Category Five Sets Record for Strongest Storm in Eastern Pacific
While conditions in the Atlantic have quieted down to some extent in the three weeks or so since Hurricane Joaquin, the Eastern Pacific keeps rolling along. In the last week, there have been two more named storms: Olaf and Patricia. Both have since become major hurricanes with Olaf moving into the Central Pacific zone while Patricia was grown into a monster storm of historic proportions.
Within the past 12 to 18 hours, Patricia has increased in strength significantly. Already a Category Five storm with 160 mile per hour winds as of last night, the powerful hurricane has continued to intensify in the ENSO enhanced warm waters of the Eastern Pacific. As of 8:00 AM EDT this morning, the storm had sustained winds increased to 200 miles per hour with gusts up to 245 miles per hour, and a minimum central pressure of 880 millibars, or 25.99 inches of Hg.
Those recent developments with Patricia made it not only the strongest storm ever in the Eastern Pacific basin, but the strongest hurricane on record surpassing the mark of Hurricane Wilma (882 millibars). Only Typhoon Tip in the Pacific is a stronger storm with 870 millibars of pressure, or approximately 25.69 inches of Hg (Mercury). Tip was a powerful typhoon that roamed the Western Pacific during the period of October 4th to October 24th in 1979. The storm hit its peak intensity with 190 mph winds on October 12th of that year, and ultimately affected Guam, Caroline Islands, Japan, and Russia.
Returning to Patricia, a Hurricane Warning is in effect from San Blas to Punta San Telmo on the West Mexican Coast. A Hurricane Watch and Tropical Storm Warning are in effect from east of Punta San Telmo to Lazaro Cardenas. Currently, the storm is located some 145 miles Southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico, or about 215 miles South of Cabo Corrientes, Mexico. The storm could strengthen a bit more before making landfall this afternoon or early evening in the warning area. Sustained winds could be as high as 205 miles per hour.
This storm will not end at the coast either. It will bring its abundant tropical moisture inland, where it will interact with the higher terrain of interior Mexico. As a result, tremendous condensation will take place, and torrential rains will occur producing devastating floods and mudslides. Total rainfall accumulations could at least be anywhere from 8 to 12 inches with isolated areas receiving as much as 20 inches. Along the coast, the impacts of the storm will be greatest with Category Five strength winds accompanied by dangerous waves and surge. The Mexican government indicates that waves as high as 39 feet could impact the warned area.
What is left of Patricia may even have an impact on weather in the United States. Models had been indicating over the past several days of a significant rainfall event for Texas and even Louisiana. Low pressure has been developing in the Gulf of Mexico, and that is expected to join forces with Patricia’s remnants to bring significant rainfall to Texas, which has been dealing with a terrible drought. However, this rainfall may be too much for even the drought stricken Lone Star State, and produce flooding there. With the development of Olaf and Patricia over the last week or two, there have been 20 depressions, 16 named storms, 12 hurricanes, and 8 major hurricanes.
Here is a collection of video footage of the effects from the recent nor’easter in Northern Middlesex County, New Jersey from October 2nd to October 4th, 2015. During this period, there was approximately 0.90 inches of rain at GWC in South Plainfield. In addition, the barometer fell to 29.62 inches at the storm’s height. Winds gusted along the coast to 45 mph while heavy surf, rip currents, elevated tides, and coastal flooding affected towns along the Jersey Shore from South Amboy to Long Beach Island to Wildwood.
Here is car cam footage of the morning drive through the maelstrom created by a nor’easter that developed over the first few days of October 2015. This drive was from South Plainfield to the Raritan Center section of Edison in Middlesex County, New Jersey. The heaviest rain from this storm system was on Friday afternoon and evening. Total rainfall at GWC in South Plainfield was 0.90 inches.
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.