HURRICANE: Bill a Cat 1, Claudette soaks panhandle

By Lisa Zahner | Last Update: 2:30 p.m.TROPICS — There was no 2 p.m. advisory on Hurricane Bill, but Tropical Depression Ana was reported to be “poorly organized” at 2 p.m. by the National Hurricane Center.

Bill gained strength this morning and is now a strong Category 1 hurricane, the first hurricane of the North Atlantic season, with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph and gusts up to 115 mph. By Tuesday night, Bill is predicted to become a very dangerous Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with wind speeds of more than 110 mph. This timing has been moved up from the 5 a.m. forecast of Bill reaching Cat 3 status Wednesday morning. Over the weekend, Bill began to take a turn from due west to west-northwest, but coastal interests in the Southeastern United States should monitor Bill very closely. Meteorologists are banking on the fact that an upper-level area of low pressure will be strong enough to pull Bill to the north, but that is still to be seen. Click on read more to see a satellite image of Bill, a storm history track and information on TD Ana, which may bring some wet weather to the Florida Keys and southwest Florida.The National Hurricane Center stated this morning that “infrared satellite pictures reveal an impressive mass of deep convection,” as can be seen on the image below. “All intensity guidance indicates a conducive environment for strengthening…which should allow Bill to become a major hurricane,” said the National Hurricane Center in the 5 a.m. discussion on Bill.The hurricane is still forecast to stay clear of the mainland, but as is the nature of tropical systems, many factors determine their direction and strengh and this could change at any point, altering the forecasts. Bill’s forward speed has also increased, which could change the scenario slightly.At 5 a.m., Bill was located near latitude 14.1 north and longitude 45.2 west and was moving west northwest at 16 miles per hour. With sustained winds of 75 mph and gusts of 90 mph, Bill has a minimum pressure of 977 millibars, down from 987 this morning, which indicates strengthening.Hurricane-force winds extend out 30 miles from the eye and Tropical Storm-force winds extend out 145 miles, showing that Bill is growing in size as well as strength.Computer models of Hurricane Bill are in fair agreement about the track, except one outlier, which is not confident that the steering currents will be sufficient enough to draw Bill northward.Now Tropical Depression Claudette made landfall at about 1:15 a.m. along Florida’s Guf Coast overnight just southeast of Fort Walton Beach, causing squally weather and dumping 5 to 8 inches of rain. The storm is moving inland and still has maximum sustained winds of 35 mph.Meanwhile, Ana has been downgraded to a Tropical Depression with 35 mph sustained winds, but the track has been shifted northward, so most of Florida is now in the cone of error for some wet weather. Ana is forecast to move over Hispaniola and to only skirt Cuba now. The system is not predicted to strengthen, but may cause a messy day on Thursday for the Florida Keys.

At 2 p.m., Ana was moving south of Puerto Rico and approaching landfall on the island of Hispaniola. Ana is expected to skirt the northern coast of Cuba on Tuesday. The 2 p.m. advisory on Ana had it tracking northwest at 27 mph and said that the depression may dissipate today and that it’s not clear if it still has a center of circulation.The next advisory by the National Hurricane Center will be at 5 p.m.

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