Hurricane Ernesto smashes Haiti; Cuba and Florida next

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:49 PM GMT on August 27, 2006

Ernesto is now a hurricane, the first hurricane of the 2006 season. This first hurricane of season appears likely to do something the Hurricane Season of 2005 can't boast of--get its name retired. Ernesto is delivering a deadly blow to Haiti, and Cuba and Florida are next in line. The 6am Hurricane Hunter eye report found surface winds of 75 mph, good enough for upgrading the storm to a hurricane. The pressure fall has only been an unspectacular 2 mb in the past 12 hours, but the improvement in satellite appearance has been spectacular. An eye is now clearly visible on infrared satellite imagery, and upper-level outflow channels have opened to the north and south. Wind shear has fallen to 5-10 knots, and an upper-level anticyclone (clockwise-rotating region of winds) has developed over Ernesto, a highly favorable situation for strengthening.

The eye of Ernesto will pass just south of or over the southwestern tip of Haiti today, pounding that impoverished nation with hurricane force winds and rains of up to 20 inches. I expect the death toll will be in the hundreds.

Figure 1. Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential for the Caribbean. Value of over 90 kJ/m^2 are commonly associated with rapid deepening phases of hurricanes.

The intensity forecast
The upper level winds have calmed down significantly in the past 12 hours, and the low-shear environment with an upper-level anticyclone is expected to remain for the duration of Ernesto's life. Furthermore, Ernesto is over waters of 30-31 C (86-88 F), and these waters warm up to nearly 90F in the narrow channel between Jamaica and Cuba. These warm waters extend to great depth, and the total heat content available to fuel rapid intensification is high. In fact, the highest heat content waters anywhere in the Atlantic, 120 kJ/cm^2, are found here. Anything over 90 kJ/cm^2 are considered high enough to fuel rapid intensification, and I expect Ernesto will be a Category 2 hurricane when it hits Cuba.

Once Ernesto encounters Cuba, it should go down at least one Category in strength. The eastern end of Cuba is very rugged and will interfere with the storm's circulation. Exactly how long Ernesto spends over Cuba will be critical in determining what kind of blow the Florida Keys will receive. Ernesto will most likely emerge from Cuba into the Florida Straights as a tropical storm. The extremely warm waters with high heat content in the Florida Straights should fuel rapid intensification once more, after a 12-hour reorganization period. I expect the order for visitors to evacuate the Lower Keys will be given this afternoon, the 7th evacuation order for the Keys in the past 3 years. I think it is unlikely Ernesto could affect the Keys as anything stronger than a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds. A hit as a tropical storm or Category 1 hurricane is more likely. If Ernesto spends another day or two traversing the warm waters along the west cost of Florida, then it could grow to a major Category 3 or 4 hurricane. Probably the best scenario would be to have Ernesto pop off Cuba and proceed straight north to the Everglades, spending very little time over water. This might allow Ernesto to affect Florida only as a tropical storm.

The track forecast
The models have come into better alignment now. They unanimously predict a stronger trough of low pressure than originally forecast will act to pull Ernesto northwards across Florida, and then northeastwards out to sea. The exact highest risk Florida landfall is difficult to pin down so far in advance, and everywhere from Miami to Pensacola is at risk. It appears now that New Orleans can breathe easy, as Ernesto should miss that city by a wide margin. Residents of North Carolina should be alert, as Ernesto may brush the Outer Banks after traversing Florida.

The storm surge forecast
The waters along the west coast of Florida are very shallow, and extend out far into the Gulf of Mexico. This creates an ideal environment for a large storm surge to build, and storm surge heights over 10 feet are likely if Ernesto comes ashore as a Category 2 or stronger hurricane along the west coast of Florida. If Ernesto takes a track parallel to the coast and just offshore, a large storm surge could affect a very long portion of the Florida coast, causing immense damage.

Next update
The hurricane hunters have left Ernesto, and the next Hurricane Hunter mission into Ernesto is at 2pm EDT this afternoon. The NOAA jet is scheduled to fly tonight, so we'll have our first set of higher-reliability model runs Monday morning. The NOAA P-3 gets its first action Monday morning, and will fly their SFMR instrument that measures surface winds over the entire area. I'll have an update this afternoon when new model runs and Hurricane Hunter information becomes available.

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1504. guygee
12:18 AM GMT on August 28, 2006
Posted By: jphurricane2006 at 8:13 PM GMT on August 27, 2006.
at your computer though; um sure and you are teh one who actually asked me to do the scat and golden shower stuff and I said no

LOL, I just got on and I guess I would have to read though 200 posts to understand where this came from...I am sure there must be a reasonable explanation ;)
Member Since: September 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3611
1503. LoneStarWeather
12:12 AM GMT on August 28, 2006
thelmores wrote: i may be crazy, but i still say its possible ernesto never see's the gulf at all...

I said that earlier today and totally agree. If I were betting money on this storm, I'd put down a big chunk of change on Ernie-o not making it to the Gulf. And if I were looking for big payoff, I'd feel pretty comfortable putting a few chips down on him not seeing Florida either...
Member Since: September 8, 2001 Posts: 0 Comments: 453
1500. Anton7
8:45 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
Every time i make a post here that suggest Ernesto is dying, the message never appear in the blog.
I can only assume the Admins have a healthy storm shutter business;-)
1499. littlefish
8:44 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
As far as steering and the high in SE US, don't forget there's a ULL between (to the east of high, to the north of Ernie) the high and Ernesto creating some shear for Ernesto's N/NE side. Goodness, 'hurricane' Ernie looks really haggard right now.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 894
1497. gulfcoastmom
8:34 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
First let me say I don't post much, but I do come here on a daily basis for many different reasons. You all seem like an intelligent group of people, so why all the smut? We have our first big storm of the season out there, that should be the focus of this blog. There are folk like myself that rely on information not just from the NHC but from blogs like this. We need info, not BS. If you want to talk like that go in a dang chat room. Said my peace, ty. I am not an expert, but I have a gut feeling that the Panhandle need to watch Ernesto closely. Anyone else think this may still be a great possibility? Keep the info coming , we sure do appreciate it!! OH, and huge graphics kill us on dialup!!
Member Since: July 29, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 9
1495. BahaHurican
8:30 PM GMT on August 27, 2006

JP, I can't believe u even interacting with these freaks. The ones whose closest weather related post was an attempt to insult the tropical system and say how it was so "dead". The ones who know how to post a pic but don't know how to reduce the size. The ones who have not added a SINGLE WORTHWHILE POST SINCE THEY GOT ON HERE!!!!!

Come on, folks. The spam button is in the center of the page. Scroll. Press spam or obscene. Either is prolly correct. Move on.

And now back to Hurricane / Tropical Storm / Tropical Depression / Tropical Wave


On a weather-related note, I notice that ALL the weather forecasters in the S. FL area are correctly pronouncing the name of this storm . . . . .. . unlike other NATIONAL stations I could name.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 20 Comments: 26811
1493. hurricane79
8:29 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
CatChaser, leave this blog.
1492. thelmores
8:28 PM GMT on August 27, 2006

had looked at the wrong coordinates, and have had myself confused, REAL CONFUSED! LOL

Member Since: September 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3833
1491. hurricane79
8:28 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
I agree with STORMTOP on this point. Ernesto will turn back WNW for 2 reasons.
1) Once clearing Haiti, the friction of the mountains will stop acting as a "pivot" that has been keep it moving NNW for the past 12 hours. Also, there a weak ridge of high pressure that has built over the Florida peninsula and the Bahamas. As a residen, I have noted the wind shift today, it is now out of the East. The combination will most likely provide a WNW to NW movement of Ernesto for at least 48 hours starting in about 4 to 5 hours.
1490. Anton7
8:28 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
1488. leftyy420
8:25 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
patrap, hois overla sructire and symetry jas gotten muhc better as well though not the best but more classic tropical look now
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
1486. CybrTeddy
8:21 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
hi all
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 26103
1485. Patrap
8:20 PM GMT on August 27, 2006 the recent 2 hrs..Ernesto appears to have stalled.Its new burst of Convection near the reforming creating some good angular momentum into the center..helping to temporarily keep the center rotating in the same area.The feature is currently on the xtreme western penisula of Haiti.Ernesto may have a second chance to recover..His Mojo..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 456 Comments: 144516
1484. Crisis57
8:18 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
Randrewl what could that do for the forecast track
1481. SWLAStormFanatic
8:16 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
FLkey...he's doing it on purpose!
8:15 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
...can we please keep the posted pictures down to a resonable size? I'm on broadband and have no problem seeing them quickly, but it really tosses the margins out of whack.
1479. kmanislander
8:15 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
looks like it is TD Ernesto now
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 16811
1476. whirlwind
8:13 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
its far from over, u cane killers might be dead from ernesto... so be careful..
1469. rwdobson
8:12 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
if the trough somehow misses Ernesto and does not turn it north, it could go anywhere. that's what would have to happen for the western gulf to be threatened.
Member Since: June 12, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 1694
1468. Crisis57
8:11 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
so has anyone maybe noticed a little northward jog or is it just me
8:10 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
Is New Orleans still a possibility for landfall? And if so what would have to happen for this to happen??
Member Since: August 1, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 32
1462. CybrTeddy
8:08 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 26103
1461. thelmores
8:08 PM GMT on August 27, 2006

a 1mb jpeg image that obliterated every margin! LOL
Member Since: September 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3833
1460. mahep1911
8:08 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
can any one provide a link or proof it has been decleared or what not
Member Since: July 17, 2005 Posts: 12 Comments: 795
1459. whirlwind
8:07 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm could grow by Thursday into a hurricane as strong as Katrina.
"It's over nice warm Caribbean waters, and far enough off the coast of Haiti that it is still strengthening now," said Ron Goodman, a forecaster at the center.

1458. thelmores
8:06 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
If ST had just stuck to his first "prognostication"......LOL

i may be crazy, but i still say its possible ernesto never see's the gulf at all...

Member Since: September 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3833
1456. CybrTeddy
8:06 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
oh great a state of emergancy he only does that
4 or 5 times a year
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 26103
1455. Patrap
8:06 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
sees a Group of Mets in NHC..standing on Chairs Beating Chests..LOL...the Big Whitish Grey one,,loudest..LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 456 Comments: 144516
1454. hurricane79
8:06 PM GMT on August 27, 2006
hey lefty, about to leave this blog, but before I do, I am enjoying laying down the law so my kids don't have to read the obscene language that a few of these guys are spewing out.

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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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