Tomas managed to survive its encounter with an adverse atmospheric environment for most of the day yesterday when it was barely a tropical depression. The system got better organized late yesterday and regained tropical storm strength. Today 4 November 2010 it has gotten better organized and stronger as its track has re-curved toward the north. This afternoon the system is already affecting eastern Jamaica as it moves toward the passage between eastern Cuba and Haiti with 55 mph sustained winds, which appear to be growing stronger.
While it appears the system may avoid direct landfall in either Cuba or Haiti, it is clear both countries will sustain a direct impact from the winds and rains generated by Tomas with Haiti starting to get hit later on today and Cuba in the early morning hours on Friday 5 November.
The biggest concern now is what adverse consequences will Haiti suffer as the storm impacts an area where large numbers of survivors of the January 2010 earthquake are living in tents and makeshift shelters, which is surrounded by deforested hills and mountains making it quite vulnerable to flash floods and mudslides as well as storm surge. The potential for a major human catastrophe is real.
The large tropical wave we have been following as it grew more organized, stronger and bigger over the past couple of days off the coast of South America (Guyana, French Guiana) has morphed into Tropical Storm TOMAS the 19th named tropical cyclone of the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Tropical Storm TOMAS is a large – approximately 700 miles in diameter – tropical cyclone that is drawing large amounts of atmospheric moisture from as far back as the eastern Atlantic and from the eastern Caribbean. This storm could grow even larger as it enters the warm waters of the Caribbean and feeds off the moisture lingering over Central America and the eastern Pacific. The storm may become a hurricane in the next 24 – 48 hours as it enters a more favorable environment and gets farther away from the landmass of South America. Given the warm waters of the Caribbean, the amount of atmospheric moisture over Central America and the eastern Pacific in that region, plus the absence of any significant wind shear it is possible that Tomas may grow into a strong category 2 or even a major hurricane early this coming week.
All interests in the Caribbean basin including Panama, Central America, the Antilles, and the Yucatan Peninsula need to monitor the progress of this tropical cyclone closely in days to come, for it not only is quite large, but it may grow into a major hurricane if conditions remain favorable for further cyclonic development. Florida and the Bahamas also need to be alert especially as the storm gets closer toward the end of next week.
Tropical Storm TOMAS intensifying: 29 October 2300 EST
Satellite pictures show Tropical Storm TOMAS has gotten much better organized and stronger over the past few hours. Reconoissance flights and satellite data show the eye has reformed a bit to the north of its original location and convection has intensified around all quadrants, but especially to the west of the eye were quite intense rain is taking place tonight. As of 2200 EST maximum sustained winds were at 65 mph (104 kph) and movements continued to be WNW at 16 mph (26 kph).
Conditions ahead, in the Caribbean, appear favorable for further intensification with some models forecasting a potential category 3 tropical cyclone in 72-96 hours. Caribbean surface waters are a bit warmer than those in Hurricane Alley, which added to rain and storm cells near Panama ahead of Tomas’ track provide ‘fuel’ sources for an intensifying storm.
The Lesser Antilles will bear the brunt of the storm over the next 12- 24 hours. Other Caribbean basin nations, including Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba need to brace for impact in the next 36 – 72 hours. Belize, the Yucatan Peninsula, Grand Cayman should feel the effects 96 – 120 hours from now and beyond.
The five-day track shown on the graphic is based on the consensus of the several models the National Hurricane Center uses and other factors integrated into the official forecast