Tropical Doom, real and imagined

Out of the fetid, miasmic waters of the Gulf of Mexico something stirs … or not.  Besides, after the last couple of months it’s hard to get too worried about hurricanes.  At least you can see them coming, unlike a virus particle on the doorknob left by someone who was irresponsibly distributing political leaflets, hanging them (and probably touching) EVERY SINGLE DOORKNOB IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD (in Savannah, GA).  Sending someone out to do that in these times should disqualify a politician (Michael J. Hamilton, Sr.) from running for office … but I digress.

Typhoon Vongfong took a turn for the worst yesterday, and has made landfall in the Philippines.  It is likely causing the equivalent of $1 Billion in damage, and the evacuations and sheltering are probably exacerbating the spread and control of COVID-19 in that country. The problem is that the things you need to do for a hurricane, move populations around in evacuations, put people together in shelters) are EXACTLY the opposite of what you need to do for a pandemic! Here’s the latest impact map …

There is a system presently over South Florida that the US National Hurricane Center is excited about.  They give it a 40% chance of spinning up in the next 48 hours, and a 70% chance within 5 days.  Very little tracking data on it available this morning, the normal track models haven’t spun up yet, but if you just need a line on a map here’s something … this track starts at 7pm tomorrow (Friday 15 May) and runs until Sunday night.  After that the storm continues north, off the coast of North Carolina.  Not likely to be much of a threat to anybody, but may get some news coverage.  The Bahamas are still suffering after Dorian, but I doubt this will be a significant event unless something radically changes before Saturday.

Hopefully decision makers and emergency managers are thinking about how to modify evacuation plans and sheltering protocols.  My strong advice is to revert to the old (and IMNSHO best) guidance: evacuate from water, shelter from wind.  So you only evacuate flood prone areas.  Most people will be ok in hurricane force winds in reasonably well built homes up to about Cat 3 (when buildings start to collapse).  Mobile Homes, of course, need to get out, but setting up local shelters (which many coastal counties are reluctant to do) are essential to avoid spreading the virus to outsiders (or bringing it back in when evacuees return).  So evacuation guidance must be more nuanced than the traditional “evacuate the entire coastal region” or evacuations and sheltering are going to create a massive vector for spreading the SARS-COV-2 virus, just in time for the fall respiratory disease season.

What the Data Shows, viral and cyclonic (13 May 2020)

Lots of COVID charts today, but sadly no math 🙁 .  First the tropics: The data shows that Typhoon Vongfong will sweep through the Northern Philippines over the next few days.  The bad news is that it is strengthening faster than anticipated and will be much stronger than forecast yesterday, but the good news is the track has shifted so that the brunt of the storm will stay offshore.  Here’s the map:

On the pandemic front, nothing much has changed.  While testing has increased, it isn’t really changing the picture much, which seems to indicate the virus is spreading about as fast as the testing – fortunately (or not depending on your perspective), neither very fast.  Yes, the fraction of people tested is increasing …

BUT, the fraction of those tested showing up positive, and the fraction of people tested who are in the hospital, remains fairly constant, especially the ratio of hospitalized to tested, which is an amazingly flat rate for the areas we have data: Continue reading

Potential typhoon headed to the Philippines; impact on pandemic

For those who are tired of the pandemic posts, it’s that time again … we have a storm in the West Pacific.  But even here the shadow of the SARS-COV-2 virus can be seen. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC, who are responsible for tracking for the US in that region) has started formal advisories on WP012020. WP01 is being called Ambo already by the Philippines weather service, who have their own naming convention; if it strengthens as forecast it will be named  Vongfong by other agencies like JTWC).  The storm is forecast to become a weak category one hurricane (typhoon) just before landfall, and sweep across the central and northern Philippines over the next five days.  While not particularly strong, the winds and rain will be disruptive and it could cause the equivalent of over $800 million US in impacts.  Here is the forecast impact swath …

The second question that pops in to mind after “how bad” during this season is “what about the pandemic?”  Unfortunately the things that you need to do to prepare for a tropical cyclone/hurricane are the things you don’t want to do for a pandemic.  Moving people around (evacuations) packing them together in confined spaces (shelters) are going to spread the virus and make it more likely to expose more people – and more exposure means more cases and more deaths.  The Philippines is reporting 11,350 cases (1 per 10,000 population) and 751 deaths at the moment, although many analysts are skeptical of those numbers and the government has extended their quarantine and other measures.  I expect to see a significant spike after this event – if we get good numbers.

Numbers and trends (6 April notes on COVID19, and a hurricane???)

Yes, a hurricane; it is still hurricane season in the southern hemisphere (technically a tropical cyclone, called a Typhoon in the area it is traversing).  SuperTyphoon Harold is moving through the islands northeast of Australia, and has killed 27 in the Solomon Islands. After a loop it is moving through Vanuatu and headed just south of Fiji over the next three days …

Continue reading

Typhoon Phanfone hitting Philippines on Christmas Day

Disasters don’t take a break for holidays … Typhoon Phanfone tracked through the Philippines this morning, damaging or destroying hundreds of homes. Here is the estimated damage swath and position as of this morning US East Coast time …

Economic impact is estimated to be on the order of $500 Million to $1 Billion US Dollars, or less than 1% of GDP (which is no consolation if it was your home destroyed).  The Philippines has had a rough year this year, with multiple damaging landfalls.  As you celebrate and enjoy Western Christmas (recalling the traditional Feast of the Nativity is still 13 days off, according to the Julian Calendar in use by the majority of the Canonical Orthodox Churches :O …), please keep in mind those impacted by natural disasters as well as human stupidity and greed like conflict zones, and consider a year-end contribution to one of the many aid agencies that are trying to make the lives of those in harms way better.  Then you can enjoy the holiday in good conscience!

 

Late season stormfest

I got busy with administrative/legal stuff (which I hate, but is something that has to be done … the money doesn’t flow till the paperwork is shuffled), but have to note the three active tropical cyclones.  In the Atlantic tropical storm Sebastien (yes, with an “e”) is north of the Windward islands, and headed towards open water.  It probably won’t become a hurricane before it devolves into an extra-tropical cyclone.  Here’s the map …   

In the Pacific we have two storms stirring up trouble.  Tropical Cyclone Kalmegi has made landfall on in the northern Philippines, and area hit several times this year …

And Fung-Wong is a weak tropical storm headed towards Taiwan but will probably be a rain event rather than a wind/surge problem …

TTITG to become Storm?

It’s starting to look like NHC will begin advisories on The Thing In The Gulf (TTITG, known officially as AL97 at the moment) at 11am, as tropical depression 17 (AL172019).  If it gets a name it will be Olga.  Here’s the current (9:40am Friday) satellite view,  Infrared on the left, visual (sun is just coming up so a bit dark) on the right.  On the IR note the dark red/black, indicating cold cloud tops, stronger and better organized than yesterday …


As usual, click to embiggen.  For more on Satellite IR, try this brief lesson.

Chances are the front sweeping down through the middle of the country will absorb it, and it won’t last long, but the moisture will be drawn up across Louisiana, Mississippi, and East Mississippi/Sharpiebama this weekend.  The latest QPF shows a peak of 5″ of total rain up near the Mississippi/Arkansas border.

The Thing In The Gulf Redux

There is a system lurking in the Bay of Campeche that has some potential to very briefly become a tropical system just before it merges with a cold front pushing across the US.  Here is the view from space, both IR (left) and Visual (right) … click to embiggen.

You can see TTITG as the blob of red in the lower left off of Mexico.  The red (and small blocks of black) indicate cold cloud tops, which are signs of convective (thunderstorm) activity.  Compare that with the cold front across the middle of the US.  More than likely this thing will just go away overnight, but NHC gives it a 60% chance of becoming a storm.  Either way, the moisture will give a boost to the front while heading across the Gulf to Louisiana or possibly that controversial state between Mississippi and Florida that cannot be named without starting a debate.  So expect a bunch of rain across the SE again this weekend (although maybe not so much for Coastal GA/Lowcountry SC).  If you just have to have a spaghetti map, here it is … but it’s hard to take any of these very seriously given the situation (except maybe the blue GFS line).

not really very Tropical Storm Nestor (AL162019) SaturdayUpdate

As NHC notes in their forecast discussion this morning, Nestor really isn’t very tropical.  As I’ve been saying all along, structurally it’s more like a nor’easter.  While it is raining heavily across Florida this morning, there is very little convection or thunderstorm activity, mostly off the Atlantic shore over the Gulf Stream.  There do seem to be a lot of storm tracks with rotation in them.  Here is the 7:22am composite radar, long with a neat product from the “Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor” or MRMS system, low level rotation tracks …  those “streaks” in the map or the right are storm tracks where there is rotation, or potential tornadic activity.  That is probably the biggest threat from not-really-tropical Storm Nestor.Same map with the watch boundaries … as always, click to embiggen and see detail!

Expect tornado watches to expand north into Georgia and probably South Carolina later today, so keep your weather radio handy.  Finally, here is the forecast rain and surface pressure from the High Resolution Rapid Refresh model for 5pm this afternoon …

So again, bottom line, rain, gusty (but not dangerously high) winds, potential for tornadoes.  Try not to travel if you don’t have to, but if you are going to a football game or something take extra time, and bring a raincoat (the umbrella will just blow away 😛 ).

 

TTITG is now Tropical Storm Nestor (AL162019)

At the 2pm intermediate advisory NHC declared that The Thing In The Gulf (TTITG, aka Potential Tropical Cyclone 16) was tropical enough to be named Tropical Storm Nestor.  This doesn’t change anything about the potential impacts other than now that it is a named storm, your insurance deductible might have tripled or worse, depending on the details of your policy.  This is a perfect example of how unfair the present homeowners insurance system has become.  But that’s a rant for another day …