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Noel hits Cuba and weakens significantly

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:46 PM GMT on October 30, 2007

Tropical Storm Noel made landfall in eastern Cuba this morning, and has weakened significantly as a result. Top winds are now 45 mph near the center, but this morning's QuikSCAT pass also noted winds up to 50 mph about 150 miles to the north of Noel's center, in the central Bahamas. Top winds measured in Cuba this morning have been at Canagua, where the winds were 28 mph gusting to 39 mph at 8am EDT. Canagua is on the north central coast of Cuba, south of Andros Island in the Bahamas. Georgetown in the central Bahamas measured sustained winds of 27 mph gusting to 36 mph at 7am EDT. A good way to track current wind readings along Noel's path is to use our Google Maps interface, zoomed in on Canagua, Cuba.

Figure 1. Satellite estimated rainfall rate at 2:58 am EDT Tuesday 10/30/07 for Tropical Storm Noel. The heaviest rains of one inch per hour were observed in the central Bahamas. Heavy rains up to 1/2 inch per hour were still affecting Haiti and the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola. Image credit: NOAA.

Noel's rains
Noel's main threat continues to be heavy rains. Rainfall rates of up to one inch per hour are affecting the central Bahamas today (Figure 1), and Haiti and the Dominican Republic are getting up to 1/2 inch per hour. The heaviest rains from Noel have fallen over the southern coast of the Dominican Republic near the capital of Santo Domingo, where over a foot of rain has fallen (Figure 2). A nation-wide power outage knocked out power to all of the Dominican Republic for two hours yesterday, and flooding damage is reportedly heavy. Haiti has fared better, with peak rainfall totals of 6-8 inches in regions near the Dominican Republic border. Both nations can expect to receive another 5-7 inches in isolated regions before the rains finally subside Wednesday night. These rains will cause very dangerous flash floods, particularly in Haiti, where deforestation has left only 1.4% of the original forest cover remaining. Media reports put the death toll so far in the Dominican Republic at 20, with 20 more missing, and this toll is almost certain to go higher. Noel is the deadliest tropical cyclone to affect the Dominican Republic since Hurricane Georges hit Hispaniola in 1998, killing 380 Dominicans and causing over $1 billion in damage to the county.

Figure 2. Satellite estimated rainfall for the week ending at 11pm EDT Monday 10/29/07. Image credit: NASA.

Links to follow for Noel
Satellite loop
Holguin, Cuba radar
Google Maps interface, zoomed in on Canagua, Cuba

The forecast
The latest computer model runs from 00Z and 06Z this morning had the luxury of using data from last night's flight of the NOAA jet. This usually produces track forecasts that are 20% better. The models are in good agreement that Noel will move west-northwest to northwest during the next 24 hours, then recurve sharply to the north, just offshore the coast of South Florida. The models are off to a bad start, because Noel is tracking almost due west this morning, something the models did not anticipate. This increases the chance that Noel will recurve father to the west and pass over South Florida. However, passage over Cuba is weakening Noel, and it is looking much less likely Noel will be able to attain Category 1 hurricane strength. I give Noel a 30% chance of making a direct hit on South Florida, with a 5% chance that such a strike will be as a Category 1 hurricane. The most likely scenario is that Noel will pass 50-200 miles off the coast of South Florida Halloween night through Thursday morning as a weak but strengthening tropical storm, with top winds of 40-50 mph. Winds will probably be sustained at 20-30 mph with gusts to 40 mph along the coast. Florida will be on the dry side of Noel, thanks to upper level winds from the west that will be creating about 20 knots of wind shear over the storm. Expect occasional heavy rain showers with rain amounts totaling 1-3 inches if you live along the Southeast Florida coast. Most of Noel's heavy rains should stay offshore.

I'll have an update late this afternoon.

Jeff Masters
Overflowing Creek
Overflowing Creek
This is a small creek that runs through town, usually 1 foot wide. About 1 ft. of shore has been lost and is threatening the treeline.
Damaged Roads
Damaged Roads
The water level is down from last night...don't know yet if there is still a bridge under there...

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