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Hurricane Katia Update

by on Monday 5th September, 2011   51960 Views

UPDATE: We’re still on for most of the US East coast and things are looking almost as good for Europe later next week

Latest storm track. © 2014 MSW

Katia is pretty much doing all we could ask of her. The forecast for Florida is looking a bit more muted with the storm taking a more northerly track than some model suggested - we’ve still got waves in the 3ft@14 range with peaks of around 4ft@14 later in the week. Smaller size and longer period normally equals more barrels so expect mid size (6-8ft faces) waves but plenty of fun to be had. North Carolina gets walloped by the bulk of it - 9ft@15 seconds would equate to a 15-20ft faces at spots that’d handle it on the peak of the swell on Thursday, of course your normal beachy will start to max out some way before this so smaller reforms and shore break barrels are the go outside shelter. New Jersey and New York get in the 8ft@15 range at peak on thursday - again pushing wave face heights potentially into the 12-18ft range on exposed spots that’ll handle that size. New England gets waves - but with the storm now called to head almost due north seeing shelter from the bulk of the swell on many beaches. Then up in Nova Scotia we’re looking at a Friday peak in the same range as North Carolina.

Over in Europe we’re looking at a swell arriving around the 12/13th of September and potentially in the 10ft@16 second+ range. So something for the big wave spots and shelter pretty much everywhere although the probabilities here are a lot lower.

All these numbers are provisional and based on the latest model data - however we’ve already got long period swell in Florida up to NC and the system moving in the right direction to guarantee some sort of swell for further north on the coast, so while size might vary if the storm deviates from the forecast swell is pretty much certain. The European component relies on the storm taking a forecast track so the chances of a changing call are MUCH higher, we’ve still got 4 or more days until we’ll know for certain that swell is on it’s way.

As always your local forecast is updated four times a day with the long range outlook and our specific hurricane forecasts are available.

UPLOAD YOUR IMAGES OF THIS SWELL HERE

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Two names on the lips of everyone at Quiksilver HQ at the moment we’d think, Irene and Katia. The first has destroyed their hopes of an urban surf music festival on a grand scale, the latter might just make the surf contest (which will still take place) a real event to remember.

Here at MSW HQ we’ve been neck deep in our swell data archives ever since Quik announced the somewhat controversial decision to run a NY stop on the ASP World Tour. It’s not that Long beach doesn’t get epic waves, it’s just the odds of Huey bringing it within a normal ‘CT window that was up for debate, it’s a million dollar gamble for a company with a deserved core surf reputation and that’s a lot to put on the line. After some number crunching the odds didn’t look too bad at all, with a 85% chance of contestable hurricane conditions during the window (looking back over the past 15 years) and a 70% chance of the sort of swell that’ll start to make for memorable conditions. It still left the question of what exactly a surf competition does during those 15% of years of competition when conditions don’t come off. Fast forward to 2011 and Katia looks set to make that one less issue on the Quik dinner plate.

Hurricane Katia Track © 2014 Google/MSW/NHC

So the outlook: Right now we have a hurricane strength system mid Atlantic with a track that’ll pushing swell in the general direction of Florida and is moving into favourable conditions for increased strength over the next few days. The NHC suggests that the storm will reach major hurricane strength by Sunday. As we’ve mentioned before, critical to a hurricane’s swell generation is its track. Where a normal storm is potentially large enough to generate swell to some extent in all directions, a hurricane normally relies on virtual fetch to create significant swell, the winds are intense but cover a relatively small area, the waves propogating away from the storm before they’ve had a chance to build to a significant size. The perfect hurricane travels with the waves it creates continuing to add energy to them in this peak direction (interestingly Hurricane Irene was big enough to generate significant swell for Florida despite a relatively poor track). Hurricane Katia is, at the moment, being held on a westerly track by a large high pressure ridge that’s almost perfectly placed to increase this virtual fetch before releasing the storm onto a more northerly track avoiding the destructive landfall of Hurricane Irene (which was pinned to the coast sandwiched between two high pressure systems). Of course all this is speculation with plenty of room for variation at this stage but the models we use were actually pinning Hurricane Irene on its correct track 16 days in advance, so while our confidence might be a little higher than is reasonable, the best case at the moment does imply that Hurricane Katia could be something of a classic for significant swell generation for most of the East Coast without making landfall.

High pressure steers Katia west © 2014 MSW

The latest model numbers for swell are remarkably consistent from Florida right up to the Quik contest site at Long Beach, we’re in the 6-10ft@14 seconds range at peak and this is taken from our normal swell model which tends to run cool on these small, intense storms. Additionally the relatively slow moving storm is going to generate a more slowly building swell that looks like it could plausibly give almost a full week of swell against the short lived ‘surfing in the storm’ style swell that Hurricane Irene delivered.

We’d caveat all of this by saying that the NHC reckon the 5 day error in their forecasts averages at 250 miles for a Hurricane and we’re talking about a swell that’s not (on the latest model runs) set to peak for a week. However if things run as stand the closest recent storm would be Hurricane Igor last year, producing good conditions at Long Beach with a similar strong offshore wind that the forecast suggests we’ll see again this year from an unrelated low pressure system. Best bet on the latest numbers for the comp - 8-12ft faces in a moderate to fresh offshore wind towards the end of next week. These numbers no doubt will change - stay tuned and check your local forecast for the latest detailed long range numbers.

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