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Monday, August 30, 2010

Hurricane Intensity

When I blogged Saturday about hurricane season, I didn't know how quickly one would come into play!

Hurricane Earl is a reminder that the National Hurricane Center does a good job of predicting a track but a poor job of predicting intensity. It’s not uncommon for a storm to dissipate unexpectedly, and it’s not uncommon for a storm to intensify much faster than the NHC forecasted.

Earl became Category 4 this afternoon. As recently as this morning, the NHC didn’t expect Earl to become a Category 4 until Tuesday night. Last night, the NHC predicted that Earl’s sustained winds would maximize at 115 knots and then begin to fall. However, NHC is now saying that Earl will peak at 130 knots.

Friends, there is a big difference between a 115 knot hurricane and a 130 knot hurricane in terms of storm surge and wind effect. 130 knots is nearly a Category 5.

I’m sure the meteorologists at NHC do their best, and I’m sure they could do better if more funding were provided. But for the time being, those of us who are potentially exposed to hurricanes must remember not to breathe easy just because the NHC pegs a storm at Category 1 or 2.

P.S. In 1996 the eye of Hurricane Fran passed directly over my house. That was a spooky experience. Winds at the nearby Raleigh-Durham Airport were clocked at 80 mph. I’m 140 miles from the beach.