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Paul pulls its punch before hitting Baja; Rafael brushes Bermuda

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 12:31 PM GMT on October 17, 2012

Hurricane Paul weakened rapidly just before landfall on Mexico's Baja coast on Tuesday evening, as wind shear of 30 - 40 knots tore into the storm. Paul peaked as a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds at 2 pm PDT on Monday, but was just a tropical storm with 60 mph winds Tuesday evening when the center finally reached the coast of Baja. Paul hit a region of coast that is very sparsely populated, and I expect damage from the weakening storm was relatively light. Rainfall amounts of 2 - 3" were common over Baja from Paul, but there have been no reports of damaging flooding thus far. Paul has weakened to a tropical storm with 40 mph winds this morning, and will likely be declared dead later today or on Thursday. Significant moisture from Paul is not expected to reach the U.S.

Figure 1. MODIS satellite image of Hurricane Paul taken at 4:25 pm EDT Tuesday, October 16, 2012. At the time, Paul was approaching landfall on the Mexican Baja coast as a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Rafael brushes Bermuda
Hurricane Rafael cruised by Bermuda Tuesday night as a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds. At its closest point of approach, the center of Rafael passed about 110 miles east of Bermuda. The Bermuda Airport recorded top winds of 34 mph, gusting to 51 mph, at 9 pm AST Tuesday night. The hurricane dumped 1.71" of rain on Bermuda, and did no significant damage. Rafael is beginning to transition to an extratropical storm today as it heads northeastward out to sea, and it will likely be declared post-tropical on Thursday.

Figure 2. Radar image of Hurricane Rafael as seen by the Bermuda radar at 8:03 pm AST on October 16, 2012. At the time, Rafael was a Category 1 hurricane with 85 mph winds, and was bringing sustained winds of 31 mph, gusting to 44 mph, to Bermuda.

Figure 3. MODIS satellite image of Hurricane Rafael approaching Bermuda, taken at 12:10 pm EDT Tuesday, October 16, 2012. At the time, Rafael was at peak strength as a Category 1 hurricane with 90 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic
Most of the models are predicting that the Southwest Caribbean Sea off the coast of Nicaragua will see a broad area of low pressure develop by the middle of next week. This low will likely bring a multi-day period of heavy rains to portions of Central America, Jamaica, Cuba, and the Cayman Islands late next week. None of the reliable models are predicting formation of a new tropical cyclone in the Atlantic through October 23, though we will need to watch the Southwest Caribbean late next week.

Jeff Masters


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