Frequently we hear hurricanes being spoken about with respect to wind speed. That is, after all, the criteria by which tropical cyclones are categorized. It’s important to note that flooding is the most deadly weather phenomenon and is quite expensive, costing on average 50 billion dollars per year. In the last several days, Puerto Rico has seen rainfall in excess of 20 inches, which has led to catastrophic flooding on the island.
While Fiona was classified as a “Minor” Hurricane when it made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 1 (wind speeds between 74 and 95 mph), the devastating loss of life and property will leave Puerto Rico with a long road of recovery ahead. This is an unfortunate example of how communication and preparation is important for those with interests in the tropics and along the coasts. It’s vital to make preparations for tropical storms of all strengths, given their categorical ranking sometimes doesn’t consider the most impactful consequences.
Looking Ahead: Fiona is now a Category 4 Hurricane with sustained winds of 130 mph and is forecast to continue to travel northward in tandem with the Gulf Stream where current water temperatures are in excess of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. On its path it will maintain Major Hurricane status (>110mph) past Bermuda, and as it travels toward Nova Scotia. Fiona should begin to weaken as it encounters cooler waters in the northern Gulf Stream, but will likely still pack a punch as a post-tropical cyclone with dangerous wind, intense rainfall rates, and potentially impactful storm surge as it approaches the far eastern provinces of Canada.
National Weather Service San Juan, PR
National Hurricane Center
Canadian Hurricane Centre
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