Hurricane Florence Moves Closer to the Carolinas

Hurricane Florence moved closer to the Carolinas on Wednesday.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday the center of Hurricane Florence was located at latitude 32.0°N and longitude 73.7°W which put it about 280 miles (455 km) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.  Florence was moving toward the northwest at 17 m.p.h. (28 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 957 mb.

A Hurricane Warning was in effect for the portion of the coast from South Santee River, South Carolina to Duck, North Carolina including Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds.  A Hurricane Watch was in effect for the portion of the coast from Edisto Beach, South Carolina to South Santee River, South Carolina.  A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the portion of coast from Duck, North Carolina to the North Carolina-Virginia border.  A Tropical Storm Watch was in effect for the portion of the coast from the North Carolina-Virginia border to Cape Charles Light, Virginia and for Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.

The wind speed in Hurricane Florence decreased on Wednesday but the circulation increased in size.  It appeared that another eyewall replacement cycle could have started.  Satellite microwave images suggested that there could be two eyewalls and a reconnaissance plane reported a double wind maxima.  Both of those things could be evidence of concentric eyewalls.  In addition, counterclockwise flow around a small upper level low near Florida may have produced southerly winds that blew toward the south side of Hurricane Frances.  Those winds may have inhibited the upper level divergence to the south of Florence.  Since the hurricane was unable to pump out as much mass, the surface pressure increased and the wind speed decreased.

The circulation of Hurricane Florence increased in size on Wednesday.  Winds to hurricane force extended out about 80 miles (130 km) from the center of circulation.  Winds to tropical storm force extended out about 200 miles (320 km) from the center.  The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) for Hurricane Florence was 19.2.  The Hurricane Size Index (HSI) was 25.5 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Size Index (HWISI) was 44.7.  Those indices are very similar to the numbers for Hurricane Jeanne just before Jeanne made landfall in southeast Florida in 2004.

Hurricane Florence will move through an environment favorable for intensification on Thursday.  Florence will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 29°C.  Florence will move farther away from the upper low near Florida and the low should not inhibit divergence to the south of the hurricane as much.  In addition, Hurricane Florence will move over the warm water in the Gulf Stream about 6 to 12 hours before it reaches the coast.  It will be able to extract extra energy at that time.  If the inner core becomes more organized, then Hurricane Florence could intensify on Thursday.  If the inner core does not get better organized, then Florence will likely maintain its current intensity or weaken slowly.

Hurricane Florence will move near the western end of the subtropical high pressure system over the western Atlantic Ocean.  The high will steer Florence toward the northwest on Thursday.  On its anticipated track the center of Hurricane Florence will be near the coast of North Carolina on Thursday night.  A ridge over the eastern U.S. is likely to block the northward motion of Hurricane Florence when it reaches the coast.  The ridge will steer Florence slowly toward the west-southwest on Friday and Saturday.

Hurricane Florence will have the impact of a major hurricane regardless of the actual sustained wind speed.  The large circulation and slow rate of movement when Florence reaches the coast means that locations could experience strong winds for extended periods of time.  Wind damage and power outages could be extensive.  Some places in North Carolina had a rainy summer and strong winds could uproot trees.  Hurricane Florence will produce a dangerous storm surge along the coast.  The surge could exceed 10 feet (3 meters) in some locations east of where the center makes landfall.  The slow forward speed also means that Hurricane Florence could drop locally heavy rain and severe flooding could occur.

Elsewhere the rest of the Atlantic Ocean was also very active.  Tropical Storm Isaac was nearing the Lesser Antilles, Hurricane Helene was weakening south of the Azores and Subtropical Storm Joyce formed northwest of Helene.

At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday the center of Tropical Storm Isaac was located at latitude 15.3°N and longitude 58.0°W which put it about 220 miles (355 km) east of Dominica.  Isaac was moving toward the west at 20 m.p.h. (32 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 50 m.p.h. (80 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 65 m.p.h. (105 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 1006 mb.  Tropical Storm Warnings were in effect for Guadeloupe, Martinique and Dominica.  Tropical Storm Watches were in effect for Antigua, Montserrat, St, Kitts and Nevis, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Martin and St. Maarten.

At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday the center of Hurricane Helene was located at latitude 22.4°N and 36.9°W which put it about 1270 mile (2045 km) south-southwest of the Azores.  Helene was moving toward the north at 13 m.p.h. (20 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 80 m.p.h. (130 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 95 m.p.h. (155 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 983 mb.

At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday the center of Subtropical Storm Joyce was located at latitude 15.3°N and longitude 46.6°W which put it about 910 miles (1465 km) west-southwest of the Azores.  Joyce was moving toward the southwest at 6 m.p.h. (10 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 45 m.p.h. (75 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 60 m.p.h. (95 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 1006 mb.

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