hurricane harvey spins in gulf

2018 Hurricane Season Begins June 1st

Hurricane season arrived early this year, as Subtropical Storm Alberto became the first named storm of the season late last week. Alberto ruined a Memorial Day weekend for the majority of the Gulf Coast as it doused the area with rain and even flooding. This anomaly subtropical storm actually came slightly earlier than the official start date of hurricane season. The official hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th for the Atlantic Ocean, and May 15th through November 30th for Eastern Pacific Ocean. After last fall’s major hurricane impacts, RedZone wanted to relay what the hurricane forecasts are predicting about the upcoming hurricane season.

Colorado State University releases an “Extended Range Forecast of Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Activity and Landfall Strike Probability” report each year. This report is based off models that incorporate 30 years of atmospheric conditions, and hurricane data for statistical analysis. The current conditions in the Atlantic Ocean seem to be in a weak La Niña currently. This means that the oceans temperatures are relatively cooler than average. This is not conducive for hurricane formation and strengthening.  As a reminder, ENSO, otherwise known as the El Niño and the Southern Oscillation, is the periodic fluctuation of sea surface temperature. The worry from the Oceanic forecast, though, is that the ENSO transitional phase will occur during the summer months. The thinking is, the transition from La Niña conditions into even a mild El Niño (warmer sea surface temperatures) could result in above normal hurricane activity this hurricane season.

named storm predictions

This figure is the results from the model that Colorado State uses to predict the hurricane forecast.

This figure depicts the final analysis made by Colorado State University in totality regarding numbers related to the upcoming hurricane season. As you can see this year is expected to be above the 30 year average in every category that is shown. Below is a figure depicting FEMA’s modeling outlook for the Hurricane season. FEMA’s model shows very little variation from what Colorado State’s results were.

NOAA Hurricane Season Outlook

NOAA’s Hurricane Season Outlook is predicting an average to above average year


RedZone Disaster Intelligence

How Can Technology Assist Insurance Carriers With Disaster Moratoriums?

Have you ever wondered how home insurance companies deal with writing new policies in an ongoing disaster zone? Well the truthful answer is they don’t. For instance, when a large wildland fire is threatening homes or has the potential to, insurance carriers place a moratorium on the surrounding landscape. A moratorium is a temporary, but indefinite hold on writing any new home insurance policies within the blanket area that is declared. The purpose of this practice is to stop new customers who aren’t covered for fire, or other disaster related damages, from buying a policy right before the home is damaged. The problem is the geographic regions that are typically chosen for a moratorium are too large. The regions that are chosen usually include areas that are not threatened by the disaster in any way shape or form. This leaves an undesirable gap in business for both the insurers and possible policy holders. Here at RedZone we like to focus on utilizing technology coupled with expertise to solve complicated problems such as this one.


                With advances in current wildfire modeling, insurance companies can have a more precise understanding of what is taking place on the ground currently, as well as what is likely to take place in the upcoming hours of the fire. Wildfire modeling accounts for the essential driving factors behind a wildfire so it can accurately depict where the fire is heading. You can read more about the aspects taken into account in RedZone’s Wildfire model here. By using a wildfire model, insurance companies can reduce the size of the geographic areas that are placed under a moratorium. Then the carriers will have an understanding of where the fire will be moving. This benefits both parties involved in many ways. If a home is not covered for wildfire, and a fire breaks out near the home it may spark an interest for the homeowner to obtain coverage on their home for fire. If the area that the home is located in is under a moratorium, the homeowner will not be able to purchase a policy for that type of coverage.

Canyon 2 Wildfire Model – first 24 hours without suppression

canyon2 final perimeter

Canyon 2 Fire Perimeter – shows the fire’s extent in the first 48 hours with suppression


                In the case of hurricanes, insurance carriers are even more precautious about writing new business when a storm of hurricane magnitude is approaching. The process of putting a moratorium in place for a storm begins when the National Weather Service declares a low pressure system to be of a tropical storm magnitude. You can learn more about hurricane formation and power at RedZone’s Blog on Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Insurance companies immediately put a moratorium into effect for the projected zones that will be impacted by the incoming storm. These areas range from zip codes to counties and even expanding to encompass entire states that could possibly be impacted by the storm. A large portion of homes that are located in a moratorium of that size will likely not be affected by flooding or wind damage from the storm.

One of the ways that GIS (Geographic Information Systems) can help with this problem is with a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) Dataset. When loaded into a GIS this data will depict what the terrain on the ground will look like. These elevation layers coupled with flood plain data would give an accurate depiction of the level of threat to a structure. What has to be taken into account is that each storm is different. The flood data chosen must accurately match the expected rainfall from the storm in the general location. One solution is to utilize the most severe flood data available, so that the estimations are on the safer side. Another factor that needs to be considered is the damage that occurs from wind during one of these events. GIS is capable of running buffers based on the projected storm path. A buffer coinciding with the relative wind speeds that are capable of damaging homes would be a safe way of creating more accurate moratorium zones during a hurricane. 

NOAA track Oct8

NOAA Potential Track Map issued Thursday Oct 10th, 8pm eastern


nate thumbnail

Tropical Storm Nate Sets Sights On Gulf Coast

Tropical Storm Nate Facts:

  • Location: Eastern coast of Honduras, 1,200 miles south of New Orleans
  • Max sustained wind: 40 mph
  • Movement: NNW at 10 mph
  • Storm Behavior: Strong low pressure, heavy wind sheer forecasted to diminish leaving this storm the ability to intensify once it’s over water.

Tropical Storm Nate Overview:

 Tropical Storm Nate is currently over the eastern coast of Honduras, dumping rain over Central America, with portions under a tropical storm warning or hurricane watch. Over the next few days the storm will move north towards the eastern edges of the Yucatan Peninsula and into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The troubling thing about this system is, as the storm moves north and into the Gulf, it is likely to intensify. Nate is currently displaying winds ranging from 39-73 mph, once this storm reaches the Gulf of Mexico it is forecasted to increase its wind speeds to 74-100 mph and become a category 1 hurricane.

According to the Weather Channel, portions of Central America could see up to 18 inches of rain through Friday as this system passes through. This amount of rainfall is already triggering flash floods, and mudslides throughout the area. These flooding events have already claimed 17 lives across Central America. As you can see in our map and the NHC map below, Nate is forecast to reach the northern Gulf Coast this weekend above tropical storm force. The NHC is warning of the threat of direct impacts from wind, storm surge, and heavy rainfall is increasing from Louisiana through the Florida Panhandle. Experts are expecting a hurricane watch and storm surge watch to be issued for coastal areas of the northern Gulf Coast as early as tonight or Friday morning. The path of the storm seems more certain than other storms this summer as the majority of hurricane models are in alignment on the direction and timing of the storm.

Additional Info:

NHC NOAA Tropical Storm Nate Page

Tropical Storm Nate Forecast Advisory

Tropical Storm Nate Forecast Discussion


NOAA track Oct8

NOAA Potential Track Map issued Thursday Oct 10th, 8pm eastern

Sources: NOAA, The Weather Channel, National Hurricane Center, National Weather Service

hurricane harvey spins in gulf

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma batter Southern US

Hurricane Harvey (August 26-31st)

On August 17th,  the National Hurricane Center identified Tropical Storm (TS) Harvey just before it passed through the Lesser Antilles, the islands that form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. Over the next two days TS Harvey moved swiftly to the west into the Caribbean under the influence of an expansive ridge of high pressure but the storm began to rapidly lose energy on the 19th of August and was subsequently downgraded to a tropical depression (TD). As TD Harvey moved from the northwestern Caribbean Sea into the Gulf of Mexico over the next four days it gained strength and was upgraded again to a Tropical Storm (TS). By the 24th of August TS Harvey had rapidly intensified in the Gulf of Mexico and was upgraded to a Category 3 Hurricane. Hurricane Harvey made landfall in the early morning of 26 August in Rockport, Texas as a Category 4 Hurricane with a reported 130 mph maximum sustained winds. Harvey’s center of circulation stalled over South Texas for four days dumping 40 and even 50 inches of rain in the Houston and Beaumont areas. The storm moved slowly east back into the Gulf of Mexico before making a final landfall near Cameron, Louisiana, on August 30th and finally dissipating to the north in the days following.

Harvey’s slow movement from 26-30 August resulted in catastrophic flooding in southeast Texas. Numerous flash flood emergencies were issued for the Houston and Beaumont metropolitan areas as well as Bastrop County and nearby communities. Wind gusts from Harvey exceeded 100 mph in many locations, leading to widespread destruction of homes and buildings. Thousands of homes were affected by Harvey, including over 9,000 that were completely destroyed and more than 185,000 that sustained damage according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Close to 700 businesses were also reported as damaged. Throughout Texas, more than 300,000 people were left without electricity and as of September 6th, at least 70 deaths have been confirmed as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

Additional Info:

NHC NOAA Harvey Event History

Fox News Harvey Article


harvey gif

Hurricane Harvey hangs over coastal Texas from August 23rd to September 1st

Hurricane Irma (September 3-11th)

Hurricane Irma reached the United States Sunday Morning, making landfall in the Lower Florida Keys as a Category 4 Hurricane. A few hours later, Category 3, it made landfall a second time just south of Naples, FL on the Southeast coast of Florida. Due to the extreme size and major hurricane status, most of Southern Florida was warned to evacuate ahead of the storm late last week. Upon landfall, extreme winds battered both southern coasts as wind speeds were recorded at 142 mph in Naples and 99 mph in Miami Beach. Storm Surge from the large powerful storm was reported in many places near ten feet along both coasts affected. On Monday, Irma brought heavy rain and wind through the northern Florida city of Jacksonville where 350 people were rescued from the flooding. Irma also pummeled the Charleston area on Monday with over 8 inches of rain and a nearly 10-foot storm surge. The past 48 hours, evacuated Floridians are again dealing with bumper-to-bumper traffic heading home to face monumental cleanups throughout the state.

Wednesday the 13th, the storm has finally completely broken up, and the National Hurricane Center has stopped updating their reports on the storm. In the wake of the storm, President Donald Trump announced this afternoon that he is set to travel to Florida on Thursday. Moody’s estimates Irma caused $83 billion in damage and 77 deaths have been attributed to the storm. Florida utilities have made good progress in restoring power to communities, as 60% of power has been restored, but 4.6 million people are still without power. It could be months before power is restored to some of the islands that were devastated by the storm.

Florida Keys:

The Florida Keys were the hardest hit and today is the first day that the roads were cleared for people to return to their homes for most of the keys. All 42 bridges along US 1 have been inspected and cleared by the Florida Department of Transportation. 80% of the roads across the keys are cleared. Power is restored to 30% of residents, but over 300 major power lines remain downed. Unofficial estimates from FEMA, according to an ABC News report, state that 25% of homes in the keys were destroyed and 90% had damage of some kind. Big Pine Key and Cudjo Key were hit the hardest, as the storm was still a category 4 when it hit them. Few people have returned to those keys, and most utility services are still unavailable. Fuel remains an issue, especially in the areas without power. Most hospitals remain closed, but some with power or backup power have reopened their emergency rooms. Key West was initially thought to have suffered heavy damage, but once people started returning and assessing the damage, most structures were not impacted, just lots of debris and downed trees.

Additional Info:

NHC NOAA Irma Event History

ABC Irma Update

irma gif

Hurricane Irma moves into and through the Caribbean from Sep 3rd through the 11th


National Hurricane Center, NOAA, NASA Worldview

2017 Hurricane Season

2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Begins Today

Hurricane Season Begins

June 1 marks the official start of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Meteorologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are predicting that this year’s hurricane season, which runs from June 1st through November 30th, may be more active. The current forecast models suggest an above-normal hurricane season with the potential for as many as 17 named storms. Of these 17 named storms, 2 to 4 could possibly develop into major category 3 or larger hurricanes capable of producing winds well above 111 mph.

In comparison, a normal storm season typically produces 12 named storms of which an average of 3 of which build in intensity and become classified as major hurricanes. In the video below, Dr. Gerry Bell, the lead Seasonal Hurricane Forecaster at NOAA provides a more detailed look at the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

Although the hurricane outlook is cause for some concern, the increased number of storms does not necessarily correlate with an increased frequency of landfall. There are too many variables to accurately forecast the amount of landfalls the US will experience in a given year. A particular storm season may produce a large number of storms but have few, if any, landfalls. In contrast, Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida in 1992, was birthed during a season that only recorded 6 named storms. This uncertainty necessitates that coastal residents be prepared regardless of outlook.

Hurricane Preparation

Proper disaster preparation saves lives and also helps recovery after an event impacts and area. Preparation should be done well in advance of hurricane season. There are many organizations and websites that provide valuable information regarding preparation for disasters:, The National Weather Service, The National Hurricane Center and FEMA to name a few. The information provided by these websites generally recommends a version of the steps below.

  1. Determine your vulnerability

    When most people think about the dangers associated with hurricanes they think of the destruction caused by the high winds. In actuality, 9 out of 10 fatalities related to hurricanes are due to drowning. Just because your home isn’t on the coast doesn’t mean flooding isn’t a concern. Intense storms can cause flooding to extend hundreds of miles inland and also produce additional severe weather like tornadoes. Part of determining your vulnerability is to research whether you reside in a hurricane evacuation area.
    Maps of Evacuation Zones
    NOAA Coastal Services historical hurricane tracks tool

  1. Evacuation and communication planning

    If you reside in an area prone to hurricanes, it is important to heed evacuation notices and have a plan in place in case you need to retreat. The majority of evacuations are ordered because of the threat of storm surge. Storm surge is caused when water is pushed on shore by the high winds generated within a hurricane. Storm surge can devastate coastal communities and reach heights over 20 feet.

    If you are urged to evacuate, it is very important to have prepared ahead of time where to go and how to get there. If a severe storm approaches, emergency officials will provide updates on evacuation routes and shelters, but it is a smart idea to develop a household plan ahead of time. A household plan will insure that you are prepared in case you have to leave quickly and that the proper steps have been communicated to do so safely.

  2. Buy Supplies

    Arguably the most important step in creating a household evacuation plan is assembling the necessary supplies to get through the storm and its aftermath. These supplies should be gathered well in advance of storm season and packaged for quick retrieval, in an easily accessible area of the home. There are numerous resources online regarding preparation of a proper disaster supply kit, but the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes has compiled a pretty extensive list.
    Disaster Supply Checklist

  1. Check Insurance Coverage

    Homeowners and renters need to insure that they are properly covered in the event of severe weather impacting their homes and property. Standard home and renters insurance does not cover flooding, so it’s important to purchase any needed coverage well in advance of potential threats. Cars, boats and other personal property may also need additional coverage, and it is a best practice to contact your insurance company representative for more information on how to protect your property.

  2. Make copies of important documents

    It’s a good idea to make copies of important documents and include them in your disaster kit. Include in your kit any documents that can be used in the event that you need to prove ownership and/or insurance coverage of your home, vehicle, boat or other personal property that may have been damaged or moved from its current location due to high winds and flooding. The advent of cloud storage offers an additional way to back up and secure important documents and personal data. Placing electronic copies of important documents and other personal data like family photos, medical records or financial documents online, ensures that these items will be accessible once you are able to reconnect to the internet. There are numerous companies that provide low cost and even free cloud storage.

  3. Protect your home

    If a hurricane watch or warning has been issued for you home, it is possible to mitigate some of the potential damage. Covering windows and doors with plywood is a common site on homes in hurricane prone communities. This plywood can help protect against damaging winds and provide additional security for the home. Residents can also trim trees and secure potential wind-driven debris around their home.

Additional Resources and Blog Citations

Hurricane Preparedness Week

AccuWeather – 6 Ways to Prepare Now for Hurricanes

The National Weather Service

The National Hurricane Center


GOES-R Environmental Satellite Launched

On November 19, NASA celebrated the successful launch of its latest weather satellite, the revolutionary GOES-R (named GOES-16 once it is operational). This next generation Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) will deliver better weather forecasting, severe storm tracking, and space weather monitoring for Earth’s entire western hemisphere.

GOES-R Liftoff on November 19, 2016

GOES-R Liftoff on November 19


GOES Mission Overview

Positioned roughly 22,000 miles above Earth’s surface, GOES satellites continuously monitor the Western hemisphere, including the United States, the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, Central and South America, and Southern Canada. GOES satellites fly in a geostationary orbit, meaning they rotate around the Earth at the same rate as the Earth spins, so their view of the Earth’s surface never changes. The coverage, along with the sensor suite, allows for constant, near real time coverage of Earth’s weather, climate, and large storm events. GOES also has sensors looking toward the sun and space, measuring solar and space weather.

Why the GOES-R Satellite is Significant

The most exciting update to GOES-R in relation to disaster intelligence is the updated Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). The image above describes the improvements to the new sensor. Below are the benefits related to these improvements.

  • Improved hurricane track and intensity forecasts
  • Improved route planning for aviation
  • More advanced warning for severe storms
  • More advanced warning for air quality warnings and alerts
  • Better fire detection and intensity estimation
  • More and better quality data for long-term climate variability studies

This is only one of several next-generation advanced sensors onboard GOES-R. Other sensors will help researchers study tornado warnings, climate, and space and solar weather. It’s no wonder that people are excited about this momentous launch!


Hurricane Matthew Brings Dangerous Conditions to the Coast

Hurricane Matthew Update:  October 7, 2016.

Hurricane Matthew continues to push north paralleling the east coast of Florida.  The storm has yet to make landfall, but powerful wind gusts of over 100 mph have downed trees and caused power outages for nearly 1,000,000 people.  Bands of heavy rain currently stretch as far north as South Carolina with flash flooding likely across the lowland areas.  The hurricane has been reduced to a category 2 storm, staying just offshore, but the threat of storm surge flooding remains a critical concern.

Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew predicted path, as shown in the RZAlert Dashboard.

Unease Growing Over Storm Surge

The storm is currently off the northeast coast of Florida, dousing the coastal town of Jacksonville.  Storm surge flooding combined with heavy rain has already effected much of northeast Florida and Georgia, with–maybe–the worst conditions  yet to come.

In St. Augustine (FL), flooding preceded the storm inundating much of the city’s historic downtown with knee-deep water.  The storm surge in St. Augustine is projected to top 8 feet in some places as the water continues to rise. Nearby, the city of Jacksonville fears for an unprecedented event, warning residents of the potential for catastrophic damage. Officials are expecting storm surges as high as 9 feet and residents began evacuating days ago. According to the city’s mayor, anything over 3 feet is life-threatening.  A major tropical storm has not impacted the city of Jacksonville in over a century.

Charleston Susceptible

Fears are also mounting for the Charleston area where the eye-wall is projected to potentially center itself over the Coastal Carolina city come Saturday morning. Officials are worried the flood levels could be near or even surpass those experienced in the October 2015 flood event which set historic records in terms of damage and lives lost.  The nowCoast™ modeling of the potential storm surge by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows dangerous conditions far inland due to the numerous inlets and intercostal waterways. Interestingly, the storm is projected to move clockwise away from the Southeastern US coast and curl back around toward Cuba. Time will tell what else this storm has in store for an area that has historically escaped major hurricane impact.


Storm surge forecast for Charleston, NC.



Hurricane Matthew Plots a Course for Florida

As of 8am EDT on October 5th, models for Hurricane Matthew predict a path following the east coast of Florida and up into the Carolinas. The storm initially made made landfall in Haiti on Tuesday as a category 4 hurricane, with top sustained winds near 145 mph. It is is now estimated to be a category 3 storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale, with winds topping out at 125 mph, though some slight strengthening is forecast during the next couple of days. Given the storm’s trajectory, the possibility exists for extensive damage along much of the southeastern coast of the US.

Current Storm Behavior

According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Matthew is currently moving north-northwest at roughly 10 mph (17 km/h). This trajectory is expected to continue throughout most of the day Wednesday, however a slight turn to the northwest is expected tonight. If this prediction holds, Matthew will reach the Bahamas on Thursday, with the center of the storm passing directly between Nassau and Andros Island, and then just west of Freeport, Bahamas. Matthew is expected to be very near the east coast of Florida by Thursday evening, sweeping up the coast most of Friday, and potentially reaching Georgia and South Carolina early Saturday morning.

Matthew’s hurricane-force winds over 74 mph extend outward up to 40 miles (65 km) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds over 39 mph extend outward up to 160 miles (260 km). It is the strongest hurricane in the Caribbean since 2007, when Hurricane Felix (category 5) hit Nicaragua with sustained winds of 160 mph and killed more than 130 people. For reference, 2012’s Hurricane Sandy was a category 3 storm, with winds reaching up to 115 mph, while 2005’s Hurricane Katrina reached category 5 status in the Gulf of Mexico, with winds gusting to 175 mph.

Current path of Hurricane Matthew

RedZone’s RZAlert Dashboard shows the storm’s predicted path.

Hurricane Matthew Watches and Warnings

According to the NHC, hurricane warnings remained in effect for all of Haiti and portions of Cuba and the Bahamas as of Wednesday morning. At least nine deaths have been reported in those areas. In Florida, a hurricane watch is in effect from Deerfield Beach, 45 miles north of Miami, to the Volusia/Brevard county line near Orlando, encompassing a roughly 200 mile stretch of coastline. Much of the Florida Keys and southern Florida remain under a tropical storm watch.

El Nino to Impact US this Winter

Typical weather from El Nino could help both the Northern and Southern US this winter.

Shown below are the typical weather impacts from El Nino events for the months of January through March. The looming El Nino event should bring Late 2015/Early 2016 respite to the dry Southern US and bring a temporary halt to the bitter cold winters seen in the Northern US the last couple years.


This could bring some respite to California’s bone dry areas and help restore reservoirs throughout the state.


Today’s released Wildfire Potential Outook also stressed the impact that this coming El Nino could have on the dry fuel situation throughout the West and the predicted fire potential in the coming months. Read more about that at


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