Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tropical Storm Emily Wreaking Havoc on Hispaniola - and Forecasters...

The above satellite image was taken just a few moments ago, and shows Tropical Storm Emily still spinning about and dumping very heavy rains over Hispaniola. Emily has still not made the expected turn to the Northwest, which is causing some consternation among the forecasting community.

At 11am EDT, the center of Emily was located about 55 miles West/Southwest of Isla Beata, Dominican Republic.  Maximum sustained winds were estimated at 50 mph, and the minimum central pressure was 29.65 inches of mercury.  Movement was estimated at West to West/Northwest at 5 mph or less.

The official National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecast (see image below) continues to call for Emily to make a turn toward the Northwest later today:

The current forecast calls for Emily to weaken some during the next 24 hours, due to her interaction with the higher terrain across portions of Hispaniola and eastern Cuba.  The longer the actual center of Emily remains over water, the less she is likely to weaken.  The above forecast assumes an imminent turn to the Northwest, which would bring more of the center over the islands, resulting in weakening of the system.  If, however, Emily continues to drift more Westward rather than Northwestward today, the effects of the islands would be less dramatic, resulting in less intensity loss.

In the longer term, the "official" NHC forecast calls for Emily to regain strength after clearing the islands and moving out into the Bahamas on Friday night or early Saturday.  The same forecast also calls for her to reach Hurricane strength out in the open Atlantic (West of Bermuda) over the weekend.  As far as the track is concerned, a lot will depend on the exact time that she makes the long anticipated Northwest turn in the next 24 hours.  The majority of the computer models (see below) suggest that Emily will make that turn today, which would result in the storm passing East of Florida over the weekend... you can see, however, there are a few models that forecast the system to advance further Westward, resulting in potentially greater impact to the Sunshine State this weekend.

At this time, based on a combination of surface observations, satellite data and the computer models, I would tend to agree with the official NHC forecast track, which would take the greatest impact of Emily to the immediate East of Florida this weekend.  With that said, the next 12-24 hours will be critical.  If Emily drifts further Westward before turning Northward, both the track and intensity forecasts could change.

Another hurricane hunter aircraft will be visiting the storm this afternoon, and that will hopefully shed more light on the near-term trends of Emily.

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