Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Why Do Reporters Insist on Acting in a Highly Unsafe Manner?

This is a really good story about a couple who, tragically, went around a "road closed" barrier with horrible results. But, I have a huge objection to what occurs in the video at the 1:47 mark.
Why does reporter Gary Tuchman wade out into flowing water?! Just like the road collapse, there may be an unseen deep hole scoured out by the water. One step into a deep hole and the photographer might have taped the next death in the storm.

We tell people -- almost ad nauseous -- "turn around, don't drown." We tell them to "never cross flowing water by foot or by car." Behavior like Mr. Tuchman's makes our public safety job that much more difficult.

How Did We Give So Much Warning of The Catastrophic Flooding?

On Sunday, a reporter said to me, pertaining to Joaquin and the disastrous rains in South Carolina, "I guess these things aren't really predictable." As you can imagine, I took strong exception. I often speak and write about how weather science has tamed the weather. There is no better example than the warning provided on the catastrophic rains that have occurred in the Carolinas.

Here is the forecast posted on this blog at 4:44pm Wednesday, two full days before the heavy rains began falling anywhere in the state:
It explicitly said more than a foot of rain could fall. The highest probability of the heaviest rains were shown across South Carolina. The forecast got more and more alarming as we got closer to the onset of the heavy rains Friday night and Saturday. Evacuation procedures and locations for pre-evacuation preparation were provided.

This advance in weather science capability is remarkable. As one railroad person put it:

Here is a comparison of what actually fell versus the above forecast (yellow line). The rose color = 7" or more. White = more than 16 inches. I think you'll agree the forecast was, as one put it, "spot on."

Extreme floods of this nature used to kill hundreds of people. Currently, the death toll is reported to be 14.

The advance warnings were a combination of the talent of experienced, well-trained meteorologists, state-of-the-art computer models and weather satellite observations of the air with the extremely high moisture content that would be forced to move northwest over South Carolina. When a forecast of this nature must be made, the meteorologists get extremely apprehensive because of the "out on a limb" nature of these forecasts of extreme conditions.

The National Weather Service, AccuWeather, and other meteorological organizations should be congratulated for their lifesaving work. 

Meteorology is, by far, the most successful predictive science...at an annual cost of less than a Big Mac.

I especially encourage you to drop a note to the TV meteorologist in the Carolinas you were watching for coverage of the storms. I'm certain they put in incredible hours under great stress behind-the-scenes and would appreciate the recognition. 

The Science Is Settled? Not So Fast!

Perhaps a major breakthrough in climate science that explains why the climate forecasts have been so wildly warm when compared to reality.

Monday, October 5, 2015

How Often Do Meteorologists Have to Say It?

Turn around, don't drown! Turn around, don't drown! Turn around, don't drown! Turn around, don't drown! Turn around, don't drown! Turn around, don't drown! Turn around, don't drown! Turn around, don't drown! Turn around, don't drown! Turn around, don't drown! Turn around, don't drown!

Driver Rescued From Flood Water In South Carolina
Turn around, don’t drown! We’ve all heard it before, and despite the obvious flood waters, this driver chose to risk his life. This happened in Columbia, South Carolina. He was eventually pulled to safety by rescue crews. No one was injured in this incident.
Posted by CBS DFW on Sunday, October 4, 2015

How many times to meteorologists have to say it?

The Biggest Bargain in Government

As we consider the warnings we received far in advance of the start of the flooding in South Carolina, I wish to post something for your consideration:
So, for less than a Big Mac (!) we get all of the output of the NWS.

Companies like AccuWeather take that output, all value and make our own forecasts and warnings. But, without the weather balloons, climatological data and other vital information, we could not do that.

I'll have more on the life-saving forecasts of the flooding up on the blog in a day or two.

Rain Tapering Off

The rains in South Carolina and in coastal North Carolina are tapering off but not after creating a storm that will go into the record books.

Here is the rain the last 24 hours:

And, the 4-day storm total:
Seven deaths, so far, have been caused by the storm. At this point, the news media is taking over coverage of the aftereffects of the storm.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

3pm South Carolina Road and Bridge Closures

I-95 is closed in much of South Carolina at the present time. In all, there are nearly 400 closures.

Whatever you do, do not try to cross flooded areas by foot or by car. I also urge you not to try to travel any distance at night during this period of rapidly rising waters.


In Columbia, a curfew begins at 6pm. 

Excellent advice from the Governor...

Rain Still Falling; Flood Threat Transitioning

Here is the 3:30pm NWS radar from Columbia, SC. Moderate to occasionally heavy rains are
continuing to fall from around Columbia to the North Carolina border.  Rainfall amounts, in places, have exceeded 25 inches.

My AccuWeather colleague, Brandon Sullivan, tweeted this moments ago:
The number one message is Turn Around; Don't Drown! Deaths in autos are, by far, the #1 cause of flash flood deaths. 

The photo below, via Twitter, was taken near downtown Columbia and it illustrates the now changing nature of the threat. It isn't just flash flooding, major rives are now rising rapidly.

For example, here is the hydrography for the Congaree River at Carolina Eastman:
The Congaree is not just going to reach a record crest, it is going to break the record by three feet!

It is impossible for me to be able to run down the stage forecasts for every river in the region. Please do to your local NWS web page and check for rivers in your area. Scroll down to learn the exact areas where flooding is forecast.

Scenes of Incredible Flooding

These are from the Columbia, SC area this morning:

The photo above is of an emptied lake after a dam breach.

Police, fire and emergency management say that all resources are deployed and they cannot come close to getting to everyone needing rescue. There is complete coverage at AccuWeather.

Here is the 24-hour rainfall to 8am this morning. White > 10 inches. Some areas had more than 16 inches in 24 hours.

From the NWS, here are the three-day rainfalls using a different color scale. In this case, white is more than twenty inches!

The rain isn't close to ending. This is the latest AccuWeather Regional Radar (10:20am EDT). I added the black arrow to show the direction of movement of the rain.

Here is the forecast for additional rainfall between now and midnight. Columbia is forecast by the HRRR model (courtesy, Dr. Ryan Maue, click to enlarge) to receive about another 5" with a similar amount at Charleston.

It is vital to realize that this disaster isn't anywhere near over. 

The flash flooding will continue into this evening. The rain will rapidly taper off after sunset.

The mainstem river flooding will worsen in many areas for at least another 2-3 days. Some rivers will be above flood stage for a week or more. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a full overview to share with you as some of the river gauges have already been taken off line either by power failure, debris in the water, etc.

I'll update again on the catastrophic flooding later today.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Incredible Rainfalls Forecast Overnight

Here is the AccuWeather Regional Radar as of 10:40pm Saturday evening EDT:
The rain is moving northwest. Yellow = heavy rain. Red = torrential falling rain.

Here is a different computer forecast than the ones I have been showing earlier today. This rainfall forecast is valid from now until 11am EDT Sunday -- and it forecasts unbelievable amounts of rain considering what has already fallen.
Click to enlarge. NWS HRRR model; courtesy Dr. Ryan Maue
The model forecasts an additional 8.8 inches at the Columbia, SC airport during this period. I have adjusted the color of the band of 10"+ amounts and the model says a couple of spots in that band may have another 15 to 18 inches -- again, on top of what has already fallen!!

Catastrophic flooding is going to result. 

I know it is late on a Saturday evening. However, I want to stress that if you are on high ground, do not travel. The situation is going to worsen during the night and Sunday as major rivers start to rise. Before this is over, I expect that even interstate highways are going be washed out!

Next 24-Hours of Rainfall

Here is the AccuWeather model's rainfall forecast for the next 24-hours. Click to enlarge.

Here is the latest AccuWeather Regional Radar. The arrows indicate the direction of movement of the storms.
The rains will continue to fall very heavily tonight and tomorrow morning.

Additional Rainfall Now Until 11pm EDT

From AccuWeather's proprietary computer model: Forecast of rainfall for the next twelve hours ending at 11pm EDT. Please note as much as seven inches are forecast in extreme northeast Georgia with as much as 4" in far southwest North Carolina.

Additional heavy rain is forecast over the region beyond this period of time.

As of this moment, the dark green represents flash flood watches, the bright green are flood warnings and magenta are flash flood warnings.
The number of warnings is going to rapidly multiply rapidly throughout the day.

Catastrophic flooding will result from this weather situation. 

The Southeast Flood Event is in Progress, Unfortunately

This photo was taken in downtown Charleston a few minutes ago. Unfortunately, things are going to go from bad to worse.

Here is the rainfall for the last 24 hours:
As much as ten inches have fallen already. 

Of course, when assessing flood potential, one must factor in recent rainfalls so that river stages and soil saturation. Amounts of more than five inches have been comment across the region.

The rains continue to fall.

Here is the forecast additional rainfall: More than sixteen inches!
Catastrophic flooding will result into next week from this weather system! 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Wonder How Meteorologists Forecast The Hurricane and the Floods?

While my forecasts of Hurricane Joaquin have been less than stellar, I believe our forecasts for the extreme rainfalls over the Middle Atlantic region will prove to be excellent and, possibly, live-saving.

How do meteorologists forecast the future? How is it that weather science has -- by far -- the best track record for accuracy of all of the predictive sciences?

Here is a book that will reveal the answers in a compelling narrative.
It has a 5-star rating from Amazon with rave reviews from every critic that has reviewed it.

We are so proud of the book, you can read the first chapter here, free. So, read the first chapter and then read the reviews here. I think you'll enjoy it.

Update on Southeast Rainfall

Here is the amount of rain that has fallen the last two days over the Carolinas and adjacent regions.

The region is mostly between rain systems right now. Here is the AccuWeather regional radar:
However, the upper level low pressure system, which will be the major rainmaker, is just starting to approach the area. The heaviest rains from now until 3am Saturday morning will be near the coast according to AccuWeather's computer model:

Here is the forecast for now until Monday evening:

This weather situation will cause catastrophic flooding parts of the Carolinas and serious flooding in more localized areas of Virginia and northeast Georgia. 

I urge you to monitor your AccuWeather forecast along with local storm warnings.

Here are flood preparation ideas:

If you live:
  • In a flood prone area or near a small stream
  • If you live in a 100 year flood plain
  • Or, if you live near a major river in the area where more than six inches are forecast
please think about the following preparations:
  • Plenty of extra cash.
  • A full tank of fuel for your vehicle.
  • Freshly refilled prescriptions.
  • Valuables gathered together so they can be quickly put into the trunk so you can leave quickly.
  • A place to go: A relative's home on high ground, a motel, a public shelter, etc. If you go to a hotel, have a reservation. You may wish to consider an "extended stay" type of hotel.
  • Be prepared to put valuable items you cannot take with you on top of tables, on the second floor, or in the attic to hopefully protect them from floodwaters. 
  • If you evacuate, turn off the gas, water and electricity.