Unprecedented Hurricane Tomas pounding the Lesser Antilles

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:38 PM GMT on October 30, 2010

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Hurricane Tomas, an unprecedented Lesser Antilles hurricane for so late in the season, is bearing down on the islands of St. Lucia and St. Vincent with Category 1 winds of 75 mph. Recent radar imagery from the Martinique radar shows that Tomas is still in the organizing stage, with an eyewall that just closed off, and a weak area of echoes on the south side, due to modest wind shear of 10 knots caused by southerly upper-level winds. The Hurricane Hunters reported top surface winds in the northern eyewall near 75 mph. St.Lucia figures to get the worst blow from Tomas, as this island will experience the strong right-front quadrant of the storm--the north eyewall. Winds on the island were sustained at 46 mph, gusting to 67 mph, at 11am EDT. Winds at Barbados peaked at 37 mph, gusting to 56 mph, early this morning, and the pressure bottomed out at 994 mb. Satellite loops of Tomas show a large and well-organized Cape Verdes-type hurricane, with good upper level outflow on all sides except the south, and an impressive amount of heavy thunderstorm activity. This is a very dangerous hurricane that is just beginning to get going. You can follow the progress of Tomas through the islands today with our wundermap zoomed in on St. Lucia.


Figure 1. Morning radar image from the Martinique radar shows the eye of Tomas moving between the islands of St, Lucia to the north and St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the south. The southern portion of the eyewall had just closed off with this image. Image credit: Meteo France.

Intensity forecast for Tomas
Now that the eyewall of Tomas has completely closed off, a period of steady and possibly rapid intensification lasting until Sunday afternoon is likely. The intensification rate may then be slowed by an increasing flow of southwesterly upper-level winds, which are expected to bring dry air and a moderate 15 - 20 knots of wind shear to Tomas Sunday through Tuesday, according to the latest SHIPS model forecast. Shear is then expected to relent, allowing more intensification on Wednesday. Water temperatures are a record warm 29.5°C and the Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential--a measure of the total heat content of the ocean--is a very high 100 kJ/cm^2, which is very favorable for rapid intensification. I expect the Tomas will strengthen to a Category 3 or 4 hurricane by Wednesday.


Figure 2. Hurricane specialists Robbie Berg (background) and Dan Brown (foreground) discuss the latest data on Tomas last night at the National Hurricane Center.

Track forecast for Tomas
The computer models have come into better agreement this morning that after Tomas reaches the central Caribbean 4 - 5 days from now, a turn to the north or northeast is likely, in response to a strong trough of low pressure expected to develop over the Eastern U.S. The exact timing of this turn to the north or northeast is difficult to predict at this time, as steering currents will be weak in the Caribbean after Tomas passes through the Lesser Antilles today and Sunday. At this time, is appears that the Dominican Republic and Haiti are most at risk from a strike by Tomas, though the storm could move as far west as Jamaica, or as far east as the northern Lesser Antilles Islands.


Figure 3. Hurricane specialist Dan Brown computes Tomas' radius of tropical storm force winds using the old-fashioned paper track plot and dividers technique. Hurricane specialists at NHC commonly use a paper track plot to mark all storm center fixes and compute the current motion of the storm. A storm's current heading and speed in NHC advisories is usually a 12-hour average of the motion up until the final fix position.

Tomas, Shary, and the 2010 hurricane season in perspective
Tomas' formation ties 2010 with 1995 and 1887 for 3rd place for most number of named storms in an Atlantic hurricane season. Only 2005 (28 named storms) and 1933 (21 named storms) were busier. Atlantic hurricane records go back to 1851, though there were likely many missed named storms prior to the beginning of satellite coverage in the mid-1960s. The intensification of Shary and Tomas into hurricanes today brings the total number of hurricanes this season to twelve, tying 2010 with 1969 and 1887 for second place for most hurricanes in a season. The record is held by 2005 with fifteen hurricanes, and I don't think we'll beat that record this year!

The formation of Tomas so far south and east this late in the season is unprecedented in the historical record; no named storm has ever been present east of the Lesser Antilles (61.5°W) and south of 12°N latitude so late in the year. Hurricane Six of 1896 came close--it was also a tropical storm south of 12°N and east of 61.5°W on October 29, but nine hours earlier in the day. That storm recurved to the north and missed the Lesser Antilles. Tomas' track through the southern Lesser Antilles so late in the year is unprecedented. There have been only two other tropical storms that formed after October 15 south of 12°N and east of 61.5°W: Hurricane Jose, which was a tropical storm in that region on October 18, 1999, and Tropical Storm Nicolas, on October 16, 2003. Tomas most reminds me of a storm I flew into with the Hurricane Hunters--Hurricane Joan of 1988, which was a tropical storm on October 14 near Tomas' current location, and later strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane that hit Nicaragua. According to Chenoweth (2008), Tomas is the first tropical storm to cross through the Lesser Antilles Islands south of 16°N this late in the year since 1724. In that year, a tropical storm on 12 November crossed the islands at 13.7°N 61.5°W, and later became a hurricane that affected Jamaica. There was also a hurricane on 30 October 1671 that crossed 61.5°W at 13.3°N, and did damage on Barbados.

Another unusual aspect of Tomas' formation is that we now have two simultaneous hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean on October 30. There has been only one hurricane season since 1851 that had had two simultaneous hurricanes later in the year--1932, when Hurricane Ten and Hurricane Eleven both existed November 7 - 10. Today is also the 5th latest date in the season that there have been two simultaneous named storms in the Atlantic. The record was set way back in 1887, when Hurricane Eighteen and Tropical Storm Nineteen were both active on December 8. There were three years that had simultaneous November named storms: 1932, 1961, and 2001.

References
Chenoweth, M. and D. Divine (2008), "A document-based 318-year record of tropical cyclones in the Lesser Antilles, 1690-2007", Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 9, doi:10.1029/2008GC002066.

Next update
I'll have more on Sunday by 3pm EDT. I'm headed home to Michigan today, after a very valuable week here at the National Hurricane Center. The experience gave me a new appreciatation for just how good the forecasters are at what they do. NHC's hurricane experts are truly world-class, and we are very fortunate to have such a talented group of hard-working forecasters keeping us informed on the dangers we face from Atlantic hurricanes.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Based on damage reports, it sounds to me like Tomas is nearing major hurricane strength.
Where are these damage reports from?

I've only heard of some roof damage and minor structural damage in St. Lucia
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Quoting Saltydogbwi1:
How does one post a picture on the blog? I see the button for image then it askes for a URL
I just right click on the image ,click on view image info.
When it comes up copy and then when you click on WU image button paste and post comment.
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will 90L get a upgrade at seasone end
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Based on damage reports, it sounds to me like Tomas is nearing major hurricane strength.
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The conditions aren't there for this to really take off.

Maybe just steady intensification for now.


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Quoting TriniGirl26:


LOL...i'm sorry...my sincerest apologies to your self and StormwaterCI for my last post :)
Nothing to apologize for.
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Quoting cat5hurricane:

I believe someone mentioned 1am EDT. If that's the case, then without a doubt.
They'll be in there at 2a.m EDT.

FLIGHT TWO -- TEAL 71
A. 31/0600Z
B. AFXXX 0321A CYCLONE
C. 31/0430Z
D. 13.2N 64.0W
E. 31/0530Z TO 31/0930Z
F. SFC TO 15,000 FT

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How does one post a picture on the blog? I see the button for image then it askes for a URL
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733. SLU
Just got a call from my brother in St. Lucia and he told me that the rainfall is absolutely torrential accompanied by very strong winds and that there were no lights visible on the island. All the radio stations and television stations have been knocked off air. He sounded very, very concerned about the severity of the hurricane and that he believes the island could be completely devastated. Like nothing we've seen on St. Lucian soil since the passage of Major Hurricane Allen in 1980.
Member Since: July 13, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 5164
Quoting TriniGirl26:


LOL...i'm sorry...my sincerest apologies to your self and StormwaterCI for my last post :)


I'm flattered. lol


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Quoting Grenada:



Ah now, shall I admit to being a grandmother 3 times over or not..... :)
I have 6. Two of them walked about 6 miles with their father (my son) after Ivan to check on me because the roads were full of boulders and water so cars couldn't get through. It was sad times but it makes us stronger.
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Quoting Grenada:



Ah now, shall I admit to being a grandmother 3 times over or not..... :)


LOL...i'm sorry...my sincerest apologies to your self and StormwaterCI for my last post :)
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...CORE OF TOMAS MOVING AWAY FROM ST. VINCENT AND ST. LUCIA...

SUMMARY OF 800 PM AST...0000 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...13.5N 61.7W
ABOUT 40 MI...70 KM NW OF ST. VINCENT
ABOUT 50 MI...85 KM WSW OF ST. LUCIA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...90 MPH...150 KM/HR
PRESENT MOVEMENT...WNW OR 285 DEGREES AT 9 MPH...15 KM/HR
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...982 MB...29.00 INCHES
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
LOL. My grandson who was 6 at the time and lives with me was not home when we got power back on . I never told him when I picked him up but flipped the switch when we got home . He hollered out "WE HAVE LIGHTS." It was funny.


:)
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 576 Comments: 20612
Quoting dolphingalrules:


good luck...and stock up on appleton..i made my jelloshots for tomorrow with a flavor with appleton...


Yes...will need lots of that to keep the spirits high if Tomas turns out to be like Gilbert. I remember that after Gilbert the sales of Red Stripe Beer skyrocketed here in Jamaica.
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Could be near 100mph by the time recon gets in


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Quoting TriniGirl26:


think about it this way...when you have grandchildren and they're complaining you can tell them about "Well In My Day..." Hopefully by then they will find a solution to keep hurricanes away :)



Ah now, shall I admit to being a grandmother 3 times over or not..... :)
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Quoting Grenada:



Some areas got it back a bit sooner and we could sometimes buy ice. It was pretty horrendous but you would have thought it was the first time we'd seen electricity when it eventually came back.
LOL. My grandson who was 6 at the time and lives with me was not home when we got power back on . I never told him when I picked him up but flipped the switch when we got home . He hollered out "WE HAVE LIGHTS." It was funny.
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Quoting Grenada:



Some areas got it back a bit sooner and we could sometimes buy ice. It was pretty horrendous but you would have thought it was the first time we'd seen electricity when it eventually came back.


think about it this way...when you have grandchildren and they're complaining you can tell them about "Well In My Day..." Hopefully by then they will find a solution to keep hurricanes away :)
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Will Tomas be a CAT 5 ... ? All the ingredients are there ... should be quite the show !
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Quoting Gorty:
LOL, the SHF5 model wants to bring post Shary to a Cat. 5 hurricane by 108 hours.


lolwut
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 576 Comments: 20612
Quoting stormwatcherCI:
We couldn't even hardly get candles or batteries and I wanted ice so bad at one point it brought me to tears. It was rough.



Some areas got it back a bit sooner and we could sometimes buy ice. It was pretty horrendous but you would have thought it was the first time we'd seen electricity when it eventually came back.
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Quoting Levi32:
Very visibly fuzzy and feathery cirrus outflow to the west of the CDO is a classic sign of steady intensification.



In this case possibly rapid.
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716. Gorty
LOL, the SHF5 model wants to bring post Shary to a Cat. 5 hurricane by 108 hours.
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Quoting TimTebow:
I believe that beats PeeWee Herman's record.


roflmao!
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Quoting Grenada:



After 6 months I kind of got used to it, I liked the candles but it was nearly costing as much as the power did lol
We couldn't even hardly get candles or batteries and I wanted ice so bad at one point it brought me to tears. It was rough.
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Quoting TriniGirl26:


I feel your pain :)..i can't imagine going so long without electricity. like you, we have only one electricity company and all lines are above ground....well i guess the next best thing is flambeau in a case like that.
At least I was lucky enough that I have a gas stove. So many people were making wood fires outside trying to cook. It really brought people closer together though .
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Quoting Saltydogbwi1:


Lol I was very young during Alan and dont remember much but I do remember taking shelter in my dads office building in central george town. Remember Gilbert well. Also the devestating wave action from Mitch although Mitch never got really close to us he wiped out most docks and some properties on the south and west sides of the island..Dean for some minor flooding on the south side(I actually have a picture of a wave hitting the cliffs by Pedros and shooting almost 150 feet into the air I'll try to post it)...and Ivan...well im sure nobody will forget him for quite some time
I remember Mitch, Michelle, Emily,Ivan, Gilbert, Gustav , Dean and Paloma. Dean actually brought heavy seas in East End and the main road was full of conch shells etc. Couldn't drive through there for about a day. Gustav kinda frightened me too coming in from the East and we had 96 mph winds up at this end.
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Very visibly fuzzy and feathery cirrus outflow to the west of the CDO is a classic sign of steady intensification.

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Quoting goldmind:
thunderstorms in barbados

Lightning/2000 v5.2.2 Summary (Saturday, October 30, 2010 at 7:23:29 PM N)

Since midnight (1163.5 mins.):
Total strokes: 29,093 (avg. 25.0/min.)
I believe that beats PeeWee Herman's record.
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Tomas is firing on ALL CYLINDERS!

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Quoting CaribbeanStorm:


I live in Jamaica...and I am thinking that by Tuesday we will get a better forecast of the track to see if that turn to the North will happen. If so I may be able to save some money :-)...but it is true that the stores will run out of stock if Tomas keeps coming at us.


good luck...and stock up on appleton..i made my jelloshots for tomorrow with a flavor with appleton...
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Yep and on top of that mosquitoes almost ate us alive. It was nasty.


I feel your pain :)..i can't imagine going so long without electricity. like you, we have only one electricity company and all lines are above ground....well i guess the next best thing is flambeau in a case like that.
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
I didn't mind not having lights or tv but trust me I really missed the a/c. It was HOT.



After 6 months I kind of got used to it, I liked the candles but it was nearly costing as much as the power did lol
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Tell me about it. My end of the island was without power for 2 1/2 months after Ivan.


Geez. It was bad enough for me for five days subsequent to Gustav.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 576 Comments: 20612
Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
From Storm Caribe site:

Date: Sat, 30 Oct 2010 23:32:52 +0000
Tomas took us unexpectedly.....as careful and prepared as we always try to be,
I saw a tropical wave headed to us yesterday morning and dismissed it as a wet
weekend. By 5pm we were under a TS warning and by 8pm a Hurricane warning. The
day started out with some heavy gusts and minimal rain. By this afternoon we
had no power island wide, currently experiencing torrential rainfall, have
serious TS force winds for lengthy periods.

Property has been definitely lost, roofs, businesses, flooding, downed power
lines and poles, downed trees etc island wide.

The storm surge has apparently affected both airports and some hotels and
coastal dwellings.

All radio stations seem to be down.

May god guide us through the night, I believe we have, especially in the south
taken a serious pounding from this one.

Will report more as it comes.

Mike
Sent from my BlackBerry® BOLD.

http://stormcarib.com/reports/current/stlucia.shtml
I have been checking in there off and on since last night. Just pray although damages may be heavy that there won't be any loss of life.
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Quoting dolphingalrules:


and where do u live....just wondering if us in sfla needs to go to home depot, publix and the liquor store...


I live in Jamaica...and I am thinking that by Tuesday we will get a better forecast of the track to see if that turn to the North will happen. If so I may be able to save some money :-)...but it is true that the stores will run out of stock if Tomas keeps coming at us.
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david about 40yrs ago was a brut in that part of the world its good we are seeing a eye even a novice like my character can follow its progress
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
I don't remember them.. Gilbert and then nothing until Ivan. LOL


Lol I was very young during Alan and dont remember much but I do remember taking shelter in my dads office building in central george town. Remember Gilbert well. Also the devestating wave action from Michelle and Mitch although Mitch never got really close to us he wiped out most docks and some properties on the south and west sides of the island..Dean for some minor flooding on the south side(I actually have a picture of a wave hitting the cliffs by Pedros and shooting almost 150 feet into the air I'll try to post it)...and Ivan...well im sure nobody will forget him for quite some time
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From Storm Caribe site:

Date: Sat, 30 Oct 2010 23:32:52 +0000
Tomas took us unexpectedly.....as careful and prepared as we always try to be,
I saw a tropical wave headed to us yesterday morning and dismissed it as a wet
weekend. By 5pm we were under a TS warning and by 8pm a Hurricane warning. The
day started out with some heavy gusts and minimal rain. By this afternoon we
had no power island wide, currently experiencing torrential rainfall, have
serious TS force winds for lengthy periods.

Property has been definitely lost, roofs, businesses, flooding, downed power
lines and poles, downed trees etc island wide.

The storm surge has apparently affected both airports and some hotels and
coastal dwellings.

All radio stations seem to be down.

May god guide us through the night, I believe we have, especially in the south
taken a serious pounding from this one.

Will report more as it comes.

Mike
Sent from my BlackBerry® BOLD.

http://stormcarib.com/reports/current/stlucia.shtml
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Quoting Grenada:



Some people have all the luck :)
I didn't mind not having lights or tv but trust me I really missed the a/c. It was HOT.
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Tell me about it. My end of the island was without power for 2 1/2 months after Ivan.



Some people have all the luck :)
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Quoting dolphingalrules:


and where do u live....just wondering if us in sfla needs to go to home depot, publix and the liquor store...
I did not see him reply but he is in Jamaica.
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Quoting TriniGirl26:


What? u serious?
Yep and on top of that mosquitoes almost ate us alive. It was nasty.
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Here in Orlando, I could definitely go for some gusty, rain showers (as long as it doesn't mean a full-fledged hurricane for S. Florida). From what I understand, this is unlikely as we go into November though.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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