September 8, 2011

Tropical Activity Thursday Update


Tropical Storm Nate formed in the Bay of Campeche Wednesday evening. As of 8am Thursday, Nate was located 125 miles west of Campeche, Mexico, which is also around 742 miles southwest of Key West, Florida and 778 miles south-southwest of Pensacola, Florida.

Nate is nearly stationary, moving very slowly to the southeast at 1 mph. Weak steering currents and high pressure over Cuba will promote a rather erratic east to northeast motion today.

Beginning Friday, a ridge of high pressure over Texas and Mexico is forecast to strengthen and cause Nate to curve to the left.

The official forecast from the National Hurricane Center shows Nate meandering over the Bay of Campeche through early Friday before moving northwest then west toward Mexico throughout the weekend and into early next week.

Maximum sustained winds remain near 45 mph. Some strengthening is forecast as Nate moves over warm waters under very little wind shear, and Nate may become a hurricane by Sunday.

Even if Nate stays away from Florida, a hurricane in the southwest Gulf of Mexico could produce ocean swells that traverse the Gulf of Mexico, which could affect Florida Panhandle beaches early next week.

As of 8am ET Thursday, Hurricane Katia was located about 325 miles west of Bermuda and 565 miles east of Charleston, South Carolina. This position is also about 700 miles northeast of Jacksonville, Florida.

Maximum sustained winds are near 90 mph, making Katia a Category 1 Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale.

Little change in strength is forecast over the next two days, but a slow weakening trend and post-tropical transition is then forecast to occur this weekend as Katia encounters increasing wind shear and cooler ocean waters.

Hurricane Katia is now moving north at 14 mph and passing between Bermuda and the U.S. East Coast, but Katia is expected to turn more toward the north-northeast and increase in forward speed by tonight. Katia will continue northeast through the weekend as it gets picked up by a frontal system currently along the U.S. East Coast.

Even though the storm is expected to stay away from Florida and the U.S., ocean swells and very dangerous rip currents from the storm will affect the Florida East Coast this week. A high risk of rip currents is forecast for the Florida Atlantic Coast mainly north of Jupiter Inlet.

Tropical Depression 14 strengthened to Tropical Storm Maria late Wednesday morning and at 8am ET Thursday, Maria was located approximately 760 miles east of the Leeward Islands, which is also 2,150 miles from Miami, Florida.

Maximum sustained winds remain near 50 mph, but Maria is becoming more poorly organized and may have lost a center of circulation.

Hurricane Hunter aircraft will investigate Maria this afternoon to determine if it has degenerated into a tropical wave.

If Maria survives the increased wind shear over the next 72 hours, it could begin to strengthen as it passes north of Puerto Rico.
Maria is currently moving toward the west around 23 mph and this general motion is expected today as it is steered around the southern edge of high pressure in the central Atlantic Ocean, followed by a turn to the west-northwest and a decrease in forward speed on Friday.

Computer models are in decent agreement and most show this system moving west-northwest and approaching the northern Leeward Islands and Virgin Islands this weekend before turning more towards the northwest in about 4-5 days as high pressure in the western Atlantic weakens. Long range models then predict a northward turn in 6-7 days.

It is still too early to tell if Tropical Storm Maria will have any impact on Florida or the U.S.

Amy Godsey, State Meteorologist
Florida Division of Emergency Management

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