It comes....

Thursday night when I was running lab for four students, I noticed frost on the roof at the end. That was our first frost, I believe. Tonight, when I just had the dog out, it was raining, but there was ice on the porch. I do believe we've had our first freezing rain now, too.

  

Hurricane Wilma

Dang, man...

This one snuck up on me, and has caught everyone a little by surprise, I think, especially this late in the season. A solid Category 5 storm with 175 mph sustained winds and the lowest ever central pressure at 882 mbar (6 mbar less than Hurricane Gilbert!), this one is a serious big-time threat to the whole Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico region.

It's tracking steadily WNW after stalling and strengthening immediately upon organization in the northern Caribbean, but the weather experts are predicting a northerly turn tonight and a subsequent turn due east after it passes into the Gulf.

I believe the northerly turn will happen, and definitely overnight, rather than during the day, but I don't know if it's going to track as strongly eastward as they expect. Once it gets in the Gulf, too many of the controlling variables change, and a large aberration from the prediction could easily result. If I were a resident of the U.S. Gulf coast region right now, I'd be boarding up and getting ready to leave or batten down the hatches today. Better to be a little overprepared and a few steps ahead of everyone than to be caught up in the mad rush that will inevitably occur when this one surprises the experts yet again. I'll be putting in a phone call tonight to find out for certain, but I can guarantee y'all that my family in coastal Alabama has been through enough of these things that they are already getting ready for this one.

I could be completely wrong on this one (as it's happened before), but I wouldn't be assuming that the Florida Keys will be the only U.S. region impacted by Wilma. Y'all keep an eye on the Weather channel over the next 2-3 days, and let's all hope my intuitions are wrong.

Also, this another one of those that would fit nicely in the "weather" category, if'n we had one...

  

Hurricane Rita

Well, in keeping with tradition, I'll make my customary hurricane report post as Rita bears down on southeast Texas/southwest Louisiana.

From the looks of things, Rita will play out a little less devastingly than Katrina, especially since it's turned away from the Galveston/Houston area and is beginning to show signs of weakning. The central pressure, at 931 mbar as of the 1 PM CDT update, is still on the low end, though, so it could still spin up a significant increase in wind speed before the eye comes ashore in the next 24 hours or so.

I suspect, however, that the places hardest hit this time around will be the Beaumont/Port Arthur area of Texas and the Lake Charles area in Louisiana. Flooding in those regions can be intense, since there's lots of lowlands, but nothing like what happens in below-sea-level areas like New Orleans. If the storm slows down significantly, the accumualted rainfall could rapidly escalate towards widespread flooding, but I would hazard a guess that the worst damage will come as a result of wind and any tornadoes that are spawned.

Unfortunately, the high-water activity caused by Hurricane Rita in the Gulf has already caused a levee break and renewed flooding in New Orleans. That situation may yet again worsen, should the storm take a track after landfall that shuffles along the coast or just inland from the coast, as the rain and wind will further strain the weakened infrastucture of New Orleans.

I've heard from many of my Houston friends, and few of them have opted to evacuate, given the horrific traffic jams. Even those who a got a good jump on the crowds were eventually bogged down on the way towards Austin and opted to turn around and ride out the storm in Houston, especially after hearing that the storm took a turn back to the east. I'll be trying my luck to reach some folks in Houston this weekend after the dust has settled, and I'll be sure to pass along any newsworthy updates.

It'll be interesting to see how the government and media respond to the aftermath of this storm, and I'll be aiming to compare the experiences of the storm relayed to me by my friends in Houston to the story as the media spins it.

  

Hurricane Katrina

Wow... This one's pretty bad-ass, even by my standards.

I sure hope that anybody's friends or family ain't caught in this one, as the New Orleans and coastal Mississippi areas are really catching hell this time around.

[EDITED: too long for the front page, Tim!]

See more in the comments...

  

Hurricane Dennis

Well, I just finished talking with my folks, and they weathered the much-trumpeted Hurricane Dennis with little to worry about. They never even lost power, and the maximum winds at their house barely approached hurricane (>75 mph) strength. In fact, they watched much of the storm while sipping iced tea from their screened-in back porch. This would be about the umpteenth "mandatory" evactuation order that they've ignored over the years, making them dyed-in-the-wool die-hards, I'd reckon.

Turns out that Dennis one was a lot like Hurricane Ivan from last year, in that there was little to the backside of the storm as it came ashore. Once the eye was over land, the worst of everything was already in off the water. Unfortunately, Dennis is moving fast enough that some of the regions NE of where my family lives are catching some serious hell from the very compact, very strong eyewall region, whose squalls remain highly organized.

Dennis should lose considerable steam overnight, but the inland regions of Alabama will suffer as much storm damage (minus the storm surge, of course) as the Pensacola, FL, region where the storm went ashore.

We can probably look forward to some heavy rain later this week as the remnants of Dennis make their way through the eastern U.S.