NASA’s GPM Sat Records Deadly ‘1000 Year’ Rain Devastating South Carolina from Nor’easter and Joaquin

Video Caption: NASA/JAXA’s GPM satellite measured record rainfall that fell over the Carolinas from September 26 to October 5, 2015 from a plume of moisture from Hurricane Joaquin when it was located over the Bahamas and moved to Bermuda. The IMERG showed highest rainfall totals near 1,000 mm (39.3 inches) in a small area of South Carolina and rainfall between 700 and 900 mm (27.5 and 37.4 inches) over a large area of South Carolina. Credits: SSAI/NASA/JAXA, Hal Pierce
See below ground level images and videos of storm devastation
Story updated with additional details/imagery from NASA and South Carolina

NASA’s advanced Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) weather satellite is continuously tracking and recording the ‘1000 Year’ rainfall event heaping death and devastation across wide areas of South Carolina from the combined actions of a freak Nor’easter and Hurricane Joaquin – which reached a borderline Cat 5 status on Saturday, Oct. 3 with winds of 150 mph.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley declared the historic and torrential rain fall to be a “1000 Year event” on Sunday, Oct. 4. “We have never seen anything like this.” Governor Haley and President Obama issued a “State of Emergency.”

Although the horrendous rains in South Carolina may nearly be done, the nor’easter caused damage estimated to be in the Billions of Dollars and at least 9 storm related deaths as of today, Monday, Oct. 5.

Rainfall totals ranging from 14 to 37 inches in local areas over the past week drenched a wide swath of the Palmetto state with never before seen flooding, according to NASA and NOAA. The most intense periods of rain fell over the weekend.

See herein a gallery of photos from friends and others living through the disaster in South Carolina.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly also captured dramatic images of Hurricane Joaquin – as I reported earlier here.

A slew of NASA and NOAA orbiting weather satellites are constantly tracking the fierce storms and providing the state and federal governments with the most up to date forecasts to aid officials and emergency responders in evaluating and managing the disaster in the most effective manner possible.

NASA’s GPM and a global fleet of other international weather monitoring satellites gathered measurements every 30 minutes from September 26 to October 5, 2015 that were combined into the eyepoppongly dramatic IMERG (Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for GPM) color-coded video above. It tracks the massive growth, spread and direction of the storms and shows the historic levels of destructive precipitation generated by the lethal pair of powerful storms.

The NASA GPM video shows plumes of moisture from the Nor’Easter and Hurricane Joaquin as they gather force and moved over South Carolina and through the Caribbean around and over the Bahamas and later as Joaquin fortunately veered away from the US eastern seaboard towards Bermuda.

“The IMERG showed highest rainfall totals near 1,000 mm (39.3 inches) in a small area of South Carolina and rainfall between 700 and 900 mm (27.5 and 37.4 inches) over a large area of South Carolina,” says NASA’s Hal Pierce.

Here’s a NASA video with NASA scientist Dalia Kirschbaum describing how GPM can see inside a hurricane to makes rainfall and precipitation measurements in 3D:

Video caption: NASA scientist Dalia Kirschbaum explains how the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission’s Core observatory has an instrument that can see layer by layer through a storm.

The GPM precipitation measurements come from both of its advanced radar instruments – the dual-frequency precipitation (DPR) radar instrument (Ku and Ka band) and the GPM microwave imager (GMI), NASA scientist George Huffman told Universe Today.

The IMERG video is based on an algorithm that also carefully combines and calibrates measurements gathered every 30 minutes from the passive microwave sensors flying aboard a large international constellation of satellites from the US, Europe, Japan and India – and outlined in complete detail further below by NASA’s Huffman and Kirschbaum; exclusively for Universe Today.

The visualization of data was created by NASAs Goddard’s Space Flight Center and shows Hurricane Joaquin around the Bahamas “when it was a tropical storm. Red and green colors show rain and the ice and snow at the top of the storm is visualized in blue.”

“Understanding hurricane structure helps weather forecasters around the world determine a storm’s structure and where it may be going,” says Kirschbaum.

Hurricane Joaquin was still packing winds exceeding 125 mph this morning, but it has lost strength throughout the day.

Over 40,000 homes and businesses are without power today, Oct. 5, in South Carolina due to the unending rain and widespread catastrophic flooding. And many folks had to be evacuated.

Some cemeteries were uprooted with caskets seen floating down flooded streets.

Residents are warned to stay out of the flood waters and standing waters that can be carrying bacteria and diseases presenting a significant health hazard.

In the capitol city of Columbia, there was widespread flooding with severe damage to water mains that cut off drinking water to over 15,000 people.

The governor deployed over 1300 national guard troops to render assistance. Over 150 folks were rescued by helicopter, some from the rooftops of their homes and apartments.

Here’s a helicopter rescue:

Video: Helicopter Rescue at Lakewood Links in Sumter, SC on Oct 4, 2014. Credit: Sean Reyes

Scores of South Carolina residents were getting rescued by canoes and even boats where waters surged in places up to 25 feet above normal.

At least 9 dams have been breached statewide, as well as levees, requiring many thousands people more to be evacuated.

Dam at Swan Lake  in South Carolina on Oct. 4, 2015.  Credit: Edwin Corning
Dam at Swan Lake in South Carolina on Oct. 4, 2015. Credit: Edwin Corning

Governor Haley confirmed that over 550 roads were either closed, damaged or destroyed, including back roads and major interstate highways vital to the states and US national economy.

A 70 mile stretch of I-95, a major north-south artery traveled by millions including myself, was closed to all traffic on Sunday and remains closed today. And many side roads that could serve as potential detours are also closed.

Historically high water levels in some of the areas worst hit by flooding has finally receded. But in other areas water levels are rising.

In addition, the US Coast Guard says the cargo ship ‘El Faro’ with 33 people aboard is believed to have sunk because it ventured straight into Hurricane Joaquin. The ship’s crew included 28 Americans and 5 Polish sailors. It sank in the area popularly known as the ‘Bermida Triangle’ in water some 3 miles deep.

Today, the Coast Guard reported the discovery of a debris field over 25-square-miles wide. At least one crew member has already been found dead.

The El Faro set out from the port of Jacksonville on Tuesday when Joaquin was a tropical storm with 85 mph wind speed.

The last distress call on last Thursday morning, as the ship neared the eye of the Hurricane, then a Category 3. The ship was listing over 15 degrees surrounded by 30 foot high waves.

The hurricane quickly grew into a Cat 4 and no further word was heard from the ship. It may be 3 miles underwater at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

How and from which fleet of satellites does NASA obtain the orbital measurements used to create the high resolution, color-coded GPM IMERG visualizations?

“The Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) creates a merged precipitation product from the GPM constellation of satellites. These satellites include DMSPs from the U.S. Department of Defense, GCOM-W from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Megha-Tropiques from the Centre National D’etudies Spatiales (CNES) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), NOAA series from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Suomi-NPP from NOAA-NASA, and MetOps from the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT),” NASA scientists George Huffman and Dalia Kirschbaum told me exclusively for Universe Today.

“All of the instruments (radiometers) onboard the constellation partners are intercalibrated with information from the GPM Core Observatory’s GPM Microwave Imager (GMI) and Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR). The data are gridded at 0.1°x0.1° lat./lon and provided in 30 minute time slices through morphing between satellite overpasses. The satellite estimates are then calibrated with rainfall gauge information.”

Here’s another GPM visualization of Hurricane Joaquin:

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Hurricane Joaquin captured on Oct. 2, 2015 by NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly
Hurricane Joaquin captured on Oct. 2, 2015 by NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly
NASA’s next generation Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) observatory inside the clean room at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, MD. Technicians at work on final processing during exclusive up-close inspection tour by Universe Today.  GPM is slated to launch on February 27, 2014 and will provide global measurements of rain and snow every 3 hours. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
NASA’s next generation Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) observatory inside the clean room at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, MD. Technicians at work on final processing during exclusive up-close inspection tour by Universe Today. GPM wasn successfully launched on February 27, 2014 and will provide global measurements of rain and snow every 3 hours. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

More storm photos:

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Borderline Cat 5 Hurricane Joaquin Spied from International Space Station

As the powerful category 4 Hurricane Joaquin was pounding the Bahamas and packing winds of over 130 mph, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly captured a stunning photo of Joaquin on Friday morning, Oct. 2 from his perch aboard the International Space Station (ISS). As of today, Oct. 3. Joaquin has gained strength to 150 mph and is a borderline Cat 5 storm!

Coincidentally, Kelly snapped the photo within hours of the milestone 100th straight successful rocket launch by United Launch Alliance (ULA) on Oct. 2, of the firms Atlas V rocket carrying Mexico’s next generation Morelos-3 communications satellite from Florida to orbit.

Kelly’s spectacular storm photo shows the eye of Hurricane Joaquin over the Caribbean and off the US eastern seaboard with the limb of the Earth and our atmosphere in beautiful detail.

Huge thunderstorms can been off to the north of the immense category 4 storm.

And as of today, Saturday, Oct. 3, Hurricane Joaquin has further strengthened and is now packing maximum sustained winds of 150 MPH or 240 KM/H, according to the latest advisory issued by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) as of 5 p.m. EDT.

Kelly posted the Oct. 2 photo of Joaquin with this caption on his twitter account:

“Early morning shot of Hurricane #Joaquin from @space_station before reaching #Bahamas. Hope all is safe. #YearInSpace.”

Two of the stations solar panels are seen in the photo as well as portions of the US east coast including Florida.

The latest NHC forecast shows Joaquin veering away from the US East Coast. But it’s still creating hurricane force winds and high waves that is threatening Bermuda.

“SEVERE HURRICANE JOAQUIN THREATENING BERMUDA,” said the NHC today.

It is moving northeast at 45 degrees at 17 MPH or 28 KM/H.

Kelly snapped another telling view of Joaquin on Thursday, Oct. 1 showing the Bahamas and Miami in the field of view.

Kelly tweeted; “#HurricaneJoaquin churns over the #Bahamas with #Miami in the field of view from @Space_Station.”

#HurricaneJoaquin churns over the #Bahamas with #Miami in the field of view from @Space_Station #YearInSpace.  Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly
#HurricaneJoaquin churns over the #Bahamas with #Miami in the field of view from @Space_Station #YearInSpace. Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly

Scott Kelly is a member of the first ever 1 year ISS mission crew comprising Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko.

They arrived at the ISS in March and had just reached the midpoint of their nearly 12 month stay aimed at conducting research to explore the impact of long term stays in space on the human body and aid NASA’s long term plans for a human ‘Journey to Mars’ in the 2030s.

NASA and NOAA satellites are keeping constant watch on the progress of the powerful Hurricane Joaquin, that earlier had the potential to barrel towards tens of millions of US coastal residents.

Here’s another stunning view of Hurricane Joaquin taken by the GOES-West satellite on Oct. 1.

This stunning image of Hurricane Joaquin is from NOAA's GOES West satellite on Oct. 1 2015. Many portions of the eastern U.S. are currently experiencing heavy rains and gusty winds associated with a frontal system.   Credit: NOAA
This stunning image of Hurricane Joaquin is from NOAA’s GOES West satellite on Oct. 1 2015. Many portions of the eastern U.S. are currently experiencing heavy rains and gusty winds associated with a frontal system. Credit: NOAA

This visible image from NASA’s Aqua satellite shows Hurricane Joaquin over Bahamas on Oct. 1.

NASA's Aqua satellite captured this visible image of Hurricane Joaquin over Bahamas on Oct. 1 at 17:55 UTC (1:55 p.m. EDT).  Credits: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team
NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this visible image of Hurricane Joaquin over Bahamas on Oct. 1 at 17:55 UTC (1:55 p.m. EDT). Credits: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

US Braces for Cat 4 Hurricane as ‘Joaquin’ Barrels to East Coast and ULA Readies 100th Launch on Oct. 2: Watch Live

Video caption: This animation of images captured from September 29 to October 1, 2015 from NOAA’s GOES-East satellite shows Hurricane Joaquin become a major hurricane in the Bahamas. Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

NEW JERSEY – A wide swath of the US East Coast is bracing for impact in the coming days as ‘Hurricane Joaquin’ strengthened to a major and dangerous Category 4 storm, today, Thursday, Oct. 1, as NASA and NOAA satellites keep constant watch as it barrels potentially towards tens of millions of coastal residents.

Joaquin is already packing winds exceeding 130 mph with even higher wind gusts as the storm continues to strengthen at this hour and the pressure is decreasing. See the latest Hurricane Joaquin animation and imagery from NASA and NOAA, above and below.

Meanwhile amidst the hurricane watch, launch preparations are underway by United Launch Alliance (ULA) for the firms 100th rocket blastoff on Friday morning, Oct. 2 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida with an Atlas V booster as Joaquin nears the US eastern seaboard.

A ULA Atlas V is slated to lift off Friday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 6:08 a.m. EDT with the Morelos-3 communications satellite for Mexico, before the hurricane gets closer to Florida.

The National Hurricane Center declared Joaquin had intensified into a massive Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale, as of 2 PM EDT today, Oct. 1.

You can watch the launch on ULA’s live webcast starting at 5:48 a.m. Oct 2: http://www.ulalaunch.com

The governors of three states – New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina – have already declared ‘States of Emergency’ in anticipation of potentially destructive winds, potentially life threatening drenching rains and floods, downed power lines and ocean rip currents with high waves in local areas.

Multiple NASA and NOAA satellites are intensively and continuously observing Joaquin, and are providing absolutely critical data to forecasters and government officials with the most current and best information available.

NASA’s GPM, Terra and NPP-Suomi satellites and NOAA’s GOES-East satellite are tracking Joaquin and have seen powerful thunderstorms today which indicates continued strengthening.

At this time we still don’t whether the US eastern seaboard will suffer a major hit but officials are taking no chances after suffering through Superstorm Sandy which caused many deaths, widespread power outages and billions and billions of dollars of damage – from which we are still recovering.

Joaquin is currently over The Bahamas in the Caribbean and is expected to make a sharp right turn on Friday Oct 2 and head northwards to the east coast and the Atlantic Ocean. It could start impacting the Carolinas and regions further north as soon as Sunday, Oct. 4, based on current forecasts, and drop double digits inches of torrential rainfall.

NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite passed over Joaquin at 06:10 UTC (2:10 a.m. EDT) on Oct. 1 as it was strengthening from a Category 2 to a Category 3 hurricane. It’s now a Category 4. Imagery showed cloud top temperatures colder than -63F/-53C (yellow).  Credits: NRL/NASA/NOAA
NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite passed over Joaquin at 06:10 UTC (2:10 a.m. EDT) on Oct. 1 as it was strengthening from a Category 2 to a Category 3 hurricane. It’s now a Category 4. Imagery showed cloud top temperatures colder than -63F/-53C (yellow). Credits: NRL/NASA/NOAA

Its pounding the Bahamas right now and is creating a disaster with hurricane force winds and heavy rainfall, say weather forecasters, as it remains over the island for some 24 hours or more and may drop over 10 inches of rain.

But there is a very wide cone of uncertainly of where it could hit as the possible storm track extends from the Carolinas to Maine. It may or may not directly impact the eastern US. The storm may shift to the right and spare the east coast. But no one knows at this time.

Some areas on the US East coast stretching from Virginia to Maine have already suffered from torrential rains and severe flooding from an unrelated storm the past few days and also right now today, Thursday.

So the grounds are already saturated in parts of the Carolina’s, Virginia, Maine and elsewhere.

NASA/JAXA's GPM satellite provided a 3-D side view of Tropical Storm Joaquin on Sept. 29 showing the internal precipitation structure. The areas in blue are frozen precipitation. Areas in green and red are liquid precipitation.  Credits: Scientific Visualization Studio, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
NASA/JAXA’s GPM satellite provided a 3-D side view of Tropical Storm Joaquin on Sept. 29 showing the internal precipitation structure. The areas in blue are frozen precipitation. Areas in green and red are liquid precipitation. Credits: Scientific Visualization Studio, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Coastal flood warnings and watches are already in effect in many areas along the eastern seaboard where local areas could be drenched by some 12 to 18 inches of additional rain which could fall even before the hurricane hits.

Significant beach erosion has already occurred in the Carolinas over the past few days and more is expected up and down the entire coast up to Maine.

And 10 foot high defense berms of sand are being constructed at this moment along miles and miles of the Jersey Shore – areas that suffered devastating damage from Superstorm Sandy.

There is a potential risk of deadly flooding, flash flooding and damage to houses, buildings, businesses, roadways and infrastructure.

“At 2 p.m. EDT (1800 UTC), the center of Hurricane Joaquin was located near latitude 23.0 North, longitude 74.2 West. Joaquin was moving generally southwestward at about 6 mph (9 kph), and the National Hurricane Center forecast a turn toward the northwest and north on Friday, Oct. 2. On the forecast track, the center of Joaquin will move near or over portions of the central Bahamas today and tonight and pass near or over portions of the northwestern Bahamas on Friday, Oct. 2,” according to NASAs Rob Gutro.

The weather forecast for Friday’s launch from Cape Canaveral , Florida is currently 70 percent GO for liftoff of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 6:08 a.m. EDT. The Atlas V will launch with the Morelos-3 mission for Mexico’s Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Transportes (Ministry of Communications and Transportation).

Morelos-3 will be part of the Mexsat constellation of satellites that delivers advanced telecommunications throughout Mexico.

United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket after rollout to Pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida for planned Oct. 2 launch at 6:08 a.m. EDT with the Morelos-3 mission for Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transportation.  In progress assembly of the commercial crew access tower is seen at right, now under construction for the Boeing Starliner space taxi for astronaut crews launching to the ISS. Credit: Julian Leek
United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket after rollout to Pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida for planned Oct. 2 launch at 6:08 a.m. EDT with the Morelos-3 mission for Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transportation. In progress assembly of the commercial crew access tower is seen at right, now under construction for the Boeing Starliner space taxi for astronaut crews launching to the ISS. Credit: Julian Leek

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket during rollout to Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Oct. 1 for planned Oct. 2 launch at 6:08 a.m. EDT with the Morelos-3 mission for Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transportation.  Credit: Julian Leek
United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket during rollout to Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Oct. 1 for planned Oct. 2 launch at 6:08 a.m. EDT with the Morelos-3 mission for Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transportation. Credit: Julian Leek