Weather Nerd

Omar "threads the needle," largely spares islands

Hurricane Omar peaked overnight at 959 millibars and 130 mph sustained winds, making it a borderline Cat. 3/4 hurricane, but it took a “best-case scenario” track through the narrow Anegada Passage between the Virgin Islands to the west and St. Maarten and Anguilla to the east.

A few miles further west, and Omar would have made a direct hit on St. Croix, instead of delivering a glancing blow there. A few miles further east, and the impact on St. Maarten and Anguilla would have been quite severe. Instead, the storm “threaded the needle,” as Alan Sullivan put it yesterday, and spared everyone the worst. Sullivan, who has a friend living on a boat in St. Maarten, is understandably relieved.

Dr. Jeff Masters notes that St. Croix did experience hurricane-force winds, but Omar certainly will not have been the disaster that was possible if it had taken a slightly different track. Such are the unpredicable vagaries of these intense but fickle beasts we call hurricanes.

Now, Omar is quickly weakening as it moves out to sea, with maximum sustained winds down to 85 mph and dropping, inspiring the National Hurricane Center forecasters to opine in the 11am EDT discussion:

IT IS SIMPLY AMAZING TO ME AT HOW QUICKLY A HURRICANE CAN SPIN UP AND JUST AS QUICKLY FALL APART. OMAR REACHED NEAR THE THRESHOLD OF CATEGORY 4 EARLY THIS MORNING AROUND [2:00 AM] AND NOW WE HAVE AN EXPOSED LOW-LEVEL CENTER SHOWING UP IN THE VISIBLE SATELLITE IMAGERY JUST A FEW HOURS LATER.

Omar is expected to continue weakening over open water, eventually becoming extratropical as it heads toward the far distant Azores.

Meanwhile, Tropical Depression 16 has dissipated over Hondruas (there’s your unnamed T.D. for the season, Chris). Its remnants could potentially regenerate over the Eastern Pacific, which means that “proto-Paloma” is now “proto-Polo.” (Too bad “Marco” and “Polo” weren’t active at the same time. They could have shouted at each other, over Central America: “Marco!” “Polo!” Heh.)

With the demise of T.D. 16 and the decline of Omar, Sullivan thinks we’re done: “That should do it for the 2008 hurricane season,” he writes. Perhaps so, but if it sounds like you’ve heard that one before, well, you have: three weeks ago, Sullivan wrote, “with polar influences expanding so swiftly, there may never be a Kyle at this rate”; then, six days later, after the birth and death of Kyle and Laura, I wrote, “With an early winter pattern developing, there may never be a Marco.” Heh.

Since my brilliant prognostication, we’ve seen Marco, Nana and Omar — though Sullivan regards some of these late-season “designations” as “marginal,” specifically Laura and Nana, if I’m not mistaken. Along these same lines, commenter Steve Sadlov wrote this morning on Sullivan’s site, “Omar was not Omar, it was Marco.” I’m going to vote “present” on this particular “count-padding” question, but I’ll just add that, if we’re going to discount Laura and Nana, maybe we should add in the subtropical-ish system that hit the Carolinas in late September. In hindsight, maybe that was the true “Laura,” in which case Marco was still Marco, and Omar should have been Nana, no?

In any event, the hurricane season officially continues for another month-and-a-half, so I’ll hold off on declaring it “over” just yet. But at least in the short-term, according to Dr. Masters, things are likely to remain quiet: “No computer models are forecasting tropical cyclone development in the Atlantic over the next seven days.”