Monday, August 31, 2009

Up next: Erika

The fifth named tropical storm of the season is all but inevitable as a wave now moving toward the Windward Islands is getting extremely organized.

The storm would be named Erika.

"Right now, it looks really impressive on satellite images," Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami, told McClatchy Newspapers. "We've had some flare ups of showers and thunderstorms today."

At 2 p.m., the storm was moving west-northwest at 15 mph. Its center was about 500 miles east of the islands.

Some computer models have the storm staying on a southerly path, unlike Bill and Danny, which both curved north between Bermuda and the East Coast of the United States.

-- News Editor Brent Conklin

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Danny wets East Coast; Pacific storm strengthens

BOSTON — Heavy rain and dangerous rip currents from a weak tropical system emptied East Coast beaches for a second straight late-summer weekend, while a hurricane that could clip Mexico's coast next week grew stronger in the Pacific.

Jimena, the 10th named storm of the Pacific season, quickly became a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph).

Fueled by warm Pacific waters, Jimena could be a major Category 3 hurricane by Sunday as it tracked north-northwest at 12 mph about 580 miles (935 km) off the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California peninsula late Saturday. It was 225 miles (365 km) south of Manzanillo, Mexico.

The National Hurricane Center's five-day forecast predicts the storm's center could pass offshore of the peninsula next week but come close enough to bring strong winds and churn up rough seas.

The sun still shone over Acapulco Bay on Saturday afternoon, though dark storm clouds loomed on the horizon. Sailboats dotted the sea despite government warnings for residents to take precautions. Farther north, in the resort town of Zihuatanejo, authorities warned small boats to stay ashore.

Farther out in the Pacific, Tropical Storm Kevin formed with top winds of 50 mph (85 kph). The storm's center on Saturday afternoon was about 1,035 miles (1,665 kilometers) southwest of the southern tip of Baja California. The storm could get stronger as it moves to the west-northwest, forecasters said.

Remnants of Tropical Storm Danny spun miles offshore in the Atlantic, causing mostly rain in the East. National Hurricane Center forecasters said Danny had been mostly absorbed by a low pressure system associated with a cold front over North Carolina.

"We were expecting that that was going to happen sooner or later. It happened a little bit sooner," said senior hurricane specialist Lixion Avila. "Basically Danny has been swallowed by the big low."

In Boston, heavy rain fell on hundreds lining sidewalks as the funeral procession of Sen. Edward Kennedy passed through the city. A flood watch remained in effect for parts of Massachusetts as beaches were ordered closed and public ferry services in and around Boston were canceled. Cape Code and nearby islands were expecting 40 mph winds later Saturday.

"We getting a number of reports of 2 to 4 inches of rain in the area," said Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass. "Wind isn't a factor now, but a wind advisory is in effect for the islands until this evening."

Towns along the Connecticut shore were prepared for the storm and had sandbags and water pumps placed on standby.

Large waves kept most people out of the water at beaches along the New Jersey shore Saturday, the second straight weekend marred by a tropical storm system.

Waves as high as 6 to 8 feet were reported up and down the Jersey coast by late Saturday morning, and forecasters said the waves could be slightly higher as the day progressed. But those conditions were expected to improve during the overnight hours into Sunday, when wave heights were expected to return to normal.

No injuries were reported, though authorities in Fair Lawn, N.J., rescued nine people trapped in five vehicles along a flooded street.

In North Carolina, tropical storm watches for the coast were discontinued, but people were urged to be cautious near the water.

The dangers of storm-agitated seas were demonstrated when a young boy disappeared Friday in rough surf off North Carolina. His mother reported seeing him go underwater off the town of Corolla, not far from the Virginia line. His body board washed ashore without him.

The Coast Guard and local authorities spent hours looking for the 12-year-old boy but called off the search Friday evening and didn't expect to continue searching Saturday.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. j.g. Scott Hembrook said the waves in the area were about 4 to 6 feet tall.

In New York's Long Island, Nassau County's health department closed 20 beaches Saturday because of heavy rainfall. Suffolk County closed two beaches and advised against bathing at 64 more.

Storm water runoff often leads to sewage discharges and elevated bacteria levels on Long Island sound.

Health officials say the beaches will be reopened once tidal cycles have flushed the area.

Associated Press writers Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, N.J.; Kevin Maurer in Carolina Beach, N.C.; and Emery P. Dalesio in Raleigh, N.C.; contributed to this report.

Friday, August 28, 2009

How is Danny?

Danny continues to be erratic. As of 11 am winds remained at 40 mph. Tropical storm watches were still in place for the Outer Banks. The latest cone actually scooted westward to include the NC coast. Some strengthening still remained possible.

5 am numbers

40 mph sustained winds
NNW forward movement 3 mph

Cone has come off NC coast a touch. T.S. watches remain in effect for Outer Banks.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Danny update: 11 p.m.

As of 11 p.m., disheveled Danny's sustained winds dropped to 45 mph. More significantly, he's started to take his expected turn, now moving north at 8 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

The tropical storm watch remains in effect for North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Forecasters say large swells are expected to produce dangerous surf and life-threatening rip currents along the U.S. East Coast over the next day or two.

Danny is centered about 485 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C. Tropical storm-force winds extend out more than 200 miles.

Strengthening remains possible over the next few days.

Danny: 5 p.m. update

A tropical storm watch -- tropical storm-force winds possible within 36 hours -- is now in effect for the Outer Banks of North Carolina, from Cape Lookout to Duck.

Danny's winds, however, have diminished to maximum sustained of 50 mph. Tropical storm-force winds extend 205 miles from the center of circulation.

The storm has slowed to a snail's pace in forward speed. Danny is currently slothing westward at 2 mph. Forecasters still expect a turn to the northwest tonight along with an increase in forward speed. Come tomorrow, they're predicting a turn north and a faster forward speed.

Meanwhile, the wave we mentioned yesterday is starting to show some signs of organization. It sits 350 miles south-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. There is a 30- to 50-percent chance of this becoming a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours.

-- News Editor Brent Conklin

Northeast U.S. could see tropical storm watches

By Curtis Morgan
McClatchy Newspapers

MIAMI -- Tropical Storm Danny, stronger but still disorganized, wobbled a bit westward Thursday morning but forecasters still expected it to veer more north in the next day and half and skirt the Northeast coast.

The National Hurricane Center's three-day forecast kept the core of the storm off North Carolina. But by Saturday evening, New England and Nova Scotia could be bracing for a possible landfall or blustery sideswipe.

The center said it could post tropical storm watches from North Carolina northward later Thursday.

At 11 a.m. EDT, Danny's center was more than 400 miles off the Florida coast. It was moving erratically to the northwest at 13 mph. Its winds hit 60 mph, with the strongest to the west of the storm's center.

On its current track, forecasters expected Danny to at least moderately strengthen, possibly reaching hurricane strength as it approaches New England.

Where's Danny going?

As of 11 p.m. Wednesday, Tropical Storm Danny appeared stronger, yet still pretty disorganized. Maximum sustained winds were clocking in at 50 mph.

Eastern Seaboard residents from the Carolinas up to New England should keep a close eye on this storm as the current projected path has it shooting straight up the coast.

The storm was centered 675 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., and slowing down to 10 mph in its northwest movement. (Earlier in the day, it was tracking along at 18 mph.) Tropical storm-force winds extended 175 miles from the center.

Its northwest track is expected to continue Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Then a turn toward the north with an increase in forward speed is forecast for Friday.

Meanwhile, a new wave has come off the African coast. According to the service, any significant development is several days away.

-- News Editor Brent Conklin

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tropical Storm Danny forms in Atlantic

MIAMI (AP) — Tropical Storm Danny has formed in the open Atlantic off the Bahamas.

Forecasters say the storm has top winds of 45 mph and is moving to the west-northwest at 18 mph. The storm could get stronger in the next two days.

As of 11 a.m. EDT Tuesday, the storm's center was about 445 miles east of Nassau, Bahamas and about 775 miles south of Cape Hatteras, N.C.

The current forecast has the storm on a path to clip the U.S. East Coast over the weekend, but a storm's track can be difficult to predict days in advance. People in the Bahamas and the southeastern U.S. were advised to monitor the storm.

Meanwhile, far out in the Pacific, Tropical Storm Ignacio has weakened as it moves northwest with top winds of 45 mph.

'A tropical storm at any time'

At 2 a.m., the National Weather Service reports that the area of disturbance centered 350 miles north of Hispaniola "has the potential to become a tropical storm at any time."

It has a greater than 50 percent chance of developing into a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours, the service said.

As of 8 p.m., most computer models had the storm tracking in much the same path as Hurricane Bill. One model, however, has it skirting the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Stay tuned for more updates Tuesday.

-- News Editor Brent Conklin

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wave getting organized

The tropical wave we last spoke of appears to be getting better organized.

In its latest update, the National Weather Service gives it a greater than 50 percent chance of developing into a tropical depression during the next 48 hours.

A reconnaissance plane is slated to investigate the storm this afternoon.

Although its way too early to speculate where it might go, computer models put this storm on a path similar to Hurricane Bill.

-- News Editor Brent Conklin

Monday, August 24, 2009

A new wave to watch

A tropical wave (orange No. 1 in the above photo) is interacting with an upper-level low about 300 miles east-northeast of the Leeward Islands, according to the National Weather Service.

This is a disorganized mass of showers and thunderstorms at the moment, but upper-level winds might become favorable over the coming days for it to develop.

The weather service gives it a "medium chance" -- 30 percent to 50 percent -- of becoming a tropical cyclone over the next 48 hours.

-- News Editor Brent Conklin

The last Hurricane Bill

This Hurricane Bill will be the last Hurricane Bill.

When a named tropical system results in lives lost, its name is deleted from the six-year rotation of storm names. Bill has joined those ranks.

Two people died this weekend as a result of Bill's stormy seas. A 7-year-old girl from New York was admiring the surf at Maine's Acadia National Park on Sunday when she was swept into the Atlantic by a large wave. She was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard, but died shortly afterward.

Meanwhile, in New Smyrna Beach, Angel Rosa, 54, of Orlando, died after washing ashore unconscious near rough surf caused by Bill.

The point has been belabored, but it's important to repeat. These tragic events illustrate the dangers of tropical systems – whether they're tropical depressions or Cat. 5 monsters, making a direct strike or 200 miles offshore. Don't mess with them.
-- News Editor Brent Conklin

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bill turns deadly


EDGARTOWN, Mass. -- Rescue crews were searching Sunday afternoon for three people who were swept into the sea after a large wave, an effect of Hurricane Bill, washed over a crowd watching the surf in Maine.

A crowd at Acadia National Park was gathered on some rocks when the wave washed over them. Two other people who were swept into the ocean were recovered. The Coast Guard and search crews are looking for the three others.

"This is absolutely the effects of Hurricane Bill" coupled with the effect of high tide, park ranger Sonya Berger said.

Bill was being blamed for the death of a 54-year-old swimmer in Florida, who was killed Saturday. Volusia County Beach Patrol Capt. Scott Petersohn said Angel Rosa of Orlando was unconscious when he washed ashore in rough waves fueled by Bill at New Smyrna Beach along the central Florida coast. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Lifeguards there also rescued a handful of other swimmers with suspected spinal injuries.

Bill was about 60 miles east-southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Sunday afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center. Its maximum sustained winds had dropped to 80 mph, and it was moving northeast at 35 mph. The storm is expected to continue to weaken as it moves over cooler waters.

Several people also had to be rescued from the water in Massachusetts, including a couple of kayakers who got stranded in the heavy seas off Plymouth, said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

He said strong rip tides and beach erosion were the biggest concerns Sunday.

"Our biggest thing right now is just the rough surf," he said.

Moving on to Canada

Hurricane Bill certainly has churned up the surf on the Eastern Seaboard. It didn't help matters that he took longer than expected to take his north-northeast turn.
As of 11 a.m., the storm was packing Cat. 1-force winds of 85 mph and was located 90 miles south-southwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia. He's cooking at a speed of 33 mph and could make direct strikes tonight on Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, respectively.
This is still a BIG storm: Hurricane-force still extend out 85 miles from the center and tropical-storm force winds 290 miles.
Some of Bill's impact:
* According to the Associated Press, 3,700 customers lost electricity in Bermuda. Some roads, as well, were flooded along the northern coast.
* According to Newsday, the beaches of Robert Moses State Park on the south short of Long Island were closed Saturday because high tide helped blanket the sand completely with water.
* There were 8- to 10-foot waves along the Jersey Shore on Saturday.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Eye on Bill

As we write, Hurricane Bill (max. sustained winds of 105 mph at 11 p.m.) is shooting the gap between Bermuda and the East Coast of the United States.

Bill's center is about 180 miles west-southwest of Bermuda, putting the island well within range of tropical-storm force winds. The beaches on the west side of Bermuda are likely taking a good beating right now.

The latest forecast track has Bill boomeranging around Bermuda, heading hard and fast in a northeasterly direction after that, coming nowhere near the mainland of the United States. Rip currents along the East Coast are expected, however.

With that said, Bill's outer cloud bands ironically are kissing the Outer Banks of North Carolina at this hour.

Oh, almost forgot. What happened to Bill and Hillary? They got out of Dodge well ahead of the storm, taking their vacation to an undisclosed location.

-- News Editor Brent Conklin

East Coast swimmers, boaters warned

Rain ahead of Hurricane Bill is pelting Bermuda today as the storm roars over the open Atlantic, threatening to flood the island’s coastline in passing and to spread dangerous waves and riptides along the eastern U.S. shore, the Associated Press reports.

The Category 3 storm’s maximum sustained winds lost a little strength overnight to near 115 mph, from 125 mph late Thursday. Forecasters say the hurricane’s center will pass between Bermuda and the U.S. shore Saturday.

On the eastern U.S. coast, offshore waves of 20 feet and more and rip currents at the beach are expected over one of the summer’s last weekends. Boaters and swimmers from northeastern Florida to New England should beware of incoming swells as Bill passes far out to sea on a northward track for Canada’s Maritime provinces. And flooding is expected along North Carolina's shore.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bill vs. Bill

Hurricane Bill could make for a stormy Bermuda vacation for former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The pair arrived on the island Wednesday for a three-to four-day getaway. It begs the question: Why would the Clintons go to Bermuda with a major storm in the offing?

As of the 5 p.m. update Thursday, Bermuda was under a hurricane watch (hurricane-force winds possible within 36 hours) and a tropical storm warning (tropical-storm force winds expected within 24 hours).

Bill's sustained winds have pushed back up to 125 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend 115 miles from the center, tropical storm-force winds 260 miles.

Forecasters expect even more restrengthening with warm waters and less wind shear in Bill's path.

Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center, told the Associated Press: "It's moving over waters of 84, 85 degrees Fahrenheit, which could provide some fuel to it. We still think it could restrengthen back into a Category 4. The environmental conditions appear to be right."

-- News Editor Brent Conklin

Cape Cod watching Hurricane Bill

By the time Sunday morning comes along, Cape Cod, Mass., could be feeling the brunt of a major hurricane.

The National Weather Service’s “cone of uncertainty” for Hurricane Bill avoids the East Coast of the United States, save for a wee sliver of the famed New England vacation spot.

It was 18 years ago yesterday that Cape Cod last felt the blow of a major hurricane, or even a Cat. 1 or 2 storm for that matter. In 1991, Hurricane Bob formed down near the Bahamas and zipped up the East Coast. Although direct landfall was made on Rhode Island, records says the highest gusts of about 125 mph were felt on the cape. That’s what being on northeast quadrant of a storm will do to you. (The northeast quadrant of a tropical system typically brings the strongest winds and strongest storm surge.)

Bermuda could end up in Bill's northeast quadrant in the coming days. Effects on the island will depend on when Bill makes his forecast turn north. If he turns sooner than later, it’ll be worse for the island, which sticks out in the Atlantic like a sore thumb.

When was the last time Bermuda suffered the wrath of a major storm? The eyewall of major Hurricane Fabian skirted the west coast Sept. 5, 2003. Sustained major hurricane-force winds were felt for about three hours. Four islanders were killed and $300 million in damage was reported, records say.

-- News Editor Brent Conklin