Hurricane Dorian Rapidly Intensifies to Cat. 4

Hurricane Dorian rapidly intensified to Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale on Friday night and Hurricane Warnings were issued for the Northwestern Bahamas.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Friday the center of Hurricane Dorian was located at latitude 25.5°N and longitude 71.4°W which put it about 545 miles (880 km) east of West Palm Beach, Florida,  Dorian was moving toward the west-northwest at 10 m.p.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 948 mb.

Hurricane Warnings were issued for the Northwestern Bahamas including the Abacos, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island and New Providence.  A Hurricane Watch was in effect for Andros Island.

When reconnaissance aircraft reached the core of Hurricane Dorian on Friday night they discovered that Dorian has intensified rapidly since Friday afternoon.  The minimum surface pressure had decreased by more than 20 mb and the maximum sustained wind speed was 140 m.p.h. (220 km/h).  Dorian was a very symmetrical, if small hurricane.  There was a circular eye with a diameter to 14 miles (22 km) at the center of circulation.  The eye was surrounded by a ring of strong thunderstorms and the strongest winds were occurring in that ring of storms.  Bands of showers and thunderstorms were revolving around the core of Hurricane Dorian.  Storms around the core were generating upper level divergence which was pumping mass away from the hurricane.

The circulation around Hurricane Dorian was still relatively small.  Winds to hurricane force extended out about 25 miles (40 km) from the center of circulation.  Winds to tropical storm force extended out about 110 miles (170 km) from the center.  The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) for Hurricane Dorian was 28.3.  The Hurricane Size Index (HSI) was 12.0 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Size Index (HWISI) was 40.3.  Hurricane Dorian was capable of causing regional significant damage.

Hurricane Dorian will remain in an environment favorable for strong hurricanes for several more days.  Dorian will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 29°C.   It will move through a region where the upper level winds are weak and there will be little vertical wind shear.  Hurricane Dorian could intensify to Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.  At some point a rainband will wrap around the existing eye and eyewall.  That will begin an eyewall replacement cycle that will weaken Hurricane Dorian, at least temporarily.

Hurricane Dorian will move south of a subtropical ridge of high pressure over the western Atlantic Ocean.  The high will steer Dorian toward the west during the next 48 to 72 hours.  Dorian will move much more slowly when it reaches the western end of the ridge.  On its anticipated track Hurricane Dorian could reach the Northwestern Bahamas on Sunday.  Dorian could approach the southeast coast of Florida on Tuesday.