Katia Freak Out

After Irene I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the volume of emails, comments, tweets, and Facebook messages about Hurricane Katia. People seem to be worried and thankfully that worry is unfounded right now! The storm is strengthening this morning and we have a good idea how strong the hurricane is based on NOAA Buoy 41044 that appears that have been in the storm’s eyewall.

Hurricane Katia

I put a red dot on this morning’s visible satellite image with the buoy’s location in relation to the storm. Our network of buoys in the open Atlantic is quite sparse so getting a nearly direct hit from a hurricane is rare and quite lucky! Here are graphs of sustained winds and pressure at the buoy which is bobbing in 32.5 foot waves!

The peak sustained wind at the buoy has been 87 m.p.h. and a peak gust of 107 m.p.h.! The lowest pressure reported at the buoy was 968mb. Impressive! As good as remotely sensed data can be, satellites can only tell us so much about a storm. Ground truth observations from buoys, surface stations, hurricane hunters, or radiosondes are the most accurate ways to gauge a storm’s intensity. That’s the reason the National Hurricane Center sends planes into hurricanes to figure out exactly how strong they are. The satellite data last night indicated the storm was barely a hurricane (in fact at 11:00 p.m. the NHC had Katia as a tropical storm) but in reality it was likely still a hurricane.

All anyone in New England cares about right now is where Katia will  go.  While Irene was a relatively easy storm to forecast the weather pattern for Katia is extremely complex, convoluted, and difficult to resolve. That said it seems like there are two possible outcomes to Katia.

One possibility is that Katia stays on the “left” side of guidance and winds up heading toward the southeast U.S. This is unlikely, but possible. The second and most likely possibility is that Katia rounds the bend like most hurricanes and recurve safely out to sea between Bermuda and the Outer Banks well southeast of Nantucket.

The odds of a direct hit from Katia in southern New England are extremely low. The odds of a brush by or an indirect type of hit after a Carolina landfall are low but it’s a possibility.

I’m not worried about Katia right now but I’m watching it. I’ll let you know if something changes.

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