Ernesto ashore in Cuba; Florida and the Carolinas next

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:22 PM GMT on August 28, 2006

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The hurricane season of 2006 has claimed its first victim, a woman washed away by Ernesto's storm surge in Haiti yesterday. However, it appears that we have not had a repeat of the massive flooding disaster of 2004, when Hurricane Jeanne brushed Haiti, killing 3000. Ernesto is still pounding Haiti and the Dominican Republic with relentless heavy rains as it moves ashore into Cuba this morning. Rainfall amounts of 8 inches have been reported in Barahona, Dominican Republic, and amounts as high as 20 inches may have fallen in Haiti. Cuba is receiving its own torrential rains, but is being spared a significant storm surge or high winds. Ernesto is barely a tropical storm, and I expect it will be a tropical depression Tuesday morning when it pops off the coast of Cuba into the Florida Straits. Given the great success of Hispaniola and Cuba at weakening the storm, the threat to Florida is now much reduced. Let's analyze the possibilities.


Figure 1. Surface wind analysis at 9:30pm EDT last night shows Ernesto had maximum winds of only 40 knots (45 mph) in a small circle (lightest blue color) between Cuba and Haiti.

Ernesto and Florida
The NOAA jet flew last night, and last night's 00Z (8pm EDT) set of model runs have come into much better agreement on a track into South Florida Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Two model runs are available from the latest 6Z (2am EDT) model cycle, and continue the trend of pushing the forecast tracks to the east. The GFS and GFDL models have virtually identical tracks for their 72-hour forecasts, with Ernesto as a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds and a pressure of 983 mb when it hits Key Largo Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. This more easterly track is believable given Ernesto's recent northwesterly track.

Wind shear remains low and is forecast to remain low for the duration of Ernesto's life, so the key factor controlling his intensity will be interaction with land. To get an idea of how quickly Ernesto might reintensify once emerging into the Florida Straits, it is helpful to search the historical record. I found two storms similar to Ernesto that crossed the tip of Haiti, hit Cuba as hurricanes, then emerged into the Florida Straits. Hurricane Inez of 1966 hit Cuba as a Category 3 hurricane, then weakened to a tropical storm when she emerged into the Florida Straits. It took three days before she was able to re-intensify into a Category 2 hurricane in the Gulf. The August 1894 Category 2 hurricane that hit Cuba took only one day to re-intensify from a tropical storm into a Category 2 hurricane once it emerged into the Florida Straits. This storm hit Ft. Myers as a Category 2 storm. Dissipation of Erensto is also possible, as happened to a 1916 tropical storm that hit Cuba on a similar track and died as it emerged into the Florida Straits. A 1928 tropical storm following a similar path never regained hurricane strength, despite spending two full days over the Gulf after encountering Cuba. So, history is against Ernesto becoming anything stronger than a Category 1 hurricane upon landfall in South Florida, and I believe landfall as a tropical storm is more likely. If Ernesto does take a more westerly track up the west coast of Florida towards Sarasota, landfall as a Category 1 hurricane could occur.

Ernesto is a more significant threat to the Carolinas
While much of the focus of attention has deservedly been on Ernesto's impact on Florida, I believe the best chance of Ernesto hitting the U.S. as a Category 2 or 3 hurricane will come in the Carolinas. The GFDL model has Ernesto as a borderline Category 1 or 2 hurricane with a pressure of 975 mb Thursday night upon landfall in South Carolina. The GFS, UKMET, and Canadian models predict that Ernesto will stall off the Carolina coast, as the trough of low pressure drawing it northeastwards accelerates away. High pressure will then build in, forcing Ernesto back to the west towards the Carolina coast. If this happens, Ernesto will have plenty of time over the warm Gulf Stream, and could easily reach Category 2 or 3 strength before making landfall in the Carolinas. The NOGAPS model depicts a similar scenario, but predicts Ernest will stall further north, then move west, threatening the Mid-Atlantic states.

Next update
I'll have an update late this afternoon when the 12Z (8am EDT) model runs are in. I will also post an explanation of which models to trust, and where to get plots of the output from the various models. The Hurricane Hunters have gone home; they will not be flying the storm while it is over Cuba, so there will be nothing new to report from them.

Jeff Masters

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1357. wpieler
12:11 PM GMT on August 29, 2006
new blog started
1356. hurricane79
10:04 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
If I were to tell you 2 days ago that the storm would make landfall near Miami and then move to the Carolinas, when the models were pointing to the Central Gulf. You all would have thought I was NUTS! Well, from the unpredictable seen in the history of this storm, I would not be suprised to see another "twist" in the rhealm of forecasting, by both the NHC, models, and Ernesto himself.
1355. leftyy420
9:55 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
ernesto is moving nw
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
1354. scla08
9:44 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
LOL.. I agree 100% about waiting to see what it does! But I'll tell you right now, I am NOT wishcasting, and I live far from florida.
Member Since: July 24, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 272
1353. K8eCane
9:42 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
i just hate it when people become psychotic over these storms though
Member Since: April 26, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 3076
1352. Pipsneyy
9:39 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
Ok, lets just settle this. You think its moving west north west, i think its still moving north west. thats the whole reason this blog is here. to express opinions. lets just wait and see what this storm does lol.
1351. TampaSteve
9:39 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
It's barely a TS as of the 5 pm update...it will be a strong TS or at worst a minimal Cat 1 at landfall in S FL. Not much worse than a strong thunderstorm. The Gulf Coast is pretty much out of the woods on this one now, too. All you fellow Tampa Bay folks can just save your stuff for the next storm.
1350. scla08
9:37 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
It IS moving WNW!! I'm not wishing it would come any where near me! Im just looking at the latest satellite pictures. And I hope you know, the models and the NHC isn't always right.. you shouldn't be relying on the models to tell you exactly where it is going because chances are they will move! And there is a high pressure to the north of it so it's not just gonna make sharp turn to the north all of a sudden. Also, I should point out, there are no mountains in the position it is in right now!
Member Since: July 24, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 272
1349. Pipsneyy
9:36 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
Storms never travel in a straight line.


Also, everyone else look at the visible loop.

The convection is beginning to get pulled a little more north to the COC. This means its getting stronger. Another piece of evidence that it is getting stronger is that the cry air that was to the west of the storm is now being pushed off to the west. If Ernesto was weak, the dry air would filter into Ernesto's COC. But its NOT, its being pushed away. And the only way this storm could strengthen was if it emerged into the warm straits/atlantic, NOT the western side of Cuba.
1348. littlefish
9:36 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
That 2nd ULL nobody talked about 3 days ago is now responsible for curving Ernesto northward and out of a dangerous Gulf path. Today they started talking about it, but they didn't beforehand. It's almost as if all the computer models ignored it 3 days ago and now have it fairly correct.
1347. littlefish
9:33 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
Kinda funny how everybody was talking about the hotspot between Cuba and Jamaica as Ernesto approached, and then almost as if on queue Ernesto skirted around it to the north. Ernesto has done a wonderful job of avoiding hotspots. Can we train future hurricanes to do that?
1346. StormJunkie
9:32 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
Ya'll, I tried once already...A new blog is up...
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15842
1345. Pipsneyy
9:31 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
Even if it is moving WNW according to you, then it would HAVE to turn back north. All models, NHC, and Forecasts show it making a DUE north turn. It may move west right now, but the NHC said this could happen. Its because there is a big thing in Cuba called MOUNTAINS. They wobble the storm. You are watching the convection, not the COC. But then again, they said it culd emerge as far west as western tip of cuba but then TURN NORTH. So stop getting so excited that its coming towards you. I bet your either in north florida or the west coast.
1344. littlefish
9:31 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
Looks like the 38W 17N low is providing some anticyclonic pressure to the ITCZ. But there is another blob coming off Africa that may be far enough east to avoid this. Ernesto looks to be staying very low-key.
1343. K8eCane
9:31 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
c'mon guys
do you really want it to strike ya so bad that you're hallucinating now?
Member Since: April 26, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 3076
1342. TampaSteve
9:30 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
It's still not getting West of the FL peninsula...this is an Atlantic Coast storm now, folks.
1341. scla08
9:27 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
pipsney, no one is wishcasting.. And yes, it IS moving w-wnw.. NOT NW! the reason it is where it is supposed to be is because the nhc just came out with the new forecast and position. The NHC even says it may be west of the previous positon at 5pm edt! "THE MOTION...310/11...IS UNCERTAIN BUT APPEARS TO BE A LITTLE FASTER
AND SLIGHTLY TO THE LEFT OF THE PREVIOUS ESTIMATE."
Member Since: July 24, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 272
1340. thelmores
9:27 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
new blog!!!!!
Member Since: September 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3805
1339. Pipsneyy
9:25 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
strong>New flare up near the COC.<
1338. sporteguy03
9:25 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
Keep an eye on the NW side it is refiring, Tom Terry hinted at this, he thinks the storm is starting to intensify..if that NW convection holds could be a sign of it getting better organized.
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 5198
1337. fldude99
9:23 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
lol @ chicklit..maybe they expect it to blow up over lake okeechobee intensifying it there
Member Since: July 14, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 574
1336. TampaSteve
9:23 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
Posted By: 21N71W at 9:12 PM GMT on August 28, 2006.
a little detour on Ernesto's name :
Ernesto Guevara de la Serna or CHE Guevera...


Interesting tidbit.

Makes you wonder how the history of Cuba over the last 50 years would have been different had Batista's men been better shots and killed Che and Castro when they first landed in Cuba.
1335. Pipsneyy
9:23 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
For all of you who think Ernesto is moving to the W, you are wrong. Look at the visible sat and turn on tropical forecast points. Ernesto is DIRECTLY on the point where it was forecasted to be right now. Just look for yourself. Quit wish casting it, and wanting it to come to the panhandle or louisianna. Its not happening.
1333. BahamaPapa
9:22 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
Randrewl thanks for the info. You think we will get Tropical Storm force winds? Do I need to prepare for something?
1332. sporteguy03
9:22 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
Expect a TS Storm/Hurricane Watch for the West in the near future up to Cedar Key....
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 5198
1331. hurricane79
9:22 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
Tazmanian, theres a good chance that the Center will skirt the Coast for some time.
1330. vortextrance
9:21 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
The models have been pretty consistent today. Slighly left isn't GOM. It's highly unlikely, though still possible, the west coast of the penisula see's this storm.
Member Since: October 5, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 700
1329. fldude99
9:21 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
79: do you think they will wait til 11AM to move this westwards? or did you mean PM
Member Since: July 14, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 574
1328. gijim
9:21 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
It's amazing how much of this is still an art rather than a science.

Looking forward to hearing from Dr. Masters sometime before FL landfall... :p
Member Since: August 27, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 19
1326. Tazmanian
9:20 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
Link


look at this loop it seen to me it is this about overe water but at the same time it looks like it moveing a long the cost so it like some on the cost and some is on there water and look what way it is moveing a long the cost

give me a commet and tell me what you think thanks
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114781
1325. Chicklit
9:20 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
fldud99: they have it exiting FL by canaveral

Oh yay! Thanks Florida Dude. I am multi-tasking. Why are we still under a hurricane watch up here while they're downgraded at present in South Florida?
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11198
1324. hurricane79
9:20 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
the nhc was uncertain about the NW movement...hinting that is could have indeed been W to WNW
1323. hurricane79
9:19 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
The NHC also mentioned that the system has been moving further West and faster than expected the past few hours. This wll affect the next GFDL and we may see a shift in track at 11 AM Westward. It is a watch and wait for the next couple of hours before this comes into fruition,
1321. fldude99
9:18 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
what is interesting is that early on the NHC didn't follow the gfdl
Member Since: July 14, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 574
1320. CycloneOz
9:17 PM GMT on August 28, 2006


Goto this Link and play the animation at it's fastest speed.

You'll see from my forecast map above that there are two competing areas of pressure that should push this system back into the Carribean Sea. What it does from there, I cannot guess.

But to still haveing it be moving at 13 to the NW is unreal to me. I still don't see that movement or speed. To me, both are wrong wrong.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3620
1319. StormJunkie
9:17 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
Good call whoever it was.

New blog is up
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15842
1318. dewfree
9:17 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
humm ok i see it seems to be ok for idle comment but get serious here people this is an open discussion on Ernesto and the curent blog at top of page .Dr. masters blog . can you keep your comments current with the blog please . The current and not so current models do conflick but the thing here is to watch the movement of the center .as the storm moves the models will move .of course they still will try to do this or that with the storm but it is the storm itself that will make or brake the models .yes tropical storms are influenced by patterns and weathr fenomenon but they do seem to have a way of tripping the models .I believe yestrdays model had a better grip on the storm even though they were all over the place .it still is my opinion utill i see movement to contrary that the storm will at some point inter the gulf and then turn towards the north east and cross florida .the stregth as to whitch it's uncertain at this time.It is not that the high is strong but what is to the east of it ,so i dont think it will be a fast mover maybe even sinking southwest alittle ."{it is in the curren thought if the high sinks to the south west that the storm is likey to travel up the east coast toward the carolina's that is why the models bring it close to the southern tip of florida and up the east coast}" .
Member Since: August 27, 2006 Posts: 7 Comments: 589
1317. vortextrance
9:17 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
Posted By: StormJunkie at 9:14 PM GMT on August 28, 2006.
Afternoon ya'll, just got in from work. I see the model consensus shifted slightly. So do we have anyone in here that has any confidence in what this storm will do the next 36hrs?

I think the NHC has a good handle on the short term now.
Member Since: October 5, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 700
1316. hurricane79
9:17 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
new GFS model takes up along the West Coast for Florida now, so does the BAMM
1315. longislandxpress
9:16 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
what happened? they messed up twice imho, who knows what data they used and who's incharge .
Lets see if reversing thier calls works better.( it may just be bad choices by a new guy or a new system that has to have the bugs worked out)
1314. IKE
9:16 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
Folks over south Florida should be able to weather Ernesto...even the NHC doesn't give it much chance to reach a hurricane.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1313. Joshfsu123
9:16 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
hey lefty, don't know what models you are looking at but the 12Z to 18Z runs showed a move to the left (Not right).

The NHC even said so in their discussion at 5pm when they mentioned the GFS and other guidance models have shifted slightly west.

They are following the GDFL model, which is smart. However, if that model moves left later tonight, so will the forecast. The NHC projection is on the "right" of all guidance from 18Z.

That can change at 00Z however.
Member Since: July 6, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 580
1312. charliesurvivor
9:16 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
NHC stubbornly keeping track over E. Fla.Even GFS has shifted Westward.Just because the GFDL hasnt moved west tyey wont change the track.Time is running out,as with the case with hurricane Charley they will be slightly off again effecting many people.WATCH OUT SWFLA!
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 190
1311. Chicklit
9:15 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
We should be hearing from The Doc pretty soon.
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11198
1310. sporteguy03
9:15 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
The shift to the West might buy Ernesto more time.
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 5198
1308. sporteguy03
9:15 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
SOME OF THE TRACK GUIDANCE
SUCH AS THE GFS HAVE SHIFTED SLIGHTLY WESTWARD WHILE OTHERS HAVE
CHANGED LITTLE SINCE THE PREVIOUS RUN
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 5198
1307. scla08
9:15 PM GMT on August 28, 2006
THE MOTION...310/11...IS UNCERTAIN BUT APPEARS TO BE A LITTLE FASTER
AND SLIGHTLY TO THE LEFT OF THE PREVIOUS ESTIMATE.
Member Since: July 24, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 272

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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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