Major Hurricane Florence Threatens East Coast

Florence may be poised to become the strongest hurricane to strike the East Coast in 3 decades. “Hugo” was the last Category 4 storm to hit north of Florida, punishing South Carolina September of 1989. Records show it’s been 22 years since a major hurricane made landfall north of Florida, which was Category 3 Hurricane Fran.

Florence poses a triple whammy: extreme coastal damage from high winds and a 10 foot storm surge. But the storm is forecast to stall for the better part of 3 days, wringing out 2-3 feet of water on some towns already waterlogged from recent storms. Hurricane Harvey was a reminder of the dangers of inland flooding, days after landfall. Remind friends and family from the Carolinas northward to Washington D.C. to pay attention.

At the diametrically opposite end of the weather spectrum, Minnesota enjoys a weather winning streak of August-like days, with humidity levels creeping upward – highs mostly in the 80s south and 70s north in Sunday.

A puff of fresh air cools us off next week, but you can leave heavy jackets in cold storage until further notice.

Monday midday visible image: NOAA, Praedictix and AerisWeather

Significant Storm Surge Threat. A storm surge in excess of 10-12′? We can’t rule that out, especially from Wilmington to Topsail Beach and Jacksonville, North Carolina. Map credit: PDC Disaster Alert.

ECMWF Ensemble. The 12z Monday European model guidance is fairly consistent, showing landfall near Wilmington, North Carolina, and then a steady push inland, where the tropical remains (and flooding rains) may linger for the better part of 3-4 days after landfall. I’m especially concerned about hilly terrain magnifying some of the rains, with flooding as far inland as Ohio. Some 2-4 foot rainfall amounts may result as Florence crosses the Appalachians. Map: University of Albany.

Hurricane Florence Strengthens – Evacuation Orders Begin in North Carolina. There will probably be widespread coastal destruction from surge and wind, but the risk of severe inland flooding is high as Florence stalls for the better part of 3 days. Here’s some perspective from Capital Weather Gang: “…With each passing flight into the eye of the storm and every new computer model forecast, it has become increasingly unlikely Florence will turn out to sea and spare the Eastern Seaboard from potentially devastating storm surge, flooding and wind. There’s even some indication the hurricane will slow or stall out over the Mid-Atlantic later this week, which could lead to a disastrous amount of rain. “There is an increasing risk of life-threatening impacts from Florence: Storm surge at the coast, freshwater flooding from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event inland and damaging hurricane-force winds,” the National Hurricane Center wrote Monday. Storm surge is the rise in ocean water above normally dry land at the coast, which can inundate homes, roads and businesses…”

Image credit: “South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) said on Sept. 9 he has ordered emergency preparedness measures as Hurricane Florence approaches the state.”

CNN Live Blog on Florence. To get the latest information click here.

Praedictix Briefing: Issued Monday afternoon, September 10th, 2018:

  • Hurricane Florence is officially a Category 4 with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph. Hurricane Florence underwent a rare process known as “rapid intensification,” which has allowed the hurricane to intensify dramatically in a short amount of time. This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening hurricane.
  • Weather conditions will rapidly deteriorate in the Mid-Atlantic coast beginning Wednesday night.
  • State of emergency declared in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Maryland in anticipation of Florence.
  • Mandatory evacuations for entire South Carolina coast and Outer Banks of North Carolina.
  • We are at the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season and there are a total of 5 organized tropical cyclones in the Atlantic and Eastern/Central Pacific.
  • A tropical low approaching the Yucatan of Mexico that has a medium chance of cyclone development once it enters the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Hurricane Olivia remains a threat to Hawaii with torrential rainfall expected after the recent impacts of Hurricane Lane.

Hurricane Florence is Life-Threatening. Hurricane Florence continues to grow in size in strength, ballooning into a Category 4 hurricane today. It will likely remain a major hurricane through Thursday. Florence will continue to move west-northwest with a slight increase in forward speed in the coming days. Further intensification is still likely as Florence tracks over warmer waters in the next 36 hours and a continued low-shear environment (favorable for strengthening). A Category 5 hurricane cannot be ruled out. While some weakening is expected before landfall, Florence remains a VERY dangerous and life-threatening hurricane. Preparations need to be occurring immediately for the Mid-Atlantic coast. Confidence is high that Florence will be a large and extremely dangerous hurricane regardless of its category.

Florence Track.  Florence continues its west-northwestward motion moving at 13 mph. Some acceleration is expected in the next 24-48 hours. By late Wednesday, the hurricane will turn slightly with northwest movement expected; aiming at the Mid-Atlantic coast. We’re noting more variations in the model tracks this afternoon due to some uncertainty in the strength of a ridge of high pressure in the U.S. Regardless, no dramatic shifts in the track are expected for now, but we must stress the need to monitor the updates on Florence in the next 48 hours.

Florence Wind Impact. Hurricane-force winds currently extend 40 miles away from the center with tropical-storm-force winds extended out 150 miles from the center. At this time, hurricane-force winds are likely along the coasts of South and North Carolina. The National Hurricane Center will likely issue a Hurricane Watch tomorrow morning. Note that Florence’s wind field will also mean damaging winds will spread well inland and the hurricane is not just a threat for those along the coast.

Florence Rainfall and Storm Surge. An exceptionally heavy rain event is expected with Florence, who is projected to slow down dramatically as it moves inland. I’m suspecting that rain totals could easily exceed 1 ft and even approach 2 ft levels given the painfully slow progression of Florence once over land. Note that recent weeks have been incredibly wet for the East Coast (especially with the remnants of Gordon) and saturated grounds will only hasten flooding. Not only that, but a wet ground will destabilize trees, making them more prone to falling. What would typically be sub-damaing wind could knock trees down if the soil is wet and unstable enough. Additionally, a life-threatening storm surge will be likely along the Carolina and Virginia coasts. A Storm Surge Watch is coming tomorrow for these areas.

Florence Preparations. Officials are quickly preparing the public for Hurricane Florence and mandatory evacuations have been ordered in several states. The eight coastal counties of South Carolina has been ordered to evacuate (up to 1 million people). Many schools will be closed for the affected areas tomorrow with lane reversals on four major roads leading to the coast to help with the evacuation. Residents and visitors on Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, were ordered to evacuate today. Further evacuations orders are expected tomorrow for the Outer Banks of North Carolina. A state of emergency has been declared in four states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.

Very Active Tropics. We are monitoring 5 tropical cyclones in the Atlantic and East/Central Pacific. Little change in the forecast paths has occurred with these storms.

  • Hurricane Florence remains the biggest concern for the United States and remains a dangerous threat for the Mid-Atlantic coast this week.
  • Hurricane Isaac remains fairly disorganized though strengthening will be possible in the next 48 hours. It will continue moving westward towards the Lesser Antilles, reaching the islands by Thursday as a hurricane. It is currently a small hurricane and there is great uncertainty in the overall forecast of this system (particularly with regards to its intensity).
  • Hurricane Helene is currently not a concern for anyone (sans dolphins and whales).
  • Tropical Storm Paul is continuing to experience weakening and is not a concern at this time given its westward track and weakening pattern.
  • Hurricane Olivia remains a threat for Hawaii. Olivia is expected to weaken to a tropical storm before impacting the islands Tuesday night (local time).

Watching the Gulf. A tropical low near the Yucatan and western Cuba is showing signs of organization. With the system tracking northwest into the Gulf of Mexico, there seems to be a window of opportunity for cyclone development given that upper-level winds are forecast to become more favorable. A tropical depression cannot be ruled out later this week (Thursday/Friday). At a minimum, heavy rain and gusty winds will likely become a factor for Texas and Louisiana later this week.

Hurricane Olivia. Olivia remains a threat to the Hawaiian islands and is expected to remain a hurricane during the next 12 hours, though weakening is expected before impacting the islands. Regardless, Olivia’s impact to Hawaii could be severe due to its direct path into the islands. Olivia will bring torrential rain, damaging winds, and dangerous surf. Keep in mind that many communities are still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Lane. The mountainous terrain of Hawaii will enhance wind gusts on a localized level as well as rainfall even far out from the center of the cyclone. Generally, 10 to 15 inches of rain will be possible with isolated amounts up to 20 inches possible (especially for windward communities of Maui and the Big Island). Tropical storm conditions are expected Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect for Maui and Kaui. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Oahu.

Susie Martin, Meteorologist, Praedictix.

Hurricane Harvey Spurred the Spread of Dangerous Diseases. Learn the lessons of previous tragedies, right? A story at NexusMedia caught my eye: “… Hurricane Harvey dumped 50 inches of drenching rain, wrecking buildings and infrastructure. But it also brought hidden dangers lurking in the urban floodwaters. These came from deadly bacteria present in untreated sewage that leaked from wastewater treatment plants and toxic chemicals that spilled from more than 40 petrochemical plants and refineries in the Houston area. This week, experts and advocates advocates spoke about the myriad dangers of flooding as part of the Freedom to Breathe Tour, a cross-country campaign calling attention to issues of climate, environment and social justice in cities across the United States. “It’s not just the flooding,” said Robert Bullard, a professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University in Houston, who talked with advocates about the risks of extreme weather. “It’s also the industrial pollution and the impact of having so many industries located adjacent to residential areas, and the potential for having accidents…”

Photo credit: “Houston after Hurricane Harvey, August 31, 2017.” Source: Technical Sergeant Larry E. Reid Jr., U.S. Air Force

Is the “Heat Day” the New Snow Day? Schools closing early because of extreme heat and humidity? Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times: “…But “heat days” might soon become just as regular an occurrence. With extreme temperatures blanketing towns in New Jersey, Connecticut and New York this week, schools in dozens of districts across the region where air conditioning is not always the norm closed early or canceled after-school activities. On Thursday, as temperatures climbed above 90, more than two dozen New Jersey districts dismissed students early. Dozens of schools in Connecticut, including those in West Haven, Milford, Naugatuck, Waterbury, Bristol and Farmington, did the same. And in New York, at least two districts closed schools early, with a number of others canceling after-school sports…”

The Farmer’s Almanac Forecast is “Fake News”, And You’re Falling For It. I have to agree with Praedictix meteorologist Joe Hansel; here’s an excerpt of his timely post: “…Direct from their website, they “admit to is using a specific and reliable set of rules that were developed back in 1818 by David Young, the Almanac’s first editor. These rules have been altered slightly and turned into a formula that is both mathematical and astronomical. The formula takes things like sunspot activity, tidal action of the Moon, the position of the planets, and a variety of other factors into consideration. The only person who knows the exact formula is the Farmers’ Almanac weather prognosticator who goes by the pseudonym of Caleb Weatherbee. To protect this proprietary and reliable formula, the editors of the Farmers’ Almanac prefer to keep both Caleb’s true identity and the formula a closely guarded brand secret.” I have a few problems with this. Problem #1… their formula was “altered slightly” from the 1st one made back waaaaaaaaaay back in 1818. We live in a time today that has seen scientific, engineering, mathematical, and technological marvels that have lead to multiple advancements in weather forecasting. I would never believe a model that so firmly stands by only obsolete information that is nearly 200 years old and refuses to get with the times...”

Carbon Dioxide Emissions Fall as Nation Uses Less Coal and More Natural Gas. The trends are encouraging. Here’s a clip from The Houston Chronicle: “The electric power industry made such a dramatic shift last year away from coal and toward natural gas and renewable energy sources, contributing to the industry’s 4.6 percent decrease in emissions of carbon dioxide, the Energy Department reported. The decline was enough to offset emissions increases from all other business sectors. Electricity producers cut their emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and increases worldwide temperatures, by relying more on natural gas, a cleaner, more efficient fuel source that uses less energy to generate each kilowatt hour of power...”

The Cost of American Retreat. The Wall Street Journal has a must-read story; here’s the intro: “The liberal world order established by the United States a little over seven decades ago is collapsing. This should not be surprising. It was always a historical anomaly. The long period of prosperity, widespread democracy and peace among the great powers was a dramatic departure from the historical norm. It certainly was not where the world had been heading before 1945. Less than 80 years ago, liberalism outside North America was on its death bed. Dictatorships were thriving, the great powers were fighting their second global conflagration, and acts of unspeakable inhumanity were being committed in the very heart of Western Judeo-Christian civilization and in the ancient civilizations of the East. The very idea of progress seemed absurd...”

What Cyber-War Will Look Like. The Scholar’s Stage takes a look at a hypothetical scenario: “…Finally, a swatting campaign, especially if conducted in tandem with other attacks of a similar nature, could have a demoralizing effect on both the citizenship and the leadership of the enemy. The effect on the leadership is especially interesting to contemplate. Obviously decision making will be hampered if important decision-makers have to spend time in a crisis convincing policemen that there is actually no hostage crisis in their house, finding a way to pay for lunch now that their credit cards don’t work, or investigating the rape threats being sent to their teenage daughters’ Instagram. Less clear is how psychologically damaging this might be. The political and military leaders of many countries are not used to having their families targeted in times of war. It may very well break their nerve–especially on the short term. In the long term, however, it will likely just embitter enemy leadership and give them a very personal reason to stay committed to the fight...”

How Real News is Worse Than Fake News. Huh? Is more news making us more cynical and skeptical (of everything?) Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at Bloomberg: “…The world of the internet — fundamentally a world of information — is reporting on the failures of the elites 24/7. And while pretty much every opinion is available, some have more resonance than others. Is it not the case that, post-2008, most people really are skeptical of the ability of American elites to prevent the next financial crisis? Going even further back, I recall the optimism surrounding the Mideast peace talks of the 1970s or the Oslo accords of the 1990s. Hardly anyone honest has the same positive feelings about today’s efforts at peace talks. Again, these impressions are based on actual information. An informed populace, however, can also be a cynical populace, and a cynical populace is willing to tolerate or maybe even support cynical leaders. The world might be better off with more of that naïve “moonshot” optimism of the 1960s…”

Americans Expect to Get Their News From Social Media, But They Don’t Expect It to be Accurate. A sobering thought, backed up by recent polling, highlighted at Nieman Journalism Lab: “Lots of news on social media? Yep. Lots of accurate news on social media? Nope: That’s the mindset of the typical U.S. news consumer in 2018, according to a new Pew Research Center report on news use on social media platforms. Around two-thirds of U.S. adults say they get news from social media. (That figure is just about flat compared with 2017.) But 57 percent say they expect the news on social media to be “largely inaccurate.” (Pew interviewed 4,581 U.S. adults.)…”

The Decision Matrix: How to Prioritize What Matters. It all comes down to effective time managment, and in the end life (and decision-making) is a matrix. Here’s a clip from Farnam Street: “…This matrix became a powerful ally to help me manage time and make sure I wasn’t bogged down in decisions where I wasn’t the best person to decide. I delegated both types of inconsequential decisions. Inconsequential decisions are the perfect training ground to develop judgment. This saved me a ton of time. Before this people would come to me with decisions that were relatively easy to make, with fairly predictable results. The problem wasn’t making the decision—that took seconds in most cases. The problem was the 30 minutes the person spent presenting the decision to me. I saved at least 5–7 hours a week by implementing this one change. I invested some of that time meeting with the people making these decisions once a week…”

If You Want to Spot a Narcissist, Look at the Eyebrows. Say what? Try to follow along this post at Big Think: “…Fortunately, new research has provided an excellent clue for identifying the narcissists lurking among us: the eyebrows. A study by Miranda Giacomin and Nicholas O. Rule has shown that bushier eyebrows are associated with higher levels of narcissism. There are a few different flavors of narcissism, but this study examined the classic type: grandiose narcissists. They’re the kind that craves attention, are extroverted, have a high opinion of themselves, and fail to recognize their inner emptiness. According to Giacomin and Rule’s results, this type of narcissist has far more distinctive eyebrows than non-narcissists...”

TUESDAY: Sunny, warm winds. Winds: S 10-20. High: 81

TUESDAY NIGHT: Clear and mild. Low: 65

WEDNESDAY: What September? Shades of August. Still sunny. Winds: S 10-15. High: 83

THURSDAY: Hazy sun, more noticeable humidity. Wake-up: 66. High: 84

FRIDAY; More clouds, stray T-shower north? Wake-up: 66. High: 83

SATURDAY: T-storms north, warm sunshine south. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: 68. High: 85

SUNDAY: Dog Days of September. Sticky sun. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 67. High: 86

MONDAY: Muggy sunshine, T-storms up north. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 70. High: 86

(Turning much cooler next Tuesday – one week from today).

Climate Stories…
The Most Ambitious Climate Plan in History. Fee and dividend. Fortune takes a look at how it might work: “…Even if all nations meet their Paris commitments, the best studies indicate that far greater emissions reductions will be necessary for the world to maintain global temperatures below the agreed-upon 2 degrees Celsius threshold. The goal of U.S. climate policy should therefore be to exceed Paris. We believe the most politically viable way to accomplish this is a plan co-authored by former Republican Secretaries of State James Baker and George Shultz. The Baker-Shultz plan is based on a gradually rising fee applied to all carbon emissions, with all the revenue rebated directly to the American people. A family of four would receive approximately $2,000 per year in “carbon dividends...”

The Most Honest Book About Climate Change Yet. Honest, and sobering. The Atlantic explains: “…Nearly every book about climate change that has been written for a general audience contains within it a message of hope, and often a prod toward action. Vollmann declares from the outset that he will not offer any solutions, because he does not believe any are possible: “Nothing can be done to save [the world as we know it]; therefore, nothing need be done.” This makes Carbon Ideologies, for all its merits and flaws, one of the most honest books yet written on climate change. Vollmann’s undertaking is in the vanguard of the coming second wave of climate literature, books written not to diagnose or solve the problem, but to grapple with its moral consequences. It is also a deeply idiosyncratic project: Vollmann’s idiolect is obsessive, punctilious, twitchy, hyperobservational, and proudly amateurish. The data he presents are at times revelatory…”
Photo credit: Michał Klimczak.

Is There Reason for Optimism on Climate Change? Yale Insights has food for thought: “…Many governors, mayors, and business leaders across the country believe that the climate change problem is real and demands attention. So they are launching initiatives to reduce the emissions that they might be seen as responsible for and to advance adaptation agendas. They are thinking about how to engage their workers, in the case of companies, and citizens, in case of cities and states. One of the important things about that 2015 Paris Agreement was the overt recognition that the prior strategy of global climate change action centered on national governments being in charge, and being the ones doing the work, wasn’t working. The 2015 agreement shifted from a top-down approach to a much more bottom-up implementation strategy. I think this is one of the reasons to remain optimistic…”

Longer, Warmer Autumns. Although the warming signal is most pronounced during the winter months (at night) falls are trending milder in the Twin Cities – snow and ice pushed deeper into November and December. Skeptical? Ask anyone who plays pond-hockey or tries to ice fish before December 1. Climate Central has details: “This week, we examined the trends in average fall temperature across the U.S. Of the 244 cities analyzed, 80 percent have warmed at least 1°F in the last half-century, compared to only 1 percent which have cooled 1°F or more. The warming has been especially pronounced recently, as the last three falls have been within the 10 warmest on record in the U.S., and the two warmest came in 2015 and 2016. The warming climate effectively makes early fall an extension of summer, as the last characteristically hot day in most cities is also coming later in the year. While some will find that appealing, it means a delay in the return to cozy fall sweaters and hot chocolate in the evenings. And in the future, climate change may delay the time of peak fall foliage and cause leaves to drop more quickly, shortening the foliage season…”

We Could Shift to Sustainability and Save $26 Trillion. Why Aren’t We Doing It ? Dave Roberts asks the rhetorical question at Vox: “$26 trillion by 2030. That, according to the most authoritative research to date, is the amount of money humanity could save through a global shift to sustainable development. It’s a lot of money. Before you break your brain trying to imagine it, just pause to make a note that it’s a positive sum (uh, extremely positive), not negative. Net savings, not costs. That might come as a surprise since decades of conservative and fossil fuel propaganda have made it conventional wisdom that cleaning up our act is expensive — that it costs more than the status quo. It is the argument hauled out against every single pollution regulation. The argument has always been false on a sufficiently long time scale. Sooner or later, humanity must live sustainably or it won’t go on living — that’s what “sustainable” means…”

Submerged Risks Haunt Low-Level Airports. Bloomberg Opinion explains the challenge: “…Although most climate models predict between 0.2 meters and 2 meters of sea-level rise by 2100 (with a median estimate of 1 meter), the main risk to airports isn’t that they’ll be permanently submerged. Instead, it’s that elevated waters and more extreme storms cause flooding that had previously happened only rarely to become a regular threats, necessitating increased capital spending on prevention measures and pushing up insurance premiums. That in turn risks undermining valuations, resulting in writedowns for the asset owners and in a worst-case scenario the necessity of moving to higher ground…”

The World is Utterly Failing to Keep Climate Change Under Control. Popular Mechanics reports: “…Speaking in Bangkok ahead of a UN-sanctioned climate change conference there, Espinosa told the Reuters news agency that the goals set in Paris by almost 200 nations in 2015 are proving difficult to meet. First and foremost among those goals was “keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” Speaking to Reuters, Espinosa said that “1.5 is the goal that is needed for many islands and many countries that are particularly vulnerable to avoid catastrophic effects. In many cases it means the survival of those countries…”
Image credit: NASA.