Tropical Update: That Escalated Quickly

Hurricane Dorian continues to blast Grand Bahama Island this afternoon, but elsewhere, the Atlantic is getting active quickly.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, Hurricane Dorian was centered about 65 miles north of Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. Dorian is no longer stationary, but it’s not exactly racing along, drifting toward the northwest at 5 mph. After peaking as a Category 5 on Sunday, Dorian has weakened to a Category 2 hurricane this afternoon, with maximum sustained winds near 110 mph. The eyewall has finally moved away from Grand Bahama Island, so continues will slowly improve today.

Dorian’s eye shows up rather nicely on radar from Florida this afternoon. Loop provided by the College of DuPage.

At it’s peak, Dorian had sustained winds of 185 mph, which is tied for the 2nd highest on record in the Atlantic Basin, and the highest for a storm that far north. Only Hurricane Allen in 1980 was stronger, with top winds near 190 mph. Dorian’s lowest pressure of 910mb, is tied for the 9th lowest on record in the Atlantic. It is the strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in the Bahamas.

As for Dorian’s future, the thinking really hasn’t changed much in the past few days. The slow northwestward motion has started, and a turn more toward the north with some acceleration is expected later today and Wednesday as a trough of low pressure approaches the East Coast. This should keep the center of the storm 75 miles or so off the Florida coastline. The outer bands of Dorian will continue to impact coastal Florida, with bouts of heavy rain and gusty winds at times. A Hurricane Warning remains in effect from central Florida up into parts of South Carolina.

Model forecasts for the track of Hurricane Dorian. Image provided by Tropical Tidbits.

To the north, Dorian should start to turn northeastward later Wednesday into Thursday, coming very close to the coastline of both South and North Carolina. This will bring hurricane conditions to these states, and a Hurricane Watch has been issued. Although the official forecast from the National Hurricane Center keeps the center offshore, it will be close enough that even a slight wobble to the left could result in landfall. Whether it makes landfall or not, strong winds, torrential rainfall and very rough surf are expected in these areas over the next couple of days.

GFS model forecast for rainfall across the Southeast through Friday. Image provided by Weathermodels.com

Once past the Carolinas, Dorian should continue northeast, and start to transition into an extratropical storm. That doesn’t mean that it’s done impacting land though. It could graze Cape Cod and the islands with some rain and gusty winds late Friday into early Saturday, but over the weekend it will likely have a significant impact on Atlantic Canada. Heavy rain is likely across parts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and into Newfoundland. While some locations could pick up 2-4 inches of rain, the biggest impact will be from the wind. Sustained winds of 30-50 mph are expected with gusts of 60-70 mph or more, especially along the coastline.

Peak wind gusts expected across Atlantic Canada through Sunday evening according to the GFS. Image provided by WeatherBell.

Dorian isn’t the only active storm in the Atlantic any more. Tropical Storm Fernand formed this afternoon in the Gulf of Mexico. As of early Tuesday afternoon, it was centered about 160 miles east of La Pesca, Mexico, moving toward the west at 7 mph. It has maximum sustained winds near 40 mph, and is expected to strengthen a little more over the next 24 hours. A Tropical Storm Warning has been issues for parts of northeastern Mexico. The system will likely make landfall late Wednesday, with the biggest impact likely to be from heavy rainfall. Rainfall totals of 6-12 inches and locally heavier will produce flooding and mudslides across the area. Heavy rain is expected across parts of South Texas, where 2-4 inches may fall, resulting in some flash flooding.

Forecast track for Tropical Storm Fernand. Image provided by the National Hurricane Center.

But wait, there’s more! There are two other systems in the Atlantic that are being monitored this afternoon. The stronger of the two is a few hundred miles west of the Cape Verde Islands. This system will likely become a tropical depression later today or tonight. It should turn more towards the northwest and stay harmlessly out at sea for the next several days likely not impacting any land areas at all.

Model forecasts for the track of a tropical disturbance in the eastern Atlantic. Image provided by Tropical Tidbits.

Another disturbance is located several hundred miles south of Bermuda this afternoon. This system is not well-organized, and conditions aren’t very favorable for further development. It will be monitored over the next few days, and may bring some squally weather to Bermuda later this week.

Satellite loop of the Atlantic showing TD7 on the left edge of the screen, Dorian near the Bahamas, a disturbance south of Bermuda, and another disturbance in the eastern Atlantic. Loop provided by NOAA.

If that’s not enough, there’s another wave still over western Africa that will move into the Atlantic later this week. Forecast models are showing the potential for that wave to develop as well. This shouldn’t be a big surprise, September is the peak of hurricane season. This is just the Atlantic – we didn’t even get into the Pacific, where Hurricane Juliette is a Category 3 Hurricane southwest of Mexico, Typhoon Lingling is passing east of Japan on its way towards Korea, Tropical Storm 14W is expected to become a typhoon passing north of the Northern Mariana Islands on its way towards Japan, and Tropical Depression Kajiki is making landfall along the coast of Vietnam.

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