Monsterous Michael Makes Landfall

History was made earlier today. Hurricane Michael made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph 135 knots 249 km/h. The highest wind on land is around 132 mph 115 knots 212 km/h with gusts as high as 198 mph 172 knots 319 km/h! It has a central pressure of 919 millibars and still intensifying! If it had been over water longer, it probably would of been a Category 5 hurricane. No doubt that Michael made history. Here is how Michael compares to past hurricanes.

Michael is the most intense Gulf Of Mexico hurricane since Rita (2005). Rita had a central pressure of 895 millibars with 180 mph 156 knots 290 km/h. Rita is the most intense Gulf Of Mexico hurricane recorded. There is no doubt there are stronger Gulf Of Mexico hurricanes that go unrecorded prior to the 19th century. Rita made landfall on the Texas and Louisiana border not before triggering a massive evacuation due to Katrina ravaging the Gulf Coast a month earlier. Michael is the most intense October Gulf Of Mexico hurricane since Opal (1995). Opal had a central pressure of 916 millibars and 150 mph 130 knots 241 km/h winds. Opal made landfall on Pensacola.

How does Michael stack up in terms of central pressure landfall for America and Atlantic Basin? Michael is the third most intense landfalling hurricane on America. Only the 1935 Labor Day and Camille have lower central pressures.

Rank Storm Landfall Pressure
1 Labor Day (1935) 892 mb
2 Camille (1969) 900 mb
3 Michael (2018) 919 mb
4 Katrina (2005)/Maria (2017) 920 mb
5 Andrew (1992) 922 mb
6 Indianola (1886) 925 mb
7 Guam (1900) 926 mb
8 Florida Keys (1919) 927 mb
9 Okeechobee (1928) 929 mb
10 Great Miami (1926)/Donna (1960) 930 mb

Michael has lower pressure than Katrina, Maria, and Andrew. Michael is the most intense Category 4 hurricane to make landfall on America. Katrina is the most intense Category 3 hurricane to make landfall on America. Katrina is much larger than Camille, Andrew, or Michael, which explains the low pressure and Category 3 winds. Texas’s most intense hurricane recorded is the 1886 Indianola Hurricane, which had a central pressure of 925 millibars. It is likely it had lower pressure. The 1900 Guam typhoon is the most intense typhoon recorded to hit Guam. It is very likely there have been more intense typhoons that hit Guam. Typhoons are often intense and often have lower pressure than the Atlantic. Category 5 typhoons happen every year. Let’s look at how Michael compares Atlantic Basin.

Rank Storm Landfall pressure
1 Labor Day (1935) 892 mb
2 Camille (1969)/Gilbert (1988) 900 mb
3 Dean (2007) 905 mb
4 Cuba (1924) 910 mb
5 Janet (1955)/Irma (2017) 914 mb
6 Cuba (1932) 918 mb
7 Michael (2018) 919 mb
8 Katrina 2005/Maria (2017) 920 mb
9 Bahamas (1932) 921 mb
10 Andrew (1992) 922 mb

Michael ranks seventh most intense basinwide hurricane landfall! The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane is still the most intense basinwide landfall. Camille (1969) and Gilbert (1988) tie as second most intense landfall basinwide. There is a unconfirmed report that the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane had pressure as low as 880 millibars! If that was true, it would be the most intense Atlantic hurricane, even surpassing Wilma!

Michael is one of the few Category 4 hurricanes to make landfall in October. Here is a list of hurricanes that made landfall on America in October.

1893 “Chenier Caminanda”
1898 Georgia Hurricane
1950 King
1954 Hazel

The last hurricane to make landfall on America as a Category 4 is Hazel in 1954. On top of it, Michael is a major hurricane over Georgia. The last time Georgia saw a major hurricane was in 1898! It is from the Georgia Hurricane.

History and statistics aside, we are going to be hearing and seeing a lot of destruction and likely more deaths from Michael. It could be a very costly hurricane for sure.


Hurricane Ike 10 Years Later

Before Harvey flooded out Southeast Texas, there was Ike. It is hard to believe it has been 10 years since Hurricane Ike made landfall on Southeast Texas as a monsterous Category 2 hurricane in the early morning hours of September 13, 2008. Especially the fact this comes in light of Harvey. Ike pelted Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana with hurricane force winds and heavy rain. Ike was the last hurricane to hit Texas prior to Harvey. Almost a nine year gap of no hurricanes hitting Texas, let alone a major hurricane. The last major hurricane to hit Texas prior to Harvey was Bret in 1999, which is 18 years.

Thunderstorms over Sudan that later became Ike.

What is the origin of Hurricane Ike? Ike started as a mesoscale convective system (MCS) that formed over Sudan on August 19th. Most tropical waves come from thunderstorms that form in the Northeast part of Africa. They are set off by the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) or monsoon. The ITCZ is where there is thunderstorms from the clash of trade winds. These thunderstorms often provide beneficial rains in tropical and subtropical areas. The thunderstorms in ITCZ can break away and travel away. One of those thunderstorms from the ITCZ managed to do that. The MCS traveled over Africa and entered the Atlantic Ocean as a tropical wave on August 29th. The tropical wave traveled across with multiple vortices competing. One of them would win out as the thunderstorms in the tropical wave get better organized on September 1, 2008. It is upgraded to Tropical Depression #9. Later that day, it is named Ike as it travels over the open Atlantic. Tropical Storm Ike has to deal with wind shear in the upper level early in its life. The wind shear blows tops of thunderstorms, especially westerly wind shear. Since 2008 season is Neutral to La Nina, conditions are more favorable as there is less westerly wind shear. If 2008 was El Nino, there would be more westerly wind shear, which is why generally El Nino Atlantic Hurricane seasons see less storms. Wind shear generally kills tropical development. The higher the storm clouds are, the cooler it is. Higher storm clouds also mean they are more intense.

However, Ike gets a reprieve as the wind shear weakens and encounter warmer waters on September 3rd. This allows Ike to rapidly intensify into a major hurricane. By the next day, Ike becomes 2008’s strongest hurricane with 145 mph 126 knots 233 km/h winds and central pressure of 935 millibars. Ike’s strength did not last as it encountered wind shear on September 5th. The wind shear weaken Ike to Category 2 strength.

Hurricane Ike around its peak.

Ike is pushed southwards into more favorable areas due to upper level ridge to the north. Ike becomes a Category 4 hurricane as conditions are more favorable. As it goes westward, Ike made its first landfall on Turks and Caicos Islands as a Category 4 hurricane on the early morning hours of September 7th. The Turks and Caicos Islands are the first to feel Ike’s violent wrath in the form of strong winds, heavy rain, storm surge, and high waves. The South Caicos and Grand Turk take the brunt of Ike. Despite Ike’s fury, there are no reports of fatalities.

Damage in Grand Turk.

While Ike is ravaging the Turks and Caicos Islands, the outer bands of Ike are dumping heavy rain on Haiti and Dominican Republic, which have been ravaged by Fay, Gustav, and Hanna. The flooding from Ike claims 74 lives in Haiti and 2 in Dominican Republic. Prior to Ike, Tropical Storm Hanna ravaged Haiti and Dominican Republic with heavy rain that led to massive flooding. The flooding claims 529 lives in Haiti, while just one dies in Dominican Republic. Why did Haiti see more fatalities than Dominican Republic? The lack of trees in Haiti makes it even more vulnerable to mudslides from the mountains. The heavy rain causes deadly mudslides that destroys houses and kill people.

Stranded Cubans following Ike.

Once Ike passes Turks and Caicos Island, Ike heads for Cuba. The hurricane makes landfall on Cabo Lucrecia, Holguín Province, Cuba. Cuba is in a very rough ride with Ike as it traverses over the entire island nation. Cuba is being pelted by heavy rain, strong wind, high waves, and storm surge. Briefly, Ike goes over the water only to make a second landfall on Punta La Capitana, Pinar del Río, Cuba on September 8th as a Category 1 hurricane. Ike claims 7 lives in Cuba.

Ike near its secondary peak in Gulf of Mexico.

Once Ike exits Cuba, it is a large Category 1 hurricane. Ike traveling over all of Cuba caused the storm to expand as energy is spread out from land interaction. It also disrupted Ike’s core. Ike enters large area of warm water in the Gulf of Mexico and is getting close to the Loop Current, which is one of the warmest spot. Ike rapidly deepen from 963 to 944 millibars on the night of September 10th as it was over the Loop Current. However, the wind did not strengthen much, only from 80 to 100 mph 70 knots to 87 knots 128 km/h to 161 km/h. The reason is Ike is a very large hurricane with hurricane force winds extending up to 125 miles 109 nautical miles 201 kilometers from the eye. The pressure gradient is not tight due to its large size. Normally, an Atlantic hurricane with central pressure of 944 millibars is a Category 3 or 4 hurricane.

On September 11th, as America remembers and reflects the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks, Southeast Texas is sunny and dry. The west side of a hurricane in the Northern Hemisphere is usually the “clean” side. It blows in dry and sinking air from the north. The nice sunny day is very deceptive as Ike is ever inching closer. Meanwhile in the Gulf of Mexico, Ike is generating massive waves that are heading towards the Texas and Louisiana. Ike continues across the Gulf of Mexico as a large Category 2 hurricane. Waves are coming ahead of Ike in coastal Texas. People are evacuating from coastal areas including Galveston. Some choose to stay behind. The outer cloud banks of Ike are over Southeast Texas as winds start to pick up. By the afternoon of September 12th, some coastal areas are getting squally weather from the feeder bands entering Texas.

By the night of September 12th, conditions have gotten much worse. Meanwhile in Houston area, it is still windy with occasionally light rain. As the night progresses, Ike is getting closer to landfall. The hurricane force winds enter Texas around the late hours of September 12th. Ike is getting stronger and developing a more organized eyewall. Ike now has a central pressure of 951 millibars and 110 mph 96 knots 177 km/h winds. Ike is a large hurricane with hurricane force winds extending up to 125 miles and tropical storm force winds extending up to 260 miles 226 nautical miles 418 kilometers.

Ike at landfall on Southeast Texas.

Highest wind gust possible based on multiplying by factor of 1.5.

By the early morning hours of September 13th, Houston area is seeing stronger winds and heavier rain. Power starts to go out throughout Southeast Texas as power lines are being knocked by the strong wind. The coastal areas are seeing storm surge getting higher and higher. Anyone who stayed behind in Galveston or Bolivar Peninsula are doomed by the massive storm surge. Ike makes landfall on the eastern end of Galveston Island at 2:10 AM Central Time. People who are staying behind in the coastal areas are wishing they had evacuated as they are surrounded by rising storm surge. Ike travels to the northwest towards Houston. By 4:00 AM, Ike is over Baytown, which is flooded by storm surge. A large area of Southeast Texas is getting hurricane force winds including all of Houston.

Highest sustained winds during Hurricane Ike.

Bolivar Peninsula following Ike.

By the time the Sun rises, Ike is still ravaging Southeast Texas despite the fact it has weakened to Category 1 hurricane. Ike remains a monsterous and very dangerous hurricane. Many areas are still seeing heavy rain and strong winds. The wind blow down numerous trees and damage many buildings and houses. There is widespread flooding reported throughout Southeast Texas. Bayous and rivers are overflowing from widespread heavy rain. Coastal areas had storm surge as high as 25 feet/7.6 meters. It is one of the highest storm surge recorded in America and highest in Texas. It exceeds Camille, but below Katrina. Bolivar Peninsula saw the highest storm surge as the whole area looked like if a nuclear bomb had exploded. Once it is all over, many buildings and houses are damaged or destroyed, while many trees are uprooted. Coastal areas are utterly gutted from the massive storm surge. Millions of people are out of power for days. A large area saw 6 to 12 inches/15.2 to 30.5 centimeters of rain from Ike.

The damage is not just limited to Texas. Louisiana also felt the brunt of Ike, especially in Southwestern Louisiana. It is the same area that had been ravaged by Hurricane Rita in 2005. Many areas are flooded by Ike. There is even flooding in New Iberia, which is in Central Louisiana. It shows that Ike’s massive size had a huge impact over a large area from Texas to Louisiana. This is despite the fact that they only got tropical storm force winds. It shows that large, but not so strong hurricane is very dangerous as it produces massive storm surge and high waves.

Thunderstorms ahead of a cold front in the early morning hours of September 14, 2008.

The following night, a cold front passes, which allows thunderstorms to form from moisture left by Ike. The storms dumped 5 to 8 inches/12.7 to 20.3 centimeters of rain. The heavy rain causes more flooding on top of what Ike dumped in Southeast Texas. Once the rain ended, many areas saw a two day total ranging from 10 to 20 inches/25.4 to 50.8 centimeters of rain. Meanwhile, the remnants of Ike continue to wreak havoc in the Midwest. Ohio see hurricane force gusts, which causes more power outages. The remains of Ike continue into Canada and dump heavy rain in Ontario and Quebec. A total of 112 people lost their life with 34 unaccounted for in America. Most of the deaths are in Texas, where 84 people died.

Rainfall total from September 12, 2008 to September 15, 2008.

So, how was 2008 like prior to Ike. The winter of 2007-2008 is La Nina, so it is warmer and drier. Despite the La Nina, there are storms. Spring of 2008 is mostly dry. There were days of pleasant weather in Spring 2008. Summer of 2008 is average in terms of temperature and rainfall. Texas first brush with a hurricane is Dolly, which affected South Texas. The outer bands of Dolly dump heavy rain in the Houston area. Not too long after Dolly came, Tropical Storm Edouard pays a visit to Houston area. It is a rather unremarkable tropical storm that dumps up to 6 inches of rain. Edouard moves inland and gives beneficial rains to drought ridden Central Texas.

NHC Hurricane Ike Report
NHC Hurricane Ike Advisory Report
Morphed Integrated Microwave Imagery at CIMSS (MIMIC)

Atlantic Hurricane Season In August

It is now August and the season is heating up. Where do most August tropical storms and hurricanes form and end up going?

Here is a GIS heat map I created. This is all August tropical storms and hurricanes from 1870 to 2015. The heat map is from within 300 miles (480 kilometers) of a point.

The Main Development Region (MDR) heats up. The Windward Islands see more tropical cyclones making landfall. Interestingly, there is a dead area around Central Caribbean and Cuba. The Gulf of Mexico and Southeast is very active. Many tropical cyclones form near land in August and make landfall. Some of the of most devastating tropical storms and hurricanes made landfall in August:
Sea Islands (1893)
San Ciriaco (1899)
Monterrey (1909)
1945 Texas Hurricane (1945)
Camille (1969)
Amelia (1978)
David (1979)
Alicia (1983)
Bob (1991)
Andrew (1992)
Charley (1998)
Charley (2004)
Katrina (2005)
Dean (2007)
Irene (2011)

Despite Amelia making landfall on July 31, 1978, the worst aspect was heavy rain from August 1-4, 1978 in Central and West Texas, where up to 46 inches (116.84 centimeters) of rain fell. The costliest hurricane occurred in August, Katrina. The previous prior to Katrina was Andrew. August has produced some of the most devastating tropical storms and hurricanes.

Texas does get hurricane landfalls in August, including major hurricanes like Allen and Alicia. Allen was a Category 5 monster and almost made landfall on Port Mansfield as a Category 5 with 180 mph winds. Had that happened, that would of been really devastating. Allen made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds. Allen was a very large hurricane upon landfall. Alicia made landfall on Galveston as a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds. It was Texas’s first billion dollar disaster. Alicia was a medium size hurricane, unlike Allen. Had Alicia been Allen, Carla, or Ike size, it would been much worse.

Atlantic Hurricane Season In July

It is now July and it is the halfway mark of the year. Where do most July tropical storms and hurricanes form and end up going?

Here is a GIS heat map I created. This is all July tropical storms and hurricanes from 1870 to 2015. The heat map is from within 300 miles (480 kilometers) of a point.

Most July tropical cyclones form in the Gulf of Mexico and off the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are at most risk to see a tropical cyclone making landfall in July. America’s 24 hour rainfall record is from a July tropical cyclone, Tropical Storm Claudette in 1979. Some of the biggest flood events from tropical storms have occurred in July like Alberto in 1994 and Danny in 1997. Alberto did form in late June, but most of its life was in July, so Alberto can be considered a July tropical cyclone.

Atlantic Hurricane Season In June

As we are in June and hurricane season is heating up. Where do most June tropical storms and hurricanes form and end up going?

Here is a GIS heat map I created. This is all June tropical storms and hurricanes from 1870 to 2015. The heat map is from within 300 miles (480 kilometers) of a point.

Most June tropical storms and hurricanes form in the Gulf of Mexico, Southwest Caribbean, and off the Carolinas. No surprise that Texas and Florida are most vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes in June.

Leap Day 2016

It is Leap Day and it comes every four years. So, what is the weather like on Leap Day in Houston? Here is official weather records on February 29th.

Houston Weather Branch 1921-1968
Year High Low Average Rainfall
1924 67 42 55 0
1928 75 33 64 T
1932 85 64 75 0
1936 71 50 61 0
1940 82 57 70 T
1944 62 45 54 0
1948 72 59 66 0.01
1952 83 58 71 0
1956 68 50 59 0
1960 53 49 51 0
1964 60 45 53 0
1968 49 39 44 0

Bush Intercontinental Airport 1969-2010
Year High Low Average Rainfall
1972 72 61 67 0.33
1976 78 57 68 0
1980 82 63 73 T
1984 55 28 42 0
1988 82 58 70 T
1992 82 48 65 0
1996 47 39 43 0.53
2000 80 57 69 T
2004 72 56 64 0.49
2008 78 57 68 T
2012 84 71 78 0

From 1920 to 2012, only one (4.4%) Leap Day saw below 32°F, which was in 1984. The winter of 1983-1984 was one of the coldest winters on record. Seven out of 23 (31.8%) Leap Day saw at least 80°F days. The warmest Leap Day occurred in 1932. Interestingly, it snowed on March 10, the latest measurable snowfall recorded in Houston. Also, it is not very wet on Leap Day. In fact the record rainfall is 0.53 inches, which fell in 1996. It rained in 10 out of 23 (43.5%) Leap Day from 1924 to 2016. There is more chance to see rain than to see 80°F Leap Days in Houston.

Here are some interesting facts about Leap Day. Leap year occurs in year divisible by 4. However, there are exceptions when years that are divisible by 100, they are not leap unless they are divisible by 400. So the year 1900 is not Leap Year, while 2000 is Leap Year. The purpose of Leap Year is meant to keep calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the Sun, which is every 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds or 365.242199 days. Happy Leap Day!