Ernesto reaches hurricane strength as it approaches the Yucatan

By: Angela Fritz , 8:55 PM GMT on August 07, 2012

Ernesto strengthened to a category 1 hurricane this afternoon after the morning hurricane hunter mission found winds of 80 mph, which is unusual for a hurricane without an eye wall. The hunters also found a minimum central pressure of 984 mb, which has dropped since this morning. The next hurricane hunter mission is scheduled to reach the center of the hurricane around 8pm EDT. The rain bands from Ernesto have reached the coast of Belize and Mexico as it continues to move west along the coast of Honduras, and landfall is expected north of the the Belize/Mexico border tonight around midnight. The Yucatan Basin buoy is now reporting gusts up to 53 mph, with sustained winds around 40 mph and 19 foot waves. These gusts are about 10 mph stronger than this morning's readings. Weather stations along the coast of Mexico and Belize aren't reporting winds stronger than 10 mph, however, they are expected to pick up around 8 or 9pm EDT tonight. The island of Roatan in Honduras is experiencing winds around 15 mph this afternoon, along with some light to moderate rainfall. Honduras seems to be the most impacted country so far, although they have avoided issuing evacuations. Nicaragua, however, has evacuated 1,500 people as of last night, and Mexico's authorities have evacuated around 600 residents from Punta Allen, which is a fishing village between Cozumel and Chetumal.

Visible satellite imagery suggests Ernesto still has the potential to develop an eye wall before landfall, as strong, organized thunderstorms are present in all four quadrants of the hurricane. Infrared satellite imagery shows the clockwise circulation at high levels (the upper level anti-cyclone) which will help ventilate the hurricane and could support further enhancement. If Ernesto wasn't approaching landfall, it would likely continue to strengthen and could have even experienced a period of rapid intensification, given the heat content of the Caribbean Sea. Wind shear around the hurricane remains low at 5-10 knots.


Figure 1. Radar image from Belize as the outer rain bands of Ernesto approach. This image was captured at 2:30pm EDT.


Figure 2. IR satellite imagery of Hurricane Ernesto captured at 4:15pm EDT.

Forecast for Ernesto
Ernesto will continue to track west this afternoon and evening, making landfall north of the Belize/Mexico border around midnight tonight. Given the current state of the hurricane, some more intensification is possible over the next few hours as it approaches land. Heavy rains continue to be the main threat from Hurricane Ernesto. The Hurricane Center is forecasting 4 to 8 inches of rain to fall, increasing in the higher elevation of Belize. After landfall, the storm will take about a day to cross the Yucatan, and the terrain will diminish its winds. Once Ernesto re-emerges over water into the Bay of Campeche in the southern Gulf of Mexico, wind shear will be light and ocean waters warm with high heat content. Ernesto is then expected to redevelop some strength and potentially regain hurricane status while over water, which a few of the models are suggesting. Second landfall will probably occur Friday morning around Veracruz, Mexico, but could reach land anywhere from Tuxapan to Coatzacoalcos.


Figure 3. Webcam image from Caye Walker Village in Belize.

Angela


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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Quoting Patrap:


BULLSEYE
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Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Ahem..


Another reloc? That would make 5?
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Quoting superpete:
Kman- Glad Erensto is not sitting off S.Sound ?


Am I ever. We got lucky with that ridge sitting in place to the N. It's a long way to Dec. 1st so let's hope El Nino kicks in and shuts the season down early to mid October when there is a secondary peak..
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Quoting Ameister12:
Very impressive eye.
looks to be moving west....
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
They were supposed to take off an hour ago. Where's Nrt? lol


That would figure if we can't get a recon into the storm due to technical issues. Something like that always seems to happen with situations like this.
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This is no time for recon to delay. Ernesto will make landfall shortly.
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114 hours:

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Ahem..



Got something in your throat? :P
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Very impressive eye.
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21:45 UTC

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Quoting 1900hurricane:

Agree wholeheartedly. Still though, I feel like this blog identifies that area as a dangerous spot every single season (because it always is). :P


True, but this year the levels are higher than many previous seasons, including the hyperactive 2005 ( see below )

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Ahem..

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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Haven't seen any data of them on approach. Only saw one page.
They were supposed to take off an hour ago. Where's Nrt? lol
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Cozumel may just barely get away with not getting the NE side of Ernestos COC...maybe
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92L:

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Quoting angelafritz:


Yes we have some great webcams down there. I didn't post that one because I think it's looking northeast, correct? Best to keep an eye on all of them. They're on Wundermap so it's easy to pick the best cam.


I LOVE all the webcams! It's what made me find WU a few years back while searching for weather webcams. I get lost in them sometimes.

Some of these recent satellite images showing that convection bursting out of the central area are superb. Was able to show my daughter how they intensify and build with some of those they're so good and detailed.
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Quoting angelafritz:


Exactly.


Angela, it's being said that El Nino years will inhibit TS/Hur formation....Is that correct....

If true, then why do we have such a potential active Hurricane season, at least looks like CV season?
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222. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

It shows it emerging too far north.


Yes, it seems at least 2 degrees further north...

What's up with that? I guess the GFS moves it a bit WNW before exiting the West coast of Africa.
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Quoting angiest:
Current steering for Ernesto.



the trough is "undigging" and the sonoran ridge is expanding
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Kman- Glad Erensto is not sitting off S.Sound ?
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Recon scheduled for a 7:30p.m EDT entry. Got about 90 minutes or so to go.

Given the current presentation on satellite imagery, we're probably looking at an 85kt+ cyclone.


Haven't seen any data of them on approach. Only saw one page.
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On the other hand, 92L will definitely be worth watching once it gets further westward near 50˚W. SHIPS is thinking 77kts in 120 hours, but we all know how well the SHIPS verified with Ernesto lol.
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Quoting kmanislander:


Beautiful pinwheel image though


someone is about to say annular and completely ignore the pinhole
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Quoting JLPR2:


Oh snap, the CV islands folks getting a direct hit, that's not common.

It shows it emerging too far north.
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I'm still guessing the HH will find a high-end category 1 (90mph), but it wouldn't be surprising if they do find something stronger.
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Quoting Tazmanian:




this storm may have a shot at cat 3 at land fall
I agree with you Taz.
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Current steering for Ernesto.

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Ernesto is massive, and impressive.
Link
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just looked at the Belize radar loop looks like a due west movement past 3 frames..
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Quoting angiest:


Careful saying pinwheel! Someone will pull out the an***** world.


Maybe Gordon ??
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Quoting kmanislander:
Ernesto is probably tapping into the fringes of that very high TCHP. It's a good thing it did not traverse that into the GOM. This is a dangerous spot for the rest of the season.




Agree wholeheartedly. Still though, I feel like this blog identifies that area as a dangerous spot every single season (because it always is). :P
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Quoting weatherganny:


The stronger it is the farther north it willgo, however, it is nearly impossible for it to escape the sonoran high which movedover texas
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Recon scheduled for a 7:30p.m EDT entry. Got about 90 minutes or so to go.

Given the current presentation on satellite imagery, we're probably looking at an 85kt+ cyclone.




this storm may have a shot at cat 3 at land fall
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Quoting kmanislander:


Beautiful pinwheel image though


Careful saying pinwheel! Someone will pull out the an***** world.
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Quoting kmanislander:


Denied LOL



heh he
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Recon scheduled for a 7:30p.m EDT entry. Got about 90 minutes or so to go.

Given the current presentation on satellite imagery, we're probably looking at an 85kt+ cyclone.
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
Time for another exciting round of Where Will Gordon Go?



your house...
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Quoting weatherh98:
this thing has gotten massive.If Ernesto approaches this strong (or presumed to be this strong)will it go more north into the gulf? TIA
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Quoting Tazmanian:



can you make me a moderator


Denied LOL
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Quoting Tazmanian:



can you make me a moderator


you remind us to stay on topic anyway!
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Quoting LostTomorrows:
I really wish there'd be an intermediate update from the NHC right now... Ernesto's looking better than a low-end category 1. Much better. Where can I go to keep track of Ernesto's strength?

Sat estimates....
But they're sometimes far off, and the NHC won't go with them if there is HH available to fly into it...
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Quoting Patrap:

Pat, that does not look like the kind of thing anybody would choose to be underneath of.
After all a few years must have passed since one of those things came over the area?
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194. JLPR2
Quoting MAweatherboy1:
Time for another exciting round of Where Will Gordon Go?



Oh snap, the CV islands folks getting a direct hit, that's not common.
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather