Track forecast for Gonzalo showing it passing east of Puerto Rico tonight
The overnight model runs and latest forecast track from the National Hurricane Center dictate that I not go to Puerto Rico today for Gonzalo. This does not mean I think the island will have zero impact but I don’t believe it will be significant enough to warrant me traveling there. Sometimes the weather makes the call and this is one of those cases I do believe.
So far, Gonzalo is managing to steadily increase in strength. Winds are now 60 mph with a falling pressure. The storm is quite small in size compared to something like Irene which passed through this region three years ago in August. This should serve to keep the strongest winds confined to a rather small radius around the storm. It also means that, if an inner core can become established, Gonzalo has a chance to increase in intensity quickly.
For the Caribbean islands today and tonight, it’s all a matter of where the bands of convection set up, rotate through and how that impacts the various islands in the path of the storm. Computer models cannot possibly resolve this to any degree of accuracy and thus local radar is the best tool for watching in real time.
Right now, the movement is steady at around 12 mph. The heading is 280 degrees which would bring the storm through the northeast Caribbean, probably passing 60 miles or more to the east of Puerto Rico but directly over the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. Almost all of the computer model guidance suggests this path as being quite likely over the next 18 to 24 hours. This would keep Puerto Rico on the west side of the small circulation and unless a more westward motion ensues, I see little wind impact for the island. Rain, on the other hand, could be problematic as and bands that move through could drop a quick inch or more, adding up to over 4 inches in places, especially at higher elevations.
Obviously, boating interests throughout the region need to simply stay in port until the storm passes by later tonight. Winds and seas will be highest between now and the next 24 hours or so with much better conditions setting up for mid-week and beyond.
Once Gonzalo gets out of the Caribbean and in to the Atlantic, the set up is quite ripe for substantial strengthening. Model data suggests that Gonzalo could reach near category three intensity over the very warm water of the Atlantic. This will send swells back towards the northern Caribbean islands as well as the Bahamas and parts of the Southeast coast later this week. Surfers will love this but swimmers should be on the lookout for potential dangerous surf conditions. I will address this more in tomorrow’s post.
The track forecast after the Caribbean is extremely important for one small area: Bermuda. The odds of the center passing directly over Bermuda are quite small yet Fay did it just the other night. It is possible that Bermuda will have to deal with a direct impact from Gonzalo but it’s too soon to know for sure right now. We’re talking about 5 days out, maybe less. Needless to say, interests in Bermuda should be watching Gonzalo very closely over the next couple of days.
This is where I will be focusing my attention now as well. If it looks like a close enough pass of Gonzalo will take place in Bermuda, then I will head out there as soon as Thursday to be ready. It’s a tough, tough call since the island is quite expensive to travel to on many levels. Yet, an October hurricane hit from the southwest is something that rarely happens there, so the chance to gather data and document the event with video is something I don’t take lightly. I think that even passing within 50 miles of Bermuda would bring hurricane conditions and so it is something I will be monitoring quite closely today and tomorrow.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic, Fay is moving quickly across the northern reaches and will soon transition in to a more typical large ocean storm than a concentrated tropical cyclone. Only shipping interests will be concerned with its progress.
In the Pacific, a low pressure area, labeled as invest 95C (for Central Pacific) is likely to become a tropical storm and eventually a hurricane to the east-southeast of Hawaii. As rare as it is, there is at least a chance that it will move in that direction over the next several days. For now, it’s just something for folks in Hawaii to monitor but after a quite tumultuous season in the Pacific, it would not surprise me in the least to see one more impact for the String of Pearls. I’ll talk more about this in tomorrow’s update as well.
The MJO or Madden-Julian Oscillation is likely to be quite favorable for development over the next couple of weeks
Things are quite busy for mid-October and we’re likely not done yet. Long range guidance suggests that the Gulf of Mexico or western Caribbean Sea could become more active as we move through the next week to 10 days. It is part of a quite favorable period called the Madden-Julian Oscillation moving through the Western Hemisphere over the next couple of weeks. This means that the overall upward motion of the atmosphere is enhanced and allows for more tropical convection to flourish. There will be quite a bit to keep track of I believe before the month is over. For now, we’ll see what Gonzalo does but do not be shocked if we’re talking about a potential storm brewing somewhere in the western Caribbean of southern Gulf of Mexico next week.
I will have another update on Gonzalo here tonight and a full run down of the tropics tomorrow morning.
M. Sudduth 8:47 AM ET Oct 13