Storm Re-Strengthens to Have Winds of 125 MPH: Still Potential Problem for East Coast

After pounding Dominica, St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico with Category 4 and 5 intensity winds between 140 and 160 miles per hour, Hurricane Maria had some of the starch taken out of her by the mountains of Puerto Rico, which only go up to 4,000 feet. Winds had decreased to below major hurricane status this time Wednesday night.

However, on Thursday, despite lashing the northern coast of the Dominican Republic including the majestic beach locale of Punta Cana with gusty winds and torrential rains, Maria intensified back to major hurricane status as its winds gradually grew throughout the day to 115, 120, and then 125 miles per hour. Wind gusts are now back up to 150 mph. Barometric pressure has fallen off to 955 millibars, or 28.20 inches of Hg as of 8:00 PM EDT on Thursday night.

Now, the hurricane is setting its sights on the Turks and Caicos Islands near the Southeastern Bahamas. Hurricane Hunter aircraft have found a flight level wind of 126 knots, or about 145 mph. The eye, which a couple days ago was very small and narrow at 11 miles, has grown very large to be about 34 miles after being as wide as 36 nautical miles in diameter. Irma’s eye had been as wide as 23 to 25 nautical miles in diameter.

Hurricane Maria has slowed some over the past 24 hours to just Northwest at 9 miles per hour. The storm is presently located about 85 miles North-Northeast of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, or about 80 miles East-Southeast of Grand Turk Island in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Looking at the latest forecast track from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, Maria is expected to move to the Northwest and North-Northwest, and stay east of the Bahamas over the next 48 to 60 hours.

By the end of the five day forecast period, or about 8:00 PM EDT on Tuesday, the NHC projects Maria to be several hundred miles east of the Carolina coastline. Keep in mind though that the NHC’s five day forecast has had an average error of about 160 miles so far this season. There is also still a great deal of uncertainty of what the storm will do beyond the five day forecast point. Earlier today, CNN depicted the GFS (American) and ECMWF (Euro) as keeping Maria offshore from New Jersey, New York City, and the Mid-Atlantic by this time next week.

However, yesterday (Wednesday), CNN indicated that both of the models had Hurricane Maria very close to New York City, New Jersey, and Long Island. Taking a peek at other models, the CMC or Canadian model has Hurricane Maria as a 980 millibar low right over Cape Hatteras by next Tuesday morning. The storm will then go further inland into Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Chesapeake Bay by next Wednesday morning. The NAVGEM has Maria a couple hundred miles off the North Carolina coast by next Wednesday morning. Then a couple hundred miles off Cape Hatteras as a 960 millibar low by next Wednesday afternoon.

The EPS ensemble model has Maria staying offshore through Wednesday and Thursday of next week much like the GFS and ECMWF. The HWRF hurricane model keeps the storm offshore by the end of the five day forecast period. Reading the latest forecast discussion from the NHC at 5:00 PM EDT on Thursday, have Maria remaining a major hurricane for 36 hours, and weakening to a Category Two storm by 48 hours, and a Category One Hurricane by the end of five days.

Currently, the NHC has a Hurricane Warning in effect for the northern coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to Puerto Plata as well as the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Southeastern Bahamas. A Tropical Storm Warning in effect for the northern coast of the Dominican Republic from west of Puerto Plata to the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the Central Bahamas.

Residents in the Bahamas and the East Coast of the United States should monitor the progress of this still dangerous storm over the next several days. Hurricaneville will continue to monitor this storm, and provide daily updates.