Tropical Storm Joaquin sets sights on East Coast

30 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Southeastern US drenched by rain and floods as Tropical Storm Joaquin continues to strengthen ahead of weekend landfall.

Tropical Storm Joaquin was lurking in the Atlantic Ocean on the verge of becoming a hurricane Wednesday — but meteorologists were still divided about whether it was likely to smash into the East Coast. The storm is forecast to strengthen over the next few days and could threaten the Carolinas at the weekend as a Category One hurricane with winds reaching 90 mph (145 kph) on the Saffir-Simpson wind intensity scale, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Long-range forecast models were highly uncertain as it moves north and it could stay well offshore or brush the Outer Banks, before possibly heading towards the north-east coast, the NHC said. It was expected to be reclassified as a hurricane at some point Wednesday. “It could be a significant situation,” said Brian Fortier, senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel. “Everyone along the Northeast coast, right up to New England, should keep a close eye on the forecasts.” The tropical storm remained east of the Bahamas, where a hurricane warning was issued early Wednesday.

This isn’t a knock on the state of forecasting – the practice of figuring out what trillions upon trillions of air molecules are going to do days in advance. Some experts say the center of the storm will stay offshore; others predict it will make landfall, likely hitting North Carolina or Virginia this weekend. Before Joaquin arrives on the scene — or not, as the case may be — an area from Maine to North Carolina was set for a separate round of rainfall that had already started overnight Tuesday into Wednesday in some areas. This system was the result of a complex cocktail of “moving parts,” according to Fortier, including a cold front in the east and low pressure in the South that has already caused heavy rainfall there. The government’s annual forecast predicted a quieter-than-normal 2015 Atlantic hurricane season, with six to 10 named storms and up to four reaching hurricane status of 74 mph (119 kph).

Among the factors in this year’s predicted weaker hurricane season is the El Niño weather phenomenon, the warming of Pacific waters that affects wind circulation patterns and makes the formation of hurricanes in the Atlantic-Caribbean basin less likely. (Reporting by David Adams; Editing by Grant McCool and Chris Reese) You may have caught some of those ‘spaghetti plot’ images showing its future path splayed out in all directions – from out to sea to crashing due west. When you take a step back and do this, you notice that even though models are all seeing different paths, they’re all quite similar in the main players involved.

It’s not out of the question that the storm could quickly jump to a Category 2 hurricane, and in a ‘worst case’ scenario even get to ‘Major’ Cat 3 status. That’s a big area for now, but the idea is to raise the alarm that people should be vigilant and proactive in their preparations, so as to not wait until it’s too late to get ready.

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