Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tropical Storm, Soon To Be Hurricane Otto Formed While We Weren't Looking

Strengthening, soon-to-be Hurricane Otto in the southwestern
Caribbean this morning  
Hurricane season in the Atlantic basin officially ends November 30, though you can get tropical storms after that date.

Usually by now, though, our attention has turned away from the tropical Atlantic and toward snowy type weather events, like the snowfall that just turned my Vermont surroundings into a winter wonderland.

While we weren't looking, sneaky Tropical Storm Otto formed off the east coast of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Actually, there's been an area of disturbed weather in that area of the southwestern Caribbean for many days now and most forecasters knew it had the potential to turn into a tropical storm.

But like I said, we tend not to pay attention as much this time of year as we do during the height of hurricane season.

Otto became a tropical storm yesterday, As of 11 a.m., Otto was roughly 500 miles east of Costa Rica and Nicaragua and pretty much not moving anywhere. It had sustained winds of up to 70 mph, just short of hurricane strength.

The National Hurricane Center thinks Otto will become a hurricane later today and start drifting westward toward Central America.

I like the goofy name Otto, but this storm could end up being deadly serious.

At this point, it looks like Otto will hit the coast somewhere near the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua sometime on Thursday.

Predicting the strength of a hurricane, especially one like this one that's late season, over warm water in this section of the Caribbean, is tough. The current thinking is it will have sustained winds of 90 mph at landfall, which is dangerous enough, but there is a potential for Otto to get even stronger than that.

Otto's torrential rains moving into the steep terrain after landfall makes the risk of devastating flash floods.

Otto is unusually far south for an Atlantic hurricane. If it hits the coast as a hurricane as now predicted, it would be the farthest south an Atlantic basin hurricane has been recorded making landfall, says Bob Hanson at Weather Underground.

If Otto goes far enough south to make landfall in Costa Rica, it will be the first Atlantic hurricane to score a direct hit on that nation. Tropical storms have hit Costa Rica, but not full blown hurricanes.

The storm will weaken greatly over land, but will be intact enough to emerge out over the Pacific Ocean this weekend. I have no idea if it will strengthen back to a tropical storm when that happens.

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