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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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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Latest run of GFS puts Florida peninsula in Isaac’s path

As Isaac tries to gain organization today, its future track remains a big question mark. It seems fairly certain that over the next day or so that the storm will pass over parts of Hispaniola and Cuba. It’s what happens after that part of the track forecast that has huge implications for Florida.

As you may recall, the computer model guidance has been shifting west over the past couple of days and the threat of a significant hurricane landfall along the central Gulf Coast seemed to be growing. This westward trend has apparently come to a halt today and now the threat to southeast Florida and the peninsula as a whole is back in play.

Latest GFS Model Run Showing Threat to SE Florida

Latest GFS Model Run Showing Threat to SE Florida

The key elements are a trough and ridge. The ridge is a large area of high pressure situated over the western Atlantic that acts to push on Isaac like a large water balloon. The trough is like a wedge that comes in and is stronger than the water balloon and pushes on it, creating a space for Isaac to move through. If the ridge is strong enough and resists the trough, then Isaac tracks farther to the west. If the trough is strong enough, then Isaac takes that weakness in the atmosphere and comes in to the Florida peninsula. It is not out of the question that the trough energy would be enough to pull Isaac up to the east of Florida either though nothing right now shows that happening. We did see with Irene last year how much the five day forecast can change, even day to day.

The U.S. based GFS or Global Forecast System model in its most recent run shows Isaac bearing down on southeast Florida in about 48 hours and beyond. This is in response to a clear break in the ridge of high pressure over the western Atlantic. While this development is excellent news for the central Gulf Coast, it brings back the possibility of hurricane conditions for the large population center of south Florida and the Keys. Furthermore, the GFS then brings Isaac up the west side of Florida and we all know what is going on next week in Tampa. It will be really interesting to see what the European model, aka ECMWF, shows on its run which will come out later this afternoon. The Euro model lead the charge for a westward track for several days in a row and has only recently begun to swing more east as it too sees a stronger digging by the trough over the eastern United States.

I know the public would like a perfect forecast with each storm but it’s just not possible yet. The NHC has an incredible amount of talent and modern computer guidance to utilize for each forecast cycle. But when we are talking three, four and five days out or more, there are just so many variables that can come and go, making each forecast a potential challenge. Fortunately for now, Isaac remains quite weak. That aspect of the forecast is also equally tough since rapid intensification can happen almost without warning. This is why people need to just be prepared and not waffle back and forth with the models or the forecasts. If you’re in the cone of uncertainty, then that means there is an uncertain amount of risk to you posed by that tropical entity. If a hurricane or tropical storm watch or warning is posted, then it’s time to act. Trying to second guess the guidance or the forecasts is never a good use of time. Just be ready in case Isaac tracks your way and keep in mind that it is a very large storm. This means the effects, wind, rain etc, will be impacting the areas affected well in advance of the center.

I am working on my video blog for our iPhone app now and will have it posted shortly. I will take a graphical, in-depth look at the latest GFS run and what the potential impacts could be for Florida this weekend and in to next week.

I will also be working on packing up equipment for a field mission to Florida where I will work with colleague Mike Watkins to cover Isaac’s impacts on the region. I may leave as early as this evening depending on the future forecast info from the NHC.

I would like to invite you to consider following along LIVE via our Client Services site. It is a subscription service that allows you to watch our progress live while being able to interact with us and other members via our own chat program. It is not open to the public so there are no trolls or troublemakers. Your subscription also gives you access to our expanded set of tracking maps, including our exclusive offering of Stormpulse maps. In addition, we set out our own live streaming video cam systems right in the heart of where the worst of the storm or hurricane is expected. This too is available, 100% ad free, to our subscribers. We have over 380 members from around the world, many from Florida. If you feel that having access to live coverage from a team who has over 15 years of experience in the field, then Client Services can serve you well. Click here to sign up today.

I’ll post another blog update early this evening or sooner if need be.

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Isaac proving to be tough to forecast

NOAA G-IV Jet

NOAA G-IV Jet

The NOAA G-IV jet flew what is called a synoptic mission yesterday in the environment well out ahead of Isaac to sample the atmosphere. The data collected was input in to the various global computer models to help narrow down the forecast track. In some ways, it seems to have helped, in others, not so much. And as if to add to the challenges already present, Isaac veers off the forecast track some overnight- steering more west than predicted.

All in all, the general idea of an eventual Gulf Coast landfall is still the solution of the major global computer models. Exactly where and when remains to be seen as well as to what extent the Florida peninsula will be impacted.

Right now, Isaac is still rather poorly organized. For what ever reason, its central core just can’t get aligned vertically. Instead, it is meandering around a larger envelope of low pressure. Sure there are numerous areas of deep convection seen in satellite imagery, but Isaac is still struggling. It is noteworthy though that the central pressure is now down to 1000 mb, so in that regard, it has strengthened a little.

Latest Track Map from the NHC

Latest Track Map from the NHC

The very latest from the NHC shows a track over Haiti, eastern Cuba and then the western most Florida Keys over the next three days or so. After that time, Isaac has a clear shot over the open Gulf to approach the coast, seemingly along the Panhandle. We know the five day position has a significant error factor and that the position will certainly change over the weekend and in to early next week. One key element of tonight’s computer models is the ECMWF which has stopped its westward forecast showing a landfall in Louisiana to a forecast coming much more in line with the U.S. generated GFS model. In fact, the two models are in remarkable good agreement – probably a result of the upper air data that was added recently from the G-IV mission. I know a lot of people along the central Gulf Coast from Mississippi west were getting quite concerned as each forecast seemed to increase the threat from Isaac. I do not know if we are seeing a honing in of the true landfall location now or not, there is still too much that can change over the next 120 hours or more. People anywhere from the peninsula of Florida to New Orleans need to keep tabs on Isaac and be ready to take action if needed.

As for intensity? Who knows? This part of Isaac’s forecast over the last few days has been the toughest challenge for the NHC. As I mentioned, without a well defined inner core, Isaac stands little chance to intensify before moving over the rugged terrain that lies ahead. Nevertheless, it will dump a lot of rain on that land and flooding will be a major concern. Isaac is also a large tropical storm with a huge wind field. This will mean a longer period of time that tropical storm conditions will persist for any land areas that Isaac impacts. Remember, it’s not just around the center that the winds are strong. The outer bands contain heavy rain and strong winds too and these will affect Florida sometime over the weekend. I cannot say it enough times: tropical cyclones are not just wind machines, they have rain, storm surge and the possibility of tornadoes and downburst winds. Not to mention the rough surf that accompanies any tropical system, no matter how weak or strong. A storm of this size commands respect, especially if it ever suddenly begins to strengthen.

So if you live in Florida, anywhere in Florida, you should be watching Isaac closely this weekend. The Keys will be the first to feel the effects as will southeast Florida. A lot of people live down there in Dade and Broward counties. The rain bands will wreak havoc on traffic so be careful out there. Once the weather goes down hill, just stay off the roads and monitor conditions from home. Hopefully you have the needed supplies in case the power is lost and as long as Isaac does not make landfall in southeast Florida, the effects will be in and out and things can go back to normal early next week. Of course, we will then have to focus on a potential landfall along the Panhandle. With so many days still left until that would happen, we are still in a wait and see situation for now but people in that region should be ready to act if Isaac does in fact come your way.

The rest of the tropics are a non-issue right now. TS Joyce all but completely sheared out yesterday and may never recover. Then, invest area 97L in the far eastern Atlantic is certainly worth watching but not a concern at this time.

I’ll have today’s video blog posted to the HurricaneTrack app early this afternoon after the 11am NHC advisory package comes out. I’ll also post an update here at that time as well and will begin talking about our landfall mission plans for next week.

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