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Hurricane Beta: unlucky 13

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 3:03 PM GMT on October 29, 2005

The Hurricane Season of 2005 is determined to own every major record for the Atlantic, and now has another--Beta is the 13th hurricane of the season, beating the record of 12 hurricanes set in 1969. Number thirteen will be an unlucky number for both Nicaragua and Honduras, who figure to bear the worst of this strengthening hurricane. In one respect, though, these countries have been lucky--the tropical disurbance that formed northeast of Beta yesterday is still there today, generating wind shear over Beta that is keeping it from rapidly intensifying. Had the disturbance not formed, Beta would already be a Category 2 hurricane today, and well on its way to a Category 3. As it is, the disturbance is still generating about ten knots of shear over Beta, which has allowed only a slow rise to Category 1 strength.

The disturbance has steadily weakened the past 24 hours, and so has the shear over Beta. By the time Beta makes its expected landfall near the Nicaragua-Honduras border Sunday morning, the shear will drop to five knots, which could allow rapid strengthening. There is not much time, though, for Beta to make it to Category 3 status, and the most likely strength at landfall is as a Category 2 hurricane. However, the latest microwave satellite data from NASA's TRMM satellite shows a pinhole eye--a very small 10-mile diameter eye like Wilma developed just before her rapid deepening phase. This may portend a rapid intensification cycle to Category 3 strength or higher may occur today. The hurricane hunters will be in the storm beginning at about 3 pm EDT today to check on its strength.

The island of Providencia (Columbia) received a direct hit from Beta last night and experienced sustained hurricane force winds for many hours that caused serious damage. Communications with the island were cut off at the height of the storm and have not been re-established.

The computer models are sorely missing the presence of the NOAA jet to provide detailed data on Beta's surrounding environment. Only one of the four main models--the UKMET--has correctly forecast the slow north and then northwest drift of Beta. The other three models have incorrectly been assuming the ridge to Beta's north is much stronger than it really is. The resulting forecasts of a westerly or southwesterly track across Nicaragua and into the Pacific Ocean have been incorrect for three days in a row. All indications are, though, that this ridge is unusually strong for this time of year, and Beta is not likely to turn north and threaten Cuba or Florida, at least for the next three to five days. The official NHC forecast seems reasonable.

If Beta does make landfall near the Honduras/Nicaragua border as a Category 2 storm as expected, a large storm surge of up to 15 feet is expected, since a long shallow area of Continental Shelf waters exists close to shore that will allow the storm surge waters to pile up. One would expect such a large storm surge, plus Beta's 100-mph sustained winds, to cause tremendous damage--but this is a large and very sparsely populated rainforest region. The storm surge and winds are unlikely to do significant damage. Far more dangerous will be Beta's rains, which may push inland into the mountainous regions of central Honduras where Hurricane Fifi in 1974 killed 8000, and where Hurricane Mitch in 1998 killed over 9000. Rains of up to 0.8 inches/hour are alreay affecting northeast Honduras, and Beta's slow motion will allow it to dump up to 15 inches of rain in some regions of Honduras. However, Beta is a very small storm, and its rains will affect a smaller portion of Honduras than either Fifi or Mitch did. Plus, Mitch dumped at least 30 inches of rain over much of Honduras during its rampage. These factors, along with the improved evacuation procedures that have been adopted in Honduras since 1998, give hope that Beta will not trigger a major flooding disaster in Honduras. Tune into wunderblogger Helen's blog from Roatan Island, Honduras, to follow the storm. Roatan is on the central coast of Honduras--the area Hurricane Mitch hit hardest in 1998.

Figure 2. Rainfall rate at 7:30 am EDT, taken by a NOAA polar-orbiting satellite. Image credit: Navy Research Lab.

Elsewhere in the tropics
The large tropical disturbance in the central Caribbean that is interfering with Beta's circulation has weakened and is not expected to develop through tomorrow.

A large tropical wave located about 600 miles east of the Lesser Antilles has become better organized today and has some potential for further development over the next few days as it moves west or west-northwest at 15 mph. This area of disturbed weather will bring heavy rain and gusty winds to the northern Leeward Islands on Monday and Puerto Rico on Tuesday. If a tropical storm does develop from this wave, it could threaten the Bahamas and the Southeast U.S. coast five or six days from now.

I'll be back with an update Sunday morning.

Jeff Masters
Downtown Fort Lauderdale
Wilma Everglades City
Wilma Everglades City

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

anyone home?
I wonder if this thing will go hit the yucatan and then head for the US. Obviously it won't if it makes that hard hook to the east, but if it grazes the coast it will come back out over water warm enough to keep it together.

So why the tiny eyes down there?
Hello everyone...........the models that have been on the money with BETA are still showing a northwest track...........check this out

true, weatherboyfsu. This storm has been another very difficult one to forecast. Most of the models were showing, (some still are) a path, further south and direct west of current location.

The models that predict even more northwest into the Gulf, have been the only accurate ones for Beta. Seems the NHC only choice has been waiting to adjust to north per actual flight data, and the three day cone can change considerable, since it is moving so slow.
There is a distinct possibility that Beta could move far enough north to get the attention of Floridians......including myself......as with wilma.....I'd say about a 25% chance.....
as long as it keeps moving slow, look out..........
Also the area moving into the windward islands looks to be developing a low level circulation........lots of areas for this time of year......
gosh, let's hope not Weatherboyfsu....
Yeah, I saw that little doolally down by the Windwards earlier this a.m. Something else to watch. :-)
Those models are....shall I say....."all over the map"
Yeah they are all over the map, but the 3 that predicted a northerly movement are all three still predicting a NW movement towards the yucatan and into the gulf.........
Totally off topic but I see it everywhere and finally need to ask - what's with people who try so hard to be "first" in comments who only leave "First!" or "First?" as a comment?

If you don't have anything constructive to say besides announcing that you were the lucky one to post first, don't post it. Please.

Sorry. Now back to topic. This has certainly been an odd, extraordinary year. Here's hoping that Beta is the last.
That is the big gamble when the models assumed strong ridge to be at location south of the Nicaragua/Honduras line, that was going to make a direct west long time ago.

Now if Beta continues north of Honduras south border line, the storm will go over what other models assume to be there, and the GFDL should have to generate a totally new different model, hopefully at more frequent time interval, soon enough to provide any assistance to forecasters.
15. dcw
Pinhole Eye=bad bad bad.

We're talking about the wave's shear stopping Beta...did Alpha stop Wilma? If Beta does start to RI, the outflow will destroy that wave real, real fast.
Now beta made the expected west turn, we'll see if stays east or west of mountains.
17. OGal
Lots of football on, but still need to watch "The Beta". Didn't Dr. Jeff say that the mountains were way to high for Beta to tackle. Would they just tear this storm apart or will she continue on east of the main mountain range. Is Florida out of the picture yet??
I'm curious to know why the Pinhole Eye is so dreaded? Is it just that it has such a tight circulation that winds are really high or what?

Ogal, the big unknown at this time, is if Beta survives the mountains. Like in 2005 anything goes, Stan amazingly survived at even higher terrain.

The west turn, across some mountains in Honduras, still is following the bamd, lbar models, which are the same models that estimate Beta surviving the land travel, then goes out near yucatan/belize and then later on into Florida.
20. OGal
Hydro, would Beta then be picked up by the Westerlies and would that be why she would head for Cuba or Florida.
21. iyou
jetra2 - The Pinhole Eye is a sign of rapid intensification. Just a little reading for the most recent example at - http://www.hurricanhunters.com/wilma.htm -Steve Gregory had this to say about Wilma in his blog on Oct. 19, 2005/2:20A.M. CDT. "892mb and 168Kts, a 2NM eye--that is beyond comprehension and no doubt has never been observed before. They (recon) are 'dive bombing in and out of the center to some degree--with the climb to 700mb to keep at least several thousand feet off the surface. In some respects this is almost taking on the characteristics of tornadoe."
quick post.
I will be leaving work tonight around 7pm and going home (yea)...I return to work next Wed. So, unless I get power and internet service between now and then,I will not be able to lurk or post. So, if you don't hear from me in 3 days, I am home without power still.

Hope everyone has a great weekend. thanks for all of the information this week. Take Care,
23. iyou
jetra2 - that's - http://www.hurricanehunters.com/wilma.htm - I have a tendency to drop that pesky 'e' in hurricane!
Alot of long term models through the gfs are showin a fl hit off of beta or energy left from beta. The MRF looks like the navy gfs 00Z run~ panhandle. The 12Z Navy gfs has a Tampa to Jacksonville. Lastnight's navy gfs ~ it liked very Wilma like. Must point out the navy nogaps say all clear for us.
25. dcw
Moving west now, Recon found a weak hurricane, and the eye has vanished from satellite imagyer. WTF IS GOING ON?? Conditions are perfect, yet Beta barely strengthens at all.
true, they expect energy or Beta leftover following the westerlies around yucatan, into florida.

At 80 miles/hour still can cause severe damages down there, the good thing tropical wind width is only a third of wilma.

The amazing part from Wilma is that inflicted heavy damage on South Florida with only sustained winds generally below 85 mph, according to first complete report releqased yesterday.
Maximum gusts in Broward reached only 108 mph in Broward, according to the National Weather Service.
Anyone know what the forecast is for next year? I keep hearing this year will be repeated for 10 years.
28. OGal
Yep, FD, this is supposed to go on for ten more years. Perhaps it is time to go develop in Wyoming. Oh maybe not, if stuff keeps being blown down someone has to keep building it back. Maybe this will be a good time for developers.
I think you'll have to wait for the spring if you want the forecast for next year specifically; I think that's when Dr. William Gray releases his report. You'll want to check http://tropical.atmos.colostate.edu/ .
Hydrocvl I think there will be alot of people in Broward who will be disagreeing that 108 MPH max. on wind gusts.
hey all...can't believe I'm snowing this but...it just snowed!! earliest like..ever that I can remember lol
can't believe I'm saying this**

wow lol
West Palm Beach finally here. What have I missed? Do shutters have to go up again?
34. dcw
Not yet, but 92L INVEST is now in the eastern Caribbean *rolls eyes*

So all, would everyone like to actually get together after the season somewhere in, say, Central Florida? If you want to, let's talk specifics. Link
For the record the back side was worse. We had very little destruction the first half. The second peeled roofs off. Our play set that survived two hurricanes was flung over. Our trees were snaped in half or their base.
We had to duct tape windows the second half. One blew in. One blew in but we duct taped it back in with three holding the window to tape it. A desk to hold it in.
You have to be kidding. No more. This was worse than Francis or Jeanne
Why are people still talking about Beta heading for the US? Looks like it will cross Central America to me. Better start watching the Leeward Islands disturbance.
...beta cat 3. suprised?
40. OGal
Well Dr. Jeff, the words that stir horror into the lives of Floridians, (might affect the southeast Florida coast five to six days from now). I don't know if any of us can go through this emotional misery one more time. Do you think that we will have to decorate our generators with Christmas lights? Enough is enough!!!!! Oh, good morning everyone.
41. OGal
Sorry Dr. Jeff, see how perinoid I am I read those words as Florida, not southestern U.S. coast.
42. dcw
Heh. You know you live in the tropics in 2005 when:

You put christmas lights on your generator
You draw a thanksgiving turkey on your plywood
Your christmas tree damages your roof
You prohibit cornucopias because they will act as wind tunnels
You use meat juices from the turkey to make a barometer
You do your christmas caroling from an interior closet
You evacuate to a relative's for christmas
The turkey blows away
You have to stop manaically refreshing the advisories on Hurricane Phi to open presents
You keep your candy canes indoors, for safety
You keep your presents in your hunker-down area...just in case
lol dcw. Better to laugh than cry! Thanks for the pick me up this morning, goes well with java.
bravo, dcw! this sounds like it belongs on letterman.
True, Dawgfan, Beta turned southwest since about 6 hours ago. I seems the worst -one day- forecast this year from the NHC. I wonder if they even used the aircarft recon in last 12 hours. First, the models, particularly the GFDL has been calling for a ridge that would have made Beta turn west about 200 miles south from current location, when that didn't happen, the NHC kept moving forecasts, to north-northwest. The current southwest turn, seems trying to go as far south 80 miles, to crossing any lake or low elevation areas and avoiding the higher mountains track that was forecasted at 8PM last night, of which range from 1,500 ft to 4,500 ft. The NHC still calls that Beta will dissipate in 24 hours.

The local authorities in Nicaragua just issued another warning about the huge change of Beta's path, and reversed the direction of evacuations. Wonder how many are caught totally unprepared.
The only positive thing is that NHC calls it very small hurricane, 60 miles radius for tropical storm windds, 15 miles radius for hurricane forces. Wonder how accurate that is.
and lol DCW...

Forgot... the best christmas present is a 5 gallon gasoline container.....LOL
47. dcw
...you get a generator for all your friends
...you consider using your ornaments as miniature gas containers
...your tree dies due to a boil water order
Nicaragua should fly their own recon planes into it, if they don't like our forecast......
RobertForsman, I still did not see any dislikes from their news or complaints of the NHC forecast. More like it was impossible for anybody to have accurate forecast, or how Beta changed per her own plans. Their local agency Ineter, actually kept a wide area of hurricane warning.

What I saw, that the most prepared towns for evacuations relied on calls from the NHC at 12 hours before landfall, and those cities ened up 100 miles away from the landfall location, while the closer towns were not as prepared...."El Centro Nacional de Huracanes de Miami confirm a eso de las seis de la tarde de ayer en una comunicacin telefnica con el Presidente Bolaos, que el impacto era en Puerto Cabezas".

The truth is that Beta never followed a well defined forecast, but followed different models for a portion of their runs, before beta went back to the GFDL.

Just that forecasting was difficult, like happened with Charley, Ophelia, and others.
The Antillean blob looks pretty formless on microwave. If it wants to become anything, it had better start organizing in a hurry.