Here is weather footage of conditions along South Amboy’s Waterfront Park beach as the skies began to clear after a nor’easter finally moved out earlier in the day. Conditions were still blustery and brisk as a result of the tight pressure gradient between the high pressure from Canada moving in, and low pressure from Hurricane Joaquin as it moved toward Bermuda, and made its closest approach to New Jersey and the Mid-Atlantic coast.
Here is storm footage taken on day two of the October Nor’easter of 2015 from South Amboy’s Waterfront Park in Middlesex County, New Jersey. Although this area was off Raritan Bay, and somewhat shielded by Staten Island, it still took a good beating from this storm that also fed off the tight pressure gradient between strong high pressure trying to move in from Canada, and the low pressure centered in Hurricane Joaquin, which was starting to move away from the Bahamas at this point.
Here is car cam footage of a drive from Edison to South Amboy during my lunch break on Saturday, day two of the nor’easter that affect much of the East Coast. The storm ended up bottoming out to 29.62 inches of Hg. It also produced rough surf, rip currents, elevated tide levels, and coastal flooding up and down the Mid-Atlantic coast from New Jersey to South Carolina.
Here is car cam footage of my drive through South Plainfield and into North Edison en route to Bishop Ahr during the nor’easter that developed in the latter part of the week. The storm lasted for the better part of three days as it worked in tandem with strong high pressure coming out of Canada, and significantly low pressure from Hurricane Joaquin to the south (931 millibars). The difference in pressure created a tight pressure gradient that produced strong winds along the coast and inland. The storm ended up bringing almost an inch of rain to GWC in South Plainfield.
Once Near Category Five Strength Storm Weakens As It Closes in on Tiny Resort Island in Western Atlantic
Since Saturday night, Hurricane Joaquin continued on its weakening trend as it encounters less favorable conditions in the Western Atlantic. After reaching the maximum limit of Category Four strength with 155 mile per hour winds during the mid-afternoon on Saturday, Joaquin has been weakening. Over the last 24 hours or so, winds have dropped some 50 miles per hour while the barometric pressure has risen to 957 millibars, or 28.26 inches of Hg (Mercury). A rise of 24 millibars, or 0.71 inches of Hg. A rate of one millibar per hour.
Despite this weakening trend, Joaquin is still a force to be reckoned with as a strong Category Two Hurricane. The hurricane is closing in on the resort island of Bermuda in the Western Atlantic. The island is already experiencing tropical storm force winds, which is causing rough surf in places such as Port Bermuda (see live webcam footage at http://portbermudawebcam.com/). Conditions will continue to deteriorate in the afternon as the storm approaches from the west, and passes just to the west of Bermuda in the afternoon, and just to the north during the evening. The National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida is calling for a range of effects from the storm including: Tropical Storm force Winds, Tornadoes, Life Threatening Storm Surge, Rainfall amounts between 3 to 5 inches, and large ocean swells.
Currently, a Hurricane Warning is in effect for the island, and Joaquin is located less than 125 miles to the Southwest of Bermuda. The storm is moving to the Northeast at 15 miles per hour. Meanwhile, the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic coasts of the United States are not out of the woods yet either in terms of the large swells from Hurricane Joaquin. The storm is currently making its closest approach to the United States mainland, and that will continue for about the next 24 to 30 hours before it pushes out to sea. As a result, the heavy surf, dangerous rip currents, elevated tide levels, and coastal flooding that has been plaguing coastal areas since at least Friday, is expected to continue for another day or so.
Here in Middlesex County, New Jersey, skies have finally cleared after the nor’easter pushed through on Friday and Saturday. Much of the rain had ended by Saturday night, but the clouds and windy conditions persisted into Sunday morning. Now, the skies have cleared, and the sun is out with plenty of blue skies. Winds are still a bit gusty though, and conditions are much worse along the coast in places such as South Amboy, Sayreville, Laurence Harbor, and Cliffwood Beach. We are still dealing with a tight pressure gradient between strong high pressure moving down from Canada and significantly low pressure from Joaquin. So, the gusty winds will still be a problem along with the easterly fetch causing problems along the coast. Total rain from the storm this weekend was about 0.90 inches at GWC in South Plainfield.
Hurricane Hunters Find Category Four Storm Much Stronger on Saturday Afternoon
Saturday brought with it some good news for those living in the Bahamas. After Hurricane Joaquin pummeled the archipelago for the better part of three days, the storm began to pull away. However as Joaquin began to push to the north and east toward Bermuda, the storm dramatically intensified during the afternoon hours. Hurricane Hunter aircraft discovered Joaquin much stronger with winds of 155 miles per hour, or just a shade under Category Five intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.
The storm reached this new intensity peak during the mid-afternoon hours, and has since weakened to 145 mile per hour winds as of the 8:00 PM EDT Advisory on Saturday evening from the National Hurricane Center. Barometric pressure, which had been as low as 931 millibars, or 27.49 inches of Hg a couple days ago, now has a barometric pressure of 933 millibars, or 27.55 inches. Joaquin has been picking up in forward speed to the Northeast at 18 miles per hour. Currently, the Category Four Hurricane is located some 550 miles to the Southwest of Bermuda.
As Joaquin moves away from the Bahamas, pictures and video are coming out of the island chain that are showing the power, fury, and devastation from the storm. Pictures out of Exuma and Long Island show significant damage. Video of the storm’s power as it raked San Salvador showed palm trees leaning heavily to one side under the weight of the high winds that blew through the island for the better part of 48 hours. Wayne Neely, a meteorologist for the Bahamas, indicated earlier today on Facebook that as many as 30 people may have died on Long Island, and so far 8 deaths have been confirmed there. An overhead photo from the island shows heavily damaged homes surrounded by water.
Next stop for Joaquin is the resort island of Bermuda, where a Tropical Storm Warning and a Hurricane Watch are in effect. The storm is expected to turn to the North-Northeast on Sunday, and that will take it just to the west of the island, which could still see hurricane force conditions. The NHC cautions though that a slight deviation in Joaquin’s storm track to the east could bring more significant winds to Bermuda. Meanwhile, the storm is still playing an indirect role in the weather here in New Jersey, and down the Eastern Seaboard as far south as South Carolina. The tight pressure gradient between Joaquin and high pressure coming down from Canada, and another system is creating a tremendous easterly fetch that is stirring up the waters along coastal communities up and down the East Coast.
The Weather Channel is reporting from North Charleston, South Carolina, where tremendous flooding is occurring. TWC has reporters wading through high waters in the streets of North Charleston. Further north, in Cape May County, New Jersey, waters are rising in places like Wildwood, where significant flooding could occur when high tide comes in at midnight there. A little bit further north in the Garden State on Long Beach Island in Ocean County, extensive tidal flooding is occurring. Storm surge maps are showing surge rises of up to 3 feet above normal from Delaware Bay up to Seaside Heights. GWC was over at Waterfront Park in South Amboy, where there was also a good easterly fetch driving waves ashore, and bringing gusty winds that had the US flag there flapping wildly.
On Friday afternoon and evening, the rain was at its worst across the Garden State. Driven by a fairly steady wind, moderate to heavy rain fell from about 4:00 PM on Friday afternoon to well past 9:30 PM on Friday evening. High School football games went on as scheduled across New Jersey although a number of them including several in Middlesex County were moved up earlier to avoid players and fans having to deal with extreme weather conditions. However, fans at the early games still had to go through some difficulty. According to the NHC’s latest forecast track, Joaquin will make its closest approach to New Jersey on Monday afternoon as a hurricane. So, residents up and down the Jersey Shore should expect the easterly fetch to continue and the elevated water levels, rip currents, and heavy surf to persist for the next 40 hours or so.
Storm’s Slow Path Through Bahamas Bringing Category Four Hurricane Conditions for Almost 24 Hours
With the storm threat to the Mid-Atlantic Coast of the United States easing, the focus with Hurricane Joaquin has shifted to the impact the storm is having on the Bahamas. The storm has been bringing hurricane conditions to the archipelago for the past couple days, and Category Four effects for close to the past 24 hours. The combination of wind, rain, and surge with the storm’s slow movement (now to the Northwest at 3 miles per hour), has created significant damage in places such as San Salvador, Exuma, Long Island, and Inagua Island.
Since moving into the Bahamas earlier in the week, Joaquin has been plagued by slow moving steering currents. On Wednesday, the storm has was moving to the Southwest at 7 miles per hour. On Thursday, it slowed down some more, but began changing direction to the WSW at 5 miles per hour. Now, it has begun the move toward the north with a NW trajectory at 3 miles per hour. Slow moving hurricanes can cause extensive damage. A classic example was Hurricane Frances to Florida in 2004. A big part of the problem with slow moving hurricanes is the rain.
We saw this with both Hurricane Floyd (1999) and Irene (2011) here in New Jersey. These slow moving storms dumped a lot of rain on the Garden State and caused significant inland and river flooding. Tropical cyclones always bring with it a ton of moisture, and when it is moving at a slow rate, and encountering mountainous terrain that causes the air in the circulation to lift and condense, you have the situation like what is happening now in portions of the Bahamas were rainfall amounts could end up being anywhere between 12 to 18 inches with isolated areas receiving as much as 25 inches. Other parts of the Bahamas further to the south along with the Turks and Caicos Islands, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and Eastern Cuba could still see anywhere between 2 to 4 inches despite the fact that the center of the storm is many miles away.
Earlier this morning, I happened to see pictures posted on Facebook by Wayne Neely, a meteorologist in the Bahamas, who has written several books on hurricanes. The pictures showed extensive damage to places such as Exuma, Long Island, and Inagua. In addition, Jim Williams of Hurricane City reported on Thursday morning, that San Salvador was being hit hard by hurricane force winds. These dangerous Category Four conditions are expected to continue over the Bahamas for several more hours, but the calvary is coming now that Joaquin has started to make that expected turn to the north. The forecast is calling for hurricane and tropical storm force winds to continue in the Central and Southwestern Bahamas for much of today, but a northward turn is expected to continue with increased forward speed before Joaquin turns to the northeast and picks up more steam on Saturday.
As of the 8:00 AM Advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Joaquin still had winds of 130 miles per hour with gusts at or near Category Five strength on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Barometric pressure has remained steady (only an increase of one millibar since last night) at 937 millibars, or 27.67 inches of Hg. The latest forecast discussion calls for fluctuations in strength over the next 24 hours before a gradual weakening trend commences on Saturday. The future track of the storm has it pulling away from the Bahamas, and becoming more of a threat for Bermuda, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket in Massachusetts, and Nova Scotia in the Canadian Maritimes. However, the storm is one of several players affecting weather in the Mid-Atlantic right now. In addition to Joaquin, there is strong high pressure moving down from Canada, and a storm system pushing in from the west. These three will combine to create a pressure gradient that will produce a strong easterly fetch along the coast for several high tide cycles.
So for residents from the Carolinas into the New York/New Jersey Metro area, you can expect heavy surf from swells propagating out from Joaquin to begin arriving in your area over the next several days. Expect heavy surf, dangerous rip currents, elevated water levels and coastal flooding for up to 6 high tide cycles. Also, keep in mind that despite the fact that the model guidance has been showing more and more of an eastward track offshore and away from the United States coastline, there is still a possibility that the storm could change in direction and head for the coast. Bottom line: Don’t let your guard down yet. Please continue to monitor reports on the storm from your trusted media sources, and be prepared to act if necessary.
Joaquin Intensifies to Category Four, but Latest Forecast Track Has Storm Staying Offshore
During the day on Thursday, Hurricane Joaquin continued to intensify as it grinded its way through the Bahamas. The storm had winds increase to 125 miles per hour during the 11:00 AM EDT Advisory and the barometer continued to drop to 942 millibars. Then, several hours later, the winds increased to 130 miles per hour making it a Category Four Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with its pressure dropping to 936 millibars.
The intensification trend continued through the mid to late afternoon period as well. Even though winds remained steady at 130 miles per hour, the pressure fell another five millibars to 931 millibars, or 27.49 inches of Hg as of the 8:00 PM Advisory. What this means is that over the last 27 hours or so, the pressure has dropped some 36 millibars, or 1.33 millibars per hour. As hinted at last night, Joaquin is going through a rapid deepening, or rapid intensification phase.
The latest discussion from the National Hurricane Center as of 5:00 PM EDT on Thursday has Joaquin continuing to strengthen until it peaks at 140 miles per hour over the next 48 hours. By 72 hours, the storm should begin to weaken with winds slackening to 125 miles per hour. This brings no solace to the residents of the Bahamas, which have taken a beating from this storm much like it did when Irene moved through the area four years and a month ago. Joaquin is a bit stronger storm with higher winds than Irene had at peak intensity (125 mph winds).
Moving on to the current and future track of Joaquin, the storm is currently located some 25 miles to the East-Southeast of Clarence Town on Long Island in the Bahamas, or about 75 miles to the South of San Salvador. The storm has been moving at a very slow pace. Now down to 5 miles per hour after moving a little faster at 7 miles per hour. General direction has been to the WSW today. Now, Joaquin could be slowing down because it might be beginning to make a turn. Keep in mind that there is a trough to the west of it moving through Florida and the Southeastern United States. This trough will serve as a buffer between Joaquin and the Southeastern U.S.
Over the course of the day, the models, especially the GFS, or American model have begun to come in agreement with the European model, or the ECMWF on the future track of Joaquin. On Wednesday, there was great disparity between the GFS, UKMET, NOGAPS, the Canadian model, and the ECMWF with the ECMWF maintaining its track to the east towards Bermuda, and then eventually out to sea. Meanwhile, the other models were steadfast on a track that would have put Joaquin ashore over the Mid-Atlantic coast from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the Tidewater region of Virginia. In response to this, Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe and New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie put their states under a State of Emergency.
Now, the GFS and ECMWF are now seeing eye to eye with the track that the ECMWF has been consistently pointing to, a shift to the east away from land. The NHC guidance now shows Joaquin going even further offshore than it did during the 2:00 PM Advisory. However, it is very important to note that although Joaquin’s track appears to be shifting east, the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are not out of the woods yet, and even if the storm does stay away from land, the size and strength of it will produce an easterly fetch that will cause heavy surf, swells, rip currents, and possible coastal flooding as it passes by to the east.
A New Month Begins with Joaquin Strengthening to Category Three While Forecast Uncertainty Remains
Since the last post to the GWC and Hurricaneville blog last night on Hurricane Joaquin in the Western Atlantic. Things have become more serious. As I had indicated last night, Joaquin appeared to be rapidly deepening. If you recall, Hurricane Hunter aircraft detected a much stronger storm with 105 mile per hour winds, and a minimum central pressure of 954 millibars, or 28.17 inches of Hg. Over a three hour span, the pressure dropped some 13 millibars.
Well, after the last report was posted to the blog, Joaquin further intensified. As of the 5:00 AM Advisory on Thursday morning from the National Hurricane Center, Joaquin’s winds have increased to 120 miles per hour, and the minimum central pressure in its eye has dropped another 6 millibars to 948 millibars, or 27.99 inches of Hg. So, in the last 12 hours (from 5:00 PM on Wednesday to 5:00 AM on Thursday), Joaquin’s pressure has dropped some 21 millibars, or about 0.63 inches of Hg (Mercury). Another concern is the uncertainty of the forecast.
When I woke up this morning, I checked my Facebook feed, and found a post by The Weather Channel’s Bryan Norcross, which was posted late last night. It basically points out that the situation with Joaquin is becoming more dire: A strengthening storm with no real consensus on where it will go. Yesterday, the models had a fairly wide range of solutions with the GFS and several other models pointing to a U.S. landfall from North Carolina’s Outer Banks to the Tidewater region of Virginia while the European, or ECMWF model, had the storm heading to the east toward Bermuda, and eventually out to sea. There are many players coming into this game right now, and that is what is creating the forecasting challenge.
The bottom line here is that although the National Hurricane Center has a cone of uncertainty pointing in general direction of the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, there is still a great deal of uncertainty in the forecast that the cone should be wider. In other words, all residents along the East Coast from Florida to Maine should pay close attention to this storm, and be prepared to act quickly if and when Joaquin makes a definitive move. Another concern with Joaquin is that if the storm does decide to head toward the Eastern Seaboard, it could pick up in forward speed like many East Coast Hurricanes in the past do. Two strong examples of that scenario off the top of my head would be the Long Island Express of 1938 and Hurricane Gloria, which struck Long Island and New England almost 30 years ago to the day (September 27, 1985).
When you have a strong hurricane moving up the East Coast in a mostly south to north trajectory, the forward motion adds to or subtracts from the speed of the sustained winds rotating around the storm’s center. For example, if you have a hurricane with say 120 mph winds like Joaquin, and it is moving up the coast at a rate of 45 to 50 mph, locations on the eastern side, particularly in the dreaded northeast quadrant of the storm, where you have the highest winds and surge, sustained winds could easily be 165 to 170 mph. Meanwhile, to the west, winds will slacken to only about 70 to 75 mph. Those were the types of situations that happened with the Long Island Express of 1938, where the storm was moving up to 70 miles per hour up the East Coast. To put a real fix on that type of motion, the Long Island Express was near Cape Hatteras at about 7:00 AM on September 21, 1938, and by 2:00 PM, it was crossing Long Island.
Now, while I have gone into a good deal of detail about this scenario, it may not happen at all. Instead, we could see a scenario similar to Hurricane Floyd, or Hurricane Irene, where the storm slowly creeps up the coast. A slow moving storm would be great news in terms of the wind and surge, but it would be a big problem in terms of rain. With hurricanes and tropical storms, rainfall is proportional to how fast the storm is moving. With both Floyd and Irene, the storms were slow movers, and as a result, there was a good deal of rain. On the other hand, Sandy was a bit more of a fast mover, and as a result, there was less rain. Getting back to the storm, here are the most recent particulars on Joaquin as of 5:00 AM on Thursday. The storm is located some 65 miles to the Southeast of San Salvador in the Bahamas, or 20 miles to the North of Samana Cays in the Bahamas.
Maximum sustained winds with Joaquin are up to 120 miles per hour with gusts in upwards of 150 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure is now down to 948 millibars, or 28.17 inches of Hg. The storm is moving to the West-Southwest at a slow pace of 7 miles per hour. A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the Central Bahamas and the Northwestern Bahamas including: the Abacos, Berry Islands, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, and New Providence. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Bimini and Andros Island in the Bahamas. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Southeastern Bahamas excluding the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Andros Island. To repeat, there is still a great deal of uncertainty in the forecast with Joaquin. Not only in the projected path of the storm, but also with the intensity. It is imperative that residents along the East Coast of the United States pay very close attention to this storm.
All It Takes to Have a Bad Hurricane Season Is One Storm, and Joaquin Could be the One
Coming into this week, the Atlantic Hurricane Season was experiencing typical El Niño year type doldrums. While the season hasn’t been as bad as the 1997 one was, which was the year of perhaps the most powerful El Nino episode ever, it has still produced a dearth of big storms, and especially no threat to the United States mainland. To date, there have been 11 depressions, 10 named storms, 3 hurricanes, and one major hurricane in the Atlantic.
However, while the numbers are down, all it takes is for one storm to make it a season to forget for coastal residents along the United States shoreline from Texas to Maine. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew proved that. So, did the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, and the 1938 Long Island Express. All of these storms came in average to below average seasons. The latest storm to form in the Atlantic this season, Joaquin, could be one of those types of storms.
Forming from an area of disturbed weather that persisted off the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern US coasts since September 15th, Joaquin emerged on Tuesday, and became the third hurricane of the Atlantic season on Wednesday. Currently, the storm is in the Western Atlantic near the Bahamas. According to the 8:00 PM EST Advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, Joaquin is centered some 95 miles east of San Salvador in the Bahamas, and moving to the Southwest at only 7 mph. Maximum sustained winds have increased from 85 to 105 mph.
Hurricane Hunter reconnaissance aircraft flew into Joaquin earlier today, and found it much stronger. Now a Category Two Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with gusts up to 120 mph. Minimum central pressure in the eye is now down to 954 millibars, or 28.17 inches of Hg. However, here is something interesting to note: Joaquin’s pressure has dropped from 967 millibars at 5:00 PM to 954 millibars at 8:00 PM. A drop of 13 millibars in only 3 hours, which is very significant. Could it be a sign of rapid deepening? Will have to wait and see. In the meantime though, Joaquin is expected to become a major hurricane with 115 mile per hour winds within the next 48 to 72 hours, and in light of recent developments, could be sooner than later.
Presently, Hurricane Watches and Warnings as well as Tropical Storm Warnings are up for much of the Bahamas. The models are not in consensus yet. While the European model, which performed very well with Hurricane Sandy back in 2012, is taking the storm out past Bermuda, and out to sea after 72 hours, the GFS, UKMET, Canadian, and several others have the storm heading toward a landfall along the Eastern Seaboard. The European has not performed well lately, but up until now, has built up a fairly good record of performance in recent years including Sandy. The GFS on the other hand, did well with Hurricane Irene. Both Irene and Sandy were bad news for New Jersey by the way.
Looking back at Irene and Sandy, I would venture that Joaquin is starting to shape up a lot like Irene at this point in time. If you recall back in late August 2011, Irene moved through the Bahamas as a major hurricane with 115 mph winds, and actually strengthened a bit more after moving through with 125 mph winds. Then, dry air got entrained in the system, and like a runner struggling to get to the finish line, Irene limped her way up the United States east coast before making landfall first along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and then making a second landfall in South Jersey. Another similarity between Irene and Joaquin is the rainfall and flooding potential.
With the rainfall that has already occurred in not only New Jersey, but throughout much of the Eastern United States over the past few days, and with more on the way prior to Joaquin’s forecasted arrival late this coming weekend into early next week, the scenario could be quite similar to Irene, but not the same. Back in August 2011, there was a tremendous amount of rain across the Garden State. Historic numbers were being produced. For instance, at GWC, where a new weather station had just been installed some two months earlier, there was over 15 inches of rain for the month and about two-thirds of that was produced prior to Irene.
Other areas across New Jersey had even more rain. Some isolated spots had up to 25 inches of rain. Keep in mind that New Jersey averages somewhere around 40 inches of rain per year. So, the ground was teeming with moisture when Irene paid a visit. Another possible scenario as far as flooding goes for Joaquin could be one similar to that prior to Hurricane Floyd. Remember, much of the summer was quite a dry one in New Jersey. From about June 20th until about a week ago, places such as GWC in South Plainfield, had only received between 4 and 4.5 inches of rain. So, despite the recent rains, the ground is still fairly dry.
Prior to Floyd, there hadn’t been the tremendous rains that were experienced prior to Irene. Although Hurricane Dennis spun off the Carolinas, and produced some rain for the Mid-Atlantic, Floyd came into places such as New Jersey with a lot less to work with as far as saturated ground. Nevertheless, slow moving Floyd, which had weakened to a Tropical Storm by the time it had reached the Tri-State area, still dumped 11.67 inches of rain here at GWC, and still produced some flooding in the neighborhood. Not like Irene did though. Although Irene only brought 5.34 inches of rain to GWC in South Plainfield, it still ended up being the icing on the cake for the worst flooding in my neighborhood in the 44 years I’ve lived there.
Looking at the forecast track, the model consensus that the NHC is going with is calling for Joaquin to end up somewhere between the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the Tidewater region of Virginia by Sunday night. New Jersey, which still lies in the NHC’s cone of uncertainty, could start feeling the effects from Joaquin during the day on Monday. Bottom line, all residents along the Jersey Shore, and even inland should be close attention to the whereabouts of this developing storm. All coastal residents along the U.S. shoreline from the Carolinas to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast should closely monitor this storm, and be prepared to take action if necessary.