As expected, Tropical Depression #3 was upgraded to Tropical Storm Chris. An Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft investigating the cyclone early this morning found flight-level winds of 45kt at 925mb and believable SFMR surface winds of around 34kt in the southeast quadrant. Based on those technicalities, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) upgraded the storm this morning, making Chris the third named storm of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Although the winds associated with the tropical storm have increased a little, the overall organization of Chris has not changed much over the past few hours according to the NHC. The low-level center is still exposed to the north of a broken band of deep convection and the cyclone lacks an inner-core. Chris is located over very warm sea surface temperatures and will remain so for the next several days. While the broad nature of the cyclone’s circulation and some moderate shear will likely limit the intensification rate over the next day or so, all of the intensity guidance indicates that Chris will become a hurricane within about 72 hours from now.
The track guidance has once again made a large shift with the latest forecast cycle. While Chris is generally expected to continue to meander off the coast of the Carolinas for the next couple of days before accelerating to the northeast ahead of a deep-layer trough approaching from the northwest, the NHC says the timing of this acceleration is highly uncertain. Nearly all of the dynamical models have now shifted to the south and west of their previous forecasts throughout most of the forecast period. The NHC track forecast has been adjusted in that direction, but now lies on the eastern side of the guidance envelope, and shows a faster motion than most of the models.
The Air Force reconnaissance plane inside Chris also measured winds to gale-force about 20 miles off the coast of North Carolina. These winds are associated with the tight pressure gradient between Chris and high pressure over the northeastern U.S. are not necessarily from the tropical storm itself.
People up and down the entire East Coast and Gulf Coast should make sure they have a Hurricane Action Plan. The 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season runs through to the end of November. Even if Chris isn’t a direct threat, other storms this season could be.