Tropical Storm Ernesto
August 24-September 1, 2006
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
Land, Water and Conservation Division
South Carolina State Climatology Office
Compiled by Mark Malsick
List of Figures:
- Figure 1. Tropical Storm Ernesto over the eastern Caribbean.
- Figure 2. Hurricane Ernesto.
- Figure 3. 5-day NHC forecast track issued 11 PM EDT August 26.
- Figure 4. 5-day NHC forecast track issued 11 PM EDT August 27.
- Figure 5. Tropical Storm Ernesto August 31.
- Figure 6. Surface fronts and analysis 7AM EDT August 31 (Courtesy NOAA-HPC).
- Figure 7. 500 mb geopotential heights 7AM EDT August 31 (Courtesy NOAA-HPC).
- Figure 8. Infrared image of Ernesto as it began to emerge from over Florida.
- Figure 9. Radar-derived rainfall estimates from Topical Storm Ernesto.
Tropical Storm Ernesto was the first tropical cyclone of the
2006 hurricane season to threaten South Carolina. Luckily, Ernesto never became
organized after a series of landfalls and cross-country journeys over Cuba and
Florida. Synoptic steering kept Ernesto offshore South Carolina, and only the
weaker, western half of Ernesto's cyclonic circulation brushed South Carolina's
coastal counties from Charleston to Horry County. Horry County was most
affected by Ernesto, recording 35-40 knot wind gusts and 6-7 inches of rain.
Ernesto passed South Carolina August 31 and made landfall in North Carolina
with 50 knot winds and 8-15 inches of rain.
Tropical Storm Ernesto began as a Cape Verde tropical wave
that traveled across the Atlantic and became the fifth tropical disturbance of
the 2006 hurricane season on August 24. The National Hurricane Center upgraded
this disturbance to Tropical Storm Ernesto after it passed over the Lesser
Antilles and strengthened rapidly in the eastern Caribbean (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Tropical Storm Ernesto over the eastern Caribbean
As Ernesto tracked slowly west-northwest, under the
influence of the sub-tropical ridge, Ernesto briefly strengthened to a 65-knot
hurricane on August 27, near the western tip of Haiti (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Hurricane Ernesto
While south of Haiti, Ernesto's forecast track shifted
dramatically from a Gulf Coast landfall shown in Figure 3 to a track that
directly threatened a landfall along the South Carolina coast (Figure 4).
Figure 3. 5-day NHC forecast track issued 11PM EDT August 26.
Figure 4. 5-day NHC forecast track issued 11 PM EDT August 27.
Ernesto weakened to a disorganized tropical storm as it tracked
over the Windward Passage and subsequently made landfall near Guantanamo, Cuba.
Ernesto slowed significantly over eastern Cuba allowing the topography to
disrupt Ernesto's surface inflow, further weakening the tropical storm.
Ernesto emerged from Cuba during the early morning hours on
August 29 as a weak 30-knot tropical storm that then passed over the Florida
Strait, making a second landfall in southern Dade County, Florida. Ernesto
lumbered overland up the Florida Peninsula August 29-30, re-emerging over the
Atlantic near Cape Canaveral at midnight August 30. While over Florida, Ernesto
weakened to a 25 knot tropical depression. Over the warmer Atlantic waters,
Ernesto strengthened throughout the day August 31 to 60 knots while passing
within 60 miles of Charleston (Figure 5). Ernesto trudged ashore on the coast
of Brunswick County, North Carolina, then continued northwards leaving a soggy,
rain-soaked trail through eastern North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.
Figure 5. Tropical Storm Ernesto August 31.
Tropical Storm Ernesto remained disorganized due to passing
over Cuba and Florida and a dearth of upper level support. Steering Ernesto was
the sub-tropical ridge to the east and a developing 500 mb trough over the Ohio
River Valley to the west shown in Figures 6 and 7 respectively. Weakness
developing in the sub-tropical ridge and the cut-off development of the 500 mb
shortwave were responsible for the sudden shift in the August 27 NHC 120 hour
forecast track for Ernesto. Numerical model consensus was consistent with
Ernest0's track forecast with the Canadian Global Environment Multiscale (GEM)
handling the eastward track shift the most accurately. As Ernesto tracked over
Florida there was excellent consensus amongst the models for the track of
Ernesto to remain offshore South Carolina.
As with any disorganized tropical storm, Ernesto's intensity
forecast was always problematic, specifically the forecast for Ernesto's
intensity after it re-emerged over the Atlantic late on August 30. Satellite
analysis and Melbourne National Weather Service Forecast Office's WSR-88 radar
provided valuable clues to Ernesto's future intensification while over Atlantic
waters. Figure 9 shows an extensive cloud shield with imbedded convection that
proceeded Ernesto's return emergence from over Florida. This cloud shield and
gusty imbedded winds moderated sea surface temperatures, which prevented the
possibility of any rapid intensification of Ernesto. The elongated appearance
of Ernesto also suggested an increasing shear environment that would also
prevent Ernesto from reaching hurricane intensity prior to landfall in North
Figure 6. Surface fronts and analysis 7 AM EDT August 31 (Courtesy NOAA-HPC).
Figure7. 500 mb geopotential heights 7 AM EDT August 31 (Courtesy NOAA-HPC).
Figure 8. Infrared image of Ernesto as it began to emerge from over Florida.
SOUTH CAROLINA EFFECTS:
Tropical Storm Ernesto caused only minimal damage to the South
Carolina coast, as it scraped by offshore on August 31. The heaviest rains
occurred in Charleston and Horry Counties. Several streets in downtown
Charleston including portions of Highway 17 were flooded temporarily. Numerous
roads in Horry County were flooded and impassable with up to four feet of
standing water in some locations. Only minor beach erosion was reported along
the South Carolina coast due to the offshore winds from Ernesto.
|North Myrtle Beach Airport
||Myrtle Beach FD
|Isle Of Palms
||Folly Beach City Hall
++ Through mid-afternoon 8/31
+ Through 730 PM 8/31
Figure 9. Radar-derived rainfall estimates from Topical Storm Ernesto.
B. Recorded peak winds:
North Myrtle Beach Airport 38 knots from 350o at 0258 UTC 09/01/06
Charleston SC Airport 28knots from 010o at 1754 UTC 8/31/06
Savannah GA Airport 22 knots from 340o at 1810 UTC 8/31/06
East Cooper SC Airport 31 knots on 8/31/06 - No time or direction available
Charleston SC Executive Airport 28 knots on 8/31/06 - No time or direction available
Official Coastal/Marine Sites:
NDBC 41004 Edisto Buoy 54 knots from 320o at 2153 UTC 8/31/06
NDBC 41008 Grays Reef Buoy 31 knots from 020o at 1247 UTC 8/31/06
CMAN FBIS1 Folly Beach 32 knots from 000o at 1929 UTC 8/31/06
Springmaid Pier Myrtle Beach 39 knots from 000o at 2200 UTC on 8/31/06
Sabsoon Navy R2 Tower (50m.) 37 knots at 1400/1500/1700/1800 UTC 8/31/06
Sabsoon Navy M2R6 Tower (50m.) 41 knots at 1532 and 1832 UTC 8/31/06
Downtown Charleston, SC 31 knots From 347o at 1828 UTC 8/31/06
Pineville, SC 26 knots from 330o at 0150 UTC on 9/1/06
Walterboro, SC 17 knots from 000o at 2100 UTC on 8/31/06
SOUTH CAROLINA RESPONSE:
The South Carolina Emergency Management Division activated
the Emergency Operations Center on August 29 when the National Hurricane Center
began forecasting Tropical Storm Ernesto to make landfall on the South Carolina
coast. The Emergency Operations Center remained staffed until September 1.
There were no mandatory evacuations. Schools in coastal counties were closed as
a precaution and several emergency shelters were opened when Ernesto threatened
to make landfall August 31.
Special thanks to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration and its many divisions for the wealth of weather and climate
data made available to prepare this report. Specific thanks to:
- National Hurricane Center, Miami, Florida
- NOAA Hydrometeorological Prediction Center
- National Weather Service Office, Charleston, South Carolina
- National Weather Service Office, Columbia, South Carolina
- National Weather Service Office, Wilmington, North Carolina
Additional thanks to the Naval Research Laboratory
Monterey's Marine Meteorology Division for the well-cataloged library of
satellite imagery used for this report.