Was Florida hit by a Tropical Storm or a Non Tropical Gale Force?

October 11, 2011

If you were following SWAT’s updates on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/SWATChasers) Sunday Night, you should be well aware that a large area of disturbed weather struck the East Coast of Florida, packing heavy rain and strong winds in excess of 60-70 mph. During the day on Sunday, a weather feature began to develop over the Bahamas. This feature began to show signs of developing into a closed low pressure system within a larger, more synoptically driven weather system/pattern.  By Sunday Evening, the circulation had tightened on  radar, and velocity data was showing upwards of 70+ mph winds. A semi apparent eyewall like feature also became evident just East of Palm Bay, Florida.

There was much debate in the meteorology community as to whether this area of disturbed weather should have been classified as a Tropical Storm or not. Winds gusted to over hurricane force in several reporting stations along the Eastern Florida Coast, but the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center remained persistent that the disturbed weather was nothing more than a Non Tropical Gale Force.

Radar data/loops clearly showed a well defined center of circulation/eyewall feature as stated above off the Eastern Florida Coast. Without knowing what you were being shown, at first glance, the radar image below looks like several prior landfalling tropical systems.

So besides the well defined center of circulation off the Florida Coast, why do I believe that this area of disturbed weather should have been classified as a tropical storm? There are several reasons, but for starters, here is what I posted Sunday Evening on the SWAT Facebook page.

“I rarely criticize the National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center, but this area of low pressure center has obviously gained tropical storm characteristics. The area of low pressure system has formed over warm sea surface temperatures, has organized convection over the center of circulation, has surface winds over 35 knots and the strongest winds are near the center. This all combined with Cape Canaveral recently reporting a 69 mph wind gusts is blatantly obvious evidence that we have at least a tropical depression if not a tropical storm off the East Florida Coast. Our viewers in Eastern Florida should be prepared for heavy rain, very strong winds and coastal flooding through the morning hours.”

Shortly after I published that update on the SWAT Facebook page, several reports of 75 mph wind gusts were received along the Eastern Florida Coast from the United States Air Force weather observing stations. The winds were strong enough that the National Weather Service was forced to not only issue High Wind Warnings but also Storm Warnings for the adjacent waters. Storm Warnings are extremely rare in the Southeast during Hurricane Season.

In addition to radar data and reports of winds gusting well over 70+ mph at several official reporting stations, the pressure also began to rapidly drop. Cape Canaveral, Florida saw pressures rapidly fall as the area of disturbed weather approached.

The center of circulation passed very close to Cape Canaveral and their pressure bottomed at 999.5 millibars, a pressure reading commonly found in tropical storms. Nearly all (if not all) of the characteristics needed for a storm to be classified as a tropical storm had been met, so why did the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service choose not to classify or upgrade the storm to a “tropical storm”? There is still some doubt in the meteorology community whether the area of disturbed weather attained a warm core. A definition of tropical cyclones is that they must have a warm core, which means the temperature in the vertical core of the cyclone extending up through the atmosphere is higher than in the air surrounding it. With the area of disturbed weather over extremely warm sea surface temperatures, I personally believe that at the very least, a shallow warm core was likely present.

The second possible reason that the National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center did not upgrade the storm to an official “tropical storm” could be based off of the logistical nightmare surrounding a possible late evening upgrade. The following was posted by a National Weather Service Melbourne, Florida Meteorologist on an online forum.

“You probably don’t realize what a logistical nightmare this would cause our office to name this thing at such a late hour. We would have to cancel the Gale Warning, High Surf Advisory, Wind Advisory and Lake Wind Advisory that have been up now for two days and replace them with Subtropical Storm Warning. We would need to put out products cancelling the current advisories, and then issue a Subtropical Storm Local Statement, update the Zone Forecasts, Coastal Waters Forecast Hazardous Weather Outlook, our blog and Short term Forecast. Local graphics would have to be updated as well as our forecast grids.”

While I understand his point, I do not agree with the decision. If the storm truly was a tropical storm, tropical storm warnings grab the attention of the public far better than high wind warnings or storm warnings. This area of “disturbed weather/non tropical gale force” caused significant damage and as seen via multiple social media outlets, the public appeared to have had no real idea that inclement weather was likely. Granted, high wind warnings were in place, but again, tropical storm warnings have much more significance on public perception than a high wind warning does.

Needless to say, I 100% believe the area of disturbed weather off the Florida Coast Sunday Night was a tropical storm. Hopefully the system is revisited/relooked at in post season analysis. This means that the National Hurricane Center can revisit and take a second look at the storm to decide if it was actually a tropical storm and add it to the list of 2011 tropical cyclones/historical data.



All Eyes On The Tropics

August 30, 2011

With Hurricane Irene causing billions of dollars of damage up and down the United States East Coast, killing at least 40 people and destroying 1,115 homes in North Carolina alone, all eyes continue to be on the tropics as Katia churns over the Atlantic and as a new potential tropical cyclone could form in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tropical Storm Katia continues to strengthen at a fairly rapid rate. As of the 5:00 PM National Hurricane Center advisory, Katia had winds of 60 mph and was moving to the West Northwest at 20 mph. Katia continues to look more organized and will likely gain hurricane status by Wednesday morning. Satellite imagery continues to show a much more organized Katia.

Environmental conditions ahead of Katia remain extremely favorable for strengthening. Nearly all of our forecast guidance develops Katia into a major hurricane with some of the numerical forecast guidance developing Katia into a Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane.

While Katia will likely continue to strengthen, the most uncertainty regarding Katia is where she will track. Our forecast guidance generally show Katia tracking West Northwest through the short term. At this point, I believe there is at least a 60% chance Katia will likely be tracking far enough North that she will likely be impacted by a trough that will move tracking through the Ohio Valley. If this happens, Katia will recurve to the North and Northeast and will likely have little impact on the United States. There is still significant uncertainty in the ultimate track of Katia and if she is not impacted by the trough, then there is an increased chance that she will continue to move more Westerly and could post some type of threat to the East Coast. If Katia can make it to 70W, then she will be close enough to the East Coast that significant media coverage and frenzy will likely occur, especially since Katia will likely be a major Category 3 or stronger hurricane.

Another area we are watching quite closely is an unorganized area of convection in the Northwestern Caribbean.

Most of our forecast guidance is in agreement in developing this area of unorganized convection into a tropical cyclone at some point during the upcoming weekend. With weak steering currents, it will be difficult to pinpoint where this eventual tropical cyclone will track. Most of our forecast guidance indicates some type of eventual threat to the Gulf Coast. This system will have to be watched extremely closely as sea surface temperatures in the Gulf are running well above normal.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

Brandon Redmond


Hurricane Irene Storm Chase

August 28, 2011

SWAT began monitoring Hurricane Irene over a week before she impacted portions of the Southeastern and Eastern United States. It became apparent that Irene would impact portions of the United States and could be a fairly strong hurricane and because of that, SWAT began planning for our first ever hurricane chase!

By Wednesday, Hurricane Irene was a strong category 3 hurricane located over the Bahamas. Irene continued to move Northwest towards the Southeastern United States Coast. We began looking for a target area along the Eastern North Carolina coast.

After coordinating with friends of ours who are part of the Asheville Storm Chasers, it was decided we would chase/ride out Irene from Beaufort, North Carolina. One of the Asheville Storm Chasers, Zachary Hargrove, had connections and we were able to stay at a vacation rental right on the coast of a channel of the Atlantic Ocean!

As Irene began to speed up, it was decided that we could not wait until Friday morning to leave for North Carolina and that we would have to leave sooner so that we could get prepared and set-up before Irene began impacting the coast. The SWAT crew, consisting of Brandon, Brad and one of our colleagues from the Amateur Radio Community Frank, left Muncie, Indiana at about 12:30 AM on Friday Morning.

We traveled South throughout the day on Friday, traveling through Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. By early afternoon (around 1:00 PM), we began arriving in the hurricane zones where evacuations were taking place in Eastern North Carolina. Just east of New Bern, NC we began to experience an increase in traffic going West away from the coast and saw several buildings and houses with protective plywood over windows.

By 2:30 PM, we arrived in the Morehead City and Beaufort, NC areas just in time to be greeted by Hurricane Irene with extremely heavy rain. Before hunkering down in Beaufort for the duration of the Hurricane, we picked up some pizza for everyone as a comical gesture for our “last meal.” Unfortunately, as you will find out later in this blog entry, we were without power in Beaufort from Friday Evening until we left on Sunday, so the pizza was indeed our last “hot” meal until Sunday afternoon.

In Beaufort we set up shop at the house on the coast and visited with the Asheville crew while eating the pizza and talking about the latest information on the hurricane. The house was extremely sturdy and was located on a small hill with a higher elevation even though we were right on the water. After setting up all of our computers, cameras and weather instruments, we took a stroll into downtown Beaufort where we esstentially found a ghost town. Nearly every business had been covered in protective plywood and sandbags and we saw very few people while venturing through the downtown area.

After we got back from our stroll through downtown, Hurricane Irene quickly showed her ugly face with heavy rain and very strong winds. By late Friday Evening, we began experiencing random short power outages as the winds continued to increase.

By 8:15 PM, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center had issued a Tornado Watch for all of Eastern North Carolina including the Beaufort, NC area as a line of embedded supercells was moving West towards the coast. Several tornadoes were reported just North of Beaufort and at least two of the tornadoes produced significant damage.

Hurricane Irene continued to get closer to the North Carolina coast and winds continued to increase. Heavy rain was falling and flooding was beginning to impact much of the Beaufort area. We strolled out during the storm to check on conditions across the area and severe flooding was occurring with several feet of water accumulating on several streets. Storm surge was also beginning to impact the coast with the yard of the house we were staying in being submerged in water as the surge swept in.

Winds by midnight were estimated to be gusting close to hurricane force (74 mph) with winds continuing to increase as the remnants of Hurricane Irene’s eyewall approached the coast. Just before midnight the power went out at the Beaufort house and power never returned for the duration of our trip.

With little to no sleep, both groups of chasers (SWAT & Asheville Storm Chasers) were dedicated to staying awake as Irene began picking up speed. By midnight it was evident that Irene would make landfall much sooner than anticipated, possibly as early as 6 AM.

As the outerbands associated with Hurricane Irene began to approach the Beaufort coast at 4:00 AM, both crews departed the Beaufort house to feel the full fury of the Hurricane. Wind blown rain made walking and seeing extremely difficult as winds were gusting to well over hurricane force. Both teams documented the storm with video and pictures as the winds pounded the shore. Damage was already becoming evident across the area with powerlines swaying back and forth in the wind, trees down across the area and complete darkness for as long as the eye could see thanks to widespread power outages.

After venturing back to the Beaufort house, it was decided that we would ride out the remainder of the eyewall/eye indoors due to the increasing dangers outside due to falling powerlines, trees, etc.

By 5:30 AM, fatigue continued to wear on both teams, we all decided that a couple of hours of sleep was necessary. Around 10:00 AM, I was awoken to extremely strong winds still battering against the side of the house. After walking upstairs and checking in with the Asheville Storm Chasers, I was informed that the Southern side of Irene’s eyewall was thrashing us with extremely strong winds yet again. Just prior to arriving upstairs, the Davis Mesonet recorded a 76 mph wind gust which was likely on the low side since the weather station was being sheltered in between two buildings. With no traditional forms of communication available, we utilized our amateur radio equipment to report the wind gust and our report to the National Weather Service!

The hurricane continued to produce tropical storm and hurricane force winds all day on Saturday. A reporting station in Beaufort recorded at least tropical storm force winds or higher for 23 consecutive hours!

As the rain began to lighten up Saturday Afternoon, both teams ventured out to survey the damage across the Beaufort area. On foot we discovered that the flooding situation was improving with water levels decreasing. We found lots of tree damage and noted a significant amount of debris from shrubbery and roofs lying all across the area. We also found some minor structural damage in the downtown area. As stated above, winds continued to be extremely gusty with sporadic heavy rain.

After walking across the area, we took a trip in the SWERV and found several light poles blown over in a shopping plaza, some structural damage on US 70 and more trees down across the city. Following our damage survey, we stopped at the Beaufort fire department where we were told that power outages could last for days as all three substations that powered Beaufort were completely offline.

By Saturday Night, Irene was moving away from Beaufort but the damage had already been done. We would be spending the night in the Beaufort house with limited power (only a generator running necessary equipment). After sleeping for 8 hours Saturday Night, both teams woke up Sunday Morning and began cleaning up after ourselves and packing for the trip home. We departed Beaufort and crossed into Morehead City where more extensive damage was found. Multiple large trees, powerpoles and billboards were down with more extensive structural and roof damage found.

Finally after driving for approximately an hour, we got far enough West in North Carolina to find areas with power and ate a very delicious and hot lunch at a Ruby Tuesday. Both teams departed Ruby Tuesday for home (SWAT to Indiana and the Asheville Storm Chasers to Asheville, NC).

Chasing Hurricane Irene was an exciting and once in a lifetime experience. I have no regrets, but I can tell you that I will be very thankful when I arrive home and can take a hot shower & shave for the first time in 4 days! Yes, very gross!

For more pictures we took during Hurricane Irene, please visit http://www.Facebook.com/SWATChasers. We also have several videos of Irene online at http://www.Youtube.com/SWATChasers.

On a separate note, we are monitoring a strong Tropical Wave just South of the Cape Verde Islands in the Eastern Atlantic. Some of our forecast models are developing this tropical wave into a tropical storm and eventually into a hurricane. We’ll be watching this tropical wave very closely to see if it does indeed develop and if it does develop, where it might go! Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading,

Brandon Redmond
SWATTours.com – Book your 2012 Storm Chase Tour today!

Dangerous Hurricane Irene to impact much of the East Coast

August 26, 2011

As of 8:00 AM, Hurricane Irene was a strong Category 2 hurricane with 110 mph winds. Hurricane Irene is likely undergoing what we call an eyewall replacement cycle (ERC) where the old eyewall dissipates while a new eyewall develops and becomes the dominate center of circulation. This is likely the cause for Irene’s weakening, however strengthening will likely resume later today and Irene will likely regain major hurricane status (category 3).

Outer rain bands from Hurricane Irene are already impacting portions of the Eastern and Southeastern South Carolina Coast. Folly Beach, SC has already reported 2,600 people without power and I’m sure that is just the beginning in terms of power outages! Increased wave heights can also be expected this afternoon along the Florida, Georgia and Carolina Coast as Irene continues to move North at 14 mph.

As Irene draws closer to the North Carolina coast, the atmosphere associated with Irene will become more favorable for tornadoes, which is fairly common in hurricane and tropical type storms. For that reason, the Storm Prediction Center has outlined Eastern North Carolina in a slight risk (5%) for tornadoes this afternoon and this evening.

Hurricane warnings are in effect for much of the South Carolina and North Carolina Coast. Hurricane Irene is a very large hurricane with a very large wind field and strong tropical storm force and hurricane winds will reach the coast long before Irene makes landfall. Rapidly deteriorating conditions are expected along the Carolina Coast by late this evening.

My forecast track for Irene is very similar to the National Hurricane Center’s official forecast track. Irene will likely make landfall between Morehead City, NC and Hatteras, NC sometime Saturday Afternoon. Irene will then move back into open waters and make a second landfall on Sunday near Atlantic City, NJ. Here is the official National Hurricane Center forecast track and the latest hurricane watches & warnings.

Besides the hurricane force winds and potential tornadoes, the other extremely dangerous threat with Irene will be the potential for massive amounts of rainfall and dangerous and deadly flooding due to the large amounts of rainfall and storm surge. Irene has a significant moisture influx feed with her and she will bring heavy amounts of rain to the entire East Coast. 8-16 inches of rain will be possible from North Carolina all the way to New York.

Our thoughts are with all of those that will be impacted by Hurricane Irene. Hurricane Irene has the potential to be one of the most destructive hurricanes and for that matter disasters to impact the United States in decades. Residents in the path of Irene from North Carolina to Long Island, New York should be taking their hurricane precautions/preparations and heeding any warnings given by public safety/emergency management officials.

SWATChasers is just now entering Western North Carolina and we are enroute to Morehead City, NC to get set-up and prepared for Hurricane Irene. We will continue to bring you live updates on our facebook page (www.Facebook.com/SWATChasers), on twitter (www.Twitter.com/SWATChasers) and you can watch our live streaming video later today at http://www.SWATChasers.com!

SWAT will also have live video coverage/interviews on the following stations:

WLIO – Lima, Ohio
Local 12 – Cincinnati, Ohio
ABC 22 – Dayton, Ohio
NBC WDTN 2 – Dayton, Ohio
Fox 45 – Dayton, Ohio
WCIA 3 – Eastern, Illinois (Champaign – Urbana)
Fox 59 – The Indianapolis News Leader

Hurricane Irene – Legitimate East Coast Threat

August 22, 2011

Irene strengthened into a hurricane overnight despite her interaction with land. Nearly all of Puerto Rico is without power as Irene battered the island with 80 mph wind gusts.

Here is a radar loop of Irene as she passed over Puerto Rico early this morning:

Our forecast guidance continues to track Irene just North of the Island of Hispanolia. If this were to occur, land interaction would be very minimal and Irene would likely continue to strengthen. With an extremely favorable upper air environment, Irene should have no problem reaching major hurricane status within the next 48-72 hours.

The track of Irene is the big question. With a weakeness in the subtropical ridge, Irene will likely take a turn towards the North or Northwest. The only caveat in this theory is the strength of the cyclone as stronger hurricanes will often exhibit or try to exhibit a leftward motion.

While some uncertainty still exists, most of our forecast models agree that a Carolina Coastline landfall is in the works.

Irene will likely have major impacts on nearly all of the Eastern Seaboard. The cyclone will likely be large in nature with tropical storm force and hurricane winds extending well out from the Central. Tropical Storm and Hurricane force winds are likely to impact much of the Eastern Seaboard with the Western part of Irene likely coming close to the Eastern Florida Coast.

Hurricane watches and warnings are in effect for much of Hispanolia, Cuba and the Bahamas.

In addition to strong winds, storm surge and extremely heavy flooding rains will be a significant threat across much of the Southeast and Eastern United States Coast. With a slow moving cyclone and a deep moisture connection/influx into the hurricane, flooding rains will be an extremely dangerous threat up and down the Southeastern and Eastern Coast. Our forecast models are already keying in on this threat with the GFS indicating widespread flooding rains from Florida to Maine.

Residents from Florida to Maine should be on high alert and be monitoring the progress of Irene. Hurricane Irene will be a large hurricane with her effects being felt well away from the center of circulation/eye wall. Irene will be a multi-facet hurricane bringing not only damaging winds, but torrential flooding rains, storm surge, strong rip currents and tornadoes.

For SWAT’s latest information on Hurricane Irene, you can follow us at:


Please take time to visit our websites at www.SWATChasers.com and www.SWATTours.com

Weather Wise: Hurricanes

August 2, 2011

Hey everybody! Have you ever been curious how a small thunderstorm in the open ocean can intensify and become a swirling force of nature capable of wreaking havoc on an entire coast line? In this, the latest posting in a series of weather education blogs we like to call Weather Wise, we’re gonna take a closer look at one of the most powerful forces of nature, Hurricanes.

Hurricane research, tracking and forecasting has come a long way in recent years. New technology has allowed us to spot these storms looming in open waters long before they come ashore. In 1900, Galveston, Texas was blindsided by a category 4 hurricane with winds estimated at 145 mph. The storm surge on that particular storm was responsible for the deaths of nearly 8,000 Texans. The Galveston Hurricane is still known as the deadliest natural disaster to ever strike the United states. Fortunately, our technology has improved enough over the last century so that hurricanes like this one will not go unnoticed. Satellites allow us to keep eyes on these monsters from space, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Computers help to process the large amounts of weather data and produce models to tell the meteorologists where the hurricane will track. These technologies and others like them, in partnership with several scientists have helped to increase the warning times and pinpoint the long stretches of coast lines that will be affected, days before the hurricane strikes. This has helped to cut back on needless deaths in recent years.

File:Galveston Hurricane (1900) SWA.JPG

-Surface Map of the Galveston Hurricane just before it made landfall.

So what is a hurricane exactly? When the oceans near the Equator get hotter than a $2 pistol, and other atmospheric conditions become favorable, thunderstorms form with ease in what you can call a breeding ground for hurricanes. Compare it to a college house party — when the music gets turned on, (and I’m not talking about Bob Segar’s Greatest Hits,) before too long you have a living room that gets transformed into a dance floor. Those party animals start bumping into friends and inviting others nearby and before long, you have a raging kegger on your hands. The same goes for the tropics. Once water temperatures near 80°, the slightest breeze can easily send some of that low level moisture mixing into the atmosphere. Once that moist air parcel rises and condenses, a cloud forms. It may sound silly, but the first step in hurricane formation is a cloud.

-Artist's depiction of such a cloud.

The general area of thunderstorm formation is a meteorological mouthful. The Intertropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ for short, is an area primed for thunderstorms. In this same area just north of the equator (June-Nov), the southward and northward flowing tradewinds come together to form a crease in the atmosphere. At the same time, a jet of air flows across the Atlantic Ocean from north western Africa. Sometimes, this causes a kink to form in the crease, a beep in the boop, or we could just make things easy and call this a Wave. These atmospheric waves help to get our simple clouds and small thunderstorms to intensify and form tropical disturbances, the next big step in hurricane formation.

Fast forward from your lonely cloud, through the simple thunderstorm phase and all the way to a small cluster of thunderstorms known as the disturbance. This small shapeless blob may begin to form a closed circulation, or simply put, the thunderstorms start to tango and spin around one another. The cause of this spin is the Earth’s rotation on it’s axis, similar to why the water in your toilet bowl spins counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere, (or clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.) Soon enough, the pressure in the center of these thunderstorms begins to drop, forming a center of Low Pressure.  The storms spinning around the low begin to organize further and winds become sustained from 29-39 miles per hour, and what began as a small cloud has now turned into a tropical depression.

The National Hurricane Center starts to take note of the further organizing system and they might begin to start dispatching Hurricane Hunters to investigate. The probes they release into the storm are not containers filled with Prozac to treat the depression, * Que Rim Shot*, rather they are chock full of instruments to gather data on the impending threat. Sure enough, they note a closed circulation and that the overall shape is now more circular and that they are clearly rotating around an increasingly lower pressure center. The winds now pick up to sustained speeds greater than 39 miles per hour, and thus a Tropical Storm is born. At this time, the National Hurricane Center gives this developing monster a name.

-Note that the names alternate back and forth between male and female. Also, there is a separate list of names for storms that form in the Pacific Ocean.

Tropical Storms alone can drop torrential downpours and cause massive amounts of flooding inland if they make landfall, but they still pose a smaller threat than a hurricane in most cases. A hurricane is just a glorified tropical storm. Pressures in the center continue to drop and satellite images continue to show a developing “eye.”  So what separates a tropical storm from a full fledged hurricane? If this spinning top of thunderstorms contains sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or greater, the tropical storm gets upgraded to hurricane status.

Structure of airflow around the eye of a hurricane

-Cross Section of a Hurricane.

Hurricanes contain a wide variety of hazards that pose a danger to us as humans. Whether it’s flooding from the rains above, or flooding from the storm surge, winds toppling the trees or the embedded tornadoes tossing them, hurricanes really can pack a punch. Some people call tornadoes, “Fingers of God.” If that’s the case, a hurricane should be known as “God’s Fist.”

The most dangerous and deadly hazard presented by hurricanes that make landfall is the storm surge. Simply put, a storm surge is a large dome of water that rises under a hurricane due to the low pressure that moves over the shoreline causing extensive damage to beaches and structures. Like I stated at the top of this post, this is what wreaked havoc in Galveston over 100 years ago. Obviously the damage reaches it’s maximum potential if the hurricane also makes landfall at the same time as a high tide. There are 3 factors to determine the intensity of the surge. Wind speeds, water depth and the intensity of the low pressure center all determine the height of the surge. For a larger storm surge, you would look for high wind speeds, an intense center of low pressure and shallow waters. Category 5 winds combined with the other factors can produce a towering storm surge 25 feet high. The most intense surge of water occurs near the low pressure system and in the quadrant of the hurricane where the winds are blowing towards the shore. The surge is powerful and comes ashore like a small scale tsunami, destroying everything in it’s path. This is why forecasting lead times and coast line evacuations are extremely important.

Storm Surge

-Storm Surge - Courtesy Lutgens & Tarbuck, The Atmosphere, 7th ed.

The winds alone in an average sized  hurricane, 74 mph or greater, can spread out over 100 miles and the tropical strength winds, 39-73 mph can extend several hundred miles from the center of the storm. The hurricanes are categorized by their sustained wind speeds. The Saffir-Simpson Scale rates these storms from 1-5 with a Category 1 storm having winds from 74-95 mph and a Category 5 hurricane having sustained winds 155 mph and higher. The winds are measured by the anemometer, which can resemble a model airplane without wings, or 3 spinning ice cream scoops. The wind damage itself is exponential as it increases in speed. 120 mile per hour winds are not going to do twice the damage as 60 mph winds, rather they will do almost 100 times the damage.

-A cup anemometer, also known to small town folk as the "Whirly-Gig." Yes, while chasing we have gotten several people ask us what the whirly-gig does.

Embedded within the spiral rain bands are another, usually small scale threats… tornadoes. As the hurricane spins on it’s axis, there are usually isolated cases of some “spin-ups” or small tornadoes. Most of the time these do not go reported due to the limited visibility and the fact that the damage is hard to disseminate from damage the hurricane itself caused.

The final punch that the hurricane packs is torrential coastal and inland flooding. If a roaring storm surge, hidden tornadoes and winds so strong you can’t walk weren’t bad enough, add to the mix rainfall rates of more than a few inches an hour and you have a lot of cleaning up to do when it’s all said and done.  The slower the hurricane is moving, the more potential for flooding you have. It’s very difficult to accurately predict the amount of rainfall locations will receive that are impacted by a hurricane, but generally an average storm will drop anywhere from 6-12 inches of rain or more over a 12 hour period depending on speed.

So from disturbance to depression, from tropical storm to category 5 hurricane, the easiest way to avoid any and all of the above risks is simple. Move inland. The storms rely on the warm ocean surface to fuel their growth and sustainability. You will often notice that when a hurricane moves over a large land mass or onto the United States mainland, the storm rapidly deintensifies. So if you are wanting to avoid such risks, pass on buying the ocean front property.

Always Remember, some are Weather Wise and some are otherwise… don’t be the latter. Again, if you have any questions, comments, complaints or suggestions, please email them to Brad@SWATChasers.com. If your questions are good enough they may be featured in the next Weather Wise segment!

-Brad Maushart

www.SWATChasers.com and www.SWATTours.com