Tropical Cyclone Ula Forms East of Samoa

A well-defined center of circulation consolidated within a very large area of thunderstorms straddling the Equator near the International Date Line and the system was classified as Tropical Cyclone Ula (06P).  At 5:00 a.m. EST on Wednesday the center of Tropical Cyclone Ula was located at latitude 12.5°S and longitude 166.6°W which put it about 325 miles (525 km) east-northeast of Pago Pago, Samoa.  Ula was moving toward the south-southeast at 15 m.p.h. (24 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 991 mb.

Thunderstorms in a spiral rainband are wrapping around the center of circulation and microwave satellite imagery has suggested that an eye may be forming in Tropical Cyclone Ula.  Additional spiral bands are developing in the outer portion of the circulation.  The thunderstorms near the center of circulation are generating upper level divergence which is pumping out mass, especially to the east of the center of Ula.

Tropical Cyclone Ula is in an environment that is favorable for intensification.  It is over water where the Sea Surface Temperatures are between 28°C and 29°C.  The upper level winds are light and there is not much vertical wind shear.  Ula is likely to continue to intensify as the core of the circulation consolidates and it could become the equivalent of a hurricane within 24 to 36 hours.

Ula is currently being steered to the south-southeast by a subtropical ridge which is located east of the tropical cyclone.  The ridge is expected to intensify and extend westward.  If it does so, then the building ridge will cause Tropical Cyclone Ula to turn toward the southwest.  On its anticipated track the center of Tropical Cyclone could pass south of Samoa in 24 to 48 hours and it could approach Fiji in four or five days.

Tropical Cyclone Ula could bring strong winds and heavy rain to any island it passes near.