet
and the stalkers
they want to pump your
ridge
while you are busy
lookin at the feet
strange bunch


dude...that's kinda messed up...you ever meet someone like that?
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Quoting wunderweatherman123:
Guys Levi told me there are only 2 ways td 14 will hit the US. one is if it gets through the heart of the carribean meaning a very southern track though i doubt it will take this track OR once it apporaches the islands for it to slow down and if it doesnt get passed 70W as the trough which is shown by the ensembles day 8 lifts out thats a straight SLAM into florida or the carolinas. the trough is there therefore the key is how SLOW tf 14 moves once passed 50W it could cruise as fast it wants to know but after 50W if it wants to hit the US it will have to slow down



he did huh? may be we sould here it from him 1st and make sure he did say that what you said above
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


I do not think so, not with the strong model support its receiving. ECMWF spinning it up is saying something.


Being a realist for the rest of the season. Going the basic approach and look at the puzzle pieces we have in place. Models have not done too well this season imo. I am in the believe it when i see it camp :) I find it really hard to believe we will have a cane sitting in the GOM (12Z ECMWF) looking at water vapor. I just don't see the evidence.
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So long as the boundary/cold front stalls out over the GOM, 96L should have enough moisture to develop. Remember North of the line = dry air, South of the line = moist air. My local met Dennis Phillips said the boundary will lift back up across our area on Thurs.


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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


don't forget the groupies
nice folk into feet
and the stalkers
they want to pump your
ridge
while you are busy
lookin at the feet
strange bunch


LMAO!!!
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Quoting FLdewey:


Yikes... well have a go-bag ready just in case man... hope you can get some rain soon.

Screw fines... I don't blame you one bit!


good news is that the winds are calm now..I'm going to be so pissed if this gomex system goes north and does nothing for Texas but make it real, real windy...
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Quoting SPLbeater:
Katia is still trying to get her act together...time runnin out for that storm


FYI,Katia survived when most storms would have dissipated , she reached Cat4 status, first of the 2011 season, she has nothing to be ashamed of, just saying.....:)
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Guys Levi told me there are only 2 ways td 14 will hit the US. one is if it gets through the heart of the carribean meaning a very southern track though i doubt it will take this track OR once it apporaches the islands for it to slow down and if it doesnt get passed 70W as the trough which is shown by the ensembles day 8 lifts out thats a straight SLAM into florida or the carolinas. the trough is there therefore the key is how SLOW tf 14 moves once passed 50W it could cruise as fast it wants to know but after 50W if it wants to hit the US it will have to slow down
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Quoting cat5hurricane:

She's a fish storm Keeper.


I'm suprised "fish storm" hasn't made it into the dictionary since its frequently used on TWC. lol
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1102. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting muddertracker:


and fans...the only thing you can't teach someone is how to develope a sense of humor...


don't forget the groupies
nice folk into feet
and the stalkers
they want to pump your
ridge
while you are busy
lookin at the feet
strange bunch
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Quoting Sfloridacat5:


Definitely a strong possibility. But its definitely not guaranteed. The same met said Irene was going to hit Florida.
When the models shifted, she had a nice crow dinner.





i've had lamb, but what does crow taste like?
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Yikes, TD Fourteen looks like it could be a mean one. Of course it's way too early to tell. The NHC predicts it will become a hurricane by Sunday. No thank you! Go away, Fourteen!

Very rainy day here on the East Coast. I wish with all my heart that I could send it to you folks in Texas.
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Quoting Levi32:


Or don't, and come up with a logical forecast. I love these situations because people, including the NHC, are forced to use their own reasoning rather than following a model consensus, because there is no consensus.



+1000000
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
For those wondering about the dry air, please refer to my post #946. If you do not believe my post #946, then ask Levi or Drak or somebody about it.


yeah, I think you said it would be going away?

If so, maybe that will give TX a chance. I sure hope so.
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Quoting beell:


If 96L struggles to develop, it could very well drift into MX as a US pescado.


Definitely a strong possibility. But its definitely not guaranteed. The same met said Irene was going to hit Florida.
When the models shifted, she had a nice crow dinner.



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Quoting FLdewey:
Mudder! What's the good word? You on fire yet?


Not yet...I can see the Leander fire from my house...Steiner Ranch fire is up the road a bit...they've got me surrounded. Turned on the sprinklers and sprayed down the roof ($2000 fine risk) yesterday when the Leander fire was ragin'...but we've been lucky. The whole backside of my neighborhood backs up to a greenbelt, so...
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Quoting FLdewey:


Thanks Tazman... you rock.



welcome
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Quoting txjac:


Please no ..I would like to see it fight the dry air and make it to Texas and bust up some of this dryness. Nothing harsh ..just lots of rain


I agree. :)
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Quoting FLdewey:
Mudder! What's the good word? You on fire yet?



mail
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


You have haters Dewey, lol.


and fans...the only thing you can't teach someone is how to develope a sense of humor...
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1086. beell
Quoting Sfloridacat5:
Local TV met (head meteorologist) said that 96L was a non-issue for the U.S. because it will be moving into Mexico. Hummm - time will tell.


If 96L struggles to develop, it could very well drift into MX as a US pescado.
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For those wondering about the dry air, please refer to my post #946. If you do not believe my post #946, then ask Levi or Drak or somebody about it.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 128 Comments: 35751
Quoting robert88:
All that dry sinking air in the GOM should keep the lid on 96L. I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes deactivated soon.


I do not think so, not with the strong model support its receiving. ECMWF spinning it up is saying something.
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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