WEATHER NEWS: Hurricane Lisa nears landfall as Martin gains hurricane strength
The calendar may say November, but the tropical Atlantic is busier than it was at any point during August. Two hurricanes — Lisa and Martin — have developed and a third system is organizing, bringing an abrupt flurry of activity to a season that would ordinarily be almost over by now.
Statistically, a November hurricane should form in the Atlantic every two or three years. To have two at the same time is rare. A pair of hurricanes have simultaneously roamed the Atlantic in November only twice before, according to Phil Klotzbach, a tropical-weather researcher at Colorado State University.
With Lisa churning ever closer to Belize on Wednesday morning, a hurricane warning was in effect for the entire coast. The National Hurricane Center warned of hurricane-force winds and “life-threatening storm surge” near Lisa’s core, expected to make landfall Wednesday afternoon into the evening.
The southeast coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula was also under a hurricane warning, from Chetumal to Puerto Costa Maya. A tropical storm warning covered portions of the northern coasts of Guatemala and Honduras.
“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the Hurricane Center wrote.
Another storm, Martin, became the seventh Atlantic hurricane of 2022 on Wednesday morning. It’s in the North Atlantic, hundreds of miles northeast of Bermuda, and is forecast to zip northeastward over open waters for the next several days.
About midway between Lisa and Martin, there is the potential for the gradual development of a third system near the Bahamas over the next several days.
This flurry of late-season activity in the Atlantic follows a somewhat quieter-than-average season, despite devastating storms such as Fiona and Ian, which wrought havoc in Puerto Rico, Atlantic Canada and southwestern Florida. Overall activity is about 25 percent below average at this point.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially ends Nov. 30. November is ordinarily a slow month, with activity waning and eventually flatlining. On average, only about 7 percent of a season’s storminess will occur after Halloween.
On Wednesday morning, Lisa was about 60 miles east of Roatán, an island of Honduras, and about 100 miles east of Belize City. It packed maximum winds of 80 mph while moving west at 15 mph. The roughly 30-mile-wide eyewall of Lisa, the ring of intense winds surrounding its calm center, was visible on radar churning westward. It appeared poised to make landfall sometime between 2 and 4 p.m. Eastern time.
Winds were becoming progressively more gusty at the coastline and were expected to ramp up markedly around or shortly after noon. Gusts at the coastline near Lisa’s center may approach 70 to 80 mph. Belize City looks to be in the crosshairs of the eyewall’s trajectory.
A dangerous storm surge is probable for areas just north of where Lisa’s center comes ashore. In this area, Lisa’s onshore winds will push up to 4 to 7 feet of ocean water into the coastline. The zone just north of Belize City may see the maximum surge, including vacation communities on Ambergris Caye.
Areas south of Belize City will see more offshore winds, which should limit the surge.
Across the entirety of the system’s direct path, heavy rainfall on the order of 4 to 6 inches is expected, with localized 10-inch totals possible.
“This rainfall could lead to flash flooding conditions, primarily across Belize into northern Guatemala, the far southeast portion of the Yucatán Peninsula, the eastern portion of the Mexican state of Chiapas, and the Mexican state of Tabasco,” the Hurricane Center wrote.
Martin developed rather unexpectedly Tuesday out of a mature mid-latitude cyclone. The overarching system didn’t come about via conventionally tropical processes, but a flare-up of showers and thunderstorms occurred near the system’s center. In other words, a compact tropical storm formed at the core of a nontropical system.
It has since strengthened into a hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph. The storm, roughly 800 miles northeast of Bermuda, was pushing northeast at a little more than 15 mph.
Martin is forecast to intensify into a Category 2 hurricane with 105-mph winds by Thursday but is then forecast to rapidly transition into a post-tropical cyclone, losing its tropical characteristics. It will probably swing north, remaining to Greenland’s south, through the end of the workweek before abruptly turning east and gradually weakening on approach to Britain.
Weather models are beginning to hint that a large, broad, low-pressure system could develop near or east of the Bahamas in the coming days. The Hurricane Center estimates a 20 percent chance that it could become a tropical depression or storm in the next five days.
There is a chance that the system drifts toward Florida or the Gulf of Mexico in about a week, but how organized and intense it will be is almost impossible to predict this far out. If the system earns a name, it would be called Nicole.