SATELLITE IMAGES SHOW AN ORGANIZING TROPICAL CYCLONE WITH A CENTRAL DENSE OVERCAST FEATURE DEVELOPING NEAR THE APPARENT CENTER. BANDING FEATURES ARE ALSO BECOMING MORE PROMINENT ESPECIALLY NORTH OF THE CENTER. THE INITIAL INTENSITY IS INCREASED TO [45 MPH] . . . AN AIR FORCE AIRCRAFT IS SCHEDULED TO BE IN THE AREA AROUND [1:00 PM EST] TO PROVIDE A BETTER ESTIMATE.
Further strengthening is forecast; Paloma is expected to be a hurricane by Friday evening, and a Category 2 hurricane by Saturday. It’s also possible the storm could get stronger than that, and/or could strengthen more quickly. Indeed, the National Hurricane Center estimates that the chances of rapid deepening (which is always very difficult to predict) are 3 to 4 times higher than the climatological average.
Dr. Jeff Masters says Paloma is “already starting to build an eyewall.” As for the forecast, Dr. Masters notes that wind shear is now expected to increase significantly on Saturday night, likely weakening Paloma before the expected landfall in Cuba on Sunday. The Caymans may still get hit by a Cat. 3 major hurricane, however.