Tuesday, September 6, 2005

DC: Delightfully Comfortable

A large high-pressure area dominates the entire U.S. east of the Mississippi River, except for southern Florida. As the center of the high has moved gradually eastward over New England, the wind over the mid Atlantic area has become more easterly, but dewpoints in the Washington metro area are still in the comfortable mid to upper 50s. Under partly cloudy skies, temperatures are in the low 80s at mid afternoon, and the radar is clear in all directions.

Tonight and Tomorrow

For tonight, low temperatures will again be in the mid 60s in the city, near 60 in the suburbs. Tomorrow will be similar to today, with a few scattered clouds, highs in the low 80s, and comfortable humidity.

Tropical Beat

Tropical Depression 16 emerged from the low-pressure area in the western Bahamas this morning. It is currently stationary, but a slow north-northwest movement is expected later today. A NOAA reconnaissance plane was approaching early this afternoon. Since conditions are favorable for development, a tropical storm warning has been issued for the Florida coast from Jupiter to Titusville. Although this storm formed near the birthplace of Katrina, the upper-air flow is a little more favorable for keeping it on the Atlantic coast. The "cone of uncertainty", however, is a circle which reaches as far west as the Mississippi/Alabama border. If this storm becomes Ophelia, it will join just 4 other "O" storms since 1950, only one of which (Opal, 9-27-95) occurred before late November.

Hurricane Maria's peak winds of 100 mph have decreased to 80 as it continues to move northeastward away from land, about 575 miles east of Bermuda.

Tropical Storm Nate has become a little stronger at 60 mph. It is nearly stationary 275 miles south-southwest of Bermuda and is expected to remain so for the next 12 to 24 hours, eventually threatening Bermuda late in the week. It has the potential to become a hurricane tomorrow.

Katrina Catastrophe

The National Weather Service Employees Association has set up a Disaster Assistance Fund to help NWS families affected by Katrina.

As assistance efforts shift from rescue to recovery, attempts continue to put Katrina into historical perspective. NOAA's National Climatic Data Center has a preliminary summary of the storm on their web site. The worst natural disaster of any kind by number of deaths in the U.S. was the Galveston hurricane of September 1900. That storm was so devastating that there was only an estimate of the number of casualties, but the number which is generally accepted is 8000. The wider impact of Katrina has inspired fears that this total may be exceeded; let's hope that is not the case. The worst hurricane death toll in the western hemisphere was 20,000-22,000 in the West Indies and offshore in October 1780. Hurricane Mitch in October 1998 resulted in over 18,000 dead and missing from floods in Central America. The Galveston hurricane is third on this all-time list.

The insured losses from Katrina were recently estimated at $25-35 billion, with the total economic losses at $100 billion. Andrew leads the damage list at $34 billion in year 2000 dollars. In 1998, Pielke and Landsea did an analysis of what historical storms would cost then, considering increases of population and property in the same areas that were hit. On this scale, the storm of 1926 in southeastern Florida and Alabama is first, with a total of $87 billion (year 2000 dollars). Andrew is second at $39.9 billion.

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Seasonal Outlook

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