August 29, 2019

Hurricane Dorian Quickly Organizing In The Southwestern Atlantic Ocean

Dorian strengthened into a hurricane over the U.S. Virgin Islands on Wednesday afternoon, passing into the southwestern Atlantic Ocean where it will spend the next four days in a prime environment for strengthening. The National Hurricane Center expects the storm to make landfall in Florida on Sunday, but the storm's specific track—and what happens beyond landfall—is still an open question.

The 11:00 PM EDT advisory from the National Hurricane Center shows Dorian making landfall on Florida's east coast as a major hurricane on Sunday or Monday. The cone of uncertainty stretches from the Everglades to the central Georgia coast, though, so don't get too hung up on exact landfall locations this far in advance. Everyone in Florida and along the southeastern and Gulf coasts should carefully follow the storm's progress.

Hurricane Dorian ramped up in a hurry on Wednesday. The storm was a disheveled mess on Tuesday, struggling to maintain itself in the eastern Caribbean Sea and constantly reforming its center of circulation to the northeast. At the time, it wasn't entirely clear if the storm would survive its encounter with the Greater Antilles, given its disorganized state and the mountainous terrain of Puerto Rico.

Those northeasterly jogs kept the bulk of the storm east of Puerto Rico, bringing hurricane conditions to the U.S. Virgin Islands and keeping the center of circulation mostly over water. This allowed Dorian to organize its structure and strengthen into a hurricane on Wednesday afternoon.
Tropical Tidbits
Dorian is now moving away from the Greater Antilles and into the open waters of the southwestern Atlantic Ocean. At 11:00 PM EDT, aircraft investigating the storm found maximum winds around 85 MPH with a central minimum pressure of 986 mb. The storm is struggling a bit due to intrusions of dry air. You can see the structure of the storm really well on the radar out of San Juan:
Gibson Ridge
The hurricane is lopsided at the moment, with a core and heavy bands off to the east. This band shows up as that "blob" on the satellite imagery above, which could be the result of easterly winds causing convergence on the east side of the system. Fluctuations in organization and intensity are common in storms, especially as they start to get their act together, but the overall environment is favorable for Dorian to use the next four or five days to grow into a major hurricane as it heads toward Florida.

The NHC issues official forecasts every six hours—at 11:00 and 5:00 AM/PM—with intermediate strength and position updates every three hours in between. If you live in the southeastern United States, even if you're dozens of miles inland, make sure you have enough food, water, and batteries to get through several days without power. Make plans to go somewhere if you have to evacuate from storm surge or inland flooding due to heavy rain.

I'll have a longer and more detailed post here at DAMWeather during the day on Thursday.


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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I ran Gawker's The Vane for two years and I've contributed to Mental Floss, Forbes, Popular Science, and the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang. I also teamed up with Outdoor Life to write a book called The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, which came out in October 2015.

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