Lee's winds fan deadly Texas fires; a dangerous day for Lee's floods and tornadoes

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:43 PM GMT on September 05, 2011

Share this Blog
20
+

Texas' unprecedented heat wave and drought turned deadly yesterday when fires fanned by Tropical Storm Lee's gusty winds swept through East Texas, torching 300 homes near Austin, and killing a woman and her 18-month old daughter who couldn't escape the flames in Gladewater. At Austin Bergstrom Airport yesterday afternoon, the counter-clockwise circulation around Tropical Storm Lee brought sustained winds of 25 mph, gusting to 31. Lee didn't bring any clouds or moisture to Austin, and the afternoon high hit 102°, with a humidity of 22%. With the region enduring it's driest 1-year drought on record, yesterday's heat, dryness, and winds resulted in extremely critical fire conditions. The forecast today for Austin is marginally better--temperatures will be cooler, only reaching the upper 80s, but strong winds of 20 - 25 mph will continue to blow, and the atmosphere will be drier, with humidities in the 15 - 25% range. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has declared a "Critical" fire weather danger area for East Texas today, one level below yesterday's "Extremely Critical" conditions. You can monitor today's fire activity by using our wundermap for Austin with the fire layer turned on. The summer of 2011 now holds every major heat record for the city of Austin, including most 100° days (67 so far), hottest month in recorded history (August, breaking the previous record by a remarkable 2.1°), hottest summer (by 1.1°), and hottest day in history (112°F, tied with Sep, 5, 2000.)

Texas' unprecedented heat
For as long as people have been taking weather measurements in Texas, there has never been a summer hotter than the summer of 2011. As wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt documents in his latest blog post, seventeen major cities in Texas recorded their hottest summer on record in 2011. Most of these stations had records extending back more than 100 years, and several of the records were smashed by an amazing 3.4°F--at Lubbock and at Wichita Falls. Neighboring states also experienced unprecedented heat, with Oklahoma recording America's hottest month by any state in recorded history during July, and Shreveport, Louisiana breaking its record for hottest month by 3°F in August. Mr. Burt commented to me: " I do not believe I have ever seen a site with a long period of record, like Shreveport, where records go back to 1874, break its warmest single month on record by an astonishing 3°. This is unheard of. Usually when a site breaks its single month temperature record, we are talking about tenths of a degree, rarely a whole degree, let alone 3 degrees! Hard to believe, frankly." Texas has also had its worst fire season on record, with over 3.5 million acres burned this year, and it's driest 1-year period in recorded history.


Figure 1. Observed rainfall for the seven-day period ending at 8 am EDT Monday Sep 5, 2011. Tropical Storm Lee had dumped in excess of ten inches of rain sections of Louisiana and Mississippi (pink colors). Image credit: NOAA/AHPS.

Heavy rains from Lee creating dangerous flooding situation
Tropical Storm Lee has been absorbed by a cold front, and is no longer a tropical depression. However, the remnants of Lee are bringing torrential rains to the South and Appalachians today, and pose a serious flood threat. NOAA's latest Quantitative Precipitation Forecast warns that "an excessive and life-threatening rainfall event will be unfolding today and tonight across the Tennessee Valley and also the Southern Appalachians." A wide region of 4 - 8 inches of rain is expected along the path of Lee's remnants as they slide northeastwards along the front. These rains will likely accumulate later this week to 2 - 3 inches over New England regions devastated by Hurricane Irene's floods. Also of concern is the potential for tornadoes today. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has logged 22 tornado reports so far from Lee, and today promises to be the most serious day for tornadoes yet, with SPC predicting a "Moderate Risk" of tornadoes across the South. Lee's heaviest rain amounts, by state, as of 10 am CDT today:

Holden, LA: 15.43"
Florence, MS: 13.45"
Mobile, AL: 11.35"
Milton, FL: 10.03"
Cumberland City, TN: 5.09"
Bridge City, TX: 3.12"
Plum Springs, KY: 3.10"


Figure 2. Predicted rainfall for the 5-day period 8am EDT Monday - 8 am EDT Saturday, Sep 10, 2011. Lee's remnants are expected to bring a large swath of 4+ inches of rain all the way to Pennsylvania. Image credit: NOAA/HPC.


Figure 3. Severe weather risk for Monday, September 5, 2011.

Hurricane Katia
Hurricane Katia is close to major hurricane strength, and is now a high-end Category 2 hurricane with 110 mph winds. Latest satellite loops show a well-defined eye and good upper-level outflow on all sides, but the hurricane still has a lopsided appearance, due to the impacts of dry air and moderate wind shear on its south side.

The computer models have finally come into agreement on the long-range future of Katia, determining that the trough of low pressure that will develop over the Eastern U.S. later this week will turn the hurricane to the north well before the storm reaches the U.S. As the storm moves northwards past North Carolina, Katia will get caught up in west-to-east moving winds associated with the jet stream, and taken northeastwards out to sea. No land areas are in Katia's cone of uncertainty, though Newfoundland, Canada will need to watch future forecasts to see how close Katia may pass to the southeastern portion of that province. The main impact of Katia will be high surf leading to beach erosion and dangerous rip currents. Long period swells from Katia are arriving at the Southeast U.S. coast today, and the entire U.S. East Coast will receive an extended multi-day period of high surf.


Figure 4. Afternoon satellite image of Hurricane Katia.

95L off the coast of Africa
A large tropical wave with plenty of intense thunderstorm activity and spin is located about 500 miles southwest of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa. This wave, Invest 95L, is under a moderate 10 - 20 knots of wind shear, and is headed west at 15 mph. Water vapor satellite images show that 95L is embedded in a very moist environment. Ocean temperatures are near 28°C, which is 1.5°C above the 26.5°C threshold usually needed for a tropical storm to form. With wind shear predicted to drop to the low range tomorrow, I don't see anything that would keep 95L from becoming a tropical depression in two or so days. NHC is giving 95L a 20% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Wednesday; given the storm's rather impressive organization and spin apparent on recent satellite loops, I'd put these odds at 40%. The NOGAPS model predicts 95L will develop by Saturday, a few hundred miles north of the Northern Lesser Antilles Islands, but this storm could just as easily pass directly through the Lesser Antilles on Saturday or Sunday, and develop into a tropical storm much sooner. If you plan on being in the Lesser Antilles Islands this weekend, pay attention to 95L.

New Gulf of Mexico disturbance
A cold front swept into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Texas behind Tropical Storm Lee early this morning. The front is expected to continue to the east and stall out Tuesday and Wednesday along a line from Louisiana to Mexico's Bay of Campeche in the southern Gulf of Mexico. Several recent runs of the ECMWF and GFS models have given support to the idea that a tropical depression would form at the tail end of this front late this week, in Mexico's Bay of Campeche. The path such a storm might take would depend strongly on where the center forms. A more northerly formation location near the top of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula would likely result in a northward motion towards the Florida Panhandle, while a more southerly formation location might lead to the storm getting trapped in a region of weak steering currents, resulting in a slow, erratic motion in the southern Gulf. NHC is currently not highlighting the Bay of Campeche in their Tropical Weather Outlook, and it will likely be Wednesday before enough heavy thunderstorms build to warrant mention.

Jeff Masters

Up In Smoke (Madermade)
Another wildfire this afternoon in Bridgeport, Tx... still burning!
Up In Smoke
Mandeville, Louisiana Lakefront during TS LEE (hurricanep)
Mandeville, Louisiana Lakefront during TS LEE
Lake Pontchartrain Lakefront (hurricanep)
TS Lee still affecting Louisiana
Lake Pontchartrain Lakefront
Tropical Storm Lee-Day 2 #2 (jennjeff1)
Tropical Storm Lee-Day 2 #2

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 2012 - 1962

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53Blog Index

Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

After reading your comment, handle, and staring at your avatar....I LOL'd.


Heh. Laughter +1 and job here = done. Time to call it a night since Mr. Lee has pretty much given up the rain maker ghost here and moved on out. :(

Not enough rain.
Not nearly enough.

I wish the dude had drenched the whole south. Gone in at Texas. Squatted there for a day or three and then rode the coast like a good ol gentleman. Spent a day in each state then dissipated around Charlotte over a glass of Carolina Iced Tea. Would that have been too much to ask Mr. Lee? WOULD IT? You putz. *sigh*
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2010. j2008
Yea I know its old by a couple hours but in case you didnt see earlyer Katia shoud be a Cat 4.AL, 12, 2011090600, , BEST, 0, 256N, 640W, 115, 946, HU, 115Kts= 135Mph or so.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2008. DFWjc
Quoting tropicfreak:



Was kidding, but still that babe part was a little unnecessary.


so what she should be labeled ugly? LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting tropicfreak:br /
_>

Reported. POOF!
good video. Why reported?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2006. BDADUDE
Quoting nofailsafe:


Now THAT is a beautiful storm.
And she was annular.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Brrr?




Now, if we could get rid of that other type of hot.
AKA fires...sigh...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


There have been worse Category 4 hurricanes before...some without an eye.

They meander blindly.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2002. DFWjc
Quoting twincomanche:
Does this have something to do with the weather?


Yes.. the wildfires in Texas are out of control...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting BDADUDE:


Now THAT is a beautiful storm.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting aquak9:

geez louise- it was just a long distance video of a girl trying to walk her poor dog in 8-10 inches of water.



Was kidding, but still that babe part was a little unnecessary.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1998. DFWjc
Quoting WeatherWx:


hmmm. And those FORecasters. They're for-casting!


rim shot
Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JLPR2:


I'll give you that too. xD
Convection was intermittent; but it did last longer on Jose than 94L. That must have been one though decision for the NHC.


Not true. 94L had convection for days.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31546
1995. DFWjc
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Is Gov. Perry going to skip the debate Wednesday? Is he going to accept federal aid to help with the drought and fire disasters in Texas?


I'm pretty sure that's what the Lt. Governor is for.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1993. JLPR2
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


I thought convection on a trpoical cyclone is supposed to last longer than 2 hours...


I'll give you that too. xD
Convection was intermittent; but it did last longer on Jose than 94L. That must have been one though decision for the NHC.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8514
1992. aquak9
Quoting tropicfreak:


Reported. POOF!

geez louise- it was just a long distance video of a girl trying to walk her poor dog in 8-10 inches of water.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
95L is moveing W at 6mph wish 95L had slow way down i wounder if the center will refrom

Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114771
1989. DFWjc
Quoting tropicfreak:


Reported. POOF!


didn't see anything wrong with the video, still the people in the video are crazy for being in that windy of a storm....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting wunderweatherman123:
guys just because NOW some models show 95L recurving doesnt mean 95L wil recurve. good example, IRENE so instead of seeing a storm west of bermuda moving ne out to see i saw a irene make landfall in north carolina.. interesting.. too far out. general vicinity of the northern leewards. btw how strong is katia now 115mph?


Yes, to far out. However if you recall, the major models had Katia the recurring track from the start. And the gfs and other models for Irene, in the beginning consistently had her hitting FL and look what happened. So, yes to far out. Agreed
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1987. BDADUDE
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1985. Thrawst
Quoting BahaHurican:
Still going on brightly here.... Good Show!


I know! I first saw lightning along Andros at like 7:15... and then surprisingly it uncharacteristically got ALL the way to New Providence... impressive don't ya think? lol.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1984. SLU
Member Since: July 13, 2006 Posts: 12 Comments: 4908
Quoting WeatherWx:


You are merely wishcasting Taz.


and what are you doing? Downcasting
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting dolig:
would a cat4 fire extinguisher raise anybody's interest? is this model worthless? how bout some drought relief? anybody interested in this forecast??
any thoughts? Link


A Cat-4 fire extinguisher would be... overkill one might say. Beggers can't be choosers I guess.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting tropicfreak:


Well taz, doesn't have quite the looks of a Cat 4, but do expect a stronger Cat 3.


There have been worse Category 4 hurricanes before...some without an eye.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31546
Quoting StormHype:
Hot babe venturing around in Hurricane Irene gets blasted:
Pretty girl in Irene



Reported. POOF!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


I thought convection on a trpoical cyclone is supposed to last longer than 2 hours...


It's supposed to last 24 hours, but as P451 change, they are messing with the rules a lot.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31546
1977. j2008
Quoting Tazmanian:



vary good point there yes it is now a cat 3 wish will be upgraded too cat 4 at 11pm
Might have to bring the info back in and show these guys what Katia is doing.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting tropicfreak:


Well taz, doesn't have quite the looks of a Cat 4, but do expect a stronger Cat 3.



yup
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114771
1974. dolig
would a cat4 fire extinguisher raise anybody's interest? is this model worthless? how bout some drought relief? anybody interested in this forecast??
any thoughts? Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting cyberian:


Will becoming annular change her projected track?


No.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31546
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
I think Katia is trying hard to become annular, she just cut off the large outflow tail to her north.



Will becoming annular change her projected track?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JLPR2:


More or less two hours.


I thought convection on a trpoical cyclone is supposed to last longer than 2 hours...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Tazmanian:



vary good point there yes it is now a cat 3 wish will be upgraded too cat 4 at 11pm


Well taz, doesn't have quite the looks of a Cat 4, but do expect a stronger Cat 3.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1968. THL3
There is a big orange glow in the sky to the east of me, thinking its not the sunrise. :-( I'm about 10 miles west of the Grimes/Montgomery County fires.

Humidity rising a little 26% and the winds are calm.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Thrawst:


Yeah, lightning hit a house across my canal. was decently awesome.
Still going on brightly here.... Good Show!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1966. BDADUDE
Quoting Tazmanian:



vary good point there yes it is now a cat 3 wish will be upgraded too cat 4 at 11pm
Wow. Is it really going to be a cat4? Big swells will be coming our way over the next few days.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Austin,TX tomorrow...

weather.com
Wind:
NNE at 8 mph (this is good right? - close to where the fires are)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hurricanealley:


Pointing East for me...

BTW whats a Nyan Cat?


OOps...the Nyan Cat model does point east...I have officially made the dumbest comment on the blog tonight!

Other than some cartoon that went viral on youtube...I don't know what it is....

The only reason I found out about Nyan Cat is because AOL news thought it would take the edge off of Irene...and that was no joke....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 2012 - 1962

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53Blog Index

Top of Page

About

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

Local Weather

Mostly Cloudy
76 °F
Mostly Cloudy