Hurricane Leslie eyes potential historic Portugal punch
News Editor's Choice HURRICANE MICHAEL: Everything you need to know HURRICANE SEASON | Atlantic Hurricane Leslie eyes potential historic Portugal punch
Find Your Forecast Digital writers
Friday, October 12, 2018, 8:57 PM - While Michael steals the headlines in North America, Europe may be seeing a historic hurricane of its own this weekend. Hurricane Leslie -- a storm that's been meandering in the Atlantic since September 23 -- is finally set on a course for landfall, with Portugal as its target. Not only is this a rare trajectory, if Leslie makes landfall in Portugal, it would be the first tropical system on record ever to do so, and only the second on record for the Iberian Peninsula. We take a look at this unusual system, and its projected impacts, below.
LESLIE HIGHL IGHTS:
- The low that became Leslie formed over the Atlantic in mid-September
- May become the first-on-record tropical storm to make landfall in Portugal
- Expected to lash Portugal, Spain with hurricane-force winds, heavy rain
(Related: Shocking scenes from the aftermath of Hurricane Michael)
WATCH BELOW: LESLIE'S RAMBLING ROUTE
WHY THE WANDERING?
Leslie first became a named storm near the central Atlantic; not unheard of, but not exactly the prime breeding ground for tropical systems, which tend to spawn in the Atlantic from lows further south and closer to Africa. In its early stages, the upper level currents in the air that 'steer' tropical systems were fairly weak, and the storm ambled around aimlessly to start, narrowly missing being absorbed by upper level troughs of low pressure crossing the ocean to its north, and being rebuffed from moving west by high pressure centered near Bermuda.
Looking back over the advisories issued by the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC), many of them mention the expectation that Leslie would be 'picked up' by one of these troughs and pulled eastward, as happens to many storms that form so far north in the Atlantic. But Leslie repeatedly defied the odds, lingering in its region of weak steering flow, and gradually wandering in and out of regions of warmer sea surface temperature; essentially keeping itself alive, but not strengthening much, or moving with much purpose.
This behaviour defied model guidance (thanks in part to the very few data collection points available mid-ocean) and forecaster wisdom alike; as recently as Wednesday, forecasters at the NHC were frustrated by Leslie's eventual fate.
I clearly drew the small straw in having to make Leslie's forecast tonight because this situation is resulting in one of the largest guidance spreads I have seen, about 1000 miles on day 3 and over 2000 miles at day 5 ... Obviously this is a zero-confidence forecast tonight.
ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS?
Now caught up in the broad upper-level flow of the jet stream, Leslie seems likely to remain on course for Europe -- although if ever there was a storm you'd expect to throw another curve ball, this might be the one. That path puts this storm in rare company; only one other tropical system on record, Hurricane Vince in 2005, has made landfall on the Iberian Peninsula, when it sailed into extreme southwestern Spain as a tropical depression. Although it was a close call, Vince didn't track over Portugal, however, and that means Leslie stands to be the first tropical system on record to make landfall in Portugal.
That's not to say the remnants of tropical systems haven't hit the peninsula before. Although these are not particularly common either, as remnant systems that are swept up by the jet stream tend to take a path further north into the United Kingdom, there are are a handful of extratropical storms in the history books that have brought rain and wind to Portugal and Spain in the past, including 2015's Joaquin, and 1991's Bob.
LANDFALL IN PORTUGAL: HURRICANE FORCE WINDS, HEAVY RAIN
Whether or not Leslie maintains its tropical characteristics, residents of Portugal are likely to see one of the stronger storms in recent memory crash into the coast on Saturday (early Sunday local time). Life-threatening rough surf, hurricane-force winds, and up to 100 mm of rain are expected for parts of Portugal and Spain. Flash flooding is another one of the concerns highlighted by the Portuguese and Spanish weather agencies.
The storm is forecast to weaken quickly after making landfall, becoming post-tropical -- finally -- shortly after it begins to mo ve inland.
WATCH BELOW: HOW CANADA'S WEATHER PLAYS A ROLE IN THE REST OF THE HURRICANE SEASON
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