Category Archives: Hurricanes

Tropical storms that hammered Mexico to miss Wichita

Local forecasters say the remnants of Tropical Storm Ingrid – part of a double-barreled blast at Mexico that killed at least 21 people this weekend – won’t make it to Kansas later this week.

Tropical Storm Manuel was already falling apart just inland from the west coast of Mexico.

Hurricanes and tropical storms who come ashore in the southern Pacific have historically been the most common to bring substantial rain to Kansas. The record for most rain in a 24-hour period in Wichita – 10.31 inches on Sept. 12, 2008 – came as a result of the remnants of Hurricane Lowell interacting with a stationary boundary over the region.

Lowell came ashore from the Pacific and the jet stream pulled its remnants into the central Great Plains. Over a three-day period, 11.33 inches of rain fell in Wichita.

Some moisture from the tropical storm could reach Kansas later this week, forecasters say, and showers could result if small fronts move through.

National Weather Service terminates Sandy assessment effort

The National Weather Service has abruptly shelved the independent assessment of the agency’s performance during Hurricane Sandy.

Mike Smith, a senior vice president at Accuweather Enterprise Solutions in Wichita, who served as co-chair of the assessment panel, reported the move on his blog Thursday.

“In an email at 9:46 this morning, Douglas Young of the National Weather Service wrote the SA team members:

I am writing to inform you that effective immediately we are terminating the spin-up of the National Weather Service Sandy Service Assessment Team.”

The panel held its first conference call on Tuesday, Smith said.

“We had decided who was going where, we were going over documents,” he said. “We were getting work done.”

Smith, who had written in his blog earlier this month that the weather service’s system of internal assessments following major weather events was “broken,” posed questions on his blog Thursday that had arisen in the early stages of the panel’s work.

Was there a decision not to call Sandy a “hurricane” regardless of its meteorological characteristics? If this decision was made, was it made Friday (October 26th) or Saturday morning? If so, who made the decision and why?
Was this decision the reason hurricane warnings, in spite of a large and dangerous hurricane moving toward the coast, were never issued?
Given that an obvious large and powerful hurricane was headed for the U.S. coast, why wasn’t that decision reconsidered? For example, Barry Myers, the CEO of AccuWeather, urged (on the AccuWeather.com website) the immediate issuance of hurricane warnings about eight hours before landfall. Others also urged the lack of hurricane warnings to be reconsidered.

Considering the numerous deaths and the substantial amount of damage, Smith wrote, the Sandy asssessment “may have been the most important the National Weather Service has ever conducted.”

Rob White, president of WeatherGuidance, LLC, a private weather forecast and storm warning firm located near Austin, Texas, shared in his weather blog an e-mail sent by NWS spokeswoman Susan Buchanan.

No timetable for the launch of a possible “broader federal assessment” has been given.

National Weather Service turns to prominent Wichita-based official to lead panel assessing performance during Hurricane Sandy

The National Weather Service is turning to a prominent critic to assess its performance during Hurricane Sandy.

Mike Smith, a senior vice president at Accuweather Enterprise Solutions in Wichita, has been named co-chair of the panel reviewing what went well, what went poorly and potential changes in the weather service’s products and procedures.

“For the next few months, I’m going to be extraordinarily busy,” Smith said via e-mail.

Convening an independent panel is a departure from standard practice. The weather service has traditionally relied on internal reviews of agency performance during major events such as the Joplin tornado.

In a November 2 post on his weather blog, “Meteorological Musings,” Smith described the agency’s service assessment program as “badly broken.”

“The Joplin tornado SA (service assessment) was a complete joke,” Smith wrote in his blog. “It never mentions its own mis-location and misreporting of the tornado’s location and direction of movement. The SA report issued in the wake of the April 27, 2011, tornadoes in the South omitted several crucial issues.”

Smith insists he is a big fan of the weather service, “but I also believe we have to be scientifically honest in order to continue to improve as an applied science,” he wrote in the blog post.

He then posted a series of questions that any report on Sandy should examine:

“Its decision not to issue a hurricane warning as a hurricane was approaching the coast was, in my opinion, disastrous. That is just my opinion. We need objective facts.”

To what extent did this decision influence Mayor Bloomberg and others to delay evacuations and/or make the evacuations less extensive than they should have been?

Did this decision contribute to the drownings on Staten Island and elsewhere when the hurricane’s storm surge overtook the island and the coastline?

What was Sandy’s real intensity? At least three independent meteorologists have come to the conclusion it was category 2 before landfall. I believe they may be right. The NWS has a long history of “adjusting” hurricane intensities after the fact (Hurricane Andrew, that many of us believed was a Cat 5 at the time, wasn’t named a Cat 5 by the NWS until the tenth anniversary of the storm). This does not inspire confidence we are getting the accurate story now.

We have made relatively little progress in forecasting hurricane intensity. Is it time for a different approach to that problem?

No timetable for completion of the panel’s review has been announced.

So how did forecasters do with Hurricane Sandy?

There were complaints that meteorologists were over-hyping the threat, that Sandy wouldn’t be that bad.

Nobody’s saying that any more.

Sandy is blamed for more than 60 deaths in the U.S. and the damage will be measured in the billions. Coastal cities are burning, and for some life will never be the same.

As clean-up and recovery begins, scientists are taking a look back at how closely reality matched the forecasts. According to one science blogger, the forecasters nailed it.

Hoax photos flourishing as Hurricane Sandy pounds New York and the northeast

As Sandy moves inland from pounding New York and a vast stretch of the eastern U.S., thousands of images have been captured conveying the storm and the tremendous damage it’s doing.

Predictably in this age of altered images, not all of them have been authentic. One hoax has already been shared more than 540,000 times by Facebook users. I wonder how many of them think it’s real? I’m guessing quite a few.

Sedgwick County Emergency Management Homeland Security Planner Rick Shellenbarger posted the actual photo of Sandy approaching New York, which is pretty striking in its own right. Ironically, it’s only been shared 81 times as of early Tuesday morning.

Mashable.com has compiled other Photoshop images to emerge from Sandy.

The most important weather forecast since D-Day?

A meteorologist makes that claim about Hurricane Sandy in a compelling blog post. You can read it here.

Weather officials implore residents to heed warnings as Hurricane Sandy approaches

A rare personal appeal by a weather official to residents in Sandy’s path – let’s hope they listen.

A wind map of Isaac

If you were to plot the winds blowing across the U.S. continent, they would look something like this:

The map is featured on The Atlantic’s web site, and you can learn more about it here.

Half the state of Louisiana is without power, and floods are ravaging other states along the Gulf Coast. Don’t let “Category 1″ fool you – Isaac packed quite a wallop.

What is Isaac bringing to Kansas?

Here are a couple graphic displays showing the projected path of Isaac’s remnants. Portions of far southeastern Kansas could see heavy rains Friday into Saturday, and showers are also possible in the Wichita area.

But flooding shouldn’t be a concern for Wichita. This first map is from the Wichita branch of the National Weather Service.

This second graphic is a broader view of Isaac’s track, produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center.

Bracing for Isaac

Wichita storm chaser and extreme weather photographer Jim Reed is documenting Isaac, the tropical storm expected to become a hurricane sometime today as it bears down on the Gulf Coast.

Reed is with Dag Kittlaus, co-creator of Siri, the voice on iPhones. They are in Gulfport, Miss., monitoring developments.

This first shot is workers boarding up the hotel Reed, Kittlaus and assistant Katelyn Pfeister are staying in.

The second shot shows the Gulfport shoreline in what could be dubbed the calm before the storm. This was taken Monday.