HURRICANE: Bill hopefully turning north, Claudette approaches panhandle

Last updated 5:30 p.m.

 TROPICS — Tropical Storm Bill strengthened further since the 2 p.m. advisory and is predicted to be a Category 3 hurricane by Wednesday, but the good news is that forecasters hope it’s taking a turn to the north.

 The Panama City, Florida area is bracing for the newest named system, tropical Storm Claudette, which is expected to make landfall at around 7 p.m. and now has 50 mph winds with gusts up to 65 mph. The Florida panhandle west to the Alabama border is under a tropical storm warning and a tracking station in Apalachicola measured 10-minute sustained winds of 51 miles per hour. At the 5 p.m. advisory, Bill had 65 mph (up from 60 mph at 2 p.m.) sustained winds with gusts to 75 mph and was located near latitude 12.8 north and longitude 40.0 west. Bill has begun gradually tipping to the north and is moving west-northwest at 16 mph and has a minimum barometric pressure of 994 millibars (29.34 inches), a drop in pressure from the 11 a.m. report, signaling further intensification.

 “It currently appears that the trough approaching the U.S. East Coast will be strong enough to recurve Bill before it reaches the U.S., though it is too early to be confident of this,” said Dr. Jeff Masters, former NOAA Hurricane Hunter and co-founder of the Weather Underground in his analysis Sunday morning. Click on the computer model image from the Weather Underground to enlarge.

 Should Bill not curve to the north, the storm would be a major concern to the east coast of Florida, including Indian River County. Bill would need to reach at least 74 mph to be declared a hurricane. The storm is expected to brandish winds of more than 110 mph by Wednesday.

 The National Weather Service discussion on the storm at 11 a.m. said, “Bill is displaying a beautiful curved band pattern on satellite imagery this morning with a new burst of convection occurring near the center,” and continued about Bill’s predicted path,” A series of microwave passes and visible images have confirmed that the center has shifted a little bit to the north. Environmental conditions appear favorable for continue intensification due to light shear and warm waters.”

 Tropical Storm Ana has weakened to 35 mph sustained winds throughout the morning and is moving westward at a good clip of 23 mph. Ana is expected to continue on a westward path and again gain the 40 mph tropical storm status before it passes over the rugged island of Hispaniola Tuesday morning and then be downgraded to a tropical depression as it makes its way over Cuba on Wednesday. The forecast is showing Ana well south of our area, re-emerging in the Gulf of Mexico as a tropical depression.

 The NHC has begun issuing advisories every three hours due to the level of active tropical activity in the Atlantic. The next public advisory by the National Hurricane Center in Miami will be at 8 p.m. Sunday.

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