Saturday, August 20, 2011

Alligators not growling yet but tropics are making plenty of noise

Saturday, August 20, 2011
It was another fun start to our weekend on Good Morning Jacksonville! Now that is my scared smile you see there because for the first time ever I held a live alligator. The good news was he was only 2 months old. What I learned is they are strong and that their tails are powerful. I was tail-whipped a couple times. The nice folks from the Jacksonville Zoo came in this morning and I talked about Gators and weather. In one of my bazillion almanacs at home I read that gators growl before the approach of a hurricane. The experts gave this fact a thumbs up because gators can sense a change in air pressure which in turn can make them growl. Well this little guy was not growling but the tropics certainly are making a lot of noise! Chief Meteorologist Tim Deegan was talking about us heading into our busiest six weeks of the year and it looks like nature is right on cue.

I would not be surprised if we average at least one to two new named storms per week from now through the end of September. The conditions are ripe with near record warm Atlantic Ocean temperatures and a La Nina pattern which favors busy tropical seasons in the Atlantic basin. So we know about Harvey moving into Belize in Mexico today, but all eyes are on the tropics for Irene and yes Jose to form this week and at least one of those two will pose a threat to the United States. You can see why. We are in the cone of concern! I think Irene will be named before Jose and that is the one to watch. Jose which is just coming off the coast of Africa will likely remain out at sea. Now here is the latest on Irene. Let's look at the upper-air patterns to get a good handle.

Here is why we need to watch it closely. There is a lot of high pressure to the north of our developing tropical wave still located in the Central Atlantic. The invisible shield in the form of a deep trough of low pressure off the US East Coast that has been protecting us for a good portion of this season and last year is no longer there to protect us. You can see that clearly.

Also, the key to this storm is this storm is not getting its act together until later rather than sooner so with high pressure to its north it is essentially running out of time to curve out to sea. Here are the latest spaghetti models showing the tropical trouble. We are not quite sure of the intensity of this system or how its interaction with land may impact it but all the models have been consistent throughout the week of showing a formidable storm near South Florida by late week. Here is a good look at that below.

Notice we have a storm located near the Bahamas and Cuba by Thursday. It looks like it will be steered north-northeast around a high pressure in the western Atlantic and and a trough of low pressure to the north. This will turn the upper wind flow to the south-southwest and it would likely cause what could be Irene to impact Florida and possibly have a secondary landfall in the Carolinas. We do have to keep this in perspective though. This storm has yet to even form and we have a long way to go. But right now this system could pose the biggest threat we have seen to the United States since Ike in 2008 and the East Coast since Jeanne in 2004! It has been 2,520 days since we have had a hurricane strike Florida. This is too good to be true. This has been one of the quietest stretches in US history without a hurricane and unfortunately this streak of good luck seems to be running out. No matter where this storm ends up is a good wake-up call to double-check your disaster supply kit.

Last but not least a big thank you to Dodie Cantrell-Bickley our general manager who took this shot of the storm that rolled through the World Golf Village on this Saturday afternoon. Yes! It really is a team effort here at First Coast News. Thanks for the great shot Dodie! She did say the raindrops were unusually large and that is telling me there are a lot of ice crystals in the clouds which stuck together before melting. This tends to really electrify these storms. So while I am only calling for 20% coverage of storms today make sure you remember your lightning safety rules and be careful on the roads in those brief heavy downpours. I still think most of us miss out on the rain and by late day the majority of the shower and storm activity will be focused along Interstate 75. Have a wonderful weekend. Now back to burning the mid-day oil. It is way too busy to go home! I look forward to seeing you tonight at 6, 6:30 and 11!

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