Harvey Getting Stronger As It Reaches Finish Line

Storm Intensifies to Category Four Intensity with 130 MPH Winds

Hurricaneville continues to track Hurricane Harvey as it continues to ramble toward landfall along the Texas Coast to the north of Corpus Christi. Within the past few minutes, the National Hurricane Center issued another update on the position and intensity of Hurricane Harvey.

The scenario with Harvey is becoming somewhat reminiscent of when Hurricane Hugo slammed into the South Carolina coast just to the north of Charleston in McClellanville in September 1989. If you recall with Hugo for those who were around then, the storm had been a Category Five on the Saffir-Simpson Scale before it went into Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Hugo appeared to have been wounded by the encounter with those islands in the Northeastern Caribbean. Winds had decreased to just Category Two strength at about 105 miles per hour. However, Hugo would become a memorable storm as it crossed the Gulf Stream, a warm water current that lies just off the Atlantic coast of the United States.

Once Hurricane Hugo touched those warm waters, it re-energized, and became a marathon runner that was sprinting toward the finish line. Winds grew back to 135 miles per hour and Hugo became a Category Four Hurricane again. The storm ended up causing some $16 to $17 billion dollars in damage. Harvey has some similarities to this storm, another Gulf coast monster in Hurricane Frederic in 1979, and even in some ways to Superstorm Sandy.

The major similarity between those storms and Harvey is that like Hugo and Sandy, Harvey is making his big move as it approaches the finish line or landfall along the middle Texas Gulf Coast. On Sunday, Harvey was struggling to hang on as a depression in the Central Caribbean, and eventually was downgraded to an open wave. It eventually came ashore in Central America, and moved across the Yucatan before re-emerging on Wednesday.

Like Hugo, Harvey was re-energized once it went into the Bay of Campeche and Southern Gulf of Mexico. The difference between these two storms was that Harvey had a much farther way to go in order to get to the point where it is at now. Hugo still had a solid core as it moved into the Gulf Stream in September 1989. Harvey basically went from remnants off the Yucatan to a historic major hurricane with 130 mile per hour winds within a period of only 48 hours.

Hurricane Frederic, which is a storm that might have been forgotten by many since it came on the heels of memorable Hurricane David in September of 1979, but Frederic, like Harvey had its share of struggles before slamming ashore along the Gulf of Mexico. Frederic’s track was further to the north in the Caribbean as it crossed the rugged mountainous terrain of Hispaniola and Cuba and weakening to a Tropical Depression at one point before hitting the Northwestern Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

About 72 hours later, Frederic was heading toward the Central Gulf Coast and Mobile, Alabama with near 130 mile per hour winds. Hurricane Frederic came ashore as a Category Three Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with 125 mile per hour winds. Superstorm Sandy was a much different storm in terms of its structure. Sandy ended up being more of a hybrid storm in the end, and occurred much later in the season. Occurring during the last days of October, Sandy was once a Category Three Hurricane in the Caribbean, and gradually weakened along the East Coast of the United States.

Then, approximately less than 18 hours before coming ashore, Sandy made the memorable left hook in response to a blocking ridge of high pressure, and moved across the Gulf Stream toward its eventual landfall in Cape May County, New Jersey. Winds in the storm grew to a strong Category One Hurricane with 90 mile per hour winds. Sandy was also a very large storm. One of the largest on record. The storm’s size and momentum brought about devastation along the Jersey Shore, New York City, and Long Island that had never occurred before.

Now, Harvey, Hugo, Frederic, and Sandy came in all shapes, sizes, and strengths, but they have one major thing in common, and that is that these four storms all were like marathon runner’s sprinting toward the finish line. These storms overcame difficult odds at some point in their journey to restrengthen and approach their eventual landfall point with plenty of momentum and power. Harvey and Frederic may be the most similar since they were both Gulf storms and re-energized to major hurricanes after becoming a depression or open wave.

As of the 7:00 PM CDT Advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Harvey was located approximately 35 miles east of Corpus Christi, Texas, or 50 miles to the South-Southwest of Port O’Connor, Texas. Winds again have grown to 130 miles per hour, which is now Category Four on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Wind gusts are near 155 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure has fallen off to 941 millibars, or 27.79 inches. Over the last 48 hours, pressure has dropped 62 millibars, or about 1.83 inches of Hg.

Hurricane force winds still extend some 35 miles from the eye of Harvey while tropical storm force winds also still reach about 140 miles from the center of Harvey. The powerful hurricane has slowed down even more with its forward motion to the Northwest at 8 miles per hour. So, in another sense, Hurricane Harvey has some similarities to Hurricane Frances in terms of its slow motion across Florida during the 2004 Atlantic season.