June 30, 2010

Alex Now A Hurricane, May Continue To Strengthen

Tropical Storm Alex intensified by 11 p.m. EDT on June 29 and became the first hurricane of the 2010 Atlantic Ocean Hurricane Season. NASA satellites continue to provide visible, infrared and microwave satellite data to forecasters to help the National Hurricane Center forecast Alex's intensity and track, and NASA's Aqua satellite flew over Alex hours before it became a hurricane yesterday.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument that flies aboard NASA's Aqua satellite is one of those NASA instruments that provide forecasters data. MODIS captured a visible image of Alex on June 29 at 3:35 p.m. EDT as it churned over the Gulf of Mexico, and provided a high resolution image of this large storm's extent in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now that Alex has become a hurricane, the storm has the title of being the first June hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean since 1995.

A hurricane warning is in effect for the coast of Texas south of Baffin Bay to the mouth of the Rio Grande and the coast of Mexico from the mouth of the Rio Grande to La Cruz. A tropical storm warning is in effect for the coast of Texas from Baffin Bay to Port Oconnor, and the coast of Mexico south of La Cruz To Cabo Rojo.

At 8 a.m. EDT, Hurricane Alex's center was closing in on the Mexican and south Texas coasts. Alex's center was located about 155 miles (250 km) east of La Pesca, Mexico and 220 miles (355 km) southeast of Brownsville, Texas. That puts Alex's center near latitude 23.4 north and longitude 95.3 west. Alex is moving toward the west-northwest near 7 mph. The National Hurricane Center calls for a "A slow west to west-northwestward motion over the next 24 to 48 hours."

The Hurricane Center forecast says that on the forecast track the center of Alex will approach the coast of northeastern Mexico or southern Texas by late this afternoon or early evening, and Alex will make landfall in the hurricane warning area late tonight or early Thursday morning.

Maximum sustained winds remain near 80 mph so Alex is a category one hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane wind scale. Additional strengthening is forecast and Alex could become a category two hurricane prior to landfall.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's buoy 42055 located southeast of Alex recently reported sustained winds of 54 mph with a gust of 63 mph.

Smaller hurricanes have higher pressures, and larger hurricanes tend to have lower pressures. Alex is a very large hurricane and has a minimum central pressure near 959 millibars. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 25 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 200 miles. Flood watches stretch from New Orleans to southern Texas because of the size of Hurricane Alex.

Text Credit: Rob Gutro, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center


Image Caption: This visible image of Alex was captured by the Aqua satellite on June 29 at 3:35 p.m. EDT as it churned over the Gulf of Mexico. Credit: NASA MODIS Rapid Response Team


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