Category Archives: Storm Surge

Hurricane MICHAEL: the aftermath!

Hurricane MICHAEL ran out of ocean before it could intensify any farther, but still managed to make landfall as the strongest category 4 hurricane, borderline with a cat 5 storm, in the Florida Panhandle region on 10 October 2018.

Satellite view (NOAA) of Hurricane Michael just before making landfall in the Florida Panhandle on 10 October 2018

The rapid intensification Michael underwent as it traversed the Gulf of Mexico in its final approach toward Florida is not that unusual. We have in fact witnessed similar occurrences with other storms reaching the northern Gulf. The shape and bathymetry of the Gulf, the so-called “loop current” that swishes around the Gulf before feeding the gulfstream over the Atlantic, and the fact that surface waters in the basin were rather warm at about 30+ Celsius, were all contributors to such rapid intensification.

What is somewhat unusual is that  Hurricane Michael decayed in intensity as expected after landfall and moving inland, but remained at tropical storm strength despite being deprived of its main source of energy, the warm surface waters of the Gulf, and being at times more than 360 kilometers (~225 miles) from the ocean, managing to travel some 1200 kilometers (750 miles) overland before exiting back over the Atlantic and re-strengthening. It is clear the tropical cyclone derived enough energy from the saturated atmosphere and waterlogged ground to remain a tropical storm during this trek over land. Amazing indeed, and something to explore by those who study cyclogenesis, and the exacerbating effects of global warming on hydro-meteorological hazards.

Projected track of Hurricane Michael (courtesy of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory) as on 10/10/2018

The headlines and media coverage following the impact of Michael, as expected, are full of photos showing the destruction and damage caused by Michael as well as articles describing and/or questioning what worked and what did not, and what to expect in the future.

There is plenty of topics and material to write about in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. At the moment what is most important, in my opinion, is to treat this event as an opportunity to learn from the survivors, meaning both the human beings and the buildings and infrastructure that managed to remain intact and functional.  What we empirically learn from studying these surviving buildings can provide invaluable lessons to guide future decisions regarding rebuilding efforts, building codes, and hazard mitigation solutions to prevent a repeat of the level of damage next time a hurricane comes calling on the affected region, or elsewhere.

Relative to the above please read the article by Daniel Cusick, published by EE News’ Climate Wire featuring an interview with yours truly and others about Hurricane Michael and its consequences on Mexico Beach, which is being called “ground zero” because of the level of damage and destruction it suffered.

You can get to the article by using the following URL:

https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060102515

There is a lot to learn and even more to write and talk about when it comes to Hurricane Michael.

FLORENCE AND COMPANY ARE ON THE MOVE!

Satellite image (NOAA) of the northern Atlantic basin showing plenty of tropical cyclone activity this Wednesday 12 September 2018

What a spectacle we are having as the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane season has entered its peak phase right on target, based on the historical record.  Three named tropical cyclones, FLORENCE, HELENE, and ISAAC,  plus two other potentially cyclonic systems are all active in the northern Atlantic basin this Wednesday 12 September 2018 while the tropical-wave assembly line over Equatorial Africa keeps churning new cyclonic seeds, sending them westward toward the Cape Verde Islands region and ‘Hurricane Alley’ beyond.

Satellite image (NOAA GOES) taken in visible light the afternoon of Tuesday 11 September 2018, shows a well shaped clear-eyed Hurricane FLORENCE as it moved toward mainland USA over Atlantic waters

A still strengthening Hurricane FLORENCE is the most dangerous of these systems as it continues to move toward the Carolinas and a potential landfall projected somewhere south of the Cape Hatteras region. Florence, which is already some 700 km in diameter, is slowing down as it approaches land and growing more dangerous, as it grows in size, generates more rain, and pushes a increasingly larger mound of water toward what could be record amounts of storm surge along the coastal region.

Projected track of Hurricane FLORENCE as of 12 September 2018

A massive evacuation effort from the coastal regions of South and North Carolina, as well as parts of Virginia, in underway already to protect life. Projected massive levels of storm surge, extreme rain, and  wind, will affect a large region well inland of the coastline from Georgia to New Jersey and points beyond. The potential for damage to property and infrastructure, and risk to human life and the environment is quite large as this dangerous storm comes over land this week.

Projected rainfall from Hurricane FLORENCE over the next few days illustrates the potential for extreme rain, and potential flooding

HELENE, a weakening hurricane is making a turn toward the north and eventually the northeast over open waters posing no risk to land. An also weakening Tropical Storm ISAAC continues to move toward the Windward Islands and the Caribbean where it may generate heavy rains and possible flooding. Isaac warrants close monitoring as it enters the warn waters and favorable Caribbean environment.

The disturbed weather system over the southern Gulf of Mexico, just off the Yucatan peninsula is generating heavy rain and thunderstorms over a vast region from Northern Nicaragua and the Gulf of Honduras to the central Gulf of Mexico. All interests around the Gulf need to monitor this one closely for potential further development in the next day or so.

With so much current cyclonic activity over the entire north Atlantic basin, and plenty of fuel for additional cyclonic activity coming from weather systems and tropical waves over Equatorial Africa we must all remain alert. Be prepared. MITIGATE!