[Update 9:30P MDT]:
Hurricane Ike looks like he is about to make landfall on eastern Cuba’s north coast. As Brian points out however, Ike has wobbled a little bit on the approach to Cuba. A little movement to the northwest on satellite imagery was apparent earlier this afternoon. The NHC makes note of this, but doesn’t think it is a permanent change to his trajectory.
Ike has slightly weakened today, currently with sustained winds of 120mph, putting him in the middle of the Category 3 classification. Hurricane warnings are out for a number of the Bahamas still in Ike’s powerful northeastern quadrant, as well as for most of Cuba. Hurricane watches have been issued for western Cuba and the Florida Keys, which went under a mandatory evacuation order earlier today.
By tomorrow night, Ike should be about halfway across Cuba. By this time Tuesday night, Ike should be back over water, this time the Gulf of Mexico. The official intensity forecast calls for Ike to weaken to a Category 1 storm by this time Tuesday night. As Ike crosses over the warm Gulf waters and doesn’t have to fight off any shear he should reintensify on his way to the Gulf coast. The track forecast out tonight points toward a possible Texas landing. That’s based on an evaluation that the next synoptic-scale trough doesn’t reach far enough south to induce Ike to move in a more northerly direction.
The Atlantic basin is quieting down some since last week. Instead of four named storms, only two are present today. Tropical Storm Hanna is making her way across the U.S. and Canada. And Hurricane Ike is threatening Cuba and potentially the Gulf coast in a week’s time.
Tropical Storm Hanna is off the east coast of Massachusetts this morning. Her center is located at 42.6N, 70.0W; her maximum sustained winds remain at 50mph; she is moving NE @ 36mph. As of this morning, the convection associated with Hanna was found to be a considerable distance from the center of the storm. Additionally, the center is interacting with a left-over frontal boundary. Due to these conditions, the NHC has issued its last advisory on the storm. Hanna has become extra-tropical. She had quite the life-cycle, first forming on the 28th of August.
Hurricane Ike’s center is currently located at 21.0N, 73.4W; his maximum sustained winds remain at 135mph, so he is still classified as a Category 4 storm; he is moving W @ 13mph; and his central pressure is 949mb. The center’s location puts Ike on the western side of the southern Bahamas. Ike caused a lot of damage moving through the southern islands, with perhaps 50% of houses on one island destroyed.
Ike is scheduled to make landfall over southeastern Cuba by about 6P MDT. The ridge that has kept Ike moving WSW over the past 24-36 hours will move Ike over most of Cuba, according to the official track forecast. That means that significant weakening should occur. If Ike’s center moves back over water at any time during the next 2-3 days, reintensification is also possible. Ike is officially forecasted to begin moving WNW, then W over those next two days, then emerge back over open water in the Gulf of Mexico off Cuba’s northwest coast Tuesday morning. It is not out of the realm of possibility for Ike to completely fall apart if Cuba’s landmass affects the circulation too much. His travel across the island will factor heavily in any potential future U.S. or Mexican landfall.
By Wednesday morning, Ike should be halfway between Florida and the Yucutan peninsula, still moving northwest. This morning’s track forecast indicates that Ike could turn a little more toward the west by Thursday and Friday. This track keeps Ike in the Gulf for 3-4 days. It also keeps the potential landing site well out into the future. Given these latest model solutions, Ike’s anticipated landfall site moves further west along the northern Gulf coast with every release. An extrapolation from this morning’s forecast would place Ike over Texas, possibly by next Sunday.
A lot of Ike’s motion in the central Gulf and beyond will depend on the evolution of a synoptic-scale trough that is scheduled to move across the U.S. later this week. If that trough digs southward more than currently thought, Ike’s motion will move more to the north while in the Gulf than is currently forecast. If the trough stays to the north, Ike’s motion through the Gulf will continue along the NW, WNW path presented by the NHC.
The remnants of Tropical Storm Josephine continue to make their way across the Atlantic. Shower activity has picked up within this disturbance, but further development is unlikely in the next 24-48 hours.