Bill Read's Blog: Sandy to bring life-threatening flooding, mudslides

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HOUSTON - This morning, Tropical Storm Sandy was slowly becoming better organized while starting to move slowly toward the north in the central Caribbean Sea. The National Hurricane Center is forecasting Sandy to become a hurricane before the center reaches Jamaica on Wednesday.  The ideal conditions I mentioned yesterday -- warm ocean, very moist air, and low wind shear -- continue through tomorrow. There is a risk that Sandy could strengthen even more than forecast.

Since yesterday, our reliable track forecast models have been very consistent on the forecast through Friday – bringing the center of Sandy directly across Jamaica Wednesday, eastern Cuba early Thursday, and through the central Bahamas Friday. 

As evident in the satellite image above, Sandy has the makings of being a very large system and that bodes poorly for the mountainous countries of Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.  Jamaica most likely will experience the full force of Sandy's hurricane winds as the higher elevations experience the direct hit of the center passing over them on Wednesday.  More ominously, a large, slow moving tropical storm or hurricane almost always produces very heavy rainfall, as we well know here in southeast Texas.  Sandy's slow motion and large area of thunderstorms will bring almost two days of heavy rain to the islands. Add the lifting effect of mountains and even greater rainfall rates can occur resulting in terrible flash floods and mudslides.  Most of the people live in the valleys and lower elevations near the coast, which is one reason why these countries have a long history of devastating floods and mudslides resulting in loss of life. 

Over the past decade a lot of progress has been made in making these countries more hurricane resilient. Let's hope that better preparations and advanced warning for Sandy will serve these folks well this week.

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