Hurricane Blanca already became the earliest second hurricane on record in the eastern Pacific ocean when it reached category 1 status on Tuesday. Now the storm is undergoing a period of rapid intensification over very warm ocean waters, and has the potential to max out at a category 5 over the next couple of days.
Blanca formed fast on the heels of Hurricane Andres, which surged to category 4 status on Sunday. Andres has since weakened to tropical storm-strength, but Blanca is quickly filling its shoes. The hurricane is the second of the season, the second major hurricane of the season, and the earliest second major hurricane on record in the region in the satellite era since 1971.
Blanca developed as a tropical depression on Sunday evening and had maintained a relatively weak intensity into Wednesday. By the 11 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, Blanca had sustained winds of 130 mph — a category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, and an increase of 70 mph in one day.
The center expects Blanca to intensify further in the next 24 hours into a category 5 with 160 mph winds as it traverses an extremely favorable environment of warm ocean surface water, which fuels the storm, and low wind shear, which if too high can act to tear the storm apart.
The Weather Channel’s hurricane expert Michael Lowry says that if the forecast pans out, Blanca would become the strongest hurricane on record to form so early in the season since Hurricane Ava in June of 1973.
As Hurricane Blanca tracks northwest toward the Baja Peninsula it will encounter cooler sea surface temperatures, but still has the potential to make landfall as a weak hurricane or tropical storm over the weekend.
If the active pattern continues in the East Pacific, fueled by a strengthening El Nino in the tropics, 2015 could resemble the blockbuster 2014 season, in which 16 hurricanes formed — a record high number — nine of which became major hurricanes. One of the 2014 storms, Hurricane Odile, ravaged Baja when it made landfall as a category 3 near Cabo San Lucas with winds of 125 mph, becoming the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall on the peninsula.