Hurricane Gonzalo, one of the strongest storms ever to threaten Bermuda, is set to hit the popular tourist island Friday. (Reuters)


In an unprecedented coincidence, two hurricanes 5,600 miles apart will impact two popular island paradises on the same day.

Category 3 Hurricane Gonzalo will track over Bermuda this afternoon. Soon-to-be Hurricane Ana is set to pass close to Hawaii tonight.

Since 1950, both islands have not had a hurricane pass within 150 miles of them during the same month, let alone the same day.

Hurricane Gonzalo

Enhnaced infrared satellite image from 9:37am EDT of Hurricane Gonzalo bearing down on Bermuda. (NASA)

As of 11 a.m. EDT, Gonzalo remains a powerful category 3 hurricane with 125 mph sustained winds, and will be making its closest approach to Bermuda at approximately 5 p.m. local time this evening.  Outer rainbands and tropical storm force winds are closing in on the tiny island that 65,000 people call home.

Hurricane Gonzalo is forecast to bring sustained winds of 120 mph with gusts to 150 mph to Bermuda as it passes.

A destructive storm surge of 10-15 feet will accompany the storm, as well as 3-6 inches of rain.  In a Sandy-like bout of bad luck, the worst of the storm surge should arrive very close to high tide (4:44 p.m. local time), resulting in an extraordinary “storm tide.”

Long radar loop from Bermuda showing Gonzalo’s approach. (Bermuda Weather Service and Brian McNoldy)

This is shaping up to be a historic storm for the island of Bermuda, joining the ranks of very few major hurricanes to pass so close to the island.  Since 1851, only four major hurricanes have come within 20 miles of Bermuda, and Gonzalo is poised to be the fifth.

The last one was Fabian in 2003, but before that, you have to go back to 1926.  The map below shows the tracks of the four prior major hurricane close encounters.  If Gonzalo’s peak sustained winds remain at 125 mph or higher, it will be the strongest storm in Bermuda’s history.  However, as wind shear increases throughout the day, it should weaken slightly, though still remain a dangerous category 3 storm.

Tracks of the previous four major hurricanes that passed within 20 miles of Bermuda since 1851. The 1926 hurricane was the only one to occur in October, the others were all during September. (NOAA)

Monitor the storm: Radar loops |Visible satellite loop | Obs from a pier on the island | Ship terminal webcam | Airport observations

Tropical Storm Ana

5,400 miles to the west of Gonzalo, Tropical Storm Ana, now packing 70 mph sustained winds, is poised to intensify and brush by Hawaii as a hurricane tonight and into the weekend.

You may recall that Tropical Storm Iselle made a direct landfall on the Big Island back in early August, and then Hurricane Julio passed a few hundred miles north of the islands a week later.  Keeping the active Central Pacific season going, Ana will pass about 120 miles south of the Big Island and bring tropical storm conditions, including heavy rain, large swells and surf, and damaging wind.

Heavy rainfall of 6-12″ could cause flash floods and mudslides.

Forecast track for Ana. (NOAA)

A sure sign of the changing seasons, the peaks on the Big Island of Hawaii just received a few inches of snow three days ago! Now it’s time to ditch the snow shovels for a hurricane shelter.

GOES-15 visible image over Hawaii from Tuesday morning. The circled areas are snow cover on the high terrain. (NOAA)

Using Ana’s forecast closest distance from the islands as a rough guide, a search for previous hurricanes to pass within 150 miles of any of the islands yields just eight storms.

Of course, Iselle from a couple months ago would make nine.  The last time two of them occurred in the same year was 1957.

Tracks of all hurricanes that passed within 150 miles of any of the Hawaiian islands since 1950. (NOAA)

After this flurry of activity in the tropics, there is nothing waiting on deck in the Atlantic, but a new tropical depression is close to forming south of Mexico.  The next name on the East Pacific list is Trudy.