Hurricane Gordon Nears The Azores; Could Hit Europe

September 19, 2006

The “hurricane season” usually causes concern in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, along the western Atlantic seaboard and Bermuda. However, this year residents of those areas are beginning to breathe easier, as something very odd is happening to the Atlantic Ocean’s tropical cyclones. Most of them have ended up heading northeast, not north or west.

Hurricane Gordon, which became the 7th named storm of the season on Sept. 11, originally formed northeast of the Leeward Islands. It soon gained hurricane strength, but its erratic path has now taken it due east, completely away from North America, as it bears down on the Azores Islands, around 900 miles (1500 kms) from the coast of Spain.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami has issued a hurricane warning for the islands. As of 5:00 a.m. AST the NHC located the “center of the well-defined eye of Hurricane Gordon ” at latitude 38.1 north/longitude 38.7 west “or about 630 miles/1010 kms west of Terceira in the Azores Islands.”

The storm is moving toward the east at near 28 mph/44 km/hr, and the NHC said it expects this general motion “to continue for the next 24 hours. On the forecast track Gordon will pass near or move across the Azores late this afternoon or evening. Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 105 mph/165 km/hr with higher gusts. Gordon is a category two hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.”

It’s possible that the storm may weaken, but the NHC indicated that it would maintain hurricane strength as it passes the Azores. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 40 miles/65 kms from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 115 miles/185 kms. Gordon’s estimated minimum central pressure is 970 mb/28.64 inches, which is quite low. The NHC warned of “large and dangerous battering waves along with storm surges of 1 to 3 ft. [30 cms to 1 meter],” as well as heavy rainfall.

Unless Gordon weakens substantially, the NHC’s 3-day tracking forecast indicates that it will hit Europe early Thursday morning. It could come ashore on the northwestern coast of Spain (Galicia), or it could enter the Bay of Biscay, which would expose both the northern Spanish Coast and the southwestern French coast to potential damages.

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