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Fay Skirts Bermuda; Vongfong Pounds Okinawa; Hudhud Bearing Down on India

By: Jeff Masters 5:13 PM GMT on October 11, 2014

Tropical Storm Fay is here, the sixth named storm of this quiet 2014 Atlantic hurricane season. Fay's formation date of October 10 comes just over a month later than the typical September 8 formation date for the season's sixth named storm. Bermuda is the only land area Fay poses a threat to, and the 11 am EDT Saturday Wind Probability Forecast from NHC gave Bermuda an 87% chance of seeing tropical storm-force winds of 39+ mph, with the strongest winds expected to affect the island Saturday evening into Sunday morning. Satellite loops on Saturday morning showed the typical view of a tropical storm experiencing high wind shear, with a surface circulation nearly exposed to view, and the heavy thunderstorms restricted to one quadrant--to the northwest. Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) were warm, near 29°C (84°F), and wind shear was high, 20 - 25 knots. Fay will recurve to the northeast out to sea on Sunday without troubling any other land areas.

Figure 1. Latest satellite image of Tropical Storm Fay.

Invest 90L will bring heavy rains to the Lesser Antilles
An area of disturbed weather associated with a tropical wave located about 400 miles east of the northern Lesser Antilles Islands on Saturday morning (Invest 90L) was headed west-northwest at about 10 mph. Satellite loops showed 90L had a modest amount of spin and heavy thunderstorm activity, and these thunderstorms were beginning to grow more organized. Water vapor satellite loops show a good degree of dry air surrounding 90L, and this dry air is retarding development. Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) were warm, near 28.5°C (83°F), and wind shear was moderate, 10 - 20 knots. These conditions are favorable for slow development. The 8 am Saturday run of the SHIPS model predicted that conditions would remain favorable for slow development through Monday, with light to moderate wind shear and SSTs near 29°C (84°F)--though the atmosphere is expected to dry as the disturbance moves past Puerto Rico on Monday. Two of our three of our reliable computer models for predicting tropical storm formation--GFS and UKMET models--showed 90L developing by the middle of next week in their 12Z and 00Z Saturday runs, respectively. When multiple models predict development, the odds of formation are increased. In their 8 am EDT Saturday Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 90L 2-day and 5-day development odds of 20% and 60%, respectively. 90L's west-northwest trajectory will bring heavy rains over the northern Lesser Antilles Islands on Sunday, and these rains will spread westwards to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by Sunday night, and to the eastern Dominican Republic on Monday. Interaction with the high terrain of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola may slow down development on Monday and Tuesday. The storm's center will be near Puerto Rico on Monday, and near the Southeast Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands by Wednesday. After that time, the vast majority of the members of the GFS and European ensemble model show 90L getting caught up in a trough of low pressure and scooting to the north and then northeast, possibly putting Bermuda at risk. An Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft has been tasked to investigate 90L on Sunday afternoon.

Figure 2. Latest satellite image of Invest 90L near the Lesser Antilles.

Dangerous Tropical Cyclone Hudhud approaching India
Category 3 Tropical Cyclone Hudhud in the Bay of Bengal continues to steadily intensify as it heads west-northwest at 7 mph towards India, with sustained winds estimated at 125 mph at 8 am EDT Saturday. Wind shear has fallen to a moderate 10 - 15 knots, and Hudhud is over very warm waters of 30.5°C (87°F)--conditions which favor continued intensification until landfall. Satellite loops and radar out of Visakhapatnam, India show an impressive storm with plenty of heavy thunderstorms with cold cloud tops and a large 24-mile diameter eye. On Saturday morning (U.S. EDT time), the India Meteorological Department (IMD) was forecasting that Hudhud would have sustained winds of 170 - 180 kph (105 - 110 mph) at landfall, making it a strong Category 2 storm. JTWC was forecasting a stronger storm--Category 4 with 135 mph winds. IMD predicted a storm surge of 1 - 2 meters (3.3 - 6.6 feet) would occur near and to the right of where the center makes landfall. With warmer sea surface temperatures under the storm and wind shear in the 10 - 15 knot range, landfall as a Category 3 cyclone appears the most likely scenario when Hudhud hits the coast of northern Andhra Pradesh and southern Odisha between Visakhapatnam and Gopalpur on Sunday, October 12, near 06 UTC (2 am EDT.) Odisha was struck in 2013 by Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Phailin, which killed 45 people and did $700 million in damage. This death toll was extremely low, considering this is a region where 10,000 people died in a similar-strength cyclone in 1999.

Latest Hudhud warnings for India from the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
Latest Hudhud advisory from the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
Latest India radar.

Figure 3. Tropical Cyclone Hudhud as seen by radar out of Visakhapatnam, India at 16:20 UTC (12:20 pm EDT.)

Okinawa drenched and battered by Vongfong
Japan's Okinawa Island continues to take an epic battering from Typhoon Vongfong as the powerful storm steams slowly north-northwestwards at 10 mph. At 8 am EDT Saturday, Vonfong had weakened to a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds, and at approximately 11 am EDT, the eye of the storm passed over northern Okinawa. Tropical storm-force winds of 39+ mph of greater began buffeting Okinawa at 5:39 am EDT Friday (6:39 pm local time), and continued through 7:54 am local time Saturday--a span of over 13 hours--with only 10 minutes of slight relaxation in the winds below tropical storm-force (to 36 - 38 mph.) During this period, Okinawa reached sustained winds of up to 64 mph, with gusts as high as 89 mph, and the pressure bottomed out at 950 mb at 11:15 pm local time. The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) AMeDAS site at Kunigami on the northern end of Okinawa reported 20.83" (529.0 mm) of rain in the past 48 hours. In second place was nearby Higashi, with 17.50" (444.5 mm) in the 48 hours. The capital of Okinawa, Naha, got 9.94" (252.5 mm) in 48 hours.

Figure 4. The northern portion of Vongfong's eyewall was all that remained of the storm's eyewall as the eye of the storm moved over the northern portion of Okinawa at 00:45 local time Sunday (11:45 am EDT.) Image credit: Japan Meteorological Agency.

Satellite loops and Japanese radar show that Vongfong's eyewall has collapsed, and the storm is rapidly weakening due to high wind shear and cooling waters. Tropical storm-force winds will continue to affect Okinawa intermittently through Sunday morning local time, but will not be as strong as what was experienced when the typhoon was approaching the island. Vongfong should continue to weaken and be a tropical storm with 50 - 60 mph winds when it makes landfall on the main Japanese island of Kyushu near 8 pm U.S. EDT time Sunday evening (00 UTC Monday.) Heavy rains from Vongfong will fall on soils already saturated by Typhoon Phanfone's rains last week, which could lead to much more severe flooding than was observed for Phanfone. Vongfong will also be moving slower than Phanfone was, potentially leading to higher rainfall amounts.

Storm Chaser James Reynolds is on Okinawa, and is posting updates and images to his Twitter feed.

Video 1. The cameras on the International Space Station captured this video of Super Typhoon Vongfong on October 9, 2014. The first 1.5 minutes is one of the most spectacular orbital pass videos of a tropical cyclone ever filmed. At the time, Vongfong was a Category 4 super typhoon with 155 mph winds.

Hurricane expert Steve Gregory has his take on the tropics in a Saturday afternoon post.

Jeff Masters


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