Tropical Storm Michael Strengthens East of Yucatan

Tropical Storm Michael strengthened east of the Yucatan peninsula on Sunday.  At 8:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday the center of Tropical Storm Michael was located at latitude 19.9°N and longitude 85.4°W which put it about 105 miles (170 km) east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico.  Michael was moving toward the north at 5 m.p.h. (8 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 60 m.p.h. (95 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 75 m.p.h. (120 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 997 mb.

A Tropical Storm Warning was in effect for the Cuban provinces of Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth.  A Tropical Storm Warning is also in effect for the portion of the coast from Tulum to Cabo Catoche, Mexico.

The circulation around Tropical Storm Michael is still organizing and the distribution of thunderstorms is asymmetrical.  Most of the thunderstorms are occurring in bands in the eastern half of the circulation.  A new center of circulation formed on Sunday afternoon near those thunderstorms.  Many of the rainbands in the western half of Tropical Storm Michael contain primarily showers and lower clouds.  One outer rainband in the southwestern periphery of the circulation does contain numerous thunderstorms.  The strongest winds are occurring in the rainbands on the eastern side of Tropical Storm Michael.  The winds are weaker on the western side of the circulation.  Storms on the eastern side of Michael are generating some upper level divergence which was pumping mass away from the tropical storm and was allowing the surface pressure to decrease.

An upper level trough over the Gulf of Mexico is producing westerly winds which are blowing across the top of Tropical Storm Michael.  Those winds are causing moderate vertical wind shear which was slowing the rate of intensification, but the shear is not strong enough to prevent Michael from strengthening.  The wind shear is probably the reason for the asymmetrical distribution of thunderstorms.  The upper level trough will move westward during the next few days and the upper level winds will weaken.  Michael will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is warmer than 30°C.  Tropical Storm Michael will strengthen slowly during the next 24 hours.  However, it will intensify more rapidly on Tuesday when the upper level winds weaken.  Michael will strengthen into a hurricane when it moves over the Gulf of Mexico and it could intensify into a major hurricane.

Tropical Storm Michael has been moving slowly while the circulation organizes and the center reforms.  Michael will move around the southwestern part of the subtropical high pressure system over the western North Atlantic Ocean.  The high will steer Michael in a northward direction during the next two or three days.  On its anticipated track the center of Tropical Storm Michael will pass between the western end of Cuba and the Yucatan peninsula on Monday.  Michael could approach northern Florida by Wednesday.  It will be a hurricane at that time and it could be a major hurricane.  Michael could produce strong winds, a significant storm surge and drop heavy rain when it reaches the coast.