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Forecasters keep eye on Atlantic hurricane

by The Washington Post | September 7, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

Compared with last week, when Hurricane Ida went on a meteorological tirade from Louisiana to the Northeast, the tropical Atlantic is much less threatening. Nevertheless, the National Hurricane Center is monitoring two systems that could have some minor impact on the East and Gulf coasts.

The center is tracking large, "lumbering Larry," a powerful Category 3 hurricane over the open Atlantic, which has the look of an ominous storm. But for most it is a mere curiosity as it churns through the open Atlantic, maybe sideswiping Bermuda on Wednesday into Thursday, while generating some rough surf along the East Coast.

The much tamer state of the tropical Atlantic comes as the nation approaches the climatological, or historical, peak of hurricane season, which usually is centered on Sept. 15. But it's no time to relax, as the season is not even halfway done.

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On Monday, the hurricane center estimated Larry had maximum winds around 120 mph as it headed northwest at 10 mph. The tempest was exhibiting an unusual signature on satellite, appearing with a large but ragged eye. The center noted that some small vortexes "were rotating within the eye, which is typically observed in strong hurricanes."

Larry's intensity estimate is derived from satellite data, and also by an instrument called a scatterometer. It beams radiation to the ocean surface and uses information from the returned signal to ascertain how rough the sea state is, offering insight about the strength of the winds.

Since Larry's eye is enormous, its radius of maximum winds is also large. The hurricane center estimated that hurricane-force winds extended 70 miles from the center, while tropical-storm-force winds reached out 175 miles from the center .

Larry is set to continue northwestward and maintain strength through midweek before starting to weaken gradually. Most track forecasts suggest the center will stay east of Bermuda, which would probably limit impacts to some gusty showers, rough seas and rip currents. But both because the storm is large and the track could shift west, the hurricane center cautions there is "a risk of strong winds, heavy rainfall, and coastal flooding."

And the storm is anticipated to generate "significant swells" for the East Coast of the U.S. and Canada. "These swells will likely cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, and beachgoers and other interests along these coasts are urged to follow the guidance of lifeguards and local officials this week," the hurricane center wrote.

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