Amelia Island is a barrier island located in extreme northeast Florida along the Atlantic Ocean. It’s about 13 miles long and about 2 miles across at the widest point. The forest extends north-south along almost the entire length of the island – broken in only a few areas where roads pass through running from east to west. We locally call this strip of trees the greenway.
For about 72 hours prior to the arrival of Irma (well west of us and a tropical storm by then), a strong nor’easter had set up over the region producing almost continuous rainfall and sustained onshore winds of at least 20-30 mph with some gusts into the 45 mph range. Irma added heavy squalls into the equation as a major feeder band moved northward up the Florida east coast. For nearly 36 hours, our maritime forest and coast were battered by onshore winds of sustained 45 to 55 mph with frequent gusts to the low 80 mph range.
The effects of this persistent onshore wind took a heavy toll on the forest islandwide – numerous trees down, branches twisted off and thousands of tons (yes tons) of leaves lost.
In our own backyard, which is part of the forest, we lost numerous branches and a crazy amount of leaves. No trees down but in our small neighborhood many large oaks were felled by the strong winds (and soaked ground). It’s been almost 3 weeks now since Irma and some of the trees in our yard are showing the effects of the whipping winds.
It looks like a typical autumn day (above) but the bald cypress trees here don’t change color until late November and generally don’t lose their needles until mid December. The color change reflects dead and dying needles on the branches.
A closer look (above) shows many bare spots where the needles were simply stripped away from the branches.
A large oak blown down during Irma (above).
A rather large oak branch ripped away from the tree (above) in the persistent winds of Irma.
Our house is just about 800 meters away from the ocean… we don’t usually get heavy salt spray here but we did during the nor’easter and Irma. I’m sure some of the color change in the cypress trees has something to do with the spray and wind.
The trees will recover. They took this same type of beating last October during the passage offshore of Hurricane Matthew.
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Cumulus congestus – Towering cumulus.
Cumulus congestus to cumulonimbus.
Cumulonimbus approaching the troposphere (fuzzy top).
Within a 5 minute period, these cumulus cloud clusters transitioned to towering cumulus (cumulus congestus) and then grew into a large cumulonimbus cloud mass that produced lightning and rain. They formed so quickly that they dissipated within another 10 minutes.
Florida Atlantic coast – mid afternoon – 7.24.2017
The wildfire has been burning for just about a month now (it started from a lightning strike on April 6) in the West Mims area of Georgia’s Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge in Southeast Georgia – just north of the Florida state line. The area has been exceedingly dry this past Winter and the Spring rains have been too infrequent to make a difference in the conditions in the refuge.
Satellite image (visible) just before local sunset. The extensive smoke plume from the West Mims Wildfire is dramatically visible in this image as the long trail of grayish white smoke streams to the southeast from the fire across much of North Florida and out over the Atlantic Ocean well out to sea some 200 to 300 nm from the fire. The air quality in Jacksonville, Florida (extreme Northeast Florida) today was terrible with severely reduced visibilities on the ground and aloft up to around 3,000 feet. Another wildfire can be seen burning just north of the Tampa Bay area.
The West Mims Wildfire has burned nearly 110,000 acres of the refuge and is now threatening the town of St. George, Georgia. Without significant rainfall soon, the wildfire could burn for another 6 to 9 months as it consumes the exposed and dry peat that makes up the most of the refuge’s area. The Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge is the largest freshwater swamp in the United States.
A view of the dense smoke from the wildfire over the skies of Southern Jacksonville – well over 70 miles away from the actual fire. This is what it looked like from the ground beneath that plume seen on the satellite image.
The ‘Swamp’ has burned frequently and extensively in the recent past – a wildfire in 2011 burned for about 3 months before the rains from Tropical Storm Barry aided in stopping the fire. Another major wildfire in 2007 burned for nearly a year and the air quality was dramatically compromised throughout all of Northeastern Florida and Southeastern Georgia.
Camera: Samsung Galaxy S4
Not a common sight to see across Florida skies. Cirrocumulus (Cc) clouds are normally found above 25,000 feet (Florida). These were actually higher than nearby condensation trails left by high flying jets. Seen in early October.
Flying high above Walt Disney World…
Camera: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170
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Altocumulus (Ac) clouds progressively invading the sky. Real meteorological definition. Not often seen this dramatically in Florida. The late winter sun was at just the right angle which made for some interesting lighting. Typically these clouds would be about 6,000 feet above the ground this time of year and they are found in what is called the middle etage (Mid 5) of the atmosphere. There were no cirrus clouds above which added to the drama of the lighting.
Now a bit of fun with the clouds…
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Camera: Samsung Galaxy S4