#57 Published Friday July 08, 2005 at 10:45 am EDT
At the 11:00 am EDT advisory Hurricane Dennis has a sustained wind of 150 mph, a strong CAT 4 cyclone and just short of a CAT 5. It's at position 21.4 N 79.9 W with a minimum barometric pressure of 27.70". He continues on a NW heading or approximately 310 degrees at a speed of 16 mph. During the past 12 hours he has been wobbling on a heading between about 300-320 deg. as he has undergone eyewall reformation cycles and also interacted somewhat with land.
What is interesting to note is that even with the land interaction Dennis has continued to strengthen to just short of CAT 5, much like Ivan did last summer. As he comes ashore in west central Cuba today his heading should shift more north of west due to speed divergence and appear to be headed towards the southern Florida peninsula but then shift back more west of north as he enters the Florida Straits. Dennis is a small cyclone like Charley so is more easily pushed around so to speak. It was speed divergence that caused CAT 4 Charley to abruptly turn right and go ashore in the Charlotte Harbor area of SW Florida. I don't think that Dennis will get close enough to the land mass of Florida to pull another Charley.
Where is he headed? The models have shifted left and right during the last 12 hours and the NHC TPC forecast track has done the same. At the latest advisory the track has shifted a little to the right again with official landfall forecasted at Pensacola at approximately 2:00 pm EDT on Sunday.
It does now appear that the southern Florida Keys will experience hurricane conditions on Saturday. The whole of the west "coast" of Florida be in the most dangerous NE quadrant of the cyclone and will experience at least gale force wind conditions, storm surge of 3-5 feet, heavy rainfall and waterspouts. Inland areas of the western peninsula will experience wind gusts to gale force, very heavy rainfall and tornadoes in feeder bands. A track a little further west and the impact is less, a track a little further east and the impact is more.
Actual intensity of Dennis as it passes over or just west of Key West is a tough call. It will enter Cuba as a CAT 4 and exit a CAT 3. It all depends on how long the cyclone stays over land.
Bottom line? The Bermuda high pressure ridge over and east of Florida shows no further signs of weakening at this time. So no change in my forecast, it's still a landfall window between Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach on Sunday afternoon. Once in the Gulf Of Mexico Dennis will reach CAT 4 status again and maybe even flirt with CAT 5 status but should weaken to a CAT 3 by landfall due to less favorable conditions.
Thomas F. Giella, KN4LF
Retired Meteorologist & Space Plasma Physicist
Plant City, FL, USA
NWS Tampa Bay, FL SKYWARN Observer #HIL-249
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