Tropical Cyclone Ella Strengthens To Equivalent of a Hurricane Near Wallis & Futuna

Tropical Cyclone Ella strengthened into the equivalent of a hurricane/typhoon as it moved near Wallis and Futuna on Thursday.  Ella brought gusty winds and locally heavy rain to those islands.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday the center of Tropical Cyclone Ella was located at latitude 14.0°S and longitude 178.2°W which put it about 20 miles (30 km) north of Wallis and Futuna.  Ella was moving toward the northwest at 5 m.p.h. (8 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 85 m.p.h. (135 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 105 m.p.h. (170 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 979 mb.

Tropical Cyclone Ella has a very small circulation, but that circulation is well organized.  There is a very tight inner core.  A ring of strong thunderstorms surrounds a tiny pinhole eye.  The strongest winds are occurring in the tight eyewall.  Additional bands of thunderstorms are forming in the eastern half of the circulation.  There are bands of showers in the western half of the circulation.  Winds to hurricane/typhoon force extend out only about 10 miles (15 km) from the center of circulation.  Winds to tropical storm force extend out about 80 miles (130 km) from the center.

Tropical Cyclone Ella is moving through an environment favorable for intensification.  Ella is moving over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 30°C.  It is in an area where the upper level winds are weak and there is little vertical wind shear.  Tropical Cyclone Ella could continue to intensify as long as it is in an area where the upper level winds are weak.  However, there are much strong upper level westerly winds flowing just to the south of the tropical cyclone.  If Tropical Cyclone Ella moves into an area where the upper level winds are strong, vertical wind shear could weaken it very quickly because of Ella’s small size.

A subtropical ridge south of Ella is steering the tropical cyclone toward the west and a general westerly motion is expected to continue for several more days.  On its anticipated path Tropical Cyclone Ella will move away from Wallis and Futuna.  Ella could move near the northeastern portion of Fiji in 24 to 36 hours.