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Helene a major hurricane

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:07 PM GMT on September 18, 2006

Hurricane Helene continues to intensify, and is now the season's second major hurricane. Helene is over warm waters of about 28C, and under about 10-15 knots of wind shear. These conditions favor intensification for another two days, and Helene could be the first Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic this year. Helene is currently headed more north than west, following a cut little brother Gordon has made through the Bermuda High. However, this cut is expected to close up later today, and the Bermuda High will re-establish itself and force Helene more to the west. By Wednesday or Thursday, a strong trough of low pressure will be moving off the East Coast and should turn Helene more to the north. It remains to be seen if this trough will be strong enough to finish the job and fully recurve Helene. If not, the Bermuda High will build back in, forcing Helene more to the west again, and potentially allowing it to strike the Mid-Atlantic or New England coasts of the U.S., or the Maritime Provinces of Canada. The models are VERY fuzzy at these long time scales, but the odds are that Helene would have yet another trough of low pressure to contend with before she could strike the coast. The computer models in general have performed poorly with the long-range track of Helene, and I am putting more stock in the historical record of what similar hurricanes have done in the past. I modified historical map of hurricanes to include all Category 1-5 hurricanes passing within 300 miles of Helene's current position. This map offers us some reassurance that Helene will probably not make landfall in the U.S. or Canada--only one of the 16 storms plotted have done so, and this storm <>a href=http://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/at200309.asp(Isabel, 2003) started further south than Helene's current position. I still put Helene's chances of a U.S. landfall at about 10%. Bermuda is at considerably higher risk, but the storm is still too far away to have a very good idea of this risk. Bermuda is a small target, and the five day track forecast errors are on the order of 350 miles.

Figure 1. Current satellite image of Helene, updated every 1/2 hour.

Mexico cleans up from Hurricane Lane
Mexico is cleaning up the damage from Hurricane Lane, which made landfall at 12:15pm PDT Saturday as a powerful Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds. However, Lane struck a sparsely populated region of the Mexican coast about 50 miles northwest of Mazatlan, and damage was mostly limited to washed out roads, toppled power lines, and at least one destroyed bridge. The storm surge of approximately six feet affected only an uninhabited barrier island and some adjacent farmland, and did very little damage. The extreme Category 3 winds of the eyewall affected an area of coast about 20 miles wide and stretching 20 miles inland. Only a few hundred people lived in this region.

The rest of the tropical Atlantic
Hurricane Gordon is still out there, but is no threat to land. A non-tropical area of low pressure a few hundred miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, has a slight chance of development as it drifts slowly east. Shower activity has decreased in this system this morning. Some of the computer models are forecasting that a tropical wave moving off the coast of Africa today will develop into a tropical storm later this week.

Typhoon Shanshan
In the Western Pacific, Typhoon Shanshan made landfall Sunday in southwestern Japan as a Category 1 storm. Shanshan killed nine and injured over 280 in Japan. Its powerful winds were able to lift a train off its tracks and lay it on its side. The typhoon brought the ninth strongest winds to the Korean peninsula in history, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration. Wind gusts reached 164 km/hr (102 mph) on Korea's Ullung Island as it passed by. Shanshan, the Chinese-language name for a young girl, was the 13th typhoon of the Western Pacific season.

Remainder of hurricane season outlook
I posted my outlook for the remainder of hurricane season Friday, in case you missed it.

I'll have an update Tuesday morning.
Jeff Masters

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

1501. Gatorx
Thanks 456-

Leave it to you to read my mind again. A short summary for the day...your awesome.
Posted By: StoryOfTheCane at 8:25 AM AST on September 19, 2006.

Can you give me the link to the main page of that image?
Since 1831 I have found these storms that developed and struck the se US
Sept. 27-Oct.10 1837
Oct. 7-13 1902
Oct. 13-17 1923
Oct.12-21 1916
Oct. 5,1964 "Hilda"
C Atl and African Wave that have potential, Mornin Gator
1505. Gatorx
I guess Helene is not expected to develop into a Cat 4 anymore... maybe the north turn did her in.
1506. Gatorx
Hi Story and Sandcrab-
Good morning Gator
Well I better get busy check back later. all have a good morning
Posted By: StoryOfTheCane at 8:43 AM AST on September 19, 2006.

Can you link the web page they came from?



0 24.3 51.8 290./ 7.0
6 24.4 52.8 276./ 8.6
12 24.6 53.6 282./ 8.0
18 24.7 54.4 280./ 7.0
24 24.8 55.2 278./ 7.2
30 25.3 55.7 312./ 7.0
36 26.1 56.2 329./ 9.4

Looks like GFDL lost its WSW jog. /BA
1513. Gatorx
I have to get some work done today..see ya all later...Gator out.
See ya Crab.
About those cold temperatures in North Dakota, you can tell them that warm weather is coming.


It's 59F in Toronto at 8:00 am local time. Why? Because Hurricane Lane's outer rainbands just two days ago were off the Mexican Riviera and are now over the city.

That's the dark blue upper right side of the picture.

EAUS Lane & Helene

So why is North Dakota going to be warmer?

That yellow-red mass entering B.C. was the outer rainbands of tropically heated Typhoon Shanshan two days ago over Japan.

Another Major Hurricane remnants, YAGI, will be entering British Columbia in about a week. I'd say North Dakota can expect some warm rain off and on for the next ten days or so.

Remnants of Typhoon Shanshan begin reaching Canada.
Helene looks good......

Helene does still look good 456. Still strong also.

6hr-Avg T# 3hr-Avg T# Adj T# Raw T#
6.4 6.4 6.4 6.4

Morning GS.
mornin Gulf
Some More amazing shots: Look at that extraopical cyclone in the center of the image:

Mornin Gulf
thats a cool pic
1527. GoofOff
Good morning all. 456, Gordon looks pretty small compared to the other 2 systems. While he is strong yet, I almost missed him in your last graphic.
GSM, no...it came off Canada days ago......
1530. jake436
Florence went through Ireland yesterday. "Greenman" gave us the play by play. Look ENE of that extratropical system to see remnants of Flo. (60N 0E)
1531. snowboy
456, you are outdoing yourself with amazing posts today. Thanks. And yes ScienceCop, the Toronto area got pasted by the remnants of Lane which moved up the trough and soaked us yesterday and overnight. Notice how Helene's eye keeps shrinking?
Gulfscotsman: By my reckoning the fuzzy mess to the NE of UK is the Forence remnant
Passed over us (Ireland) yesterday morning moving v.fast.
Met Erin reports on national TV last nite were of stong winds and torrential rain in many areas of the country during the morning and forecast is for gale force this evening and thru the night
Why is it nearly always at nite?????
Posted By: GulfScotsman at 8:58 AM AST on September 19, 2006.
Good Morning W456. Can you elaborate on the frontal convection in the Bay of Campeche.


Can you hang on a bit
1535. funeeeg
I think the remains of florence is the swirl in the North see with rainbands over Scandinavia and Germany.

As for the remnants of Lane; how can they be in the Gulf one day and Toronto the next?
Good Morning All
1539. jake436
As for the remnants of Lane; how can they be in the Gulf one day and Toronto the next?

Because those who said the remnants of Lane were ever in the Gulf were wrong. The moisture from Lane was sucked straight up along that front on Sunday and Monday, and the LLC that was Lane dissipated in the Mexican mountains.
1541. jake436
Morning Pascagoula from Purvis
Mornin y'all. How's things going this morning ..seems rather quiet ...we are getting rain again - ric keep up the good work with that.
1543. funeeeg
Jake 436; thanks for the clarification, that is just what I thought.
1544. jake436
Morning Saddle. Glad to hear about that rain. I told you! Now pay the lawn guy!
1545. funeeeg
Lane is starting to look a bit bedraggled with a cooling ragged eye, and assymetrical convection. Is it just reorganising itself or is dry air and some shear on the outflow channels to blame?
1546. Zaphod
Morning all.

Is there anything going on but watching Helene spin her way slowly to oblivion?

How is the new blog filter working out so far? Seems like a lot of people are auto-filtered.
456 - I have to come out of lurkdom to thank you for the amazing and wonderful pics this morning.

My husband is one of those mariners that gets threatened with the fish storms that go up the Atlantic, so I really appreciate the overall view of the whole Atlantic. Right now he is on his way back from Europe to the US on a large container ship about 4 or 5 days out.


Top of the Morning to ya. Anything going on in the GOM? How about the wave(s) off Africa?
1551. GoofOff
As you can probably tell, the new filtering system is working out great. This is the most civil this site has been for months. Some of the people who are filtered out are finding that they can work their way back into view by staying on topic and staying out of arguements.
1552. Patrap
..Good morning..up & atum...
Well, Helene is heading due West. That should start an argument!
this is my first year following the season so closely, and have picked up alot here... thanks.

i have to say i am amazed that gordon is on track to strike spain/portugal... wow!

two quick questions...

is this a common track, and will helene follow the same path?
Morning All...Here is a morning update from one of the FSU met people on Helene...As ominous as this Hurricane looks headed straight West right now....All models/NHC/professionals predict the curve in accordance with the present highs and trofs..This is informed forcasting at it's finest and it is always amazing to me to see this sceanario played out, under the right conditions, every season around this time...


FORECAST: Hurricane HELENE is 1,000 miles West of southern Cuba (latitude
20 deg N) traveling NW at 10 mph. With hurricane force winds, HELENE will
strengthen to a Category 2 hurricane early in the weak, before weakening.
HELENE will then turn more Northerly, and should pass east of Bermuda,
missing all land.

DISCUSSION: Although the strength estimates are pretty certain, and the
fact that HELENE poses no threat to the US mainland, the exact path HELENE
does depend on the strength and location the high to its north and the
southern extent of the low off the Eastern US. I believe that the Western
end of the high will erode and that the front will pick it up as they have
done so successfully all season long. And if not this one, the next one,
which will be off the coast in 4 days or so. So, we are pretty well
protected from any hurricane forming off of Africa, I think, for the rest
of the season.

NEXT FORECAST: Monday morning, September 18 6:00am

I'll just be lurking for the next few days watching the obvious unfold.....
1557. Zaphod
I was on for a bit last night when the auto-filter was on but the user-selectable filter was not -- there was a lot of confusion and I think some hurt feelings -- but this should work out well as things level out.

Is there a way to see what your own level is?
1558. nash28
I would hope Helene heading due West wouldn't start an argument Rand, considering that is what she is supposed to do:-)

But, I understand your point.
1559. Patrap
..G morning heat..the track that Gorgdon has taken is due ti the Position of the Bermuda/Azores high..and the combination of strong fronts..exiting the US.The Hurricanes ride under the Bermuda ridge as the primary steering .UNlike last year..when the western side of the High ..was extendend into threGOM...that steered the storms more west ..into the GOM and around the NOSE of the High towards the Northern GOM..THis year the high is more east..and not nosing into therGOM..Helene ..likely to follow Gordon...as the patterern holds..Hope this helps..Patrap
1561. GoofOff
I don't think there is anything wrong with getting in somebody's face if you feel they are off base. However, do it in private instead of posting it in the general blog. There are some that I respect in regard to weather but have disagreed with their behavior on the blog. They know who they are because they got private emails from me. That doesn't mean they were wrong and I was right, but it didn't need to be aired in public IMHO. It also did not mean I did not feel they had valuable information in regard to the weather. There were a couple of exceptions that were only on here to cause trouble.
nash28...Man those spaghetti's are so tight they look like one multicolored line.
1563. Patrap
..morning Gulf,,hows the Back bay?
does anyone know if the long term gfs is still showing tropical activity below cuba in the next week or so?
1565. nash28
Yeah, they sure did tighten up. That pretty much takes any argument out of "where will she go."
1566. GoofOff
Zap, at the moment you show up in the 'Best' catagory. I don't know if you can check your own rating or not. I think you can probably see your post regardless, but am not sure.
1567. Patrap
..the sad reality of most scenarios involving people that write opinions ..on weather..or any topic..is ..well ..wherever..u go in life...theres always 10%..that are going to be..er..problamatic.We r fortunate to have admin..to put in place..a system ..like the one we have now.
Posted By: fldude99 at 2:01 PM GMT on September 19, 2006.
does anyone know if the long term gfs is still showing tropical activity below cuba in the next week or so?

id say a strong possibility of that..

nash28...A little SW jaunt would probably shake them up. Be interesting to see if that happens.
thanks patrap... =' )
1571. jake436
Here you go FLDudeLink
1573. DocBen
Is that blob north of Columbia (Carribean) anything?
1574. Patrap
..Your welcome Heat..not the best xplanation..my coffee still warmer than me..LOL
Nah, the due West talk is all good today. Now if you added that it looks like it is heading close to the U.S., that may cause a ruckus!..LOL

BTW, great pictures this morning 456 and Story.
I'm working my way back into view.....how am doing so far?

1578. Patrap
..I see the next CONUS front now moving into the xtreme Northwest..another Blocker for the east coast...its another 1018 mb..high...a big butted one ..again...
1579. nash28
Rand- I am not sure a SW jog would shake them up too much, unless it jog WSW for 24 hrs. or something....

I think the 00z GFDL called for a WSW jog, but not in the 06z run.
1581. Patrap
..looks like Micheal Brown in Baton Rouge last year..27..LMAO!
1582. jake436
Posted By: StormW at 2:08 PM GMT on September 19, 2006.

Hey GS,
hope I'm not steppin on 456 (he'll probably have a more complete analysis), but my take (on the fly) on the BOC...I don't suspect it's frontal, as the front still isn't right there yet...probably part of something that came in a little north off the African wave train. Current satellite would indicate ridging starting to build over the area, and the feature is near the western side of the ridge. Current mean steering layer analysis would indicate this should move W or NW in the short term.
What do you mean the front isn't there yet? Look at the pic Science Cop posted at 12:50 and tell me the front isn't to the BOC yet.
1583. Patrap
..off to Helene west ..by about 200nm..you can see the sw push..and its gonna win..fo sure...
1586. GoofOff
fldude99 - I think the gfs shows something about 10 days or so out in the area of cuba, but if I lived in the Carribean I wouldn't lose any sleep over it for at least a week.

You seeing some action in the GOM and Caribbean?
1588. Patrap
..surface analyasis..shows the front sw to NE..not in BOC..thats a small wave impulse that has shifted north ..from the Pacific,..Mexican...area
1590. Patrap
..patrap called the Huracan/ Gods and they will not let any GOM threats thru the 25th ..due to the MNF game in the Superdome next week. Between the Saints & Falcons....with jamming by Green DAy..& U2. Bono...backed me up with a simalir...call
The UK Met Office charts for Sunday clearly show Helene nearing Europe


Of more immediate conceren is Gordon which is predicted to reach Spain and then interact with the jet stream. This will speed it northwards over the UK with some models progging a "bomb" depression.

1592. jake436
Posted By: StormW at 2:18 PM GMT on September 19, 2006.

in fact, the front has just barely cleared me this moring at 28N in Clearwater, FL.

I'll buy that. And you did say "short term", and you're right, but very short term, as the front is very close to that impulse. I stand corrected.
Added Bastardi, "Given the overall pattern and the water temperature profile we expect, the region will likely see one or two major Nor'easters". Accuweather.com winter outlook out!!! Whoaaa, me like! : )