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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

wunderground: Hurricane Rita a strong category 2

Hurricane Rita a strong category 2 

by Angela Fritz, wunderblog, October 25, 2011 

Hurricane Rina is now a strong category 2, and is slowly moving west-northwest toward Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula. Rina is packing winds of 110 mph and is crawling west at a 3 mph. Cancun radar shows some showers approaching the peninsula. Since this morning, satellite imagery has shown Rina becoming slightly more organized, and outflow has increased on all sides of the hurricane. Rina's eye appeared this afternoon, as well, though clouds continue to obscure it most of the time. Recent satellite images suggest thunderstorm activity is increasing around the eye (Figure 1). At 2 p.m. EDT, wind shear was low (5-10 knots) near the cyclone, which is likely aiding it to intensify, but shear expected to increase over the next couple of days. This afternoon's Hurricane Hunter mission reported maximum surface winds of 108 mph north of the eye using the SMFR surface wind instrument, an observation that was not flagged for poor data quality. If the current satellite imagery and organization of the hurricane is indicative, Rina will probably reach major hurricane status tonight or early tomorrow. Another Hurricane Hunter mission is on the way to Rina this evening, and a NOAA-9 Gulfstream is also currently investigating the hurricane and sending back dropsonde information, which will be valuable for model forecasts.

Figure 1. Infrared satellite imagery of Rina taken around 12:45 p.m. EDT on October 25. Image source: NOAA.

Forecast for Hurricane Rina
The forecast for Rina hasn't changed much since this morning. Some intensification is expected over the next 12 hours, though its slow speed could act to decrease sea surface temperatures around the hurricane, and thus decrease the amount of fuel available for further intensification. This afternoon's computer model runs continue to be somewhat divided on the likely track for the hurricane, although they seem to be coming into agreement that Rina will struggle to maintain its intensity after the land interaction with the Yucatan, as well as the high shear it will encounter in the coming days. The GFS continues to forecast that Rina will remain intact after a brief brush with the Yucatan before turning northeast and heading toward southern Florida. The HWRF model is also predicting a similar outcome. The ECMWF, on the other hand, is sticking to its forecast that Rina will lose organization once it reaches the Peninsula and instead provide a heavy rain event for Florida in conjunction with the trough of low pressure that is expected to move through later this week.

The official forecast from the National Hurricane Center is for Rina to continue to move to the west-northwest over the next 12 hours before turning to the north toward the tip of the Yucatan. This initial forecast is in agreement with the GFS and HWRF tracks, although beyond Thursday, the Center is forecasting Rina to decrease in intensity and make a hard right turn toward the Florida Straits. Regardless, people in Belize and especially the Yucatan Peninsula should be prepared for major hurricane conditions, including a storm surge up to 7 feet above normal tide conditions, and rainfall up to 16 inches.

Jeff will be back tomorrow morning with an update.

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