Storm Julia dumping heavy rains on Georgia and South Carolina coasts

Tropical Storm Julia and other storms lined up in the Atlantic

(Reuters) – Tropical Storm Julia dumped heavy rains along coastal Georgia and South Carolina on Wednesday, weakening as it drifted north along the U.S. Southeast coast, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm, centered around southeastern Georgia, had gusting winds as strong as 40 mph (65 kph). Heavy rain and high tides threatened low-lying coastal areas prone to flooding, such as parts of Charleston, South Carolina, forecasters said.

“It’s weakening, but it will still continue to produce heavy rain and that is the main hazard that we are concerned with,” said Bob Bright, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.

Julia, the 10th named storm of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, is expected to weaken to a tropical depression on Wednesday as it moved north at 7 mph, the Miami-based hurricane center said.

At 8 a.m. (1200 GMT), Julia was about 10 miles (16 km) west of Brunswick, Georgia, the hurricane center said.

Northeast Florida felt the storm’s strong blasts and bands of rain after it came ashore late on Tuesday around Cape Canaveral, forecasters said.

The National Weather Service in Jacksonville, Florida, whose coverage area includes southeastern Georgia, had received reports of toppled trees, but not significant structural damage on Wednesday morning, meteorologist Scott Cordero said.

“We had some pretty good winds associated with it,” he said. “She is starting to lose her tropical characteristics, as she is remaining mainly landlocked.”

(Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Fla., Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, and Swati Verma in Bengaluru; Editing by Andrew Heavens and James Dalgleish)

Unusual Weather Event in the Western Atlantic

It has been 101 years since this last happened.  And it is “blowing the minds” of meteorologists. Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center (NHC), commented on the lack of hurricanes west of 55 degrees longitude in the Atlantic basin so far this season. Blake said this marks the first time there have been no western Atlantic hurricanes through Sept. 22 since 1914.

At the anniversary of Hurricane Rita in 2005 the compared numbers from 10 years ago is astounding. In that year there were 31 Tropical Systems, 27 named storms and 15 hurricanes. While 2015 has had several named storms, there have been no hurricanes this year at all!  

Two factors working against hurricane development, wind shear and dry air, have been quite prevalent from the Gulf of Mexico into much of the Caribbean all summer long.

Hurricanes thrive off of rich, tropical moisture evaporating into the air from warm ocean water and cannot feed off of the dryer air.  Wind shear, or the change of wind direction and speed with height, creates a hostile environment for tropical systems, as it too disrupts the ability of clouds and thunderstorms to organize in a way that supports the formation or continuation of a hurricane.

El Niño can be partially to blame. This setup features warming of the Pacific Ocean and is generally associated with unfavorable wind patterns across the western Atlantic.

Meanwhile in the Pacific Ocean warm and active atmospheric moisture has also been well above average in that area. The result has been nine hurricanes in the eastern Pacific, but zero in the adjacent western Atlantic.

With El Niño continuing and no signs of any major changes, the western Atlantic hurricane drought may continue for a while.

Tropical Storm Erika Forms in Atlantic

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has confirmed the presence of a new named storm in the Atlantic Ocean.

Tropical Storm Erika has sustained winds of 45 m.p.h. and as of noon eastern time was about 700 miles east of the Leeward Islands with a westward path at 20 m.p.h.

A tropical storm watch has been posted throughout the region for islands that are in desperate need of rain because of a sustained drought.  However, the storm is expected to continue to gain strength and reach hurricane status.

Forecast models are showing extremely different paths for the storm, from dissipating before making significant landfall to becoming a huge Category 4 storm that would strike South Carolina.

Erika is the fifth named storm in the Atlantic during the 2015 storm season.  Danny was the only storm to reach hurricane status, peaking as a Category 3 storm.  Danny dissipated on Monday because of a dry air mass moving across the region.

The NHC said the Air Force’s Hurricane Hunters are going to make a mass through the storm and provide feedback on the storm’s intensity.