Proving once again to be a fickle storm, Emily has intensified to near-category 4 intensity over the past day, seeing its pressure fall over 40mb and wind speed double in a 24hr span. Forecasts of its intensity that were largely too aggressive early on have now proven to be too conservative; forecasts of its track that were largely too far north early on now look like they may be trending to be too far south. In other words, Emily certainly isn't a relatively well-behaved storm like .
The current state of the storm is a very small, compact system. Tropical storm-force winds extend out just over 100mi to the north and around 50mi to the south of the center of circulation, with hurricane-force winds confined to the innermost 25mi from the center. Satellite imagery confirms this appearance while also providing a hint at the excellent outflow to the north and east of the storm. Recon last reported an 8mi wide eye, a feature that has slowly contracted from an initial diameter of just over 10mi. Given its current rapid intensification trend and overall size of the eye, an eyewall replacement cycle is in the storm's relatively near-future. Given the small size of the storm, the cycle will likely reverse the intensification trend for a short period of time; similarly, given the small size and very favorable conditions ahead of the storm, it should easily be able to ramp back up in intensity.
Current forecasts take the storm towards the west-northwest, bringing it very near Jamaica in 2-3 days and the Yucutan Peninsula, potentially affecting the Merida, MX area, in 3-4 days. I see no reason to disagree with the track in the short-term. Beyond that, however, the track is going to depend both upon how much the storm is impacted by whichever landmass(es) it travels over as well as the strength and position of the subtropical ridge over the southeast United States down the line. Recent model guidance, after initially trending southward with the track, has now trended northward, suggesting the potential for an impact anywhere from Houston down the coastline to the vicinity of Tampico, MX in 5-6 days. We'll be able to refine this as the weekend progresses, but all interests in the western Gulf need to watch this storm.
Intensity in the short-term will likely be driven by eyewall replacement cycles, but the potential is there for the storm to reach category 4 intensity over the next 6-18hr before the first cycle commences. This intensity should be maintained -- similar to the forecasts -- until landfall along the Yucutan Peninsula in several days. Any track over Jamaica will likely knock the intensity down somewhat as well; it's too early to tell if the storm will pass over the island or not, however. The initial intensity of the storm after passing over the Yucutan is likely a little too high -- high end category 2 is more likely, in my estimation -- though the forward speed of the storm may help counteract the impacts of its small size. The potential is there, however, for a landfalling major hurricane in the western Gulf the middle of next week.
Wave action will be one of the biggest concerns with Emily as it nears Jamaica and the Yucutan. The fast forward speed and strong intensity of the storm is leading to concerns that wave heights may exceed 20ft in the notheast quadrant of the storm just offshore as it approaches. The energy from these waves is likely to impact a greater area than the relatively confined wind profile, much like did to the Big Bend region of Florida, and potential impacts from wave action must carefully be watched over the next few days.
More to come in the next day or so...
Current Tropical Model Output Plots
(or view them on the main page for any active Atlantic storms!)