Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene: In Her Own Words

It all started when my boss informed me that the U.S. hadn’t sampled our cyclonic wrath in three years. Indeed, the last of our brethren to strike the Big 48 was Ike, who pushed Texas around in 2008. But since then, nada.

“Irene,” he uttered in hushed tones, “the world’s most powerful country has all but forgotten about us. We can’t have this. Would you consider becoming a major hurricane?”

I considered the tall task. Did I really want to drag myself through the little Caribbean islands and the always-risky voyage through the Bermuda Triangle? I’d heard of so many brothers and sisters who got sheared to bits there or were otherwise destined to “merely affect shipping lanes,” a euphemistic death sentence that no hurricane worthy of its salt ever wants to hear. And besides, were I to choose a path of widespread destruction, I’d bring dishonor to my pacific name.

As I began to mull things over, calls came in to the corporate office in our secret location on the coast of West Africa (where we also do much of our manufacturing). A CNN media relations rep pleaded with our CEO. “Bachman’s gaffes get us a little attention and the “Libya thing” helped, but we really need a megastorm to get us back on the cable radar.” Evidently, he was desperate. “Look, we’ll even give you the foreboding death march music to lead in and out of the story – the music we usually leave for deaths and wars.”

I was tempted, but I was still on the fence. Who really wanted to endure the suffocating detailed analysis and examination that would go with the territory? After all, I wasn’t about to run for president.

Then came Jim Cantore, the Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel, who could make a sprinkle sound torrential. He asked to speak with me personally. He told me in no uncertain terms that as long as I could show a little potential – “just give us a little purple convection south of the Carolinas” were his words – he’d make me a star.

And so I took the dive. I signed the papers in a humid conference room on August 14, and by the next day, I was kicked off into the Atlantic in the dark of night and into the great unknown, a lonely tropical wave set on making something of myself. I played Joe Jackson’s “Steppin Out” over and over in my head to psych myself up.

Early on, I established a singular goal: Gain the glory for myself (and the cable stations) but spare the good people of any real, extensive damage. To accomplish this I’d need to exhibit both atmospheric prowess and a magician’s deception.

Initially, the trek westward was uneventful. After cruising past the Cape Verde Islands, I was slow to develop thunderstorms and showers in my proximity. At that juncture, the weather geeks called me unorganized and “broad in appearance” – to which I always wanted to say, “Well, I am a broad!” All kidding aside, however, broadness was a distinguishing quality of mine that would stay with me to my dying days.

By August 19, I started exhibiting what meteorologists call a convective structure, which basically meant I was ready to rock and roll as a tropical force. The next day, they flew an aircraft into my inner core and found I had a circulation. I had arrived, and I was getting some serious attention. Soon after, they started calling me by my official first name.

Initially, the experts had me slated to take my talents to South Beach. But while passing the island of Saint Croix, I decided a curve northward might allow me – with the help of CNN and TWC – to terrorize the millions in the big megalopolis.

Now that I was on the big stage, I had to get dolled up. To this point, I’d been chastised for having a “ragged eye” and so I improved my appearance. For a short time at least, I wore the classic look of a well-defined eye with “good outflow on all sides.” I even caused a little havoc on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, but that was mainly for show.
I’d accomplished the goal of looking menacing, which, in so many ways, was all I ever really wanted.

The pressures and trappings that go with being a major hurricane can be overwhelming. Once you begin to ascend the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, there’s really only one place to go. The media pressure to become a Cat 4 or Cat 5 can be immense. Katrina, while good for our industry, raised the bar impossibly high.

I followed orders to a tee, maintaining a dead-on track to New York and forcing the city to take extreme and unprecedented precautionary measures. This kept the doomsday scenario alive – and television ratings high. I’d already achieved a modicum of success, and regardless of what happened from this point forward, the boss would be thrilled.

Sadly, I began to lose interest and commenced a slow limp to the finish line. I was praised for my impressive wingspan, even compared in size to the state of Arizona. But my girth not withstanding, there was little gas left in the tank. For all intents and purposes, my own batteries died, ironically enough, as I approached New York’s Battery Park.

In all, I’d made three landfalls and caused considerable inland flooding, a rather estimable accomplishment. However, the media trashed me, saying I never delivered on my forecasted wallop. That’s what happens when you’re unfairly compared to truly legendary hurricanes.

Still, it’s amazing how quickly they forget about you. By Sunday afternoon, mere hours after I’d arrived in New York, Cantore called headquarters, asking, “Who else can you send us?”

But I’ll always hold on to one thing: If you can scare them in New York, you can scare them anywhere.

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  1. @ Bill

    That was Hilarious, but how true it was, good job Bill!!!

  2. Interesting... Irene does not appear to be done with, yet.

    The ECMWF thinks that Irene will continue to have a closed circulation, therefore keeping post-tropical status. It looks like greenland and Icland will have some effects to...

    This is very interesting indeed.

    But yet somthing more interesting occurred in 1991. Also known as the perfect storm it was a nor'easter, and very unusual at that. But what I find striking about the perfect storm was it was so strong that as it began to dissapate, a fully tropical hurricane formed in the center of it... left unnamed as not to strike fear into the already shocked public.

    More information about this storm can be found here:

    and here:

  3. Invest 92L (soon to be Katia, Katrina's replacement) will have a hard time impacting anyone but Bermuda. The ridge to the north is pretty weak and should allow it to gain latitude pretty quick. Doesn't look like an Ivan to me.

  4. Media always covers the wind speed too much and the rain/surge too little.

  5. The NWS stopped issuing advisories, but the post tropical storm can be followed here.

  6. More info can be found here:

  7. I truly enjoy your writing Bill. Hopefully you have sent this story up the line and can get it published elsewhere. Good timing.

  8. All info previously given is now probably invalid

  9. Models are doing the opposite with Katia are they did for Irene. Moving west with every run.

    Also looks like soon to be Lee will cause some major flooding problems. Not sure how well New Orleans can handle 15" of rain.

  10. Think Katia might actually be a threat to the US now?

  11. Well, I'm thinking its more likely then it was yesterday and by more likely I mean not 0%. Lets see if they keep moving west.

    Really worried about that gulf system though. HPC precip map puts out 16" of rain over New Orleans over the next 5 days.

  12. Bill:

    Yes I do, and what concerns me is a 500mb low pressure system that both the GFS and The Euro are showing over the Tennessee Valley, the GFS shows it completely cut off on the evening of the 8th, whereas the Euro shows it imbedded into a unusual deep 500mb trough, that will hold back the Atlantic high, the GFS eventually does so as well but not before the East cost feels the effect of the outer wind fields. This whole thing (at this time) appears to depend on the trough forming, time will tell.

    This morning run of the GFS for the evening of the 8th...

    Last night's run of the Euro for the same time..

    and the results


    at this time chances are low, but definitely not zero, i would say 20% at best

  13. Here is the 12z run of the Euro, notice that the outer wind bands come real close to Cape Hatters (sp?)

    notice at this time that it is at 936 mb.

    so now 24 hours later look how it intensifies this thing to 931mb

    and to boot, it takes it about 30° to the northeast...I'm normally a Euro fan, best model in the world...but something looks fishy to me, how can something that strong change course that quick

    comments anyone? I'm I nuts? or could this really be a fish storm?

  14. Wouldn't it be kind of ironic if the storm that hasn't gotten much attention turns out to be one worthy of all the hype...

  15. Bill....I am afraid of that scenario, national attention goes to what's happening now, not looking forward...I will still stay with my 20% chance until the models come in tonight and in the morning, but I'm afraid I would need to ramp that up 30% or higher...I sure hope not

  16. Lee doesn't look very tropical.

    In fact put it over Minnesota and you'd think its a winter storm.

  17. Looks like the Cape Hatteras weather office is incorporating mention of at least some effects from Katina:

    Remnants of Lee appear to fizzle out or get absorbed by middle week as attention turns to Katia. Official track keeps it well east of area.
    However error Cone brushes NC. Tropical storm force wind probabilities are increased over area. Have upped winds to account for higher probability of stronger winds.

  18. Looks like Katia will be a fish storm.

    However 95L near Africa could be one to watch. Ridging builds in over the Atlantic and should keep it further south.

  19. I have been watching that... along with another low in the gulf... I just really hope that another rally bad storm hits the U.S.

    As for the la Nina situation in the pacific... It looks more likley that la Nina will redevelop. In fact, the Nino 1&2, 3, and 3.4 all show la Nina conditions. Nino 4 is not far behind.

    It does not look good for those who dont want a cold and snowy winter.

  20. 96L in the Gulf will be TS Lee at 4pm. Interesting forecast. It could go west into Mexico or NE towards the AL/MS/FL coast.

    This map from NWS Fort Worth explains it fairly well.

  21. Sorry. TS Nate.

    Really wish we had an edit button lol.

  22. As for Katia, the only impacts might be soil erosion, and it looks like it might cause trouble in Great Britan.

  23. The NWS says La Nina is back. It is looking like another cold and snowy winter. It is a weaker La Nina, though, and the effects will be less major. You can still expect a snowstorn like one of the ones we had in december, though.

  24. Are you ready for a weather roller coaster? Temps this weekend should be in the mid 80's, with upper 80's expected by Monday.

    The other shoe drops in on Tues as a cold front works it way down from Canada that will usher in a 1032mb high that will set up over MN by Thursday morning, unfortunately the DP's out ahead of the cold front will be lucky to be around 50, so it will come in dry.

    Tuesday's high will be doing good if it hits 70°, Wednesday in the upper 50's, Thursday around 60 and 65 by Friday. As the high moves off to the east we should see temps rebound for next weekend back to more seasonal highs, maybe a degree or two above normal.

    My concern is Thurs and Friday mornings, record low temps may be set both mornings. Thursday record low is 36° last set in 2007, with Fridays low record of 38° set way back in 1873.
    If the model solutions hold true we may have our first frost advisory issued for Thursday morning.

    According to the Minnesota Climatology Working Group the Median date for the first frost in Minneapolis is Oct 7th...

    Unfortunately I don't any chance of meaningful rain in the next 10 days

  25. Good info, Randy. Sounds like a "upcoming roller coaster" blog post may be in order. Will try to do that later in the day.

    Personally, and this is just a hunch and not looking at any models, etc., it just seems to hard these days to set a record nighttime low temp. Between the ever-increasing urban heat island, seemingly warming climate, etc., it just seems very hard to come by. But maybe Mother Nature just needs to flex a muscle or two.

  26. I here you Bill, but if the euro is right that 1032 high will sit up right over us, meaning little if no wind, that could allow the lower lying spots, to drop down to the magic number. better chances from north metro and points further north

  27. Hmmm....61° dew points today, the effect of the upper level low (ie Lee) that puts us on the western edge of the cyclonic flow. As that lift's out we should see more comfortable DP's in the mid 50's that are currently off to our west. I still think that the cool front will come in dry, but the confidence is somewhat lower this afternoon than it was this morning, I'm hoping for significant rain, but I don't think it will happen.

  28. NWS forecast says 34 Wed. morning in Red Wing. It hit 90 today.

    Crazy ass state.

  29. Finally posted a fresh post in anticipation of the Jekyll & Hyde weather.