Ernesto Comes Ashore In Southern Yucatan

Storm Packs 85 MPH Winds As It Makes Landfall Near Chetumal

Hurricane Ernesto made landfall in the southern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico late Monday night according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. The second hurricane and fifth named storm of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season came ashore near the town of Mahahual Mexico, which is located some 40 miles to the East-Northeast of Chetumal Mexico.

At the time of landfall, the hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour with gusts of over 100 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure was 980 millibars, or 28.94 inches of Hg. Hurricane force winds extend some 35 miles from the eye while tropical storm force winds reach out some 175 miles.

Since that time, the storm has continued on its westerly track across the Southern Yucatan. Ernesto remains a Category One Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with winds of 80 miles per hour and gusts up to 105 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure has risen to 983 millibars, or 29.03 inches of Hg (Mercury), and the storm is moving at 15 miles per hour.

Prior to landfall, Ernesto was strengthening as shown in the infrared satellite imagery by the deeper reds in the higher cloud tops of the storm’s core. The hurricane still remains a threat for the Yucatan as well as the Gulf coast of Mexico.

Over time, the big problem with Ernesto will be the rains. Presently, the storm is moving over the flat plateau terrain of the Yucatan’s interior. Eventually, Ernesto will re-emerge in the Bay of Campeche region of the Gulf of Mexico, where it could restrengthen in the warm waters there. The hurricane will then make a second landfall in Mexico, and begin to interact with the rugged terrain of the mountains in the northern portion of that country.

The orographic lifting and condensation of all the tropical air moisture associated with Ernesto will cause tremendous rainfall to occur. Presently, the storm is dumping anywhere from 3 to 5 in places such as Honduras, Belize, and Guatemala with some mountainous areas in those countries receiving between 8 to 12 inches. There is also a remote chance that the storm could re-emerge in the Eastern Pacific, but it is rare that a storm or hurricane is able to maintain its circulation over the mountainous interior of Mexico for that long.

Meanwhile, the storm is also generating a storm surge between 2 to 4 feet above normal in the area of impact. Nearby areas in the warning area are receiving storm surge that is one to three feet above normal. As of the time of this report, a Hurricane Warning remains in effect for the east coast of the Yucatan from Chetumal to Tulum including the resort island of Cozumel as well as the coast of Belize from Belize City northward to the Mexican border.

A Hurricane Watch is now in effect for the Mexican Gulf Coast from Barra de Natula to Punta El Lagarto. A Tropical Storm Warning is still in effect from north of Tulum to Cabo Catoche along the east coast of the Yucatan, along the Belize coast from south of Belize City to the Guatemala border, and along the Mexican Gulf coast from Celestun to Chilitepec. A Tropical Storm Watch is now in effect from north of Barra de Natula to Tuxpan in Mexico.

Ernesto is the second hurricane this season, but the first landfalling storm. This storm is not a threat to the United States. The position of the subtropical ridge in the Atlantic and the large dome of high pressure that has been responsible for the heat and drought in the Midwest this summer have steered this storm well to the south of any coastal areas of the United States.