Ida, the rare, but interesting November storm

By: Stacy Berman
By: Stacy Berman

From Hurricane in the Caribbean Sea to powerful remnant low pressure off the Carolina coast, Ida sure made things interesting during the first and second weeks of November. A tropical system during November is a rarity but a system that remnants cause more havoc than the storm itself is quite interesting.

Ida was an interesting tropical system to say the least.  Let's start back at the beginning of its formation... It began showing signs of tropical characteristics back on November 2nd and was named a tropical storm on November 4th.  Ida, churned in the Caribbean Sea and strengthened into a category one hurricane on November 5th before making landfall in Nicaragua on that same day.  After landfall, Ida weakened significantly but once it moved back into the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea on November 6th, it was upgraded back to a Tropical Storm and then eventually a hurricane.  For two days, the storm sat over water strengthening further into a category two hurricane.  As it pushed into the Gulf waters, it weakened some, into a strong Tropical Storm, where it made landfall early in the morning on November 9th, along the Alabama coast.  The storm became extra tropical that same morning, meaning it lost its characteristics to be called a tropical system.  Damage along the gulf coast was minimal, but as the remnants pushed into the southeast, rain flooded parts of Georgia including the Atlanta metro area.

Now the interesting part... The remnants of Ida helped develop a low pressure system off the coast of South Carolina on November 9th.  Rain began falling in our area on the evening of November 10th.  The low intensified rapidly during the day on November 11th and with a persistent onshore flow , concerns regarding flooding were raised.  Governor Tim Kaine declared a state of emergency for the Commonwealth on the 12th as rainfall totals approached five inches.  Buoys off the coast of Virginia Beach recorded waves as high as twenty feet and as some of the higher waves moved onshore, the beaches along the coast started to erode.  And if the rain wasn't bad enough, the wind added more fuel to the fire.  Winds at one point were gusting over seventy miles per hour along the coast with the highest wind gust reported at Ocean, VA during the evening of November 12th.  The gust was reported as a 75 mph gust rivaling hurricane strength winds. 

On November 13th, the rain started to taper but not soon enough.  Rainfall totals exceed 10 inches in the cities of Hampton, Virginia Beach and Norfolk.  Several roads were closed and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Virgina would not permit high profile vehicles to cross the bridge.  Power outages exceed a couple hundred thousand and schools were closed.  The flooding and damage caused to the southeastern part of the Commonwealth was similar to damage caused by a category two hurricane, Hurricane Isabel which made landfall mid September, 2003. 

The effects on our area were not nearly as bad as the southern part of the state.  However, rainfall totals ranged from two inches in the northern part of viewing area to nearly four inches in Fluvanna county.  The highest wind gust at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport was 35 mph, recorded yesterday.  Parts of Madison and Greene counties had higher gusts, around 40 mph.  The biggest issue in our region was the James River at Bremo Bluff.  The river rose to about 20 feet and with the expected crest at 22 feet, flooding raised some concern.  At this time, the James had not washed over into the road.  The good news for our area was that although the rain put a damper on several outdoor activities and the wind kept some of us awake at night, damage and power outages were kept to a minimum. 

While a tropical system during the month of November is rare, the most interesting fact about this storm isn't when the storm formed, but that the remnant low of Ida become more intense than when Ida made landfall.  Sometimes weather really throws a curve ball to us Meteorologists and if this is how the fall season panned out with storms and such, then the winter season should really be interesting.  Gotta love Mother Nature! 

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