On Monday morning, the season’s 18th Tropical Depression formed in the central Caribbean Sea, between Jamaica and Panama. It quickly intensified to a tropical storm, and was named Sandy. Since then, it has been drifting very slowly and is only now reaching Jamaica and has just reached hurricane intensity. Its rainbands extend far from the center however, and are affecting Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas, and soon, south Florida. As of 11am today, the maximum sustained winds are 80mph and tropical storm force winds extend 140 miles from the center. This is the 10th hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic season.
Sandy is forecast to pass over Jamaica today, then eastern Cuba on Thursday morning, the Bahamas on Thursday night into Friday morning, then head northeast along the southeast U.S. coastline. Depending on what affect Jamaica and Cuba have in its intensity and structure, there is a possibility that it could become a hurricane again over or near the Bahamas when it’s at its closest approach to Florida.
Here in the Miami area, we are under a tropical storm watch as of Wednesday morning, and can expect tropical storm conditions to begin later today and last through Saturday with the worst conditions on Thursday night into Friday. This includes very heavy rain and gusty winds in rainbands, strong rip currents, coastal flooding, and beach erosion. Our own Hurricane Portal has several resources of local interest posted.
By Monday and Tuesday, many models are showing the beginning stages of an extremely dangerous and significant storm for the entire mid-Atlantic and northeast regions of the U.S. Sandy may lose some or all of its tropical traits, but even as a subtropical or extratropical cyclone, it could be a huge player for a lot of people next week. More and more models (and ensemble members) are showing Sandy interacting with a strong mid-latitude trough somewhere off the coast of North Carolina and Virginia and becoming ominously intense.
By Saturday, when it has crossed out of the Caribbean and into the Atlantic, and has passed over Jamaica and Cuba, models will hopefully be a bit more certain about whether Sandy will head out to sea or head into the northeast U.S.
Finally, today is the seven year anniversary of Hurricane Wilma’s landfall on Florida. Although it made landfall on the southwest coast of the peninsula, it zipped across and will still a destructive storm on the east side of the peninsula. That was the last time the U.S. was hit by a major (Category 3+) hurricane.