07 July 2005

Dennis now a Category 3 hurricane...

The eyewall of the storm avoided Jamaica, and is passing just to the 
north of the island, and also just south of Cuba.  It could hit the 
southeast Cuba coast later tonight.  The intensity as of 21Z today was 
increased to 100kts and 957mb, making Dennis the first major hurricane
of the year ("major" being defined as CAT3+).

Hurricane Warnings are now in effect for almost all of Cuba, the Cayman 
Islands, and the Florida Keys.  The forecast is for further 
strengthening in the northern Caribbean (perhaps reaching CAT4 
intensity), then some weakening as it passes over Cuba, then 
strenghtening again once back over the Gulf of Mexico.

US landfall is still expected late Sunday into early Monday as a 
CAT 2-3 hurricane, somewhere in the stretch between New Orleans to 
Apalachicola.  Coastal locations in that stretch should be preparing 
now for a major hurricane landfall within 84 hours.  Although seeming 
unlikely right now, IF the track deviates just slightly to the east of 
the forecast, all of the western FL peninsula will be threatened with a 
direct landfall.

For some interesting trivia... a major hurricane making US landfall in 
July is not unprecedented.  It happened three times since record-keeping 
began: in 1909, 1916, and 1936.  Perhaps 2005 will be added to the 
short list by the end of the weekend.
Please visit my tropical Atlantic headquarters.

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