I am sure everyone has been wondering where I have been (or not) since there is a tropical storm spinning off the coast this week. I have been waiting for the picture on this storm to clarify before posting to be sure I can convey the most accurate information possible. Up until yesterday evening there was still some computer model disagreement on what Cindy would do. As of this morning, about 24 hours from landfall the forecast appears to be pretty solid. So here is what is going on:
Cindy is a pitiful excuse for a tropical storm this morning. As has been the case through most of its life, the storm has just not been able to organize around its center of circulation. In order to grow and strengthen tropical systems need to be able to vertically stack. This means they need to be able to have clouds and storms grow high in the atmosphere relatively uninhibited around the center. For days winds in the higher levels of the atmosphere have been screaming out of the southwest blowing all of Cindy’s clouds and storms off to the north and east (this is what is referred to as wind shear – winds are shearing off the clouds). This has prevented the storm from wrapping moisture all the way around its center and is why it has a comma or lopsided shape. (You can see in the image at the top of this post it’s center is mostly a naked swirl) Another problem, exacerbated by this wind shear, is dry air. There is an area of dry air near southern Texas which is being ingested into Cindy’s circulation. As you can probably guess dry air is poison to tropical systems. Because the wind shear is preventing Cindy from wrapping up dry air has a pathway into the storm’s center and is causing further degradation.
So what does all of this mean for us?
It now appears the computer models are in good agreement that Cindy’s center will come ashore very near the Texas/Louisiana border late tonight. However almost all of the significant weather will be off to the north and east of this. This means that unless the storm can somehow gain some organization today or moves more to the west the Houston metro area will see very little impact. The most noticeable effect will probably be the clouds and northeasterly breeze holding temperatures and humidity down a tiny bit, keeping us from baking in our own juices for a day or so. As the storm gets closer to the coast winds may pick up a bit with some 30-40 mph gusts but not enough to really cause any problems. More of a novelty than anything.
As far as rain goes it does not look like the city will get anything of much significance. There may be a few passing showers or storms but the threat of flooding has greatly diminished. We probably have a better chance of rain later in the week from a dying cool front than we do from this storm. Areas east of town, out towards Beaumont could see some heavy rain amounting to a few inches and maybe some minor flooding, but again nothing devastating.
This is the situation right now. If the storm strengthens or takes an unexpected wobble or turn I will post again regarding that, but as of now I expect this to be a non-event for the Houston metro area. Again we might get a stiff breeze or two and a little rain but that’s about it.
(On a slightly different note, nearby tropical systems can produce some spectacular sunsets. Yesterday evening the sky was amazing as the outer fringes of Cindy’s clouds moved over the area as the sun was setting. Here are a few pictures I got:
If the clouds stay somewhat broken today and into this evening I would encourage you to go out and take a look at the sky)