28 August 2006

Ernesto over Cuba...

Debby finally dissipated on Sunday afternoon as an insignificant low-level swirl in the north central Atlantic, now pretty much absorbed by a mid-latitude trough.

Ernesto is still the big story in the basin.  The long-range track forecasts from the middle of last week have proven to be very wrong, and the storm has tracked NW instead of W-WNW.  So, in this scenario, everyone loses: the storm is scraping over Cuba, which is bad for Cuba and bad for the storm!   A Hurricane Watch is in effect for all of southern Florida and the northern Bahamas, and a Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for eastern Cuba and the central Bahamas. 

As of 15Z, the intensity is 35kts and 1003mb, barely a tropical storm, but it's also tracking directly over mountainous eastern Cuba.

Once Ernesto leaves Cuba late tonight or early tomorrow morning, it should have a short but critical stay over the ocean before a Florida landfall late Tuesday night.  The SSTs will be around 30C and vertical shear 10kts or less, so the trip between Cuba and Florida could allow for rapid intensification.  You can keep an eye on the approach via Miami's radar:
This is an extraordinarily challenging forecast, because it's approaching the Florida peninsula from the south.  A SLIGHT east-west error in track forecast could mean landfall in Apalachicola, Key West, Miami, Charleston, or Wilmington!  This angle of approach is sensitive to the smallest track deviations.  Miami is presently in the center of the target.

As of right now, the official forecast has the storm scraping eastern FL, crossing over the Gulf Stream, then making a 3rd landfall on North Carolina as a strong hurricane too.  This is something that clearly should be watched closely by east coast residents.

Elsewhere, there is a significant tropical wave with an embedded 1010mb Low located at about 17N 40W.

Please visit my tropical Atlantic headquarters.

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