Franklin gath­ers strength on path to Mex­ico

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - FELIX MAR­QUEZ / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Fish­er­men move their boats, nor­mally moored in the Gulf of Mex­ico, onto a coastal road Wed­nes­day ahead of the ar­rival of Hurricane Franklin in the port city of Ver­acruz, Mex­ico. Franklin took aim at Mex­ico’s cen­tral Gulf coast af­ter a rel­a­tively mild run across the Yu­catan Penin­sula, with fore­cast­ers say­ing it would strengthen be­fore mak­ing its sec­ond land­fall late Wed­nes­day or early Thurs­day.

The 2017 hurricane MI­AMI — sea­son, al­ready fore­cast to churn out more storms than usual, is likely to get even busier.

On Wed­nes­day, the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion in­creased its fore­cast, just as the sea­son peak nears, call­ing for 14 to 19 names storms, five to nine hur­ri­canes and two to five ma­jor hur­ri­canes with winds top­ping 111 mph. That’s slightly above the 11 to 17 named storms and two to four ma­jor hur­ri­canes pre­dicted at the start of the sea­son.

“What’s dif­fer­ent is these con­ducive con­di­tions are now in place. We had ex­pected them to de­velop as the sea­son went on, which is why the May fore­cast called for an ac­tive sea­son,” said Gerry Bell, NOAA’s lead hurricane re­searcher. “These con­di­tions will per­sist.”

Bell said weaker wind shear that can smother a trop­i­cal cy­clone, weaker tradewinds that steer sys­tems and winds off the African coast will likely drive up the num­ber and in­ten­sity of cy­clones. Sea tem­per­a­tures across the re­gion are also warm, about 1 to 2 de­grees above nor­mal, he said.

“These aren’t the warm­est tem­per­a­tures on record, but they’re cer­tainly suf­fi­cient to fa­vor a more ac­tive sea­son,” he said dur­ing the brief­ing.

The like­li­hood of an El Nino form­ing, which can fuel storms, has also de­creased, he said.

Al­ready, the At­lantic has gen­er­ated more storms than ex­pected, with six named storms, in­clud­ing Trop­i­cal Storm Franklin, which made land­fall in the Yu­catan on Mon­day. That’s dou­ble the num­ber of storms that nor­mally form by early Au­gust and nearly half dur­ing an av­er­age six-month sea­son.

While there had been spec­u­la­tion that a decades­long warm­ing and cool­ing ocean pat­tern that can drive pe­ri­ods of ac­tive sea­sons was be­gin­ning to fade, Bell said this sea­son sug­gests it’s not end­ing. Bell also said con­di­tions in the Caribbean and trop­i­cal At­lantic that his­tor­i­cally served as pre­cur­sors to busy sea­sons look fa­vor­able.

“What we’ve seen this sea­son so far is three named storms have formed in this trop­i­cal At­lantic and Caribbean Sea re­gion,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to Franklin, Na­tional Hurricane Cen­ter fore­cast­ers on Wed­nes­day were also keep­ing watch on a sec­ond sys­tem about 400 miles east of the Lee­ward Is­lands. While they don’t ex­pect the storm to in­ten­sify over the next cou­ple of days, as it rolls north­west­ward it will en­counter bet­ter con­di­tions that could kick­start a cy­clone. Fore­cast­ers are giv­ing the sys­tem a 40 per­cent chance of form­ing over the next five days.

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