The weather story of the week and perhaps the year is Super Typhoon Haiyan. Haiyan is a very powerful super typhoon that will be impacting the island nation of the Philippines. Typhoons are notorious for being the strongest storm systems on earth, and Haiyan is no exception. Haiyan is the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 190 mph with gust to over 230 mph. This is truly a monster and a very dangerous storm.
Haiyan is a very organized system as it has the classic buzz saw look of a very powerful tropical system. This system will move through the Philippines and will bring widespread destruction and likely loss of life. It will cross some heavily populated islands, but as of now, it looks as though the worst of the storm will miss the capital of Manila, which is the population center. The system will remain a very strong system as it continues to the west-northwest towards Vietnam.
Even though the Atlantic Basin is very quiet, that is not the case in the western Pacific. There are several tropical systems in the region, but the main storm that has everyone’s attention is Francisco. Francisco is a super typhoon which is the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic. Sustained winds in Francisco are 160 mph with gust to 195 mph. This is a dangerous storm and very healthy looking as it has the classic buzz saw look of a very symmetrical storm. Francisco is expected to maintain this intensity for the next day or so as it continues a northwest track towards Japan. The system is expected to begin to weaken as it moves over cooler waters, but just like Typhoon Phailin last week, it will likely cause problems for the Japanese mainland early next week.
At 08:01 GMT (3:01 a.m. CDT) on October 19, 2005, Air Force Hurricane Hunters measured a central pressure of 884 millibars in Hurricane Wilma while it was over the western Caribbean.
Here is the vortex data message from the plane that early morning:
URNT12 KNHC 190835
VORTEX DATA MESSAGE
B. 17 deg 03 min N
082 deg 20 min W
C. 700 mb 2082 m
D. NA kt
E. NA deg nm
F. 320 deg 166 kt
G. 221 deg 003 nm
H. 884 mb
I. 10 C/ 3073 m
J. 24 C/ 3043 m
K. 10 C/ NA
N. 12345/ 7
O. 0.02 / 1 nm
P. AF308 0724A WILMA OB 16
MAX FL WIND 168 KT SE QUAD 06:10:20 Z
But the surface pressure when the dropsonde hit the ocean was still 23 knots, and meteorologists know that the device did not find the true center. So, the observation was adjusted to 882 millibars, which is the lowest barometric reading ever observed in an Atlantic Hurricane. Since the hurricane was intensifying at the time, it is likely that the pressure was even lower.
The record low pressure was measured at the end of a period of amazing strengthening that is also a record as the pressure dropped 97 millibars in 24 hours!
The eye of shrunk to an amazing 2.3 miles in diameter, also a record for any Atlantic tropical cyclone.
Top winds at the time were 185 mph. Just 24 hours before, the winds had been 70 mph.
Wilma would strike the Yucatan Peninsula on the 20th and 21st and become the worst disaster in the history of Mexico. Damages totaled $3 billion.
The storm weakened, but regained category Three status in the Gulf before striking southern Florida on the 24th. U.S. damages totaled $20.4 billion.
A total of 62 people were killed by the storm.
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Even though the Tropical Atlantic remains fairly calm, that is not the case in the western Pacific. There are two typhoons in that basin, Nari and Wipha. We can also still see the remnants of Cyclone Phailin which made landfall into eastern India on Saturday where there has been widespread and significant damage, as well as reports of loss of life.
Typhoon Nari, which is in the South China Sea is a category 2 storm and is slowly weakening as it head towards the west. It will make landfall into Vietnam and will bring tremendous amounts of rain to that country as well as the countries of Laos and Cambodia.
Typhoon Wipha, which is the much more powerful and well developed system is the intensity of a category 4 storm in the Atlantic Basin. Luckily, Wipha is not expected to impact any land masses in the near future. However, it is a very powerful system as evident by the well-developed eye within the symmetrical structure of the storm. This system will continue to move towards the northwest before curving back towards the northeast where it is expected to stay just offshore of the Japanese mainland, but it could impact some of the eastern areas of the island nation.
There are a couple of areas of interest that the NHC is monitoring in the central Atlantic as well as the eastern Pacific, but the main tropical activity is in the other tropical basins of the world. There are a couple of typhoons in the western Pacific and a major cyclone in the Bay of Bengal. Cyclone Phailin is the main weather story in the world of weather today.
Over the last few hours, Phailin made landfall on the eastern coast of India, where extensive damage and loss of life is expected. Earlier this week, Phailin had the intensity of what a category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic would be, but did weaken to a strong category 4 storm with winds around 145 mph at the time of landfall. Extensive wind damage as well as incredible flooding will occur with this system as it continues to move inland today. It will be a historical event and will likely dominate the news headlines the next few days.