The Eastern Pacific hurricane season is off to a torrid start. Back-to-back storms, first Aletta and now Bud, have rapidly intensified, transforming from tropical storms to major hurricanes in just a day’s time.
Last Friday, Hurricane Aletta reached Category 4 strength, with peak winds of 140 mph, 24 hours after it was a tropical storm with 70 mph winds. That storm has since dissipated to a tropical depression.
But now Bud has blown up. A tropical storm with 65 mph winds Sunday morning, it is now a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, packing 120 mph winds.
Bud is positioned about 475 miles south of the southern tip of Baja California in Mexico and is churning to the northwest at about 7 mph. It could bring tropical-storm conditions to popular tourist spots along that peninsula Thursday or Friday, including Cabo San Lucas.
In the short term, the storm may not be done strengthening.
The National Hurricane Center predicts Bud’s maximum winds to peak around 125 mph late Monday. However, by the time the storm reaches the southern tip of the Baja California later this week, forecasts call for it to lose some of its punch.
By Thursday, the Hurricane Center predicts Bud will have weakened to a tropical storm.
Even so, Cabo San Lucas and the surrounding area may face hazards including winds gusting exceeding 60 mph, 5 to 10 inches of rain, as well as high seas and dangerous waves when the storm makes its closest approach Thursday or Friday.
Some of the storm’s moisture may also be drawn into the Desert Southwest United States by the weekend, feeding late day showers and storms. By that time, Bud is expected to have lost further strength and is predicted to be a tropical depression.
Bud became a hurricane on Sunday, more than a month ahead of average. Capital Weather Gang tropical weather specialist Phil Klotzbach tweeted that the average date of the second eastern Pacific hurricane is July 14.
Hurricanes that rapidly intensify, like Aletta and Bud, are most feared by forecasters because — if they threaten coastlines — they offer limited time to prepare. In the devastating 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria’s rate of strengthening all met criteria for rapid intensification, which is defined as an increase in wind speed of at least 35 mph in a 24-hour period.
In the central and eastern tropical Atlantic, researchers recently detected an increase in rapidly intensifying hurricane in recent decades.
Conditions in the tropical Atlantic Ocean are quiet for the moment, although the National Hurricane Center is monitoring a disturbance in the southern Caribbean that it gives a 20 percent chance to develop into a tropical depression or storm over the next five days.
The next storm to earn a name in the Atlantic will be called Beryl.