Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:38 PM GMT on May 22, 2009
The large extratropical storm that has been pounding Florida and the Bahamas this week with heavy rain and high surf extended its reach yesterday, killing at least 11 people in Haiti. According to Reuters, most of the victims were killed while crossing rivers or when their flimsy homes collapsed. Approximately six inches of rain fell on Haiti's southwest peninsula in the 24 hours ending at 8pm EDT. Hundreds of homes were flooded and dozens destroyed in the flooding, which left 40% of the southern city of Cayes underwater. The impoverished Caribbean country is still struggling to recover from the massive flooding that killed over 800 people during the hurricane season of 2008. In March, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Bill Clinton--who was this week appointed UN special envoy to the island--toured Haiti together and urged the international community to continue to aid the country. Participants at a Washington international donors conference in April agreed to donate $324 million to help Haiti rebuild.
The worst of the rain and flooding is over for Florida, which has seen rainfall amounts this week as high as 23.75 inches at the Flagler County Fairgrounds. Another 1 - 2 inches are expected in Northeast Florida today from the storm, along with beach erosion, 6 - 8 foot waves, and tides 1 - 2 feet above normal. The bad weather in Northeast Florida should subside substantially on Saturday.
Figure 1. Long range radar out of New Orleans.
The storm responsible for the heavy rains is now headed north-northwest, and should make landfall Saturday near the Louisiana/Mississippi border. The storm has developed a warm core at low levels, and NHC designated it Invest 90L late this morning. Latest visible satellite loops show a modest amount of heavy thunderstorm activity on the east side of the storm's circulation, but development is being hindered by dry air, and wind shear of 20 knots. Long range radar out of New Orleans (Figure 1) shows little organization or banding of the radar echoes. With only 24 hours to go until the system moves inland, it does not have enough time to develop into a depression. Since there will be strong winds from the west creating wind shear over the storm, plus dry air to the storm's west, most of the heavy rain should be confined to the east of the storm's center, along a stretch of coast from New Orleans to Pensacola. Rainfall totals of 2 - 4 inches can be expected.
Figure 2. Latest satellite image of the Gulf of Mexico storm.
I'll have an update Saturday.
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