I've become an inveterate Hurricane follower. I'm not quite sure why, but about three or four years ago I began keeping tabs on the Atlantic hurricane season through the NOAA National Hurricane Centre's site. I find reading the forecast discussions the best way to learn why hurricanes do what they do, why some fizzle and others build in intensity. I find the whole process, watching a hurricane's progress from formation to dissipation fascinating. I realize of course, that when they make landfall they cause untold damage and misery, but I've found myself drawn to them. They are incredible examples of nature's terrible power.
This season has been a relatively busy one, but one that hasn't receive a lot of attention, probably because most of the storms have not made landfall, or have struck glancing blows. So far this year there have been thirteen named storms (plus two tropical depressions), of which six have been hurricanes. The two storms currently spinning in the Atlantic and Caribbean, Lisa and Matthew are both Tropical Storms. While Lisa is unlikely to grow any stronger Matthew has a chance at becoming a class 1 hurricane as it hits Central America. Even as a tropical storm it has the potential to do much damage out there.
The six storms that became hurricanes in the Atlantic season this year were on average powerful storms. One was a class 2, one a class three, however the remainder were all major hurricanes - four class 4. One of those, Igor, was only a couple of knots of wind speed from a class 5, and it has been the most fascinating storm to follow of them all.
Igor was/is an extremely long lasting storm, with a huge wind field. It was born (as many hurricanes are) just off the Cape Verde islands off the west coast of Africa on September 8th. The first couple of days it moved rather quickly, and bounced between being a tropical storm and a tropical depression. It stayed that way for three days, but on the twelfth it became a class 1 hurricane, and began to intensify quickly. Less than 18 hours later it was a class 4, which it would remain for much of its life.
On the 15th of September it reached its peak intensity (in terms of wind speed) of 135 knots, which is just shy of a class 5 hurricane, the largest on the Saffir-Simpson scale. By this time it had a massive wind field and was tracking very slowly.
Igor was steadily weakening, but by the time it hit Bermuda it was a Category 1 storm, but still very powerful and with a huge sweep of wind. Then it turned to the North East and accelerated, eventually slamming into Newfoundland as a Category one. Even as a category 1 it caused extensive damage and at least one life was lost as an elderly gentleman was swept into the sea when the road below him was washed out. Amazingly I found out last night that a colleague of mine, another EDO, has property on the storms path. A landslide happened behind the house and the land in front of the house collapsed or was washed away, leaving his deck cantilevered over a 40 foot drop.
Just past Newfoundland Igor made the transition from a tropical hurricane to an extra-tropical cyclone, embedded in a baroclinic trough. As far as I can figure out extra-tropical hurricane is another word for a huge ass low, and Igor still packs a punch. It is still active, as an extra-tropical cyclone, stuck just south of Baffin Island in the Davis Strait.
As I write this, as it has for the past couple of days, Igor is dominating my weather here in Iqaluit. Giving us moderately strong winds, clouds and rain. It is a long way from the Cape Verde Islands, where it was born more than two weeks ago.