Hurricane Maria Generates Swells Along East Coast; Tropical Storm Conditions in the Outer Banks Early Wednesday

Hurricane Maria hangs on Monday evening. The once major hurricane loses its symmetry and deep convection near its core. Maria combats stronger upper levels winds and taps into some cooler waters from upwelling from Jose. As of 5 PM it is a category 1 hurricane with 80 mph. It moves north at 7 mph. At this pace Maria will make its closest pass to the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a strong tropical storm early Wednesday. A strong upper level trough while guide Maria out to sea late in the work week. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for North of Duck to the North Carolina/Virginia border and North of Surf City to south of Cape Lookout. A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for Cape Lookout to Duck North Carolina. A mandatory evacuation was ordered from Ocracoke Island and Hatteras Island Monday afternoon.

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Here is the 5 PM advisory. Notice the sharp northeast track after Wednesday. Maria will accelerate out to sea and lose tropical characteristics by Saturday.

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While the center of Maria will pass well east of North Carolina, the tropical storm force wind field is quite large. Tropical storm force winds extend out 200 miles from its center. Sustained winds will approach low-end tropical storm force in the Outer Banks late Tuesday and early Wednesday. Below is the GFS wind speed forecast for early Wednesday morning. Higher gusts are likely. Outer bands will bring 1-2 inches of rain to the region, but this won’t be a big rainmaker.

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Wave heights continue to build as Maria lifts northward in the western Atlantic. Dangerous swells reach the Mid Atlantic and even the Northeast Monday evening. Rough surf will continue through at least mid-week. This enhances the risk for rip currents and beach erosion. A 2-4 foot storm surge is possible from Cape Lookout to Duck North Carolina, including the sound side of the Outer Banks. Coastal flooding is possible starting Tuesday.

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Elsewhere tiny hurricane Lee churns across the north central Atlantic. It weakens some at 5 PM. It is no threat to any land and will stay over the open Atlantic.

As October approaches, all eyes are on the western Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Long range models hint that pressure may lower in the western Caribbean during the first week of October. This is in line with climatology this time of year. Water temperatures are in the mid 80s. Our focus shifts to this region and away from the Main Development Region in the central Atlantic in the coming weeks.

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Hurricane Maria To Edge Past North Carolina Coast By Midweek

On Sunday evening, Hurricane Maria is still a category 2 storm with max winds over 100 mph. It will continue to slowly weaken over the next couple days as moves north into an increasingly unfavorable environment with higher wind shear.

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Image below (wind shear) courtesy University of Wisconsin/NOAA.

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At this point, confidence is fairly high that Maria will ultimately get picked up and ushered out to sea mid-late week by a trough digging into the mid-Atlantic and northeast. That being said, the storm may pass within 100-200 miles of the Outer Banks of North Carolina before that happens and effects of the storm can be felt well away from the center. At the very least, high surf and gusty winds can be expected in the Outer Banks and a tropical storm watch has been issued for areas from Surf City northward to the North Carolina/Virginia border, including the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. A storm surge of 2-4 feet is possible from Cape Lookout to Duck including the sound side of the Outer Banks.

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Maria Still a Major Hurricane Saturday; Some Models Shift West Towards the Outer Banks

Hurricane Maria weakens some, but maintains major hurricane strength well east of Florida Saturday. The destructive storm with a large eye exits Turks and Caicos and will spend the next few days over warm Atlantic waters. Wind shear is on the rise, so Maria will weaken some in the coming days. Waves build up to 30 feet near Maria, but swells and rough surf already reach the east coast of Florida up through the Carolinas. The risk for rip currents remains high through at least mid work week.

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Here is the 11 AM forecast track from the NHC. Maria is a category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds. It will head north-northwest through Monday and run into some hostile upper level winds. Maria may encounter some slight cooler waters mid work week off of the Mid Atlantic. However, a further west course closer to the Outer Banks puts Maria over the warm Gulf Stream. The Outer Banks of North Carolina are in the cone of uncertainty Wednesday and Thursday. This in line with a westward shift in some computer models early Saturday. Most models still keep Maria offshore. Interest in the Mid Atlantic region should also keep a watchful eye. Additional upper air soundings start Saturday afternoon and NOAA G-IV mission will assess the environment Sunday. This will help models gain better consensus on any possible U.S. impacts.

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Tropical Storm Lee found new life late this work week. It is a tiny weak tropical storm Saturday morning. Lee may regain hurricane strength over the open central Atlantic this work week. It is no threat to land. Meanwhile the remnants of Jose churn off of New England. It is still breezy in coastal Massachusetts with rough surf from the Mid Atlantic up through the Northeast. Boating remains unfavorable through the work week as Maria lifts north over the western Atlantic.

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Fortunately, we enter a quiet 5-7 day stretch in the Atlantic Basin. Fronts are more active as we approach October. While this enhances upper level winds in the tropics, water temperatures are still quite water in the Gulf of Mexico and western Caribbean. Sea surface temperatures in the western Caribbean, parts of the Gulf of Mexico and even the western Atlantic are running .5-2° C above average. Fronts/troughs can guide tropical systems towards Florida/the U.S.  These are areas we will watch for tropical cyclone formation in the weeks ahead.

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Maria Makes Landfall In Puerto Rico

At 6:15 am Wednesday morning, Hurricane Maria made landfall on the southeastern coast of Puerto Rico near the city of Yabucoa. At landfall, Maria had sustained winds of 155 mph. It is the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico since 1932.

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After departing Puerto Rico later today, Maria will continue on a path that will take it north of the Dominican Republic, but very near the Turks & Caicos by Friday morning. Maria should weaken a bit over the next day or two, but will still be a dangerous major hurricane by the end of the week.

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The storm will stay well east of Florida, but hose along the east coast of the United States from North Carolina to New England should monitor the progress of Maria closely. Models have been pretty consistent in keeping the storm well offshore of the Carolinas; but at the very least some big swells can be expected early next week, especially along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We’ll keep you updated.

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Jose and Maria Chugging Along; Lee Limping Behind

The tropics remain hot as we close out the weekend. Tropical Depression Lee is on its last leg though, and fighting a losing battle with increasing wind shear. That should ultimately tear the system apart. That leaves Hurricane Jose and Hurricane Maria, both of which have been looking pretty healthy as of late.

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Jose will continue its trek north and remain a hurricane through at least Tuesday. It still looks like a close call for coastal New England, but as of now models are in pretty good agreement that it stays offshore.

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That being said, Jose is still likely to produce tropical storm force winds, large swells/dangerous rip currents, and quite a bit of rain. Expect accumulations of 3 to 5 inches over eastern Long Island, southern Rhode Island, and southeast Massachusetts, including Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket through Wednesday. Further south, accumulations of 1 to 3 inches are possible along the Mid Atlantic coast. This rainfall could cause isolated flash flooding in some areas. A Tropical Storm Watch is currently in effect for Fenwick Island to Sandy Hook, Delaware Bay South, East Rockaway Inlet to Plymouth, Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket.

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Hurricane Maria continues to intensify as it nears the Lesser Antilles. As of Sunday evening, it’s about 140 miles ENE of Barbados and moving WNW at 15 mph. Currently forecast to become a major hurricane by Tuesday afternoon, Maria poses a serious threat to some of the same areas that were hit very hard by Hurricane Irma. A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Guadeloupe, Dominica,St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, and Anguilla. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic will likely see watches and warnings go into effect over the next day or two, and unfortunately it look as though they’ll be staring down the barrel of a major hurricane by the middle of the week.

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So far we’ve had pretty good model agreement with the eventual path of Maria as it nears the United States. Trends have been for the system to approach the Turks & Caicos and SE Bahamas by next weekend before making a turn to the north, and perhaps staying out to sea thereafter. That’s a comforting trend for the U.S., but as we know we can’t lend a ton credence to model output beyond 5-7 days. Early signs are good and there’s no cause for concern right now, but you’ll want to check back for updates throughout the week as we track Maria across the Caribbean.

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Jose, Lee, And Maria In The Atlantic

As of Saturday evening, we now have 3 named storms to watch in the Atlantic…

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Jose:

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At 8pm Saturday, Jose had winds of 80 mph and was moving north at 6 mph. It will approach coastal New England by the middle of the week. While it’ll most likely stay offshore, it bears watching for folks in the Northeast.

Lee:

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At 8pm Saturday, Lee had winds of 40 mph and was moving west at 10 mph. Lee will meander in the general direction for the next few days, but should ultimately remain a ‘fish storm’ and stay out over the open Atlantic.

Maria:

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Maria will be of most interest over the next week as it approaches the Leeward Islands and ramps up in intensity. Unfortunately, tiny islands like Barbuda, Antigua, Anguilla, and the British Virgin Islands that were just hit so hard by Irma look to be in the path of Maria over the next few days. A Hurricane Watch is now in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for St. Lucia, Martinique and Guadeloupe, Dominica, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Maria will be in the vicinity of Puerto Rico by mid-week, and at that point, what, if any, U.S. impacts will become a little more clear.

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Jose Set To Flirt With East Coast; Two Other Areas To Watch In Atlantic

As we close out the work week, Jose is back to hurricane status. As of Friday evening sustained winds were at 75 mph and it was moving NW at 10 mph. This system won’t have an impact on anyone through the weekend, other than kicking up the surf a bit from the east coast Florida up through the Carolinas. Looking ahead to next week, folks in coastal New England will be watching this closely as it moves up from the south.

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Elsewhere in the Atlantic we have two systems to watch, no surprise given the fact that we are only a few days past the peak of hurricane season. Invest 96-L and Tropical Depression 14 are likely to become Maria and Lee, respectively, over the next few days. TD 14 looks to stay over open ocean, but Invest 96 will need to be watched closely as it moves WNW over the next week. Tropical storm or hurricane watches are possible for portions of the Lesser Antilles over the weekend.

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Jose Meanders in the Atlantic; No Immediate U.S. Threats

Hurricane Jose meanders well east of the Bahamas Wednesday. It interacts with some higher shear and is a minimal hurricane at 11 AM. Jose will make a slow clockwise loop the next few days before paralleling the east coast as a tropical storm. It will not impact the U.S for at least the next 5 days, if at all. The long-range Jose steering is quite complex, so keep an eye on it in the Mid Atlantic and Northeast next week. Interest in Bermuda should also monitor the progress of Jose.

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After two back to back U.S. major hurricane landfalls, there are no other areas of immediate concern. The Euro suggests a tropical storm may develop near the Lesser Antilles early next week. Fortunately, wind shear looks to keep this possible future tropical cyclone weak. It’s worth watching.

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It is the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season and the potential for more strong hurricanes exists. There is a secondary peak in October. Fronts are more active during this time and tropical systems can be guided northward towards Florida/the Southeast U.S..

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Irma Loses Tropical Characteristics-Cleanup Far From Over; Jose No Current Threat to the U.S.

Irma lost tropical characteristics Monday evening, but cleanup efforts are only beginning. The massive former category 5 hurricane brought flooding, storm surge, hurricane force winds, isolated tornadoes, and off course millions of power outages to Florida and parts of the Southeast. Impacts were felt well from the center of circulation due to the massive size of Irma. The remnants of Irma bring lingering showers to the south central U.S. Tuesday.

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Here are some of the peak wind gusts across Florida.  Gusts well over hurricane force were felt throughout two-thirds of the state. A max gust of 142 mph was reported in Naples. Winds gusted to near 100 mph at Miami International Airport and to 77 mph in Clearwater.

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Freshwater flooding is ongoing due to tremendous rainfall. In combination with coastal flooding from storm surge, many river levels are at record heights. Fort Pierce, Florida saw nearly 16 inches of rain.  On the east side of the powerful former major hurricane West Melbourne and Jacksonville International Airport saw 11″+ of rain. Flooding also occurred in coastal Georgia and South Carolina Monday. The St Johns River near Downtown Jacksonville rose to a record 5.57 feet. According to the National Weather Service in Jacksonville, storm surge surpassed levels previously set during Hurricane Dora in 1964. Downtown Charleston, South Carolina was under water too. A surge of 9.92 feet was recorded there; it’s the third largest storm surge in the city’s history. Southeast Florida, including Miami, still recovers from coastal flooding too.

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The 2017 Atlantic season is well above average. Two major hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, have made landfall in the U.S. in just two weeks. So far there are 11 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. That is pretty much the average number of storms we typically see in an entire Atlantic season.

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We are down to one named storm, Hurricane Jose in the Atlantic. There is not much to steer Jose in the coming days. Models keep Jose well east of the Florida over the weekend. As it lifts northward, it is likely to stay out to sea, but could bring some swells to the Mid Atlantic by mid-week. We’ll keep an eye on it.

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Irma Brings Hurricane Conditions to Tampa Bay; Area Spared From the Worst

Irma lashed Tampa Bay late Sunday and early Monday. After landfall in Naples as a major hurricane Sunday afternoon, it stayed on a northerly track. In combination with some higher wind shear and a disruption from Cuba, the storm was weaker than anticipated in Central Florida. The eye wall raked Hardee, Desoto and Polk county late Sunday/early Monday damaging structures with wind gusts of 80-100 mph. Populated areas like Sarasota, Tampa and St Pete missed the eye wall, but still saw hurricane force wind gusts.

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Southwest Florida was slammed with major hurricane force wind gusts. A peak gust of 142 mph was recorded in Naples. Fort Desoto in Pinellas saw a wind gust of 91 mph. Winds gusted 60-80 mph+ through most of Tampa Bay, including a gust of 78 mph in Tampa.

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After Irma made landfall, its wind field grew substantially. As of 8 AM Monday the tropical storm wind field is over 400 miles from the center. This includes most of Florida, parts of southeast Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.

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The center of Irma passed well inland, with eye passing through Hardee and Polk county. The massive storm exits and an early Monday morning high tide has passed. Gusty westerly winds stir up the Gulf of Mexico. While a significant storm surge is unlikely, there could still be some minor coastal flooding as waves moves back in (especially when winds veer southwest). As of 9 AM, wave heights build to 6-10 feet near shore. Higher waves settle in throughout the day. It will stay choppy the next few days.

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Rainfall totals were substantial around the state, but this was not a long lived rain event. Most of the rainfall from Irma fell within 24 hours. Up to 8-10″ fell in Southeast Florida with 4-8″+ in the Tampa Bay area.

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Irma moves into the Southeast the next two days and brings with it gusty winds and steady rain.

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