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 Neapolitan:
AL, 14, 2011090618, , BEST, 0, 115N, 358W, 30, 1008, LO, 0, , 0, 0, 0, 0,
We have TD 14?
Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 5628
Quoting Levi32:
Euro says uh oh:

Thats bigger than an uh oh to me Levi. Thats more like an OH .....!Lol Am I looking at the right day? Could it be in that area by Sunday?!? Im not up to date on any models for the last 36hrs?
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WE have TD14:

invest_RENUMBER_al952011_al142011.ren

...and:

AL, 14, 2011090618, , BEST, 0, 115N, 358W, 30, 1008, LO, 0, , 0, 0, 0, 0,
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Quoting Hurlo:
Found DJ.



Are you making fun of my rain-shadow?
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 140240
Quoting jpsb:

anthropogenic global warming, or man made global warming, some people believe man is causing global warming and some people don't. Those that do believe are pro AGW and so that don't are called deniers. Like holocaust deniers, a derogatory term. There are numerous other terms and descriptions applied to people that think man is not (solely) responsible for warming or that the warming might not be happening. I hope this comment does not violate community standards, notice I am not taking any sides :)


Keep smiling.

Pro AGW says one thing. Pro AGW theory says another thing. I was responding to pro AGW since that is what was stated. :)
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it's so depressing to once again see all that rain in the gulf and none of it has a snowballs chance in Heck of making it here. *sigh*
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Quoting RitaEvac:


That would be daughter Pat


Not if 95L becomes Mia first.
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12z Euro also has a stronger A/B High and weaker trough over the Ohio River Valley, while the 12z GFS is just the opposite...hmm

12z Euro Link (still running)

12z GFS Link
Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 5628
Quoting Levi32:
Euro says uh oh:



I'll believe the strength when I see it. The track is fairly reasonable, although it might end up being more towards the Florida Panhandle.
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Quoting MississippiWx:
Link

Thanks!
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Quoting MNhockeymama:


Do you have a link for this?
Link
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More dry air and winds to start another weekend deja vu fire storm in TX all over again if this pans out

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Quoting MississippiWx:
Landfall just east of NOLA as a 969mb hurricane on Sunday according to Euro...

(BOC feature)


Do you have a link for this?
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12OZ OF THE EURO NOGAPS UK MET AND THE CMC TAKE SOON TO BE MARIA THROUGH THE CENTRAL ANTILLES. ONLY THE GFS TAKES SLIGHTLY NORTH OF THE LEEWARD ISLANDS
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Have you seen this video?

”Four days before Hurricane Irene struck eastern North Carolina and tracked northward, NOAA's National Hurricane Center accurately projected the storm's path. Even before then, forecasts showed that Irene would threaten the East Coast. This satellite animation shows Irene's progress across the western Atlantic and how it followed the National Hurricane Center's track issued at 11pm ET on Tuesday, August 23 (Advisory # 15)”

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Quoting RitaEvac:
It's weird now that when walking to car in parking lot we don't sweat


You are sweating, it is just evaporating to fast to feel it.
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Quoting SPLbeater:
i would have 95L a TD by 8 PM


They would upgrade it at either 5pm or 11pm though, not at an intermediate advisory time.
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Quoting Patrap:




The Son of Lee Lurks the GOM


That would be daughter Pat
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Euro says uh oh:

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i still have doubts bout this BOC system, i dont think its gonna do anything but blow up and die each day
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It's weird now that when walking to car in parking lot we don't sweat
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Landfall just east of NOLA as a 969mb hurricane on Sunday according to Euro...

(BOC feature)
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nice
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i would have 95L a TD by 8 PM
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Gulf Of Mexico - Water Vapor Loop
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 140240
Quoting Levi32:


Don't worry it won't be a problem for long, but it will cause other problems. This winter is likely to be warm in the south too.


yea hopefully have some big airmass clashes and that would mean thunderstorms and rain in the south
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Quoting MississippiWx:
Yikes...975mb and moving towards the Northern Gulf Coast on Saturday.




The Son of Lee Lurks the GOM
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 140240
Quoting Levi32:


I get the strange feeling that it's about to show unrealistic deepening again, like it did with Lee on that one run of 930mb.
Quoting MississippiWx:
Yikes...975mb and moving towards the Northern Gulf Coast on Saturday.


Lol...Maybe so..
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Yikes...975mb and moving towards the Northern Gulf Coast on Saturday.
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Quoting MississippiWx:
12z Euro has the GOM disturbance down to 994mb on Friday and still in the Northern BOC.


I get the strange feeling that it's about to show unrealistic deepening again, like it did with Lee on that one run of 930mb.
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 140240
Quoting Hurlo:


Fill the vanup with E85 before you return it....and wash the sheets this time!


I don't think a van that old will run efficiently on E85.
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 140240
Quoting wxobsvps:


Oh my! I sure hope Grandpa's daughter is ok.


speaking of Grandpa...did he ever check back in after Irene?
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12z Euro has the GOM disturbance down to 994mb on Friday and still in the Northern BOC.
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492. beell
October-in 3 weeks.

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Katia has new eye...intnsification could start soon
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 140240
Uh oh...code orange...time to raise the DOOM:CON level!!!

I'm sure someone has already said something to that effect, but I just had to chip in, lol.

I'm suspecting we'll be seeing code red in the GOM by tonight or tomorrow morning...
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Quoting Levi32:


Don't worry it won't be a problem for long, but it will cause other problems. This winter is likely to be warm in the south too.

A warm winter in Florida is like a cool summer up north---I love it!
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Quoting cellman007:



You clearly have no idea what AGW means then


I interpreted it as a joke suggesting that those who believe AGW is occurring are not pro-AGW because they want to stop it while those who don't believe AGW is occurring are pro-AGW because they want to keep on doing the things that would contribute to AGW. Well... either a joke or being very literal on the English language.
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Quoting Patrap:



Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service New Orleans la
442 am CDT Tuesday Sep 6 2011


Short term...
17
wow...is the only word that comes to mind as we have quickly moved
from a tropical wet mess to cool dry air that is making things
very comfortable. This air mass hangs around for several days. Highs
will struggle getting into the lower 80s today and Wednesday. As we all
know...sept can be just as hot as August. But this is a much
needed break from the heat and humidity. A slow warming trend will
take temperatures into the upper 80s again by the weekend and back to the
90s by next week.


At some point we will have to acknowledge that another tropical
system will be forming in the southern Gulf. This area is
currently very unsettled and has the very southern end of a
stalled cold front. All the ingredients are there for a disturbance
to develop. The question is not if...but instead...once it does
where does it go? Something should be showing up as early as Wednesday.
After it develops...a slow drift to the north should ensue Thursday and
Friday. This is where confidence begins to lower. The portfolio of
global models are somewhat different in their solutions with the
Euro taking the system near Pensacola by Sunday and the GFS taking
it into Mexico. All models bring a strong short wave around the
large scale upper low over the Ohio Valley causing a strong trough
to once again dig and move southward. This is the weakness that
most other guidance packs are showing breaking the ridge and
pulling the system northward into the Gulf Coast. The interesting
thing is that the GFS also shows this same weakness in the upper
level pattern but builds the middle level ridge between the upper
trough and the disturbance cutting off its northward progress.


The reason for the models difference in placement of the system is
timing. The GFS develops the system more slowly before moving it
northward and therefore gives the Bermuda ridge time to develop
back westward behind Katia and into the Gulf. The Euro develops it
quicker and starts its northward journey sooner so that when the
Bermuda ridge builds west it is too late. So as usual...timing
will play a significant role in where this one ends up. The
shorter the time the disturbance starts moving north...the more
bets will be on a Euro solution. A little later and the GFS wins.
Even later and none will get it right as the system would get
pushed toward the SW into central Mexico.


Thanks so much for the explanation. Unfortunately, none of the models (that I'm aware of) show the system moving northwestward to Texas (my location)...alas! We're long beyond the point of being desparate for rain...

PS I've tried many times to select an avatar for my infrequent posts, but have been unsuccessful, to date. Perhaps, I need to be a paying supporter and not just a free lurker?
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Quoting Patrap:
Looks at the Heat in Texas on the Rainbow IR..sheesh



It's actually pretty nice today. Temps have moderated.
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I think that 95L/Pre TD is going to travel W into the Caribbean
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483. JLPR2
...HURRICANE HUNTER PLANE FINDS KATIA A LITTLE WEAKER...
2:00 PM AST Tue Sep 6
Location: 27.3°N 66.4°W
Max sustained: 115 mph
Moving: NW at 9 mph
Min pressure: 963 mb

Weird that no one has posted this.
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Quoting RitaEvac:


I've never seen it this cool in early September, way to early for this


Don't worry it won't be a problem for long, but it will cause other problems. This winter is likely to be warm in the south too.
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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