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Recent extreme rainfall comparison

By: sullivanweather , 6:49 AM GMT on August 17, 2011

The very slow moving upper-level disturbance which has brought extremely heavy rainfall over the Northeast during the previous four days is finally lifting out into the Canadian Maritimes early this morning. A short-lived period of tranquility will return for Wednesday, with mostly sunny skies and temperatures returning to seasonable levels. A fairly weak trough will glide into the region on Thursday and remain till Friday, sparking off widely scattered, slow-moving showers and thundershowers during the afternoon and evening hours. Over the weekend, a deeper trough will dig into central Canada, shifting the mean flow to the southwest which will bring warmer and more humid air into the Northeast with further isolated, diurnally-driven showers and storms. The Canadian trough will sharpen further to open next week as it moves east, sending a strong cold front towards the region that has the potential for a more widespread severe weather outbreak Monday afternoon and evening. This front will make slow but steady progress through the region, however, a solid one to two inches of rain may accompany this front along with the severe potential. The front clears New England by Tuesday evening with drier, autumn-like air back for midweek.

The Rainfall which fell on the region since Friday night was particularly heavy along the coastal plain, where development of a coastal front/low pressure aided in low-level convergence. Cold air moving in aloft in the form of a very tightly would (especially for August) mid/upper-level low pressure system promoted convective elements within the overall shield of heavy rain, combined with unidirectional flow, this led to some rather impressive totals.

NASA MODIS Terra image of the Northeast on August 14th depicting a convective band of heavy rain along the coast.

Rainfall totals tapered inland, further removed from best forcing/moisture but 1-4" totals weren't uncommon up the Hudson Valley and points east into interior New England. Here's a brief rundown of some of the higher rainfall totals over the last four days:

Lido Beach, NY - 10.87"
Seabrook Farms, NJ - 10.64"
Wantagh, NY - 10.54"
West Islip, NY - 9.18"
Oceanside, NY - 8.75"
JFK Airport - 7.80" (all-time greatest daily rainfall - 8/14)
Central Park, New York City, NY - 6.37"
Lyndhurst, NJ - 6.00"

How does this event stack up against historical extreme rainfall events across the region?

April 2007 nor'easter

The last such widespread extreme rainfall event for the region affected by this latest system occurred during the April 2007 nor'easter, a slow-moving intense nor'easter which will be mostly remembered for the heavy wet snow dumped across upstate New York, northeast Pennsylvania and interior New England. But this storm did have a very wet side to it and the rainfall totals across the coastal plain were quite impressive, especially for a cold-season system. Rainfall totals as a whole were very similar over much the same area as what occurred this past weekend. However, due to the stratiform nature of the precipitation rainfall amounts were more evenly distributed than with this most recent event.

Radar rainfall estimates of precipitation during the April 2007 nor'easter

Rivervale, NJ - 9.30"
Central Park, New York City, NY - 8.41"
East White Plains, NY - 8.22"
West Shokan, NY - 7.43"
Lambertville, NJ - 7.25"
Somerset, NJ - 6.73"
Bakersville, CT - 6.72"
Roxborough, PA - 6.22"

Upton WFO PNS report of April 2007 nor'easter
Mt.Holly write-up/PNS of April 2007 nor'easter

However, for the Northeast as a whole, there's been other even more impressive rainfall events over the last ten years which make the latest event pale in comparison. June of 2006 was one such event.

June 2006 flooding

Over a 6 day timespan (24-29th) an oscillating band of heavy rain moved into the Northeast, hitting Pennsylvania and New York the hardest. Record river crests occured at many gauge sites on all 3 main stem rivers in this area (Deleware, Hudson and Susquehanna) as 5-14" of rain fell. Along the Deleware River the flooding was particulaly bad with many locations receiving a '100-year flood'.

June 2006 precipitation departures
Binghamton, NY Case Study: June 2006 Flood
Binghamton, NY June 2006 Flood page(including photos, precipitation estimate graphics and river gauge data)
Plot of rainfall amounts - New Jersey, eastern and central Pennsylvania, southeast New York, Deleware and northeast Maryland.

October 2005 flooding

Just eight months prior to the big June of 2006 flood, in October of 2005, there was a very similar atmospheric set-up which led to the most recent rainfall event; a slow-moving series of upper level disturbances moving over an area of high tropical moisture and numerous low-level convergent boundaries. This pattern repeated over a period of more than a week with two separate rainfall events, one from October 7-9th and the next from the 11-15th. Up to a foot of rainfall fell during the first system across parts of southeast New York while the second system, or series of systems, produced another widespread 5-15" of rain across the region. Central Park finished the month with 16.73", just short of breaking the all-time monthly record for rainfall of 16.85" set way back in September of 1882.

Upton WFO PNS of the Oct 7-9th event
Upton WFO PNS of the Oct 11-15th event

Flooding of late summer 2004

The most impressive widespread monthly rainfall over the Northeast over the last ten years, and on record, occurred during a period spanning August and September of 2004. The flooding was due to a series of 5 remnant tropical systems: Gaston, Hermine, Francis, Ivan and Jeanne. Each one of these systems produced some level of flooding and created wet antecedent conditions for the following systems, exacerbating the flooding problems.

Graph showing Northeast region rainfall since 1895. Note 2004 recorded the record highest basin-wide rainfall for the period of record with an 11.48" average.


Gaston rainfall amounts

Although Gaston affected the region in late August, it layed the groundwork to what the pattern would be like the the rest of the month, remnant tropical systems interacting with cold frontal boundaries to produce copious amounts of rainfall.

Gaston made landfall as a category 1 hurricane along the South Carolina coast. The storm then turned northward, then northeastward and exited the coast near Ocean City, Maryland and continued out to sea. Although the storm never made a direct impact on the Northeast, the moisture from this system became entrained into a cold front to produce localized rainfall amounts of 3-6 inches causes numerous flash floods.

Major flash flooding took place in Westbrookville, NY, a small village along the Sullivan County/Orange County border in southeast New York. Large sections of US route 209 were washed away along with many mobile homes in a trailer park. Further north in upstate New York the counties of Onondaga, Cayuga, Madison and Steuben all received significant flash flooding.


Hermine was a weak tropical storm which moved ashore Massachusetts on the last day of August. For the most part Hermine was a non-entity, producing up to 2 inches of rain over eastern Long Island and southeastern Massachusetts. There were some reports of minor basement flooding but that was the extent of her damage. Hermine formed from the same trough of low pressure that formed Gaston and oddly enough made landfall in the general vicinity as Hurricane Carol did 50 years prior.


Hurricane Frances

Frances was a long-lived Cape Verde hurricane that made 2 U.S. landfalls in Florida. One as a category 2 hurricane and another as a tropical storm in the Panhandle. The storm then turned towards the north and rode the west side of the Appalachian Mountains along a cold front before moving up the St. Lawrence River Valley.

Most of the rainfall from Frances that fell on the Northeast fell across the western half of the area with a few localized spots in southeast New York receiving heavy amounts of rain as well. Across western sections of New York and Pennsylvania 3-6" of rain fell, which brought sharp rises to areas rivers and brought some flashier creeks and streams out of their banks.

For the rest of the Northeast Frances brought a soaking rainfall which prepped the ground for Ivan, which followed one week later. There was one other area of heavy rainfall from training convection ahead of the cold front in southeast New York State which hit Orange, Putnam, Dutchess and Ulster counties hard, bringing flash flooding.

Rainfall amounts from Frances in my local area.
National Hurricane Centers' tropical cyclone report on Frances


Northeast rainfall totals from Ivan

Ivan was another long-lived Cape Verde hurricane which reached category 5 on 3 different occasions and accumulated the 2nd highest ACE for any Atlantic hurricane on record. Ivan made landfall on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. moved northward to the central Applachians before turning east, moving offshore the Delmarva. Ivan lost tropical characteristics overland, but once offshore the East Coast, moved southward before looping back towards the west. The remnants of the system then moved over Florida where it gradually regained tropical characteristics before becoming a tropical storm yet again in the Gulf of Mexico, making its final landfall in Louisianna.

For the Northeast, Ivan brought widespread heavy amounts of rain. Almost the entire state of Pennsylvania received 3 inches of rain or more, with several locations getting as many as 7 inches. With wet antedecent conditions from Gaston and Frances, flooding became a major issue. Many small streams and creeks as well as main stem rivers were brought out of their banks due to the excessive amounts of rain on saturated soil.

NWS Local forecast office links:

NWS Binghamton, NY

Radar rainfall estimates
Flooding photos
Damage reports/spotter reports

NWS Albany, NY

Multi-sensor precipitation estimate

NWS Upton, NY (NYC)

Spotter rainfall reports

NWS Tuanton, MA

24 hour rainfall 9/18/2004
24 hour rainfall 9/19/2004

NWS Mt. Holly, NJ (Philadelphia area)

Ivan rainfall page
Includes a plotted rainfall map and Public Information Statement

NWS State College, PA

Ivan Storm Summary
-This is a very informative link on the impacts of Ivan on central Pennsylvania. This link includes an in depth storm summary(text), plotted rainfall map, individual spotter reports, satellite and radar imagery, tornado reports and river stage charts for many gauge locations including river crests from Ivan, historical record crests and a comparison to the January 1996 flood.


Northeast rainfall amounts - Jeanne

Jeanne developed from a tropical wave just east of the Lesser Antilles and eventually became a category 3 hurricane, striking Florida in the same spot as Hurricane Frances 3 weeks prior. Jeanne followed an unusual path, seemingly headed out to sea after turning north, north of Hispainola. However, a strong high developed to Jeannes' north, blocking this cyclone from recurving and eventually turning her towards the U.S. East Coast. Jeanne, after making landfall, stayed inland moving up the Floridian Peninsula and up the east side of the Appalachian Mountains before moving offshore the Delmarva Peninsula.

In the Northeast rainfall from Jeanne was not as widespread as Ivan or Frances, but with saturated ground areas that did recieve rainfall quickly flooded. For the most part rain was confined to the southeastern half of the Northeast with the Philadelphia-New York City metro area hardest hit with totals of 4-7". This stripe of heavy rain continued eastward across Long Island, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod.

Jeanne related links:

HPC Jeanne Rainfall synopsis

NWS WFO State College, PA
Another very informative look into Jeannes' impacts across central Pennsylvania.

NWS WFO Mt. Holly, NJ
Includes a radar estimated precipitation map, tornado information and storm damage photos.

Pubilc Information Statement detailing spotter reported rainfall amounts.

NWS WFO Taunton, MA
24 hours rainfall 9/29/2004
24 hour rainfall 9/30/2004

Current watches, warnings and advisories.

Eastern US current watches/warnings
Current watches, warning and advisories issued by the National Weather Service. Courtesy of NOAA.


Tropical Update

It's mid-August and the tropical Atlantic basin is sputtering to a start, despite a near-record pace in the number of named storms. Thus far all seven storms have failed to attain hurricane strength and most have been short-lived. The most recent rash of tropical storms, Franklin and Gert, barely achieved two ACE points between them, bringing the total for all seven storms to a measly 11.9.

There may be one more such storm in the offing, as a strong tropical wave (93L) currently entering the central Caribbean Sea has been showing signs of organization and could very well become the next named system. Strong cyclonic flow is noted on satellite loops in the mid-levels and should build down to the surface during increasing convective flare-ups over the next 12-24 hours as it moves into a region of higher moisture content. Wind shear across the Caribbean Sea is remarkably low and sea-surface temperatures are running 28-29┬░C, so there aren't too many obstacles in the way of future development.

Tropical disturbance '93L' in the central Caribbean Sea.

I expect a depression to be named from 93L by late tonight or early tomorrow morning, which will then become Tropical Storm Harvey by tomorrow afternoon. With high oceanic heat content, high levels of atmospheric moisture and low wind shear expected along the path of Harvey the cyclone should strengthen right until interaction with land, which will likely be Belize/Yucatan Peninsula. Whether or not 'Harvey' strengthens to a hurricane will be dependent on how quickly it can take advantage of the conducive environment before making landfall.

An upper-level low pressure to the southwest of the disturbance should continue its brisk pace towards the west into Central America with the tropical disturbance in hot pursuit. This westward motion of around 15kts should continue for the next 36 hours, with a slight bend to the north and a minor slowing of the forward speed. This track will take the possible tropical storm very close to the northeast coast on Honduras in 36 hours. From there a more west-northwest track is expected until crossing the Yucatan in 60-72 hours. With strong deep-layer ridge to the north over northern Mexico and the US Southern Plains this storm may not make it back into the Bay of Campeche and may instead be suppressed south into Mexico.

Elsewhere in the tropics, a well-defined tropical wave has just emerged off Africa which computer models have consistently developed into our first Cape Verde storm of the 2011 Atlantic Tropical Season. The GFS model in particular has this storm taking dead aim on the US mainland for several model runs straight. Broad cyclonic turning in the cloud field is noted with this wave with a cluster of moderate to strong convection south of the low center associated with the ITCZ. This will be definitely be something to keep an eye on over the next week to ten days.

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Radar: Northeast Region Loop

NE radar
Radar loop of the Northeast region. Courtesy of Weather Underground.

_________________________________________________ __________

Local SST's

Northeast SST's
Sea-surface temperatures off the Northeast Coast. Courtesy of NOAA.

_________________________________________________ __________

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

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12. sullivanweather
4:10 AM GMT on August 19, 2011

Yeah, we seemed to be right on the fringes of everything. All the 2-3 foot snowfalls were 2-3 inches here.

The flooding of Lake Champlain was crazy. It's hard to imagine that much water to raise the level of a lake that large that high.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
11. listenerVT
3:21 AM GMT on August 19, 2011
There's a new Ally update over at Crowe's.
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10. listenerVT
3:20 AM GMT on August 19, 2011
Sully ~ Yeah, the wedding was pretty sweet!
I was really surprised to read you had such a bust of a winter as regards precip. We had so darn much snow ~ record-breaking 100+" of it ~ we'd have been happy to send you some truckloads of it! ;-) Then the flooding this Spring, also record-breaking. I have to wonder what's in store from here.

Shovler ~ Good for you getting a house and working hard to keep it viable. May it just get easier from here.

OriginalLT ~ Thanks for your note about son's reports from the Arctic. He got back in time for his brother's wedding. It took 7 flights to get him there and 8 flights to get him home. We were sooo glad to see him! He says they never even saw a Polar Bear after all; just a Grizzly.
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9. sullivanweather
2:05 AM GMT on August 19, 2011
Good evening, Blizz!

We're getting hammered pretty good up here this year too. As I was saying to Shovler, the tomato plants have really taken a beating. Caught early blight just like what happened to a lot of people in 2009.

Weather station is up to 37.78" but you can probably add a couple inches in there from snow that didn't make it to melt in the rain collector. We've even been getting skipped this year by a lot of events. 12/26/10 storm - 3.2". Twenty-five miles south of here 26". January 26th event we got 3.2" as well. Thirty-five miles southeast of here at my parents in Middletown they got a foot. I think there was another big storm this winter too that blew right over us. January 7th, I think it was. Yeah. We got 3.8" with that one. This summer we've watched storms pound areas just north/south of here while we get skipped.

Honestly, though, I think we were getting let off easy due to what we had to deal with May 26th. We got slammed with straight-line winds that literally snapped thousands of trees in the area. Route 97 was closed for a day and a mile long section of the road had every power POLE snapped in half and laying in the forest. All main transmission lines. We didn't get power back for 3 days. I couldn't even get the radar loop saved. Power went flickered and went out before the storm hit so we knew we were in for it. Two or three lightning flashes per second. Continuous thunder where you couldn't tell where one ends and the next begins. Pretty amazing storm. Only weather event of note here over the last year, other than cumulative rainfall.
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8. Zachary Labe
6:37 PM GMT on August 18, 2011
sullivanweather- Just checking in! Sure has been a wet summer in Harrisburg in fact one of the wettest years to date on record. I have recorded an astonishing 45.17in of rain well above our yearly norm!
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7. sullivanweather
2:59 PM GMT on August 18, 2011

Our Boston Terrier will be two in ten days. An amazing well-balanced dog! We want a shepherd but our landlord's insurer won't allow tenants with dogs over 50lbs. So we're out of luck there until we get our own place.

I was making that comment about the house in jest...lol
It seems paying straight up with cash is just about the only way to get anything these days. And I'm not looking forward to buying heating oil this winter either. I'm still waiting for the price of gas to drop from this market crash. Oil is down to $83/barrel but for some reason gas is the same price it was when oil was over $100/barrel a couple years ago over $4/gallon with diesel running about 20 cents higher. If heating oil goes back up to $3.29/gallon it's gonna get tough.
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6. TheShovler3
2:35 PM GMT on August 18, 2011
Garden sounds amazing, i Had big plans for mine this year but the time just wasn't there everything was going well until i couldn't keep up with the weeds and they over ran half of the garden. Peppers are doing fantastic and Eggplants are just getting up there probably about 2.5' Tall Zuks were great until i weird grayish bug decimated them, i've personally never seen them before. Tomatoes are doing great huge green ones and some reds right now but i have a critter getting inside and eating them. I had a goffer dig under the raised bed and i "got" him but this is something else. I have plans this fall to tear it all apart and break it into sections and put paths in with a 6' tall cedar pole fence ( my new home had a pile of cedar posts left in it) I'll see where it goes

As for the syrup i'm already ahead of last year the woods stacked and split inside the shack pans are clean and hopefully the buckets will soon get put away neatly.

The house- i didn't pay cash wish i could have but the loan was a struggle. I have great credit and a great job, i saved up a nice chunk of change and the only way i could get the loan was if i put down 30% which on a purchase price of 305,000 that was every penny i had so it was pay check to paycheck for awhile especially after heating oil for this winter. I've got it all under control now just re insulated replace a faulty thermostat(major cause)

I'm looking to put up solar panels on the barn... at least get the quote and take it from there.

I guess you did get the shaft this winter the december 26-27 storm was my second storm and it dropped 25" shoveling it was horrendous i had drifts well above my waist i'll post some pictures soon that i took. As well as my 2 pups 85pound german shepherd who's 1 year 4 months and my 7 pound maltipoo who's 7 months old.
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5. sullivanweather
11:38 AM GMT on August 18, 2011

Good to see ya, bro! It feels good to be back.

We got the shaft this winter. Every big storm missed us here. In fact, our biggest storm here was that late March overrunning event.

Here's the rundown:

December 26-27 - 4.1"
January 7 - 3.8"
January 11-12 - 3.2"
January 18 - 2.6"
January 21-22 - 4.8"
January 23 - 0.4"
January 25 - 2.1"
January 26-27 - 3.2"
January 29 - 1.5"
January 30 - 0.2"
February 1 - 5.2"
February 2 - 3.3"
February 5 - 1.2"
February 7-8 - 3.3"
February 13-14 - 0.8"
February 19 - 0.4"
February 20-21 - 6.2"
February 24-25 - 1.2"
February 26-27 - 0.8"
March 7 - 2.1"
March 21 - 4.1"
March 23-24 - 7.9"
April 1-2 - 3.2"
April 7 - 0.6"

Total - 66.2"

Congratulations on the new house! Did you pay in cash? I don't know anyone getting home loans right now...lol. I hope you get your maple syrup thing running again at full capacity. I'll definitely be interested in some. I drink the stuff straight from the bottle. I might as well be from Vermont...lol

The garden this year was fantastic with eggplant (3'+ tall plants already) and red bell peppers (over two dozen peppers thus far off 6 plants). Broccoli did okay. Green beans were terrific. Beets did well. Collards great. Strawberries produced all year except for two weeks in mid/late July. But the tomatoes were horrid. Caught early blight and never recovered. Got only a couple tomatoes per plant. Very disappointing. The squash is now coming into its own. Getting pumpkins, watermelons, cukes, and winter squash with regularity now.

In fact, I don't think I've posted anything of this new garden of mine. I only started construction on it last June. That will be on the agenda.

I'll be seeing ya around! C

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
4. sullivanweather
11:23 AM GMT on August 18, 2011

That sounds amazing! I can't imagine all that went into the planning. It must have been some feat to pull off. I'm glad the weather cooperated (whew!). I don't know which I would have enjoyed most, the food or the fireworks...lol
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3. TheShovler3
10:40 PM GMT on August 17, 2011
Sully,Glad your back!!! in your absence i was also not really around much. I can see why there just needs to be some soul searching in everyones life and depression is really serious so what you did was probably the best thing you could have. It takes time and were all here for you even if its through a website. Hang in there buddy and i'm very happy to have you back here! Hope all is well and i see the blogs are back up to speed.

I had 3.6" (not 6.3" i invert sometimes) of rain in the last storm system.

I bought a house a year ago August 6th 2010, its been overwhelming to say the least so i devote much of my time to the house and maintaining it so, my veggie garden and maple syrup has suffered a bit. I Did both this year but not to the scale that i used to hopefully i'll work up to it this coming year.

Over winter i didn't keep exact accounts but i had 4 storms over 15" and approximately 85-90" of snow, at one point there was 32" on the ground. and thats my up to speed update.

Again i'm extremely happy to see your back
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
2. listenerVT
9:12 PM GMT on August 17, 2011
Thanks, Sully!

The weather here was PERFECT from setting up for the rehearsal party last Friday until cleaning up on Sunday after Son's Saturday wedding!

Lovely wedding, and they wrote their own vows, which were extraordinarily well-fashioned, deep, poetic and moving. Live music by Joshua Panda at the reception, scrumptious food by all natural caterer Sugar Snap, videographed by a videographer for the Red Sox, and amazing wedding cake created by the bride's cousin, Craig Poirier, who will be featured this month on TV's Top Chef show. After the food and the dancing we were invited to go outside for a professional pyrotechnics performance, followed by the setting off of fire lanterns, then a bonfire under the full moon.

It's a really good thing the weather was fine! :-)
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1. goofyrider
7:44 AM GMT on August 17, 2011
40N, 74W

morn sully

4 in here on the coast since Sat.

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Thomas is an avid weather enthusiast, landscaper and organic gardener. This blog is dedicated to Northeast and tropical weather forecasting. Enjoy!

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