The very latest from the NHC indicates that we still do not have a tropical depression or a tropical storm from invest area 97L. In other words it remains a very well organized tropical wave of low pressure. That being said, it is producing winds of 40-45 mph in some of the heavier squalls as the entire system moves off to the west at around 15 mph. The Hurricane Hunter crew is currently flying through the area to sample the wind field and we will know by later this morning whether or not this is officially a tropical storm.
On the current track, the organizing system will pass through the Windward Islands today and bring with it more squally weather which will mean tropical storm conditions in some locations. Fortunately the low did not intensify quickly and as such we are not too concerned with much more than moderate tropical storm conditions at worst. By tomorrow, winds and seas will subside across the region.
Once the wave moves in to the eastern Caribbean Sea it is almost certainly going to strengthen. Water temps are very warm and the upper levels of the atmosphere support development. Some models are more robust than others but the bottom line is that this will be on its way to becoming a hurricane with time.
The track over the next five days will be very important for several reasons. First, we could see impacts as far south as Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao as what will eventually be a tropical storm passes by. Just how close to the north coast of South America this tracks remains to be seen but it is possible that it will be close enough for an increase in wind and rain by the weekend.
By late in the weekend and in to Monday, we should see a turn to the north as the western portion of the ridge of high pressure over the Atlantic begins to erode some. This will allow the sharp turn to the north that we are seeing in the model guidance. Some people have asked me how this is possible and has it happened before? It is possible due to the fact that the high pressure area, which is more dense an air mass than the tropical cyclone, relaxes some and allows the would-be hurricane to move north with time. It’s like holding a helium balloon down with your hand – once you move your hand away, which is essentially a form of high pressure, the balloon drifts up and away.
This type of set up was seen a few times in history but perhaps the most infamous was Hazel in 1954. Its track looks similar to what the models are hinting at for this system.
Around the five day time frame, it is possible for Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba to begin feeling the effects of what is more than likely going to be a hurricane. The GFS model is slightly east of the ECWMF or Euro model. The GFS moves the system over eastern Cuba and misses Jamaica but just barely. On the other hand, the Euro takes the center across Jamaica and then in to eastern Cuba. Obviously this needs to be monitored very closely by interests all along the islands of the Caribbean.
What happens after five days is the subject of much debate. Since we can all see the long range models now thanks to access on the Internet I won’t pretend to ignore it. Yes, I see the landfall in eastern North Carolina in about nine days. I also see the Eruo model taking a much slower path with a turn back to the northwest towards Florida by days nine and ten. I caution that these are extreme time frames when it comes to any large scale weather feature let alone adding a hurricane to the mix.
I for one am glad to see people talking about the models and the potential for impacts. It shows that people are in fact aware – it has their attention. That is a positive thing. We are so distracted by everyday news of politics, local and national issues, etc. that sometimes a bull horn is what we need to get people to pay attention. Knowing that there is a possibility of a hurricane threat for your area 10 days out is enough to get people motivated to at least keep track of it. Most people do not adequately prepare as they should well ahead of a landfall. Maybe the age of social media and the ability to share long range forecasts is not such a bad thing simply because it raises much needed awareness. No one I know is actually scared of a map. If they are, they need to dig deeper and ask questions about what the map means and how it might change. Social media allows for that too; it gets people engaged and talking and that is an advantage that many people can use.
So for now, let’s see what the Hurricane Hunters find and hopefully we can begin calling this what it is destined to be: Matthew. From there, the next five days are fairly straight-forward with regards to what happens. After that, no one knows for sure but it is great to see people paying attention.
I’ll have more later today.
M. Sudduth 8:15 AM ET Sept 28