What a Difference a Storm Makes

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

The two maps below show the tremendous difference a tropical system can make in dampening the effects of a drought. The map at left shows drought conditions in Georgia as of Tuesday, August 19th, when almost ten percent of the state was in exceptional drought conditions and only two percent was drought free. The right hand map shows conditions as of Tuesday morning the 26th at 7 AM. Now, none of the state is in exceptional drought, and 16% is drought free.

Remember, the cutoff for the drought maps was 7 AM Tuesday, which was before a good bit of the rain hit North Georgia, so I expect to see continued improvement with next week’s drought monitor as well. Lake Lanier has also risen just over two feet from the rainfall brought on by Fay.

The weather service has investigated the severe weather brought about by Fay, and has issued a report saying that there were six tornadoes in Georgia brought on by the storm. Most of the damage was in Hall and Jackson counties. Three EF1 tornadoes with 90 MPH winds were verified in Hall, where trees were knocked down and damage was reported to an elementary school.

Another tornado with 100 MPH winds touched down near Commerce in Jackson County, while two additional EF0 tornadoes with 70 MPH winds were reported in Monroe and Wilkes counties.

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Fay Brings Welcome Rainfall, With Maybe More to Come

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

It looks like the worst of Fay has finally left north Georgia, although some counties to the east of Atlanta are having tornado warnings, the tornado watch was just extended until 2 AM Wednesday for much of northeast Georgia and South Carolina, and a flash flood watch remains in effect until 8 PM. We may get a few more showers overnight, but there are bits of blue skies showing. Fay is becoming extratropical, and will move northeast to bother the mid Atlantic states for the next day or so.

Let’s take a look at some of what Fay has done. First of all, Lake Lanier has risen about six inches as of noontime today from where it was early Monday morning. Much of the Lake Lanier watershed received some good rainfall over the past day or two, including Gainesville, with 2.64 inches so far today and .73 inches yesterday and Helen with 4.01 inches over the past two days. I expect Lanier to continue to rise over the next few days as much of the runoff from the storm continues to flow into the lake.

With 2.07 inches of rain today and .99 inches on Monday evening and Tuesday, I’ve recorded 48 hour precipitation of 3.06 inches at my weather station. Today’s rain here is the most in one calendar day since November 15, 2006, when 2.19 inches of rain fell, and as best as I can tell is the most 2 day precipitation since Tropical Storm Cindy came through on July 6-7, 2005, leaving 4.62 inches of rainfall.

My station, which is obviously not official, is on the low end of the rainfall scale. Some other two day rainfall totals include Alpharetta with 5.39 inches, Atlanta Hartsfield with 3.09 inches, Cleveland with 5.14 inches, Cumming with 4.52 inches and Cedartown, with 2.87 inches. It looks like Thomasville, Georgia is going to have the most rainfall from Fay–even beating anywhere in Florida–with a whopping 27.5 inches total precipitation through 2 PM today.

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Fay Comes to Georgia – Gustav May Be Right Behind

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Rain from Fay finally reached north Georgia yesterday, and it looks like she’ll be sticking around through Wednesday or Thursday. She has begun to move to the northeast, and forecasters have adjusted her track further to the east, bringing the storm over Birmingham and finally exiting Alabama north of Huntsville.

Storm rainfall reports through early this morning show Thomasville (west of Valdosta) with 17.43 inches of rain, and Moultrie with 6.2 inches. Closer to home, Atlanta recorded .37 inches of rain between 8AM yesterday and 8 AM today. Gainesville had 1.63 inches and Marietta had .99 inches. Here in Lawrenceville, I’ve had .85 inches–more than twice the amount of rain that had fallen so far in August.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the radar, and it appears that the storm is moving very slowly. There’s been a storm over extreme Northeast Georgia all morning, and the weather service has issued a flash flood warning for Habersham and Rabun counties. Most of the rest of the rain is still over in Alabama, and the southern part of that state is seeing some tornadoes. Along the Georgia coast, the weather is much better, and it appears they’re golfing on Jekyll Island again.

By the time Fay finally makes here exit late this week, it will be time to start worrying about Gustav, the next storm in the tropical Atlantic. The tropical wave that is likely to become Gustav has been following a path that is remarkably similar to that of Fay, with the center of the wave located south of the Dominican Republic. The Hurricane Center issued a Tropical Disturbance Statement, which is a good indication that the wave will become a named storm later today.

Update: At 11 AM, the National Hurricane Center named the storm a tropical depression, and by 2 PM, it was upgraded to a tropical storm named Gustav.

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Fay’s Remnants May Still Bring Rain to Atlanta and North Georgia

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

As she continued to move over land, Fay was downgraded to a tropical depression last night, and the Hurricane Center issued its last advisory for the storm. Her center was located 70 miles southeast of Jackson, Mississippi late this morning, and her remnants will drift towards the Mississippi Valley before starting to turn northeast later this week. By Thursday evening, the center of the remnant low is expected to be near the Alabama/Tennessee/Mississippi border.

Since crossing into the Florida peninsula late Monday, Fay has dumped a lot of rain in Florida and along the Gulf coast. Here are some rainfall totals from the storm as of 8 this morning:

Melbourne Beach, Florida – 25.28 inches
Cape Canaveral, Florida – 22.83 inches
Tallahassee, Florida – 19.17 inches
Jacksonville, Florida – 11.58 inches
Valdosta, Georgia – 8.54 inches
Albany, Georgia – 4.92 inches
Savannah, Georgia – 3.16 inches
Columbus, Georgia – 3.15 inches
Brunswick, Georgia – 2.89 inches
Dothan, Alabama – 4.17 inches
Montgomery, Alabama – 3.81 inches
Jackson, Mississippi – 3.92 inches
Beaufort, South Carolina – 5.34 inches

Now, the big question is how much more rain Fay will bring to the southeast before she finally disappears. To the right is the five day total rainfall forecast from Sunday morning through Friday morning. With the expectation that Fay will move northeast beginning tomorrow and that low pressure systems typically eject most of the rain to the right of the storm’s center, there still remains a reasonable chance for north Georgia and Alabama to receive some drought relief before it’s all over.

Eight to nine inches of rainfall in Lake Lanier’s drainage basin would be such a bad thing, It’s all going to depend on when, where and if Fay stalls out.

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Fay Dumps Rain on Florida; Drought Predicted to Ease in Southeast

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Tropical storm Fay continues to thrash around the Florida coast near Daytona Beach, and if the area was in a drought before, it certainly isn’t in one now. Total rainfall of up to 30 inches has been reported in some areas, with one observer in Brevard Country reporting 11.21 inches of rain in 24 hours ending this morning. Of course, rain amounts can vary widely over a local area. Here are some rain reports from NWS stations around Florida:

Location Mon. Tues. Wed. Thu. Total
Fort Pierce 0.74 7.35 3.17 .012 11.38
Jacksonville 0.32 0.01 1.24 1.76 3.33
Melbourne T 5.10 8.78 0.93 14.81
Vero Beach 0.05 5.88 4.11 1.16 11.20
West Palm Beach 2.22 4.94 0.02 0.01 7.19
Daytona Beach T 0.27 2.98 2.56 5.81

There have been reports of widespread flooding in Florida including 30 inch high water reaching up to front porches and car doors. The rising water has brought a variety of sea creatures on the runway at the Melbourne airport according to WSB radio, and the AP is reporting residents finding alligators swimming around neighborhoods looking for dry land.

Fay will begin to turn west overnight, but her center is forecast to remain in Florida and eventually on to Alabama and Mississippi as a remnant low. This won’t leave Georgia completely high and dry though. The southern part of the state will definitely see some rain from Fay, and the HPC is thinking that much of the northern part of the state could see as much as two inches on Monday and Tuesday as the high pressure system that has kept Fay so far south begins to move east, allowing Fay to recurve. There’s also a chance that we’ll see some rain over the weekend, but nothing like what we would have had if Fay’s original forecast track had been maintained.

The latest drought outlook came out today, and all of the areas in the southeast are forecast to see improvement over the next few months. Part of this may have been based on the failed forecast for fickle Fay–how’s that for alliteration–but part is also based on an above normal forecast for rain in the southeast for the 6-10 and 10-14 day outlooks as well as September. Temperatures could be above or below normal in September.

Taking a longer range view, the Farmer’s Almanac is due to be published next week, and a news story reports the Almanac is calling for a colder than normal winter for much of the country, and above normal precipitation in the southeast in January and February.

You can choose to believe the Almanac’s forecast or not, but realistically this winter is going to be ENSO Neutral. That means that we won’t have either La Nina or El Nino conditions; sea surface temperatures in the Pacific are forecast to be normal. In neutral conditions, weather tends to vary widely, neither favoring the warm, dry conditions of La Nina or the cold, wet conditions of El Nino.

Finally, I had a chance to listen to Gwinnett congressman John Linder speak at the Chamber’s monthly lunch. Linder’s talk was brief, but he brought up the dangers of believing the human-caused global warming theory, and the costs to American society the proposed remedies would impose. He managed to tie lack of progress in becoming self sufficient in production of energy and making sure we have enough water to drink to the agenda of the environmentalists who believe that humans have caused, and can cure global warming.

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