Squalls in Florida

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Kiteboarding & Weather In Florida

Presented by: Rick Iossi, Florida Kitesurfing Association, Inc., Jan. 30, 2008

This was prepared specifically for Florida but there is important information here for kiteboarders regardless of where they ride.

Contents

Introduction

  • 1. Quest for “Useable Weather”
  • 2. Matching wind speed, gust range, direction, wave height, current, temperature and CONSISTENCY To you, your gear, skills, experience and realistic expectations and that of your buddy.
  • 3. Less “Useable” Weather (Wx) -> more hassle & Hazard.
  • 4. AVOID Weather Hazards.
  • 5. Carefully evaluate -> in doubt, don’t go out!
  • 6. Deteriorating Conditions -> Land & Secure Early
  • 7. Screw up and get caught out -> EMERGENCY DEPOWER NOW, self-rescue!
  • 8. No session is worth your health or life

New to kiting,

AVOID:

  • Onshore & Offshore winds
  • Winds >18 kts.
  • Gusts > 5 kts., less is better
  • Storms or squalls
  • Excessive waves (over 2-3 ft.)
  • Adverse currents
  • Hypothermia waters

Carefully build experience in reasonable conditions.

Taking lessons on the Flats with follow up Sea Taxi rides after the course to accelerate learning in safer environment.

Why Is Understanding Weather Important?

  • 1. Less waiting, frustration, faster learning, MORE FUN!
  • 2. Reduce odds of hassles, pain, broken gear, incidents, accidents, even death
  • 3. 2000 To January 2008, 76 kiteboarders were lost worldwide
  • 4. 67% were taken by lofting (being involuntarily lifted and blown downwind, possibly at very high speed) with 52% in squalls
  • 5. Majority of losses are weather related
  • 6. Compare to paragliding, diving
  • 7. Thousands of similar non-fatal kiting accidents
  • 8. Why didn’t they Emergency Depower???
  • 9. Three “A’s” - (Awareness, Appreciation, Avoidance)

Cold Fronts

  • 1. Bring best winds
  • 2. May not come south during warm months
  • 3. May not make it to South Florida in winter
  • 4. October To May!
  • 5. Some better than others
  • 6. Zero to about three fronts per week
  • 7. Frontal wind “clocks”
  • 8. Blow west, go west
  • 9. Blow east, go east
  • 10. Hit the Keys flats for all the above
  • 11. Cold fronts bring best winds with common hazards
  • 12. Time ETA to half hour?

Cold Front Kiting Hazards

  • 1. Wet front squall lines
  • 2. Dry fronts sometimes megaboost wind!
  • 3. 90 degree gusty wind shift COMMON, knowing timing can be critical (change to offshore?)
  • 4. Cold Fronts are COLD, timing change & dealing with hypothermia
  • 5. Estimate ETA via Radar, Satellite loops, real time wind
  • 6. DO NOT kite through arrival of squall lines or powerful dry fronts.
  • 7. Land and secure until unstable zone is past
  • 8. Rig & dress for actual sustained winds after

FL Weather PPT 1.jpg

Subtropical & Tropical Systems

  • 1. Typical May through October
  • 2. Tropical waves, depressions, storms and hurricanes
  • 3. All COMMONLY have powerful squalls
  • 4. Squalls often predictable via warnings, radar, satellite images and visual observations
  • 5. Squall gusts can be extremely powerful (gusting to 40, 50, 60 and 70 mph+)
  • 6. Don’t wait, faster than reaction
  • 7. Direction changes and dying wind
  • 8. Wind lust vs. Tropical Systems
  • 9. Newer kiters should avoid tropical system winds
  • 10. Experienced kiters accepting higher risk of injury -> may look for LARGE clear holes free of storms, coming in before they hit
  • 11. Monitor satellite, radar and realtime winds upweather at beach
  • 12. Hurricanes bring unique hazards
  • 13. Squall inbound -> land, secure before change in speed, direction or temperature, ACT EARLY
  • 14. Got caught out (dumb screwup) -> immediately Emergency Depower & self rescue
  • 15. Lucky 13, ignore squalls at your peril, it’s a numbers game.

Example

800 ft. long, 100 ft. high lofting in 51 kt. gust in Cabarete, D.R.

FL Weather PPT 2.jpg

Thermal Winds

  • 1. Happen anytime including winter
  • 2. More common on mainland in summer
  • 3. Wind Lust MAX’D & Caution at LOW
  • 4. Hard to predict, patchy
  • 5. Often sideshore 10 to 20 mph
  • 6. Thermal Squalls march to ocean, winds build
  • 7. Lightning, gust hazard, radar is poor predictor
  • 8. Secure early & shelter from lightning
  • 9. See thermal squalls coming
  • 10. Wind localized at coast
  • 11. Wind starts late am to late afternoon
  • 12. Watch out for the wind drop and direction shift when thermals shut off around sunset
  • 13. Kiters & gear adrift!

Weather Planning And Monitoring

VERY important for all kiteboarders.

  • What conditions to Find & Avoid?
  • Wind speed, gust range and direction
  • Waves
  • Current
  • Temperature
  • What are the guys flying and how’s it going?
  • Visual Wx change?

Weather Planning

I. Marine & hazard forecasts

II. National weather map

III. Color radar & satellite loops

IV. Realtime winds locally & up weather

I. Hazard & Marine Forecast

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/mfl/

  • High, gusty wind, lightning, waterspouts predicted, when and where?
  • How much and changes predicted?
  • “Useable weather” match or no?
  • Better conditions within driving distance?

II. National Forecast Map

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/outlook_tab.php

  • 1. Long view of big picture
  • 2. Systems inbound?
  • 3. How soon? Loop it
  • 4. ETA impacted by other systems
  • 5. Tropical systems get lost for weeks.
  • 6. Big gradient -> Big wind
  • 7. Wind parallels isobars

FL Weather PPT 3.jpg

III. Check color radar

http://nws.noaa.gov/radar_tab.php�

  • 1. Storm cells inbound? (red, orange, yellow, dk. green), est. direction & speed
  • 2. County away or more is better
  • 3. Does front have squall line, how wide, fast & nasty?
  • 4. Poor predictor of thermal squalls
  • 5. Holes and Risk?!
  • 6. Squalls at light speed & reaction
  • 7. Monitor radar, satellite, hazard forecast & realtime wind on beach
  • 8. “A dinky radar dot on a vast ocean”
  • 9. NWS doesn’t track everything including small storms a few miles across that can clean your clock
  • 10. Conclusion -> It is up to “us” to watch out for Wx hazards through proper training, weather planning and monitoring!

FL Weather PPT 4.jpg

FL Weather PPT 5.jpg

IV. Realtime winds locally & up weather

  • 1. Useable? (speed, gusts, direction)
  • 2. Violent spikes, direction changes, 90 degree shift
  • 3. What’s up weather?
  • 4. What is behind the leading edge?

FL Weather PPT 6.jpg

Weather Monitoring At Beach

  • 1. Measure Wind speed & look around
  • 2. What’s flying, how’s it doing?
  • 3. Comparing “C” vs. “Flat” kite sizes
  • 4. Shoot for low to moderate wind range
  • 5. Don’t rig too big!
  • 6. Wind lines, white water, clouds
  • 7. Always be aware -> act early
  • 8. Change coming? Land and secure BEFORE wind velocity, direction or air temp. change
  • 9. Best deflate & roll kite, or lines off and anchor well

Cloud Identification

Read this info:

http://www.weatherscapes.com/gallery.php?cat=clouds

http://spotterguides.us/basic/basic02.htm

Clouds and Unstable Weather

FL Weather PPT 7.jpg

Waves

  • Wind makes waves
  • Height vs. wind speed, duration, fetch, depth, etc.
  • Longer and stronger the bigger the waves
  • Wave height vs. shallows
  • Florida Bay, Florida Reef Tract & Waves
  • Cuba & Bahamian Plateau and waves
  • Wind offshore to sideshore, waves slow to build nearshore
  • Distant storms and ground swells
  • Regional winds and chop
  • Blowing down waves
  • Blowing against current -> steep waves
  • Wind against Florida Current -> Whoppers
  • Wind against tidal current -> sudden chop
  • NW wind and refracted groundswells
  • Waves and new kiters
  • Nearshore breaks -> BREAK, especially onshore!

AVOID Squalls & Rigging Too BIG!

Watch this first:

  • What did he do wrong?
  • How could you tell he was rigged too big?
  • How long did he have to Emergency Depower vs. How long did it take him to be ripped into land?

REMEMBER…

  • 1. AVOID squalls & unstable weather
  • 2. Have to rig too big? -> Blow off session!
  • 3. EMERGENCY DEPOWER early -> BEFORE overpowered!
  • 4. Self-rescue using minor flotation of impact vest
  • 5. Kiteboarding & watermanship
  • 6. Practice, practice, PRACTICE Emergency Depowering physically and mentally
  • 7. Touch QR, think about “what if …” frequently!

Weather & Related Hazards

  • Excessively strong and gusty winds
  • Light winds
  • Offshore & side offshore winds
  • Wind direction changes
  • Excessively cold or warm conditions
  • Lightning
  • Waves
  • Current
  • Darkness
  • 1. UNDERSTAND factors, what brings and changes them
  • 2. KNOW your limits and stay within them
  • 3. If you are new to an area, research and talk to locals FIRST!
  • 4. KNOW how to evaluate these conditions, look up forecasts and the signs of change
  • 5. Be conservative in your planning and allow for error
  • 6. Far more accidents happen in ONSHORE winds!
  • 7. Avoid offshore & side off winds, due to lulls, gusts and drift when kite drops
  • 8. Dress for unexpected
  • 9. Hydrate, use block, in cold take regular warm-up breaks, stay near shore
  • 10. Dry suits in Northern Florida to Central Florida. 4/3 wetsuits are worn even in the Keys in extreme fronts for longer exposures.
  • 11. Exposure clothing function of air/water temp.exposure time, wind speed, preference and your condition that day
  • 12. Flotation important in hypothermal waters
  • 13. Hypothermal conditions, Partner & people onshore need to monitor your status
  • 14. Use safety gear (good helmet, vest, knife(s), ID at a minimum). Signaling and communications gear can help too.

FL Weather PPT 8.jpg

Further Reading

Weather Planning

To prepare before a session to avoid getting into bad weather, answer the following questions:

  • How do prospects look for riding off the beach you want to go to for the next day?
  • What sort of system is moving in? What is the predicted wind range, direction, rain potential and apparent squall potential for tomorrow morning, at this advanced time?
  • What can you conclude from the current wind graph about conditions at that beach for tomorrow? Is there much meaningful information about up weather wind conditions at this point?
  • Why do you need to look at all these sites again tomorrow morning?

Presented by

Rick Iossi

Florida Kitesurfing Association, Inc.

Jan. 30, 2008

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