As Dorian was bringing heavy rain to parts of the Leeward Islands Tuesday, the storm is threatening parts of the Caribbean – including Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Now the “cone of uncertainty” has been placed in the Florida peninsula by the National Hurricane Center.
As of early Tuesday afternoon, Dorian was 370 miles east-southeast of Ponce, Puerto Rico as it was moving west-northwest at 13 mph. The path of the storm is expected to be anywhere between the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico by Wednesday evening, according to the official forecast.
After entering the Bahamas, the storm is forecast to turn more west-northwesterly by the weekend. This turn would place Florida under a threat of encountering the effects of Dorian.
But there are still some uncertainties in the forecast. First, here’s what’s going on with it as of Tuesday afternoon.
The storm’s center of circulation shifted based on earlier hurricane reconnaissance data. As that happened, drier air can be seen intruding in the southern half of the system. It is still being influenced by dry mid-level air to the west and north of Dorian. Otherwise, the tropical storm is holding on. Cirrus outflow is still in place, showing the storm is still properly ventilated. Maximum sustained winds were at 50 mph, according to the 2 p.m. ET advisory.
The issue down the road is track and, therefore, intensity. If the storm travels over the mountainous terrain of the Dominican Republic, it will strongly disrupt it and likely weaken it (at least temporarily). If it stays to the east, then it has a chance to maintain some strength.
But the question remains on future strength and, therefore, impacts if it does make landfall in Florida. After passing through Puerto Rico and the island of Hispaniola, the environment will be a little bit better for development. The shear might relax somewhat while the water temperatures are above normal. Guidance is also hinting at higher moisture content aloft, shielding the storm from any dry-air intrusions. There is potential for some strengthening, but as the NHC noted (as of 5 p.m. ET)…
The dynamical models such as the GFS, UKMET, and ECMWF are now showing more strengthening than previous runs, but still remain well below the statistical SHIPS and LGEM intensity models, which bring Dorian to category 1 or 2 strength by day 5.
Based on some of the variables in play, as well as Dorian’s small size, predicting impacts at a given location would be difficult and premature.
As for it’s path, an upper-level low over the Bahamas Tuesday is expected to slide toward Cuba. Dorian is expected to ride around the eastern side of the upper low. Then a ridge of high pressure aloft is expected to develop, keeping the storm on more of a west-northwestward trek. The strength of the high and exact timing of the low will be key to it’s exact path.
Dorian will have to continued to be watched over the next several days.