Weather Nerd

Cristobal strengthens; was Joe Bastardi right?

I wrote earlier that AccuWeather’s Joe Bastardi was “a lone voice in the wilderness” yesterday and this morning, as he called for Tropical Storm Cristobal to get significantly stronger while the National Hurricane Center and other forecasters predicted that it would remain a weak tropical storm with winds no stronger than 50 mph or so. As of 5:00 PM EDT, however, the NHC has changed its tune a bit.

The storm’s present wind speed has been upgraded to 45 mph, and the official forecast now calls for Cristobal to reach 65 mph, just 9 mph short of hurricane strength, by early Monday morning (at which point, according to the forecast track, it’ll be due east of Cape Hatteras and moving away from land).

It remains to be seen whether Bastardi’s lonely prediction of possible rapid intensification, perhaps to minimal hurricane status before Cristobal’s closest approach to the coast, will be vindicated. But thus far, he seems to be faring better than the NHC, which was predicting just 12 hours ago that Cristobal would never get past minimal tropical-storm strength (40 mph).

In any event, here’s what the National Weather Service office in Morehead City, NC had to say in its latest Hurricane Local Statement:

…STORM SURGE AND STORM TIDE…

MINIMAL SURGE IS EXPECTED AT THIS TIME…WITH WATER LEVEL RISES UP TO 2 FEET ABOVE ASTRONOMICAL TIDES…ESPECIALLY FOR NEW HANOVER AND PENDER COUNTIES AROUND HIGH TIDE AT 930 PM EDT THIS EVENING. BEACH EROSION IS ALSO POSSIBLE…COINCIDING WITH HIGH TIDE TONIGHT…MAINLY ALONG PENDER AND NEW HANOVER COUNTY BEACHES.

…WINDS…

SUSTAINED TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS MAY IMPACT THE IMMEDIATE COAST OF THE NORTHEASTERN SOUTH CAROLINA COAST THIS EVENING AND THE COAST OF SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA COAST THIS EVENING AND OVERNIGHT.

…PROBABILITY OF HURRICANE/TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS…

THERE IS A 31 PERCENT PROBABILITY OF TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS IN WILMINGTON…AND A 13 PERCENT CHANCE OF TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS IN MYRTLE BEACH.

…INLAND FLOODING…

UP TO 3 TO 5 INCHES OF RAINFALLS IS POSSIBLE ACROSS THE COASTAL SECTIONS NORTH OF CAPE FEAR WITH ISOLATED HIGHER AMOUNTS. 2 TO 4 INCH AMOUNTS ARE POSSIBLE EAST OF A ELIZABETHTOWN…NORTH CAROLINA TO SOUTHPORT…NORTH CAROLINA LINE. THE LARGE AMOUNTS OF RAINFALL MAY RESULT IN THE FLOODING OF URBAN AND OTHER FLOOD PRONE AREAS.

Strengthening on the order of what Bastardi has been predicting would make those conditions a bit worse, but not overwhelmingly so. Either way, the storm’s impact is unlikely to be terribly severe, so that’s good news. An article in the Wilmington Star-News confirms that assessment:

Cristobal’s winds were not expected to be a problem, [National Weather Service meteorologist Stephen] Keebler said.

“It’s some rain and a little bit of [drought] relief for the coastal areas and a lot of excitement, but that’s about it,” he said.

“We are not recommending any protective actions at this time, based on the current forecast the storm should be past Brunswick County around dusk this evening,” Brunswick County Fire Marshal Scott Garner said in a statement issued Saturday afternoon. “We do want to remind everyone that you should never drive through flooded areas due to the threat of cars being swept away or the roadway being compromised under the water.”

As Keebler mentioned, the rain may help a bit with the ongoing drought in the area, depending on how far inland the squally weather gets. Unfortunately, thus far, “the rain bands [are] weakening as they [spin] farther inland, providing little relief for parched areas near Interstate 95,” according to the Star-News.

You can view the current Morehead City radar loop here.