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Sitting, watching, and waiting as Emily takes her time

It's no question that satellites and technology have been a game-changer for hurricane forecasting - but it's made for marathon tracking of storms too. Over the last 20 years, we've come a long way. Being able to show you a storm from it's infancy and being able to tell you where the storm will go is no comparision to years ago. But the earlier we see the storms, the longer we cover them!

Just take Emily for example. We started talking about her back on Monday when she was just getting organized, and knew that it could be a possible threat to our area. Now, it's Thursday - and we're still watching Emily, still know it could be a possible threat, and she's still over 1100 miles away! Talk about a long term relationship.

As for the forecast with our friend Emily, our thinking hasn't wavered much. There are still a lot of factors at play right now as we continue to watch the system. 1) The Islands, 2) Dry air, 3) "The Turn"

The Islands

Emily continues to toy with the coast of Hispanola and eventually eastern Cuba where it will dump mounds of torrential rain over the next day or so. The question is how much can the heavy terrain completely tear up the system? How much will be left, and how well will it re-emerge over the waters on the northern side.

If it can hold together nicely, then it can re-strengthen nicely over the Bahamas with plenty of warm water, and nice calm atmospheric conditions. We could see our first hurricane of the 2011 season in a hurry if that happens.

It could also dissipate almost beyond repair. That would mean nothing more than some disorganized thunderstorms come off the coast, and we see the end of Emily sooner than expected.

We're favoring the earlier scenario, with Emily weakening - but still holding together after her Haiti battle.

Dry Air

One of the biggest "enemies of Emily" (say that three times fast) so far has been some dry air getting trapped up into the middle of the storm.

Dry air getting into the middle of a storm is one of the best ways to break up a hurricane, or at least prevent it from strengthening in otherwise favorable conditions. Right now, the dry air to the northwest in the path of the storm is definitely taking it's toll on Emily's organization - which isn't very good to begin with.

What will change as Emily heads toward the Bahamas, is the supply of dry air will run out. So - if she can survive until then, dry air shouldn't prevent any strengthening toward the weekend.

"The Turn"

Tracking storms like Emily, this part of their life-span is my least favorite. When we see storms that form far out in the Caribbean and eventually come up the East Coast, one of the trickiest parts to pin down is where and when the storm will make "the turn."

So far, Emily has ignored all guidance and textbook meteorology and continued on her merry way in a westerly direction. Even so, all of our models still insist a northward motion is imminent, and I agree. Here's why.

This shows you what we call the "Sub-Tropical Ridge" which all hurricane forecasters follow religiously. Higher pressures are in red, and lower pressures are in yellow. The high acts like a large bubble that storms typically can't penetrate. Instead, they head toward lower pressure around the edge of the ridge. As you can see from this, there's a bit of a "weakness" in the ridge up the coast of Florida and eventually back out to sea near North Carolina. Not surprisingly, that's essentially our forecast thinking right now, Emily turning north and going around the ridge.

This is actually very similar to what we saw with Earl last year. Earl was plowing through the Caribbean Islands heading due west - with all the models and all the textbook meteorology suggesting a turn to the north was imminent. But Earl took his sweet time and made us sweat it out a little bit (remember he was a strong Category 4 - not a modest Tropical Storm like Emily). Eventually though, Earl made a significant turn to the north and eventually out to sea as he got caught up in the westerlies that come across North America. For now - we wait for the turn.

Overall my thinking with this system is that it will make a run through the islands, strengthen into a decent low-end hurricane by the time is gets off the coast of Florida, head up toward the Carolinas, but steer itself offshore and away from a landfall Sunday night. But I know as well as you do, that sometimes these tropical cyclones can change dramatically at a moments notice.

So we'll continue to sit, watch, and wait with Emily. We still have at least 3 to 4 days in our relationship.

- TB





By: Tim Buckley