Soon to be ‘Hurricane Maria’ will likely swell to category 3

Hurricane Maria

The season for hurricanes is most definitely here. After devastating Hurricanes Irma and Harvey unleashed the wrath of both financial and personal devastation on the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, most Gulf states are hoping for a break. But as fortune may well have it, a break may not be in the cards if a new Tropical Storm Maria develops as forecasters believe she will.

As per usual, Maria’s path is very much an unknown for the mainland United States.

Let’s discuss what we do know. Tropical Storm Maria will, pending some unlikely sequence of events, become Hurricane Maria within the next 24 hours. The last reading of Tropical Storm Maria had her at sustained winds of 65 MPH, which is a mere 9 miles short of the 74 MPH sustained winds requirement for upgrading a tropical storm to hurricane status. She is located under 400 miles south and east of the Lesser Antilles and is moving at 15 MPH.

If all this sounds familiar, it isn’t a bad case of Deja Vu, it is because it is an increasingly similar situation to Hurricane Irma’s path.

Here’s a comparative side-by-side model of Hurricane Maria’s potential path versus Hurricane Irma’s path around the same point of reference.

Hurricane irma path
Hurricane Irma’s path projection at a similar point of geography.

 

hurricane maria path
Hurricane Maria’s Potential path

 

Hurricane Maria (yes, not officially yet, but let’s simplify this by calling a spade a spade) is expected to increase in size in furious fashion. By Wednesday, Hurricane Maria is expected to be a major category 3 or beyond. And it seems intent on threatening islands previously devastated by Hurricane Irma. A hurricane warning is now in effect for Dominica. Hurricane watches are now in effect for Anguilla, St. Barthelemy, St. Martin, St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda. That’s a list of who’s who when it comes to Irma’s path of destruction, so to say the situation for the islands looks dire is a severe understatement. The Leeward Islands will begin to feel Maria’s effects as early as tomorrow. Some areas may see as much as a foot of extra rain. And the storm surges are forecasted at 4 to 6 feet. The Virgin Islands will go downhill as early as Tuesday.

Hurricane Maria’s Intensification Is Dire Straights

As Hurricane Maria churns up Hurricane Irma’s old waters, she encounters similar warm vapor fuel as Irma did. These warm tropical waters, alongside very little relevant upper-level wind shear, were the same factors that blew Hurricane Irma up into a category 5 mega-hurricane. Like Irma, Hurricane Maria has extreme potential in terms of growth. Sadly, Hurricane Maria being a category 3 might be an underestimate (remember, Hurricane Irma’s projections were conservative throughout her lifespan).

What’s more amazing is that there have only been 3 instances of multiple hurricanes tracking within 75 miles of the Virgin Islands within the same hurricane season. And never have those been as powerful as category 2, 3, 4, or 5.

 

Hurricane Maria’s United States Mainland Threat

Clearly, many mainlanders are growing curious as to whether or not Hurricane Maria will affect them. Texas, Florida, and Louisiana are grappling with the clamorous possibility that Hurricane Maria could target their regions. Unfortunately, a U.S. mainland strike an open-ended possibility. Steering currents in the Atlantic, such as upper-level pressure systems, will decide Maria’s route as she moves through the islands. Hurricane prediction models, beyond 5 days, are incredibly difficult to hold any confidence in.

But both the East Coast and Gulf Coast should watch Maria and understand that Maria has the potential to hit their region. Both Irma and Harvey taught us a lot about what happens when we do not prep. Read my how to survive a hurricane article and get some ideas for things you can do to prep for a catastrophic hurricane.

The timeline for a U.S. mainland Hurricane Maria strike would be the end of September (that’s IF it were to happen). But no matter what, you should be prepped. Prepping is never a wasted effort as those items and activities and plans can carry over into the next season. On the smaller scale, make sure you are keeping your fuel tank’s full. Keep some water around. Maybe order a water filter from Amazon now. Do the little things which make sense and are convenient at this very moment.

Author: Jim Satney

PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.


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