Hurricane Blanca (Blanca, not Bianca, much to the chagrin of drag fans the world over) is still hanging on over the eastern Pacific Ocean as it slowly makes its way towards the Baja Peninsula. The storm will make for a crappy weekend in Cabo—sorry about that—but it shouldn’t be too bad, as long as you’re not in the water.
This afternoon’s update from the National Hurricane Center indicates that Blanca is now a category one hurricane with winds of 90 MPH, which is down from a category four the other day, when it packed winds of more than 140 MPH. Environmental conditions were favorable for Blanca to reach category five intensity, but since the storm stood still over the same patch of water for several days, it upwelled extremely cold water from deep below the ocean’s surface. This upwelled water killed the storm’s energy, preventing it from reaching its full potential.
The storm is steadily moving into cooler waters as it heads northwest towards the Baja Peninsula, so it should slowly continue weakening over the coming days. The NHC expects Blanca to approach the southwestern coast of the Baja late this weekend and early Monday, sparing Cabo San Lucas the worst of the storm. Any eastward shift in the storm’s track will bring worse and potentially dangerous conditions to the heavily-visited tourist destination that was devastated by Hurricane Odile last year, but it appears as though the storm will just make for a cloudy, windy, dreary weekend.
The tip of the Baja Peninsula is under a tropical storm watch, though, so any location in/around the watch area has the opportunity to see tropical storm force winds, heavy rain, flooding, high surf, and rip currents as the storm moves through.
Blanca isn’t quite the ferocious mess it was a couple of days ago, but it’s still a formidable hurricane that’s relatively large in size. Tropical storm force winds extend 200 miles from the center of the storm, while hurricane force winds stretch about 35 miles from the center. The large wind field and former strength of the storm both contribute to the storm’s largest hazard: high surf and rip currents. The threat will continue through next week, so if you have plans to visit the region over the next week or so, stay alert, don’t turn your back to the waves, and make sure you know what to do if you’re caught in a rip current.
The remnants of the hurricane have an opportunity to bring above-normal moisture to the southwestern United States, but forecasters aren’t exactly on board with the idea of a complete dousing. The latest rainfall forecast from the Weather Prediction Center shows relatively paltry rainfall totals in the southwest, which is still more than normal. Albuquerque normally sees about 0.66” of rain in June, while it’s worse farther west. Phoenix typically sees 0.02” of rain during the month of June, which would equate to about three seconds of rainfall in a run-of-the-mill thunderstorm in any other city that isn’t just sitting there in the middle of the desert.
[Images: NASA, author]