POSTED: 5:38 a.m. HST, Aug 16, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 11:48 a.m. HST, Aug 16, 2011
Tropical Storm Fernanda is expected to strengthen to hurricane status before weakening as it travels south of the islands next week, forecasters said.
Fernanda grew to tropical storm strength overnight about 1,500 miles east-southeast of Hawaii as the storm heads to the Central Pacific, National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Fernanda, which was a tropical depression Monday, now has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph with higher gusts. Tropical storm force winds extend 70 mph from its center.
It is moving west at about 10 mph, but it is expected to turn to the west-northwest. It is now about 1,425 miles east-southeast of South Point.
NHC forecasters said late this morning that the storm "has gone through an interesting evolution on satellite the past several hours." They explained that the latest imagery of the storm shows none of the shearing that was seen last night.
Also the storm is a further south than originally estimated. "So the storm should have a longer time in environmental conditions conducive for strengthening. ... The new NHC forecast calls for Fernanda to briefly reach hurricane status strength," they said.
While the storm track has Fernanda as a hurricane Thursday as it crosses into the Central Pacific, it still is forecast to weaken considerably as it approaches to the south of the Big Island Sunday.
Sam Houston, senior forecaster for the National Weather Service's Honolulu office, said this morning that while the five-day forecast does not extend beyond Sunday, it seems that Fernanda will stay south of the islands as a "nontropical remnant storm" based on the current trend.
However he stressed that forecasters are keeping a close eye on the system. "It's hurricane season and we need to monitor this and any other system in the Pacific," he said.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center on Oahu will take over monitoring the storm once it pass into the Central Pacific.