Felix Defying Expectations So Far

Good evening everyone. Before I begin to discuss my thoughts on Tropical Storm Felix, I thought that I would mention that I plan to work on articles about Hurricane Dean and Hurricane Flossie to post to the web site this weekend. So keep your eyes peeled. In addition, I’m closing in on finishing my latest book, Killer ‘Cane: The Deadly Hurricane of 1928. I only have about 45 pages to read. After I finish, I will get to work on the book reviews. Thank you all for your patience and continued support for the web site. With that out of the way, it’s time to talk about what’s been happening with Felix.

On Friday, August 31st, the sixth named storm of the season began to take shape as a depression in the Western Atlantic less than two hundred miles from the Lesser Antilles. Early on Saturday morning, the depression became the fourth named storm to form in just the last 32 days, and it was named Felix. Later in the morning, the newly formed storm had winds of 45 miles per hour, and a minimum central pressure of 1004 millibars, or 29.65 inches of Hg (Mercury). More importantly, the tropical storm force winds only extended some 45 miles from the center of circulation. So, this was a very small storm. However, that would gradually change.

During the course of the afternoon, Felix defied some of the expectations set before it by the sophisticated tropical computer models such as the GFDL and the HWRF. Both of those models didn’t appear to be as enthusiastic as the SHIPS statistical intensity model, which has performed quite well with Felix so far. Over a span of about nine hours, maximum sustained winds with the system gradually increased from 45 miles per hour to 70 miles per hour while pressure dropped some five millibars to 999 mb, or 29.50 inches of Hg. The most dramatic growth occurred with the diameter of the storm’s wind field. Tropical storm force winds with Felix expanded by some 311 percent to 140 miles from the center. Listening to the Weather Channel throughout the morning, you had the sense that Felix wasn’t going to become anything significant right away. And, that assumption wasn’t necessarily a bad one. Despite the very warm sea surface temperatures, Felix has been located in the Southeastern and South Central Caribbean, which aren’t really favorable areas for development. Being at such a low latitude is not a good thing for tropical cyclones because they need spin, or rotation to develop. The closer tropical storms and hurricanes are to the equator, the more difficult it can be for them to strengthen.

However, there have been past instances of storms developing in this area. One classic example was Hurricane Ivan back in the 2004 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Ivan struck the Southern Windwards as a strong Category One Hurricane before moving into the Central Caribbean. After bringing a blitzkreig to the island of Grenada, which had 90 percent of its buildings either destroyed or damaged by the hurricane, Ivan continued to intensify as it eventually became the second of what would become seven Category Five Hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin in just the past five seasons. Let’s also keep in mind that the trends that forecasters go on when talking about this region of the Atlantic as well as others is based on records that are only 156 years old. So, it is quite possible that there were more storms in this area, but the scientists just don’t know for sure.

Felix has an opportunity to become the season’s second hurricane, and perhaps a major hurricane over the next several days. The latest discussion from the NHC indicates that Felix could have sustained winds as high as 110 knots, or approximately 125 miles per hour when it makes landfall somewhere in Central America from the Yucatan to Northeastern Nicaragua. Most significant is the fact that once again Jamaica, Cayman Islands, and the Yucatan Peninsula appear to be in the crosshairs of another potentially devastating and deadly storm.