Hurricane watch for portions of Haiti, all of Jamaica

Recent visible satellite image of Matthew. Notice the clearer eye now, it had been clouded over earlier in the morning.

Recent visible satellite image of Matthew. Notice the clearer eye now, it had been clouded over earlier in the morning.

The latest update from the NHC now indicates a hurricane watch for two areas in the Caribbean Sea: all of Jamaica and the western portion of Haiti. This means that hurricane conditions are possible in the watch area within the next 48 hours or so.

Matthew continues to move slowly west with winds of 145 mph. Some westerly shear has impacted the circulation and caused the hurricane to weaken overnight from its incredible peak of 160 mph. As of this writing, the eye seems to be clearing out again meaning that perhaps some slight re-organization is taking place but these ups and downs are to be expected, especially with exceptionally strong hurricanes. It is likely that Matthew will be a strong hurricane as it approaches Jamaica and western Haiti on Monday.

Interests in the two island regions need to be preparing for a hurricane at this time. Heavy rain, which will surely lead to flash flooding and mudslides in the mountains of the two countries, along with dangerous seas and high winds will be the expected impacts. To what extent each of these hazards will affect the area remains to be seen. We will know more tomorrow as Matthew gets closer and we can see how strong and well organized it is. Obviously the closer the core tracks to either location, the more pronounced the effects will be.

Next up will be a landfall in southeast Cuba along the Caribbean coast. The mountain range that runs east-west across Cuba at that latitude will disrupt the circulation of Matthew some but it is forecast to reach category three intensity once again over the very warm waters of the southwest Atlantic.

The next few days are fairly certain in terms of the forecast track for Matthew. It’s what happens after Cuba that has tremendous uncertainty. Essentially it’s another duel between the GFS global model and the ECMWF global model with other models picking sides either way. Instead of trying to figure it all out with lengthy explanations of why one model shows this and why one shows that I want to set a benchmark – point in space and time to watch for.

If Matthew goes over Jamaica, the center of the hurricane that is, then the GFS seems to have the right forecast so far. If it goes over Haiti, then the latest runs of the ECMWF are doing better. We will absolutely know the “winner” by Monday. It’s that simple in terms of the short-term (3-day) window of which model is performing best on track. From there, we will have ample time to prepare in the Bahamas and the United States as needed.

I will post one or two video discussions on Matthew later today here, our YouTube channel and to our app, Hurricane Impact.

M. Sudduth 11:05 AM ET Oct 1

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Tropics showing signs of activity and of possible impacts in coming days

Area of disturbed weather in the Caribbean Sea that has potential for development over the coming days

Area of disturbed weather in the Caribbean Sea that has potential for development over the coming days

Just as we are about to end September, which was as quiet as you will likely ever see it, things begin to become more active across the Atlantic.

Here is a run down of what’s going on and where…

In the central Atlantic, a tropical wave that had been tangled up with an upper level low pressure area has become better organized today. The NHC says it could become a tropical depression over the next day or so as it remains well out to sea and away from any land areas. It could eventually become a weak tropical storm but it should not last too long considering the fairly hostile environment over the Atlantic right now.

The other area to watch, which is of greater concern right now, is in the Caribbean Sea. An area of showers and thunderstorms has developed in association with a large pressure fall in the region. Several of the global models go on to develop this system as it moves northwest and eventually in to the southeast Gulf of Mexico.

Ocean heat content is still quite high across the Caribbean Sea and in to parts of the SE Gulf of Mexico

Ocean heat content is still quite high across the Caribbean Sea and in to parts of the SE Gulf of Mexico

While none of the guidance shows anything very strong at the moment, one must keep in mind that the water is very warm in this area and will be along much of the track of this potential system. The mitigating factor seems to be upper level winds which do not appear to be very conducive for significant strengthening over the coming days. Nevertheless, rain and squally weather is likely to spread across portions of the Caribbean Sea and eventually impact Jamaica and Cuba before reaching the southeast Gulf of Mexico.

Beyond that time, we will just have to see what we’re dealing with in terms of storm structure, upper level winds and steering flow. Speculating about potential impacts to Florida beyond the five day time period is pointless right now except to say that folks along the west coast should be keeping an eye on this feature – just as you would any October tropical development. With the recent heavy rains for parts of the state, a tropical cyclone of any intensity would not be good news. We’ll see how things play out over the next few days and whether or not we actually have a tropical depression or storm develop from this system.

Elsewhere, the eastern Atlantic looks to try and spin up another weak storm as the pattern tries to make up for lost ground in recent weeks. There are some indications that the MJO or Madden-Julian Oscillation, which promotes tropical convection and upward motion, could become more favorable across the Atlantic Basin in the coming weeks. This could result in a very busy October, especially considering the warm water temps that are in abundance right now. It is important to at least pay attention to the tropics as the old saying goes about it not being over until it’s over…

I’ll have more here tomorrow, sooner if something develops and warrants an additional post.

M. Sudduth 2:10 pm ET Sept 28

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A few thoughts on Sandy

TS Sandy developing banding as it gathers strength in the Caribbean Sea

TS Sandy developing banding as it gathers strength in the Caribbean Sea

There are no sweeping changes to discuss tonight with Sandy but I did want to pass on a few observations and thoughts before turning in for the night.

First, Sandy appears to be getting better organized with deep convective bands beginning to develop and wrap around the east side of the circulation. There is still some drier mid level air and perhaps a little bit of wind shear along the western half but all in all, the structure looks improved over the last few hours. This should equate to a gradual lowering of the surface pressure and an increase in the winds. Interests in Jamaica need to be ready for an intensifying hurricane later tomorrow. If Sandy were to begin a period of rapid strengthening, then the effects of the wind will be quite dramatic, especially in higher elevations.

The other item to note is the almost certain effects that Sandy will have on Florida and elsewhere along the Southeast coast. People need to remember that hurricanes are not points on a map. Just because the center is not forecast to strike Florida does not mean all will be fine and dandy – especially along the east coast. High surf, an increase in rip currents, strong east to northeast winds will all be factors as we approach the weekend.

What people in Florida, along the east and southeast portion mainly, need to realize is that Sandy is going to grow in to a much larger system over the next few days. Its wind field is going to expand and reach out far from the center. This means effects will extend in to areas such as the Keys, Miami, West Palm Beach and all across southeast Florida. Exactly what conditions will be felt is impossible to forecast but it looks about as certain as can be that there will be some impact from Sandy for Florida.

Of course, in the Bahamas, hurricane conditions are possible and probably expected. Here too the surf will increase with larger and larger waves developing around this growing storm system.

I think that too many people ask “what category is it?” and if it’s not a three or four, they don’t worry too much. It’s not about worrying at all. It’s about understanding the weather and its potential to cause harm to you and your property. It is possible that winds to 50 or 60 mph will impact areas of SE Florida. This can cause damage to weak structures and trees. These trees can fall on people, buildings and cars and have bad results.

I want people to try and get the bigger picture of what is going on here with Sandy. Sandy is not an “it” as in, “where will IT go”. I think people are asking about the center when they say “IT”. Sandy is a large, powerful tropical cyclone that has wind, rain, storm surge and the chance for down burst winds and tornadoes in its outer rain bands. When you think of “IT” think of the whole package.

These conditions may spread across a huge geographic region from Florida north through the Carolinas and eventually in to New England. It is extremely important to grasp what the effects will be and why they will take place. Do not focus on category this or that, that does little good. Instead, ask yourself “what impacts will I have here?” and then do your part to read up on those. Where can you do that? Your local National Weather Service site for one. Go to weather.gov and put in your ZIP Code. Read the forecast discussions, learn about the impacts. There is a lot to gain from educating yourself about possible effects from any weather system, much less a hurricane or powerful ocean storm.

For now, we will watch and hope for the best for people in Jamaica, eastern Cuba, Haiti and eventually the Bahamas. Just remember, Sandy is not a dot on a map, paper or computer, it is a huge weather machine and it’s on the move. Be ready.

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Sandy likely to become a hurricane as it nears Jamaica

I have a feeling that Sandy is going to be a lot stronger than forecast. Why not? Intensity predictions are where there is the least amount of skill when it comes to tropical cyclones. Sandy is currently situated over some of the warmest, highest heat content water in the Atlantic Basin with an obvious building area of high pressure in the upper levels of the atmosphere. This should lead to a period of quick strengthening and people in Jamaica better be ready for the potential of hurricane conditions over the next couple of days.

Not much has changed today in the future track concerns for Sandy. It looks as though eastern Cuba and then the central Bahamas will take a direct hit from the storm (hurricane?) with plenty of heavy rain spreading across a good portion of the Greater Antilles.

What the models seem to all indicate is that Sandy will continue to strengthen once over the extreme southwest Atlantic Ocean in about three days. Here too water temps are very warm and undisturbed this hurricane season. As with Jamaica, I am concerned about portions of the Bahamas having to deal with an intensifying hurricane sitting on top of the area. Keep in mind too that Sandy is not forecast to move very fast, this will only prolong the effects in any given area.

Now, for the part where folks along the U.S. East Coast have to pay attention. The long range models are split in to two distinct camps. The GFS and its related modeling ejects Sandy out in to the Atlantic on a northeast track, easily staying away from the U.S. coastline.

On the other end of the spectrum, the two non-U.S. generated models, the ECMWF and the Environment Canada CMC models both show Sandy getting stuck in the pattern, trying to turn out but then hooking back northwest to north with a landfall along the Northeast coast. What is most concerning, but almost certainly overdone, is the absurd intensity that the models are suggesting. It is my sincere hope that there is just something not right with what the Euro and Canadian predict for the long range. If they are even close to being correct, Sandy could transition in to one heck of a hybrid mix the likes of which the region has not seen in almost a generation.

As I mentioned earlier today, even though there is a lot of interest in what happens a week from now, we need to be sure to stay focused on what may be a hurricane threat in and coming out of the Caribbean Sea. We’ll have loads of time to see how the steering pattern evolves once Sandy gets in to the Bahamas.

I would also like to mention that I believe we will see some strong winds, out of the east and northeast, for portions of the Florida east coast in the coming days. This will lead to an increase in rough surf and possible dangerous rip currents. And, if Sandy tracks closer to the coast than forecast, it is possible that tropical storm conditions could be felt in some areas of extreme SE Florida. This is a very complex situation and one that will end up affecting people across a large geographic swath.

I’ll have more here tomorrow morning including a new video blog posted to our iPhone app. I will also be watching closely to see how far west Sandy tracks and if it warrants a field mission to coastal Florida later in the week. I think the next 48 hours will tell a lot about the future for Sandy and what impacts the U.S. will feel.

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