Month: August 2020

Lost amid the concern about Hurricane Laura over the last week is that summer pretty much has chugged along and late August in Houston is doing late August things. Saturday’s high temperature reached 101 degrees at Bush Intercontinental Airport, and the dew points of around 80 degrees on some recent mornings have just been gross. The question in everyone’s mind, therefore, is when will it end? The flippant answer for long-time Houston residents is November. But the real answer is that, just maybe, we’re about 10 days away from the region’s first real cool front.

August, as usual, has been quite hot and humid. (National Weather Service)

As we’ll discuss in the post below, our weather for the next week remains hot. But about 10 days from now there are hints in the global models of a decently strong cold front arriving in the Houston area. There are a couple of reasons for skepticism: We get a lot of “mirage” fronts popping up in the models at this time of year that falsely advertise the arrival of cool fronts, and this one would be about two weeks earlier than normal for Houston. On the other hand, this front has been fairly consistent in the model forecasts. At this point, therefore, I would say there is about a 50 percent chance of a nice front pushing into Houston about 10 days from now. That is not a guarantee.

European ensemble model for forecast lows through Monday, September 15. (Weather Bell)

Monday

Welcome to a new week, with plenty of more heat. Today will see partly to mostly sunny skies across the region. Some moisture has surged into the region, and this probably will be enough to generate some short-lived showers and thunderstorms for about 30 percent of the area. Southerly winds will be noticeable, gusting to about 20 mph. Unless showers cool you off this afternoon, expect high temperatures to get into the mid- to upper-90s. Overnight temperatures will remain very sticky.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday

For now we don’t anticipate a whole lot of variance across these three days with partly to mostly sunny skies and daily highs in the mid-90s. We can’t entirely rule out some showers on the northwest or northern periphery of the Houston metro area, but for the most part we’re going to see no rain. Nights will be sticky and warm.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday

By this weekend some clouds enter the forecast and a front over north Texas may help to generate some showers over Houston. But for now the weekend forecast remains fairly uncertain—except for the fact that we can probably count on plenty of heat.

Five-day tropical outlook from the National Hurricane Center at 7am CT Monday.

Tropics

I wrote a quick post about the tropics on Sunday, and our general thinking remains the same. While there are lots of areas of interest across the Atlantic Basin today, we still don’t see too much to be concerned about when it comes to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Matt will have more in his weekly tropics post on Tuesday.

Just a quick update on Sunday morning to note the Christmas-tree like appearance of the National Hurricane Center’s Five-day tropical outlook. In the wake of Hurricane Laura this map may cause some anxiety, but the message we want to leave with you is that none of these systems—for the time being at least—really appear to be a big threat to the Texas coast.

The National Hurricane Center tropical outlook for Sunday, 7am CT.

Let’s quickly run through them.

System One: On the face of it, this tropical wave moving through the Caribbean Sea would appear to be the biggest threat as it is closest, and we often see these systems turn pole-ward as they approach Central America. However for this tropical system we’re not convinced it will develop at all, and even if it does it most likely will continue plowing westward into Belize or Honduras. Here is the European ensemble forecast for the track of this system:

European model ensemble forecast for now through Wednesday night. (Weathernerds.org)

System Two: It is difficult to say whether this wave will develop, although its certainly possible. None of the forecast models are overly excited about this one, however.

System Three: This low-pressure system originated in the northwest Gulf of Mexico late last week, and is now crossing Florida. It probably will become a named storm (Nana is the next name) in the Atlantic, moving away from the United States. It will not threaten any major landmasses.

System Four: The forecast models are more bullish on this becoming a pretty well defined tropical system in about a week or so over the open Atlantic. It’s difficult to say where it would go after that, but most of the available evidence suggests it probably will not move toward the Gulf of Mexico. But as always, confidence in forecasts drops off after about 7 days.

Other threats: The peak of the Atlantic hurricane season comes in about 10 days from now, and we are seeing indications that several more potent tropical waves will move off of Africa into the Atlantic Ocean over the next couple of weeks. All of these will have to be watched. There is also the potential for something to develop in the Bay of Campeche (southern Gulf of Mexico) around 8 to 10 days from now that is worth watching. However any mischief there moving north is far from guaranteed—in fact a greater likelihood at this time is that our first fall front may be moving toward the region at that time. Cross your fingers!

So please: Be watchful of the tropics, and be wary. But at this time you should not be overly worried.

Howdy, folks—my name is Lee, and I’m the SCW server admin. I don’t post often (or really ever!), but with Eric and Matt off for the day to recover from their marathon forecasting job, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk to y’all a bit about how Space City Weather works, and how the site deals with the deluge of traffic that we get during significant weather events. This isn’t a forecasting type of post—I’m just an old angry IT guy, and I leave weather to the experts!—but a ton of folks have asked about the topic in feedback and in comments, so if you’re curious about what makes SCW tick, this post is for you.

On the other hand, if the idea of reading a post on servers sounds boring, then fear not—SCW will be back to regular forecasts on Monday!

(I’m going to keep this high-level and accessible, so if there are any hard-core geeks reading here who are jonesing for a deep-dive on how SCW is hosted, please see my Ars Technica article on the subject from a couple of years ago. The SCW hosting setup is still more or less identical to what it was when I wrote that piece just after Hurricane Harvey.)

Read More…

Good afternoon. Hurricane Laura has rolled on into Arkansas this afternoon and weakened to a tropical storm. However it has left a trail of destruction in its wake. This post will be very image heavy, with a number of pictures of damage that caught my eye through the day in Louisiana that I’d like to share. A quick forecast update will follow.

Let’s start with the Doppler Radar. The Lake Charles Doppler, sited at the airport south of the city (which reported over a 130 mph wind gust) saw its radome blown to pieces.

This looks a lot like the Doppler in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017.

The scenes in Lake Charles really do look like a giant tornado just ripped through the city. The one large skyscraper in downtown Lake Charles, Capital One Tower sustained severe damage. This building also took a severe hit during Hurricane Rita in 2005.

The KPLC-TV tower crumpled and fell onto or adjacent to parts of the TV station building. This one had apparently survived Audrey, Rita, and Ike, but finally succumbed to Laura.

There had been some speculation that the I-10 bridge in Lake Charles (which, if you’ve ever driven, you just know, trust me) might sustain difficulties under a record storm surge. Well, it’s still standing, although it has a casino boat stuck underneath today.

Lake Charles did not receive the expected record surge thanks to a landfall basically right at Calcasieu Pass (had it hit land even just five miles west, the story today would be much different), but they did receive a pretty serious surge in that area.

That surge was notable, however, it can be seen from space.

You can see especially east of Calcasieu Lake (the 2nd larger inland lake from the left) how much land mass ended up underwater. There is a reason that part of coastal Louisiana is not heavily populated.

Back in the Lake Charles area, in addition to everything, a large fire broke out (not at oil refineries as the tweet says) at the KIK Custom Products Biolab in Westlake, just off to the west of the city. The fire prompted a shelter in place order for the area.

The wind damage in Lake Charles is just incredible. Though they escaped the worst of the water, they paid for it with the worst of the wind.

I’m assuming winds were strong enough to derail these train cars and this isn’t surge damage.

South of Lake Charles in Hackberry, the same scenes of devastation present themselves. Houses damaged or destroyed by wind and/or water.

Moving even farther south to the coast, Holly Beach is a mess, though it does not look as bad as feared. They came in just west of the eye and avoided the absolute worst of Laura.

However, for a sobering view, here’s helicopter footage from Cameron, where Laura came ashore. Note the occasional slabs where structures used to stand.

Anyway, the purpose of showing you these photos and videos, aside from informational value is to understand that Lake Charles is about 30 miles from the coastline. If a northwest moving storm of Laura’s size and intensity came ashore at, say, San Luis Pass (an Alicia track but with a larger & stronger storm), the result would be a very large chunk of the Houston area resembling what we see in Lake Charles. It would be devastating. And if you think it couldn’t happen here, think again. It could easily happen, and I’m fairly confident we are not even remotely prepared for what that would look like. Instead of viewing Laura as another Houston near-miss, it would be wise for all of us to view this as an informational session on what could happen here and think about what we will do in the days before it does.

Houston weather

I just want to make a quick note about the weather here in Houston tomorrow. We’ve seen signs on the models that sort of a trailing band of moisture feeding Laura’s remnants will set up over southeast Texas and Louisiana. At this point, we’d just expect scattered thunderstorms across the area on Friday. However, it’s feasible that a slower moving band of heavier rain sets up somewhere near or east of Houston tomorrow and dumps some heavy rainfall.

The Weather Prediction Center has the eastern part of the Houston metro area in a borderline marginal/slight risk of excessive rainfall tomorrow, meaning heavy rain is possible. (NOAA)

The Weather Prediction Center of NOAA has the eastern fringe of the metro area not far from a “slight” risk (Level 2/4) of excessive rainfall Friday. While this is more likely to be directed into Louisiana, it’s entirely possible this sets up closer to Houston. So, we just want you to be aware of the risk of some locally heavy rainfall tomorrow. Thankfully, we didn’t see much of anything during Laura’s passage, so we have a good amount of room to absorb any rains.

As of right now, Eric and I are intending to take tomorrow off as a necessary recovery day. However, if it appears the rain risk will become more significant, we’ll chime in with an update. In the meantime, have yourselves a good evening.