Thursday, August 31, 2017

What It Was Like to Experience the Eye of Hurricane Harvey

We've talked a lot about the flooding. Here is the rest of the story. Imagine if these winds had struck a major city.

The best video of what it was like to be in the path of the eye of Hurricane Harvey as it tore apart Rockport, Texas. I recommend it highly including the fact you can hear the roar of the hurricane's winds.

Let's Cool It a Bit

Yes, there are other potential hurricanes (as there are always potential hurricanes this time of year) out there that could affect the United States.

However, all indicates are that, even if one takes a path that actually threats the USA it, it would be a week before it would be time to take precautions.

So, this blog is taking a hurricane break after ten days of dealing with Harvey. We'll watch the potential storms and, after the Labor Day Weekend, I'll update everyone about hurricanes again.

Ain't It The Truth!


Friday evening we broke the longest major hurricane drought (interval between major hurricanes) in 150 years. Harvey broke the drought after almost 12 years. The previous drought was six years (1900-1906).

It is just amazing to me that people would blame Harvey on global warming while not noting the drought of major hurricanes in the United States.

For Our Readers in the Southwest

A sobering story from the Los Angeles Times:
It is a well-written story I recommend.

Extreme Gasoline Prices

Via Twitter from KXAS-TV (@NBCDFW), this a gas station in Garland, Texas, this morning.
This is an isolated situation but it is likely not price gouging. There is an extreme shortage in parts of Texas because of the shutdowns of refineries in the area. And, there is a huge bump in demand because,
  1. Relief providers have to get gas before they can make the 4 hour drive to the flooded area.
  2. All of the evacuees from the floodwaters who are in DFW have to fill up.
  3. The holiday weekend.
  4. Supply and demand -- the 76 station had to pay a much higher wholesale price to get gasoline to sell to its customers. 
This was anticipated this past Monday in Dr. Kevin Simmon's editorial. It is my sense that this is going to get worse before it gets better. If you are traveling this weekend, it wouldn't hurt to fill your tank now. 

Things Are Not Getting Better

The Texas flooding catastrophe is far from over. 

In addition to Greater Houston, I have tried to focus on the continued threats to the Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange area including posting a forecast for unprecedented flooding (scroll down) yesterday evening. Unfortunately, things are just getting worse.
From KPRC TV
Since the Neches River is still rising, the fresh water supply will not be back soon. Beaumont is a city of 118,000+, so providing water for drinking, washing, etc. is going to be quite a challenge. The Beaumont to Houston area is especially critical to the U.S. economy because of the concentration of oil refining and chemical processing.

Added info: Here is an update to the hydrograph posted below. The Neches is rising even faster than forecast to a crest that is higher than forecast. Note how far above the record the river level is!
click to enlarge
Here in Wichita, as of yesterday afternoon, gas was up 40¢ since Saturday. Via Twitter, the image below is part of the reason why.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Extreme Record Flooding Expected In Beaumont, Texas

People throughout the Beaumont area should be reacting to this forecast.


Serious Inland Flash Flood Risk

Here is the additional rainfall expected from the remains of Harvey.
In addition to the 10+" in Tennessee, note also the 9.2" over the next five days in South Carolina.

There is a high risk of flash flooding tonight in the South.

And, a high risk of flash flooding in western Tennessee and southeast Kentucky.
I urge you to "Turn Around, Don't Drown." In fact, if torrential rain is occurring at night, don't venue out at all unless it is an emergency.

Congratulations Ali, Phil and Becky!!

We just had our AccuWeather celebration for our team that won a major American Meteorological Society Award.

If you would like to learn about AccuWeather's critical work during Harvey and at other times just scroll down or click here.

Tornado Watch For Mississippi and Louisiana Till 6pm

Please note there is a "moderate" risk of tornadoes of EF-2 or 3 intensity. Please monitor the weather if you are in the tornado watch area.

Want to Know What It Was Like to Be on the Ground in Houston?

Eric Berger is a great writer from Houston and an amateur meteorologist. His story is here.

7:30am Update: T.S. Harvey

AccuWeather is estimating the storm's total damage will approach $160 billion which would be nearly the cost of Sandy and Katrina combined. Our team points out that is 0.8% of the U.S. economy. Details at the link.

Harvey is a tropical storm near Lake Charles, LA. Radar is from 7:29am with the arrow pointing to the center of the storm, now moving northeast.
Greens are flash flood warnings. While the rain has cleared The Woodlands - Houston - Galveston, torrential rains have occurred during the night in the Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange area where much of the USA's oil and chemical plants are located. Even when the floodwaters go down, highways and rail tracks are going to have to be inspected and, in some cases, rebuilt. AccuWeather has more details.

The human toll is nearly inconceivable. This morning's Wall Street Journal (paywall removed) has that aspect of the story.

Over the next three days, the storm is going to finally move northeast and weaken.
S= tropical storm strength (the extend of ~40 mph or strong winds in orange at 7am). D=tropical depression. D in white = the storm's center but no longer has tropical effects (a different to meteorologists only). The storm should be dissipated as a wind maker at that point or shortly after.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

6:03am Tuesday Rain Has Ended in Houston

The rain has ended in Houston, The Woodlands and will end in a couple of hours in Galveston. Some spots of blue sky are visible at Bush-Intercontinental Airport! Unfortunately, torrential rains are still falling in the Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange area where so many oil refineries and chemical plants are located.


A Terrific Article About AccuWeather in Today's "The Street"

BNSF train stopped by an AccuWeather tornado warning
in west Texas
The article is here. It reflects our corporate mission to protect people, property and profits. The bottom line: If your enterprise is not working with AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions, you are likely making a strategic miscalculation that could eventually cost a great deal of money and might put your business at risk.

An excerpt:
When Starbucks Corporation  (SBUX) wants to gauge how many iced or hot drinks it may sell in a given season, it turns to AccuWeather's predictive analytics team. AccuWeather can advise the coffee chain if, say, October will be colder than usual, meaning more hot Pumpkin Spice Lattes than chilled brews will fly out the door.
And when Class I railroads, including Norfolk Southern Corp (NSC) ,Union Pacific Corp (UNP) and CSX Corp. (CSX), need to know if tornadoes could derail their trains, they turn to AccuWeather, too, just as other clients, such as Live Nation Entertainment (LYV), Garmin Ltd.  (GRMN), Ford Motor Company (F), Samsung (SSNLF) , LG Display Co (LGL) and Motorola Solutions Inc. (MSI), do when they must find out if storms, blizzards and heat waves could turn their businesses upside down.
Photo of washed out track after torrential rain in
Colorado. There was no derailment because of
AccuWeather's warnings. 
I am extremely proud of our team of expert, certified meteorologists. Four of our team members just won an international award for the single outstanding forecast for an entire year! We are having our we are having our celebration in the office tomorrow.
At this time last week, considering Harvey made landfall Friday evening, we are already informing our Houston clients about the potential for major flooding in the Houston area. 
8/22 am (Tuesday): AES first issued 8-16 inch rainfall forecast for Houston on the Storm Potential Notice that covered through Sunday AM. We also issued a SPO (Storm Potential Outlook) also that had "high" potential for serious flooding on the 27-30th. 

Companies that want to provide customer service above and beyond are often the ones that turn to us. Here is an excerpt from an article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Which one of these giant retailers is not like the others?

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it had closed 96 stores and distribution centers in the area hit by the hurricane on Monday, up from 40 on Saturday. Wal-Mart had sent over 1,000 semi-trucks full of emergency supplies to stores in the region as of Monday, a spokesman said. “We are delaying the watermelon deliveries and speeding up the battery and bottled water deliveries,” he said on Saturday.
Target Corp. said on Monday that it closed more than 30 stores in the area and would reopen them when it was safe for employees and shoppers. It is holding some supplies at distribution centers until it can deliver them when roads clear. Target also said it would donate $500,000 to the Red Cross and other disaster relief organizations.
Lowe’s Co s. started reopening some of its Texas stores Monday, although 26 remained closed. Ahead of the storm, Lowe’s sent extra shipments of bottled water, trash bags, generators and other products people would need in a power outage, said Rick Neudorff, emergency command center operations manager for Lowe’s. One Lowe’s store in Aransas Pass sustained severe flooding damage, but others thus far have a small amount of water inside and should be able to open quickly, he said.
Lowe's has been a client of ours for many years and has been very generous in its praise of our work.
I recommend reading the entire article from The Street. Then contact us at:  salesmail@AccuWeather.com . We look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Sad Tale: What Happens When You Don't Heed The (Excellent) Warnings

I have verified this is a bona fide Twitter account. It will break your heart even though the first of these tweets is -- to meteorologists -- extremely frustrating. I am leaving off the name. They are posted in chronological order.

Friday:
Oh---kay.

When she could have been evacuating, with just hours until the flood, this tweet was posted. As far as I can tell, it was her only tweet Saturday.
There was still time to evacuate.

Things go downhill very, very quickly Sunday morning:
Then, calamity ensues: 
She wraps things up with.
If this woman heeded the storm warnings, she would be someplace warm with her most important possessions and her loved ones. Tragic. I do empathize with her in one way. A non-meteorologist news reporter she quoted wrote, "I'd be skeptical of the maps calling for extreme rainfall." I do not try to do brain surgery. Why can't others leave weather forecasting to meteorologists!?

As I wrote previously, the quality of warnings of extreme weather have outstripped the ability of society and decision makers to use those warnings. That has to change. 

Oh, Good Grief!

From the usual suspect, Climate Central. It has been picked up by a number of people today because it is supposedly Houston Hobby. Hint: Delta does not fly to Hobby.
WattsUpWithThat has the details.

This is no time to be worried about global warming or politics. Let's make donations and focus on what we can do for the victims and for the future of disaster management in the United States.

There will be plenty of time in the future for politics and side issues.

Editorial: The Incredible Cost of Harvey

From my friend, Dr. Kevin Simmons in the Dallas Morning News:

The entire commentary is well worth reading, but here are some highlights.

Hazard Hub collects exposure data on all structures in the U.S. By mapping the flooded areas and estimating the value of properties impacted by the flood, they find $145 billion in property value at direct risk within the 500-year flood plain. Rainfall from this storm is so severe, that a reference point of 500 years may not accurately capture the full nature of the disaster. To put this in perspective, in 2005, Katrina is estimated to have cost about $100 billion with $40 billion covered by private insurance and $16 billion covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.

Most mortgages contain provisions that homes located in vulnerable areas carry flood insurance. But this storm is so large that it extends into parts of south Texas not normally considered at imminent risk of flood. Families who did not believe they faced potential for flood will return to homes that are no longer worth the amount of their mortgages, plus they have lost their possessions as well. This piece of the disaster will financially ruin many families and test our ability as a nation to help them recover.

Unlike most hurricanes, Harvey will also reduce for an extended period, business activity in one of the largest regional economies in the nation. Houston is the fourth largest city in the U.S. and home to strategic assets such as the Houston ship channel and numerous oil refineries. The Federal Reserve calculates an annual gross domestic product for the Houston metro area of $471 billion. It's not yet apparent how significant an effect this storm will have on business operations, but they will be affected, stalling the regional economy.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita forced temporary closures of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Coast oil refineries, driving up prices on oil related products, and Harvey is likely to do the same. Closures during Katrina and then Rita pushed the price of gasoline nationally, from an average of $2.29 during the first week of August to more than $3.00 the week after Katrina struck. Rita followed a month later, keeping the average price of gasoline hovering, according to Energy Information Administration data, around $3.00. The average gasoline pump price did not return to pre-Katrina levels until the second week of November. A large concentration of refineries in a location vulnerable to violent storms creates a choke point, which heightens the risk and the impact when the storm arrives.

The Wall Street Journal has more on Harvey's economic cost.

Additional Rainfall Forecast: Makes Me Want to Cry

Here is the latest NWS forecast of additional rainfall between now and 7pm Wednesday.

Wow...Wow...Wow

As Instapundit says, faster please! A major medical breakthrough.

Mayor and Governor Arguing: Evacuate or Stay?

More Evidence as to Why the U.S.A. Needs a
National Disaster Review Board

From this morning's Wall Street Journal online:

HOUSTON—A split between Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner over whether the metropolis should have been evacuated is raising questions about officials’ response to damaging floodwaters as a catastrophe continues to engulf the region.
Mr. Turner, a Democrat, and other local officials urged residents to stay in their homes as Hurricane Harvey, which has since downgraded to a tropical storm, approached Houston on Friday.
But at a Friday news conference, Gov. Abbott, a Republican, suggested otherwise. “Even if an evacuation order hasn’t been issued by your local official, if you’re in an area between Corpus Christi and Houston, you need to strongly consider evacuating.”
While I believe both officials were trying to do the right thing, we don't know what the "right thing" was. Our knowledge of how to handle a disaster of this nature -- which was superbly forecast by meteorologists -- is not sufficiently deep. 

This story provides even more evidence as to why we need a National Disaster Review Board. I make the case for a NDRB here

Images of a Disaster

Here is the amount of rain that has fallen on southeast Texas, including Houston and Beaumont, over the last five days.
click to enlarge
And, here is the forecast for additional rainfalls the next five days.
Yes, that is a forecast for another 20" inches of rain -- bringing the storm total to nearly 50 inches -- from south Houston along the northern edge of the Ship Channel. Serious flooding is likely going to extend into western and southern Louisiana with an additional 10+ inches of rain in addition to the 5-10 inches that has already fallen around Lake Charles.

Note also the risk of flooding rains (nearly 5 inches) extends into Arkansas.

Yes, the center of what is left of Harvey is moving back over the Gulf. However, Harvey does not have an eye and it is unlikely that significant strengthening will occur. However, with gusts to 45 mph and completely saturated soils, the risk of power failures may increase due to toppling trees where the higher gusts occur.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Editorial: Renewing My Call For a National Disaster Review Board


What happens when the ability of weather science to forecast a catastrophe outstrips the ability of emergency management to respond to the forecast?

There is an unprecedented catastrophe in progress in Texas. Before anyone could fully respond to the wind damage caused by Category 4 Hurricane Harvey, what will be the worst flooding in the history of the state was already underway. During the past decade, weather science has made amazing progress in forecasting extreme weather. Harvey’s one-two punch was fully forecast by AccuWeather, the National Weather Service and others days in advance.
And, it wasn’t just Harvey’s winds and position that were well forecast.“Catastrophic” (the word used by many forecasters) flooding was forecast, as well. At 9:10am Thursday, when Harvey was still a tropical storm, this blog told people living in a 100-year flood plain to prepare to evacuate. At 8:10am Friday, the following advice was posted:
Suggestion to people in 250-year flood plains to prepare to evacuate
Speaking for myself, I was highly reluctant to post this because of the (relatively) high probability of being wrong and risking my reputation. Yet, I – and many others – stuck our necks out to warn our enterprise customers and the public-at-large so as to mitigate the effects of the storm.

Yet, even as the rains continue to fall, we are, unfortunately, starting to hear some unsettling comments:

Via Twitter

Our frustration: It does no good for us to make these extraordinary forecasts if the public-at-large, private and public sector emergency managers, and political officials do not act in accordance with the forecast.

We know that the wind forecasts for Harvey were largely acted on by emergency managers and by the public. We also know many did not fully react to the flood forecasts. Why? I asked my friend and University of Alabama expert in social science as it pertains to meteorological disasters, Dr. Laura Myers. She replied, “Government officials apparently felt that trying to evacuate that many people from the huge amount of flood prone areas would overwhelm their plan so they decided not to issue evacuation orders. That makes it an individual issue. Why didn’t individuals heed the information and get themselves to higher ground? I think that’s the real issue here. Getting people to understand they could have removed themselves from harm’s way if they had just moved out before this hit would have been key to mitigating this situation. The problem is that people have not thought about a plan for this.”
Laura went on to comment, we might be “Surprised at how many people did get themselves out of harm’s way without the government telling them they should.” Among the people who did not, Laura offers these reasons,
  • ·      They didn’t think it would be that bad.
  • ·      They could not imagine the impacts of this amount of rain so they just resigned themselves to it. Hope for the best.
  • ·      They didn’t pay attention to the information until it was too late.
  • ·      They didn’t have a plan so they decided to take the risk.
  • ·      They didn’t think they could help themselves. They had no place to go, no transportation, animals to take care of, or resources/disabilities/age limited their ability to help themselves.
  • ·      Then there are those who think they can handle it no matter how bad it gets. They think they can drive in it, their homes are sufficient, etc. They don’t realize their underestimation until it’s too late.
  • ·      There are also those who are afraid to leave their property for fear they won’t be allowed back or that their property will be looted while they are gone.”
We cannot fully project the full extent of this disaster because the rain continues to fall. I suspect it is going to be worse than the New Orleans’ flooding from Katrina.
Via Twitter
Laura adds, “It’s going to be interesting to hear how the public reacts to all of this. Will they feel they should have been told to evacuate? Many of them will. Will they feel they were not properly warned? Some of them will, not because they weren’t warned but because of how they responded to the information (See my list above for the reasons). Will they blame government officials for a bad response? Yes, they will because they don’t understand that the response was overwhelmed by the event and the number of people needing assistance. There would have been criticism no matter what decisions and choices were made. There are pros and cons to all decisions. It’s going to take a good evaluation of this event to determine the lessons learned and the best practices that evolved in this event.Bingo!!!

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, I was – for a time – involved in the post-event quality evaluation by the National Weather Service. Even with my limited involvement, it quickly became apparent the United States desperately needs a National Disaster Review Board. I will not repeat the details of my proposal in this posting since they are outlined here: Part 1 and Part 2 by clicking on the links, which I urge you to read.

The National Transportation Safety Board has done an extraordinary job of staying above politics and making airline travel, railroads and just about every other form of transportation much safer. The National Disaster Review Board would be similarly structured.

Since Sandy and my original proposal in 2012, one more reason has presented itself: institutional memory of how to handle extreme natural hazards. Three years ago, I made a presentation to the Gulf coast electric utilities at their annual meeting in Ft. Worth. At the time of that meeting, it had been nine years since Wilma, the last hurricane of Category 3 intensity or higher (of course, it had been nearly twelve years Friday when Harvey broke our streak of good luck) had struck the United States. I asked for a show of hands of how many had been on the job for nine years or more (i.e., would remember a Cat 3 or stronger hurricane and how to respond). Maybe a third of the audience raised their hands. In our upwardly mobile society, probably a quarter or less would raise their hands today. In our mobile society, we too frequently lose our institutional memories of how to handle these “high impact/low frequency” events. 

Here's an analogy: What would happen if airlines forgot how to handle (rare) downbursts as the large number of Vietnam-era pilots retire? That knowledge has not vanished, in part, because the NTSB's research and reports has kept those procedures and knowledge alive. I believe Hurricane Harvey will cost the public, government of all types and insurance companies tens of billions of dollars. The financial stakes alone are too high to let whatever we learn after this event just dissipate. 

Believe me, it goes against my grain for this political conservative to recommend yet another government agency. But, with a growing population, the stakes are too high.

President Trump and Congress: We need a National Disaster Review Board.

A National Catastrophe is Underway in Houston and Southeast Texas

Via Instagram at 11:08am, Downtown Houston

It is difficult to overstate the impact on the United States the catastrophe in southeast Texas 
will have. 
More than 20 inches have fallen on the Houston Metro area with more
than a foot of rain in Beaumont-Port Arthur as of 10am Sunday
Torrential rains continue to fall as of 10:45am Sunday
It took people two days to realize the extent of what occurred in New Orleans because of Katrina. I believe the same is true for what is now occurring in southeast Texas. 

Not only did Hurricane Harvey's winds nearly destroy several small towns in its path, its flooding rains are going to be news for weeks and it will have an effect on the U.S. economy. For example, here is a list of airports that are closed:
The three-letter codes translate to:
  • Corpus Christi
  • Spring, Texas
  • Ellington, Texas (general aviation airport)
  • Grants
  • Houston - Hobby
  • Houston Bush Intercontinental 
  • Aransas Pass (Mustang Beach)
  • San Angelo
Considering the extent of the flooding, it will be some time before some of those airports will be able to reopen because the employees cannot get to their jobs. Shipments and deliveries of crucial goods cannot be made because highways are closed along with the airports. The same is true of other businesses in the Houston metro -- they will be closed for the duration because their employees cannot get to work and shipments cannot be made. The last I heard the Port of Galveston was still closed.

The area from Houston (including the ship channel) to Beaumont-Port Arthur is the largest single area for oil refining and chemical production in our nation. The plants and refineries will be closed for days, at best. Rail lines throughout the region are closed. Track will have to be rebuilt because of washouts. That will not occur overnight. Fill your gasoline tank now!

Because of superb storm warnings, the loss of life from the winds of Hurricane Harvey is extraordinary low for a Category 4: Two people the last I heard. It may be a very different story in the flooding with the possibility of significant loss of life.

How To Take Shelter When a Tornado Threatens During a Flood

What should you do if you are in a flooded area when a tornado warning is issued? My suggestion is to get on the lowest safe (from flooding) floor. Of course, this may be the second floor. Stay away from windows and put as many walls as possible between you and the tornado or get in a bathtub. Take your smartphone (with a weather app), your weather radio or other source of weather information into shelter with you.

The Rain Continues to Fall on Southeast Texas

Here is the latest AccuWeather mosaic showing heavy rain still falling on southeast Texas. White symbols are lightning bolts. The radar is from 8:45am. Sunday, Please see below for more information.