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Monday, August 20, 2007

Hurricane Dean Update

Hurricane Dean is now a catastrophic category 5.
At 8 p.m. ET, the center of Hurricane Dean was located about 210 miles east of Chetumal, Mexico. It is moving toward the west at about 20 mph. Dean is expected to continue on a westward track toward the coast and make landfall by morning. Maximum sustained winds have been moved up to 160 mph making Dean a category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

Weather conditions are now beginning to deteriorate over the eastern Yucatan peninsula and northern Belize. The center of Hurricane Dean is expected to make north of the border between Belize and the Mexican state of Quintana Roo and south of Tulum. It is here where a water rise of 8 to 12 feet can be expected with monstrous waves of 25 to 30 feet.

The resorts of Cancun and Cozumel will not feel the full brunt of Hurricane Dean but waves on the order of 18 to 24 feet are expected to crash along the shores resulting in severe beach erosion. Squalls of tropical storm-force winds and heavy rains will rotate in across the resorts tonight and into the early morning hours. (Weather.com Hurricane Central).

Hurricane Dean is rapidly approaching the Yucatan peninsula. The current track has the center of the storm passing to the south of Cancun near the center of the peninsula. If this forecast track holds, Cancun will likely see tropical storm force winds at most.

Several of the more rustic hotels further south of the resort were evacuated by the government with most of Cancun and Cozumel being already deserted as tourists swarmed outbound flights.

At the southern tip of Texas, officials urged residents to evacuate ahead of the storm. "Our mission is very simple. It's to get people out of the kill zone, to get people out of the danger area, which is the coastline of Texas," said Johnny Cavazos, Cameron County's chief emergency director.

Officials in the resort town of South Padre Island distributed sandbags after a state of emergency was declared.

In Mexico, the Quintana Roo state government said about two-thirds of the 60,000 tourists in the Cancun area had left. Some camped overnight at the city's airport to ensure a flight out. Many others were turned away.
Belize is also taking precautions by evacuating people from Belize city on the coast to the more inland capitol Belmopan.
Belize, just south of Mexico, evacuated 6,000 people from the country's main tourist resort, San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, and 500 or so from nearby Caye Caulker, said national emergency coordinator James Jan Mohammed. People were urged to leave low-lying areas.

Authorities evacuated Belize City's three hospitals and were moving high-risk patients to the inland capital, Belmopan, founded after 1961's Hurricane Hattie devastated Belize City. Belize City Mayor Zenaida Moya urged people to leave, saying shelters aren't strong enough to withstand a storm of Dean's size.
Hurricane Dean ... Moves towards Yucatan (VOA News)
Mexico and Belize have issued hurricane warnings as Hurricane Dean churns across the Caribbean, bringing torrential rains and winds of more than 240 kilometers-per-hour.

Forecasters say the storm will hit Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula - which separates the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico - late Monday or early Tuesday.
"Some strengthening is expected today, and Dean is likely to become a category five hurricane prior to making landfall over the Yucatan peninsula very early Tuesday morning," she said. (VOA News)

All of the computer models are now converging on a common path with the storm taking a more southerly track across central Mexico. "...a low-pressure system over the United States that could have drawn the storm more northward toward the Caymans and the U.S. Gulf Coast has moved away." With this low moving out of the area of influence for Dean, the potential of the storm affecting the US is extremely remote. Local news reports in Houston indicate that the most that we can expect from Dean is a rougher surf along the coast.

It is interesting to me that all of the models show a sharp northern turn, but not until the storm is well inland and the winds have dissipated. The remnants of Dean are likely to bring heavy rain to Southern California and possibly southern Nevada and Arizona.

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