Hurricane Maria Pulls Away from the Turks and Caicos

Hurricane Maria pulled away slowly from the Turks and Caicos on Friday.  At 5:00 p.m. EDT on Friday the center of Hurricane Maria was located at latitude 23.3°N and longitude 71.4°W which put it about 395 miles (635 km) east-southeast of Nassau, Bahamas.  Maria was moving toward the north-northwest at 9 m.p.h. (15 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 125 m.p.h. (205 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 150 m.p.h. (240 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 959 mb.

Tropical Storm Warnings were in effect for the Turks and Caicos, Southeastern Bahamas and Central Bahamas.

The structure of Hurricane Maria did not change much on Friday.  An eye continued to mark the center of circulation.  A nearly complete ring of thunderstorms surrounded the eye.  The strongest winds were occurring in that ring of storms.  Bands of showers and thunderstorms revolved around the core of Hurricane Maria.  There were more showers and thunderstorms in the northern half of the circulation.  Winds to hurricane force extended out about 60 miles (95 km) from the center of circulation.  Winds to tropical storm force extended out about 160 miles (260 km) from the center.

Hurricane Maria will move through an environment that is somewhat favorable for hurricanes.  Maria will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 29°C.  An upper level trough over the southeastern U.S. is producing southwesterly winds which are blowing toward the top of the circulation.  Those winds are not producing strong vertical wind shear, but they could impede upper level divergence to the west of Hurricane Maria.  Hurricane Maria could maintain its intensity for another day or two unless the vertical shear increases. If the shear increases, then Maria will start to weaken.

Hurricane Maria has reached the western end of the subtropical high pressure system over the Atlantic Ocean.  The high is steering Maria toward the north-northwest.  A general north-northwesterly motion is expected to continue for several more days.  On its anticipated track the core of Hurricane Maria will pass east of the Bahamas.