Hurricane Dorian destructive force still an enigma 1 year later

By Joe Mario Pedersen, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Weather News

On Aug. 19, 2019 a large tropical wave moved off the coast of Africa and began slowing brewing in the Atlantic.

Thirteen days later, it would grow into the historic and monstrous Category 5 Hurricane Dorian, a storm so powerful it flattened large areas of the Bahamas.

Dorian was tied for the strongest hurricane on record in the Atlantic to make landfall, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Each storm we look at is its own character," said Frank Marks, the director of hurricane research division, at NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. "Dorian was its own challenge and proved there's still a lot we have to learn about hurricanes."

Marks has flown through 120 storms, but Dorian stood out as an unforgettable storm for a few reasons, he said.

"Dorian was a storm with layers," he said.


At Dorian's most powerful state the storm's maximum sustained winds reach 185 mph. The only other Atlantic storm to reach such strength while hitting land was the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. Only Hurricane Allen in 1980 reached higher wind speeds of 190 mph, but that was while still at sea. And Hurricane Dorian sent gusts of up to 220 mph as it strafed the Bahamas.

Before it did, the slow moving storm meandered through the Atlantic becoming a tropical depression on Aug. 24. Four days later, it became Tropical Storm Dorian. Dorian's organization was lacking, and the storm's moisture was being taken by a bombardment of dry air.

"It was barely a tropical storm," Marks recalled. "But interesting things were going on inside Dorian. We're supposed to identify the storm's center and report back to the hurricane center with our findings. As Dorian came across the islands near Guadalupe, we found it had multiple competing centers, all trying to dominate."

As the storm crawled toward Puerto Rico, the air flow between an upper-level low over the Straits of Florida and the Atlantic subtropical ridge propelled Dorian to turn by about 60 miles, according to NOAA.


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