Jun 292010

Wednesday, 30 June: midday comments

-The Eye of Hurricane Alex seen on Brownsville, TX radar;
-3 Tornadoes already reported in Brownsville area…

Brownsville, TX radar valid June 30 12:45 pm to 1:23 pm CDT

Brownsville, TX radar valid June 30 12:45 pm to 1:24 pm CDT

While the eye of Hurricane Alex is clearly going to pass well south of Brownsville, or the TX/Mexico border, his impacts are already being felt.  In the radar loop above, you can see the eye of Hurricane Alex well to the southeast of Brownsville, moving west-northwest.  Over south Texas and in the Brownsville area, two intense feeder bands are moving over the area.

These feeder bands are on the northwestern quadrant of Hurricane Alex, and are already responsible for producing three tornadoes in the area.  More tornadoes are possible throughout the rest of today as these storms continue to train over the same area. The other threat is significant, life threatening flooding as very heavy rains continue to batter south Texas.  Radar estimates suggest between 3 and 7 inches of rain have already fallen across south Texas.  Much, much more is on the way.

So even though the center of Hurricane Alex will pass well south of Brownsville, they will continue to experience significant impacts from this brutal storm.


Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Alex strengthens into a category 1 hurricane….

National Hurricane Center Forecast valid June 30, 7:00 a.m. CDT

National Hurricane Center Forecast valid June 30, 7:00 a.m. CDT

A couple things have changed since yesterday.  Around midday yesterday Alex accelerated towards the northwest and west-northwest.  This turn came sooner than expected, and has not allowed him to gain the latitude some models suggested.  This faster turn towards the west also put Alex under the influence of a ridge of high pressure centered to his north, blocking any further chances of a more northward turn.  As a result, Alex is no longer expected to reach the Texas/Mexico border, and any U.S. hurricane chase prospects are gone for those who were preparing for one.

The other change is Alex has finally strengthened into a category 1 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph.  His central pressure has dropped to 959 mb, which is not representative of 80 mph winds.  So, one would expect some rapid intensification today before landfall early Thursday morning, so the winds will match the low central pressure.  And this shouldn’t be a complete surprise when this rapid intensification occurs.  After all, historically, hurricanes approaching the Mexico or Texas coast exhibit rapid strengthening just before landfall.

Thus, the potential does exist for Hurricane Alex to reach close to category 3 status before landfall, with maximum sustained winds in the 110 to 115 mph range.  But the main impacts from Alex over Texas will be flooding rains, and maybe some tornadoes today across south Texas as the northern feeder bands move in.

- Jim


Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Tropical Storm Alex – soon to be Hurricane Alex

National Hurricane Center forecast valid June 29, 2010 7a.m. CDT

National Hurricane Center forecast valid June 29, 2010 7a.m. CDT

The tornado chasing season may be winding down, but the hurricane chasing season is just starting.  I am not a hurricane chaser, but other members of the Stormgasm team are, and are closely monitoring Tropical Storm Alex.  A trip down to the coast of Brownsville may be in store for some chasers who are eager to begin their hurricane chasing season.

Tropical Storm Alex is near hurricane strength, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.  He is moving at a moderate speed to the north-northwest towards the southern Gulf of Mexico.  Water temperatures across the Bay of Campeche and the southern Gulf are very warm and the wind shear environment is very weak.  These are conditions that support Alex strengthening into a hurricane over the next couple days.  That is exactly what the National Hurricane Center is forecasting, having Alex peak as a category 2 hurricane upon landfall early Thursday morning.  Residents of Brownsville, TX should be on alert for the potential for devastating flooding, high winds and a damaging storm surge.  After all, the northern side of hurricane Alex will be the side that packs the highest winds, biggest storm surge, and most flooding rains.

Tropical Storm Alex is a rather large storm, covering a large portion of the Gulf of Mexico.  This may be one reason why computer models do not show Alex strengthening into a major hurricane, despite a favorable environment.  But residents across south Texas (especially Brownsville) should be on high alert.  Historically, hurricanes approaching the Mexico or Texas coast can strengthen significantly within 24 to 12 hours before landfall.  These storms can go from a weak category 2 hurricane to a strong category 3 hurricane in less than one day, with winds sustained near 130 mph.  So, this is something to be aware of as Alex turns more westward over the next day or two and approaches the northern Mexico and extreme southern Texas coast.

- Jim

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