9 PM Update
Dean has been upgraded to a Category 5 storm (on a scale of 1 to 5) as his winds have increased to a fierce 160 miles per hour. In his crosshairs, is the area of the southern MEXICAN state of Quintana Roo and the far northern reaches of the country of Belize. While this is, relatively speaking, a sparsely populated part of Central America, it is also a poorly educated and impoverished region. In that regard, loss of life will sadly be realized.
For local churches whom have done missionary work in Belize, the eye of the storm will pass well north of Belize City where winds will exceed 75 miles per hour and do damage to the city's already filmsy infrastructure. In northern Belize and rural parts of the country in Central Belize, flash flooding will be a major concern.
As for Cancun and Cozumel, these resorts are in for a stormy 24 hours with high winds flickering the power and lights and likely knocking out fresh water utiliies. But life threatening winds and INUNDATING storm surge are unlikely here. If you have a loved one trapped here, they are in no immediate danger, just in for a ton of inconvenience.
South Texans are breathing a sigh of relief as the effects from Dean will likely never affect the Lone Star state, save for MAYBE a few heavy rain bands in the far south.
Dean Close to Cat 5 Status; Next Hit Due Tonight
It’s still not official as of 5 PM, but Hurricane Dean will soon be tabbed a Category 5 hurricane this Monday evening. That will make him stronger than 95% of all hurricanes ever recorded. Of course the upgrade from Category 4 (winds of 150 mph earlier) to Cat 5 (winds of 156 mph or greater) would be cosmetic. But in the hurricane business, few storms ever get this strong. And face it, in this era of intense TV coverage, it is “sexier” to be a Cat 5 than a 4. Kind of like your favorite team being ranked 11th or 10th there is something about being in the top 10 that catches our attention. Likewise, there is something special about being a Cat 5. (the preceding statement is not meant to sensationalize Dean, it is just an observation I make after 25 years in the now MTV era).
What is even scarier is the verbiage from the experts at the National Hurricane Center suggests Dean will grow stronger tonight and Tuesday prior to landfall in either Mexico or Belize. That booster shot of intensification will come courtesy of a perfect combination of warm ocean waters to feed on and light winds in the heavens over the storm.
Right now, it appears Mexican resorts of Cancun and Cozumel will be spared a direct hit from Dean as his eye wall (which houses the lethal 150 mil per hour winds passes 75-150 miles south of these Caribbean paradises). The eye looks to cross near the Belize-Mexico border with the city of Chetumal Mexico very close to the eye just after landfall. That would mean hurricane force wind gusts to 75 mile per hour at Cozumel and tropical storm force winds of 50-60 at Cancun but the fierce 150 mph winds will be far to the south. If someone has been stranded at these resorts, they will survive if they are not adventuresome.
Storm surge, the rise in sea level due to the wind, will be high at Cancun, higher at Cozumel and highest on the Belize-Mexico border. This area would be most prone to loss of life and catastrophic damage.
Flash flooding from the tropical rains, which will total a foot, will be common in Northern Belize and the Quintana Roo state of Mexico (the state that includes Chetumal, Cancun and Cozumel).
I will update this blog all evening as new info from the NHC flows my way. For now I ask Global Warming skeptics to consider the following query from Meteorologist Wayne Browning, state Climatologist for Virginia in Clintwood.:
When Dean's mighty winds churn up the water, the warmth is so deep that high potential energy water will still be available at the surface. That is one way a global warming world will generate stronger hurricanes, by increasing the depth of very warm, high energy water.
Where storms in more shallow high temp water would churn up cooler, lower energy water a storm moving across a very deep stream of warm water will be able to continue to intensify given the atmospheric conditions are favorable.
(I Will comment on this notion after Dean has died).