Saturday, July 11, 2009

TropStorm Carlos to reach hurricane strength today

The cyclone whirling toward Hawaiian waters gained strength overnight and is expected to reach hurricane force within hours.

It is still some 2,400 miles and 9 or 10 days away from the Islands, presuming it maintains strength and its current course.

Tropical depression 4E has been renamed Tropical Storm Carlos, and should be Hurricane Carlos before the end of the day.

(Image: Satellite photo of Tropical Storm Carlos Saturday morning. It was expected to get more organized and reach hurricane strength by late in the day. Credit: NOAA.)

You're not reading about this storm in local media, and not nearing about it from Civil Defense for good reason. Routes and strengths of tropical cyclones are so dramatically variable that it's virtually impossible to accurately predict their action over more than half a week.

But there are a few factors that justify attention to Carlos. Here's the official National Weather Service forecast Saturday morning, July 11, 2009.

One: This year we are now officially in an El Nino condition. Hawai'i residents heard about it this week in print and electronic media. Readers of this column heard about it more than a month ago. Hurricane frequency and strenth is statistically greater in El Nino years than not.

Two: Carlos will be the first hurricane of the season to enter the Central Pacific. It is currently moving east to west and is forecast to cross 140 degrees west latitude from the Eastern to Central Pacific on Thursday morning.

Three: It is close enough to the equator at 10.4 degrees north latitude that it is in waters warm enough to support hurricane development.

The National Weather Service says the storm is on the verge of switching to hurricane strength, and may be forming an eye—one of the features of a hurricane.

At this time, there do not appear to be strong contrary winds aloft that could shear the storm apart, causing it to weaken. However, as Carlos travels slightly north of west, it is moving into somewhat cooler water.

In the words of the weather service, cool water is a “less favorable environment.” That means it could weaken somewhat toward the end of the week.

Carlos is now forecast to reach wind speeds in the neighborhood of 100 miles an hour. It is moving to the west-northwest at 11 miles an hour or a little faster.

What should a Hawai'i resident do about this? It's certainly not a time to panic. As we suggested yesterday, it's not a bad time to check on whether your family disaster kit is up to date, or to put one together if you don't have one.

And it's a weekend. For folks not working, it wouldn't be inappropriate to walk around your house or apartment and do some due diligence—the kind we all ought to do in any hurricane season.

Is there stuff stacked on your lanai that ought to be put away? Are there tree limbs that have grown close enough to the house to cause damage in a big wind. Now's the time to deal with them.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009


Ryan said...

Ben Gutierrez on KGMB9 covered Carlos in his weather segments last night. It does have a long trip to Hawaii, though, if it's ultimately headed here. Of historical storms that have brought damage to Hawaii, do you know how many have originated in the same area of the Pacific?

Jan T said...

Thanks for the note, Ryan.
The short answer is, most of them. However, of the two most recent seriously damaging storms, Hurricane Iniki in 1992 came out of the Eastern Pacific, while Hurricane Iwa in 1982 did not. See The Honolulu Advertiser's page-one graphic Friday for a nice indication of the course these storms tend to take. Here's the URL:

Eric said...

A friend (thanks, Glen) pointed me to a very nice map of Hurricane Carlos. It's a mashup of data from NOAA, NASA, and other agencies. Go, Web 2.0!