Maria prompts tropical storm watches to be issued for Carolina and Virginia coasts

5PM official NHC track forecast for Maria.

5 PM Update: Tropical storm watches have been issued for the entire North Carolina coast and parts of the extreme southern end of the Virginia coast. A storm surge watch has also been issued for the North Carolina coast. The forecast track for Maria hasn’t changed much today, with the storm still expected to remain off shore but sideswipe coastal locations with tropical storm conditions beginning on Tuesday. Storm surge flooding is a strong possibility, especially along the Outer Banks as Maria’s slow movement will result in several hours of onshore flow.

Original Post: Hurricane Maria emerged as a slightly weaker storm on Sunday morning, officially classified at category 2 intensity with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. Maria will continue to move slowly toward the north over the next few days, making a close pass to the North Carolina and the Mid-Atlantic coasts early this week. The threatening storm position will probably prompt tropical storm watches and even some hurricane watches to be posted by this afternoon.

On Sunday, models reached a greater consensus over the ultimate fate of Maria, tracking the storm parallel to the East Coast for the next 72 hours before getting quickly pushed out to sea by the end of the week. Just how close Maria gets to the coast is still somewhat uncertain and a slight shift to the west or east by just 100 miles will drastically change the intensity and locations of the storm’s impacts.

Maria’s tropical storm force winds will extend quite far from the storm’s center.

The storm, which has been at hurricane strength (winds greater than 74 mph) for more than a week, has begun to enter into a more hostile environment for hurricane sustainability. Increasing wind shear (a change in wind speed or direction with height) is eating away at the edges of the storm, limiting Maria’s ability to maintain its current intensity.

Increasing wind shear (solid red lines) will weaken the maximum sustained winds of Maria over the next few days. (University of Wisconsin)

However, Maria’s weakening would not prevent parts of the East Coast from feeling some direct impacts. Maria’s size stretches across several hundred miles, dwarfing recently re-upgraded Hurricane Lee located in the central Atlantic.

For the time being, the waters off the Southeast coast will continue to be rough, with 6-9 foot waves located just offshore. Wave heights along the shore will increase during the next few days, creating dangerous surf and increased chances of rip currents.

The worst conditions will probably target the North Carolina Outer Banks between late Tuesday and Wednesday night when the storm center makes its closest approach (but probably remains offshore). This is time period when tropical-storm force winds and perhaps hurricane-force gusts, heavy rain, and coastal flooding are most likely. By Thursday, a strong cold front will sweep the storm out to sea.

European model simulation of Hurricane Maria at 4 p.m. Wednesday. It shows sustain winds of 45-55 mph at the N.C. Outer Banks. (

All residents of the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic states should pay close attention to forecast updates throughout the day.

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