Why no storm surge deaths in 2017? What the NHC says

The 2017 storm season tormented the U.S. with four hurricane landfalls and scores of deaths, but a preliminary review shows no one succumbed to the most lethal force in a tropical cyclone’s arsenal — storm surge.

In a National Hurricane Center report released last week on Hurricane Harvey,which hit Texas in August as a Category 4 storm, officials lament the 65 lives lost to freshwater flooding but tout the lack of storm surge deaths even as up to 10 feet of hurricane-driven saltwater charged ashore.

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But it wasn’t just Harvey. Hurricane center officials said no storm surge deaths are believed to have occurred in hurricanes Irma or Maria — both Category 4s — or Category 1 Hurricane Nate, which landed near Biloxi, Miss. on Oct. 8.

The lack of storm surge deaths is being attributed by the NHC to its new storm surge watch and warning system, which debuted operationally with Harvey. While the system is not yet used in Puerto Rico, emergency managers had hurricane center-provided maps in order to make evacuation decisions based on storm surge.

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“We can argue that what caused it was luck, chance, geography, but you would be hard pressed to convince me it happened by itself,” said NHC storm surge specialist Jamie Rhome about the absence of storm surge deaths. “Somewhere along the way, this 10-year effort moved the needle.”

Find out why not everyone agrees with Rhome in the full story on MyPalmBeachPost.com.  

Not much was left of the homes in the Seabreeze Mobile Home Park in Islamorada Tuesday afternoon, September 12, 2017. The storm surge from Hurricane Irma passed over the area and and devastated almost all of the homes. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

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Blustery day before cool front this weekend

A blustery day with wind gusts topping 30 mph will turn into a mixed bag for the weekend, including some sun and a Sunday cool front with a near guarantee of rain.

Sustained east winds this morning at Palm Beach International Airport are measuring upwards of 20 mph with gusts to 31 mph.

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The wind, which has triggered a wind advisory for Lake Okeechobee, rip current warnings along the Atlantic beaches and a small craft advisory, is a function of a high pressure system moving into South Florida rubbing up against a stationary boundary stretching from the Bahamas into the Gulf of Mexico.

“Wind speeds will only increase as we go through today,” said National Weather Service meteorologists in their  morning forecast. “Temperatures are quite mild this  morning, being regulated off the stiff breeze off the relatively warm Atlantic waters.”

Today’s hazards

Saturday’s forecast is for mostly cloudy skies, a high temperature of 75 degrees, with breezy conditions continuing as a low pressure system begins to dig into the Mississippi Valley.

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That low will increase winds out of the south, bringing more warm, tropical air into South Florida.

Sunday forecast map. Source: Weather Prediction Center.

By Sunday, an area of low pressure expected to form in the Gulf of Mexico will begin to move through North  Florida, trailing a cool front that will increase the chances for rain Sunday between 30 and 60 percent for the day and up to 80 percent overnight.

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A cloudy day Sunday will decrease the chances for thunderstorms ahead of the front as daytime heating will muted, but there is a low chance of thunderstorms in the forecast.

The cool front will whip winds back out of the  north, pulling in colder air that will make its mark Monday night with lows in the mid-50s and a high Tuesday in the upper 60s.

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UPDATE: Ireland, UK brace for impact of Hurricane Ophelia

11 P.M. UPDATE: Ophelia is now a post-tropical storm but is still expected to bring strong winds to Ireland and the United Kingdom on Monday, the National Hurricane Center said in its final advisory on the system.

It was still packing 85-mph winds as it sped north at 44 mph. It’s expected to dissipate near western
Norway by Tuesday night.

5 P.M. UPDATE: The remnants of Hurricane Ophelia could bring wind gusts of 80 mph, disruption and damage to Ireland and Britain as the work week gets underway, weather services said today.

Ophelia remains a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph as it speeds north-northeast across the Atlantic at 38 mph, according to the 5 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The next advisory will be at 11 p.m.

This satellite image released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Ophelia on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. The remnants of Ophelia could bring 80 mile an hour (130 kilometer an hour) wind gusts, disruption and damage to Ireland and Britain as the work week gets underway, weather services said Sunday. (NOAA via AP)

Ophelia is expected to be downgraded to a post-tropical storm before making landfall in southern Ireland on Monday morning, but U.K. Met Office forecaster Luke Miall told the Associated Press that it could still pack “hurricane force” winds.

Ireland’s Met Eireann weather service said the country’s southern and western counties could get gusts of up to 80 mph (130 kph) along with heavy rain and storm surges.

This satellite image released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Ophelia on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.

The hurricane center said the storm could bring two to three inches of rain in western Ireland and Scotland, with coastal flooding and “large and destructive waves” where it makes landfall.

Emergency officials in Ireland said schools would be closed Monday in the eight counties expected to see the strongest winds and under a red weather alert, the highest level. Cyclists and motorists were warned to stay off the roads during the height of the storm.

Dublin and Shannon airports advised passengers to check flight information before travelling, while Cork airport in southwest Ireland said cancellations were likely.

Britain’s Met Office said 80-mph gusts could hit Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and warned of potential power cuts, flying debris and disruption to transport and phone signals. Strong winds could also hit Scotland, Wales and England.

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SOURCE: National Hurricane Center

Hurricane Ophelia is now a category 2 hurricane as it continues to head north-northeast toward Ireland. It’s expected to make landfall by tomorrow morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.

As of the 11 a.m. forecast, it was moving at 38 miles per hour.

 

Maximum sustained winds are near 90 mph with higher gusts. Ophelia is expected to weaken, but should maintain hurricane force winds until it reaches Ireland.

Hurricane-force winds now extend outward up to 45 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 150 miles.

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UPDATE: 20% chance of rain tonight, 40% tomorrow in PBC

8 p.m. update: An area of low pressure has developed near the northeastern coast of Florida between Daytona Beach and St. Augustine with near gale-force winds. There’s a 20 percent chance it will development into a tropical cyclone due to unfavorable upper-level winds.

However, gusty winds and locally heavy rains are likely over portions of northeastern Florida and
southeastern Georgia tonight and Sunday.

2 p.m. update: Heavy rainfall will likely continue over portions of western Cuba, the Florida Keys, and the Florida peninsula during the next several days while a large low-pressure system moves generally westward.

The trough of low pressure extends from the Yucatan peninsula northeastward across the eastern Gulf of Mexico to a weak low over north Florida. Environmental conditions are not conducive for development
and tropical cyclone formation is not anticipated.

In Palm Beach County, there’s a 20 percent chance of rain tonight under mostly cloudy skies. Expect lows in the upper 70s and southeast winds around 5 mph.

On Sunday, the forecast calls for a mostly cloudy morning and partly sunny afternoon with a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms.

The high will be in the upper 80s, with easterly winds around 10 to 15 mph, according to the forecast.

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The chance of a tropical system forming over Florida in the next 48 hours has decreased to 20 percent, but stormy conditions are still possible over the weekend, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Environmental conditions have become less favorable for tropical development, but locally heavy rainfall and thunderstorms are forecast in the next several days over portions of western Cuba, the Florida Keys, and the Florida peninsula.

Post in Puerto Rico: Island struggles after Hurricane Maria

Today there is a 50 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms with a southeast wind 5 to 11 mph. Skies will be partly sunny, with high temperatures near 88. Afternoon thunderstorms could bring rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, according to the National Weather Service.

Tonight the chance of rain decreases to 40 percent with mostly cloudy skies. On Sunday, there is a 50 percent chance of rain with mostly cloudy skies. Wind gusts could reach up to 20 mph with temperatures reaching 88.

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UPDATE: Possible tropical system drenches South Florida

Update 8 p.m.: The weak low-pressure area over Florida is interacting with an upper-level low to produce a large but disorganized area of cloudiness and showers extending from the northwestern Caribbean northward through most of the state, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Environmental conditions appear to be marginally conducive for some additional development before the upper-level winds become unfavorable early next week, according to the center’s 8 p.m. tropical weather outlook. The chance of a tropical system forming over the next five days is 40 percent.

Regardless of development, the system is likely to produce locally heavy rainfall over portions of western Cuba, the Florida Keys, and the Florida peninsula during the next several days while the system moves northwestward to northward, according to the NHC. The next tropical outlook will be issued at 2 a.m.

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In Palm Beach County: Rain likely tonight, Saturday

Showers are likely through the night in Palm Beach County under mostly cloudy skies, according to the National Weather Service forecast. The chance of rain is 70 percent. Expect lows in the mid-70s and southerly winds around 5 to 10 mph.

On Saturday, the forecast calls for partly sunny skies in the morning, then mostly cloudy with a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon. Look for highs in the upper 80s and southeast winds around 10 to 15 mph.

Continue reading “UPDATE: Possible tropical system drenches South Florida”

Maria continues its path toward the Bahamas

Source: National Hurricane Center

11 p.m. update: Hurricane Maria is still moving toward the northwest at about 8 miles per hour.

The Category 3 hurricane will gradually shift away from the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and then move near or just east of the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas on Friday.

Maximum sustained winds are near 125 mph.

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Update: 8 p.m.:  Maria maintains Cat 3 strength as it nears Dominican Republic

SOURCE: National Hurricane Center

Update: 8 p.m.:  The large eye of Hurricane Maria is moving toward the northwest and is expected to pass offshore of the northern coast of the Dominican Republic this evening.

The Category 3 hurricane is moving at about 9 miles per hour and is expected turn toward the north-northwest by early Friday.

Later tonight and on Friday, it is expected to pass near or just east of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from
the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 160
miles.

SOURCE: Weather Underground

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****

Update 5 p.m.:   Hurricane Maria remains a Category 3 major hurricane this afternoon, but its winds intensified slightly to 120 mph.

The storm is about 95 miles east-southeast of Grand Turk Island, and is inching northwest at 9 mph.

A hurricane warning is in effect for parts of the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos and the southeastern Bahamas.

The Central Bahamas is under a tropical storm watch.

Maria shows little sign of slowing down and is expected to remain a major hurricane for the next 36 hours, before dipping to a strong Category 2. The five-day forecast from the National Hurricane Center keeps Maria a hurricane through the end of the period.

A turn to the north-northeast is expected within 24 hours, which will send it on a path very close to the Turks and Caicos and southeastern Bahamas.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from Maria’s center with tropical storm-force winds extending outward up to 160 miles.

Tropical Storm Jose is mostly stationary off of New England, with Hurricane Maria north of the Dominican Republic.

8 a.m. UPDATE: Hurricane Maria remains a Cat 3 cyclone with 115 mph sustained winds, still moving northwest at 9 mph.

Maria’s eye will continue to pass offshore of the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic today and move near the Turks and Caicos Islands tonight.

Maria could get stronger within the next 24 hours, and make a turn north-northwest up the Bahamas by Friday.

5 a.m. UPDATE: Hurricane Maria has restrengthened to a Cat 3 storm with 115 mph sustained winds, moving northwest at 9 mph. 

Maria’s eye is passing just offshore the northeastern portion of the Dominican Republic and is forecast to move near the Turks and Caicos islands later today, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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Forecasters say Maria could strengthen even more once it makes a turn toward the north-northwest, passing through the southeastern Bahamas tonight and Friday.

Florida remains safe from Maria’s projected path, with the cone staying far east from the state’s coast.

Read The Post’s complete coverage of Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Maria weakens to strong Cat 4 as it makes landfall in Puerto Rico

 

5 a.m. UPDATE: Hurricane Maria has weakened to a strong Category 4 storm with 155 mph sustained winds, and is moving northwest at 10 mph.

Check The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking map. 

Maria’s eye is expected to make landfall in Puerto Rico in a couple hours, and will pass just north of the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic tonight and Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricane force winds extend outward about 60 miles from Maria’s center, and tropical storm force winds extend outward about 150 miles.

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Florida remains safe from Maria’s projected path, with the storm staying far east of the state’s coast.

UPDATE: Tropical system now has a 40% chance of development

UPDATE: Tropical system now has a 40% chance of development

UPDATE, 8 p.m.: The chance of development has increased to 40 percent as the trough of low pressure north-northeast of the Turks and Caicos Islands moves through the Bahamas toward Florida.

It’s producing an elongated area of disorganized showers and thunderstorms that extends southeastward toward Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, according to the 8 p.m. tropical weather outlook. The next update will be posted at 2 a.m.

Conditions could become more conducive for development later in the week when the system nears Florida or the adjacent waters of the western Atlantic or eastern Gulf of Mexico.

SOUTH FLORIDA FORECAST: Clouds likely for eclipse; Tuesday may see rain, flood worry

Check the latest tropical outlook

Meanwhile, the remnants of Tropical Storm Harvey are moving west-northwestward at 15 to 20 mph near the coast of Honduras. It could become a tropical cyclone again before it reaches the coast of Belize or the Yucatan Peninsula early Tuesday.

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UPDATE, 11:30 a.m.: According to the South Florida Water Management District, water managers are lowering canals throughout the region in anticipation of above-average rainfall early this week.

“Water managers are positioning the regional system to move water as quickly as possible,” the district’s official Twitter account reported, “and accept water from local canals.”

The district is installing three temporary pumps to drain down water at a southern Palm Beach County border with the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

As a result, two of four boat ramps located at the Loxahatchee Road Boat Ramp on the southern border of the Loxahatchee Refuge will close, as will the western part of the parking lot, starting Monday.

Three systems which the National Hurricane Center is watching closely.

After Harvey dissipated into a tropical wave late Saturday night, attention has turned to a second, weaker tropical system which may affect local weather even if it doesn’t become a depression or storm.

Robert Molleda, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s Miami office, said that periods of locally heavy rainfall, along with gusty winds in the heaviest showers, should hit South Florida beginning late Monday.

The area of low pressure, according to the National Hurricane Center, has a 20 percent chance of forming into a depression in the next five days, but it could cross into the Bahamas or southeastern Florida by early next week.

According to AccuWeather, this low-pressure area is being kept disorganized by strong winds and other factors. “Currently, (it) is being sheared by strong northwest winds and the system is sandwiched between two large areas of dry air and dust,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Dan Koslowski.

AccuWeather adds that there’s a stronger likelihood next week of increased rain and high winds.

The remnants of Harvey continue to move toward the Yucatan peninsula with a 50 percent chance of reforming in the next two days.

A third area of interest, about 1000 miles east of the Leeward Islands, has a very low chance of formation and appears to have little chance of affecting land masses over the next few days.

UPDATE: Harvey now a tropical wave, Florida in path of weak system

11 p.m. UPDATE: Former Tropical Storm Harvey has degenerated into a tropical wave as it moves quickly toward the west near 22 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 11 p.m. advisory. Maximum sustained winds are near 35 mph.

No additional advisories will be issued unless regeneration occurs or if tropical cyclone watches or warnings are required for land areas. The remnants are expected to move westward across the central Caribbean Sea on Sunday and across the western Caribbean Sea toward Central America on Monday.

Tropical Weather Outlook

8 p.m. UPDATE: Tropical Storm Harvey has weakened to a depression as it speeds west through the Caribbean at 22 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 5 p.m. advisory.

At 5 p.m., Harvey’s center was about 225 miles north-northwest of Curacao with top sustained winds around 35 mph. Some slow strengthening is possible during the next couple of days, and Harvey could regain tropical storm status Sunday.

A turn toward the west-northwest is expected Sunday night or Monday. On the current track, the center of Harvey will move across the central and western Caribbean Sea through Monday. The next advisory will be issued at 11 p.m.

Meanwhile, showers and thunderstorms remain disorganized near a trough of low pressure a couple of hundred miles north of the northern Leeward Islands, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. There’s now a 20 percent chance of development, down from 30 percent at 2 p.m.

Environmental conditions are not expected to be conducive for development during the next couple days while it moves west-northwest at 15 to 20 mph. It still could develop as it nears the northern Bahamas or Florida around the middle of next week. The next tropical outlook will be at 2 a.m.

Tropical Weather Outlook

2 p.m. UPDATE: The low pressure system about 250 miles north-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands continues to produce disorganized showers and thunderstorms, but its chance of development over the next five days has been lowered to 30 percent. The system is moving west-northwestward at about 20 mph, and it could become more organized early next week when it nears the Bahamas. The next tropical outlook will be at 8 p.m.

Meanwhile, Harvey is hanging on to tropical storm status as it loses its organization and heads west through the central and western Caribbean Sea. Maximum sustained winds are 40 mph as it speeds along at 22 mph. Watches may be required later today for portions of northern Nicaragua, northern Honduras, Belize, and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The next advisory from the National Weather Service will be issued at 5 p.m.

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NEW: Tropical Storm Gert forms in the Atlantic

6:30 p.m. UPDATE: The seventh named storm of this year’s hurricane season formed Sunday afternoon in the Atlantic Ocean.

Tropical Storm Gert was puttering along at 10 mph to the south-southwest of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.

Tropical Storm Gert is not forecast to have any effect on land. (National Hurricane Center)

» RELATED: First 2017 hurricane forms as forecasters predict busier storm season

The system’s tropical storm-force winds, which extend up to 80 miles from its center, are not expected to have any affect on land as Gert makes a slow northeast turn and spirals farther north into the Atlantic.

Forecasters earlier in the day had predicted the storm would strengthen — and they expect it will grow more over the next day or two, according to the Hurricane Center’s Sunday evening advisory.

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Closer to Africa, weather-watchers are keeping an eye on a disturbance southeast of the Cabo Verde Islands that has a 10 percent chance of forming into a tropical cyclone by Tuesday evening.

No other systems were brewing in the Atlantic Sunday night.

» RELATED: Four hurricane graphics to know before a storm threatens

In the Pacific Ocean, forecasters are keeping an eye on the remains of Hurricane Franklin, now known as Tropical Depression Jova. That system has top winds of 30 mph and, like its Atlantic cousin Gert, is not expected to make landfall. Jova was forecast to dwindle to a remnant low overnight Sunday into Monday.

Franklin already made landfall last week as a Category 1 hurricane before losing steam as it crossed Mexico to enter the Pacific Ocean.

4:45 p.m. UPDATE: Tropical Storm Gert has formed in the Atlantic Ocean, the National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory.

Forecasters say the storm, which has maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, poses no threat to land. It is about 500 miles west-southwest of Bermuda, moving north-northwest at 10 mph.

Tropical Storm Gert is not expected to make landfall in the U.S. (National Hurricane Center)

11 a.m. update: The tropical depression southwest of Bermuda is expected to become a tropical storm later today.

Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said Tropical Depression Eight is heading north-northwest around 13 miles per hour.

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The 11 a.m. forecast said that the depression has winds near 35 miles per hour with stronger gusts. It is located about 525 miles southwest of Bermuda.

Overnight, the system is supposed to shift to the north. It is expected to remain offshore of the U.S.

Gradual strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours, and the
depression is expected to become a tropical storm later today.

Check The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking map.