Maria Becomes A Hurricane

Written by on September 17, 2017 in Tropics

5:00 PM AST Sun Sep 17
Location: 13.8°N 57.5°W
Moving: WNW at 15 mph
Min pressure: 982 mb
Max sustained: 75 mph

Maria has become a hurricane as of 5:00 PM. Strong convection is now occurring over the center of the storm and Hurricane Hunters aircraft detected an open eye wall as well as surface winds in excess of 75 mph leading to the classification of hurricane status. Conditions around Maria are favorable for strengthening over the next few days and we could see rapid intensification at some point once the eyewall closes off.

Currently, Maria is moving WNW at 15 mph under a ridge of high pressure to the north. The WNW track is forecast to continue over the next couple of days however with the ridge to the north expected to weaken, its speed will decrease. The current NHC forecast for Maria takes the center through the Lesser Antilles near Guadeloupe and Dominica. This track could change slightly prior to landfall. Hurricane conditions will extend out far from the center so it doesn’t take a direct hit from the center itself to cause major damage. Conditions on those islands are expected to deteriorate over the next 24 hours with hurricane conditions expected by tomorrow afternoon. After passing the islands, it will set it’s sights on Puerto Rico and the Dominica Republic where it could make landfall as a major hurricane Wednesday night and into Thursday morning. The exact track and timing is subject to change of course but it is likely that hurricane conditions could still be felt by these islands if the center were to vary slightly.

The forecast beyond this point is still uncertain. The location of Hurricane Jose will be a major factor in determining Maria’s forecast track as it tracks over the northern Bahamas.

In order to explain Maria’s future track, we have to take a look at Jose’s future for the upcoming week.

 

Hurricane Jose has been spinning the the Atlantic Ocean since September 5th and just won’t die. Right now it sits far away from the east coast and is expected to travel northward over the next few days as it travels along the western side of the subtropical ridge. By mid-week, Jose is forecast to turn northeastward in response to a weak trough over Canada hopefully in time to keep Jose offshore. Unfortunately, a ridge over eastern Canada is forecast to build east cutting Jose off from the trough. As a result, the storm decreases in speed and could even track southward as the ridge passes to the north. Jose will continue to weaken as it sits over much colder waters.

So why does this matter with regard to Maria’s track? As Jose gets cutoff by the ridge to the north it should create a weakness within that ridge that could be strong enough to turn Maria northward and remain off the US east coast. However, if Jose were to move northeastward away from from the northeast coast and out of the picture completely by the time Maria arrives near the northern Bahamas, the ridge could be strong enough to push her closer to the US east coast setting up a potential landfall.

A lot of people will be watching Jose, not just because it will be very close to the northeast coast but what it does that will shape the future track of Maria.

I will update throughout the week as needed.

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