Mike's Blog Archive: September 2008

September 28, 2008 The Colorado Environmental Film Festival is coming up October 2nd through the 5th at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden. It's a four-day opportunity for you to view feature-length and short films for all ages. Also offered will be a forum on environmental film making, and information about all aspects of our natural world from experts and educators. Throughout the event, informative and entertaining films will explore interconnected ecological, social, and economic themes, and engaging audience discussion with film-makers, producers and experts on the topics of each film will enrich your experience. The goal of the festival is to leave movie-goers inspired, surprised, motivated, entertained, and transformed. The festival continues to grow, and coordinators are expecting over 1,000 visitors this year.

Please visit www.ceff.net for more information. We'd also like to invite you to check out our Going Green page by clicking HERE.

September 21, 2008 After one of the hottest summers in Colorado history, autumn is finally here! Traditionally, the first part of autumn in Colorado features dry and pleasant weather, with mild temperatures. Of course, we need to be ready for any kind of weather, anytime in Colorado! One of the highlights of autumn is the beautiful colors of our trees. We're hearing reports of gold and yellow from the High Country, and there are even some hints of fall foliage down in the Denver area already. September is the peak month for viewing the changing aspens up in the mountains. So, why do the leaves change color in the fall anyway? Leaves are the food-making mechanisms for trees. Leaves intercept sunlight, and through photosynthesis, they turn water and carbon dioxide into glucose, which they use for energy. (One of the great by-products of photosynthesis is oxygen.) The leaves contain chlorophyll which is the substance that permits photosynthesis. Chlorophyll is green, giving leaves their summer color. As the summer ends and fall begins, the days get shorter. The decrease in daily sunlight signals trees that it's time to get ready for winter. There isn't enough sunlight for trees to make food in wintertime, so they shut down their food-making processes. As they do, the chlorophyll disappears from their leaves, revealing a variety of colors, including yellow, gold and red that we see in our beloved Colorado aspens. So, it's more of a change in sunlight than a change in temperature that causes the leaves to turn. Be sure to click My Report and send us your best fall color photos!

Sept 14, 2008 The Colorado Avalanche Information Center may be starting the 2008-09 season with a financial deficit. That's because their major fund raiser, The Avalanche Jam, was canceled last week. The CAIC cited issues with obtaining the necessary permits for the cancellation. CAIC officials also reported donations from other sources are down as well. In light of this lack of funding, we are trying to get the word out to folks who are interested in becoming Friends of the CAIC. Last year, their Friends program brought in over $43,000 or 6% of the annual budget. There are about 1,000 Friends right now, and the CAIC could use a few more to minimize the deficit this year. The CAIC provides critical safety information for backcountry users, skiers and hikers each winter season. Without the CAIC, the Colorado High Country would be a very dangerous place. If you're interested in becoming a Friend, or making an online donation, please click HERE

By the way, the Colorado Avalanche Workshop (CSAW) is October 8 in Leadville, with some great speakers in the lineup. Click HERE for more information.

Sept 14, 2008 The long journey of Hurricane Ike continues as the soggy leftovers of the storm swirl across the Upper Midwest. Heavy rain is hitting Illinois and Indiana as the remnants of the hurricane have combined with a passing cold front to create a very soggy system over the western Great Lakes. Flash Flood Warnings are currently in effect over most of northern Illinois.

The cold front will sweep the moisture to the east tonight and Monday and still bring heavy rainfall through the Great Lakes and into New England for the next two days. For a change, the rest of the tropics are fairly quiet and we do not have another storm waiting in the wings. The Gulf Coast and the Caribbean can breathe a little easier for a few days.

Sept 12, 2008 Hurricane Ike will intensify into a major hurricane before hitting near Galveston and Houston late today. The tropical cyclone is over very warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico as it swirls to the west-northwest at 13 mph. Computer models indicate that the storm should strengthen into a category 3 storm before landfall. The storm now looks as though it will be crossing the central Texas Gulf Coast late Friday - probably just south of Houston. The storm will then swing across much of central Texas over the weekend, dumping very heavy rainfall that should cause extensive flooding.

The forecasting of Ike and where it will ultimately track has been a challenge. Earlier models had Ike moving on shore near the Mississippi/Alabama. A few days ago, forecasts had Ike moving on shore as far south as Brownsville, Texas. Now, forecasts are starting to move Ike's path back to the north. What looked like a direct hit on Corpus Christi has now turned north and is putting Galveston and Houston in the bulls-eye.

The recent rash of tropical storms and hurricanes has heightened the curiosity about these systems and has resulted in some e-mails about the naming of the storms in different parts of the world. In the Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and the eastern Pacific, the tropical storm systems with winds of 75 mph or higher are called hurricanes. The same type of storm in the western Pacific is called a typhoon. In the Indian Ocean, this type of storm is called a cyclone. They are all the same kind of storm, although south of the Equator the storms spin in the opposite direction.

TheDenverChannel.com has a very thorough hurricane section. Click for an interactive hurricane tracker

This tracker is just part of the features you will find in our hurricane section.

Sept 9, 2008 Powerful Hurricane Ike is now moving away from the Island of Cuba and heading back into more open waters. Ike has been as strong as a category 4 storm, but has weakened during the past 24 hours as it encountered the mountainous terrain of central Cuba. Despite the fact that Ike did weaken, it will still remain dangerous with hurricane force winds and will gain strength again to a category two to three storm over the next few days.

Ike will now move across the very warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and will gather strength again. The storm will slowly swirl to the west-northwest for the rest of the week. The exact location of the next landfall is not possible to predict at this point, but the most likely area will be western Louisiana or eastern Texas by Friday afternoon. The steering currents that will guide the storm along its path are not fully determined, so the track of Ike may waiver by several hundred miles over the next 72 hours. All of the Gulf Coast will be watching with anxious eyes to see how this storm moves next.

Forecast models vary with landfall from the extreme southern tip of Texas all the way to the Mississippi/Alabama border. With such a wide varing of tracks, its impossible st this point to say what areas look more at risk from Ike. Most of the models are showing a strengthening back to near a catagory 3 storm prior to landfall, so its possible that when Ike does move ashore somewhere along the Gulf Coast, it will be as a major hurricane.

Sept 5-7, 2008 The active tropical season continues for 2008 as more storms are lined up to affect the eastern seaboard and the Caribbean. Tropical Storm Hanna will impact the Carolinas, Virginia and much of the northeastern coastline over the next two days. The storm will likely remain a tropical storm or minimal hurricane as it spins north and northeast, but it will dump heavy rain and bring high surf to much of the East Coast.

Next in line is powerful Hurricane Ike. This storm has already reached as high as category four strength as it moves toward the west at about 15 mph. The storm is still several hundred miles east of the Bahamas, but it appears that Ike will be a much larger threat as it moves closer by late in the weekend. Ike may take a track that could cross into the Gulf of Mexico next week. It will likely be a much bigger worry than Hanna.

The next tropical cyclone is Josephine. Although this storm is still in the central Atlantic, she will bear watching as well. All of these storms have been forming along a sort of "hurricane highway" in the Atlantic. A series of weather disturbances drift off the African Coast and develop in the warm tropical waters of the Atlantic. The prevailing winds at low latitudes is toward the west, pushing these storms along across the ocean and toward the Caribbean and the U.S. coast.

Sept 3, 2008 The remnants of once powerful Hurricane Gustav are slowly swirling across the mid Mississippi Valley, bringing flooding rains to parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. More heavy rainfall is expected in this area today and tonight and flood warnings cover most of the region. This system will slowly weaken, but will still bring more rain for the next few days. Isolated tornadoes will also remain possible as the remnants of Gustav spin themselves out across the south.

The next storm in the series is Hanna - currently located over the central Bahamas. This storm will gradually increase in strength today and will be threatening the east coast of Florida by Thursday evening, continuing into Georgia and the Carolinas on Friday. After Hanna, Hurricane Ike and Tropical Storm Josephine are lined up in the central Atlantic and will also make their way west toward the East Coast. Hanna and Josephine are expected to become hurricanes over the next 24-36 hours as they continued their trek toward the west northwest.

Back in Colorado, our weather looks delightful over the next several days! A northwesterly flow aloft will continue to swing some dry and cool air into our state for the rest of the week. A few weak disturbances in the flow aloft may bring enough turbulence for a few afternoon thunderstorms on Thursday and again Sunday, but the basic pattern will stay quite nice!

Sept 2, 2008 Gustav has now diminished to a tropical depression and will slowly loss strength over the southern Mississippi Valley over the next 2 days. This storm is still very dangerous as it will produce extremely heavy rains today and tonight, with some areas getting over a foot of rain. The result will be heavy flooding that will still cause damage and threaten lives.

The focus will remain on the tropics for the next week to ten days as Hurricane Hanna continues to gain strength near the Bahamas. Hanna will be slowly churning toward the northwest and should place the storm near the Florida coast late this week. Farther to the east, Tropical Storm Ike is in the central Atlantic and the newest tropical troublemaker, Tropical Storm Josephine. The prevailing winds at the lower latitudes tend to blow from the east toward the west. This flow is the opposite of what we normally see in Colorado and across the central United States. Thus tropical cyclones move toward the west, make a turn to the north and eventually move toward the west as they move out of the tropics and into what are called the "mid-latitudes".

TheDenverChannel.com has a very thorough hurricane section. Click for an interactive hurricane tracker

This tracker is just part of the features you will find in our hurricane section.

Sept 1, 2008 Hurricane Gustav as of 4:00 p.m. is centered 15 miles North of Lafayette Louisiana. The center of Gustav is expected to move across the southern and western parts of Louisiana tonight and move into the eastern part of Texas by Tuesday. The motion of the storm right now is north-westward at 16 mph. However, tonight and tomorrow morning Gustav is expected to slow greatly. Increasing the flooding in many areas. With 6-12 inches of rain over much of Louisiana and some areas of up to 20 inches of rain by Thursday. Currently, Gustav's winds are sustained at 80 mph, with higher gusts. There are still hurricane forced winds 35 miles from the center and tropical storm forced winds 200 miles out from the center of Gustav. Meaning that it is now a category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. The storm looks to be a Tropical Depression late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Mandatory evacuations are in effect for the city of New Orleans, and most of the city's residents have already left. On its current forecast track, Gustav will come dangerously close to New Orleans, as landfall to the west of the city means New Orleans will feel the effects of Gustav's more-powerful right-front quadrant. Why is the right-front quadrant the most dangerous side of a hurricane? As a hurricane moves forward, its circulation is counter-clockwise. Draw cross-hairs through the eye of a hurricane and divide it up into quarters, with the north-south line drawn along the path of movement. As the hurricane rotates counter-clockwise, you add the forward motion of the storm to the wind speed. Also, as the hurricane moves forward over water, the water begins moving with the wind. As it approaches a coastline, the water is moving toward shore, increasing the threat of flooding. Compare this to the left-front side of the hurricane where winds are moving off-shore. This lessens the threat of flooding on that side. Since Gustav as made landfall slightly west of New Orleans, the storm surge could be devastating.

The dangers faced by people in hurricanes are numerous and random. Storm surge is the most serious threat. The power of moving water is incredible. Water is the only substance that gives more resistance the harder you hit it. Moving water acts like a sledge-hammer on anything that it impacts. Even if you are on the upper floor of a building, higher than the water, the lower floors may give way to storm surge. The storm surge from Gustav could be 6 to 10 feet above normal tidal levels. The other dangers of hurricanes include strong winds, flying debris and tornadoes. We'll continue to monitor the strength and movement of Hurricane Gustav for you in the 24/7 Weather Center.

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