Hurricane Primer for RVers

Hurricanes can have an impact anywhere along the East Coast, Gulf Coast, and even thousands of miles inland.

Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Hurricane Wilma was a category 5 hurricane and one of the costliest storms in history. Hurricane Wilma's highest sustained winds was at 185 mph. Lowest pressure point measured at 882 mbar. (Credit: hurricane-facts.com)
Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Hurricane Wilma was a category 5 hurricane and one of the costliest storms in history. Hurricane Wilma’s highest sustained winds was at 185 mph. Lowest pressure point measured at 882 mbar. (Credit: hurricane-facts.com)

During the 2012 hurricane season, Sandy led to Presidential disaster declarations in 13 states, sweeping from Maine to West Virginia.

Now is the time to prepare for the start of this year’s hurricane season

A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone or severe tropical storm that forms in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

A typical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms, and in the Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth’s surface.

All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes. Parts of the Southwest United States and the Pacific Coast also experience heavy rains and floods each year from hurricanes spawned off Mexico.

The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30.

Hurricane can produce winds exceeding 155 miles per hour as well as spawn tornadoes and mircrobursts.

Flooding over access road 523 to Surfside beach, caused by Hurricane Ike forming in the Gulf of Mexico, is seen near Surfside Beach, Texas, September 12, 2008. (Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria)
Flooding over access road 523 to Surfside beach, caused by Hurricane Ike forming in the Gulf of Mexico, is seen near Surfside Beach, Texas, September 12, 2008. (Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Additionally, hurricanes can create storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall. Floods and flying debris from the excessive winds are often the deadly and destructive results of these weather events.

Slow moving hurricanes traveling into mountainous regions tend to produce especially heavy rain. Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud slides. Flash flooding can occur due to intense rainfall.

Hurricane Preparation for RVers

If you RV on the East Coast, through the southern Gulf States to Texas, you’re already aware that Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico hurricanes and tropical storms are a fact of life from June 1 through November 30 and the height of the hurricane season occurs from late August through early October.

Although less common, they also occur on the Pacific Coast in southern California and Baja California, Mexico.

Any day now, you’ll turn on the TV and see a meteorologist pointing to a radar blob in the Gulf of Mexico make two basic meteorological points:

  • There is no need to panic
  • We could all be killed

You may wish to follow this simple three-step hurricane preparedness plan:

  • Step 1: Buy enough food and bottled water to last your family for at least seven days
  • Step 2: Load these supplies into your recreational vehicle
  • Step 3: Drive to Wyoming and stay there until after Thanksgiving
The pre-Hurricane Charley aerial photo on the left was taken several days following the passage of 2001’s Tropical Storm Gabrielle. Note the two relatively small breaches in the central part of the island. On August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley carved the 450-m-wide breach that is shown in the right photo and in more detail in the first photo pair above. (Credit: coastal.er.usgs.gov)
The pre-Hurricane Charley aerial photo on the left was taken several days following the passage of 2001’s Tropical Storm Gabrielle. Note the two relatively small breaches in the central part of the island. On August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley carved the 450-m-wide breach that is shown in the right photo and in more detail in the first photo pair above. (Credit: coastal.er.usgs.gov)

While you may deem this plan to be somewhat overkill, it begs the question: What should RVers do?

Above all else, use common sense and remain calm.

Planning and preparation is the key—and that’s where you should start NOW.

As an RVer you are already several steps ahead in preparation for a hurricane.

Before a Hurricane

To prepare for a hurricane, you should take the following measures:

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Know your surroundings.
  • Learn community hurricane evacuation routes.

Note: This is Part 1 of a 4-part series on Hurricanes and the RVer

Part 2: Are You Prepared for This Year’s Hurricane Season?

Part 3: Hurricane Season: A Primer

Part 4: The One-Eyed Monster: Storm Surge & Saffir-Simpson Scale

Worth Pondering…

The first rule of hurricane coverage is that every broadcast must begin with palm trees bending in the wind.
—Carl Hiaasen

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Thanksgiving Travel Weather

A Pacific storm train may bring the biggest travel problems for Thanksgiving to the Northwest, while another nor’easter will put travel in jeopardy for the holiday.

A nor’easter may form over the western Atlantic by Sunday, sending rain and wind into parts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast through at least the middle of the week, AccuWeather.com reports.

There is potential that the nor’easter could strengthen and move farther inland into New England at midweek. In this scenario, there is some potential for a wintry mix or snow over the mountains of northern New England.

“How close to the coast the storm tracks will determine how unsettled the weather gets in the I-95 corridor to the Appalachians,” AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

Between the East and West coasts, fewer widespread weather-related travel delays are forecast.

AccuWeather’s region-by-region breakdown of how weather might impact Thanksgiving travel follows.

Northeast
There is the potential for a nor’easter to form off the Atlantic coast by early next week. It is still unclear whether the storm will shift out to sea or move northward up the Eastern Seaboard.

If the storm shifts out to sea, then there may be no impact to Thanksgiving travel. Partly to mostly sunny skies and seasonable temperatures would be expected in this scenario. At this time, AccuWeather meteorologists are leaning toward this forecast.

However, rain, low clouds and gusty winds could cause slow travel both on the ground and in the air from Washington, D.C., to Boston if the storm moves up the coast.

Southeast

2012 Thanksgiving weather forecast. (Source: accuweather.com)
2012 Thanksgiving weather forecast. (Source: accuweather.com)

With another potential nor’easter brewing off the coast by early next week, an onshore flow could deliver low clouds to eastern portions of the Carolinas to Florida on Monday and Tuesday.

The east coast of Florida may even be dealing with some showers, including Miami.

Meanwhile, the interior Southeast should remain dry through the beginning of the week.

Another storm will move from west to east across the South through midweek, spreading showers and thunderstorms across the region. The showers may target the lower Mississippi Valley on Tuesday before shifting east across the Tennessee Valley and portions of the Deep South on the biggest travel day of the year, Wednesday.

Locally torrential downpours may slow motorists traveling across portions of the I-10, I-20 and I-40 corridors on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Midwest
For the most part, there are not too many weather-related travel problems anticipated across the Midwest Thanksgiving week. Generally dry and seasonable weather is in store for the Dakotas through the Great Lakes.

However, a few showers may pass quickly through, from the Dakotas and Minnesota on Monday to the Great Lakes on Tuesday.

Rockies/Plains
Much of the Rockies and the Plains will be dominated by dry weather under the influence of high pressure. Very few weather-related travel issues are predicted.

The one exception may be a moist flow from the Gulf that could trigger a few showers across Texas and the southern Plains.

West
The Northwest is likely to turn out to be the stormiest part of the nation for Thanksgiving travel. Significant travel problems could result low-elevation rain, mountain snow, and wind.

Seattle to Portland are forecast to be soaked by heavy rain through the first half of next week. High winds will drive the rain sideways at times, possibly making it hard for motorists to see while driving along the I-5 corridor.

Snow levels will drop as low as major mountain passes, such as Snoqualmie along I-90 in Washington, by Tuesday and Wednesday. Motorists traveling for Thanksgiving can run into slippery and hazardous travel.

At times, the rain will reach southward into northern California. Wet weather is most likely to disrupt travel in San Francisco on Monday and Tuesday. By Wednesday, there is potential that drying will occur in San Francisco.

Farther south, dry and mild weather is in store for Southern California and the interior Southwest.

Details

AccuWeather

AccuWeather, established in 1962, is the World’s Weather Authority.

AccuWeather provides local forecasts for everywhere in the United States and over two million locations worldwide.

Headquarters for AccuWeather is State College, Pennsylvania, home to the greatest number of forecast meteorologists in one location anywhere in the world.

Website: accuweather.com

Worth Pondering…

Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.
—Mark Twain

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Why Snowbirds Should Go West This Winter

Earlier this year, weather forecasts suggested an early formation of El Niño would result in a slightly warmer and wetter weather for the United States.

U.S. winter outlook (Source: NOAA)

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center there’s a catch this year; the fickle El Niño has not formed as expected.

El Nino is the Pacific weather system that indicates warmer ocean water in the equatorial Pacific, and that influences the jet stream and gives forecasters confidence in their work.

This prognostication provides snowbirds looking for the warmest and driest roost some direction.

Go West, Snowbirds, Go West

The western half of the Lower 48 is forecast to have a warmer-than-average winter.

Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center, said in a statement that El Nino development “abruptly halted” last month.

“This is one of the most challenging outlooks we’ve produced in recent years because El Nino decided not to show up as expected.”

According to Halpert, it stalled out last month, leaving neutral conditions in place in the

U.S. winter outlook (Source: NOAA)

tropical Pacific.

NOAA still sees signs a weak El Nino will develop and its outlook, released last week is based on that tentative assumption.

The winter outlook suggests warmer-than-average temperatures in much of Texas; the Central and Northern Plains; the Southwest; the Northern Rockies; eastern Washington, Oregon, and California; and the northern two-thirds of Alaska, the center said.

Hawaii, however, is expected to have cooler temperatures.

The outlook also suggests drier-than-average conditions in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, northern California, Idaho, western Montana, most of Nevada and portions of Wyoming and Utah, the center said.

It will also be drier in the upper Midwest (including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and northern Missouri); eastern parts of North and South Dakota; Nebraska; Kansas; and western Illinois, the center said.

This winter should be wetter than average across the Gulf Coast region from the northern half of Florida to eastern Texas, the center said.

It’s a crap shoot for the rest of the country. They are given an “equal chance” for one of three winters: above, near, or below normal, the center said. The center’s outlook doesn’t predict snowstorms, however.

Halpert stated that if El Nino suddenly strengthened, below average temperatures and above average precipitation might cover a larger region of the South, whereas dry conditions might expand beyond the north central U.S. towards the Ohio Valley.

Halpert stressed the difficulty in developing this year’s outlook, both due to the elusive El Nino, and broader challenges in seasonal forecasting.

“The science behind seasonal prediction is in its infancy,” Halpert said, noting such outlooks are about 20-30 percent better than a random guess, and even less than that when the El Nino signal (or conversely, its opposite phase, La Nina) is weak.

This is the first time in 60 years of records El Nino has displayed this kind of erratic behavior, according to Halpert, so the past provides few clues about what the future may bring.

Halpert acknowledged El Nino is not the only player in developing seasonal outlooks.

The Arctic Oscillation, one of the other key predictors of winter conditions, can not be forecast more than two weeks or so in advance.

During 2009-10 the Arctic Oscillation was sharply negative, resulting in cold, stormy conditions over the Eastern U.S.

Last winter, it was largely positive, resulting in the opposite conditions. It remains a big wildcard heading into this winter.

Worth Pondering…

Whether the weather be fine,
Whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather,
Whatever the whether,
Whether we like it or not
—Anon

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