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Tropical Storm Nate May Hit Mexico and U.S. Gulf Coast as a Strengthening Hurricane

Climate
Infrared GOES-16 image of Tropical Storm Nate (located offshore just east of Nicaragua) and the huge swath of showers and thunderstorms in both the Caribbean and Pacific feeding into the newly designated storm. NASA / MSFC Earth Science Branch. GOES-16 imagery is considered preliminary and non-operational.

By Dr. Jeff Masters and Bob Henson

Tropical Storm Nate formed at 8 a.m. EDT Thursday morning in the Southwestern Caribbean near the coast of Nicaragua, and is bringing torrential rains to portions of Nicaragua and Costa Rica as it moves northwest at 9 mph. Nate will be a significant rainfall threat to Central America over the next two days, and is likely to threaten Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as a tropical storm or Category 1 hurricane on Friday, and arrive on the U.S. Gulf Coast this weekend as a hurricane.

NOAA / RAMMB. GOES-16 imagery is considered preliminary and non-operational.

Figure 1. GOES-16 view of Tropical Storm Nate, at 10:15 a.m. EDT Oct. 5.

Nate made landfall over northeastern Nicaragua late Thursday morning as a tropical storm with 40 mph winds, and tropical storm warnings are up for much of the coast of Nicaragua and Honduras. However, the main danger to Central America from Nate will be torrential rains: 15 – 20" in Nicaragua, 5 – 10" in Panama and Costa Rica, and 4 - 8" in Honduras and the eastern Yucatan Peninsula. Much of the heavy rain in Nicaragua, Coast Rica and Panama will occur on the Pacific side, as Nate's large circulation pulls moisture from the Pacific across Central America and into the Southwest Caribbean. Satellite rainfall estimates show that the heaviest rains from Nate thus far have been on the Pacific side of Costa Rica and Panama, where more than 8" of rain has fallen over the past 7 days. A personal weather station on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua recorded 3.34"of rain in the 12 hours beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

NOAA / NWS / NHC

Figure 2. The 11 a.m. Thursday NHC forecast for the probability of tropical-storm-force winds for the five days ending on Oct. 10. New Orleans was given about a 50 percent chance of tropical storm-force winds of 39+ mph, with those winds most likely to arrive on Saturday night. Cancun and Cozumel were also given about a 50 percent chance of seeing tropical storm-force winds, with the onset occurring late Friday afternoon.

Satellite imagery early Thursday afternoon showed that although the intensity of Nate's heavy thunderstorms had waned slightly after the center made landfall, the overall structure of the storm was holding together, with the low-level spiral bands remaining prominent. Conditions were favorable for development, with moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots, sea surface temperatures (SSTs) a very warm 30°C (86°F) and an unusually moist atmosphere with a mid-level relative humidity of 85 percent.

University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

Figure 3. Ocean Heat Content (OHC) for Oct. 5. Forecast positions for Nate from the 11 a.m. EDT Thursday NHC forecast are also shown. OHC values in excess of 80 kilojoules per square centimeter (yellow-green colors) are often associated with rapid intensification of hurricanes. Nate is expected to be passing near or over two areas of very high ocean heat content, with very warm waters that extend to great depth: in the Western Caribbean off the coast of Yucatan Peninsula, and again in the Gulf of Mexico, over the northern portion of the Loop Current, where a warm eddy appears to be attempting to break off.

Short-Term Forecast for Nate

Once Nate finishes its traverse of northeastern Honduras on Thursday evening and emerges into the Western Caribbean, the storm will be in a very favorable environment for intensification. The 12Z Thursday run of the SHIPS model predicted that wind shear would be low to moderate, 5 – 15 knots, through Saturday. SSTs will be a very warm 30°C (86°F), and Nate will have an unusually moist atmosphere, with a mid-level relative humidity of 80 – 85 percent. Nate will be passing over an area of very high ocean heat content (OHC) in the Western Caribbean, with very warm waters that extend to great depth. Since Nate is unlikely to emerge from Honduras as a well-organized system, it will probably take the storm about 12 hours to get organized and take full advantage of these favorable conditions.

The Thursday morning runs of our top five intensity models showed modest intensification of Nate on Thursday evening through Friday evening, with none of the models predicting that Nate would be a hurricane when it makes its closest approach to Cozumel and the northeastern tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Friday night. However, the 12Z Thursday SHIPS model Rapid Intensification Index gave Nate a 40 percent chance of being a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds by 8 a.m. Friday, 12 hours before it will make its closest pass to the Cozumel/Cancun area. The way this hurricane season has gone, it is safer to predict intensification at the upper end of what our intensity models are predicting, and residents and visitors in Cozumel/Cancun should expect that Nate will be a Category 1 hurricane Friday evening when it makes its closest pass.

A hurricane watch and tropical storm warnings are now in effect for the resort cities of Cancun and Cozumel and other parts of the northeast Yucatan. Nate's rains will not be as heavy here as in Central America, but local totals of 12" or more are possible. High tide at Cozumel and Cancun is at 9:37 p.m. CDT Friday, and it will be one of the highest high tides to the year, due to the full moon. Tidal range at Cozumel/Cancun between low and high tide is only about 0.6 - 0.8 feet (.18 - .25 meters), so the timing of Nate's storm surge with respect to the high tide is less important than we see for most locations along the U.S. coast.

Nate's Landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast

Interaction with the flat terrain of the Yucatan may have little impact on Nate's strength, but it is also possible that passage over the Yucatan will disrupt the storm's core and halt strengthening for a half-day or so. As Nate begins moving away from the Yucatan Peninsula early Saturday, it will be moving into a zone of much stronger upper-level steering, which will pull the storm to the north or north-northwest at an accelerating rate. Nate is expected to cross the Gulf of Mexico in 24 to 30 hours, an unusually rapid clip. Nate's potential strengthening will be blunted by the wind shear associated with the strong steering flow, as well as by the rapid motion itself, which will limit its time over water. As Nate approaches the Gulf Coast, it will encounter cooler SSTs and a lower oceanic heat content, which may slow or halt intensification.

Figure 4. Left: Weather Underground depiction of NHC's 3-day forecast for Tropical Storm Nate from 11 a.m. EDT Oct. 5. Right: Hurricane Opal strengthened from Category 1 to 4 in October 1995 as it raced toward the central Gulf Coast after spending about 24 hours just offshore from the Yucatan Peninsula. Nate is not expected to linger near the Yucatan.

In October 1995, Hurricane Opal rocketed from Category 1 to high-end Category 4 strength while moving from just west of the Yucatan to the Florida Panhandle in about 24 hours (see Figure 4 above). However, Opal lingered and organized for roughly a day just off the Yucatan before starting its northward charge. Nate is unlikely to be as well structured as Opal when it starts its quick northward trek. Our best intensity guidance, including the HWRF and HMON models, suggest that Nate will reach the central U.S. Gulf Coast as a Category 1 or perhaps Category 2 hurricane. These are the most likely outcomes, although it is too soon to rule out the possibility that Nate could become a major hurricane if it moves slowly enough over the southern and central Gulf, where SSTs are above 29°C (84°F). The increasing upper-level southerly winds may also provide an outflow channel for Nate, which would facilitate intensification. The SHIPS model Rapid Intensification Index from 12Z Thursday morning showed a 48 percent chance of Nate gaining 65 knots of strength by Sunday, which would bring it to the Category 3 threshold (115 mph winds.) Whatever its strength, Nate will be approaching the Gulf Coast unusually quickly, so residents should take this rapid speed into account.

CFAN

Figure 5. The 0Z Oct. 5 track forecast by the operational European model for Nate (red line, adjusted by CFAN using a proprietary technique that accounts for storm movement since 0Z), along with the track of the average of the 50 members of the European model ensemble (heavy black line), and the track forecasts from all 50 members of the ensemble. While there was still substantial spread among the Euro ensemble members, the most favored outcome was a landfall between southeast Louisiana and Alabama.

CFAN

Figure 6. The 0Z Oct. 5 track forecast by the members of the GFS model ensemble. Only about two-thirds of the GFS ensembles brought Nate into the Gulf of Mexico as a tropical storm, and none brought Nate to hurricane strength.

Models agree that Nate will make landfall between late Saturday night and midday Sunday, most likely somewhere between southeast Louisiana and the western Florida Panhandle. There was a significant shift west in the model consensus on Wednesday night: The European and other models fell into line with the GFS, which had been calling for a more leftward track into far southeast Louisiana. This is a good time to keep in mind that even a superior model overall (such as the Euro) may not be the best model on any given storm or on any given day. The Euro and GFS aren't so much like a pro baseball pitcher and a high-school pitcher; they are more like two excellent pro pitchers, one of whom has slightly better stats, but either of whom might pitch the better game next Saturday night.

Storm Surge

Storm surge is a particular concern with Nate. Much of the stretch of the central Gulf Coast from southeast Louisiana to the western Florida Panhandle is quite vulnerable to storm surge. Exact surge values will depend on Nate's strength and specific track, but it's not too soon for coastal dwellers to be aware of the risk and to begin preparing for it. Although the range between low and high tide is not extremely large along the central Gulf Coast, some of the highest astronomical tides of the year will be occurring this weekend into early next week. From Biloxi to Pensacola, high tide occurs around midnight, with the main low tide in the morning. If Nate moves as fast as some models are projecting, it could arrive during the high part of this cycle early Sunday. Because Nate will be moving so quickly, its surge impact is unlikely to extend beyond one tidal cycle.

Rain

By the time Nate reaches the U.S., its quick movement will help limit the risk of extreme rainfall totals. A swath of 3 – 6" can be expected within about 150 miles of Nate's center, from the Gulf Coast north across the Appalachians to parts of New York and/or New England.


NOAA / NWS/ WPC

Figure 7. 7-day precipitation outlook for the period from 8 a.m. EDT Oct. 5 to Oct. 12. The exact placement of the band of heavy rain associated with Nate over the eastern U.S. will hinge on Nate's eventual motion.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Weather Underground.

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The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.

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We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.

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What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.

Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.

To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.

Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.

The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.

Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.

The first reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in COVID-19 pandemic originated from Italy, Spain and China, where the pandemic surged before the U.S. crisis.

Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?

The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.

Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome

While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.

It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.

Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.

Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.

Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.


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In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez—the lead sponsor of the House Green New Deal resolution—noted that the Climate Task Force "shaved 15 years off Biden's previous target for 100% clean energy."

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The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.

Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."

"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."

Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."

"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.

On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.

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"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.