A pathetic clump of swirling clouds and weak thunderstorms shamefully churning off the coast of South Carolina became Subtropical Storm Ana last night. The storm is the first tropical cyclone we’ve seen in May since Alberto in 2012, and the earliest in the year since Ana (no relation) in 2003.
The disgraceful storm currently has winds of 45 MPH and a central minimum pressure of 1001 millibars, which is higher than what you might see behind a good squall line. The storm is stationary, but it should start moving northwest towards the coast and make landfall somewhere near Myrtle Beach, where residents will stand on the beach pointing and laughing.
The storm is impressive on visible satellite imagery, but it’s utterly pitiful when you look at water vapor loops that show all of the sad thunderstorms southeast of the center and dry air dominating just about everywhere else.
The pretty swirl of clouds in the center of the means nothing but the fact that there’s a closed low pressure center at the surface. It’s impressive in the same way that a seemingly-promising burp rumbles up your esophagus and exits as a puny squeak, leaving you disappointed in your abilities as a human being.
Ana could gain some dignity and become a fully tropical storm over the next day or so as it sits over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream and environmental conditions become slightly more favorable for further development. Even so, it won’t amount to much before crashing ashore as an assortment of showers and storms that should be nothing but a laughable reminder of what could have been.
Given the relative lack of thunderstorm activity near shore, the storm shouldn’t produce as much rain as was previously thought, but there could still be periods of heavy rain in the Carolinas as it swings through. Coastal areas of the Carolinas could see up to three inches of rain over the next couple of days, and parts of the Mid-Atlantic and New England could see up to an inch of rain as its dishonorable remnants sulk by.
The greatest threats to residents in the path of Ana are rip currents and a marginal chance for tornadoes. Tropical systems, even disgraceful ones such as this, have enough spin in the atmosphere that storms coming inland can start to rotate and drop some brief, weak tornadoes.
Ana joins a dozen or two other storms that have formed before the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, which officially begins on June 1. Environmental conditions usually aren’t right for tropical cyclone formation in April or May, and when they do manage to form, they’re usually humiliating bundles of loosely-organized condensation like we see today.
On a related note, even though we assign names like “Ana” and “Bob” to tropical cyclones, they are not referred to with gender-specific pronouns (he/she/his/her). Standards dictate that we refer to tropical cyclones as “it,” because we’re not supposed to humanize them, which is kind of silly because we opted to give them human names instead of calling them things like “chair” or “muffin.” So when we call Ana a pathetic storm, it is a pathetic storm, because it is not a living thing and cannot feel the emotions involved with being insulted by a weather blog.