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  • Writer's pictureBryan Norcross

HURRICANE ANDREW TIMELINE – 4 DAYS UNTIL LANDFALL + A possible tropical storm in the Gulf

Thirty years ago today – Thursday, August 20, 1992 – was the most confusing day meteorologically in the lead-up to Andrew’s assault on South Florida. Tropical Storm Andrew was 1,150 miles from Miami and on shaky ground. Top winds were down to 45 mph. Hurricane Hunters could not find a center of circulation.

An upper-level low-pressure system to the northeast of Andrew was creating a hostile environment for the storm. There were indications that the big upper low would move away, which could create an atmospheric pattern more conducive to strengthening. But maybe not. We weren’t as confident in the computer forecast models as we are today. There was a lot of uncertainty, to say the least.

Since there was no center of circulation, normal National Hurricane Center protocol said the storm should be downgraded. But NHC director Dr. Bob Sheets decided to keep the name Tropical Storm Andrew a bit longer. Since there was some reason to think it still might reorganize and strengthen, he thought it would be confusing to take off the name and then put it back. (He was right.)

The special forecast models that forecast a tropical storm’s track gave conflicting information. Most of them kept the storm moving slowly, showing it well east of the Bahamas or far off the Southeast coast in three days, though one took it to near Cuba at a much faster speed. The official forecast split the difference, following the idea that Andrew would move fairly slowly in the waters well east of the Bahamas, but with steady, modest intensification.

In the 5:00 PM non-public Technical Discussion, which was a part of the advisory package, Andrew was predicted to intensify to a 70-mph tropical storm over the following three days. NHC forecaster Hal Gerrish wrote the discussion. You can tell there was a lot of uncertainty in his mind about the forecast.

As it turned out, three days after this advisory was issued was Sunday afternoon – the last afternoon before landfall that night. In those three days, Andrew exploded into a 175 mph Category 5 hurricane that would devastate northern Eleuthera and the nearby islands in the Bahamas with a track locked on Dade County.

But that Thursday afternoon, we in South Florida weren’t worried. It was just a tropical storm likely heading somewhere else. In reality, of course, Hurricane Andrew was only 3 1/2 days from landfall less than 20 miles from Miami.

NOW IN 2022, The disturbance we have been following in the extreme southwestern Gulf of Mexico is close to being a tropical depression and possibly Tropical Storm Danielle. The nominal center of the disturbance is heading toward the Mexico/Texas border and will move ashore in that area later today.

The National Hurricane Center has designated the disturbance Potential Tropical Cyclone Four. This designation allows them to issue Tropical Storm Warnings for the coast due to the possibility of the system organizing and making landfall with winds of 40 mph or higher. The system is still just a disturbance without an organized center.

There is no expectation that the system, whether it becomes a tropical storm or not, would get terribly strong. But coastal residents and boaters should stay aware of the latest local information.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the National Hurricane Center is making note of a disturbance that’s just coming off Africa. The system will have a chance to develop into at least a tropical depression in the next few days, though there continues to be a lot of dust and dry air over the tropical Atlantic.

The consensus of the computer forecast models is that there’s a moist enough pocket of atmosphere over part of the eastern Atlantic that the system might get going, but the odds are pretty low at this time. We’ll have a better handle on it when it gets out over the ocean, and we can see if it draws enough moisture around it.

As evidenced by this system, the Atlantic seems to waking up a little bit, but there is still a lot of dry air over the tropical waters for this point in the season. Though it is slowly waning.



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