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JMII
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Irene's Second Landfall - Hurricane or TS?
      #92008 - Sun Aug 28 2011 09:44 AM

A 75 mph hurricane at 2nd landfall? Seriously? Irene should have been downgraded yesterday around 2PM. I woke up this AM figuring they would have downgraded it with 11PM advisory... but no. I'm normally not the tin foil hat type, but this reeks of some kind of setup to insure federal funds cover the effects of the "hurricane". Afterall they shutdown everything (air & rail travel) in the NE US which ain't cheap. Winds at JFK currently = 55. The NHC claims hurricane winds extend out 125 miles? Maybe at flight level, but not on the ground!

From Jeff Master @ Weather Underground: "However, no regular weather station or buoy has measured sustained hurricane force winds in Irene, with the highest winds being 67 mph at the Cape Lookout, North Carolina buoy as Irene made landfall. "

This supports my statement (post #91946) on Fri Aug 26 @ 06:12 PM that we wouldn't see sustain hurricane forces winds onshore. Almost all of Irene's energy was offshore. I believe the NHC does a disservice when they report winds speeds that are not representative of what people directly in the storm's path experience. Sure recon data might support a Cat 1 but clearly those winds never reached the ground. Thus it becomes the classic "boy who cried wolf" problem. When the next Cat 1 storm comes people will think back to Irene and not worry, because they believe they already experienced an 85 mph 'cane when truthfully they only went thru a strong TS with 65 mph winds.

Now I'm sure hurricane gusts occurred and localized damage might be very bad with roofs ripped off houses, many trees down, power out for awhile, but saying a large part of the Atlantic/NE US (from NC thru CT/RI) experienced a hurricane is just not true regardless of how large the wind field was. In the end I assume most serious damage came from small twisters or micro-burst style downdrafts in individual cells coming from the core or very intense rain bands. Local flooding from already saturated ground and some wild tidal surge (enhanced by the new moon) seems to Irene's calling card, not wind based on early assessments.

Sorry for the rant but I don't want people to ignore warnings during the next storm based on what happened during Irene.

(This is a topic that seems to have merit - and perhaps even a lively discussion - but I've moved it off the Main Page since other systems (including Irene) are still active.)

Edited by Ed Dunham (Sun Aug 28 2011 10:34 AM)


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Edski
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Re: Irene's Second Landfall - Hurricane or TS? [Re: JMII]
      #92009 - Sun Aug 28 2011 10:24 AM

If I recall there was a similar situation with the '99 Irene. The NWS kept saying it was headed towards Tampa when the co-ordinates clearly were moving east towards South Florida. And when Ft. Lauderdale and Miami got flooding a lot of people were caught unaware and unprepared.

This time I think it was a case of erring on the side of caution, rather than an abject mistake. And while it might make some people think "crying wolf" I would gather that there is always going to be a majority of people who are either ignorant/stupid/ conspiratorial not to take any weather forecast seriously. Just the human condition, I suppose. My guess is that in the '99 Irene that a lot of people would have been unprepared in S. FLA even if the NWS track was more accurate in the 36 hours prior.

But it's a good thing that precautions were taken, and it does seem (at least from the people I've heard from in the NYC area) that a lot of people took it seriously.

Edited by Ed Dunham (Sun Aug 28 2011 10:37 AM)


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Ed DunhamAdministrator
Former Meteorologist & CFHC Forum Moderator (Ed Passed Away on May 14, 2017)


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Re: Irene's Second Landfall - Hurricane or TS? [Re: JMII]
      #92012 - Sun Aug 28 2011 11:16 AM

There certainly were some judgement errors associated with this system from a meteorological point of view - and those errors illustrate the point that meteorology still is a long way from an exact science (even though some scientists in the field will insist that it is). From a public awareness point of view, the forecasts were generally successful in that a sizeable number of folks paid attention and took some action - and that is a positive thing since it often takes a huge threat just to motivate some folks to take any action.

So the science was not so good and that creates a credibility problem for the NHC. Sometimes they do it to themselves - just like this morning with regard to Invest 91L and the 2AM TWO:

"A SMALL LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM LOCATED ABOUT 200 MILES SOUTH OF BERMUDA
IS PRODUCING BURSTS OF SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS AND WINDS TO NEAR
GALE FORCE ON ITS SOUTHEAST SIDE. HOWEVER...UPPER-LEVEL WINDS ARE
EXTREMELY UNFAVORABLE FOR FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF THIS SYSTEM... AND
IT HAS A LOW CHANCE...NEAR 0 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL
CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS AS IT MOVES GENERALLY NORTHWARD AT
15 TO 20 MPH."

Six hours later 91L is Tropical Storm Jose - talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

No doubt that there may have been some political pressure at the state and city level on the NHC given the extent of the evacuations - coupled with some embarrassment of a badly missed intensity forecast - but intensity forecasts are still more of an art form and less of scientific precision.

From a meteorological viewpoint, Irene probably weakened to a strong tropical storm around 9 or 10PM last night. So the real question involves scientific accuracy and the potential credibility problem that could be created on future similar events. In retrospect, calling Irene a TS late last night probably would have had no impact on evacuations - anyone that was going to evacuate probably already had done so. You can't use hindsight to condemn a bad intensity forecast that was a good factor for public safety.

From a meteorological standpoint, I don't like it, but from a safety standpoint it carries a different meaning, so how do you define the fuzzy line? Keep any comments civil and the discussion focused toward a positive solution.
Thanks,
ED


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Stork
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Re: Irene's Second Landfall - Hurricane or TS? [Re: JMII]
      #92013 - Sun Aug 28 2011 11:34 AM

My own personal opinion, and keeping in mind the inherent difficulties with intensity forecasts, is that even if there was some degree of intentional 'fudging', it was a reasonable decision given the number of folks possibly affected and their relative lack of experience with tropical storms. But, and relating to the last point, if the return time for a hurricane in the northeast turns out to be, say, 3-5 years, rather than 10-20, I think it may come back to bite the authorities on the behind (and have people who should take precautions and/or evacuate make poor choices) for the reasons cited by the O.P. So I guess I come down on the side of: it's a calculated risk, but not an irresponsible one.

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WesnWylie
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Re: Irene's Second Landfall - Hurricane or TS? [Re: JMII]
      #92015 - Sun Aug 28 2011 11:44 AM

I agree with your point. I just took a look at the observation stations across coastal North Carolina and none of the stations I've looked at reported sustained winds greater than 74 mph. There were indeed wind gusts of Hurricane strength, even a few Cat. 3 wind gusts; but, as you stated, the requirements for a Hurricane Warning are sustained Hurricane-force winds, not wind gusts. As far as the damage done from the flooding, it was what you would expect with a Hurricane. From a scientific perspective I understand your point (and agree with it), but if the NHC/NWS would have downgraded the Hurricane Warning to a Tropical Storm Warning for portions of the East Coast, many people would have returned to their homes, thinking that conditions were safe. At the end of the day, I believe that what the NHC/NWS did was the right thing, at least for NC & VA.

--------------------
2011 Season Forecast: 16/09/04
2011 Systems: 10/01/01


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weathernet
Storm Tracker


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Re: Irene's Second Landfall - Hurricane or TS? [Re: JMII]
      #92024 - Sun Aug 28 2011 01:24 PM

Quote:

I believe the NHC does a disservice when they report winds speeds that are not representative of what people directly in the storm's path experience. Sure recon data might support a Cat 1 but clearly those winds never reached the ground. Thus it becomes the classic "boy who cried wolf" problem. When the next Cat 1 storm comes people will think back to Irene and not worry, because they believe they already experienced an 85 mph 'cane when truthfully they only went thru a strong TS with 65 mph winds.i]




John, I could not agree more. A great many of us have a greater than average interest or knowledge in hurricanes, and in part perhaps of the fact that many of us live on either the Gulf Coast or in Florida. A much smaller population up in the Northeast however, have even experienced a hurricane. It is these millions of people who NOW have experienced their first potential threat of such an event, and it is only human nature to take the next similar threat and to then simply make a judgement based on their own past experience.

So, if and when the next borderline Cat.1/2 (or worse) comes barreling along, chances are it will be smaller in overall size, will be moving at a faster speed of forward motion, and perhaps the integrety of the inner core will be more defined and intense. The area of risk will likely be to a smaller defined area, yet the damage caused by storm surge and wind potentially far greater. There will truly be locations in the path of "this" storm that will experience 6--8' ( or higher ) of storm surge. There will likely be a majority of mobile or modular homes badly damaged and destroyed. Many will not simply be without power for a day or two, but for weeks. It will no doubt be those people in the path of this next storm who will really be at great risk and grave danger. Despite mandatory evacuations of low lying and elevation risk areas, there will always be "some" percentage of folks who will opt to ignore such action. Should that end up being a greater number of people because they witnessed a falsely stated OR poorly forecasted ( intensity wise ) hurricane landfall event, than here will be how the next "real" East Coast hurricane disaster may unfold.

On a different note, Hurricane Irene was the 9th named tropical cyclone and the very 1st Hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Tropical Storm Jose now being the 10th name storm. Sitting back a second just to take a "broader view of the landscape", my observations are:
1) The GFS & EURO Global forecast models have done an even better job of predicting less "ghost storms" to form, while ( especially ) the GFS did an incredible job on picking up and continuity of forecasting development and initial intensity of Irene, and actually a pretty good job of forecasting general motion when one looks at the broader picture. The Hurricane Center did a good overall job on their forecast. It really just goes to show how given the necessary money for the needed data, how well the "forecast track" can be forecasted. It also seems obvious to me that the gap continues to widen between our current grasp on predicting motion and our ability to forecast nuances impacting intensity and weakening phases.

Today being August 28, places us at a point where the 2-4 weeks to come will represent the likely peak of the season. At minimum, it might seem somewhat clearer what general areas might be at a heigthened risk given the present steering pattern. It is likely safe to say, that we should see ( conservativly ) 4+ additional storms named by October 1st, a real good chance that at least one or more will attain Major Hurricane status, and strong risk of additional threat to the larger Caribbean Islands, Bahamas and U.S. landfall. I would guess the worse is yet to come.


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Ed DunhamAdministrator
Former Meteorologist & CFHC Forum Moderator (Ed Passed Away on May 14, 2017)


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Re: Irene's Second Landfall - Hurricane or TS? [Re: weathernet]
      #92026 - Sun Aug 28 2011 01:49 PM

When it comes to the public perception of whether to evacuate or not, one of the classic examples right here in east central Florida was Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004 - both strong hurricanes (I doubt that anyone considers them otherwise). I talked at length with Emergency Management officials after those storms. During Frances, about half of the barrier island population evacuated and half did not. Those that rode out Frances swore that they never wanted to go through something like that again and when the next storm came along, they would certainly evacuate. In fact, when Jeanne came along a few weeks later, they did. The half that evacuated for Frances said that it really wasn't all that bad (of course not since they were not at the coast) so they would not evacuate again when the next storm came along, and when Jeanne arrived, they didn't. So even in Florida we ended up with a 50/50 evacuation rate - not so good.

You make a good argument regarding how those folks in the Northeast might react, but how is the problem solved - or can it be? Remember, those 2004 storms had great intensity forecasts, yet the 'perception' problem was still there.
ED


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berrywr
Weather Analyst


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Re: Irene's Second Landfall - Hurricane or TS? [Re: weathernet]
      #92030 - Sun Aug 28 2011 05:38 PM

All of you have merit but it's no different than the the advisory at 5 pm today. Irene is extra-tropical but NHC (while I disagree with them about a few things myself) has to weigh the public trust and like it or not; politics is alive and well considering this Congress has more cuts in store for NOAA. Given the attention this storm warranted NHC makes decisions that drive a few of us nuts but this time I agree with them. Irene was a gigantic storm that wreaked more havoc inland than it did along the coast. We all remember Hurricane Ike from 1-14 Sept 2008; it too had a huge wind field and it encompassed the bulk of the GOM basin. Irene presented the NHC with a set of problems that are atypical and it's mission above all else is to save lives. Aircraft were constantly in and out of the system and there too were a set of unique upper level influences interacting with Irene. We have to remember the NHC while it does have senior forecasters also has gotten a lot "younger" as NOAA continues to have its budget cut with each and every fiscal year. Final thought...there was a lot of commentary about winds off the surface given the number of high-rise buildings that would be affected. I think NHC deserves a lot of credit making the decisions that needed to be make though "classically" Irene did not fit Hurricane status at the surface. Continuity is important. Technically and Politically are often oil and vinegar.

--------------------
Sincerely,

Bill Berry

"Survived Trigonometry and Calculus I"


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weathernet
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Re: Irene's Second Landfall - Hurricane or TS? [Re: Ed Dunham]
      #92031 - Sun Aug 28 2011 05:40 PM

Quote:

You make a good argument regarding how those folks in the Northeast might react, but how is the problem solved - or can it be? Remember, those 2004 storms had great intensity forecasts, yet the 'perception' problem was still there. ED




Hmmm, Good question, and not sure the answer. Only thing I come up with, is that the greater the clarity of the situation at hand ( or perhaps the short term changes to the forecast ), than at least the public is more likely to draw a conclusion based on what they are about to experience or were already experiencing, verses a "more hyped up version". Sure, storms weaken....., aspects of forecasts can "bust", and lets be honest, NHC would be more apt to forecast impact that might lean more towards worse case, rather than people be caught "with their pants down" should last minute strengthening occur. But at the risk of appearing as if their forecast were wrong, and rather than NHC taking on the "but HOW will they react" if we lower the winds ( or anticipated storm surge, etc ), perhaps the best answer is........ let the NHC call it the way they see it, AND let them have the opportunity to change their forecast or present conditions.

Only other solution, is to simply take away responsibility of Warnings/Watches from NHC, heck.., let that be something that either FEMA, local EOC, or the State Gov. becomes responsible for. That should at least remove any politics from the Hurricane Center, and they can simply do what they're supposed to do - forecast and "call it as they see it".


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JMII
Weather Master


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Re: Irene's Second Landfall - Hurricane or TS? [Re: weathernet]
      #92038 - Mon Aug 29 2011 11:56 AM

Quote:

...and they can simply do what they're supposed to do - forecast and "call it as they see it".




Agreed 100%

I understand the most difficult part of tropical systems is intensity forecasting, but when you have the core of a storm only a few miles off the coast and thus can easily collect hard data there is no reason to not update the forecast accordingly. Regardless of what was happening at flight level those "observed" hurricane force winds in Irene were not making it to the ground along the coast, much less inland. Yet for 24 hours the NHC kept claiming that Irene was a Cat 1 with 80 mph winds and those same winds extended out some 100 miles. It was plain to see both of these statements were false. In fact the NHC's own bulletins stated winds were sustained at around 60 mph and gusting to 75.

I understand the NHC has a difficult job in making sure people prepare for possible hurricane conditions, but when it became clear those conditions were not going to materialize then they should have updated the forecast to reflect the facts of the situation. I have no trouble with them leaving the hurricane watch up (as conditions are variable) but calling the storm a hurricane was misleading.


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doug
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Re: Irene's Second Landfall - Hurricane or TS? [Re: JMII]
      #92039 - Mon Aug 29 2011 02:00 PM

Irene should provide some important data and lessons that small changes in the environment can produce important alterations in affect. This time the changes produced positive affects and ironically Irene may actually help reverse the trend and mitigate the current plan for more budget cuts. One of the targets for cutting are recon flights. While the intensity forecast was slightly off, the track generally was right on and several days in advance too. It was minor tweaks in the actual track such as being a bit westward over NC that contributed to the intensity issue. The forecast models also did not perceive the dry air intrusion from the SW very well at all, and those created the discrepancy in the intensity forecast from actual.
I believe both of these factors should help make a case that cutting funding which would weaken the NHC's ability to investigate the environment ahead of and following storms will create greater uncertainty in future forecasting. It would be foolish for people to criticise the NHC for erring on the side of caution under the dynamical circumstances they faced with this system.

--------------------
doug


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