Yesterday was the first day of the official hurricane season in the Atlantic. It also saw the formation of the third system of the season.
Tropical Depression Three developed in the Bay of Campeche Monday afternoon. The system is the remnants of Eastern Pacific Tropical Storm Amanda, which moved into southern Guatemala on Saturday. It has been producing heavy rainfall across portions of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and southeastern Mexico since Friday, and that will likely continue for another couple of days as the system mills around in the Bay of Campeche. As of early Tuesday morning, the system was centered about 100 miles west of Campeche, Mexico with maximum sustained winds near 35 mph, and was moving toward the west at 5mph. Conditions are favorable for additional strengthening, and the system could be upgraded to Tropical Storm Cristobal on Tuesday. Since this seems likely, the government of Mexico has issued a Tropical Storm Warning from Campeche to Puerto de Veracruz.
This season is the 6th one since 1851 that has seen 2 named storms form before June 1 (1887, 1908, 1951, 2012, and 2016 are the others). If this system is named in the next few days, it will be the earliest we’ve ever had a “C” storm in the Atlantic. The previous record was June 5, 2016, when Tropical Storm Colin was born.
The forecast for the system is fairly straightforward for the next few days. The system should mill around in the Bay of Campeche, producing heavy rainfall across southeastern Mexico and neighboring countries, with some strengthening likely. This will produce significant flooding, and mudslides in mountainous areas. As we get into the latter half of the week, things gets significantly more complicated. There are two distinct scenarios presented by the various computer models at this time. The first option is that the system turns northward, and moves across the Gulf of Mexico, heading towards the northern Gulf Coast towards next weekend while strengthening. The second option is that the system moves into southeastern Mexico and dissipates, then a new storm forms near or north of the Yucatan Peninsula, and heads northward later in the week. Either way, residents of the Gulf Coast should pay attention to the progress of this system as as the week goes on.
Most of the forecast models do not show this system reaching hurricane strength before moving towards the Gulf Coast, but a few do. This is consistent with early-season storms that impact the United States. Since 1851, only 18 hurricanes have made landfall during the month of June in the United States, and only one (Audrey in 1957) did so as a major hurricane. A hurricane hasn’t made landfall in the United States before July 1 since Hurricane Bonnie came ashore as a minimal hurricane near the Texas/Louisiana border on June 26, 1986. The earliest in the season that a hurricane has ever made landfall in the United States was June 9, 1966, when Hurricane Alma made landfall in the Florida Panhandle.
Earlier this month, Tropical Storm Arthur grazed the Outer Banks of North Carolina and “Tropical Storm Bertha” moved into South Carolina, marking the 6th year in a row that we had at least one named tropical system in the Atlantic before the “official” start of Hurricane Season, which runs from June 1 through November 30. That’s just the start of what looks to be an active hurricane season.
Arthur produced wind gusts of up to 45 mph across the Outer Banks of North Carolina, with rainfall of 3-5 inches resulting in some flooding. Otherwise, it was a rather unremarkable storm, which is rather typical for early-season storms. Earlier this week, “Bertha” (we’re skeptical that it was really a tropical storm) brought heavy rain into parts of South Carolina. This is the 6th time since 1851 that we’ve had 2 named storms form before June 1 (1887, 1908, 1951, 2012, and 2016 are the others). Despite the early start for the past several years, the average date for the first named storm in the Atlantic is still in late June or early July. Over 97% of all named storms in the Atlantic form between June 1 and November 30. Like our first two storms this year, most early season storms tend to be on the weaker side. A hurricane hasn’t made landfall in the United States before July 1 since Hurricane Bonnie came ashore as a minimal hurricane near the Texas/Louisiana border on June 26, 1986.
An early start is not always a harbinger of what the season will bring. NOAA issued their seasonal hurricane outlook last Wednesday, and it calls for a 60 percent chance for an above normal season, a 30 percent chance for a normal season, and a 10 percent chance for a below normal season. Many of the other hurricane outlooks issued by various outlets are also expecting a busy season, due to a number of factors. An average season consists of 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes and 3 become major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale). NOAA’s forecast for this season calls for 13-19 named storms, 6-10 hurricanes, and 3-6 major hurricanes. The Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State, the first group to forecast how active a hurricane season would be, originally led by Dr. Bill Gray, will issue their forecast on June 4. Their initial forecast from April called for 16 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes. They also pegged the chance at a storm making landfall in the United States at 69% (52% is the average in any given year), and the odds of a storm making landfall along the East Coast at 45% (31% is the average). The last 5 seasons have all featured above normal activity across the Atlantic.
A busy season does not always mean that multiple storms (or any storms for that matter) will impact the United States. In 2010, 19 named storms were observed in the Atlantic, 12 of them became hurricanes, and 5 were major hurricanes. Only one storm made landfall in the United States, and that was Bonnie, which was a minimal tropical storm at landfall. On the flip side, an inactive year doesn’t mean much for landfall probabilities as well. Only 7 named storms formed in 1992, and the 1st one didn’t develop until August 16. That storm, however, was named Andrew, and it made landfall just south of Miami as a category 5 storm.
Here in New England, we should always pay attention when a storm is nearing the Bahamas, as those are the ones that have the potential to impact us, and we are very overdue for a system to impact us. Using data back to 1851, here are some stats that show how overdue we are:
Since 1851, 36 storms of tropical storm strength of greater have made landfall in New England or Long Island, an average of one every 4.7 years. The longest we’ve ever gone without one is 11 years, between 1897 and 1908 and also between 1923 and 1934. We’re at 9 years since Irene, the last one to do so.
Since 1851, 28 strong tropical storms (maximum sustained winds of 60 mph or more) have made landfall in New England or Long Island, an average of one every 6 years. The longest we’ve ever gone without one is 20 years, between 1991 and 2011. We’re at 9 years since Irene, the last one to do so.
Since 1851, a hurricane has made landfall in New England or Long Island 18 times, an average of one every 9.4 years. The longest we’ve ever gone between hurricane landfalls is 38 years, between 1896 and 1934. It’s been 29 years since Bob, our 2nd longest drought on record.
Since 1851, 9 hurricanes of Category 2 intensity or stronger have made landfall in New England or Long Island, an average of one every 18.8 years. The longest we’ve gone between hits by storms of that intensity is 69 years, between 1869 and 1938. We’re at 29 years since Bob, the last one to do so.
Since 1851, New England/Long Island has had 3 Major Hurricanes (Category 3 or higher) make landfall – an unnamed storm in October of 1869, the infamous 1938 Long Island Express, and Hurricane Carol in 1954. That’s an average of 1 every 56.3 years, and the longest time between 2 major hurricanes is 69 years (1869-1938). We’re at 66 years since Carol. There are also 3 documented storms from before 1851 – The Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635, the 1815 New England Hurricane, and the Norfolk and Long Island Hurricane of 1821. That’s it. That changes the numbers to 6 in 385 years, or one every 64.2 years, with a longest drought of 180 years.
We all saw what Sandy did in 2012, and that was a minimal hurricane that eventually made landfall in southern New Jersey. When (not if) the next big storm comes up the coast, much of this region will not be prepared for the storm or its aftermath.
The Atlantic is quiet right now, but some of the models show the potential for a system to develop over the next 7-10 days in the western Caribbean or the Bay of Campeche (we’re ignoring the cluster of cumulus clouds in the central Atlantic that the National Hurricane Center is “watching”). Even if something were to form off the East Coast in the next few weeks and head this way, the waters off of New England are much too cold to sustain a tropical system, so we’d see something more like a typical nor’easter. Only two tropical storms have ever made landfall in the Northeast before the end of June. The first was an unnamed minimal tropical storm that crossed extreme eastern Long Island and went into southeastern Connecticut on May 30, 1908. The other was Tropical Storm Agnes, which made landfall near New York City on June 22, 1972, then caused devastating flooding across parts of the Mid-Atlantic states. In terms of hurricanes, the earliest one to ever make landfall up this way was Hurricane Belle, which slammed into Long Island with 90 mph winds on August 9, 1976. We did have Hurricane Arthur pass just offshore of Nantucket on July 4, 2014. While it did not make landfall, it made for a rather wet and cool holiday, especially across Cape Cod and southeastern Massachusetts. Statistically, the most likely time for a hurricane to hit New England is between the middle of August and late September. Of the 18 hurricanes that made landfall in New England or Long Island since 1851, 16 of them have done so between August 19 and September 27.
As always, you should get your weather information from a trusted source, especially when dealing with tropical systems. Much like with snowstorms in the winter, there will be plenty of hype and exaggeration on Twitter and Facebook, as well as people posting doom and gloom maps showing how a thunderstorm near the coast of Africa will develop into a Category 5 storm and head right for the East Coast in the next 2 weeks. We’re not among that group, we give you facts and our best forecasts, without any hype. If there’s reason to worry, we’ll let you know with plenty of advance warning. It’s always best to prepare ahead of the season. Chances are, you won’t have anything to worry about, but in case you do, it’s always good to be prepared, as we’ve learned recently.
If we had written this forecast a few days ago, it would have looked rather cool and damp for a large chunk of the week. Instead, it’s now looking a lot drier, and likely a bit milder, especially late in the week.
We start the week off with a warm front trying to move into the region, producing a few light showers this morning , mainly north of the Mass Pike. The front won’t quite make it, so we’ll remain on the cool side, with plenty of clouds. The reason the front won’t make it is a large area of high pressure over eastern Quebec is going to slowly build in and drop southward. As the high builds in, we’ll start to clear out for Tuesday, with another cool day expected, especially along the coast.
As we had into the middle to latter portions of the week, that high pressure area will continue to slide southward and offshore, with winds shifting into the west and southwest. This will bring milder air back in, especially by Friday, when temperatures could top 80 degrees in spots.
By Friday night, a weak area of low pressure over the Mid-Atlantic states will start to push offshore south of New England. This will bring clouds back in along with a few showers. The more noticeable effect will be on temperatures, as winds will shift back into the east, bringing much cooler air back in off the chilly Atlantic. We’ll dry out Saturday night and Sunday as the low pulls away. High pressure should build back in for Memorial Day, with warmer weather returning.
Monday: Plenty of clouds, chance for a few showers in the morning, mainly north of the Mass Pike. High 60-67, cooler along the coast.
Monday night: Partly to mostly cloudy. Low 41-48.
Tuesday: A mix of sun and clouds, breezy. High 55-62, coolest along the coast.
Tuesday night: Becoming mostly clear. Low 38-45.
Wednesday: Plenty of sunshine. High 59-66, a little cooler along the coast.
Thursday: Sunshine and a few afternoon clouds. High 67-74, cooler along the South Coast.
Friday: Partly to mostly sunny. High 73-80, cooler along the South Coast.
Saturday: Intervals of clouds and sunshine, breezy, chance for a few showers. High 68-75, but temperatures may turn cooler in the afternoon, especially along the coast.
Sunday: Partly sunny. High 63-70, cooler along the coast.
Memorial Day: A mix of sun and clouds. High 70-77, cooler along the coast.
Tropical Storm Arthur remains fairly weak off the Southeast coast early this morning. It will brush the Outer Banks of North Carolina later today with some gusty winds and heavy rainfall, but is expected to turn more toward the northeast and east and head out to sea while becoming extratropical on Tuesday. It may bring some gusty winds and rainfall to Bermuda later this week as an extra tropical system. After that, it may actually meander around in the central Atlantic for several days as an extratropical system, but won’t impact any land areas.
For several days, most of the forecast models have been showing the potential for a tropical or subtropical system to develop in or near the Bahamas this weekend. Potential became reality Saturday evening when Tropical Depression One formed.
As of 8pm EDT, newly-formed Tropical Depression One was centered about 175 miles east-northeast of Melbourne, Florida, moving toward the northeast at 14 mph. Maximum sustained winds were near 35 mph. With favorable upper-level conditions and the system sitting over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, strengthening is expected, and the system will likely be upgraded to Tropical Storm Arthur tonight or on Sunday.
A general north-to-northeast track is expected over the next few days, which could bring the center very close to the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Monday. As a result, a Tropical Storm Watch is now in effect for the coast of North Carolina from Surf City to Duck, including Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds.
Rain and gusty winds across the northwestern Bahamas and the east coast of Florida will wind down tonight, but rain should spread into the Carolinas later Sunday. The heaviest rain is expected from eastern North Carolina into the Delmarva Peninsula Monday into Tuesday, where as much as 2-4 inches could fall, leading to some localized flooding.
Once it gets past the Carolinas, the official forecast track from the National Hurricane Center calls for the storm to turn toward the east-northeast and head out to sea while becoming extratropical, but this is far from a lock. An upper-level low pressure system will be moving into the Mid-Atlantic states and some models show the potential for the upper-low to capture the storm, and let it meander around near or just off the East Coast for several days as an extratropical system, with a large high pressure area to the north blocking it from moving farther up the coast. This would result in several days of damp and breezy conditions from the Carolinas possibly into Southern New England. Once we get towards Monday, we should hopefully have a better idea of what the storm will do.
While Hurricane Season in the Eastern Pacific Ocean starts on May 15, Hurricane Season in the Atlantic Basin does not officially start until June 1. However, as we’ve seen already several times, Mother Nature keeps her own calendar. This is actually the 6th year in a row that we’ve had a tropical system develop in the Atlantic Basin before June 1.
While Tropical Depression One will grab the weather headlines, it’s not the only tropical system that is active in the world right now. A much bigger threat has developed in the Bay of Bengal. Tropical Cyclone 01B (Amphan – pronounced UM-PUN) developed early Saturday, and is already strengthening quickly. As of late Saturday afternoon, the storm has maximum sustained winds near 50 mph, and is expected to continue strengthening rapidly while heading off towards the north. Current forecasts have the storm making landfall in either Bangladesh or extreme eastern India by Tuesday or Wednesday. By that point, maximum sustained winds could be in excess of 110 mph.
Strong winds would obviously be a significant hazard, but history has shown several times that the biggest threat with tropical cyclones in that part of the world is flooding, both from storm surge and torrential rainfall. Much of that region lies near sea-level and is very densely populated. In the past, storms that hit this area have resulted in tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of deaths. Given what is already going on around the world, this would make the situation exponentially worse.
Hurricane Dorian continues to blast Grand Bahama Island this afternoon, but elsewhere, the Atlantic is getting active quickly.
#Dorian Has wreaked havoc on Abacos and Grand Bahama Islands over the past 24+ hours. Here is a satellite recap as it approached, made a 2nd landfall and then stalled out over Grand Bahama Island. Now the storm is finally starting to pull away. In its wake utter devastation… pic.twitter.com/nyFzaPxQOF
As of early Tuesday afternoon, Hurricane Dorian was centered about 65 miles north of Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. Dorian is no longer stationary, but it’s not exactly racing along, drifting toward the northwest at 5 mph. After peaking as a Category 5 on Sunday, Dorian has weakened to a Category 2 hurricane this afternoon, with maximum sustained winds near 110 mph. The eyewall has finally moved away from Grand Bahama Island, so continues will slowly improve today.
At it’s peak, Dorian had sustained winds of 185 mph, which is tied for the 2nd highest on record in the Atlantic Basin, and the highest for a storm that far north. Only Hurricane Allen in 1980 was stronger, with top winds near 190 mph. Dorian’s lowest pressure of 910mb, is tied for the 9th lowest on record in the Atlantic. It is the strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in the Bahamas.
As for Dorian’s future, the thinking really hasn’t changed much in the past few days. The slow northwestward motion has started, and a turn more toward the north with some acceleration is expected later today and Wednesday as a trough of low pressure approaches the East Coast. This should keep the center of the storm 75 miles or so off the Florida coastline. The outer bands of Dorian will continue to impact coastal Florida, with bouts of heavy rain and gusty winds at times. A Hurricane Warning remains in effect from central Florida up into parts of South Carolina.
To the north, Dorian should start to turn northeastward later Wednesday into Thursday, coming very close to the coastline of both South and North Carolina. This will bring hurricane conditions to these states, and a Hurricane Watch has been issued. Although the official forecast from the National Hurricane Center keeps the center offshore, it will be close enough that even a slight wobble to the left could result in landfall. Whether it makes landfall or not, strong winds, torrential rainfall and very rough surf are expected in these areas over the next couple of days.
Once past the Carolinas, Dorian should continue northeast, and start to transition into an extratropical storm. That doesn’t mean that it’s done impacting land though. It could graze Cape Cod and the islands with some rain and gusty winds late Friday into early Saturday, but over the weekend it will likely have a significant impact on Atlantic Canada. Heavy rain is likely across parts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and into Newfoundland. While some locations could pick up 2-4 inches of rain, the biggest impact will be from the wind. Sustained winds of 30-50 mph are expected with gusts of 60-70 mph or more, especially along the coastline.
Dorian isn’t the only active storm in the Atlantic any more. Tropical Storm Fernand formed this afternoon in the Gulf of Mexico. As of early Tuesday afternoon, it was centered about 160 miles east of La Pesca, Mexico, moving toward the west at 7 mph. It has maximum sustained winds near 40 mph, and is expected to strengthen a little more over the next 24 hours. A Tropical Storm Warning has been issues for parts of northeastern Mexico. The system will likely make landfall late Wednesday, with the biggest impact likely to be from heavy rainfall. Rainfall totals of 6-12 inches and locally heavier will produce flooding and mudslides across the area. Heavy rain is expected across parts of South Texas, where 2-4 inches may fall, resulting in some flash flooding.
But wait, there’s more! There are two other systems in the Atlantic that are being monitored this afternoon. The stronger of the two is a few hundred miles west of the Cape Verde Islands. This system will likely become a tropical depression later today or tonight. It should turn more towards the northwest and stay harmlessly out at sea for the next several days likely not impacting any land areas at all.
Another disturbance is located several hundred miles south of Bermuda this afternoon. This system is not well-organized, and conditions aren’t very favorable for further development. It will be monitored over the next few days, and may bring some squally weather to Bermuda later this week.
If that’s not enough, there’s another wave still over western Africa that will move into the Atlantic later this week. Forecast models are showing the potential for that wave to develop as well. This shouldn’t be a big surprise, September is the peak of hurricane season. This is just the Atlantic – we didn’t even get into the Pacific, where Hurricane Juliette is a Category 3 Hurricane southwest of Mexico, Typhoon Lingling is passing east of Japan on its way towards Korea, Tropical Storm 14W is expected to become a typhoon passing north of the Northern Mariana Islands on its way towards Japan, and Tropical Depression Kajiki is making landfall along the coast of Vietnam.
Believe it or not, there is weather besides Dorian taking place right now, and some of it will impact us. Oh Dorian may at some point as well, but we’ll get to that.
The week starts off with a cold front approaching from the west. If you’ve got outdoor plans for Labor Day, you should be OK through at least midday. Although we’ll have plenty of clouds around, the showers and thunderstorms we’re expecting should hold off until the afternoon. Some of these showers and storms could produce some heavy rainfall, especially during the late afternoon and evening hours.
The front pushes offshore, with showers ending overnight, then high pressure builds in for Tuesday with mild and drier conditions. The high shifts offshore on Wednesday, allowing warmer and more humid air to move back in. Temperatures should be well into the 80s, and a few places could even get to 90. However, another cold front will move through late in the day, with some additional showers likely. Behind that front, much cooler air settles in on Thursday with high pressure building back in.
This brings us to the Dorian part of the forecast. If Dorian is to have any impact up here, it will be in the Friday/Saturday time frame. Dorian will produce some rough surf along the coastline, but beyond that, we’re not sure if there will be any other impacts. A lot will be determined by the track that Dorian takes, but it should pass well south and east of New England. Whether it’s still a hurricane, a tropical storm, or even an extratropical storm, is too tough to predict this far out. Some of the models have it pass close enough to bring in some heavy rain and gusty winds, especially to Cape Cod and Southeastern Massachusetts. Some of the local TV meteorologists were already hyping this up on the 11pm news Sunday night. Sure, it’s possible that this could happen. It’s also possible that the storm stays far enough offshore to have little to no impact on us beyond the rough surf. For now, we’re going to play the middle ground on the forecast, but obviously, we’ll be doing some special blog updates on Dorian during the week, as it’s future becomes more clear.
High pressure will be building into the Northeast for the end of the week and the weekend. If Dorian stays too far offshore, it will be dry and cool around here for Friday through Sunday. If Dorian does have some impact, it’ll just be dry and cool on Sunday behind the storm.
Labor Day: Mostly cloudy with showers and thunderstorms likely in the afternoon. Some of the storms may produce heavy rainfall. High 70-77.
Monday night: Showers and thunderstorms ending, followed by clearing late at night. Low 56-63.
Tuesday: Clouds may linger across Cape Cod in the morning, otherwise partly to mostly sunny. High 74-81.
Tuesday night: Clear to partly cloudy. Low 58-65.
Wednesday: Becoming partly to mostly cloudy, breezy, and humid, with showers and thunderstorms likely during the afternoon. High 80-87.
Thursday: Sunshine filtered through increasing high clouds streaming northward from Dorian. High 67-74.
Friday: Partly to mostly cloudy, breezy, and cool with a chance of rain, especially south of Boston. High 63-70.
Saturday: Breezy with a chance of rain early, then becoming partly to mostly sunny. High 69-76.
Earlier this week, the models were showing the potential for Hurricane Dorian to smash into Florida and the hype train left the station at full speed. Well, now that the models have shifted, the hype train is on a different track. Dorian is now expected to smash the Northwestern Bahamas on Sunday before heading towards the Southeastern United States.
As of 11pm Saturday, Dorian was centered about 125 miles east of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas, moving toward the west at 8 mph. Maximum sustained winds are near 150 mph, making Dorian a Category 4 Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Hurricane Warnings been been issued for the Northwestern Bahamas except for Andros Island, which is under a Hurricane Watch. A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for the east coast of Florida, from Deerfield Beach to Sebastian Inlet.
Dorian’s immediate future is fairly clear – it will continue westward overnight and into Sunday, passing very close to Freeport in the Bahamas as a powerful hurricane. Rainfall totals to 10-20 inches or more along with a storm surge of 10-15 feet will result in flooding along the coast and across the interior of the islands. While some additional strengthening is possible, some fluctuations are also possible as Dorian will likely start to undergo an eyewall replacement cycle at some point in the next 12-24 hours. The eyewall is where the strongest winds and most intense rainfall of a system are located. In an eyewall replacement cycle, the eyewall starts to collapse, and a new one forms a little farther away from the eye. This new eyewall eventually contracts closer to the eye, but in the meantime, it allows a storm to weaken. These are nearly impossible to predict, but they do occur in most hurricanes, mainly intense ones.
After Dorian moves through the Bahamas, things get very tricky. Dorian is currently being steered westward by a ridge of high pressure located to its north. As a trough of low pressure moves into the Tennessee Valley, it will erode that western edge of that ridge, leaving Dorian in an area with little flow to steer it. It may stall out or move very little late Sunday and Sunday night, which is bad news for the Bahamas, as much of the circulation may remain over the northwestern Bahamas, resulting in catastrophic damage for parts of the region. If Dorian stays in the same place long enough, it may bring cooler water up to the surface in a process known as upwelling. Hurricanes need warm water to help fuel them, so sitting over cooler water could help Dorian to weaken a bit.
After that, as the ridge continues to erode and the trough advances eastward, a turn toward the north and eventually northeast is expected. Exactly when this turn occurs is still a rather large question mark. While the majority of the forecast models show this turn occurring offshore, not all of them do. This is mostly good news for Florida, as it would likely keep the worst effects offshore, though gusty winds, some rainfall, and rough surf are still likely along the coast. How far inland the rain and wind penetrate will be determined by the eventual track.
This is bad news for portions of the Southeast, especially coastal portions of the Carolinas. A track close to the coastline in these areas seems a bit more probable at this point, which means, strong winds, heavy rainfall, and rough surf are likely for a prolong period during the middle of the upcoming week. Although the forecasts are for the center of the storm to remain offshore, it would not take much of a deviation for the center to make landfall, which would increase the threat for damaging winds and storm surge.
After forming last weekend, Dorian crosses Barbados and Saint Lucia as a tropical storm last Monday night. After reorganizing a little to the north, it then passes just east of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands on Wednesday strengthening into a hurricane as it moved across St. Thomas, where it produced sustained winds as high as 82 mph with a gust to 111 mph.
It’s been a very quiet hurricane season so far, not just in the Atlantic, but in the Pacific as well, but that appears to be changing.
The most immediate concern is Tropical Storm Dorian. As of 2pm Monday, Dorian was centered about 95 miles east-southeast of Barbados, and was moving towards the west-northwest at 14 mph. Dorian has maximum sustained winds near 60 mph, and additional strengthen is expected. Tropical Storm Watches and Warnings are in effect for much of the Lesser Antilles, and a Hurricane Watch is in effect for St. Lucia.
Dorian is expected to pass very close to Barbados this evening, and then close to St. Lucia or St. Vincent overnight tonight or early Tuesday. Because Dorian is not that large, the worst effects (damaging winds, torrential rainfall) will likely be limited to these islands.
Once Dorian moves past the Lesser Antilles, the questions become tougher to answer. The official forecast from the National Hurricane Center calls for Dorian to become a hurricane and turn northwestward, passing close to western Puerto Rico on Wednesday and then eastern portions of Dominican Republic Wednesday night and early Thursday, with some weakening as it interacts with land. In terms of the track itself, most of the forecast models are clustered in this area, give or take 100 miles. The intensity forecast is the biggest question mark for now. The Hurricane Center is calling for the storm to have maximum sustained winds of 80 mph when it reaches Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. However, looking at the various models, they are showing that it could be as strong as a Category 3 system, or as weak as a tropical depression. Intensity forecasts are still the toughest part of forecasting tropical systems, and for a small storm that has dry air all around it, this one is especially tough. Frankly, at this point, we wouldn’t be surprised with any outcome.
What about when it gets beyond Hispaniola and Puerto Rico? The official track and the various models all show the storm heading into the Bahamas and possibly towards Florida or the Southeast. It is still WAY too early to speculate on that (but that won’t stop the hype machine from Twitter and the Facebook Forecasters). First, we need to see if Dorian even survives that long. The mountains in central Hispaniola rise as high as 10,000 feet. Many storms that cross this area get torn apart by the terrain and dissipate. If (and that’s a big “if”) it survives, we’ll have to see what kind of shape it’s in when it emerges into the Bahamas before we can assess it’s future. This is all presuming the storm turns northwestward and heads towards Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. There’s nothing that says it won’t continue westward and heads towards Cuba or Jamaica. Just because none of the computer models are forecasting it does not mean it can’t happen.
Meanwhile, off the East Coast, a low pressure system is developing about 300 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, NC this afternoon. This system could become a tropical or subtropical storm later today or tomorrow. As we mentioned in our Weekly Outlook, while the system is expected to stay well offshore and not impact the East Coast, this is far from definite. Some of the forecast models this afternoon show some moisture from the system interacting with an approaching cold front to bring some rain into parts of eastern New England Wednesday night and Thursday. Obviously, this will depend on exactly where the system tracks.
Whether or not the system has any impact on New England, it will likely bring some gusty winds and heavy rain to portions of Atlantic Canada toward the end of this week. Rainfall totals of 2-4 inches and locally heavier are possible along with winds gusts to 50 mph along the coast, possibly higher, depending on how strong the storm gets. While this seems like an average Nor’easter, it will come on the heels of a non-tropical system that will bring heavy rain and strong winds to the same area tonight into Wednesday. Not exactly an ideal ending to summer for parts of the region.
It’s been a fairly slow start to hurricane season in the Atlantic, which is fairly normal, but things are starting to heat up in the Gulf of Mexico.
A disturbance dropped southward from the Tennessee Valley over the weekend, moving into the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday. With plenty of warm water and only a little wind shear, the system is starting to get organized this afternoon, and could become a tropical depression later today or on Thursday.
As of 2pm Wednesday, the system was centered about 155 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, moving toward the west-southwest at 8 mph. It is producing sustained winds of 30 mph, with some higher gusts. Steady strengthening is expected for the next few days. A Tropical Storm Watch has been posted from the Mouth of the Mississippi River to Morgan City, Louisiana. A Storm Surge Watch has also been posted from Pearl River to Morgan City.
The forecast models are fairly unanimous that the system will continue westward for the next 36-48 hours, but after that point things become unclear. A turn toward the northwest and eventually north is expected as an upper-level trough moves into the Great Plains, but when that turn occurs has a very significant impact on the system. A quicker turn means that the storm spends less time over the warm waters of the Gulf, and thus has less time to strengthen. A later turn means the opposite, more time over water, more time to strengthen, and the greater likelihood of it becoming a hurricane. Intensity forecasts are notoriously poor to begin with, and this system is no different. Very few models are predicting the system to reach hurricane strength, but the National Hurricane Center’s official forecast does call for the system to become a hurricane before landfall. As we mentioned already, the eventual track of the system will play a large part in determining this.
Storm surge is a danger with any storm system, and this one is no different. Storm surge of 2-4 feet is likely near where the center makes landfall. Since much of southern Louisiana is already low-lying, this could result in flooding for much of the region. Wind damage will also be a concern across the region, which again will be dependent on the strength of the system. Winds will pick up Friday night across portions of Louisiana and possibly eastern Texas, with landfall most likely on Saturday right now, but this is obviously subject to change.
By far, the biggest threat with this system will be rainfall. Tropical systems produce copious amounts of rainfall, and this one will be no different. Rainfall totals of 6 to 12 inches are expected across parts of the Gulf Coast, with some amounts to 20 inches possible. This would produce widespread flooding across the region, but in this case, it will just exacerbate existing flooding problems. The Mississippi River remains above flood stage across the region, and this will only worsen the flooding. On top of that, thunderstorms dropped up to 10 inches of rain on parts of New Orleans Wednesday morning, and that’s before the precipitation from the system even reaches the area. The Mississippi River is expected to crest in New Orleans at a level of 20 feet, which is also the same height that the levee system protects the city to. Obviously this will bear watching. Upstream, the River has been above “Major Flood” stage in Baton Rouge since February 26. It’s not likely to drop below flood stage until at least some time in August, if then.
Elsewhere, the Atlantic remains quiet, with no other systems expected to develop in the next week or so.
For the third year in a row, the “M” storm in the Atlantic is prepared to wreak havoc on a populated area, but Michael isn’t the only headline maker in the weather at the moment.
Hurricane Michael isn’t the only storm in the news, but it is the biggest threat at the moment. As of early Tuesday afternoon, Michael was centered about 335 miles south of Panama City, Florida, moving toward the north at 12 mph. Maximum sustained winds are near 110 mph, making Michael a Category 2 Hurricane. Additional strengthening is expected over the next 12-18 hours as the storm moves over the warm waters of the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane and Storm Surge Warnings are in effect for the Florida Panhandle and the Big Bend area of Florida, with Tropical Storm Warnings and Watches surrounding the Hurricane Warnings. Tropical Storm Watches are also in effect for the Atlantic coast from northeastern Florida into South Carolina.
Michael is expected to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle Wednesday afternoon, likely as a Category 3 storm. Strong winds, torrential rainfall, storm surge, and some tornadoes are all possible with this storm. Unlike Florence, which hung around the Carolinas for days and dumped incredible amounts of rainfall on the region, Michael is expected to keep moving at a steady pace, emerging off the Mid-Atlantic coast by Friday morning. Rainfall totals of 5-10 inches are still expected in parts of the region, which will produce flooding in some areas, especially in Carolinas, where many areas are still recovering from Florence. Right along the coast, a storm surge of 6-12 feet is possible, especially in the Big Bend area of Florida. Fortunately, this area is not heavily populated, but for the residents that do live in this area, storm surge flooding is a significant threat.
Once it moves back into the Atlantic early Friday, it should pass well south of our area. The northern edge of the rainfall from the system could reach the South Coast, but the bulk of the heavy rain should remain well to the south.
This is the 3rd year in a row that the “M” storm is expected to result in significant damage to a populated area. In 2014, Category 5 Hurricane Matthew left a path of death and destruction across parts of Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas, and eventually parts of the southeastern United States. Last year, Category 5 Hurricane Maria devastated the northeastern Caribbean, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. While Michael is not expected to become a Category 5 storm, it is still expected to result in significant damage to parts of Florida and the Southeast.
Meanwhile, in the eastern Atlantic, Tropical Storm Leslie refuses to go away. As of midday Tuesday, Leslie was centered a little more than 1000 miles west-southwest of the Azores, moving toward the south-southeast at 13 mph. Maximum sustained winds are near 65 mph. The forecast for Leslie calls for a turn more toward the east over the next few days while it strengthens back into a hurricane. Leslie is expected to remain over open waters for the next few days, and could become an extratropical storm this weekend while continuing on a general easterly track.
To the south, Tropical Storm Nadine as formed nearly 500 miles southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands. Nadine has maximum sustained winds near 40 mph, and is moving toward the west-northwest at 9 mph. Nadine is expected to remain fairly weak over open waters for the next several days while turning more toward the northwest. As it moves over colder water late this week and this weekend, it should weaken and eventually dissipate.
Back in the United States, unseasonably warm conditions remain in place across much of the eastern half of the nation. Temperatures are in the 70s and 80s across much of the region, which is 15 to 25 degrees above normal. A strong frontal system is located in the Plains states this afternoon, separating the warm air in the East, from much cooler weather behind it in the Plains and the Rockies. Right along this front, which hasn’t moved much for the past 24 hours, severe weather and heavy rainfall are common this afternoon.
Several tornadoes have been reported already today, including a few in the Oklahoma City area, and more are expected later today and tonight. Heavy rainfall is also expected from Texas into the Central Plains and parts of the Upper Midwest. Rainfall totals of 1-3 inches and locally heavier may produce flash flooding in some areas. Flash flood watches are in effect for much of the region.
On the other side of the front, where much cooler weather is in place, rain is expected to change over to snow as low pressure rides along the front and into the Midwest. Winter weather advisories have already been posted for parts of the region. Snow is already falling in parts of Colorado this afternoon, and several inches may fall over the next 36-48 hours from western portions of Kansas and Nebraska into the Dakotas and northern Minnesota.
As the system moves eastward, it will spread some heavy rain and thunderstorms into our area on Thursday. We’re not expecting any severe weather, but some heavy downpours are possible, especially from western Massachusetts into southern New Hampshire. Some localized flooding may result. Once this front pushes offshore, much cooler weather will settle in for the Friday and the weekend.