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Otis intensifies from 50 mph tropical storm to 165 mph Category 5 hurricane in just over 24 hours, makes landfall near Acapulco, Mexico

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It's what keeps hurricane forecasters and emergency managers up at night. Here's what happened with historic Hurricane Otis. - Articles from The Weather Channel | weather.com




Category 5 Hurricane Otis was a nightmare scenario of rapid intensification prior to landfall near a heavily populated city that had never experienced such a ferocious storm in modern times.


Here's what happened: Otis exploded from a tropical storm Tuesday morning to a Category 5 hurricane Tuesday night.


Rapid strengthening near landfall. This incredible rapid intensification happened less than 24 hours before Otis plowed ashore near Acapulco, Mexico just after midnight Wednesday with maximum winds of 165 mph.



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  • Commissar SFLUFAN changed the title to Otis intensifies from 50 mph tropical storm to 165 mph Category 5 hurricane in just over 24 hours, makes landfall near Acapulco, Mexico

From Bryan Norcross, a renowned South Florida meterologist who kept us all sane when Andrew hit us in '92:



Norcross said Otis’ strength and northerly track into the city of Acapulco had never been witnessed before, as no hurricanes on record have ever been close to Otis' intensity for this part of Mexico. The only recorded hurricane in the region to hit the Acapulco area was a Category 1 storm in 1951.


"This is completely out of bounds, in terms of forecasting," Norcross said. "The computer models completely missed this pattern of a super conducive atmosphere, and the (storm) direction and so forth being so different from anything that has occurred in the last 50 or 60 years."



Norcross said he believes there were three main factors in play that caused the models to miss such a catastrophic development.


"One is that it was a very small hurricane," Norcross said, comparing the storm’s relatively small width to Hurricane Charley in 2004 that hit just north of Fort Myers, Florida. "Small hurricanes blast the coast in a narrow area, and when they hit a populated area, they do a tremendous amount of damage. But the computer models don't analyze them as well, because the details in a small hurricane count so much because everything is so small, you know, so tiny, like you need a magnifying glass, this to get all the details."



A second factor was a nearby dip in the jet stream that affected the storm’s development.


"If the jet stream gets too close to the storm, it pulls the system apart with hostile upper winds," Norcross said. "If it's close but not too close, it can pull air out of the top of the hurricane in a very efficient way, which causes the storm to intensify if all the other environmental conditions are ideal."



Third, was a very warm patch of water right off the coast of Acapulco.


"It's over 86 or 88 degrees, more or less, just offshore of Acapulco in a relatively small patch that this hurricane just happened to track over," Norcross said.


"No doubt, that was part of it as well. And because that patch was small, whether that was well-analyzed and whether that data was appropriately in the computer models, that's an open question."



As to how the forecast models could be so dramatically off that the forecast one day ago would have such a large error: "The reality is there's going to be research for an extended period of time," Norcross said.


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