Another Powerful October Storm to Worry About
Over the last week, I have been watching developments in the Tropical Atlantic with interest as Matthew grew into a threat for the East Coast of the United States although I hadn’t blogged about it until now.
For the second year in a row, and for the third time in five years, we have a hurricane that is menacing the Caribbean, Bahamas, and the East Coast of the United States. Once again, a hurricane spins up amidst a fall like circulation pattern in the Western Atlantic.
Four years ago, it was Hurricane Sandy, which many in New Jersey are still trying to recover from today. Last year, it was Hurricane Joaquin, which combined with another area of low pressure to produce gusty winds and heavy rains as far north as New Jersey.
This year, it is Hurricane Matthew. At one time, Matthew was a Category Five Hurricane with winds near 160 mph. Matthew was the first Category Five Hurricane in the Atlantic in 9 years. The last one was Hurricane Dean, which made landfall in the Mayan Riviera section of Mexico in August 2007. Dean was ranked as a Top Ten Atlantic storm in terms of intensity at the time.
Matthew’s path has so far been a bit eerily similar to Hurricane Sandy. However, Matthew has been much stronger with Sandy only being a Category Three storm with 125 mph winds at peak strength. The hurricane developed much earlier in the season than Sandy did. Matthew also was the first hurricane to make landfall in Haiti since 1963. Nevertheless, both storms impacted portions of Cuba.
Ok. Enough of the history and comparisons. Matthew had been interacting with the rugged mountains of Cuba and Hispaniola, which go as high as 7,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level. The interaction tore up Matthew significantly despite the fact that it also produced torrential rains on those islands. Wind speeds dropped from 145 to 115 miles per hour in about 24 hours. Now, the storm is back over water near the Bahamas, where sea surface temperatures run about 86 degrees, and Matthew has already responded to that with some strengthening.
As of 11:00 AM on Wednesday morning, sustained winds with Matthew increased to 120 miles per hour, and it may not be done yet. Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground indicated earlier that the storm is getting better organized. The NHC’s official intensity forecast indicates that Matthew could become a Category Four Hurricane again with 130 mph winds. So, the storm is likely skirt the East Coast of Florida on Friday at major hurricane strength.
The storm will then continue to hug the coast along Georgia and South Carolina, and weaken to a Category Two storm with between 100 and 110 mph winds due to a hostile upper level wind environment. Then, things get crazy. The major forecast models: GFS, European, and UKMET are all indicating that Matthew will turn to the east into the Atlantic, and then turn south and towards the Bahamas and Florida again early next week.
Why is that you ask? First, the trough that was much hyped earlier this week, didn’t pan out since it wasn’t as strong or digged as deep as expected. So, there is nothing to pick up the storm. Hence, Matthew is in a situation much like the cutoff low that affected New Jersey and the Mid-Atlantic over the past week. It has nothing to kick it out. There is also a new player in this game: Tropical Storm Nicole.
Nicole is a newly formed tropical system that became a tropical cyclone over the past 24 to 36 hours. The storm is close by in the Western Atlantic, and its circulation is also influencing Matthew’s movement. The combination with the trough that wasn’t and Nicole’s development now brings a bizarre scenario that shows Matthew possibly entering the Florida Straits next week.
This is all good news for now in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, which are now looking at great weather through this weekend. Tropical storms and hurricanes are very fickle though, and things can change so all New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic residents reading this should continue to monitor the progress of this storm.
Last Advisory Issued Early Saturday Morning
While the focus shifted completely over to the more immediate threat of now Post-Tropical Storm Hermine, Gaston was wrapping up in the Northeastern Atlantic. Early Saturday morning, the National Hurricane Center issued its final advisory on the storm system. The post-tropical cyclone was beginning to pull away from the Azores.
As of the last advisory from the NHC at 5:00 AM AST (EDT) on Saturday morning, Gaston was located some 160 miles to the Northeast of Faial Island in the Central Azores or about 120 miles due north of Lajes Air Base in the Azores. Maximum sustained winds were down to depression strength at 35 miles per hour with gusts of minimal tropical storm force.
Post-Tropical Cyclone Gaston was moving briskly to the East-Northeast at 17 miles per hour. Barometric pressure has risen to 1006 millibars or 29.71 inches of Hg (Mercury). While the storm has weakened, the once major hurricane is still generating swells that are producing heavy surf and dangerous rip currents through parts of the Azores on Saturday.
Further weakening is likely with Gaston now that it is over cooler waters and encountering hostile atmospheric conditions. The post-cyclone is expected to dissipate on Sunday. Gaston became the first major hurricane of the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season with maximum sustained winds peaking at 120 miles per hour earlier in the week.
Storm Going Through Fluctuations in Intensity
While we continue to watch two tropical depressions off the coast of the United States, Hurricane Gaston continues to head rapidly to the east in the Central Atlantic. The storm has returned to major hurricane strength, and actually peaked at 120 miles per hour yesterday before weakening slightly to minimal Category Three Strength. Gaston could threaten the Azores later in the week.
Currently, as of the 11:00 AM EDT Advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Gaston was located some 1,150 miles to the West of Faial Island in the Central Azores, or approximately 1,235 miles to the West of Lajes Air Base in the Azores. Maximum sustained winds are down slightly to 115 miles per hour with gusts up to 140 miles per hour.
Minimum central pressure is 961 millibars, or 28.38 inches of Hg (Mercury). Gaston is a fairly good sized system with hurricane force winds extending some 45 miles from the eye, and tropical storm force winds reaching out some 175 miles from the center of circulation. The storm is beginning to enter an area more hostile towards development with cooler sea surface temperatures.
Looking at the latest forecast track from the NHC, Gaston is heading rapidly to the East-Northeast, and is expected to reach the Western Azores as a tropical storm by mid morning on Friday, and will be through the entire Azores chain by Saturday. The intensity forecast has the hurricane going through a slow weakening phase as it continues to move into gradually cooler water, and also encounters some shear. Gaston will remain at least a Category Two Hurricane over the next 24 hours.
However, once Gaston gets beyond 36 hours, the storm will weaken to a minimal hurricane, and then a tropical storm by 48 hours before becoming post-tropical within four days. Residents of the Azores should closely monitor the progress of this system, and be prepared to take action if the storm does do as forecast, and come this way. This will be the second time that a hurricane or tropical storm will be affecting the Azores.
Back in January, there was a rare Atlantic Hurricane when Alex developed from a subtropical storm into a Hurricane, and approached the Azores with 85 mile per hour winds. Alex kicked off what has been a wild and more active season in 2016 by being the first of four named storms to form by the end of June. So far this season, there have been 9 depressions, 7 named storms, 3 hurricanes, and one major hurricane (Gaston).
Category Five Sets Record for Strongest Storm in Eastern Pacific
While conditions in the Atlantic have quieted down to some extent in the three weeks or so since Hurricane Joaquin, the Eastern Pacific keeps rolling along. In the last week, there have been two more named storms: Olaf and Patricia. Both have since become major hurricanes with Olaf moving into the Central Pacific zone while Patricia was grown into a monster storm of historic proportions.
Within the past 12 to 18 hours, Patricia has increased in strength significantly. Already a Category Five storm with 160 mile per hour winds as of last night, the powerful hurricane has continued to intensify in the ENSO enhanced warm waters of the Eastern Pacific. As of 8:00 AM EDT this morning, the storm had sustained winds increased to 200 miles per hour with gusts up to 245 miles per hour, and a minimum central pressure of 880 millibars, or 25.99 inches of Hg.
Those recent developments with Patricia made it not only the strongest storm ever in the Eastern Pacific basin, but the strongest hurricane on record surpassing the mark of Hurricane Wilma (882 millibars). Only Typhoon Tip in the Pacific is a stronger storm with 870 millibars of pressure, or approximately 25.69 inches of Hg (Mercury). Tip was a powerful typhoon that roamed the Western Pacific during the period of October 4th to October 24th in 1979. The storm hit its peak intensity with 190 mph winds on October 12th of that year, and ultimately affected Guam, Caroline Islands, Japan, and Russia.
Returning to Patricia, a Hurricane Warning is in effect from San Blas to Punta San Telmo on the West Mexican Coast. A Hurricane Watch and Tropical Storm Warning are in effect from east of Punta San Telmo to Lazaro Cardenas. Currently, the storm is located some 145 miles Southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico, or about 215 miles South of Cabo Corrientes, Mexico. The storm could strengthen a bit more before making landfall this afternoon or early evening in the warning area. Sustained winds could be as high as 205 miles per hour.
This storm will not end at the coast either. It will bring its abundant tropical moisture inland, where it will interact with the higher terrain of interior Mexico. As a result, tremendous condensation will take place, and torrential rains will occur producing devastating floods and mudslides. Total rainfall accumulations could at least be anywhere from 8 to 12 inches with isolated areas receiving as much as 20 inches. Along the coast, the impacts of the storm will be greatest with Category Five strength winds accompanied by dangerous waves and surge. The Mexican government indicates that waves as high as 39 feet could impact the warned area.
What is left of Patricia may even have an impact on weather in the United States. Models had been indicating over the past several days of a significant rainfall event for Texas and even Louisiana. Low pressure has been developing in the Gulf of Mexico, and that is expected to join forces with Patricia’s remnants to bring significant rainfall to Texas, which has been dealing with a terrible drought. However, this rainfall may be too much for even the drought stricken Lone Star State, and produce flooding there. With the development of Olaf and Patricia over the last week or two, there have been 20 depressions, 16 named storms, 12 hurricanes, and 8 major hurricanes.
Hurricane Hunters Find Category Four Storm Much Stronger on Saturday Afternoon
Saturday brought with it some good news for those living in the Bahamas. After Hurricane Joaquin pummeled the archipelago for the better part of three days, the storm began to pull away. However as Joaquin began to push to the north and east toward Bermuda, the storm dramatically intensified during the afternoon hours. Hurricane Hunter aircraft discovered Joaquin much stronger with winds of 155 miles per hour, or just a shade under Category Five intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.
The storm reached this new intensity peak during the mid-afternoon hours, and has since weakened to 145 mile per hour winds as of the 8:00 PM EDT Advisory on Saturday evening from the National Hurricane Center. Barometric pressure, which had been as low as 931 millibars, or 27.49 inches of Hg a couple days ago, now has a barometric pressure of 933 millibars, or 27.55 inches. Joaquin has been picking up in forward speed to the Northeast at 18 miles per hour. Currently, the Category Four Hurricane is located some 550 miles to the Southwest of Bermuda.
As Joaquin moves away from the Bahamas, pictures and video are coming out of the island chain that are showing the power, fury, and devastation from the storm. Pictures out of Exuma and Long Island show significant damage. Video of the storm’s power as it raked San Salvador showed palm trees leaning heavily to one side under the weight of the high winds that blew through the island for the better part of 48 hours. Wayne Neely, a meteorologist for the Bahamas, indicated earlier today on Facebook that as many as 30 people may have died on Long Island, and so far 8 deaths have been confirmed there. An overhead photo from the island shows heavily damaged homes surrounded by water.
Next stop for Joaquin is the resort island of Bermuda, where a Tropical Storm Warning and a Hurricane Watch are in effect. The storm is expected to turn to the North-Northeast on Sunday, and that will take it just to the west of the island, which could still see hurricane force conditions. The NHC cautions though that a slight deviation in Joaquin’s storm track to the east could bring more significant winds to Bermuda. Meanwhile, the storm is still playing an indirect role in the weather here in New Jersey, and down the Eastern Seaboard as far south as South Carolina. The tight pressure gradient between Joaquin and high pressure coming down from Canada, and another system is creating a tremendous easterly fetch that is stirring up the waters along coastal communities up and down the East Coast.
The Weather Channel is reporting from North Charleston, South Carolina, where tremendous flooding is occurring. TWC has reporters wading through high waters in the streets of North Charleston. Further north, in Cape May County, New Jersey, waters are rising in places like Wildwood, where significant flooding could occur when high tide comes in at midnight there. A little bit further north in the Garden State on Long Beach Island in Ocean County, extensive tidal flooding is occurring. Storm surge maps are showing surge rises of up to 3 feet above normal from Delaware Bay up to Seaside Heights. GWC was over at Waterfront Park in South Amboy, where there was also a good easterly fetch driving waves ashore, and bringing gusty winds that had the US flag there flapping wildly.
On Friday afternoon and evening, the rain was at its worst across the Garden State. Driven by a fairly steady wind, moderate to heavy rain fell from about 4:00 PM on Friday afternoon to well past 9:30 PM on Friday evening. High School football games went on as scheduled across New Jersey although a number of them including several in Middlesex County were moved up earlier to avoid players and fans having to deal with extreme weather conditions. However, fans at the early games still had to go through some difficulty. According to the NHC’s latest forecast track, Joaquin will make its closest approach to New Jersey on Monday afternoon as a hurricane. So, residents up and down the Jersey Shore should expect the easterly fetch to continue and the elevated water levels, rip currents, and heavy surf to persist for the next 40 hours or so.
A New Month Begins with Joaquin Strengthening to Category Three While Forecast Uncertainty Remains
Since the last post to the GWC and Hurricaneville blog last night on Hurricane Joaquin in the Western Atlantic. Things have become more serious. As I had indicated last night, Joaquin appeared to be rapidly deepening. If you recall, Hurricane Hunter aircraft detected a much stronger storm with 105 mile per hour winds, and a minimum central pressure of 954 millibars, or 28.17 inches of Hg. Over a three hour span, the pressure dropped some 13 millibars.
Well, after the last report was posted to the blog, Joaquin further intensified. As of the 5:00 AM Advisory on Thursday morning from the National Hurricane Center, Joaquin’s winds have increased to 120 miles per hour, and the minimum central pressure in its eye has dropped another 6 millibars to 948 millibars, or 27.99 inches of Hg. So, in the last 12 hours (from 5:00 PM on Wednesday to 5:00 AM on Thursday), Joaquin’s pressure has dropped some 21 millibars, or about 0.63 inches of Hg (Mercury). Another concern is the uncertainty of the forecast.
When I woke up this morning, I checked my Facebook feed, and found a post by The Weather Channel’s Bryan Norcross, which was posted late last night. It basically points out that the situation with Joaquin is becoming more dire: A strengthening storm with no real consensus on where it will go. Yesterday, the models had a fairly wide range of solutions with the GFS and several other models pointing to a U.S. landfall from North Carolina’s Outer Banks to the Tidewater region of Virginia while the European, or ECMWF model, had the storm heading to the east toward Bermuda, and eventually out to sea. There are many players coming into this game right now, and that is what is creating the forecasting challenge.
The bottom line here is that although the National Hurricane Center has a cone of uncertainty pointing in general direction of the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, there is still a great deal of uncertainty in the forecast that the cone should be wider. In other words, all residents along the East Coast from Florida to Maine should pay close attention to this storm, and be prepared to act quickly if and when Joaquin makes a definitive move. Another concern with Joaquin is that if the storm does decide to head toward the Eastern Seaboard, it could pick up in forward speed like many East Coast Hurricanes in the past do. Two strong examples of that scenario off the top of my head would be the Long Island Express of 1938 and Hurricane Gloria, which struck Long Island and New England almost 30 years ago to the day (September 27, 1985).
When you have a strong hurricane moving up the East Coast in a mostly south to north trajectory, the forward motion adds to or subtracts from the speed of the sustained winds rotating around the storm’s center. For example, if you have a hurricane with say 120 mph winds like Joaquin, and it is moving up the coast at a rate of 45 to 50 mph, locations on the eastern side, particularly in the dreaded northeast quadrant of the storm, where you have the highest winds and surge, sustained winds could easily be 165 to 170 mph. Meanwhile, to the west, winds will slacken to only about 70 to 75 mph. Those were the types of situations that happened with the Long Island Express of 1938, where the storm was moving up to 70 miles per hour up the East Coast. To put a real fix on that type of motion, the Long Island Express was near Cape Hatteras at about 7:00 AM on September 21, 1938, and by 2:00 PM, it was crossing Long Island.
Now, while I have gone into a good deal of detail about this scenario, it may not happen at all. Instead, we could see a scenario similar to Hurricane Floyd, or Hurricane Irene, where the storm slowly creeps up the coast. A slow moving storm would be great news in terms of the wind and surge, but it would be a big problem in terms of rain. With hurricanes and tropical storms, rainfall is proportional to how fast the storm is moving. With both Floyd and Irene, the storms were slow movers, and as a result, there was a good deal of rain. On the other hand, Sandy was a bit more of a fast mover, and as a result, there was less rain. Getting back to the storm, here are the most recent particulars on Joaquin as of 5:00 AM on Thursday. The storm is located some 65 miles to the Southeast of San Salvador in the Bahamas, or 20 miles to the North of Samana Cays in the Bahamas.
Maximum sustained winds with Joaquin are up to 120 miles per hour with gusts in upwards of 150 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure is now down to 948 millibars, or 28.17 inches of Hg. The storm is moving to the West-Southwest at a slow pace of 7 miles per hour. A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the Central Bahamas and the Northwestern Bahamas including: the Abacos, Berry Islands, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, and New Providence. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Bimini and Andros Island in the Bahamas. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Southeastern Bahamas excluding the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Andros Island. To repeat, there is still a great deal of uncertainty in the forecast with Joaquin. Not only in the projected path of the storm, but also with the intensity. It is imperative that residents along the East Coast of the United States pay very close attention to this storm.
Tropics Have Been Relatively Quiet Since Record Breaking Season in Atlantic
Last week marked the 10th Anniversary of the most deadly and devastating storm in the modern era in the United States. Despite mercifully weakening just before landfall near Buras, Louisiana with Category Three strength 125 mile per hour winds after being as strong as a record making Category Five Hurricane with 175 mile per hour winds and a minimum central pressure of 902 millibars or 26.64 inches of Hg. Katrina then made a second landfall near the Louisiana/Mississippi border with 120 mph winds. The combination of the weakening with a track that took the storm’s strongest side east of New Orleans appeared to put the Big Easy in the clear. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.
A near natural disaster had become a major man-made disaster as the levee system around New Orleans failed, and waters began pouring into the surrounding parishes such as St. Bernard’s, and the section of the city known as the Lower Ninth Ward. Meanwhile, further to the east, Katrina was still powerful and large enough to generate a storm surge even greater than the monster storm of August 1969 known as Hurricane Camille. The storm struck many, if not all of the same towns along the Mississippi Gulf Coast such as Gulfport, Biloxi, Pass Christian, Bay St. Louis, and Pascagoula, and brought a storm surge that ended up being the highest ever in North America.
Hurricane Katrina ended up killing some 1,800 people, which seemed unfathomable in this day and age. On top of that, the storm left at least $80 billion dollars in damage, which is three times more than the previous high mark from a natural disaster set by Hurricane Andrew when it impacted Homestead and South Florida back in August 1992. The storm also brought out the worst in a country that is supposed to be the leader of the “free world.” Katrina exposed problems with federal government agencies such as FEMA, and even more glaring, the lack of coordination between local, state, and federal agencies so that the necessary resources could efficiently be distributed to those directly impacted by the storm.
Two examples of that failure were deploying resources such as National Guard Troops, buses, and other kinds of essentials to those affected in shelters of last resort such as the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center. Numerous horror stories from these two sites were brought into viewers homes by all the cable news and regular broadcast news networks. The storm’s aftermath provided an image of the United States that wasn’t one of superpower, but instead one of a third world country. It demonstrated how out of touch politicians in Washington and Louisiana had grown so far out of touch with its constituents in New Orleans. In addition, Katrina’s aftermath also showed the wide chasm between rich and poor in the United States.
The 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season didn’t stop with Katrina though. As a matter of fact, the year produced an astounding five Category Five Hurricanes on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Those kind of numbers are usually only seen with typhoons in the Western Pacific. However, the combination of several factors such as abundant moisture around the Atlantic Basin, above normal sea surface temperatures, La Nina conditions in the Pacific that brought about favorable upper level wind conditions, and the positioning of the subtropical ridge in the Atlantic, which helped drive these powerful storms into the Gulf of Mexico, and over the Loop Current there, where conditions were optimal for explosive tropical development. Katrina, Rita, and Wilma were prime examples of the effect of the Loop Current.
During the historic 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season, there were a total of 31 depressions, 28 named storms, 15 hurricanes, and 7 major hurricanes. Of those 7 major storms, 71 percent of them reached the highest level possible for a tropical cyclone, which is extremely rare. It is very rare to have one Category Five storm in the Atlantic during the course of the season. So, when you have five: Dennis, Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, that is record book material. Recently, I put together an article on the busy season in the WESTPAC where there have been 6 Super Typhoons of Category Five strength on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. This has been largely due to the emergence of the strongest El Nino at least since 1998. Remember, ENSO produces above normal sea surface temperatures and favorable upper level wind conditions in the Pacific. Rita appeared on its way to give another blow to the Big Easy.
Like Katrina a little less than a month earlier, Hurricane Rita tracked over South Florida and the Florida Keys and then grew into a monster as it traversed the Loop Current. The storm grew to be an even more powerful Category Five Hurricane than Katrina was in terms of wind (180 mph) and pressure (895 mb or 26.43 inches of Hg). Like Katrina though, Rita eventually weakened before making landfall, and spared the major population centers of New Orleans and Baton Rouge in Louisiana as it made landfall over to Louisiana Bayou. About a month after that, Hurricane Wilma spun up in the Northwestern Caribbean, and approached the Yucatan Penninsula. The storm grew to be even a notch better than Katrina and Rita with winds of 185 mph and the lowest pressure ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin at 882 millibars or 26.05 inches of Hg surpassing the marks set by Hurricane Gilbert and the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. After reaching its peak intensity, Wilma began feeling the effects of shear from a dipping jet stream over the United States, but it did re-energize before clobbing South Florida from west to east and causing significant damage along the Sunshine State’s Gold Coast.
Apparently, the 2005 Atlantic Season squeezed more than enough out of the earth’s atmosphere. Since that time, there hasn’t been a landfalling major hurricane in the United States. True, there has been active seasons such as 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012 with deadly and devastating storms such as Gustav, Ike, Irene, and Sandy, but none of them approached the pure power that the 2005 storms had. In addition, there have been quite a few below normal hurricane seasons since then including 2006, 2007, 2009, 2013, and 2014. The change in behavior pattern in the Atlantic since the 2005 season may be an indication that the active cycle that dominated the basin since 1995 may be coming to an end.
Ignacio Joins Kilo in Central Pacific While Jimena Strengthens to Cat 4
While the Atlantic is beginning to rev up just in time for the peak of the season, the Eastern Pacific continues to roll out storms over the past week, the EPAC created two big storms in Hurricane Ignacio and Hurricane Jimena. With the emergence of an El Nino that has rivaled the ENSO episode of 1997, activity in the Eastern Pacific has picked up with 13 depressions, 10 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 5 major hurricanes.
Ignacio and Jimena have been heavy hitters being the most recent of the major hurricanes in the basin. Ignacio, now in the Central Pacific, and causing Tropical Storm Watches to be issued for Hawaii, currently is a major hurricane with 115 mile per hour winds with gusts up to 140 mph. Minimum central pressure was 961 millibars, or 28.35 inches of Hg. Jimena is closing in on Category Five strength with 145 mile per hour sustained winds with gusts up to 175 mph. Minimum central pressure of 940 millibars, or 27.73 inches of Hg.
Before moving into the Central Pacific, Ignacio strengthened to become a Category One Hurricane with 90 mile per hour winds. Ignacio didn’t stop there as it gradually continued to strengthen up and until Saturday morning when it reached major hurricane strength with minimal Category Three strength winds. Later on Saturday morning, Hurricane Hunter aircraft flew into Ignacio and found it to be much stronger with 140 mph winds, and a minimum central pressure of 951 millibars, or 28.08 inches of Hg.
Ignacio had some fluctuations in strength over the next 12 hours before peaking at 145 mph with a minimum central pressure of 942 millibars, or 27.82 inches of Hg. Since then the powerful storm has gradually weakened as it encounters cooler waters near Hawaii. Meanwhile, Jimena has put on quite a show in the Eastern Pacific. Satellite imagery has produced classic photos of Jimena’s pinhole eye. Jimena was on the cusp of becoming a Category Five Hurricane with 150 mile per hour winds on Saturday morning, but weakened a bit to minimal Category Four strength with 130 mile per hour winds before rejuvenating on Sunday.
When powerful storms such as Jimena climb into the high end of the Saffir-Simpson Scale with 140 to 150 mph winds, they tend to re-organize with eyewall replacement cycles, which causes some weakening. Jimena probably went through a bit of that on Saturday and early Sunday. According to the 2:00 PM HST Forecast Discussion, the National Hurricane Center indicates that Jimena could strengthen to 155 mile per hour winds within 12 hours. So, it will be very close to becoming a Cat Five storm if it doesn’t break that threshold. This storm is also headed in the direction of Hawaii, which has had several tropical threats this summer including a Category Three storm in Hurricane Kilo.
Fourteenth Named Storm of Season in EPAC Strengthens into Sixth Major Storm
In what has already been a very busy season in the Eastern Pacific, things got even busier over the past several days. Hurricane Norbert not only became the 14th named storm of the season in the region, but also strengthened into the season’s eighth hurricane and now sixth major hurricane. Norbert became the latest major hurricane in the Eastern Pacific late Friday night, and now has maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour with gusts in upwards of 150 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure in the storm is down to 957 millibars, or 28.26 inches of Hg (Mercury).
Located some 95 miles to the west of Cabo San Lazaro, or some 225 miles to the South-Southeast of Punta Eugenia, Mexico, Norbert is moving parallel to the coast of Baja with a Northwest track at a modest 8 miles per hour. Currently, a Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for portions of Baja California from Santa Fe to Punta Eugenia and from San Evaristo to Loreto. The area that encompasses hurricane force winds is a bit small at some 45 miles from the center while tropical storm force winds reach out about 140 miles from the center. The key effects from this system will be tropical storm force winds, some rain, and dangerous surf and rip currents.
With Norbert strengthening to a major hurricane, expect a repeat of what happened about a week or so ago when what was once Category Five Hurricane Marie stirred up historic wave heights and surf from Baja California to the Gulf of California in Mexico, and up to Southern California in the United States. While the surf and waves may not be as high as those from Marie, it will be significant enough to attract some attention from surfers and curiosity seekers. Rainfall amounts of one to two inches is expected from the outer bands of the storm. Although the forecasted El Nino has not developed, and is not anticipated to be as strong as previously thought, activity in the Eastern Pacific has been noteworthy.
As of today (September 6th), the Eastern Pacific has already seen its “N” named storm. Last year, the “N” storm didn’t occur for another month (October 6th), and 2013 was still a busy season with 18 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and just one major hurricane. This year alone, there have been four storms of at least Category Four strength on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with one (Marie) reaching Category Five levels. The last time, there was a Category Five Hurricane in the Eastern Pacific was 2010. In addition, three storms that originated in the EPAC eventually moved into the Central Pacific and threatened Hawaii.
Has 50 Percent Chance of Development as it Moves into Gulf
While the month of August and the entire 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season in general have been very quiet, things continue to try to stir around the Atlantic Basin on this Sunday morning. The most significant feature is in the Northwest Caribbean and crossing over the Yucatan.
This was a tropical wave in the Central Caribbean as of late last week, but it has migrated, and most importantly, become better organized. This disturbance, Invest 99L is now moving into a prime area for development. Sea surface temperatures are always quite warm in the Gulf and Northwest Caribbean, and environmental conditions are favorable for development.
On Sunday morning, the National Hurricane Center gave this area of disturbed weather a 50 percent chance of development over the next 48 hours to 5 days. Most forecast models indicate that this disturbance will track to the west across the Yucatan into the Bay of Campeche before moving ashore into Southeastern Mexico.
Elsewhere in the tropics, there are a couple waves in the Atlantic, but there remains a good deal of dry and stable air that is hampering development. The remains of Hurricane Cristobal have come ashore in Iceland within the past 24 hours. We continue to approach the peak of the season, which is September 10th. Yet, there have been only 4 depressions, 3 named storms, 3 hurricanes, and no major hurricanes. There have only been two named storms in August and there hasn’t been a major hurricane at all in nearly two years.
Moreover, It has been almost 10 years since the last major hurricane made landfall in the United States. While storms such as Gustav, Ike, Irene, and Sandy were all memorable storms, none of them were Category Three strength or higher when they came ashore along the U.S. Coastline. The last major storm to hit the United States coastline was Hurricane Wilma in October 2005. Special thanks to Lew Fincher and Stan Blazyk of Hurricane Consulting for their coverage of the Atlantic this season.
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