Hurricane Maria Moves Away from Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria moved away from Puerto Rico on Wednesday night after causing significant wind damage and serious flash floods.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday the center of Hurricane Maria was located at latitude 19.2°N and longitude 67.9°W which put it about 55 miles (85 km) northeast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  Maria was moving toward the northwest at 9 m.p.h. (15 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 110 m.p.h. (175 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 130 m.p.h. (210 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 959 mb.

Hurricane Warnings are in effect for the Turks and Caicos, the Southeastern Bahamas, and the portion of the coast from Cabo Engano to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.  A Hurricane Watch is in effect for the portion of the coast from Cabo Engano to Isla Saona, Dominican Republic.  Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect for the portions of the coast from Puerto Plata to the northern border with Haiti and from Cabo Engano to Punta Palenque, Dominican Republic.

Hurricane Maria made landfall on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico near Yabucoa on Wednesday morning.  Maria was a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale at the time of landfall.  Hurricane Maria moved northwest across Puerto Rico and the center emerged over the Atlantic Ocean near Arecibo on Thursday afternoon.

Hurricane Maria weakened as the core of the hurricane moved across Puerto Rico.  The mountains on Puerto Rico disrupted the circulation in the lower levels of Maria, but the middle and upper portions of the circulation remained intact.  Hurricane Maria was in the middle of an eyewall replacement cycle when it made landfall in Puerto Rico.  The timing of landfall may have caused Maria to weaken more than it would have if there had not been an eyewall replacement cycle.  The inner eyewall which contained the strongest winds dissipated at Hurricane Maria moved across Puerto Rico.  The strongest winds are occurring in the remaining outer eyewall.  The eyewall replacement cycle contributed to an increase in the size of the circulation of Hurricane Maria.  Wind to hurricane force extend out about 60 miles (95 km) from the center of circulation.  Wind to tropical storm force extend out about 160 miles (260 km) from the center.

Hurricane Maria will move through an environment favorable for intensification on Thursday.  Maria will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 29°C.  The upper level winds are weak and there is not much vertical wind shear.  It could take another 12 to 24 hours for the lower portions of the circulation to reorganize.   The reorganization could limit the rate of intensification.  In addition the center will pass near the Dominican Republic.  Some of the southern part of the circulation will be over land and that could also limit intensification until Maria moves farther away from Hispaniola.

Hurricane Maria is moving around the southwestern portion of the subtropical high over the Atlantic Ocean.  That high has been steering Maria toward the northwest.  Many of the numerical models are forecasting that the high will weaken and Maria will turn toward the north on Thursday.  If the high remains stronger than the models are forecasting, then Hurricane Maria will move farther toward the west.  Hurricane Maria seems to have moved near the left side of the guidance from the numerical models in recent days.  On its forecast track the center of Hurricane Maria will move north of the Dominican Republic on Thursday.  Hurricane Maria could be near the Turks and Caicos on Friday.

Hurricane Maria is still capable of producing extensive significant damage.  Maria will drop heavy rain on parts of the Dominican Republic and there could be flash floods in some places where there is steeper terrain.

Elsewhere, Tropical Storm Jose move slowly east-northeast southeast of Massachusetts.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday the center of Tropical Storm Jose was located at latitude 39.5°N and longitude 68.2°W which put it about 150 miles (245 km) southeast of Nantucket.  Jose was moving toward the east-northeast at 6 m.p.h. (9 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 60 m.p.h. (95 km/h) and there were ind gusts to 75 m.p.h. (120 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 982 mb.  A Tropical Storm Warning was in effect for the portion of the coast from Woods Hole to Sagamore Beach including Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Cape Cod.