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Katia Update -- All's well that ends well
Submitted by Tim Buckley on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 9:42am.
So far there haven't been many surprises with Katia, and we're hoping it stays that way. The storm has behaved just like we thought it would through it's first week with us. Now, we're hoping that continues as the storm gets a little bit closer to the U.S. coast.
Turning into a monster storm?
Katia is a strong hurricane - and could get stronger today. This morning, the storm finally popped out a very impressive, well defined eye.
This is a classic signature of mature, powerful storms, and a sign that Katia is likely strengthening into a major hurricane. She should be upgraded later today.
The system is also very symmetric around its eyewall. By that I mean that the thunderstorm activity is fairly uniform on all sides of the system. Often times with Irene, the storm was lopsided one way or another due to some shear. Katia's structure is more sustainable and should prevent the storm from any significant weakening in the near-term.
You can also see that the cloud structure around the storm indicates a healthy "outflow" from the hurricane. By this we mean that the storm is well ventilated with an efficient flow of air into and out of the storm.
All of these signs show that Katia is strengthening. Combine that with favorable water temperatures, and relatively little shear, and there's not much to stop the system from becoming a major hurricane right away.
The million dollar question... Where does she go?
Thankfully, the thinking hasn't really changed that much since last week. The more I look at the system, the more I like the idea that it will curve away before hitting the U.S. coast. As I mentioned on-air last week, what Tropical Storm Lee did would alter the upper level winds along the East Coast and ultimately decide where Katia would end up.
Now that Lee is on his way out, we have a better idea of what will happen. Lee will begin to get picked up by a huge upper level trough today and head east toward the Carolinas. This will mean rain for us, but don't complain - it's good news. This storm will head a little farther up the coast and eventually stall out slightly by mid-week.
The remaining circulation will mean a southerly flow up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Once Katia gets far enough west, this southerly flow should pick up the storm and send her north, away from the Carolina Coast. This track should spare everybody from any real land effects, except perhaps for Atlantic Canada.
The models are all on board with this same idea today. Not a one brings it too close to the Carolinas.
Just for good measure I like to look back at history with storms like this. Using our software here, I have been plunking in Katia's current position and comparing it to all other storms at that position in the past 50 years to see where they ended up. Here's the general trend:
As you can see, nearly all of the storms at Katia's position in the past 50 years curved north either close to Bermuda, or just to the west. It certainly doesn't mean a storm can't come our way from this point, but it serves to show that it's not a "favored" track by any means.
So what will we see?
At this point, I'm still not willing to sound any "all clears" on Katia. Even though it's looking good right now, things could shift farther west and a little closer to shore - especially if Lee's remnants stall out a little farther west.
With that said, here's what we do know:
- Dangerous, life threatening rip currents start today! Please do not go into the water trying to swim. It's going to get worse as we head throughout the week, but the swells from Katia could easily take the lives of even an experienced swimmer. Believe it or not, rip currents kill more people here than any other weather.
- Wind and rain should stay offshore. The high hurricane force winds, and heavy flooding rains from Katia will stay offshore of the Southeast US. This is good news for our area, especially north of us that saw damage from Irene.
- The storm will probably "scare us" once more. There will probably be a time in the next few days where Katia will track west for several hours, or even half a day, before again turning north. This is typical of a storm as it rounds this portion of the ridge. Simply put, we will continue to sweat it out until the storm is going completely north!
All in all, I think the moral with Katia will be "Alls well that ends well" - and she will be forgotten in the record books. (and that's how I like 'em!)
Have a great Labor Day!
By: Tim Buckley