Nicole’s remnants to bring heavy rain, tornado threat to eastern U.S.


Nicole hit eastern Florida early Thursday as the nation’s first November hurricane in 37 years, and while it’s far from warm ocean waters, it’s not done yet. The remnants of the tropical storm will deliver heavy rains from the southeastern United States to Canada, all the while contributing to an unusual late-season hurricane threat in the Mid-Atlantic regions.

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All tropical storm, typhoon and hurricane warnings have been cancelled, the system is breaking down into a tropical depression – the remnant of a low pressure system. The concern then becomes the threat of hurricanes in the mid-Atlantic. A tornado watch was issued for much of the Carolina Coastal Plain and Piedmont, as well as southeastern Virginia, until 3 p.m. Eastern time. Some watches will probably be lifted later in the evening.

Nicole officially made landfall near Vero Beach, Fla., around 3 a.m. Thursday as a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph. When the storm hit the coast, it produced winds of 84 and 80 mph near Daytona Beach and Melbourne. The top weather station at Cape Canaveral, 120 feet off the ground, picked up wind gusts of up to 100 mph.

As of Thursday morning, about 350,000 customers in the Sunshine State were without power, but reports that service has been restored to all 40,000 customers as of Friday morning.

The storm surge, or sea level rise above the normally dry land, of 3 to 4 feet brought minor to moderate flooding along Florida’s Atlantic coast, but erosion from in the big waves that hit it was a big problem. At least a dozen buildings in Daytona Beach were which is made not to exist as the raging seas roll down the rocks on which they sit.

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The storm dropped about 3 to 6 inches of rain in eastern and northern Florida.

As of 10 a.m. Eastern time Friday morning, Nicole was a tropical depression with sustained winds of 30 mph. Centered 35 miles north of Atlanta, it was moving north-northeast at 23 mph.

Nicole’s blood pressure was rising as the low pressure unit “filled” with air. It’s like how the eddy swirling in your morning cup of coffee eventually slows down and the dip in the liquid goes cold.

As a result, there is not much of a gradient, or change in air pressure over distance, to support strong winds. That is why all the spirits associated with Nicole are under the power of the tropical storm. It’s like sledding; you will go faster if the slope is steep, or the slope is big, and the hill is steep. As Nicole is getting angry, her breaths are slowing down.

That said, it’s still a moisture wave moving northeast, with unusually warm, moist air moving north ahead of it. Lows in the mid to upper 60s will rise as far north as the Mason-Dixon Line, setting the stage for dangerous thunderstorms Friday afternoon.

Dry air is moving into Nicole’s circulation from the west, which is one direction from which the cold front was approaching. That flow of dry air is a blessing and a curse: On the one hand, it cuts off Nicole’s blood flow from the inside to the outside and accelerates the destruction of its foundation. In turn, that dry air helps kick warm, moist air ahead of Nicole, creating strong to severe storms.

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Those thunderstorms will create a very “closed” atmosphere. In other words, Nicole induces a change in wind speed and/or direction height. That will encourage heavy showers and thunderstorms to circulate and possibly produce a few storms.

The Storm Prediction Center has issued a Level 2 to 5 threat for severe weather to account for this possibility. Charlotte, Raleigh, Richmond, Virginia Beach and Wilmington, NC, are included. A 1 out of 5 hazard rating covers Charleston and Columbia, SC

DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia present more uncertainty. They’re at Level 1 risk, too. That’s because they’re facing a classic HSLC, or High Shear Low Cape, setup — one that’s incredibly tricky for meteorologists to predict. On the other hand, wind power strongly supports rotating thunderstorms and the threat of hurricanes. On the other hand, instability, or fuel for thunderstorms, will be mild. Exactly how these ingredients come together, and in what ratio, remains to be seen.

Nicole will run in front of the DC district Friday, with showers and possible thunderstorms

Going forward, storms will continue throughout Friday afternoon and evening. There is a chance that additional hurricane watches will be needed to provide this opportunity, especially in Virginia, in the evening. Specific warnings will be issued in a local area if meteorologists suspect a tornado is imminent or occurring.

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That storm damage occurs in the “warm part” of the storm. In the west, the temperature will not be warm, but the approaching cold will help concentrate Nicole’s moisture and take it out of the air – like wringing a washcloth.

It looks like most of the heaviest rain will be west of the Acela Corridor and Interstate 95, leaving places like DC, Philadelphia, New York and Boston on a tightrope. Heaviest rain will fall in the west, with 2 to 3 inches across the Appalachians. To the east, only a quarter to a half inch will fall near the coast.

The heaviest rains will be accompanied by “high flow” in western North Carolina, or where air is forced up into the mountains. That will drop to 6 inches on the eastern slopes of the southern Blue Ridge.

The National Hurricane Center wrote: “Isolated, urban and minor flooding will be possible today across the southern and central Appalachians, especially in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Heavy rain and isolated flooding they will spread north across eastern Ohio, west central Pennsylvania, into western New York and northern New England tonight and into Saturday.”


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