Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another storm brewing in the Atlantic?

As Tropical Storm Ida moves ashore this morning across the Alabama coast and the Florida Panhandle, we couldn't help but notice that the National Hurricane Center had noticed a large area of low pressure in the Atlantic Ocean, several hundred miles north-northeast of the Northern Leeward Islands.

Currently, the Hurricane Center said there is less than 30 percent chance that gale-force winds and high seas will develop into a tropical storm, but along with Ida, the activity reminds us there is still almost a month to go in the official hurricane season for the year.

If the system beats the odds and turns into something for us to really worry about, it will be named Joaquin.

As for Ida's possible effect on our weather, the National Weather Service was forecasting that "deep tropical moisture" in the storm's wake would produce possibly heavy thunderstorms starting later today and through Wednesday. There was a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms this afternoon, increasing to 70 percent tonight and 60 percent on Wednesday.

Ida just off the Alabama coast

Heavy winds and rain overnight were all some Gulf Coast residents needed to know that Tropical Storm Ida was knocking on their door.

As of 3 a.m. EST, the storm was located just off the Alabama coast, about 60 miles south-southwest of Mobile. After coming ashore today, she was expected to being moving eastwardly across the Florida Panhandle as a depression, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ida now headed in a westerly track

I had fun teasing my brother Friday who lives in the Florida Panhandle in a little town called Niceville that he better spend his weekend boarding up because of the approaching hurricane.
I guess the joke is on me now.
Monday evening, Ida was located about 40 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and about 125 miles south-southwest of Pensacola. It was moving north-northwest near 17 mph (28 kph) and was expected to make land late Monday or early Tuesday.
It's going to miss him by quite a bit.
Ida had been the third hurricane of this year's Atlantic season.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said it was expected to weaken further before making landfall along the Gulf Coast. Rain was already falling along the coastline and winds had kicked up the surf.

Jennifer Rich
Herald business editor

Florida National Guard put on alert

The U.S. Army just released this notice:

The Florida National Guard activated its planning cells and alerted units in preparation for Tropical Storm Ida as the storm approached the Gulf Coast
Monday morning.

The Guard's activation of the Joint Emergency Operations Center in St. Augustine, unit planning cells across the state, and the movement of the Guard's senior leaders to the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, came as Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed an Executive Order Monday to support operations in advance of Tropical Storm Ida.

The executive order allows the Florida Adjutant General to preposition Guards units prior to a storm making landfall. While activated for state duty the Florida National Guard will serve in support of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

"It's important for the people of Florida to know the citizen-Soldiers and Airmen of the Florida National Guard are prepared to respond to this storm as assigned by the Florida Division of Emergency Management," said Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett, the
Adjutant General of Florida. "The National Guard is poised to provide humanitarian aid, security, equipment, debris removal, and search and rescue assistance."

The Florida National Guard has more than 9,000 Soldiers and Airmen available who can respond to various, and simultaneous emergencies in Florida, including efforts to deter terrorist-related activities.

Ida back down to tropical storm status

Ida just can't decide what she wants to look like when she comes ashore Tuesday morning on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Just a few hours after reclaiming her status as a hurricane, Ida has again been downgraded to tropical storm status, according to the National Weather Service.

Not coincidentally, a hurricane warning earlier in place for a stretch of coastline from Florida to Mississippi has been replaced by a less severe tropical storm warning. In all, a tropical storm warning remains in place from Grand Isle, La., east to Aucilla River, Fla.

Forecasters expect Idawill not turn again into a hurricane before making landfall.

Gulf Coast warnings in place of Ida

A hurricane warning was in effect from Pascagoula, Miss., east to Indian Pass, Fla., as Hurricane Ida made its way north to the U.S. Gulf coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The warning area was flanked by two stretches of tropical storm warnings: on the east from east of Indian Pass, Fla., to Aucilla, Fla; and on the west from Pascagoula to Grand Isle, La. — including New Orleans.

According to a map released at 3 a.m., Ida was expected to come ashore early Wednesday near the Florida-Alabama border.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ida back to hurricane strength

The Associated Press reports:
Ida has strengthened to a hurricane over the Caribbean as it nears Cancun, Mexico.

Forecaster Todd Kimberlain with the the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says Ida's winds have picked up to 75 mph (120 kph).

The storm is expected to pass between Mexico and Cuba on Sunday, with its center remaining offshore. Forecasters predict Ida will enter the Gulf of Mexico, eventually weaken again to tropical storm strength and possibly brush the U.S. Gulf Coast next week.

Tropical storm warnings are in effect for parts of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, as well as Western Cuba and Grand Cayman Island. A hurricane watch is also in effect for part of the Yucatan.

Late Saturday, Ida was centered about 120 miles (193 kilometers) east-southeast of Cozumel and moving northwest at about 12 mph (19 kph).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Less of Florida now in Ida's cone

As of 4 p.m. today, Manatee County and the rest of the Tampa Bay region was barely within the boundaries of Tropical Storm Ida's five-day "cone of uncertainty," according to the National Hurricane Center. (Here's a link to the latest advisory from the NHC.)

Forecasters predict that the storm, which will soon brush past Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, will by early Wednesday afternoon be parked off the Florida Panhandle. But they were holding off on a prediction of where it might make landfall because they were not sure how it would be affected by a front moving in from the north.

The current weather forecast for Bradenton calls for a 30 percent chance of rain on Monday night, increasing to 50 percent on Tuesday, before dropping to 40 percent on Tuesday night and 30 percent on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

More from the Associated Press:
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Ida's winds strengthened to near 70 mph (110 kph), just short of a Category 1 hurricane. A tentative forecast track predicted Ida could brush the U.S. Gulf Coast next week as a tropical storm.
Tropical-storm warnings were issued for the Mexican coastline from Punta Allen, south of Tulum, to San Felipe at the top of the Yucatan Peninsula, an area that includes Cancun. The warnings were also in effect for western Cuba and Grand Cayman Island.

A hurricane watch was in effect from Tulum to Cabo Catoche.
As rain began pelting down in Cancun, the beaches were empty but tourists walked the streets under umbrellas or improvised rain ponchos.

"We are on yellow alert but the tourists are walking around normally in the streets and the shopping centers," said policeman Marco Morales Rodriguez.

Ida is again a storm

Ida has again been upgraded to a tropical storm, with forecasts calling for her to hit the U.S. Gulf coast by the middle of next week.

All of Florida is currently in the storm's "cone of uncertainty."

Friday, November 6, 2009

Keep an eye on Ida

Any worry may turn out to be for naught, but Floridians should probably keep at least one eye on the weather forecast as Tropical Depression Ida moves north through the Caribbean Sea.

Because she is coming this way.

Or at least in the direction of the United States.

As of 10 p.m. EST, here was the projected path of the storm:

Ida expected to strengthen Saturday

This just in from myFlorida.com:

Tropical Depression Ida is currently located near the Nicaragua / Honduras border. At 10 a.m. maximum winds were near 35 mph. Ida is moving toward the north at 7 mph. Ida is expected to re-strengthen in the northwestern Caribbean Sea on Saturday.

There are currently no watches or warnings posted for Florida. Much of Florida lies within the five-day error cone with a 5%-10% chance of receiving tropical storm force winds within five days.

If the system and current forecast track holds, Ida could enter the Gulf of Mexico by Monday.

The next advisory will be issued at 4 p.m.


There is a moderate to high risk of rip currents today along Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

The State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee continues to monitor Ida through the State Watch Office and the Meteorology unit. The State EOC in Tallahassee remains at a Level 3, or monitoring status. Gov. Crist and his staff are being briefed on Ida’s progress.

The State has begun conference calls with county emergency management officials and state partners in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia today. State officials have been in contact with our partners at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and will continue to coordinate with them through the duration of this event.

State Emergency Response Team Regional Coordinator’s are located throughout the state and are being updated on the storm and will continue coordinating with local officials. State Management Team members have been identified and are prepared to deploy if Ida were to impact Florida.

The State Logistics Response Center in Orlando is fully stocked with needed supplies and commodities and staff is prepared activate it if conditions warrant.

Emergency Coordinating Officer’s from all state agencies will meet at the State Emergency Operations Center Monday morning for systems checks and a briefing from the Interim Director Ruben D. Almaguer and the Interim Deputy Director/SERT Chief David Halstead.


Florida residents should monitor the progress of Tropical Depression Ida through the weekend and into next week.

Residents and visitors are encouraged to enjoy their weekend and all activities statewide, but are also encouraged to take a few minutes to review their disaster preparedness plan and to restock any needed items in their disaster supply kit.

Once you are prepared, check on a neighbor and encourage them to do the same. To Get A Plan! go to www.FloridaDisaster.org today.

Marine interests in the Gulf region should continue to monitor ocean conditions.

Ida serves as a reminder that Hurricane Season lasts through November 30.


“Floridians should continue to follow Ida’s track this weekend into next week,” said Ruben D. Almaguer, interim director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “Now is a good time to review and update your personal and family disaster plans.”

Almost all of Florida in Ida's 'cone'

By the middle of next week, what is now Tropical Depression Ida could be directly west of Manatee County and the rest of Tampa Bay, according to the latest projections from the National Hurricane Center.

The above map of Ida's "cone of uncertainty" was released at 10 a.m. EST.

For more on the latest forecast, read this.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Manatee in the cone

Just when you thought we were out of the woods this hurricane season: Take a look at the five-day track map for Ida and you'll notice Manatee County in the cone.

Don't border up your homes just yet, but do keep an eye on the forecast in the coming days. The experts will know more after Ida, downgraded to a tropical depression Thursday night, gets back out over the waters of the Caribbean.

Some factors to consider when gauging what, if any impact, the system will have on our area:

* The average temperature for the Gulf of Mexico in November is around 80 degrees, Jennifer McNatt, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Ruskin, told Hurricane Watch late Thursday. Now compare that to an average temperature of around 86.5 degrees in August and September. That 6.5-degree difference might not seem like a lot, but it'll keep Ida's intensity down exponentially.

* An increased upper-level wind shear could rip Ida apart once it enters the Gulf. But while large-scale models agree on "an increasingly strong vertical shear environment," the National Hurricane Center's official wind speed forecast leads toward weaker models.

*Interaction with land will play a huge role. Once it gets over Nicaragua and Honduras, forecasters expect Ida to strengthen back into a tropical storm. After that there could be another date with land, either with the Yucatan or Cuba, either of which knocking down the storm's intensity. If it splits the strait, there would be a more intense storm.

With all that said, McNatt says, "It looks likely that it will be a weak system" if it does in fact impact the Florida coastline.

Experts now forecast Ida to be smack in the middle of the Gulf come 7 p.m. Tuesday with winds around 50 mph. That's nothing to sneeze at, though, considering recent flooding that has occurred in the area with much weaker storms.

Ida weakens to depression over land

(AP) Ida has weakened to a tropical depression with 35 mph top winds as it sweeps over Nicaragua.

The storm rumbled ashore Thursday at hurricane strength, but began losing muscle as it moved over land, dumping rain.

By Thursday night, Nicaragua’s government had discontinued tropical storm warnings along the country’s east coast. To the north, tropical storm watches were in effect for parts of Honduras.

The depression’s center was located about 50 miles west-southwest of Puerto Cabezas at around 10 p.m. The depression is moving west-northwest near 5 mph.

The storm should get weaker over the next two days. It’s expected to be back over the Caribbean seas Saturday and could regain some strength at that point.

Hurricane Ida rips into Nicaragua’s coast; Manatee in 5-day cone

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Hurricane Ida ripped into Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast Thursday, destroying homes, damaging schools and downing bridges before losing steam and becoming a tropical storm.

Ida, clocking 75 mph (125 kph) winds, struck land around sunrise in Tasbapauni, about 60 miles northeast of Bluefields, said meteorologist Dennis Feltgen of the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

About 80 percent of homes were destroyed in nearby Karawala, a fishing village of about 100 flimsy, wooden shacks near the mouth of the Rio Grande de Matagalpa, Nicaragua’s National Civil Defense director, Mario Perez, said.

“There was major damage in the region’s infrastructure, such as fallen bridges, damaged schools and government buildings, and electrical transmission towers and telephone service were knocked out,” Perez said.

No deaths or injuries have been reported, but Perez said officials are still trying to get information from the region.

The fast-developing storm grew from a tropical depression into a hurricane within little more than a day, then lost power as it stalled over eastern Nicaragua, with winds slowing to 50 mph (85 kph).

Ida could dump as much as 20 inches (500 millimeters) of rain on the swampy mainland, with the risk of flash floods and mudslides, before weakening to a tropical depression Friday, according to the Miami-based hurricane center.

The storm could also raise coastal water levels by as much as 3 feet (nearly 1 meter) above ground level, with dangerous waves.

More than 3,000 people had been evacuated — 800 of those from homes on Corn Island and nearby Little Corn Island, where strong winds damaged about 45 homes, smashed boats, toppled trees and knocked out power. Residents were taken to the port authority building and concrete hotels.

About 2,500 people live on the two islands, which are popular tourist destinations.
Rowena Kandler, owner of the Sunrise Hotel on Corn Island, said many fruit trees on the hotel’s 13-acre ranch were damaged.

“We don’t have electricity or water,” she said. “Everything is on the ground now. Thank God we’re alive.”

The hotel had two guests who rode out the storm Wednesday night, but Kandler said they left for the airport Thursday morning.

More than 1,000 people were evacuated in Bluefields, and the airport closed.

At the Oasis Hotel and Casino, a half block from the shore in Bluefields, receptionist Adelis Molina said winds were strong and guests from the United States, Italy and Guatemala were hunkering down inside.

Heavy rains and winds kept officials from evacuating about 80 people on Cayos Perla, but authorities said they planned to used speedboats to get them out.

The storm is expected to regain strength when it emerges over the Caribbean Sea on Saturday, the center said.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ida gaining strength

The east coast of Nicaragua from Bluefields to the Honduras border is now under a hurricane watch (hurricane conditions possible within 36 hours).

In its 7 p.m. update, the National Hurricane Center said Ida's sustained winds were up a bit to 65 mph.
The storm was still moving west-northwest at 6 mph. Tropical storm-force winds extended 45 from the center of circulation, which was 65 miles east of Bluefields. Landfall somewhere on the Nicaraguan coast was expected early Thursday, quite possibly as a Cat. 1 hurricane.

A major concern with this slow-moving system is the potential for massive amounts of rainfall. As many as 25 inches of rain is possible in areas of eastern Nicaragua and eastern Honduras, raising the spectre of flash floods and mudslides.

Tropical Storm Ida

Tropical Storm Ida has formed off the eastern coast of Nicaragua, according to the National Hurricane Center's 4 p.m. update.

A tropical storm warning remains in effect for Nicaragua's entire east coast and for the islands of San Andres and Providencia. Some further intensification is possible before landfall, which is expected overnight.

Maximum sustained winds are up to 60 mph.

Tropical storm-force winds extend 45 miles from the center of circulation, which sits 75 miles to the east of Bluefields, Nicaragua. Forward speed has slowed to west-northwest at 6 mph, setting the stage for its expected turn toward the northwest over the coming days.

Tropical Depression No. 11

As of 1 p.m., the entire east coast of Nicaragua is under a tropical storm warning, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The culprit: Tropical Depression No. 11, which is moving west-northwest at 7 mph about 100 miles east of Bluefields, Nicaragua.

Maximum sustained winds are 35 mph, just a few notches below tropical storm force.

An expected slower motion should prompt a turn toward the northwest, putting its forecast track in line for the Gulf of Mexico in a few days. One computer model has it on a path toward New Orleans.

Rainfall from this system could total as much as 25 inches in parts of Nicaragua. Forecasters warn of life-threatening flash floods and mud slides.