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WeatherTiger Weekly Tropical Update for July 17, 2019, issued 2:00PM
With the first U.S. hurricane landfall of the 2019 season bringing relatively minor impacts, today I pose a question as a full-time meteorologist and part-time dad humor columnist: how lucky did Louisiana get?
Answer: Barry lucky.
Hurricane Barry was an idiosyncratic storm in ways that fortunately blunted its eventual severity. First, Barry brought tropical cyclone manufacturing back to America, with its original rotation first tracked as a large cluster of thunderstorms called a mesoscale convective complex (MCC) near Kansas City on July 4th.
Over the next 5 days, this MCC’s rotation waxed and waned as it slid southeast, eventually reaching the northeastern Gulf of Mexico last Tuesday, where the warm waters of America’s Bathtub abetted its transition to a tropical cyclone. Speaking for all of us along the Gulf Coast, we are not down with MCC.
Tropical cyclone formation from MCCs isn’t common, but it’s not unprecedented. Hurricane Danny, which struck Louisiana in July 1997, had similar continental origins.
While Barry eventually made landfall on the central Louisiana coast Saturday morning as a minimal category 1 hurricane, it did so as one of the most bedraggled excuses for a hurricane I’ve ever seen. All of Barry’s deeper convection was displaced south and east of the center of circulation, which at landfall was an almost rain-free swirl of low clouds.
There were two reasons why Barry thankfully never developed a well-defined inner core. First, wind shear out of the northwest remained stronger than expected prior to landfall, preventing rapid strengthening by stopping the low- and mid-level centers from stacking on top of each other.
Second, Barry had multiple smaller vortices pivoting about a broad circulation. That’s not unusual for a depression or entry-level tropical storm, but typically one of these wins out and becomes the sole circulation as intensification proceeds. Not Barry though, which remained disorganized through landfall due to infighting between various swirls.
The lack of an inner core took significant inland wind impacts off the table, but also meant that rainfall totals were lighter than generally predicted. However, Barry was responsible for a couple streaks of 15-20” accumulations, one of which broke the record for heaviest tropical cyclone rainfall ever in Arkansas.
So, technically, Barry joins 12 prior Gulf hurricane landfalls in July since 1900. It’s worth reiterating that since 1950, there is no correlation between either Atlantic hurricane activity or U.S. landfalls occurring before August 1st and how busy the rest of the year is.
I don’t mean a weak relationship. The correlation coefficients are, quite literally, zero.
That’s not to say that this year will be quiet, and the Atlantic and Pacific continue to evolve in worrisome ways. In the short-term, however, there are no immediate follow-ups to Barry in the works.
A dry and dusty airmass is in place across the tropical Atlantic, as typical for this time of year, so none of the tropical waves crossing the ocean are producing significant showers or storms. Conditions may start to become a little less hostile in the central and eastern Atlantic towards the end of next week, a step towards potential Cape Verde activity sometime in the first half of August.
Closer to home, expect another front to slide south across the eastern U.S. in 5-7 days, before stalling near or over the Southeast. Per July climatology, it’s worth keeping an eye on, as given enough time a tropical system can develop along the stationary boundary over the Gulf or western Atlantic. That said, there’s no specific threat in any of the models, which generally did a good job signaling that Barry would develop well ahead of time.
Overall, a Gulf Coast hurricane landfall never sparks joy, but as Gulf hurricanes go, this one was Barry good, or at least reasonably tolerable. Until next time, Keep watching the skies.
Dr. Ryan Truchelut is co-founder and chief meteorologist at WeatherTiger, a Tallahassee-based start-up providing advanced weather and climate analytics, consulting, and forecasting solutions to enterprises large and small. Get in touch at email@example.com or follow along on Twitter (@wx_tiger) or Facebook.