Hurricane Michael Takes Aim at Florida Panhandle

We escape to the Florida Panhandle every February, just to keep some semblance of sanity. We like a spot between Destin and Panama City. Palm trees and pine trees. No high-rise condos. It’s quiet and relatively empty during midwinter; not as balmy or busy as Ft. Myers, but 50s and 60s still feel great.

With Hurricane Michael about to make landfall, my 88-year old dad had an observation. “Yes, it gets cold where you live, but come March your house will still be in place, undamaged.”

I’ve tracked weather for 45 years, but I still can’t imagine tracking a Texas-size whirlwind, wondering if your home will survive the encounter.

Michael arrives as a Category 3 storm, with winds near 120 mph and a 4-8 foot storm surge. Flooding is possible into the Carolinas, where people are recovering from Hurricane Florence.

Rain tapers later today, followed by a colder wind. Much of the immediate metro will see the first frost/freeze Friday morning.

A family of clippers keep us chilly into the first half of next week, but a few 60s may return within 8-14 days.

That would be very nice.

Tuesday evening visible image: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Potentially Plowable. And we’re off to the races. ECMWF is fairly consistent, showing a band of significant snow from near Fargo/Moorhead to Bemidji and International Falls by Thursday – potentially enough to shovel (and make hunters very, very happy). Map: WeatherBell.

Chilly End to October. After a mild blip the third week of October long range (GFS) guidance shows a return of colder-than-average temperatures for much of the USA east of the Rockies the last week of this month.

Is Rainy Weather Muting Fall Colors? A story at Star Tribune caught my eye; here’s a clip: “…Strong sunshine helps fill leaves with a pigment, anthocyanin, that’s responsible for red and crimson colors. The best fall display usually comes with warm days, bright sunshine, and cool nights. The state is behind where it should be with fall colors, but that can change very quickly, Cervenka said. “If we get lots of sunlight next week and drops in temperature, we may see — all of a sudden — things turning. Keep your eye on those maples,” she said. The rainfall could be good for trees as winter approaches, said Jennifer Teegarden, DNR forestry outreach specialist. “As long as it’s not in standing water, this is actually good for the trees. Trees have a better survival rate if they go into the winter well watered,” she said…”

Praedictix Briefing: Issued Tuesday evening, October 9th, 2018:

Key Messages:

  • Hurricane Michael is now a major hurricane (Category 3) with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph with gusts to 150 mph. It is expected to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle tomorrow (Wednesday) midday. This a dangerous and life-threatening storm. Final preparations need to be completed immediately as the window of preparation is quickly closing.
  • Evacuations have been ordered in 22 Florida counties. Mandatory: Bay, Citrus, Dixie, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Jefferson, Levy, Okaloosa, Taylor, Wakulla, and Walton. Voluntary/phased: Calhoun, Hernando, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Pasco, Santa Rosa, Washington, and Escambia. The Florida Division of Emergency Management has a list on their website: 
  • A life-threatening storm surge is likely along the Florida Panhandle, Big Bend, and nature coast with a surge of up to 13 ft. possible. Water level rises will begin in these areas tomorrow.
  • Hurricane-force winds will extend well inland across the Panhandle, southern Georgia, and southeast Alabama with tropical-storm conditions for northeast Florida through North Carolina. Watches and warnings have been issued for the areas of impact.
  • Michael will be the strongest hurricane to hit the Panhandle region in 13 years and is expected to be the strongest hurricane (based on wind speed) to make landfall in the continental United States this year.
  • More than 20 million people are under watches or warnings across five states: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina.
  • Tallahassee’s airport will be closing at midnight tonight.

Michael on Satellite. The eye of the hurricane became very distinct earlier this afternoon and has assumed a very “classic” hurricane look. This has indicated strengthening and sure enough, the latest reconnaissance mission has confirmed this. Michael is now a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph. The outer bands of Michael have been already impacting the Florida peninsula with waves of heavy rain and even a minor storm surge reported in the Fort Myers area. Weather conditions will continue to rapidly deteriorate for north Florida as Michael approaches.

Latest Track Update. Michael continues to track through favorable conditions in the next 12 to 18 hours, which could lead to further strengthening before making landfall. After landfall, rapid weakening will occur. However, tropical-storm conditions are still likely for much of the Southeast, including the Carolinas. Michael continues to move generally north-northwestward with a slight turn northward expected tonight. Little change in the overall track occurred at the 4 PM update. The storm will see an increase in forward speed, which places the center of the storm in southwest Georgia by Thursday morning and then South Carolina by Thursday afternoon.

Watches and Warnings Expand. Tropical storm watches and warnings are now in effect along the U.S. East Coast from northeastern Florida to North Carolina. A hurricane warning remains in effect for much of the Panhandle region of Florida and into southwestern Georgia as well as Southeastern Alabama. The following watches and warnings are currently in effect:

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for…
* Alabama/Florida border to Suwannee River Florida

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for…
* Alabama/Florida border to the Mississippi/Alabama border
* Suwanee River Florida to Chassahowitzka Florida
* Fernandina Beach Florida to South Santee River South Carolina

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for…
* Chassahowitzka to Anna Maria Island Florida, including Tampa Bay
* Mississippi/Alabama border to the Mouth of the Pearl River
* South Santee River South Carolina to Duck North Carolina
* Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds

Hurricane-Force Winds Extend Well Inland. Hurricane-force winds currently extend out 45 miles from the center of Michael with tropical-storm-force winds extending out up to 175 mph from the center. With Michael’s current track, the strongest winds will occur in the Panama City Beach with hurricane-force winds possibly into the very southeastern tier of Alabama (including Dothan) and southwestern Georgia (including Albany). These areas are currently under hurricane warnings. As stated in our last briefing, these damaging winds will result in widespread power outages that could last for days if not a week or more in areas, along with major tree and structural damage. Strong wind gusts of at least 40 mph will continue along and mainly to the right of the center as Michael continues to move inland across parts of Georgia and the Carolinas through the end of the week, which would also have the potential to knock out power.

Power Outage Potential. The Guikema Research Group estimates that over 90% of central Florida’s Panhandle may lose power later today and tonight.

Life-threatening Storm Surge up to 13 ft. One of the most dangerous aspects of Michael is the storm surge flooding potential. The NHC continues to “up” the storm surge forecast, now calling for a max surge of up to 13 ft possible. Storm surge flooding will occur along the immediate coastline near and east of where the center makes landfall. Michael is expected to affect portions of the Florida Gulf coast that are especially vulnerable to storm surge, particularly Apalachee Bay south of Tallahassee. The combination of this dangerous storm surge and the high tide will result in the following peak surges at the time of high tide:

  • Mexico Beach FL to Keaton Beach FL…9-13 ft
  • Okaloosa/Walton County Line FL to Mexico Beach FL…6-9 ft
  • Keaton Beach FL to Cedar Key FL…6-9 ft
  • Cedar Key FL to Chassahowitzka FL…4-6 ft
  • Chassahowitzka to Anna Maria Island FL including Tampa Bay…2-4 ft
  • Alabama/Florida border to Okaloosa/Walton County Line FL…2-4 ft

Here are the expected times of the high tide for several locations within the surge threat:

  • Panama City: 10:57 PM Tuesday, 10:30 PM Wednesday
  • Apalachicola: 4:39 AM and 6:10 PM Wednesday, 4:58 AM Thursday
  • Cedar Key: 2:48 AM and 3:36 PM Wednesday, 3:18 AM Thursday
  • Tampa Bay: 2:46 AM and 4:06 PM Wednesday, 3:09 AM Thursday

The following Storm Surge Watches and Warnings are in effect:

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for…
* Okaloosa/Walton County Line Florida to Anclote River Florida

A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for…
* Anclote River Florida to Anna Maria Island Florida, including Tampa Bay
* Alabama/Florida border to Okaloosa/Walton County Line Florida

Widespread Torrential Rainfall. Heavy rain associated with Michael will have a widespread impact in the southeastern United States. We’re expecting the heaviest precipitation to accumulate in a line from the Florida Panhandle to the Carolinas, where a swath of generally 4″ to 10″+ will be possible. The highest totals will likely occur in the Panhandle and Big Bend area of Florida, southeast Alabama, and parts of southwest and central Georgia where 4″ to 8″ will be commonplace with isolated totals up to 12″. The remainder of Georgia, the Carolinas and southern Virginia will see 3″ to 6″ with isolated 8″ totals. Elsewhere, 1″ to 3″ will be expected.

Flash Flood Watches in Effect. With the widespread, heavy rain expected from Michael, the areas likely to experience flash flooded are currently under a Flash Flood Watch as the system approaches. Cities in the Flash Flood Watch include Tallahassee FL, Panama City FL, Apalachicola FL, Albany GA, Macon GA, Augusta, Columbia SC, Charlotte NC, Raleigh NC, and Danville VA.

Susie Martin, Meteorologist, Praedictix.

Why Are These Tiny Towns Getting So Much Hurricane Harvey Aid? Citylab takes a look at possible cases of inequality when it comes to recovering from a biblical flood: “…Across Southeast Texas, residents in a handful of small, white, affluent towns stand to reap far more Harvey recovery funds than those just a few miles away, in far more populous but poorer majority-minority cities—resulting in huge racial disparities in the distribution of recovery funds. According to experts, the gap reflects the process by which the state and region divvy up disaster recovery dollars, a formula that puts place before people. “The Southeast Texas [method of distribution] is by far the most problematic of all the methods of distribution,” says Amelia Adams, a fair housing and disaster-recovery researcher and community planner for the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service…”

Photo credit: “Port Arthur, Texas, on September 28, 2017, in the wake of the destruction of Hurricane Harvey.” David Goldman/AP.

As Storms Keep Coming, FEMA Spends Billions in “Cycle” of Damage and Repair. What’s that old adage about insanity: doing the same thing over and over again – expecting different results? Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times: “…FEMA’s public assistance program has provided at least $81 billion in this manner to state, territorial and local governments in response to disasters declared since 1992, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data. But an examination of projects across the country’s ever-expanding flood zones reveals that decisions to rebuild in place, often made seemingly in defiance of climate change, have at times left structures just as defenseless against the next storm. Other efforts have required enormously expensive engineering to ensure protection. Yet in some instances, restrictions on construction in flood plains have effectively prohibited FEMA from safeguarding its multimillion-dollar investments in new and repaired public buildings…”

Photo credit: “The Plaquemines Parish Detention Center was rebuilt for $105 million in a Louisiana marsh that had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.” Credit: Edmund D. Fountain for The New York Times

Crop Quality Hurt by Rains. Although this post is focused on Iowa, similar concerns are cropping up over southern Minnesota. Here’s an excerpt from Iowa State University Integrated Crop Management: “This year continues the chain of years with unusual harvest conditions driven by rapid weather changes in the latter part of the growing season. In mid August, crops were significantly ahead of schedule in terms of maturity. Heat and moisture in May and June accelerated the pace of development, to the point that signs of maturity were evident by the 15th of August. Rains followed by above average temperatures began over Labor Day weekend, and have been repeated nearly every weekend to date. The forecast for the weekend of October 7 is more of the same – very heavy rains with intermittent warm, sunny and high humidity periods. The 2018 crop is now at a point where the wet conditions are affecting quality.  In some areas, flooded streams inundated mature crops. Please see this ICM News article written on September 27, for guidance in handling these crops. Corn moisture contents vary widely but field mold is showing up. Most field molds grow on corn after blacklayer; rapid drydown normally prevents significant further problems…”

The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies. If you haven’t read this story at Bloomberg, do yourself a favor and unpack the implications. Here’s an excerpt: “One country in particular has an advantage executing this kind of attack: China, which by some estimates makes 75 percent of the world’s mobile phones and 90 percent of its PCs. Still, to actually accomplish a seeding attack would mean developing a deep understanding of a product’s design, manipulating components at the factory, and ensuring that the doctored devices made it through the global logistics chain to the desired location—a feat akin to throwing a stick in the Yangtze River upstream from Shanghai and ensuring that it washes ashore in Seattle. “Having a well-done, nation-state-level hardware implant surface would be like witnessing a unicorn jumping over a rainbow,” says Joe Grand, a hardware hacker and the founder of Grand Idea Studio Inc. “Hardware is just so far off the radar, it’s almost treated like black magic.” But that’s just what U.S. investigators found: The chips had been inserted during the manufacturing process, two officials say, by operatives from a unit of the People’s Liberation Army…”

Illustration credit: Scott Gelber for Bloomberg Businessweek.

“A Jobless Future is Coming – We Must Prepare Now.” A story at South China Morning Post caught my eye: “…But it is not China that, Lee believes, other countries should be worried about, and he wants to use his influence to prepare the world for the imminent AI revolution. By Lee’s estimates, automation will take up to 40 to 50 per cent of jobs globally, and governments need to be prepared…With any one of these jobs, AI can contribute by becoming an analytical engine, so that people can do what they do best, which is paying attention to people. So that is probably the only category large enough to absorb the migration of jobs. I think over the next 15 to 25 years that will include things like social entrepreneurship, impact investing, volunteerism. It also forced smaller countries to think if China and India will not be the blue-collar service for the world, what are the service options that remain…”

Photo credit: AFP.

After Budget Cuts, the IRS’ Work Against Tax Cheats is Facing “Collapse”. Here’s an excerpt from an explainer at ProPublica: “…Tax evasion is at the center of the criminal cases against two associates of the president, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. The sheer scale of their efforts to avoid paying the government has given rise to a head-scratching question: How were they able to cheat the Internal Revenue Service for so many years? The answer, researchers and former government auditors say, is simple. The IRS pursues fewer cases of tax evasion than it did less than 10 years ago. Provided you’re not a close associate of President Donald Trump, there may never be a better time to be a tax cheat. Last year, the IRS’s criminal division brought 795 cases in which tax fraud was the primary crime, a decline of almost a quarter since 2010. “That is a startling number,” Don Fort, the chief of criminal investigations for the IRS, acknowledged at an NYU tax conference in June...”

Is Fasting the Fountain of Youth? Which brings up the “quantity vs. quality of life argument”. Kale vs. cheeseburger. Not sure. Here’s a clip from “…Research involving animals has revealed that intermittent fasting can reduce the risk of obesity and its related diseases, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes and cancer. According to Mark Mattson, chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging, research from the 1980s revealed that the lifespan of rats increases substantially when they fast every other day, compared to rats who have food available at all times. A much more recent study, published this month, found that mice who fasted, whether because they were fed all of their calories only once per day or because their calories were restricted, which naturally caused them to eat all of their limited food at once — were healthier and lived longer compared to mice who had constant access to food…”

Image credit: Harvard Medical School.

Take a Nap to Sharpen Your Brain, Suggests New Science. It’s official, napping is good. Can we all agree on that? Details via Big Think: “…A nap can help with how we process and react to information. Researchers from the University of Bristol in the U.K discovered that even a short period of sleep allows our brains to interpret unconscious information that is not part of our usual awareness. For the study, the scientists recruited sixteen participants of varying ages. Since prior research established that sleep helps problem solving, the researchers probed whether a conscious mental process is necessary before or during sleep to help with that…This indicated that sleep was responsible for inducing improvement in tasks that were processed unconsciously. The researchers conclude that even a bit of sleep can go a long way in helping us deal deeper with information that comes at us during waking hours…”

Instinct Can Beat Analytical Thinking. It turns out there is something to rumors of a “6th sense”. Harvard Business Review has an interesting story: “...It is not, however, the only lens through which to view decision-making. Psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer has spent his career focusing on the ways in which we get things right, or could at least learn to. In Gigerenzer’s view, using heuristics, rules of thumb, and other shortcuts often leads to better decisions than the models of “rational” decision-making developed by mathematicians and statisticians. At times this belief has led the managing director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin into pretty fierce debates with his intellectual opponents. It has also led to a growing body of fascinating research, and a growing library of books for lay readers, the latest of which, Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions, is just out…”

Kelly, the Sassy Dolphin. Do animals have personalities? After reading this story at Hakai Magazine, I’m beginning to think the answer is a resounding yes: “...It turns out that this is a heated debate in animal psychology: do animals even have personality to begin with? For centuries, scientists refused to use the term to describe animal behaviors. The word itself indicates the reason: you can’t spell personality without the word person. Instead, researchers talked about temperament and behavioral syndromes and reward systems. But in the past 15 years, more and more scientists have started entertaining the idea that animals might indeed have their own distinct and stable personalities. “It makes evolutionary sense,” says Lauren Highfill, who’s written several papers on animal personalities. “You wouldn’t really want to have all dolphins in a social group behave in exactly the same way.” You need a bold one, for example, who’s willing to go check things out and give the all-clear. But a group full of fearless types, swimming right into shark-infested waters without a care in the world, would be an evolutionary disadvantage. “Just like with humans, it’s nice that we have different personalities,” Highfill says…”

Photo credit: “Kelly—a dolphin with a big “personality”—has been in show business for about four decades, most recently at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas.” Photo courtesy of Atlantis.

.42″ rain fell Tuesday at MSP.

50 F. maximum temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.

61 F. average high on October 9.

57 F. high on October 9, 2017.

October 10, 1977: A few locations receive early accumulating snow, including Minneapolis with 2.5 inches, Gaylord with 2 inches, and Jordan with 2 inches.

October 10, 1970: Early snowfall is recorded in west central Minnesota. Snow totals range from a trace to 4.2 inches in Benson. Other areas include Montevideo with 4 inches, Canby with 3.2 inches, Morris with 2.6 inches, and Willmar with 2.5 inches. New London, New Ulm, and Buffalo all recorded 2 inches of snowfall.

October 10, 1949: An incredibly strong low pressure system brings hurricane force winds across Minnesota. This was possibly the strongest non-thunderstorm wind event seen in Minnesota. Top winds are clocked at 100 mph at Rochester, with a gust of 89 mph at the Twin Cities International Airport. 4 deaths and 81 injuries are reported. Numerous store windows are broken, and large chimneys toppled. The top 10 floors of the Foshay building are evacuated with the tenants feeling seasick from the swaying building.

October 10, 1928: Record high temperatures are set across central Minnesota with highs in the upper 80s to lower 90s.

WEDNESDAY: Periods of rain. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 52

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Showers taper. Low: 36

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy with a cold wind. Winds: NW 15-25+ High: near 40

FRIDAY: Early frost/freeze. Dribbles of sunshine. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 30. High: 45

SATURDAY: Clouds increase, breezy. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 38. High: 56

SUNDAY: Scrappy clouds, windy and cold. Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: 37. High: 43

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, jackets linger. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 32. High: 47

TUESDAY: Windchill returns. Few snow flurries? Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: 39. High: 41

Climate Stories…

Why the Newest Nobel Laureate is Optimistic About Beating Climate Change. Just when I was feeling blue along comes a timely post at Quartz: “…At a press conference after the announcement, Romer was asked about his thoughts on the climate-change report and whether it is too late to do anything. “It’s entirely possible for humans to produce less carbon,” he said. “There will be some tradeoffs, but once we begin to produce [fewer] carbon emissions we’ll be surprised that it wasn’t as hard as it was anticipated.” Economic theory posits that, as finite resources are consumed their prices should go up. Yet, Romer points out that over the past 200 years economies have grown while the prices of most commodities—including aluminum, copper, lead, tin, zinc, and crude oil—have remained relatively flat. More productive, efficient, and innovative economies have been able to squeeze more growth out of the same inputs over time…”

Photo credit: “There are two kinds of optimism.” Reuters/Mike Segar.

Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2014. The New York Times reports: “A landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.” The report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population. The report “is quite a shock, and quite concerning,” said Bill Hare, an author of previous I.P.C.C. reports and a physicist with Climate Analytics, a nonprofit organization…”

A link to the latest IPCC report is here.

The World Has Just Over a Decade to Get Climate Change Under Control, UN Scientists Say. More perspective on the latest IPCC report from The Washington Post: “...With global emissions showing few signs of slowing and the United States — the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide — rolling back a suite of Obama-era climate measures, the prospects for meeting the most ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris agreement look increasingly slim. To avoid racing past warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels would require a “rapid and far-reaching” transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that has never happened before, the group found. “There is no documented historic precedent” for the sweeping change to energy, transportation and other systems required to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wrote in a report requested as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement…”

Photo credit: “The Eiffel Tower is lit up with the slogan “Action Now” in December 2015, as countries signed the landmark Paris climate accord.” (Michel Euler/AP).

Final Call to Save the World from “Climate Catastrophe”. The BBC boils this down to laymans terms: “…Scientists might want to write in capital letters, ‘ACT NOW, IDIOTS,’ but they need to say that with facts and numbers,” said Kaisa Kosonen, of Greenpeace, who was an observer at the negotiations. “And they have.” The researchers have used these facts and numbers to paint a picture of the world with a dangerous fever, caused by humans. We used to think if we could keep warming below two degrees this century, then the changes we would experience would be manageable. Not any more. This new study says that going past 1.5C is dicing with the planet’s liveability. And the 1.5C temperature “guard rail” could be exceeded in just 12 years, in 2030…”

Image credit: NASA ISS.

Covering This “Like It’s The Only Story That Matters”. The Washington Post weighs in with an Op-Ed; here’s a clip: “...But it will need sustained emphasis, by the media and the public, all over the world, if we stand a chance of maintaining a livable planet. “A bracing reminder that every issue we devote attention to other than climate change is really a secondary issue,” wrote Philip Gourevitch, author and New Yorker staff writer, on Twitter about the report. And The Post quoted Erik Solheim, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program: “It’s like a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen. We have to put out the fire.” That will be very much against the grain for the distraction-prone media and the news-weary public…”

Climate Change Will Get Worse. These Investors Are Betting On It. Bloomberg Businessweek has the story: “A top investment strategist for JPMorgan Asset Management sent a note to clients earlier this year with a dire forecast. Despite global efforts to stop climate change, sea levels are likely to rise dramatically, threatening the 40 percent of Americans who live along the coast. On the other hand, there will probably be some investment opportunities in seawalls. “A storm surge barrier system protecting New York City and parts of New Jersey could cost $2.7 million per meter,” Michael Cembalest, the asset manager’s chairman of market and investment strategy, wrote in his annual “Eye on the Market” energy newsletter in April. He added that governments would probably struggle to pay that cost, perhaps turning to either bonds or outright privatization…”