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Noel stalls out; no change in strength

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 8:08 PM GMT on October 31, 2007

Tropical Storm Noel remains stuck in a region of weak steering currents, just offshore the coast of Cuba. It is common for a tropical cyclone to move slowly and erratically when a trough of low pressure is about to pick it up and scoot the storm out to sea. The latest (12Z, 8am EDT) model runs continue to unanimously insist that Noel will turn north and then north-northeast tonight, and I have no reason to doubt that will happen.

Visible satellite imagery shows that the low level center of Noel is exposed to view, thanks to wind shear of 20 knots. Strong upper level winds from the west are keeping all the heavy thunderstorm activity to the east of Noel's center. Noel will not be able to undergo more than slow intensification, due to this shear. The last three fixes from the Hurricane Hunters have shown a surface pressure of 995 or 996 mb, so Noel is not intensifying appreciably this afternoon. Peak surface winds remain in the 50 mph vicinity.

The latest GFDL and SHIPS intensity model runs bring Noel's winds up to 65-70 mph by Thursday afternoon, when the storm should be exiting the Bahamas. The HWRF model is less aggressive, forecasting winds of 55 mph at that time. Given that the current wind shear is already causing Noel trouble, and is not forecast to decrease, I expect top winds for Noel of 55-60 mph Thursday afternoon. Wind shear is expected to rise above 45 knots when Noel moves north of the northern Bahamas, so the storm should weaken then. By Friday, the models agree that Noel will transition to a powerful extratropical storm. Noel is expected to bring winds near hurricane force to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland on Saturday. Noel's remains may pass close enough to Nantucket and Cape Cod, Massachussetts to bring sustained winds of 50 mph, according to the latest run of the HWRF model. The GFDL forecasts winds closer to 40 mph. Other models take Noel farther from Cape Cod, and do not bring winds quite as high as the GFDL and HWRF.

Noel's death toll
Another 1-2 inches of rain has fallen today over hard-hit Hispaniola, where the death toll is at least 59. In the Domincan Republic, the death toll stands at 41, with another 38 missing. At least 6,000 buildings were damaged, and 10 bridges washed out. Most of the deaths were in the southern part of the country, just west of the capital of Santo Domingo. Up to 20 inches of rain fell in that region. Haiti suffered 18 deaths, but not as much damage as the Dominican Republic. 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.

Links to follow for Noel
Satellite loop
Camaguey, Cuba radar.
Long range radar out of Miami, FL
Nassau, Bahamas current weather
Google Maps interface, zoomed in on Nassau, Bahamas

Impact on Florida
There is no change to the forecast for Florida. Noel will pass east of the state as a weak but strengthening tropical storm. Winds will probably blow 20-30 mph with gusts to 40 mph along the coast of Florida on Thursday morning and afternoon, when Noel makes its closest approach. Florida will be on the dry side of Noel, thanks to upper level winds from the west that will be creating about 15-25 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. The main hazard from Noel will be beach erosion, thanks to the 10-foot seas expected to pound area beaches.

I'll have an update Thursday morning.

Jeff Masters
Up Close and Personal
Up Close and Personal
This is under the plume of water shooting 50 ft. in the air at Taveras Dam. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone! While we were taking these photos, the North end of the Baitoa Bridge was being washed away.
Noel: Storm damage
Noel: Storm damage
A huge banner was taken down by the wind generated by the Tropical Storm Noel.

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