Respect For Hurricane Earl

Radar — that was my first step this morning. I needed to check the radar from Saint Maarten. As I type this the southern eyewall of Hurricane Earl is touching the coast of Anguilla in the Caribbean. The eye is well defined on radar.

The Hurricane Center says the top winds are 125 mph. If that’s true they’re in an extremely small area. I usually feel NHC’s estimated maximum wind is higher than warranted. It’s all academic. You don’t need 125 mph to rip a Caribbean island to shreds!

There have been no official observations from the Anguilla airport since yesterday afternoon. In Saint Maarten just to the south winds are sustained at 33 mph with gusts to 53 mph. Anguilla is getting it worse.

At St. Thomas the wind is gusting to 49 mph. Earl isn’t there yet. The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico get their run-in later this afternoon.

These storms tend to wobble. They are not fully symmetrical. There is uneven friction from nearby landmasses and the interaction with other weather systems. This current path is north of where I thought it would be as recently as last night, but reasonably close.

Hurricane Earl is definitely a threat to the US East Coast. Will it hit? Too early to say, but it’s certainly enough of a possibility that I’m watching its every move.

I am surprised by the Hurricane Center’s forecast. The ‘out days’ center of the track is well offshore though all of the East Coast from the Maryland shore to the Canadian Maritimes are within the cone of uncertainty. How helpful is a forecast when it has to alert Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston? There’s lots of fudge factor still at work.

Based on the GFS past few runs I’d shift the track even farther west (left) than they have. I’m sure there’s a little “better safe than sorry” in my thoughts as well.

From the latest Hurricane Center discussion:

EARL IS FORECAST TO TURN NORTHWARD...THEN NORTHEASTWARD AHEAD OF A MID-LATITUDE TROUGH THAT MOVES ACROSS THE GREAT LAKES AND INTO THE NORTHEAST UNITED STATES IN 4-5 DAYS. THE TRACK GUIDANCE HAS SHIFTED WESTWARD AGAIN AND THE OFFICIAL FORECAST HAS BEEN ADJUSTED IN THAT DIRECTION. THE UPDATED TRACK FORECAST IS NEAR THE MIDDLE OF THE TIGHTLY CLUSTERED GUIDANCE.

THIS IS A GOOD TIME TO REMIND EVERYONE THAT NHC AVERAGE TRACK FORECAST ERRORS ARE 200 TO 300 MILES AT DAYS 4 AND 5. GIVEN THIS UNCERTAINTY...IT IS TOO SOON TO DETERMINE WHAT PORTION OF THE U.S. EAST COAST MIGHT SEE DIRECT IMPACTS FROM EARL.

There’s a full workweek of this still to come! I will become enveloped in the storm. Actually I already have.

2 Responses to “Respect For Hurricane Earl”

  1. K.C. Hendricks says:

    It’s fascinating stuff, Geoff! I am looking forward to it, yet fearing it at the same time. (Is that possible?)

    The last close one we had was Hannah a few years back, but based upon what’s being forecasted (albeit early), we may get much more than what Hannah gave.

    I trust your abilities good sir and will heed your warnings!

  2. GFReader says:

    Thank you very much for the updates and analysis, Geoff. As much as your bosses will want to hype this to death since weather crises draw eyeballs, we’ll count on you to give us the straight story here.

    I understand the West-East variability, but what about the time frame for it to get up here at this longitude? Is that any more predictable?

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