Category: Weather History
The North Atlantic Hurricane Season officially ends today.
There were thirteen named storms, but only two hurricanes this year in the Atlantic.
Most interestingly, for the first time since 1994, there were no major hurricanes. There have only been 33 such seasons since 1851.
The Accumulated Cyclone Energy index (ACE) is a measurement of the wind energy over the lifetime of a tropical cyclone, measured in 6 hour increments. The 2013 North Atlantic Hurricane Season will go down as the 14th slowest since 1851 with an ACE of 30. It is the slowest ACE value since 1983, when a 17 was posted.
Here is a quick rundown of this season’s named storms:
Tropical Storm Andrea:
The only U.S. landfalling storm of 2013 brought heavy rain to the Florida Panhandle on June 6th. Andrea formed from a low pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico on June 5th. It strengthened to a 65 mph tropical storm with a central pressure of 992 mb just before landfall near Steinhatchee, Florida. Its biggest impact was rainfall of 3-5 inches from Florida to New England. A storm surge of 4.55 feet was observed at Cedar Key, Florida.
Tropical Storm Barry:
A tropical depression formed over the southwestern Caribbean on June 17th, made landfall in Belize, crossed the Yucatan, became a tropical storm over the southwestern Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in the Mexican state of Veracruz early on the 20th.
Tropical Storm Chantal:
Crossed Lesser Antilles as tropical storm on July 9th, but dissipated over the eastern Caribbean.
Tropical Storm Dorian:
Formed and weakened over the open Atlantic, but redeveloped near the Bahamas
Tropical Storm Erin:
Cape Verde storm that curved north prematurely and dissipated
Tropical Storm Fernand:
Formed over the SW Caribbean and moved inland in Mexico a short time later.
Tropical Storm Gabrielle:
Short-lived, weak tropical storm that formed and dissipated in the Caribbean Sea south of Puerto Rico, but reformed close to Bermuda.
Another Cape Verde storm for the fishes that had a split life.
Another Bay of Campeche storm that impacted Mexico.
Tropical Storm Jerry:
Formed and dissipated over the open Atlantic.
Tropical Storm Karen:
Threatened the northern Gulf Coast, but fizzled just before landfall.
Tropical Storm Lorenzo:
Another storm for the fishes over the open Atlantic.
Tropical Storm Melissa:
Named as a subtropical storm over the open Atlantic that acquired tropical characteristics.
November 17, 1957 was a Sunday. Newspaper headlines chronicled a deadly crash of the New york Central passenger train, The Chicagoan, in Michigan. The crash killed one and injured 32. Another train crash in France killed 28. Seventeen people, including fourteen children, died in a New York tenement fire. There was a lot of talk about defense spending in light of the space race that had exploded with the Russian launch of Sputnik. The prospect of atomic testing in space was causing a great deal of concern. A Christmas Seals cartoon of Santa on the front page warned there were only 31 shopping days left until Christmas.
As is usually the case on any Sunday in Alabama in the fall, the big news revolved around the world of college football. The front page of the Birmingham News heralded “API Takes Dogs” after Auburn had beaten Georgia 6-0. API stood for Alabama Polytechnic Institute. The name was officially changed in 1960 to Auburn University. The headline also hinted that Auburn might end up with the number one ranking in the polls, but Michigan State catapulted to number one, passing the unbeaten, untied Tigers. Auburn would of course go on to the number one position in the AP Poll at the end of the year.
Also that Saturday, Oklahoma had seen its incredible 47 game unbeaten streak end at the hands of Notre Dame. It took a last second field goal for Georgia Tech to eek out a victory against upset minded Alabama. The News kept a close eye on what was going on at Texas A&M, where Bear Bryant was the coach of the 4th ranked Aggies.
On that November Sunday, Alabama was in the first day of a two-day period of severe weather. That morning, strong subtropical high pressure was centered near Key West. The Gulf of Mexico was open for business as the high pumped moisture into the Deep South on southerly winds. A powerful upper level trough extended from the northern Rockies to the Southwest. That morning, a surface low pressure system was moving northeast into northwestern Arkansas, dragging a cold front back into Texas.
Just after noon, tornadoes started touching down in eastern Mississippi. Two people were killed by a strong tornado that cut a 15 miles path from near Macon. Mississippi State Police were tracking the tornadoes and relayed reports ahead to Alabama.
A little after 3 p.m., a violent tornado touched down 6 miles northwest of Jasper near the community of Red Mil Cross Roads. Mr. and Mrs. Wilford Bradford had just built a new home there. The ranch home was blown 150 feet and smashed to bits. The couple and their 14 year old daughter were killed. One other person was killed along the short 5 mile path that carried it near Saragossa and Manchester.
An amateur photographer snapped a dramatic picture of the tornado that ran on front pages of newspapers all over the country, including the one on the front page of The Birmingham News the next day
The official forecast from the U.S. Weather Bureau called for cloudy, windy and warm weather for Monday the 18th as Alabama would remain in grips of a battle between the subtropical high and the encroaching upper trough. More about the events of the 18th tomorrow.
At 08:01 GMT (3:01 a.m. CDT) on October 19, 2005, Air Force Hurricane Hunters measured a central pressure of 884 millibars in Hurricane Wilma while it was over the western Caribbean.
Here is the vortex data message from the plane that early morning:
URNT12 KNHC 190835
VORTEX DATA MESSAGE
B. 17 deg 03 min N
082 deg 20 min W
C. 700 mb 2082 m
D. NA kt
E. NA deg nm
F. 320 deg 166 kt
G. 221 deg 003 nm
H. 884 mb
I. 10 C/ 3073 m
J. 24 C/ 3043 m
K. 10 C/ NA
N. 12345/ 7
O. 0.02 / 1 nm
P. AF308 0724A WILMA OB 16
MAX FL WIND 168 KT SE QUAD 06:10:20 Z
But the surface pressure when the dropsonde hit the ocean was still 23 knots, and meteorologists know that the device did not find the true center. So, the observation was adjusted to 882 millibars, which is the lowest barometric reading ever observed in an Atlantic Hurricane. Since the hurricane was intensifying at the time, it is likely that the pressure was even lower.
The record low pressure was measured at the end of a period of amazing strengthening that is also a record as the pressure dropped 97 millibars in 24 hours!
The eye of shrunk to an amazing 2.3 miles in diameter, also a record for any Atlantic tropical cyclone.
Top winds at the time were 185 mph. Just 24 hours before, the winds had been 70 mph.
Wilma would strike the Yucatan Peninsula on the 20th and 21st and become the worst disaster in the history of Mexico. Damages totaled $3 billion.
The storm weakened, but regained category Three status in the Gulf before striking southern Florida on the 24th. U.S. damages totaled $20.4 billion.
A total of 62 people were killed by the storm.
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Media coverage at the National Hurricane Center in Miami in usually intense during any landfalling United States hurricane.
But on this night in 1995, the verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial was grabbing the headlines and there were no representatives of the media at the Hurricane Center.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Opal was gathering strength in the Gulf of Mexico and making her final move to the coast. Evacuations were ordered during the evening in the Florida Panhandle, but some of the evacuation notices came after people had already retired for the evening.
Then, during the overnight hours, Opal strengthened dramatically to near Category 5 status on the morning of the 4th and nearly doubled its forward speed toward the coast.
This created a worst case scenario for National Hurricane Center forecasters: a rapidly intensifying, potentially catastrophic hurricane approaching the Gulf Coast and a lack of media to get the word out.
Fortunately, Opal would weaken before making landfall the following afternoon and disaster was averted.
At 51 minutes after midnight on 16 September 2004, the northern eyewall of powerful Hurricane Ivan (see landfall ) moved onto land near Gulf Shores as an upper Category 3 hurricane (Saffir-Simpson Scale). The official time of landfall was 2:02 AM CDT (ie. when the center of Ivan’s eye crossed land). Bringing with it 130 mph surface winds and a historic storm surge, preliminary estimates show that the magnitude and extent of the damage and destruction over Baldwin County Alabama and Escambia and Santa Rosa counties of northwest Florida likely exceeded that of both Hurricane Frederic (September 1979) and Hurricane Opal (October 1995). Additionally, Hurricane Ivan was very close to the magnitude of damage and destruction caused by the Hurricane of 1926 which ravaged the aforementioned counties east of Mobile Bay. Hurricane Ivan caused a preliminary total of 13 deaths in the following counties combined: Baldwin County, Alabama, Escambia County, Florida, Santa Rosa County, Florida. Damage over 5 billion dollars.
Ivan moved inland maintaining hurricane strength to near Uniontown (Perry County) around 11 AM. Ivan was downgraded to a Tropical Storm at 1 PM CDT as it was approaching Centreville (Bibb County). Ivan then tracked across the Birmingham Metropolitan Area between 4 and 8 PM. Ivan remained a Tropical Storm until reaching northeast Alabama, where it weakened to a Tropcial Depression around 10 PM.
Ivan produced estimated maximum winds of 60 to 80 mph generally southwest of line from Prattville to Livingston. A few spots may have reached 90 mph in this area. Most other locations across central alabama had estimated maximum wind speeds of 50 to 60 mph, with a few isolated spots reaching 75 mph. Damage was severe well inland… some of the hardest hit communities included Atmore, Brewton, Evergreen, Monroeville, Camden, and Demopolis.
Ivan produced a large swath of heavy rainfall. Central sections of the area received an average of 4 to 8 inches, with a few locations just over 10 inches. Areas along and near the Georgia and Mississippi state-lines received slightly lower amounts. Flash flooding was widespread, although temporary. The Birmingham Metropolitan area was especially hard hit with flooding.
Watch some of ABC 33/40′s live coverage below…
Below is the ABC 33/40 special… “Face To Face With Hurricane Ivan”