Lopsided Hurricane Nate brushes county

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Boxers often use nicknames to highlight their prowess and build their brands. Who can forget Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns, Archie “The Mongoose” Moore, or James “Bonecrusher” Smith?

Two descriptive but less impressive nicknames come to mind for Hurricane Nate, which raced through the Gulf Saturday and whose center moved ashore near Gulfport and Biloxi Saturday night.

Nate “The Underachiever” thankfully didn’t live up to its potential. Warm ocean waters, low wind shear between lower and higher altitudes in the atmosphere, and deep moist air surrounding the circulation are usually ingredients for rapid intensification.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Young Nate threatened to take advantage of the situation. Its winds strengthened from a minimal tropical storm’s 40 mph Friday morning to a minimal hurricane’s 75 mph Friday night.

But after that Nate only strengthened 15 mph on Saturday reaching a maximum of 90 mph offshore.

The official National Hurricane Center (NHC) advisories Saturday night indicated that Nate’s maximum winds at landfall in Mississippi were 85 mph.

In the coming months, NHC will reanalyze all the data. It will be interesting to see if they find any weather stations that actually observed sustained hurricane force winds, which means a one-minute average of 75 mph or greater.

The highest winds that I could find among preliminary weather station reports were 53 mph gusting to 70 mph at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi at 11:36 PM Saturday.

Perhaps one of the factors that led to Nate’s failure to take advantage of the favorable conditions for strengthening is related to another nickname.

Nate “The Lopsided.”

Nate was steered by very strong south winds in the surrounding atmosphere. A strong high pressure system to Nate’s east and an upper trough of low pressure to the storm’s west slung the storm toward the northern Gulf Coast.

Sometimes it’s hard for any of us to get our act together when we’re moving too fast. This may have been a problem for Nate.

From midday Friday until landfall Saturday night, Nate was hauling northward at between 20 and 26 mph, one of the faster motions on record for a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.

As with all low pressure systems in the Northern Hemisphere, the winds around Nate were circulating counterclockwise. This meant that the strong northward flow pushing Nate helped increase the winds on the storm’s right-hand side.

However, on the left or western side of the storm, the strong southerly flow of the surrounding atmosphere was working hard against the cyclone’s circulation pattern.

This may have inhibited the formation of a strong inner core and eyewall, and it certainly meant that the winds on Nate’s western side were much weaker than to the east of the center.

Pearl River County was the beneficiary of Nate “The Lopsided’s” weak western side. A few squalls came through Saturday night, but all in all, it was a non-event for us.

Nate left warm and muggy air in its wake, which will support a slight chance of showers today and Wednesday.

Passage of a weak cool front on Thursday will lower the humidity and keep us dry through Sunday and maybe longer.

Nights and early mornings will be a little cooler starting Thursday night and Friday morning with lows dropping into the 60s. Days will remain warm, however, with highs in the middle to upper 80s.

By Skip Rigney