Franklin Strengthens Into a Hurricane Northeast of Veracruz

Formerly Tropical Storm Franklin strengthened into a hurricane northeast of Veracruz on Friday afternoon.  Franklin is the first hurricane to form over the Atlantic basin in 2017.  At 5:00 p.m. EDT the center of Hurricane Franklin was located at latitude 20.1°N and longitude 94.9°W which put it about 105 miles (170 km) northeast of Veracruz, Mexico.  Franklin was moving toward the west at 12 m.p.h. (19 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 75 m.p.h. (120 km/h) and there were gusts to 90 m.p.h. (145 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 984 mb.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the portion of the coast from Puerto de Veracruz to Cabo Rojo, Mexico.  A Hurricane Watch is in effect for the portion of the coast from Cabo Rojo to Rio Panuco.  A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the portion of the coast from Puerto Dos Bocas to Puerto de Veracruz and from Tuxpan to Barra del Tordo.

An elliptical eye formed at the center of Hurricane Franklin and a reconnaissance plane detected surface winds in excess of 74 m.p.h. (119 km/h).  Based on data from the plane and an improved appearance on satellite imagery, the National Hurricane Center upgrade Franklin to hurricane status in its 5:00 p.m. EDT advisory.

The structure of Hurricane Franklin improved on Friday.  An elliptical eye oriented north to south formed at the center of circulation.  A ring of thunderstorms completely surrounded the eye.  The strongest winds were occurring in the northeastern part of the ring of storms.  Storms in the core of the circulation were generating upper level divergence which was pumping out mass and allowing the surface pressure to decrease.  A primary band of showers and thunderstorms coiled inward toward the core of Hurricane Franklin,  Additional bands of showers and thunderstorms were revolving around the core of Franklin.  Winds to hurricane force extended out about 35 miles (55 km) northeast of the center of circulation.  Winds to tropical storm force extended out about 140 miles (225 km) on the northern side of Franklin and about 100 miles (160 km) on the southern side of the hurricane).

Hurricane Franklin could intensify further before it makes landfall.  It is moving over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 30°C.  An upper level ridge over northern Mexico is generating northerly winds which are blowing toward the top of the circulation.  However, those winds are not very strong and the vertical wind shear is minor and it did not prevent Franklin from becoming a hurricane.  Hurricane Franklin has about another 6 to 12 hours to strengthen.  Once Franklin makes landfall and moves into the mountains, the surface circulation will weaken quickly.

A subtropical ridge is steering Hurricane Franklin toward the west and that general motion is expected to continue.  Hurricanes often turn slightly south of west when the approach the coast of the southwestern Bay of Campeche.  On its anticipated track the center Hurricane Franklin could make landfall on the coast of Mexico north of Veracruz in less than 12 hours.  The most likely landfall would be between Veracruz and Nautla.

Hurricane Franklin will bring strong gusty winds, a storm surge and heavy rain at the coast.  The storm surge could reach 6 to 9 feet (2 to 3 meters) near and just to the north of where the center makes landfall.  Franklin could produce very heavy rain when it reaches the mountains and flash flooding is a serious risk.