Bill Read's Blog: Sandy becomes hurricane

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HOUSTON - This morning, Tropical Storm Sandy intensified into a hurricane and approached Jamaica with 80 mph winds.

Overnight, the storm picked up forward speed and was moving toward the north at almost 15 mph. The eye of the storm, where the strongest winds occur, will cross directly over the eastern two thirds of the island nation of Jamaica Wednesday afternoon. Winds are forecast to reach up to 80 mph with higher gusts, and these winds will last up to six hours while the eye is over the island, particularly over the higher elevations of the mountainous interior. Torrential rains will accompany the high winds, thus Jamaicans can expect flash flooding and mudslides, along with downed trees and power outages from Sandy.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic are already experiencing Sandy's outer rain bands and will continue to do so through at least Thursday. Rainfall in excess of ten inches will produce flash flooding and mudslides, which in Haiti could prove devastating.

Overnight tonight, the center of Sandy is forecast to move across eastern Cuba bringing much the same impacts as forecast for Jamaica.

Thursday and Thursday night, the center of Sandy will move through the central and northern Bahamas. Since Sandy is already a large circulation and forecast to increase in size as it moves north, likely all of the Bahamas will experience tropical storm conditions, maybe even approaching hurricane force winds if Sandy maintains an eye after crossing Cuba. The southeast coast of Florida could also experience tropical storm conditions. The strong northerly winds on the west side of Sandy will produce dangerous waves and rip currents all along the Florida coast into the weekend.

Sandy has been behaving pretty much as forecast so far, and we have higher than usual confidence that the center of the storm will move through the Bahamas then parallel the Southeast United States through Sunday as a large, near hurricane intensity, storm. After Sunday, it gets complicated – but that will be a subject of a future blog!

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