Tropical Cyclone Activity Increases in the Atlantic While Recovery Efforts From Extreme Weather Continue Across the US
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 23, 2023, AS OF 12:00 PM EST
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Hurricane Center (NHC) is currently tracking four systems in the Atlantic, including one tropical storm, one tropical depression, and two disturbances. As of 11:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) on August 23, Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect for several parts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti as Tropical Storm Franklin makes its way across the island of Hispaniola with maximum sustained winds of up to 40 miles per hour (mph). Franklin is forecasted to produce torrential rainfall totals of up to five to 10 inches, while central parts of Hispaniola are expected to receive up to 15 inches of rainfall. The NHC warns that the heavy rainfall will likely cause potentially life-threatening flash and urban flooding and mudslides. Franklin is expected to travel north later today, August 23, bringing tropical storm conditions to Turks and Caicos.
On August 22, Tropical Depression Harold made landfall on Padre Island, Texas, as a tropical storm before weakening to a tropical depression as it made its way across the southern portion of the state. Harold brought heavy rainfall amidst months of hot, dry conditions in Texas, with some areas receiving up to six inches of rainfall. Harold has continued to weaken as it travels into Northern Mexico and is forecasted to dissipate later today, August 23. Additionally, there are two disturbances in the central Atlantic with a respective 50 percent and 10 percent chance of formation into a tropical system within the next 48 hours.
2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook Update: NOAA
While initial season outlooks depicted a near-normal level of activity in the Atlantic basin this year, federal forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) increased their predictions on August 10 to report a 60 percent likelihood of an above-normal forecast. The updated outlook anticipates 14 to 21 named storms for the season, with winds reaching 39 mph or higher. Six to 11 of these storms could likely become hurricanes, with two to five predicted to become major hurricanes as either Category (Cat) 3, Cat 4, or Cat 5. This hurricane season, beginning on June 1 and extending through November 30, has already delivered five tropical storms and one hurricane. As we quickly approach the peak of hurricane season, the NHC bases its increased activity predictions upon the ongoing El Niño and record-warm Atlantic sea-surface temperatures.
Additionally, Post-Tropical Cyclone Hilary, which produced heavy rain and flash flooding across the West Coast and southwestern United States (US) from Sunday, August 20 to Monday, August 21, broke rainfall records in the States of Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon; Nevada’s rainfall of 9.20 inches more than doubled the state’s previous high. Hilary was also the first Eastern Pacific tropical storm system to impact the State of California since Nora in 1997 and the first tropical storm to move over the Los Angeles (LA) Basin since 1939. Daily rainfall records across Southern California were shattered on August 20, including 2.99 inches in downtown LA, 3.28 inches in Burbank, and 3.93 inches in Palmdale.
Rainfall for August this year breaks all time August total rainfall records at many sites! ☔️ pic.twitter.com/qV2bhaby0d
— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) August 22, 2023
Twitter: NWS LA
Significant rainfall records also included 2.2 inches in Death Valley, California, on August 20–known as the driest and hottest area in the US–which set a 112-year-old daily rainfall record and matched the area’s average yearly precipitation totals in just one day. The conditions in Death Valley prompted the closure of Death Valley National Park and forced an estimated 400 residents, travelers, and employees to shelter in place. As of Wednesday, August 23, evacuation warnings remain in effect for the counties of San Bernadino, Inyo, and Kern, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and their federal partners are continuing to support the state and local response and recovery efforts in California and Nevada.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), 92 active large wildfires have burned more than 629,000 acres in 16 states as of August 22. Due to the significant fire activity impacting large geographic areas across the US, the NIFC has elevated its Preparedness Level to a 4 (PL4) out of 5 (PL5), indicating that roughly 60 percent of the country’s Incident Management Teams (IMTs) and wildland firefighting responders are currently committed to active fire events.
As of August 23, Washington is experiencing the bulk of active wildfires, with eight currently burning across the State. The State’s two largest fires–the Gray Fire and the Oregon Fire–have collectively burned over 20,000 acres and resulted in at least two fatalities in Spokane County. According to InciWeb, response crews currently hold 48 percent of the Gray Fire within control lines and are still working to suppress the Oregon Fire, which sits at zero percent containment as of August 23. On August 20, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authorized Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) funding to support the State’s response efforts, deeming that “both fires threatened to cause such destruction as would constitute a major disaster.
MFD crews continue the search in Lahaina along with partners from FEMA, US Border Patrol, ATF, and MPD to attempt to find the remains of those who have been reported missing in Lahaina.#community #prayforlahaina #maui #ohana pic.twitter.com/6f8Fg2HGF4
— Maui_County_Fire_Department (@Maui_Fire_Dept) August 21, 2023
Twitter: Maui County Fire Department (MFD)
Additionally, recovery efforts continue on the Island of Maui, Hawai’i, where more than 1,000 people remain unaccounted for as of August 22 following the catastrophic Maui Wildfire. According to Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen, the Maui police and fire departments are working diligently alongside the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other response teams to locate the missing individuals. As of August 22, officials have confirmed at least 115 casualties as a result of the fires.
On August 21, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell accompanied President Biden onsite to survey the damage and meet with the community’s emergency responders and survivors. More than 1,000 FEMA personnel have been positioned onsite to support Maui’s recovery efforts as of August 22. Additionally, the Biden-Harris Administration has approved over $10 million in federal relief funding for residents impacted by the fires and authorized the immediate availability of $3 million in Emergency Relief (ER) funds to support the Hawai’i Department of Transportation’s (HDOT) infrastructure repair efforts.
Flash Flood Safety Tips: NOAA
Tropical storms bring potentially life-threatening conditions to many coastal and urban communities. FEMA encourages individuals to heed the warnings of local authorities and take the necessary precautions to prepare for flash flooding and storm surge. Flash floods can develop with little to no warning, quickly changing the surrounding area. FEMA suggests individuals seek higher ground, avoid walking or driving in flood waters, and heed the warnings of local authorities. FEMA also provides safety guidance for preparing for, experiencing, and recovering from a hurricane. Additionally, FEMA urges individuals to be prepared and take necessary safety measures before and during a wildfire. In the event of a wildfire, it is important to follow evacuation orders immediately and adhere to the additional safety guidance provided by FEMA.
Over the coming days and weeks, Hagerty’s Blog Team will continue to provide guidance on making effective preparations for long-term recovery, as well as continuing our situational updates.
STAY UPDATED AND LEARN MORE HERE:
- Remember, Ready.gov provides information on how to prepare for a storm and how to keep you and your family safe.
- Understanding the meaning of hurricane maps – a NY Times Opinion Piece: Those Hurricane Maps Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean