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Hurricane Larry set to sideswipe Bermuda before striking Newfoundland

Another tropical system could be brewing in the Gulf of Mexico

Hurricane Larry as viewed from the GOES East weather satellite Wednesday morning. (RAMMB/CIRA)

Hurricane Larry remained a major, Category 3 hurricane over the central tropical Atlantic on Wednesday, the sprawling cyclone spanning more than 500 miles as it churned up the seas and drifted northwestward. A tropical storm watch is in effect for Bermuda ahead of Larry’s expected sideswipe Thursday, which could bring gusty winds, rough surf and dangerous rip currents to the British overseas territory.

Ida’s impact from the Gulf Coast to Northeast — by the numbers

The large storm will be a massive wave generator, sending swells all the way to the shores of the Lower 48 states.

“Significant swells from Larry will begin reaching the east coast of the United States and Atlantic Canada today and continue affecting these shores through the end of the week,” wrote the National Hurricane Center. “These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.”

Parts of Newfoundland are also bracing for what could be a direct strike from Larry on Friday into Saturday, albeit in a slightly weaker state, as the storm transitions into a mid-latitude system.

It comes as a second tropical disturbance begins to take shape in the Gulf of Mexico, presenting the risk of flooding rains to the southeastern United States; the Hurricane Center gives the system a 50-50 chance of developing into a tropical depression or storm before it comes ashore Thursday.

The latest on Larry

Hurricane Larry had maximum winds of 115 mph at 8 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday, making it a low-end Category 3 hurricane. It was located 560 miles southeast of Bermuda and was moving northwest at 10 mph. Gradual weakening is likely, and Larry will begin to curve more toward the north, sparing Bermuda a more direct encounter with the storm Thursday.

Satellite imagery suggested that Larry was quickly losing organization as daylight dawned, its eye beginning to fill with clouds and the intensity of its convection, or shower and thunderstorm activity, faltering.

Microwave satellite imagery peeking “under the hood” of Larry’s dense overcast indicated that the eyewall was fragmented and broken, but data still suggests winds gusting above 100 mph are probably contained in the storm. An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft was scheduled to investigate the storm sometime Wednesday morning.

Upper-level winds surrounding Larry are weak, allowing it to maintain strength largely unperturbed. Its slow motion, however, is allowing for upwelling. In other words, Larry’s laggard movement is churning up cooler waters, which will weaken it. It’s also moving over progressively cooler waters at the ocean surface.

Larry’s impacts

Larry will miss Bermuda to the east, but, because it’s a large storm, gusty winds perhaps topping 35 mph and a few squally outer rain bands may clip the island. Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles from the center.

“Given Larry’s large size, tropical storm conditions are possible there Thursday, along with a risk of heavy rainfall and coastal flooding,” wrote the National Hurricane Center.

Larry may also kick up waves topping 50 feet in height near its slow-moving core, while also producing a stout swell that will lap at the eastern U.S. coastline.

The Weather Service is warning of a high risk of rip currents along the coastal Carolinas and Virginia, cautioning that “rip currents can sweep even the best swimmers away from shore into deeper water.”

Swimming against a rip current is a surefire recipe for exhaustion; the Weather Service recommends avoiding the water to begin with, but, if caught in a rip current, swimming parallel to the beach until out of the narrow current’s pull.

Rip currents kill more people than tornadoes. NOAA is launching a model to predict them.

Aside from marine impacts, Larry will remain too far out to sea to influence weather over the United States. On Wednesday, the New York Post incorrectly published an article attributing the risk of flooding and isolated tornadoes in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic to Larry, but those hazards stem from an unrelated cold front.

By late Friday night into Saturday, Larry will slam into the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, bringing hurricane-force winds to the coastline and perhaps some storm surge. It will be undergoing “extratropical transition” and acquiring fronts while tapping into jet stream energy, adopting the structure of a nontropical low-pressure system.

Significant rainfall is also possible in parts of eastern Quebec and the Canadian Maritimes, where remnant tropical moisture will interact with an approaching cold front. A widespread 1 to 4 inches of rain, with localized five-inch totals, is possible.

Another system to watch

Meanwhile, a second tropical system bears watching, and it’s located in the Gulf of Mexico. It has a 50 percent chance of development. It exists as a cluster of thunderstorms and a lobe of weak low-level spin at the tail end of a cold front.

It’s unclear if that spin will consolidate much before the system moves ashore Thursday, and weather models are struggling to get a handle on how the system will evolve. Regardless, the wave will produce heavy rainfall over the Florida Panhandle and parts of southern Georgia, where a general 2 to 4 inches are possible between Wednesday and late Thursday.

By next week, the Atlantic’s main region where storms tend to develop at this time of year, between the Lesser Antilles and the African coastline, should remain quiet, but the Gulf will still have to be monitored for potential storm development.