Well, that happened fast! Tropical Storm Mindy formed at 5 p.m. EDT Wednesday, September 8, in the waters south of the Florida Panhandle. Just over four hours later, at 9:15 p.m. EDT, Mindy was already making landfall at St. Vincent Island, Florida, with 45 mph winds. As evident in radar imagery, Mindy was in the process of organizing rainbands around its core just as it made landfall. It is fortunate the storm did not have an additional day over water, or else Mindy might have been a hurricane.

At landfall, Mindy brought sustained winds of 44 mph, gusting to 55 mph, to the Tyndall Air Force Base tower south of Apalachicola, Florida. These winds were considerably stronger than winds at the surface, as the tower is at an elevation of 115 feet (35 meters): The standard height for surface wind measurements is 33 feet (10 meters). Mindy’s landfall location was within a few miles of where Tropical Storm Fred made landfall with 65 mph winds on August 16.

The main impact from Mindy will be minor flooding from the storm’s heavy rains of two to four inches, dumped along a swath from the Florida Panhandle into southern Georgia and South Carolina. Coastal flooding resulting from Mindy’s storm surge was minor, with less than two feet of surge observed at tide gauges along the Florida Gulf Coast. Damage from Mindy will likely be minimal.

At 11 a.m. EDT Thursday, Mindy had just emerged from the coast of Georgia over the waters of the Gulf Stream. Mindy was a tropical depression with 35 mph winds, headed east-northeast at 21 mph. Given high wind shear, Mindy is not expected to regenerate, and it likely will be torn apart by high wind shear on Friday.

Figure 1. Radar-estimated rainfall from Tropical Storm Mindy as of 11:55 a.m. EDT Thursday, September 9. Rainfall amounts of two to four inches (yellow and orange colors) had fallen from the Florida Panhandle into southern Georgia. (Image credit: Weather Underground, an IBM business)

Mindy the fifth-earliest 13th named storm since 1966

Mindy’s formation date of September 8 is exceptionally early for the appearance of the season’s 13th named storm: Between 1991 and 2020, the average arrival date of the season’s 13th storm was October 24. The record earliest appearance of the season’s 13th storm was on August 22, 2020 (Marco). According to Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University, only four other seasons since accurate satellite records began in 1966 have had as many as 13 named storms by September 8: 2020, 2012, 2011, and 2005.

Register now for Jeff Masters October 1 webinar ‘Another Year of Weather Extremes:  Outliers … or Omens?’

Mindy is 18th U.S. landfalling storm in past two years, 7th of 2021

With hurricane season just half over (September 10 is the climatological half-way point of the season), Mindy is already the seventh named storm to make landfall in the contiguous U.S. this year. Since May 2020, the U.S. has experienced a truly astonishing 18 landfalls by named storms (including Mindy). Seven of these landfalls were in Louisiana.

The U.S. landfall pace in 2021 is now ahead of the record year of 2020, when a remarkable 11 named storms made landfall in the contiguous U.S. The seventh landfall of 2020 (Hurricane Sally in Alabama) occurred on September 16.

From 1950 through 2020, the U.S. averaged three land-falling tropical storms (with one a hurricane) per year, so 2021 already has more than two average seasons’ worth of land-falling storms.

Here are the other 2021 U.S. landfalls, with deaths and preliminary damages from Aon (except for Ida, where the preliminary damages are from Core Logic):

Ida: landfall in Louisiana on August 29 with 150 mph winds, killing 66 and causing $43-$64 billion in damage;
Henri: landfall on August 22 in Rhode Island with 60 mph winds, killing two and causing over $200 million in damage;
Fred: landfall on August 16 with 65 mph winds in Florida, killing five and causing over $200 million in damage;
Elsa: landfall on July 7 with 65 mph winds in Florida, killing one and causing $775 million in damage;
Danny: landfall in South Carolina on June 28 with 45 mph winds, no deaths or damages reported;
Claudette: landfall on June 19 in Louisiana, killing 14 and causing $350 million in damage. (One could argue Claudette did not count as a landfall, since it wasn’t named until it was centered over land.)

Hurricane Larry grazes Bermuda

Powerful Hurricane Larry was making its closest pass to Bermuda late Thursday morning as a category 1 storm with 90 mph winds headed north-northwest at 16 mph. At 11 a.m. EDT Thursday, Larry was 190 miles east of Bermuda, where a Tropical Storm Warning was in effect. Larry was expected to bring wind gusts of tropical storm strength, a few heavy rain showers, and high surf to the island.

Satellite images showed Larry had degraded in appearance since Wednesday, with a ragged eyewall and less intense thunderstorms. Moderate wind shear of 15-20 knots, dry air, and cooler waters were responsible for Larry’s weaker condition.

Larry’s large size and long duration at category 3 strength have made the hurricane a veritable wave machine, and the Caribbean islands, Bahamas, Bermuda, U.S. East Coast, and Canadian Maritime Provinces were experiencing large swells. These conditions will continue into the weekend, with dangerous rip currents.

Larry’s size and duration have also made it a potent generator of accumulated cyclone energy (ACE). By itself, Larry has produced nearly 40% of all the ACE from this year’s 13 Atlantic named storms through September 9, and almost three times more ACE than Hurricane Ida, according to Colorado State University.

Figure 2. Tracks of all category 1 and stronger hurricane to affect Newfoundland since 1851. (Image credit: NOAA)

A trough of low pressure passing to the north of the hurricane is turning Larry to the north, and this trough will then turn Larry more to the northeast, bringing it near or over southeastern Newfoundland, Canada, on Friday night and Saturday morning. At that time, Larry will likely be a category 1 hurricane, transitioning to a powerful extratropical storm.

In its 11 a.m. EDT Thursday wind probability forecast, the National Hurricane Center gave Cape Race, Newfoundland, a 91% chance of experiencing tropical storm-force winds of 39 mph or more from Larry, and a 30% chance of hurricane-force winds. One to two inches of rain are expected in Newfoundland along Larry’s track. By Saturday, extratropical storm Larry is predicted to bring heavy snow and rain to southern Greenland.

Hurricanes hitting Newfoundland are uncommon; NOAA’s hurricane database shows 13 category 1 or stronger hurricanes have hit the island since 1851. Two of these were category 2 storms: Michael in 2000, and an unnamed 1893 storm. However, many other hurricanes not shown in the graphic above have passed over Newfoundland as hurricane-strength extratropical storms shortly after losing their tropical characteristics.

Two other areas to watch this weekend

Watch for development of a new tropical wave expected to move off the coast of Africa on Saturday. This wave has strong model support for development, and it may threaten the Cabo Verde Islands early next week. In its 8 a.m. EDT Thursday Tropical Weather Outlook, the NHC gave the new wave two-day and five-day odds of development of 0% and 50%, respectively. The predicted west-northwest to northwest track of the wave likely will allow it to recurve to the north within a few days of emerging from the coast of Africa.

The southwestern Gulf of Mexico’s Bay of Campeche will be another area to watch for tropical cyclone formation on Saturday, when a tropical wave may enter the Gulf and begin to develop, according to many of the ensemble members of the 0Z and 6Z Thursday runs of the GFS and European models.

In its 8 a.m. EDT Thursday Tropical Weather Outlook, the NHC gave the new wave 2-day and 5-day odds of development of 0% and 30%, respectively. The predicted northwesterly track for the wave will make it primarily a threat to mainland Mexico early next week, though the potential for southern Texas to be impacted cannot be ruled out.

Typhoon Chanthu weakens to Cat 4, heads towards Taiwan

After rapidly intensifying to a category 5 storm with 160 mph winds on Wednesday in the Northwest Pacific east of the Philippines, Typhoon Chanthu weakened to a category 4 typhoon with 140 mph winds at 11 a.m. EDT Thursday. Chanthu is a very small storm, and small tropical cyclones are capable of very rapid intensity changes, both strengthening and weakening. At its peak, Chanthu featured a tiny “pinhole” eye about four to six miles in diameter. The recent weakening likely occurred because the inner eyewall collapsed and was replaced by a larger-diameter eyewall, a process known as an eyewall replacement cycle, common in intense tropical cyclones.

According to the Joint Typhoon Warning center (JTWC), continued weakening of Chanthu will occur, and on Saturday, Chanthu is expected to pass over or just north of Taiwan as a category 3 storm.

Earth has had four category 5 storms so far in 2021:

Super Typhoon Chanthu in the Northwest Pacific near the Philippines (160 mph winds, September 8);
Super Typhoon Surigae in the Northwest Pacific near the Philippines (190 mph winds, April 17);
Tropical Cyclone Faraji in the southwest Indian Ocean (160 mph winds, February 8); and
Tropical Cyclone Niran in the South Pacific Ocean (160 mph winds, March 5).

Earth averaged 5.3 category 5 storms per year between 1990 and 2020, according to ratings made by the NHC and the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center. 

Hurricane Olaf a threat to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula

In the Eastern Pacific, Hurricane Olaf reached category 1 strength with 75 mph winds at 11 a.m. EDT Thursday. It is expected to pass near or over the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula Thursday night and Friday morning. A Hurricane Warning is up for the region, and Olaf is expected to intensify to 85 mph winds before land interaction weakens it.

Bob Henson contributed to this post.

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Jeff Masters, Ph.D., worked as a hurricane scientist with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. After a near-fatal flight into category 5 Hurricane Hugo, he left the Hurricane Hunters to pursue a...