Large and intensifying Hurricane Alex bears down on northeastern Mexico, South Texas

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:23 PM GMT on June 30, 2010

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Hurricane Alex continues to intensify as it slowly bears down on the coast of northeastern Mexico. Brownsville long-range radar shows the spiral bands of Alex, which has dumped heavy rains of up to four inches in northeastern Mexico and near Brownsville, according to satellite estimates of rainfall. The Brownsville airport received 0.78" of rain in the hour ending at 8am CDT, and 0.61" in the hour ending at 9am CDT. Floods from Alex have already killed ten people--six in Nicaragua, and two each in El Salvador and Guatemala.


Figure 1. Snapshot of the Brownsville long-range radar showing Hurricane Alex approaching the coast.

The 7:12am CDT eye penetration of the Hurricane Hunters found a central pressure of 959 mb, a modest 2 mb drop from the reading four hours previous to that. They noted a very tiny eye, ten miles in diameter, with a gap in the northwest side. Tiny eyes like this tend to be unstable, and in the 9:05am CDT eye penetration, the Hurricane Hunters found that the inner eyewall had collapsed, and the pressure had risen 2 mb, to 961 mb. A new, much larger eye will form today as the day progresses. During these "eyewall replacement cycles", a hurricane will typically weaken a few millibars , and the strongest winds will spread out over a larger area as the hurricane conserves angular momentum. Thus, the hurricane still has about the same amount of destructive power, it is just spread out over a larger area. This tends to increase the hurricane's storm surge, but lessens the wind damage, since the extreme winds of the inner eyewall are no longer present. Satellite loops show a large, well-organized storm with increasing amounts of low-level spiral bands forming, and improving upper-level outflow. Data from last night's flight of the NOAA jet showed an unusually moist atmosphere surrounds Alex, so dry air is no longer a problem for it. It's a good thing Alex has less than a day before making landfall, or else is would be a large and very powerful major hurricane.


Figure 2. Visible light image of Tropical Storm Alex taken at 19:35 UTC (2:35 pm CDT) on June 29, 2010, by NASA's Aqua satellite. At the time, Alex was a tropical storm with 70 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Storm Surge
Traditionally, a storm's ranking on the Saffir-Simpson Scale--the familiar Category 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 rankings we always talk about--have also been used to quantify storm surge threat. However, large, weaker storms that cover a huge area of the Gulf of Mexico, like Alex, can generate a larger storm surge than a smaller but more intense hurricane with a higher Saffir-Simpson rating. Thus, the National Hurricane Center has formally discontinued use of the Saffir-Simpson scale to characterize storm surge, and is studying the possibility of issuing separate Storm Surge Warnings a few years from now. These would be in addition to their traditional Hurricane Warnings. To give us a better idea of a storm's surge potential, Dr. Mark Powell of NOAA's Hurricane Research Division has developed the Integrated Kinetic Energy scale to rank storms. The scale ranges from 0 to 6, and a parallel wind damage scale that runs from 0 to 6 is also generated. Alex had an Integrated Kinetic Energy of 2.6 on the 0 to 6 scale at 1:30pm CDT yesterday, and its destructive potential rating for winds was just 1.2. Thus, Alex's surge ranked alomst one-and-a-half categories higher in destructive potential than its wind. These numbers have probably increased by a full category since yesterday afternoon. NHC is giving a 40% - 60% chance of a storm surge of at least 3 feet affecting the Brownsville area, and 10% - 30% chance the surge will exceed 5 feet. In theory, a Category 2 hurricane moving WNW at 5 mph can bring a storm surge of up to 8 - 9 feet to the South Texas and northern Mexican coast.

Other Impacts
Alex is bringing bands of heavy rain to the coasts of Texas and Mexico, as seen on the Brownsville, Texas radar. Hurricane local statements with projections for how Alex will affect the coast are now being issued by the National Weather Service in Brownsville and Corpus Christi. Flooding damage from the expected 6 - 12 inches of rain from Alex will be the main concern. Wind damage is a lesser concern, since the core of Alex is making landfall in a swampy, sparsely populated region of Mexico. The combined wind, surge, and flooding damage from Alex may be similar to 2008's Hurricane Dolly, which hit near Brownsville. Dolly was a Category 2 hurricane offshore that weakened to a Category 1 hurricane with 85 mph winds when it made landfall, and did about $1 billion in damage. Dolly also generated two weak EF-0 tornadoes, and Alex is capable of generating a few tornadoes as well, according to the latest discussion from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center. The atmosphere is moderately unstable, there is plenty of moisture, and wind shear at low levels has been increasing this morning. The greatest threat for tornadoes will occur late this afternoon, on the right side of where the storm makes landfall.

Alex in historical context
Alex is the first June hurricane since Hurricane Allison of 1995. Allison briefly became a minimal 75 mph hurricane before weakening and hitting the Florida Panhandle as a tropical storm. Alex is the strongest June hurricane since Hurricane Bonnie of 1986, which had 85 mph winds. Bonnie was the first hurricane I flew into as a member of the Hurricane Hunters. Bonnie made landfall along the upper Texas coast, and caused less than $20 million in damage. If Alex strengthens to 90 mph winds, it will be the strongest June hurricane since Hurricane Alma of 1966, which had 125 mph winds as it skirted the Florida Keys. There have been only ten hurricanes in May or June since 1945; only four of these were major Category 3 or higher storms.

Track forecast for Alex
All of the models take Alex to the west or west-northwest into northern Mexico by early Thursday morning. However, the steering currents are fairly weak, and Alex could stall and move erratically at times today. I don't anticipate that this weakness in the steering currents will allow Alex to move northward and make landfall in Texas. After landfall, the ridge of high pressure forcing Alex westward should remain in place and strengthen, keeping Alex's remnants over northern Mexico for several days.

Intensity forecast for Alex
Alex is over a region of ocean with moderately high total ocean heat content . Wind shear has fallen to a low 5 knots, and is projected by the SHIPS model to remain in the low range, below 10 knots, through landfall. The combination of low wind shear, moderately high ocean heat content, and plenty of moisture should allow Alex to continue to intensify today. Alex's pressure is already characteristic of a Category 3 hurricane, but the storm is so large that it is taking time for the winds to catch up to the pressure falls. It is unlikely that Alex's winds will be at Category 3 strength at landfall, since the storm is undergoing an eyewall replacement cycle, and does not have time to build a tight inner eyewall with strong winds before landfall. A Category 2 storm at landfall looks more likely.

Elsewhere in the tropics
The latest run of the NOGAPS model predicts the formation of a tropical disturbance in the Western Caribbean on Monday. None of the other models is showing anything brewing over the coming seven days.

Wind and ocean current forecast for the BP oil disaster
Alex is generating very rough conditions over the Deepwater Horizon blowout location, with 6 - 8 foot waves and 3 - 4 foot swells. Strong southeast to south winds of 15 - 25 knots will blow over the oil slick region today through Thursday, according to the latest marine forecast from NOAA. The resulting currents will push oil to many protected bays and estuaries that haven't seen oil yet. In addition, the 1 - 2 foot storm surge Alex is generating along the Louisiana coast will act to push oil deep into some low-lying marshlands. While this oil will be diluted some by the wave action, the impact of the oil and accompanying toxic dispersants on the marshlands is of concern. The latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA and the State of Louisiana show oil will also move westward along the central Louisiana coast towards the Texas border. Winds will decrease to 10 - 15 knots Friday through Monday but remain out of the southeast, keeping the pressure on the regions of coast in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi that are seeing oil hit their shores this week.

Resources for the BP oil disaster
Map of oil spill location from the NOAA Satellite Services Division
My post, What a hurricane would do the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
My post on the Southwest Florida "Forbidden Zone" where surface oil will rarely go
My post on what oil might do to a hurricane
NOAA's interactive mapping tool to overlay wind and ocean current forecasts, oil locations, etc.
Gulf Oil Blog from the UGA Department of Marine Sciences
Oil Spill Academic Task Force
University of South Florida Ocean Circulation Group oil spill forecasts
ROFFS Deepwater Horizon page
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery from the University of Miami

Next post
Either Rob Carver or myself will do an update late this afternoon or this evening.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane Alex (LRandyB)
Weather inbound to Hurricane Alex.
Hurricane Alex
Hurricane Alex (LRandyB)
Weather inbound to Hurricane Alex.
Hurricane Alex
Hurricane Alex (LRandyB)
Flight deck view from a WC-130J Hurricane Hunter aircraft
Hurricane Alex

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1548. CaneWarning
8:19 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting twhcracker:


i am surprised he isnt using a mullet as a cigarette holder while doing the backstroke in the storm surge


Just wait, he'll do that later.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
1547. StormTop5000
8:19 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
2 hours and 30 minutes till landfall...
Member Since: May 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 61
1546. scott39
8:18 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
You got to hand it to the NHC, they did a good job forecasting Alex, even with all his craziness!
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6730
1544. Drakoen
8:18 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Alex needs another 4 mph to be considered a category 4 according to the latest SFMR
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29886
1543. WaterWitch11
8:18 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
The boy's name Alexander. It is of Greek origin, and its meaning is "man's defender, warrior". From the Latin form of the Greek name Alexandros. The name was probably coined originally as a title of the goddess Hera, consort of Zeus

afternoon flood!
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 3 Comments: 1568
1542. TI882
8:18 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Did I miss something about the 123mph winds on the barrier island? and the 93mph NW of center?

Time: 19:14:30Z
Coordinates: 25.0667N 97.5W
Acft. Static Air Press: 843.2 mb (~ 24.90 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 1,442 meters (~ 4,731 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: 996.7 mb (~ 29.43 inHg)
D-value: -
Flt. Lvl. Wind (30s): From 46° at 70 knots (From the NE at ~ 80.5 mph)
Air Temp: 15.1°C (~ 59.2°F)
Dew Pt: 14.8°C (~ 58.6°F)
Peak (10s) Flt. Lvl. Wind: 71 knots (~ 81.6 mph)
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 107 knots* (~ 123.0 mph*)
SFMR Rain Rate: 11 mm/hr* (~ 0.43 in/hr*)

Time: 19:58:00Z
Coordinates: 24.55N 96.55W
Acft. Static Air Press: 844.2 mb (~ 24.93 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 1,229 meters (~ 4,032 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: Missing
D-value: -
Flt. Lvl. Wind (30s): From 131° at 82 knots (From the SE at ~ 94.3 mph)
Air Temp: 17.5°C* (~ 63.5°F*)
Dew Pt: -*
Peak (10s) Flt. Lvl. Wind: 84 knots (~ 96.6 mph)
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 81 knots* (~ 93.1 mph*)
SFMR Rain Rate: 24 mm/hr* (~ 0.94 in/hr*)

Member Since: July 23, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6
1541. angiest
8:18 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting Orcasystems:
Look like he missed it by a bit.. but its up 1 or 2mb and appears to be just cranking along due west now.


Seems right from the ragged eye. He looks to be trying to build a new wall but is having a hard time wrapping around from the NE quadrant to the others. The eye also remains filled on radar.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
1540. hurricanejunky
8:18 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting Hurricanes101:


but is now the time to really bash on the people who were wrong?

I would say no, save it for after the storm is passed if you need to

Shows even less class then the predictions in the first place


Do you think it's safe to say Alex will be going in somewhere between San Fernando and Matamoros?
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2895
1539. Hurricanes101
8:17 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting Floodman:


It's never time to bash people who are wrong...even if they deserve it...the only thing worse than a poor loser is a poor winner. We all remember who said what and most of us are smart enough to keep it to ourselves. a little good-natured ribbing is fine, but this place gets vicious for no other reason than to be vicious


yea I know, I just feel that especially at a time where landfall is imminent, is the last time to be bashing people over wrong predictions.


anyway it is what it is I guess, back to Alex
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7361
1538. HaboobsRsweet
8:17 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Alex is causing all kinds of issues in Southern MS. As I said we have had 5 inches in a short time, lots of flooding streets and winds did get up to 28kts (yes not that impress on the winds but good enough).
Member Since: May 20, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1640
1537. twhcracker
8:17 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting CaneWarning:
Oz is going for a swim?


i am surprised he isnt using a mullet as a cigarette holder while doing the backstroke in the storm surge
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 1448
1535. Patrap
8:17 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
1534. rainraingoaway
8:17 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting Baltimorebirds:
Some places in texas are getting much needed rain from this system.


Yes...my yard needs the rain we are getting...but I feel for my "neighbors" south of me.
Member Since: August 19, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 273
1533. winter123
8:17 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Alex is a mini Vince looking hurricane inside of a large hurricane with a massive eye.

Member Since: July 29, 2006 Posts: 28 Comments: 1777
1532. Orcasystems
8:16 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Look like he missed it by a bit.. but its up 1 or 2mb and appears to be just cranking along at about 15-20 knots due west now.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
1531. StormJunkie
8:16 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting nolesjeff:


Congrats on the win last night SJ, great game.


Thanks noles :)) Very happy, don't even know how to act since the Chicken curse didn't get us. Nice to finally have a NT in one of the mens major three
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15637
1530. Tazmanian
8:16 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting pilotguy1:


Hopefully nothing.



broingcaster
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114709
1529. Drakoen
8:15 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
SFMR uncontaminated:
80 knots
(~ 92.0 mph)


Probably up the winds another 5 mph in the next NHC update
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29886
1527. Floodman
8:15 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting Hurricanes101:


but is now the time to really bash on the people who were wrong?

I would say no, save it for after the storm is passed if you need to

Shows even less class then the predictions in the first place


It's never time to bash people who are wrong...even if they deserve it...the only thing worse than a poor loser is a poor winner. We all remember who said what and most of us are smart enough to keep it to ourselves. a little good-natured ribbing is fine, but this place gets vicious for no other reason than to be vicious
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
1525. Stormchaser2007
8:14 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Not really worth staying here.

Too much whining going on.

I feel for the people that are lurking here to try and find out some information.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15776
1524. CaneWarning
8:14 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting Floodman:
You know, people come and go here; there are a great number of people that post here that have been here since I joined 6 years ago, but it never ceases to amaze me that there are those who feel that they know best what needs to be done and they appoint themselves "The Blog Police"...they are invariably the newest members and they are, in general, humorless dry and unpleasant


We have a few old-timers who think they are blog police too though. Just sayin'.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
1523. msgambler
8:14 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting Floodman:
You know, people come and go here; there are a great number of people that post here that have been here since I joined 6 years ago, but it never ceases to amaze me that there are those who feel that they know best what needs to be done and they appoint themselves "The Blog Police"...they are invariably the newest members and they are, in general, humorless dry and unpleasant
FLOOD (sir)...LOL I know some your talking about here that just came on the blog this season.
Member Since: February 27, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1125
1522. Drakoen
8:13 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
SFMR

80 knots
(~ 92.0 mph)
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29886
1520. catastropheadjuster
8:13 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting Floodman:
You know, people come and go here; there are a great number of people that post here that have been here since I joined 6 years ago, but it never ceases to amaze me that there are those who feel that they know best what needs to be done and they appoint themselves "The Blog Police"...they are invariably the newest members and they are, in general, humorless dry and unpleasant


Hey Flood, U could not of said that any better. Here in saraland it is storming bad. We had to shut the doors.
Sheri
Member Since: August 24, 2006 Posts: 21 Comments: 3652
1519. reedzone
8:13 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting Floodman:
You know, people come and go here; there are a great number of people that post here that have been here since I joined 6 years ago, but it never ceases to amaze me that there are those who feel that they know best what needs to be done and they appoint themselves "The Blog Police"...they are invariably the newest members and they are, in general, humorless dry and unpleasant


Yeah, I'd say let the blog be the blog! It's what makes this fun and entertaining.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7340
1518. Hurricanes101
8:13 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Wow ok nevermind, guess it is all my fault that I felt it needed to be said how classless it sounded when someone sarcastically picks at those who were wrong when Alex is 3 hours from landfall

Say what you want then, I don't care
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7361
1516. Drakoen
8:12 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
79.0 knots (~ 90.9 mph)
Category One Hurricane
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29886
1515. twhcracker
8:12 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting Hurricanes101:


but is now the time to really bash on the people who were wrong?

I would say no, save it for after the storm is passed if you need to

Shows even less class then the predictions in the first place


and then its "even a blind hog can find an acorn sometimes" right?
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 1448
1514. RavensFan
8:12 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
this storm has the look and pressure of at least a cat 2. why are the winds still not gaining as fast as the pressure is dropping?
Member Since: August 16, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 93
1513. Floodman
8:12 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
For real, what happened to Tampa?


I don't know...when he stopped being able to post without some political manifesto attached to every entry I stopped paying attention to him....when was the last time he posted?
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
1512. StormTop5000
8:12 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
There will be Alot of flooding in the RIO Grande area... into South Central Texas.
Member Since: May 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 61
1511. HaboobsRsweet
8:11 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
We have gotten a ton of rain in southern MS in the last couple of hours. Looks like we are over 5 inches already.
Member Since: May 20, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1640
1510. SeALWx
8:11 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting msgambler:
Too funny... How much rain you getting up there. We have had less than an inch on Fowl River.


Not much today. But so far this week, here in Pike County, we've had one .75 inch hour and one .67 inch hour. Those two hours are the source of most of our 1.7" rainfall for the past few days.
Member Since: April 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 196
1509. Floodman
8:11 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
You know, people come and go here; there are a great number of people that post here that have been here since I joined 6 years ago, but it never ceases to amaze me that there are those who feel that they know best what needs to be done and they appoint themselves "The Blog Police"...they are invariably the newest members and they are, in general, humorless dry and unpleasant
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
1508. twhcracker
8:11 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting hurricaster:
Of course, but where do the remnants go?


well, i justr went to starbucks in grayton beach and just getting in and out of the car my clothes are not just wet but soaked and dripping. now i am sitting in the air cond. bldg freezing wet
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 1448
1507. russm1
8:11 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting hurrkat05:
guys all i can tell you it's not over until alex moves inland and stays over land and weakens..i do believe there is a few flies in the mix that alex will show us later..so everyone don't get to cocky..it's going to be and exciting 24 hours..we are not done with alex by a long shot..


stormtop/kat...nobodys listening...lalalalal
Member Since: August 7, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 95
1505. Hurricanes101
8:10 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting hurricanejunky:


You have your opinion. I think it shows little class when someone posts derisively and dismissively where a storm is going as if no one else could be right. If you're gonna call out follow ups then call out the original posters who also acted "classlessly".


but is now the time to really bash on the people who were wrong?

I would say no, save it for after the storm is passed if you need to

Shows even less class then the predictions in the first place
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7361
1504. efallon28
8:10 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Northeast convection strengthening around the eye on Brownsville long range radar.

Link
Member Since: July 12, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 105
1503. LoneStarWeather
8:09 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting hurrkat05:
guys all i can tell you it's not over until alex moves inland and stays over land and weakens..i do believe there is a few flies in the mix that alex will show us later..so everyone don't get to cocky..it's going to be and exciting 24 hours..we are not done with alex by a long shot..

Ummm, we are in about 4 hours...
Member Since: September 8, 2001 Posts: 0 Comments: 429
1502. hurricanejunky
8:09 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting Hurricanes101:


People don't seem to learn

It is sad to have to waste time reading posts about serving crow and who was right and wrong at this time when this storm is about to make landfall

These people show very little class, even if it is just them joking around

I hope everyone in Northern Mexico and South Texas are truly ready for this, Alex should be making landfall within the next 3-6 hours now


You have your opinion. I think it shows little class when someone posts derisively and dismissively where a storm is going as if no one else could be right. If you're gonna call out follow ups then call out the original posters who also acted "classlessly".
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2895
1501. MiamiHurricanes09
8:09 PM GMT on June 30, 2010
Quoting Floodman:


LMAO...
For real, what happened to Tampa?
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting rareaire:
ok Flood that actually makes sense. Tampa is passionate if not sometimes over the top, Remind you of anyone we know! lol


LMAO...
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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