Florence Strengthens Into a Major Hurricane

Hurricane Florence strengthened into a Major Hurricane on Monday.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Monday the center of Hurricane Florence was located at latitude 25.9°N and longitude 62.4°W which put it about 1085 miles (1745 km) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.  Florence was moving toward the west-northwest at 13 m.p.h. (20 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 140 m.p.h. (220 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 165 m.p.h. (270 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 944 mb.

Hurricane Florence intensified rapidly on Monday morning and early afternoon.  An eye with a diameter of 18 miles (29 km) formed at the center of circulation.  A ring of strong thunderstorms surrounded the eye and the strongest winds were occurring in that ring of storms.  Several bands of showers and thunderstorms were revolving around the core of Hurricane Florence.  Storms near the core were generating strong upper level divergence which pumped mass away from the hurricane.

Hurricane Florence increased in size on Monday.  Winds to hurricane force extended out about 40 miles (65 km) from the center of circulation.  Winds to tropical storm force extended out about 150 miles (240 km) from the center.  The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) for Hurricane Florence was 28.2.  The Hurricane Size Index (HSI) was 14.0 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Size Index (HWISI) was 42.2.  Hurricane Florence was capable of causing extensive significant damage.

Microwave satellite imagery indicated that an inner rainband may have wrapped around the original eye and eyewall.  An eyewall replacement cycle may have begun and that may have halted the rapid intensification of Hurricane Florence.  Florence could weaken during the next few hours while the inner eyewall weakens.  Hurricane Florence will move through an area capable of supporting strong hurricanes on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Florence will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 29°C.  It will move through an area where the upper level winds are weak and there will be little vertical wind shear.  If the inner eyewall dissipates during the next day or so, then Hurricane Florence could strengthen again.

Hurricane Florence will move around the western end of the subtropical high pressure system during the next several days.  The high will steer Florence toward the west-northwest.  On its anticipated track Hurricane Florence will approach the coast of North Carolina on Thursday afternoon.  The winds steering Florence could weaken as it approaches the coast and the track forecast becomes much more uncertain at that time.

Elsewhere, Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storm Isaac were spinning over the tropical Atlantic Ocean.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Monday the center of Hurricane Helene was located at latitude 15.5°N and longitude 32.4°W which put it about 1590 miles (2555 km) south of the Azores.  Helen was moving toward the west-northwest at 12 m.p.h. (19 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 968 mb.

At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Monday the center of Tropical Storm Isaac was located at latitude 14.5°N and longitude 46.9°W which put it about 960 miles (1550 km) east of the Lesser Antilles.  Isaac was moving toward the west at 16 m.p.h. (26 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 70 m.p.h. (110 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 85 m.p.h. (135 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 997 mb.

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