Hurricane Fernanda Upgraded To Category Four And Getting Stronger: Hawaii In Danger?

Hurricane Fernanda, a strong Category Four hurricane raging off the coast of Mexico, is making its way up the Eastern Pacific in a north-westerly direction. Fernanda's winds have gradually increased in speeds now in excess of 130 mph.

The U.S National Hurricane Center reported on Friday that Hurricane Fernanda is not believed to be an immediate threat to land, as it moves further away from the North American land mass. However, indications are that Fernanda may be on a pathway towards Hawaii.

So far, regardless of the current trajectory, authorities have confirmed that there is no immediate threat to the state of Hawaii, and thus no reason for concern amongst residents of the archipelago. Nevertheless, there is a chance that the Pacific region near Hawaii might be affected by atypical weather.

On Friday afternoon, Hawaii's County Civil Defense issued a message to residents clarifying that "it is too early to know what effects if any, Hurricane Fernanda will have on our island or state. You are assured, this system will be monitored. Should any threat develop, you will be informed."

At 11 a.m. on Friday morning, Hurricane Fernanda was situated roughly 2,400 miles east of Hilo, moving westwards at a speed of 12 mph. Fernanda's hurricane-force winds extended to about 30 miles from the eye of the storm.

Although there is a chance that the center of Fernanda may gain strength and momentum, at this stage, meteorologists believe that Fernanda should begin to weaken early next week as it gradually makes its way towards the northwestern Pacific where cooler waters will slow it down.

According to CTV News, by Tuesday Fernanda is expected to be downgraded to a Category Two hurricane.

A Category Four hurricane, such as Fernanda, is defined by winds that range from 131 to 155 mph. Such a storm, if it reaches land, will likely cause cataclysmic damage to properties and claim human and animal life. The potential for structural damage is very high, while power outages and water shortages are both common residual effects in the weeks to months following the storm.

Hurricane Fernanda's proximity to Hawaii can be viewed via an interactive map provided by the National Hurricane Center.

The graphic below, from the National Hurricane Center (NHC), shows an approximate representation of coastal areas under a hurricane warning (red), hurricane watch (pink), tropical storm warning (blue), and tropical storm watch (yellow).

According to the NHC website, "The orange circle indicates the current position of the center of the tropical cyclone. The black line, when selected, and dots show the National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecast track of the center at the times indicated."

Hurricane Fernanda continues to strengthen as it heads towards Hawaii
This graphic shows an approximate representation of coastal areas under a hurricane warning. [Image by National Hurricane Center]

Below is a statement from the National Weather Service.

"Fernanda continues to have a very impressive appearance in satellite imagery, with a 10 n mi wide eye well embedded in a symmetric central dense overcast. The hurricane also has good outflow in all directions and outer convective bands in all quadrants except the northwest. Subjective satellite intensity estimates from TAFB and SAB are now 127 kt, and recent estimates from the CIMSS Advanced Dvorak Technique are now 120 kt. Based mainly on these data, the initial intensity is increased to 125 kt.

"The initial motion is now 270/10. The track forecast philosophy remains the same as earlier, as a mid-level subtropical ridge to the north of Fernanda should induce a generally west-northwestward track for the next several days. Some decrease in forward speed is likely late in the forecast period when the tropical cyclone nears a weakness in the ridge. The new track forecast is almost identical to the previous forecast and lies near the various consensus models.

"Recent microwave imagery indicates rainbands about 30-40 n mi from the center that are likely the start of an outer eyewall and an eyewall replacement cycle that will end the current intensification. The new intensity forecast allows for 6-12 h more strengthening before this happens. From 12-48 h, Fernanda should remain in a low shear environment over very warm sea surface temperatures. The intensity forecast calls for a slow weakening during this time as a reflection of the guidance. However, fluctuations in intensity caused by eyewall cycles are likely to occur, and it would not be surprising if a second round of strengthening occurs if a cycle can finish before Fernanda leaves the very warm water. After 48 h, the hurricane will move over decreasing sea surface temperatures, and this should result in a steady weakening. Overall, the new intensity forecast lies at or above the upper edge of the intensity guidance."

[Featured Image by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Getty Images]