Barry weakens, douses Florida with needed rains
Tropical Storm Barry is steadily weakening as it races towards the Florida coast. Winds have decreased to 40 mph, as observed by the 9:30am EDT Hurricane Hunter report, which found winds at 1,500 altitude of 47 mph. The pressure has risen 2 mb in the past two hours, and now stands at 1002 mb. Barry is embedded in a zone of strong wind shear--about 30 knots. This shear ripped away most of Barry's deep thunderstorm activity last night, and pushed these storms over the Florida Peninsula. Satellite loops shows that some heavy thunderstorm activity has returned near the center of circulation, so the shear has not been able to totally destroy the storm yet. As Barry continues today over cooler waters, it should continue to weaken, and residents of Florida should expect only minor wind damage. I doubt any station will experience sustained winds of tropical storm strength (39 mph), although gusts of 50-55 mph are likely. The main threat from Barry will be isolated tornadoes that could spin up in some of the heavier thunderstorms over land. The storm surge may cause minor flooding in the Tampa Bay area. Currently, tides are running a foot or two above normal there, and will increase with a persistent onshore wind to 3 to 5 feet above normal this afternoon from the Tampa Bay area northward to Citrus County and 1 to 3 feet south of Tampa Bay and Levy County.
Barry will do far more good than harm--the storm has already dumped 1-5 inches of rain over most of Florida, with more rain to come. Heavy rain from Barry will affect the Carolinas on Sunday, and could cause some local flooding problems there. However, Barry will lose its tropical storm status after crossing Florida, and is not a threat to reintensify after crossing into the Atlantic Ocean.
Figure 1. Total rainfall from the Tampa Bay radar.
A sign of things to come?
The hurricane season of 2007 is in third place for the earliest year that the second named storm occurred. The record is held by 1887, when the second named storm formed on May 17. Second place is held by 1908, when the second storm of the year formed on May 26.
There is no relationship between high activity early in hurricane season and high activity during the main August-October peak of the season. For example, the 1908 hurricane season turned out to be an ordinary season with 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and one intense hurricane.
My outlook for the first two weeks of June was posted yesterday.
National Public Radio's The Story program aired a 30-minute interview with me yesterday about my flight into Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The MP3 of the interview is at http://thestory.org/archive/the_story_263_Hunting _Hurricanes.mp3.